The Brech’mar (brek'mɑ:r) are the people of Brecha, the Goddess of Earth, and were given mastery over her element by bonding their souls with the earth elemental spirit Gnome. They are a short, stout, and hearty people who make their homes in the mountains of Kalesten and Thiskel--primarily in subterranean cities supported by agricultural villages on the surface. They are known for their exquisite metalwork that is often traded with neighboring elemental races. The Brech’mar are a proud, independent people with strong warriors but are also known for their hospitality and appreciation for food and culture.
At first glance, the Brech’mar look very different from the other elemental races, many of which are known for their refined beauty and height. In comparison, the Brech'mar are exceptionally short with broad, sturdy frames that carry more fat than their cousins, and are often more hirsute. They are especially strong
Their ears are also much less prominent and their hearing may be less acute in an open environment than many of the other elemental races. Hearing is not as important a trait in their subterranean environment as many rely more on vibrations through the earth. Brech’mar hearing is on par with humans on the surface.
Brech’mar have enhanced night vision in comparison to many of the elemental races and humans, especially those whose eyes are accustomed to the subterranean dark as miners. They have a tapetum lucidum which allows them to see better in low light, much like many nocturnal animals. This also causes Brech’mar eyes to reflect light in the dark.
A stark contrast to the other elemental races, the Brech’mar are a short and sturdy people. Males stand between 4’10” and 5’ (147-152cm) and females at 4’6” to 4’9” (137-144cm) with medium to heavy frames with broad shoulders on the men and wide hips on the women. Both genders often carry a bit of extra weight on them, either plump or muscular, depending on their typical physical activities.
The original populations of Brech’mar are fair of skin, but colonies across the world have developed more variety. Typically, Brech’mar that spend more time underground will be paler than those on the surface who are exposed to the sun. They have a wide variety of hair and eye colors, even in the original populations. Blonde, red, brown, and black hair are all typical of the Brech’mar, and eye colors cover shades of blue, green, gray, brown, hazel, gold, and violet.
Rather than having the long, tapered ears, Brech'mar have ears that lay flat against the side of their head with a two to three inch upward tilted point. These ears do not have the mobility of the tapered ears of the other elemental races, instead being more like human ears.
The Brech’mar are a rather hirsute people as well, with men often having prodigious amounts of body hair and full facial hair. Beards are highly appreciated amongst the Brech’mar. Even female Brech’mar are not immune to the hairy traits of their people, though they have far less body and facial hair than the males. Brechian women often are able to grow light moustaches and chin-beards, some with more extensive facial hair growth. Brech'mar also tend to having thick, dense eyebrows, sometimes merging as a unibrow.
The various Brechian cities and regions have different and evolving fashions when it comes to styling hair. Men and women sport a collection of hair cuts and coifs unique to their regional tastes, as well as beard styles for the men that may involve braids, waxes, beads, and other styling techniques. Women also have their own collection of styles for their limited facial hair. In many cases, their facial hair does not grow exceptionally long like men's, but they still find creative ways to style it, though some also opt to shave or remove the hair partially or completely. Eyebrows are also subject to creative grooming styles.
The Brech’mar have a lifespan of around three hundred years, of the shorter lifespans among the elemental races. Like other elemental races, they do not show apparent aging for much of their lives. They mature at the same rate as humans for the first twenty-five years of their life, at which point aging is suspended until around the middle of the two hundredth century when they gradually continue aging.
Brech’mar women are able to conceive once a year, which is more frequent than many other elemental races, and have a window of about one to three months where they are fertile. This ovulation period is unique to each woman and not tied to a specific season. Their first ovulation begins in puberty at a similar age to when humans begin menses. In comparison to many of their elemental cousins, the Brech’mar are an exceptionally fertile people and may have between five and ten children throughout their lives, usually spaced with 2-5 years at a minimum between each pregnancy. Fraternal twinning is not uncommon in Brech’mar women after they have birthed one or two children.
