Pemunculi are the cast offs of wizards, who often create them to serve as familiars. Their utility in this regard is their lack of any negative corollaries in their creation, nigh indestructibility, and low cost. The pemunculi are composed of condensed particulate matter, usually dust, sand, clay, ashes, mud, or sometimes coal dust or peat. Really, anything you would sweep into a dustpan. The cost of the parchment, chalk, and ink used in their creation for surpasses the value of their body.
Perhaps for this reason, wizards tend to put little effort into the appearances of their creation. As such, the creatures are in the usual terribly misshapen, and in the eyes of other tiny folks horrible to behold. Their malformed faces are often strange, and as they grow and develop the ability to emote, their expressions grow ever more frightful and strange. Part of this can be attributed to the great variance in their size. Pemunculi at their smallest stand merely four inches, lumpy head to indistinct toes. But many can stand as tall as a foot, and some examples stood up to three and a half feet tall, surpassing even the gnomes. The fearsomeness of these specimens (and the species as a whole) is incredibly undercut by their almost indelible proclivity towards self-effacement. The course of conversation with a pemunculi scarcely passes ten bare seconds until some casual reference is made to their inferiority and worthlessness, the adamant belief in which forms the strongest undercurrent of pemunculi society.
Feasts and social functions begin with the hosts decrying their paucity of value and friends compare themselves disfavorably with their fellows. Both cleverness and boldness are celebrated in the pursuit of the prostration. Word play and long setups are often employed. Even the word for ‘myself’ in their pidgin is in fact derived from roots suggesting “worthlessness.” For all this, however, the pemunculi are quite capable of joy, deceit, slyness, and even laughter – though this is viewed with disdain by the older genera of pemunculi, as immoral and impolite. Pemunculi have friends, and pursue recreation. In spite of their apparent self-hatred and racial inferiority, they still use rituals to propagate themselves, perhaps to have company in their sufferings.
Infamously, the philosopher Morin-morg used pemunculi as an illustrative example in his Thesis on the Natural Drawing Together of the Opposed Axes of Nature. ‘Behold!’ He said, “the lowly Pe-homunculus! See how it itself is formed from the basest of materials, the clods of the earth. Observe its ugliness in shape, one reflected in the spirit, as the pe-homunculus even hates itself. Observe then the one axis is formed at the focus of ugliness, and then see how it must be drawn to its opposite, the focus of beauty. And where is this axis? We must only look at how the pe-humunculus sublimates its inborn desire to acquire, subsume, sublate the opposite axis. And indeed amongst the pe-homunculi their is the greatest desire to grind down valuable gems and feast on their dust and chunks. The greater the beauty and value of the gem, the greater the satisfaction they derive from its consumption, itself in direct proportion to their success in traveling down the path to their opposed axis.” Here also is the origin of the belief that gems are the greatest of all treasures.
Their off-putting forms made them social pariahs in tiny society, who generally stereotyped them as obsequious, servile, self-effacing (naturally), sly, deceitful, dim, boring, insincere, occasionally monstrous, and chiefly stupid. Most of these are by-blows of their reputation as servants of wizards, who think everyone but themselves is stupid and aren’t afraid to tell it. This is also a good explanation for their general demeanor, a holdover from their tenures under the abuse of their masters, with the older pemunculi passing it onto the new. However, the colloquial stupidity and dullness of the pemunculi does not hold up to scrutiny. They have a flair for the dramatic, and the art of self-denigration is practiced in both the extremes of flamboyant verbal self-flagellation and heightened, almost transcendentally subtle erosion of one’s own worth in the communal plays of their piles- the name given to their villages. The greatest soliloquys in human theatres are adapted from the works of pemunculi playwrights. Furthermore, the works of the mystery philosopher Allgim are now thought to be the works of a pemunculi, after a copy of his seminal work Sic et Non was found in a pile, written in the tiny scripts of the pemunculi and translated into a written form of their pidgin, itself a discovery of note. Common knowledge holds that pemunculi have little trouble reading regularly sized books, and rarely, if ever, resort to scriptoral work. This, in tandem with the hard-won testimonies of inhabitants of the pile, suggests that this miniscule copy is in fact the original.
