From Istaria Lexica
What are the Sslik?
Little is known of the origin of the Sslik race. Reports dating back over one thousand years exist that describe their nomadic wanderings across the continent of Aradoth. It was during this time, long before the construction of Sslanis, that the Sslik lived in loosely-coupled tribes, their history passed down by legends and word of mouth. The native Sslik tongue was never truly developed into a written language, and not even understood by the other living races until shortly before the Age of the Warrior-Kings. Because the Sslik had not accepted the benefits of civilization until some five-hundred years ago, there is much debate as to what Sslik legends are true and how they experienced the early years of existence.
However, throughout the Age of the Dragon there are many accounts of the Sslik from Human explorers coming into contact with these reptilian bipeds. Although no recorded unprovoked attacks on other racial villages during their early nomadic age exist, several documents contain detailed reports from Human and Elven scouts entailing small skirmishes with groups of "dragon-men" when exploring new territory. Due to the rising animosity between human and dragons, many Sslik tribes were attacked out of fear, the Sslik showing no restraint in defending themselves.
Eventually the Sslik began to migrate westward across human-occupied land, seeking a land that they could call their own. Eventually the crossed the Sable Straits to the island of Lesser Aradoth and there found the southern jungles. The island was already populated by another race, the Saris, but they rarely ventured into the southern lands, preferring to remain in the north on their beaches and forests. The Sslik simply moved in and for a time both races co-existed with little contact. Eventually, however, they began to interact, trading at first, and developing a basic understanding of one another. They would eventually use the knowledge gained from the Saris to construct a city of their own, the first large-scale permanent Sslik settlement, and one that they could truly call their home without fear of persecution.
In what may be a very interesting twist of fate, the Sslik have been spared most of the brunt of the assault by the Withered Aegis due to their location on Lesser Aradoth. The Sslik’s former persecutors, however, have endured many hardships during the Age of Lamentations on the main continent. The Sslik, while eager to help the Living Races during this time of need, make no secret that they have not forgotten the trials and tribulations they have gone through at the hands of others. Time will only tell if the Sslik, now in a much stronger position than these other Living Races, seek a path of enlightenment as their Saris friends teach, or a path of vengeance as their persecutors of their past have.
The Sslik are reptilian-stock beings that are genderless, as they reproduce in an asexual manner. Their behavior and manner of existence is somewhat alien when compares to the other Living Races, unfortunately contributing to the animosity the other races have for the Sslik. While the Sslik clearly share some traits with the Dragons, they do not appear to be directly related to them. The Sslik are extremely strong and focused beings, and they prize their exceptional abilities as Warriors and also of Shamans, calling upon both to aid their people in times of need. The natural strength and focus of the Sslik lend well to certain trades in Istaria; the Sslik make excellent Alchemists, Enchanters and strangely enough, Masons.
Reference - Sslik Creation Story
An Introduction to Sslik Biology, Family, and Society
By Professor Alistair Ballent of the Imperial Academy of Tazoon
Sslik are warm-blooded reptiles. Sslik are primarily carnivores but do eat fruits and vegetables they find flavorful on occasion. The shape of the Sslik head suggests large nasal passages, which means a high level of scent and taste discrimination. Sslik are capable of regenerating when injured, even replacing lost limbs given enough time. Sslik never scar naturally; any scars a Sslik displays are special enough that the Sslik in question was willing to endure having salt packed into the open wound while it healed in order to preserve the result as a trophy.
Sslik are not neuters; they are a single-gender species. Every Sslik is capable of both producing eggs and fertilizing the eggs of another. Normally a clutch consists of only a single, eggplant-sized egg, but two and three-egg clutches are not uncommon. A newly-hatched Sslik can stand and move well enough to hunt insects or small rodents within minutes; doing so frequently results in injuries, however, so the parents normally regurgitate food for the first few weeks of the new child’s life.
Sslik hatchlings are able to chirp and hiss right out of the shell, and learn to speak at about the same rate as the other races. Natural survival instincts make them skittish and defensive towards anyone unfamiliar. If a stranger tries to pick one up, the hatchling will probably give them a nasty bite, chomping down hard and refusing to let go until pried off by an adult. To minimize aggression, hatchlings are kept well-fed on bits of raw gruok, beef, or venison. In time, Sslik younglings learn to hunt under the guidance of watchful adults. These aggressive behaviors fade during adolescence and are replaced with the more familiar Sslik stoicism. Sslik begin to mature and develop their distinctive feathers at around age twelve.