The Brech’mar are highly monogamous and marry relatively young for the elemental races--typically in the thirties or forties. Marriages can be arranged earlier but most Brech’mar find it distasteful to marry before the age of twenty-five. Extra-marital affairs are rare, as is divorce, but remarriage after divorce or widowing is expected. There may be premarital experimentation between youths, but this is frowned upon in most Brechian societies.
Brech’mar are easily able to reproduce with other races, including elemental races and human races. These unions are often marriages as the Brech’mar prefer the comfort of a devoted partner. Humans are the most frequent choice of partner in these cases, as their standards of beauty and lifespans are closer. Half-Brech’mar are often able to integrate into Brechian society, but there may be some social resistance on the personal level.
Brech’mar societies are split into two different groups--the subterranean city-dwellers and the terranean farmers who support them. Entrances to Brechian cities are often situated near fertile valleys or regions where their farms are located. As they are often in the mountains or foothills, these farms make the most of limited land with minimal clearing of forests. Grains, fruits, vegetables, and other vegetation that needs sunlight is grown here, along with smaller livestock such as pigs, sheep, goats, fowl, donkeys, and ponies. Species of livestock often vary depending on the region as more far-flung Brechian cultures may domesticate local fauna that is suited to the region. Meat, milk, eggs, labor, and textiles are harvested from their animals.
There is also some food produced in the cities. Their subterranean environment is ideal for growing mushrooms and some communities have taken advantage of cave-dwelling plant and animal life to enrich their diets. Hunting and gathering is occasionally pursued for specific game or ingredients, but the Brech’mar prefer to cultivate most of their resources to keep their manpower local. Early settlers engaged in this practice when they established themselves in new regions, but once they determined the local resources, they began domesticating what they could.
Food and drink are one of the favorite indulgences of the Brech’mar, and as with other arts that they take pride in, cuisine and brewing are unique and highly varied for each region. They enjoy rich and flavorful dishes, employing local ingredients and sometimes trading from outside to acquire spices and other goods they cannot grow locally. The Brech’mar brew a variety of beers, ales, spirits, meads, and other alcoholic beverages, each region with their own unique specialties.
Brech'mar culture across the continents has some variation. The older cities of North Thiskel maintain a stratified society based on hereditary skills and roles in society. This includes a noble class, a merchant and artisan class, a warrior class, a mining or labor class, a farming class, and a building class. These different groups have enforced social order amongst the foundational Brech'mar societies, making certain there are always individuals to fulfill the necessary roles.
Groups that spread to South Thiskel and Kalesten gradually relaxed the more rigid social structures and found other ways to make certain that roles are filled. Some abandoned the concept of stratification based on birthright, and instead follow a structure more like the Zaedyn that places elders and powerful elementalists in positions of leadership, while allowing people to follow their talents and interests in ways that support their society. Others adopted a democratic system of governance that allows for members of a society to pursue a lifestyle of their choice. Yet others altered the original system in ways that better fit their new environment and skillsets.
Traditional Brech'mar society is broken up into classes that establish a system of social roles to maintain the cohesion of Brechian cultures. This system is followed primarily by the older cities in North Thiskel, with some others still maintaining the old ways, or variations of them.
These classes are primarily hereditary, with some mobility through marriage or proven skills. For example, a member of the Basalt, a class made up of miners and laborers, may move to the Granite, the class of architects, if they prove to have significant talent that could serve the Granite class. If a member of one class catches the eye of a member of a different class, they can marry into a higher class if the family of the higher class partner approves.
Two classes support the base of the Brechian hierarchy and have the largest population. The Soil Class is the class of farmers who live on the surface, outside of the subterranean city. On the same level is the Basalt Class, which is made up of basic laborers who mine, delve, and build tunnels. These are not slave or serf classes, but they are a lower or common class with typically limited access to resources or wealth. They also tend to be the weakest elementalists, further enforced by generations of marriage amongst themselves. Individuals who prove to have significant magic potential have opportunities to advance out of the lower class by marrying up, apprenticeship to an artisan in a higher class, or adoption--which is practiced by the higher classes, even for adult adoptees.