Beyond their apparent capability in art and letters, since the formation of the Small Alliance the perception of their character as a whole has undergone a revolution. Not only were the pemunculi instrumental in the creation of the Alliance, their status as one of the most unified and numerous of the composite communities essentially forced them into many roles in the desperate defensive actions of the coalition’s early years. In these roles, they proved themselves dependable, resourceful, and brave. Pemunculi are practically invincible, but not invulnerable, to conventional weapons. A mace or well placed kick can easily disperse them, and reformation can takes minutes or hours – only great quantities of flowing fluids can disperse them enough to kill them. As such they served ably on the front lines of the Alliance armies. Even when their enemies wizened and began directing flows of water and jets of air towards them, the pemunculi never wavered, and without them these early battles would have gone much for the worst.
For the first time in their creation, pemunculi were the targets of external adulation instead of disinterest, fear, or annoyance. As if overnight, the core belief of pemunculi social life came under furious assault. For many pemunculi, it has weathered this assault, their insistences in their own baseness and humbleness and that their contributions were mere pittances, if not outright detriments, reaching an almost reflexive status. But their is a section of pemunculi society that tires of this performance, as they call it. They claim that every pemunculi holds in their heart a great pride in the coalition and in their sacrifice defending it. Why this unnecessary self-effacement? The whole cultural life of pemunculi society, once so peaceful, is in uproar. Even among the traditionalists, the dominant section has developed a stoical, self-accepting view of their own lowliness, abandoning the greatest denigrations of their older outlook. Whatever the result of this social schism, the old days of pemunculi super-servility are over.
Most of the traditionalists are older pemunculi, while newer and newborns are frequently Pridefuls. The schism is most visible in their forms, as to strangers even the most proud pemunculi will still imitate his fellows – old habits die hard. Radicals undergo training to control their facial expressions, to make them more delightful and amenable to others, but this often lost on normally sized humans. Newborn pemunculi, created by their radical fellows, are symmetrical, smooth, and regular of form, all standing a half foot tall. Meanwhile, traditionalists create pemunculi with planned, ‘tasteful’ asymmetries and varying size. A pemunculus can alter their own form if they so wish, though doing this is seen as extreme and controversial even in radical camps. Propagation is where the greatest controversy rages, with piles even going so far as to refuse the adherents and creations of the opposed camp entry. This state of affairs was unheard of amongst the pemunculi in earlier times, when all piles were open to all pemunculi, and they stood united. Efforts at peace have been stymied by the decentralized nature of pemunculi society (piles being self-governing) and their general refusal to acknowledge the schism in the presence of outsiders, to whom they attempt to always present a united front.
From a man’s height, a florid looks like a form of plant that has gained the ability to walk and talk. But if you kneel down to their level, the florids in fact resemble humans with pure lack eyes, and their hair and heads shaped to look like flowers. They come in two main groups, the shady florids, whose hair grows into the shape of leaves) and the vivid florids, whose hair and heads look like the bulbs of stalks of flowers. The shady florids favor forests, and shun the company of larger men, their colorful fellows, and the Alliance. The vivid florids, counting together all their various tribes, compose the simply majority of the Alliance, and were the foot troops – some would say fodder – of the Alliance armies.
