The Asath (eɪsaθ) are the creation of the Fire God Alaezo with the souls of the fire elemental, Salamander and given sinuous snake's tails instead of legs. Half-reptilian and bonded with a fire elemental, the Asath love heat and most are found in the world's tropics, though their first home was the Great Desert of South Thiskel. From there, they spread to islands in the warm seas, to Ertia, and to Ageond.
A small population of Asath that converted to following Craeseth survived in the Forsaken Land after the Cataclysm. The Forsaken Land Asath are a distinct culture with some physiological and magical differences from the rest of their race.
Their anatomy and size can make them intimidating to others and many Asath societies are insular, but they are hardly the monsters that some humans fear. They are a passionate and noble people who hold to strong values.
The lower portion of the Asath body resembles that of a snake and they have taken on other subtle serpentine traits. However, their reptilian aspects are superficial and, biologically, they are mammals. This means they do not lay eggs (or retain eggs in their body until young hatch like some snakes). They are not ectothermic, or cold-blooded, like true reptiles. While they do prefer warm climates, they are endothermic, meaning that they are capable of producing their own internal body heat instead of relying on absorbing it from their environment as reptiles do.
Like reptiles, they do shed the skin of their snake-half, but only during their youth. Snakes and other reptiles that shed their skin do so as they increase in size, and this is a trait that was not abandoned in their chimeric origins, but it only occurs when they grow.
Asath vision is one of the other serpentine traits they were given. Their eyes can shift between normal spectral sight to heat-sensitive vision. Like most of the elemental races, their long, tapered ears allow for greater hearing.
Asath have the torso of a humanoid body and, from the waist down, have a muscular serpentine tail that holds them upright. Standing upright, males reach an average of 6’5” (195cm) and females 6’ (182cm), with an extra tail length of about five feet (152cm). They tend to be lean in build, carrying very little fat, but becoming moderately muscular.
Like the other elemental races, Asath have long, tapered mobile ears that extend five inches from their head. Aside from their tails, the Asath have subtle traits that are reminiscent of reptilian appearances. They tend to have narrow faces with angular features. Their eyes have a diamond-shaped pupil and are distinctly snake-like. Many also possess prominent canine teeth, though Asath are not venomous. Nor do they have forked tongues--though many Asath societies practice forms of body modification, some of which do surgically alter the tongue. Scarification, piercing, tattooing, and other forms of modification are practiced with different regions using specific patterns or specific modifications to identify individuals based on their social roles.
As most Asath inhabit the sunnier regions of Aserra, they tend toward darker complexions, ranging from tans to dark brown. Black is the most common hair color, and nearly all Asath have sleek, straight hair texture. Some populations have red, yellow, or white hair colors, but these are rare. Eye colors are typically shades of yellow, orange, or red. In their communities, Asath are often quite uniform in superficial appearances, unless they intermarry between more disparate neighbors.
The colors and patterns of their serpentine halves are dependent on their environment and may mimic snakes of the region, or be wholly unique to their population. Hybrids of different populations will often have a blend of their parents' colors and patterns.
The Asath tail accounts for much of their bodyweight and height/length. From the waist down, the humanoid body merges with the serpentine lower body. All together, the tail can be between seven and nine feet (213-274cm) long. The first three or so feet (~90cm) are densely muscled with the purpose of holding the body upright. The rest of the length supports their slithering form of locomotion and provides support and balance.
Asath possess a pelvis similar to a human's, but lack the bones of the leg and the Asath pelvis has adapted in shape to better suit their form. The bones of the tail are an extension of the spine and the rest of the structure is supported by muscle and some rudimentary cartilaginous ribs throughout the widest parts of their tail.
From the waist down, Asath lack humanoid excretory and urogenital openings. Instead, they have a cloaca that contains these orifices. On the surface, this opening appears as a vertical slit. When opened, it reveals the tracts as separate openings. In females, this looks similar in arrangement to humanoid physiology, though positioned forward. In males, the length of the penis is retracted into the body and the testicles are contained within the body, so only the glans is apparent, as well as the anus. Asath males also possess a baculum, which is not present in other races (aside from the Mariel).
Asath have a natural life span of approximately five hundred years. Like the other elemental races, they mature at the same rate as humans until about the age of twenty-five, after which point, aging processes are suspended until sometime in their last century of life.
Asath give live birth and have a pregnancy of about nine months like humans and the other elemental races. Asath also nurse their young. Despite superficial appearances, it is important to remember that they are still mammals. Asath newborns are helpless at birth, with a tail little longer than humanoid legs. It takes slightly longer for Asath "toddlers" to grow a tail long enough to hold them upright than it does for humanoids to learn to walk.
Like many other elemental races, female Asath are intermittently fertile across their long lifespan; one year out of every five. The amount of children Asath bear tends to depend on their culture and needs. In a relatively stable society, Asath women may have two or three children throughout their lives. In a society where there are threats to the population from war or the environment, Asath may have more children.
Asath are one of the few elemental races incapable of reproducing with the other races. There is speculation that they could potentially reproduce with Mariel, but only in their aquatic form. However, such a union would be a challenge to achieve. The chimeric aspect of the Asath is simply incompatible with any other races.
The Asath have a wide and varied omnivorous diet, but with a strong appreciation of meat. With their muscle mass and means of movement, Asath have large appetites and meat best satiates them. Each society has their own specialized dishes and food sources, but they make the most of them. One thing that is common amongst the Asath is their love of spice, and when they have access to capsaicin, they indulge at levels few other races can tolerate.