There are three middle classes to the Brechian system--an artisan and merchant class, an architect class, and a warrior class. The Gold Class are a mix of artists, high-skilled craftsmen, and merchants who trade between other Brech'mar cities and their neighbors of other races. The Steel Class is primarily a warrior class. The Brech'mar have seen only minor conflicts in thousands of years, but, as with many of their elemental cousins, they still have a fighting force that maintains ancient elemental and physical battle techniques. The Granite Class are the class of architects who are responsible for building and planning the city. They are highly honored and edge near the top of the hierarchy. The ability for elementalism among these classes is often of moderate to high power, but honed toward their specific craft or skill set. Intermarriage between these classes is not uncommon as their level of elementalism is often on par with each other, and one family may provide resources that another would value--such as a Gold of a blacksmithing family marrying into the Steel would provide preferential supplies of weapons and armor to the Steel house.
The Diamond Class is the class of cleric-mages who are often the most powerful elementalists that their city has to offer. They practice their magic to the highest extent, becoming master elementalists and they provide a conduit for their goddess Brecha and spirits of the earth. While powerful, they are not the ruling class, but they do serve as advisors to the ruling class. Individuals of especial talent found in the lower classes can be adopted into the Diamond class, but the Diamond class frequently marries within itself to concentrate individuals of great magic potential.
These traditional Brechian cities are ruled by the Obsidian Class, individuals of noble bloodlines that descend from leaders and heroes, most all being skilled elementalists. Typically, there is one family per city in the Obsidian. Regions with highly interconnected cities unite Obsidian families through marriage. For example, the Brech'mar rulers throughout the Ideil Mountains of northeast Thiskel all share common ancestors after generations of political marriages. Political upheaval is not unheard of amongst the Brech'mar, especially when after generations of living at the top of society has led to spoiled and ineffective leaders. In cases of government shake-ups, a new family may rise to the Obsidian to start a new dynasty.
Gender and Relationships
The Brech'mar are not entirely egalitarian, like many of their elemental cousins, but they are not especially constrictive with their proscribed gender roles. The maternal role in Brechian society is an honored one, and when a woman marries, she is expected to devote more time to child-rearing and domestic tasks while her husband is expected to provide for the household. There are no laws that restrict a female Brech'mar's options, but it is socially frowned upon for a woman with young children to stray from this expectation.
Social expectations of gender have the expectation that men perform more physically laborious tasks, and much of the Basalt workforce is male. Most of the Steel warriors are male too. When it comes to magical labor, both genders are equally valued--though women with children are expected to spend less time on their craft than men. Women who have raised their children or have no children are not held to these standards.
Same-sex relationships are not restricted but moderately frowned upon, especially by families who place value on continuing their bloodlines. However, if the couple does not bow to familial pressures it often convinces their families to give in to them and bless the union. Individuals who fall outside of the gender binary or have no desire to have children are often in a similar position. Their families may pressure them to conform for the sake of marriage and continuing the bloodline, but if they remain adamant in their identity and desire, their family will typically accept and honor their commitment.
There is a great deal of importance to family in Brechian society, which can be expressed in different ways depending on the culture of the region. In traditional society, this is seen as continuing bloodlines and passing on the skills of their social class. In other iterations of Brech'mar culture, the value is on bringing the next generation forward or encouraging the joy one takes in their children and spouse. There is a warmth and deep filial love to the Brech'mar, regardless of how their culture has drifted from the original populations.
Monogamy is typical of the Brech'mar. It is in their nature to form strong bonds and love deeply, so the first person they become romantically attached to is often their partner for life. Their deliberate nature makes them rather picky in choosing that partner. While they often marry well before their first century, the choice is not made brashly. Depending on the culture, arranged marriages are not uncommon, but rarely are these arrangements enforced if the couple are incompatible. Divorces can occur if a couple has a deep incompatibility or severe strife. After a divorce, or widowing, remarriage is acceptable.