This last fact is a direct result of their history. The vivid florids, even before their enslavement by humanity, were amongst the most violent societies amongst the small folk, surpassed only surely by the gnomes. The differing tribes of the vivid florids would march in great raucous raids against their neighbors as a matter of course. These were done for food, access to water, to drive a tribe away from land with fewer predators, and most critically, for larvae. Each florid tribe has a group of mothers that produce large clutches of larvae once a year and never else. The stolen larvae are treated as indistinguishable from the native-born florids, for in truth they are, as larvae grow to look like the tribe they are raised in, not the ones they are born in. The greatest conflicts break just after flowering season when the mothers lay, watering entire meadows and valleys in the blood, under the unknowing feet of men. A vivid florid’s camouflage is so effective that from above that they look nothing than flowers amongst other flowers, especially when standing still. In the windswept plains where the florids originated, the foot tall primi-florids (the gigantopithecus of florid taxonomy) could run across the plains without any risk of detection by humans or predators. The skin color of florids also changes to match the soil, branches, or foliage beneath them after a few hours.
Such misfortune it was, then, when humans eventually did notice their presence, and far from leaving these peoples to their fate, took them in, enslaved them, and pitted them against each other for entertainment. Amongst the rich especially did the cultivation of rarer, newer, and ever more deadly florids become a point of pride, and staged battles between the florids owned by one noble against the other became a popular past time and source of gambling. Though these battles were staged, the casualties and fatalities were very real, and florids began breeding and dying in droves. So rapacious was the demand for florids that their wild population collapsed, and indeed the vivid florids in the wild are now outnumbered 200 to 1 by their escaped and returned brethren.
Eventually, one the white clover tribes escaped to an area mostly denuded of florids. These escapees found themselves equipped with far better weapons than before, for in their folly the masters gave their slaves weapons of glass, brass, and iron to enhance their revels. In the wild, such technology was unheard of amongst the florid tribes. They grew numerous enough to bring an entire series of flowered meadows and valleys under their control, absorbing any tribes that did remain.
While in the past, other subjugated tribes were simply annihilated and their larvae brought over to add to the victorious tribe’s strength. As the white clovers expanded however, they changed forever this form of warfare, from destruction to tribute. Now, half of all larvae are given over to the white clovers, to be raised as them, and the other tribes serve them in war. This newfound manpower, both of white clovers and their vassal tribes, allowed them to embark on a liberative project to free their imprisoned brethren, and bring them into the fold of the White Clover Kingdom, as it is now called, though it is in fact governed by a council of tribal elders and strongmen.
This project took many decades, involving the covert, continent-wide insertion of agitators and agents in the combined garden-fighting stables of the nobility and bourgeoise, culminating in a period of violence known as the Flower War. By the end of the war, fumigation and burning of the kingdom’s home meadows had failed, and the rulers of the various human polities affected had little choice but to outlaw the ownership of florid gardens. This ended the outright violence, but the kingdom was infuriated by the lack of terms offered by their large counterparts and the manner in which florid gardens were disposed of – namely by killing. The struggle of the Flower War did end widespread florid enslavement, but typically this resulted in the effective genocide of the now illegal florid gardens by their owners. Since this turn, the White Clover Kingdom has declared itself in a state of perpetual war with all humans, and their meadows and valleys are walked only with considerable risk. When the Alliance was formed, they were amongst the most eager endorsers, and died with relish in its service.
However, not all is well in florid politics. For one, while most of the gardens were simply destroyed, some lucky few were indeed returned to nature, and managed to survive and even thrive in nature, forming kingdoms of their own in the model of the White Clovers. The Red Rose Kingdom and Narcissus Alliance are the greatest of these, and owe no fealty to the White Clovers, though the former has joined the Alliance. Before the Alliance, and even now, their have been clashes between these floral kingdoms, outright war only being prevented by their relative separation.