At first, their feathers are short and thin, but after a few molts (which occur about twice each year) they grow their full crest of feathers and are recognized as adults. Fin color and feather style, arrangement, and adornment vary from tribe to tribe. Even today, Sslik can tell one another’s tribe, family history, and accomplishments by observing each other’s feathers.
As young adults, Sslik are expected to begin learning a trade, studying under whoever is willing to take them as an apprentice. At the same time, they are expected to learn at least some basic combat skills, building on what they learned when hunting as younglings. Only a few Sslik have no fighting skills at all.
Shortly after reaching adulthood, a Sslik is able to reproduce. Generally this is not recommended until some time later, as even “adult" Sslik will continue to grow for several years. The stress of clutching can weaken a Sslik's bones and make them more vulnerable to serious injury if attacked.
As mentioned previously, all Sslik are capable of two types of reproduction. The most common is vakraash, in which two Sslik mate, exchange genetic material, and one or both produce a clutch. It can take three months for an egg to be ready for delivery and another six to seven months of incubation until the egg hatches. In nomadic times, Sslik used to incubate their eggs by burying them where they could be warmed by the sun, but modern Sslik use elaborately decorated stone basins filled with sand.
Both parents normally stay together and share incubation duties until their eggs hatch. They may go their separate ways after that, or may choose to make a formal bond and remain together. Terms such as ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ don’t really apply; a Sslik carrying or incubating an egg they delivered is known as sserkzhah; a parent not carrying an egg is called sserktlak. A parent of a hatchling sslik is called koraash until their youngest child achieves adulthood.
In emergencies or when under prolonged environmental stress, Sslik can also trigger skaraash – “self-replacement”, or parthenogenesis. The eggs in these clutches are always clones of the parent. The advantage of this is that a few isolated Sslik can easily ensure the survival of the race if need be. The main drawback is that birth defects and non-viable mutations are up to ten times more likely to occur in skaraash than in vakraash. Sslik may trigger skaraash voluntarily if they choose, but this is rare due to the risk of birth defects.
In either case, the new Sslik is now part of a family. The Sslik family unit is a filiation, meaning that immediate family, extended family, and ancestors are determined by parentage alone, not by social relationships such as bonding. Sslik may declare formal bonding or may agree to become parents and nothing more; neither status reflects on their offspring. Similarly, a child produced by skaraash suffers no stigma as a result of their parentage. A short-term arrangement is known as pairing or "spending a season together". Formal bonding is known as "making declaration". Formal bonding originally happened only between tribes as a gesture of unity or declaration of peace, but has become more common as Sslik have begun to amass wealth and property.
Young Sslik are raised by the entire community. Teaching the young is regarded as a sacred duty and there are severe social consequences for neglecting this duty. Sslik have very little in the way of ‘maternal instinct’; an injured child gets a wound check and will receive appropriate medical care if needed, but minor injuries are met with, "You’re fine. Go play". This community approach can result in strong relationships forming with persons other than a given Sslik’s actual parents. These relationships may develop into apprenticeships or a young Sslik may change tribal affiliation entirely. Even in this case, a Sslik does not change the family they belong to.
Families are organized by the name of the line’s blood-founder, a Sslik who’s name and deeds have the status (usually) of legend. "The Blood of Tessak" or "The Blood of Ssanak the Final Defender", for example. A Sslik who achieves heroic status may choose to declare that they are founding a new line, but unless you are a living legend, it’s a bit gouache. It’s considered polite to wait until you’re actually dead and then let your children make the announcement. Tribes normally contain at least ten distinct filiations, all from the same general geographic area, and frequently have variations in dialect and custom. In the past, tribes conducted "raids" on one another frequently, but these were light-hearted sparring matches, not warfare. There was normally a strong element of one-upsmanship and pranks to these raids. Warfare was a deadly serious matter, and only the elders of the tribes, acting collectively, had the authority, to declare war. Ultimately, this need for consensus cost the Sslik dearly when hostilities with the other races broke out.
Culture and History
Since before the founding of Mellohndar in 1225 BR, Humans and Dwarves have been in conflict with the Sslik to some degree or another. Sslik were considered bloodthirsty, barbaric savages, lacking both language and learning. This was obviously untrue, but it wasn’t until the construction of Sslanis that the humanoid races began to realize what the Sslik were capable of.
Ruins, undoubtedly of Sslik origin, are found scattered across southern Aradoth. Many predate Ashlander Vandus; some may pre-date even Mellohndar. Some of these ruins were built using stone imported from distant regions, without use of cargo disks or the modern portal system. They were moved by physical labor alone, then cut, dressed, and fitted with consummate skill. Yet, if the Sslik knew how to build these stone structures, why did they live as nomads?