The Brech'mar speak a dialect of the Ancient Tongue distinct to them. The further from the origin point, the more the language tends to drift. With their shorter lifespan, the Brechian language evolves faster than some of the other elemental race dialects. The influence of neighboring societies can change the local dialect as well. Brech'mar who are more likely to travel on diplomatic or trade missions are educated in common languages of the region from an early age, though most will speak their local Brechian dialect.
The Brech’mar have a given first name and an inherited surname. First names are strong sounding names that are heavy on consonant sounds. They may also be named for stones, minerals, and precious jewels on occasion. Surnames are often a mix of two words, sometimes occupational, inherited from an heroic ancestor, or a common family trait. In the class system, the lower classes and the artisan classes typically have an occupational surname. The Steel, Diamond, and Obsidian classes often take their name from an ancestor or trait.
Surnames are typically inherited from the parent with the most prestigious family name, regardless of gender. Spouses who marry into a family do not replace their surname, but they do add their spouse's name onto the end of theirs to identify their allegiance. In marriages between houses that are similar in standing, there is always one spouse that leaves their house and joins their spouse's, so this is the determining factor in name inheritance for the children of the marriage.
While the matrilineality other elemental races follow doesn't factor into inheritance within Brechian society, if a Brech’mar woman bears a child with a member of another race, she will typically be quick to insist that the child bear her name and claim their Brech’mar heritage.
The Brech'mar were created to serve the Earth Goddess Brecha by maintaining aspects of her domain in their world. While they create vast changes to the mountains they inhabit in creating their cities, they do so with a regard for preserving the mountain and its surrounding environment. As with the other elemental races, they do not so much worship their god as they do seek to serve her. In traditional society, the Diamond Class leads the spiritual life of the Brech'mar by making certain that Brecha's will is observed and communing with their inner elemental spirit. Other Brech'mar social systems have a similar priest-mage class devoted to maintaining the spiritual aspect of a city.
Earth Elementalism is used by the Brech’mar, the race bonded with the spirit Gnome. Half-Brech’mar can use Earth Elementalism if they are born to a Brech’mar mother, as well as any of their descendants for up to two generations of a direct female line. However, the ability is weakened with each generation combined with a non-elemental race.
Earth Elementalists manipulate the soil, bedrock, stone, crystals, ores, and other parts of the ground beneath their feet. This is the hardest form of Elementalism from the basic four elements, as it requires great mental fortitude and effort to move the earth. Earth Elementalism is employed in combat deliberately, often causing the earth to tremble or rise up beneath their opponent. It is typically used as either an opening salvo, or ending blow due to the focus and determination needed. Most Brech’mar rely on Earth Elementalism for their homes and livelihood, either applying it to mining, building, farming, or crafting metal and stone objects. In concert, Brech’mar priests can cause devastating earthquakes through a combination of their power and communing with fellow Gnome spirits, but this is rarely done except in defense of their community. Individual Brech’mar have a limited range of influence on their abilities.
Brech’mar are capable of healing one another through contact with their element (a little soil, sand, gravel, or other bit of earth), and focus on behalf of the healer and one being healed. They cannot heal individuals of other races in this manner, and the healing rate is slower for half-Brech’mar.
The Brech’mar are a pleasant and friendly people to most outsiders, but communities as a whole rarely seek out contact with other races. Zaedyn, Ochae’nafod, Dra'nafod, Idayn, and humans who live nearby often reap the benefits of their friendship. Brech’mar frequently trade with their neighboring elemental races and sometimes with humans.
Practicality, solidarity, stubbornness, and honesty are all strong traits in the Brech’mar as earth elementals. They are a traditional people, very fixed in their ways and not often willing to change. Brech'mar are proud and have firm standards and morals which are hard to sway. When dealing with outsiders, they are often amicable, but hold to firm standards. If a line is crossed with the Brech'mar, they are rarely willing to bend in accommodation.