Historically, domestication of animals has proven especially challenging for the Asath compared to other races. Their imposing and snake-like features are terrifying for familiar domestic species of animal. So, no matter the level of development for an Asath society, hunting is their primary means of acquiring meat from large animals. They have had more success in domesticating fowl and even some larger reptile species. If near water, fishing is a another means of acquiring meat.
Asath are are not very discriminate in what animals they eat. Their menu includes beloved pets of most other races such as horses, dogs, and other adored animals. Even kuzo and sometimes humans make it onto the menu. However, in the case of humans, killing them is often a means of defense against incursion or other offenses--and then why waste the meat? During the War of the Gods, even Asath aligned with the light were known to eat the flesh of fallen enemies. Kuzo, which are generally seen as sub-human and almost animals on their own, have less ethical consideration by the Asath than antagonistic humans. In most Asath societies, true cannibalism of other Asath is considered abhorrent.
In addition to their meat-eating, Asath also eat fruits, vegetables, and other available edibles. Some settlements sustain themselves on gathering local resources while others have some limited farming (small personal or community gardens). Many ferment strong wines from available fruit.
Asath culture tends to reflect aspects of the Fire element, but is tempered with the reception that Asath receive from neighboring humans. With their intimidating size and serpentine features, uninitiated humans quickly assume that the Asath are monstrous beings they must be wary of. There are places in the world where multiple societies have come to trust each other or even meld, but the Asath often prefer to insulate themselves with their fellows and maintain their culture. The inability to reproduce with other races also tends to keep Asath among their own.
Asath tend to maintain a rather intense cultural identity. They often passionate and assertive, if not arrogant. They indulge fully in the things they enjoy--be it food, romance, knowledge, or skills. While these traits are common to the Asath due to their elemental affiliation, the relative isolation of their societies leads to variation of cultural structures and practices.
Gender and Relationships
As with many of the elemental races, the Asath began by tracing inheritance through matriarchal lines. Matrilineality has been maintained in many of the elemental societies because hybridization proved that Elementalism is inherited from the mother. However, since the Asath are incapable of reproducing with the other races, this fact does not enforce their original traditions of inheritance. Thus, in more remote and isolated colonies, some have deviated to patrilineality or an egalitarian system of inheritance. Even in patriarchal Asath cultures, women retain significant agency. Gender identities are typically respected and accommodated, even if they fall outside the binary.
Asath often practice polygamy, beginning with one partner and gradually adding others. Divorce is rare, only occurring in cases of severe mistreatment or neglect. Additional members into a marriage must be accepted by all parties involved--and sometimes the romantic and sexual aspect involves all parties as well. Sexual orientation is often respected in Asath culture. In societies where there is a heavy emphasis on having children, it is typically expected that one marries a partner of the opposite gender to bear or sire children, while additional partners can be of the same gender.
In Thiskel and many other places, Asath continue matrilineal tradition by identifying themselves with the name of their mother prefixed with Sah' in place of a surname. In cases of paternal inheritance, the prefix is Ser' and the father's given name.
The Asath have a preference for names heavy on S or Th sounds that have a hissing quality. Given names are expected to be unique, or at least, never shared by the living. It is considered a great affront to name a child after another member of the community that is still alive, but it is acceptable to name a child after the deceased. Most children are given names that are variations on nouns or words in their language, variations on known names, names that have been carried through the family, or sometimes just made up.
Asath are the servants of the God of Fire, Alaezo and embody the elemental spirit of Fire, Salamander. As their Fire Elementalism is a part of their every day life, so is their spirituality. The average Asath learns to connect to their inner Salamander from a young age through meditation rituals, like many of the other elemental races. In Asath culture, there are individuals who are more attuned to their spiritual side and fill a role of priests in their culture. These individuals commune on a deeper level with Salamander, as well as open themselves to a connection with Alaezo. Additionally, these individuals are typically the most adept elementalists in their communities.
When present, Asath readily ally themselves with red dragons, who likewise, serve Alaezo.
Through their Salamander spirit, Asath are able to control the element of fire, or more specifically, heat. They can manifest flames as well as control existing sources of heat in their environment. The more heat in their environment, they more effective their Fire Elementalism is. In large part, this is why Asath prefer warm climates.
Asath are generally friendly with their fellow elemental races when they encounter them. Depending on their place in the world, they may rarely encounter their elemental cousins, or they may be close enough to have alliances with them. In the Great Desert, they generally have a friendly relationship with the Ery'Idayn and any humans allied with them, as well as some Zaedyn and Brech'mar. In Ertia, the majority of their elemental contacts are with Nafod. In Southern Kalesten, relations with Nafod are often good, but their relationships with Ur'Idayn vary from tribe to tribe. Asath inhabiting the tropical islands of the world may be more familiar with Mariel, especially young Mariel on their five-year sojourn.
When it comes to humans, Asath have complicated relations. At first, humans unfamiliar with their existence tend to regard Asath as monsters and this can lead to conflict. Asath will defend their territory and often overpower humans, but they rarely go on the offensive unless their habitat is threatened or the human threat cannot be deterred. Asath usually see kuzo as vermin and exterminate them if found.
The Asath are one of the few races to have interactions with the Samiss in South Thiskel and Kalesten jungles. Though completely unrelated, their shared reptilian features tend to make them sympathetic to each other. However, as the Samiss are not a highly intelligent race, the Asath have been known to take advantage of them as a lower class or slave class.