The answer, simply, is that they did so because that was Kaasha’s will.
These structures were erected for occasions of great honor and importance – they were not for living in. All the tribes in the region would come, to meet in peace and observe whatever event had drawn them there. When the event was over, the tribes returned home, leaving the structures they had built empty.
When the Sslik arrived in the jungles of Lesser Aradoth, for the first time, Kaasha directed them to build a place where they could stand and fight. The surviving master builders of the tribes gathered together and laid out the plans for Sslanis in a remarkably short time. Construction began immediately and proceeded with astonishing speed. The Human and Dwarven armies, unable to cross the Sable Straights without engaging the Saris, watched the construction of Sslanis in shock.
It is worth noting that when Scholar Helian observed that the Human and Dwarven forces were absorbed with the Sslik, she took advantage of this distraction to establish and settle Chiconis. The Vandus King was caught totally by surprise; by the time the Human troops could be redeployed, Chiconis was well-protected. General Malganival Lunus himself informed the Vandus scouts that the entire Lunus faction would gladly join the defense of Chiconis if it meant a chance to spill Human blood. Wisely, the human forces withdrew, leaving both Chiconis and Sslanis in peace.
The existence of Sslanis forced the humanoid races to rethink their view of the Sslik. A small group of ambassadors, under the protection of the Saris, was sent to Sslanis to learn to communicate with the Sslik and to negotiate peace. The ambassadors discovered that the Sslik already understood the human tongue quite nicely, and many could speak it passably. The Sslik maintained a wary distance, however, until the construction of Tazoon began. Without being asked, Sslanis sent a great many skilled stoneworkers and masons to assist with the construction. For the first time, Sslik and Human and Dwarf stood on the same ground without killing over it.
The Sslik Language
The Sslik tongue cannot be spoken by humanoids, only approximated badly. It can, however, be understood with enough practice. The Sslik, in turn, have no problems speaking and understanding the human tongue, as their vocal apparatus is highly adaptable. The biggest hurdle to speaking with a Sslik is often grammar, though some Sslik put more effort into being understood than others do.
One of the interesting side-effects of having only a single gender is that the Sslik do not use pronouns in normal speech. They understand the concept, but many Sslik find the idea of multiple genders distasteful and don’t like to be reminded of it at every turn. Instead, Sslik refer to sentient beings by name, as in the following example:
“Fillet loaned Ssoren a book, which Vrex now wishes to borrow. Could Kerrak take this book to Fillet, and find out if Fillet minds if Vrex looks at it? If Fillet agrees, then Ssoren would be thankful if Kerrak would take Fillet’s book to Vrex.”
A Sslik may refer to themselves as "this one", and to another individual whose identity is understood as "the one" or "that one":
"Does Ssoren know if Vrex still has Fillet’s book?" "This one regrets to say that the one still does."
Sslik also make various clicks, hisses, and thrums that are not actual words, much like the Human “Hmmph”. Sometime, telling the difference between the two can be rather difficult.
As noted previously, Sslik have no problem understanding or speaking humanoid languages. Some Sslik leaders have, from time to time, suggested that the Sslik might get a better reception from the ‘warmbloods’ if they made an effort to adapt humanoid forms of speech. The most recent attempt was a resounding failure, as the person contracted to teach the Sslik language skills was a very foul-tempered, sarcastic, and abrasive fiend named Akhanis. Town Marshall Ssoren is working to undo the damage Akhanis did and restore Sslanis’ reputation as a city that prides itself on being polite, welcoming, and helpful to visitors.
Spoken Phrases, Utterings, Prayers, Curses
- Half-shell – Fool, nitwit, joker, buffoon. Ex: "If you two half-shells have enough time for pranks, you have enough time to help Ssoren with the Imperial readiness reports!"
- Mammal, Softskin - General terms referring to the humanoid races. The literal translation from the Sslik is 'softskin', but humanoids often interpret this term as a deliberate insult, which it is not. For this reason, the translation is usually rendered as 'mammal'. Ex: "Most mammals don't care for authentic Sslik cuisine."
- Tailfeathers - Moderately offensive term of disbelief or mistrust, derived from the fact that Sslik don't grow feathers on their tails. Implies that the subject is making deliberately false or misleading claims. Ex: "Eat as much as one wants and still lose weight? Tailfeathers!"
- Yanking (my) tail, pull (my) other tail - expression of disbelief or irritation, used in the same way as the human expression "pulling my leg". Ex: "That one was born a Saris? Pull Ssoren's other tail next time!"