Indeed, aside from external challengers, the White Clovers themselves are being challenged from within by their subjugated tribes. In times past, their subjugation was tolerated and even welcomed under the justification of the project of liberating their fellows. The White Clovers, being the progenitors and managers of this project, were given surpluses to grow their population and best utilize their more advanced technology. But the cession of outright hostilities, and the inundation of the home meadows with similarly equipped but still subjugated tribes, has led many tribes of all origins to question this ordering. The White Clovers justify their ongoing military surplus with the war against all humans and to combat the illegal market for florid gardens that still sadly exists. Certainly, both of these causes together do require centralized military control, but some florid tribes within the kingdom have suggested ending the constant war against humans and focusing on purely defensive measures instead. Without the justification of wartime, the White Clover hegemony is senseless. So the question now rends the kingdom: War or Peace? Even amongst the White Clovers strife exists between different towns, chiefs, elders, and mothers, their population having grown too large and spread out to guarantee consensus. Blood on the question has been spilt. The covert tactics the kingdom once employed for liberation have now been turned to conspiracy and espionage. Assassination and terrorism are commonplace. Envoys have been flying to the other members of the Alliance, but as an internal affair, the parliament holds no jurisdiction. The war has even touched the reclusive shady florids, whose own, naturally born kingdoms each side courts.
Bloody civil war is now seen as inevitable, threatening to tear apart the White Clovers, and with it the Alliance as a whole.
Curving figurines of glass, multicolored, translucent, and mostly hollow. Their bodies are designed for beauty, grace, and above all, flight. They kick off into glides, and can evacuate their bodies of air as other men hold their breath, their limbs and body shaped to provide lift and reduce drag. The eldest, most experienced Hyalines can sustain flight for days, weeks, or even months, and their monk-philosophers go most of their ‘adult’ lives without touching the ground.
Originally the playthings and companions of a long-lost magocracy’s children, they outlived that polity’s fall, and have created kingdoms in blasted, abiotic deserts, inaccessible cliffsides, and secluded white sand beaches. They leave little trace of their coming and going – their delicacy means that they can not carve stone, or build great works without the help of other races. All their homegrown cities are sewn or grown. Their survival, before the Alliance, primarily depended on remaining hidden, as any war would go very far against their favor. The price of their flight is incredibly thin skin, for reduced weight. Their bodies can resist atmospheric pressure differences well, but even and errant swipe by a human’s hands will send them into uncontrolled flight, if it doesn’t shatter them immediately.
As companions to children, hyalines are curious, attentive, willful, and highly clever – these were possibly the ideals their creators wished to instill in their children. they have eidetic memories; every hyaline remembers everything that has ever been said to them. Because of the dangers of physical exertion, many hyalines pursue scholarship, and unlike the pehomunculi, a hyaline scientist is no great excitement. Natural science, physics, history, engineering, mathematics, astronomy, and geography are all studied by the hyalines. The examination of their libraries is slow, laborious process, but early evidence suggests their studies may even surpass humanity’s greatest works, and they appear to have an entire body of work dedicated to psychology, a mere distraction for all but a few human sages. It goes without saying that hyalines have a great deal of knowledge on glass-blowing, horticulture, and weaving, to propagate their race and build their settlements. Their magical knowledge is, as in the case of the pehomunculi, generally limited to the rituals for their own creation, though some hyaline scholars do study its theoretical practice.
In times past, hyalines were also known for their love of wordplay, riddles, and generally whimsical nature (again probably a result of their origin as toys), though this has changed in recent years because of the greater interactions between hyaline societies and others. In times past, only strange and particularly adventurous specimens moved amongst the other societies of the world, and in general possessed a vastly different outlook then their withdrawn, fatalist fellows who comprised the majority of hyaline society. Nowadays, they are seen as haughty, pretentious, and vain. The hyaline dominance in the governance of the Alliance is increasingly seen as overbearing and unwelcome, though many other tiny peoples remain cowed by their intelligence, beauty, and knowledge. Hyalines are also skilled in politics, persuasion, and propaganda. When hyalines claim they are the best equipped to lead, they can make many convincing arguments to that effect and the clamors for their usurpation have thus far been unsuccessful.
Following the Opening of hyaline society, it was soon found that the great pursuit of the hyalines is religion and philosophy. The dominant of these is the Hyalide Order, whose monks pursue vows of severely considered speech and action. One of the religion’s tenets forbids discussion of its mysteries in any language but the ‘native’ language (most speak an archaic form of elvish in daily use) of the hyalines, a slow, nearly silent language spoken with the hyalines entire body, by controlling the flow of air through their body, but what tidbits of scripture that have reached humanity suggest a stoical outlook. It would seem that their monks are dedicated entirely to the questions of survival and existence in a world that is incredibly dangerous to them as a mere matter of course. They understandably understand everything in terms of threats to themselves and to hyalines, but the practice deep meditation to manage the fears and anxieties of living in such a world. Their commitment to remaining airborne is not a declaration of separation from the world, but instead a constant reminder of their fragility. At any time, a hyaline monk can drop, cracking or shattering their body. This also has the effect of slowing their speech and actions, as they focus on their flight. They are known for their methodical problem-solving abilities, as they carefully consider all outcomes.
Perhaps for these reasons, they have come also to rule hyaline society, which is always in a state of precarity owing to the fragile bodies of its citizens. The wisdom, equanimity, and emotional resilience of the monks has guided hyalines through the greatest tragedies and reversal of fortune. Whilst the pemunculi and florids served the Alliance, the main ideological force behind its formation was the monks of the order, who saw they could reduce the danger to themselves and all tiny peoples by banding together. The population in general is incredibly loyal to their monk-viceroys, or was until the Opening – the greater interaction with the outside world has led to an inflow of new philosophies and outlooks, including those that aren’t so distressing to the layman.
But the Opening has painted hyaline philosophy with colors far more reactionary than revolutionary. The hyalines have in general become far more fatalistic, conservative, and anxious. When the hyalines suddenly gained awareness of the world outside their communes, they suddenly had to reckon with their own short, precarious lives from an entirely new angle. It was one thing for the hyalines to live in constant danger, most dying of some mishap before five years of age, despite their clinical immortality. It is quite another to live that way, surrounded by peoples who can expect to live long, full lives, who can walk and run without fearing death and dismemberment. When the hyalines met the pemunculi, florids, gnomes, grigs, moculi, and others they saw that cracking from expelling air too fast, or shattering on a hard landing were frailties unique to them.
This has had somewhat of an embittering effect on them. Suicides have risen, in addition to accidents in general, possibly the result of trying to live free from fear. In fact, this has spiraled into a growing anti-natalist movement come death cult. Their reasoning is that the creation of new hyalines is a moral offense, when their lives are so painful and short in comparison to the other races, and that their creation was at best a cruel mistake, if not an outright malice. They hold that all hyalines are better off dead, and have an ever-increasing volume of arguments to that effect. Their philosophy has spread to all levels of hyaline society, from monks to scholars to crafters, the class responsible for the creation of new hyalines. The low numbers of crafters, in addition to the intense labor and material costs of creating a new hyaline, means that this break in their ranks has all but stopped the creation process in every commune but two. The ongoing, stringent resistance of these two communes is the current focus of the moderate wings of the movement, who first seek to stop the creation of new hyalines.
Some would settle with controlling hyaline creation, others want it stopped completely, but many want to destroy the knowledge require to create new hyalines, and some extremists demand nothing short of the extermination of their own race. Increasingly, the opposed factions of the hyalines are grouping all of these tendencies together – and the differing wings are forming into coalitions to further their common goals. The battle lines are being drawn. Hyalines are greatly averse to violence, but this is in part due to the unsoundness of their bodies… which is hardly a concern for the extremists, and secondary to those who wish to prevent their own extinction. The first assassinations have already occurred, targeting crafters that continued their practice, monks most vocally opposed to the anti-natalists. Time is of the essence; the hyalines are generally few in number, and the crafters even fewer. If too many of them die, the knowledge to create new hyalines could slip away – what few written accounts exist (a precaution to outsiders creating hyalines) have already been targeted by vandals. The anti-natalists are ready, even eager to die, but the natalists may be forced into action.