The Exekians are a bipedal race. Second only to humans, they are the most widespread species inhabiting the planet, although they are in steady decline and may even be approaching extinction.
For thousands of years, the Old Exekian Empire was one of the most prosperous civilizations in the known world. The Empire was built on the backs of an enslaved human population. The discovery of gunpowder, however, ultimately turned the tide, as guns became the "great equalizer" permitting humans to successfully wage war against the Exekians.
For the last two centuries, the Exekian population has been decreasing due to constant warfare, internal power struggles, and their slow reproductive cycle making it virtually impossible to have a sustainable birth rate.
Physiology and Traits
Exekians are distinguished by their silvery blood, pointed ears, and tapetum lucidum. They tend to be taller in stature than humans, with long, slender limbs. Their facial features are often angular and arranged in a triangular pattern, with wide set eyes and an almond or heart-shaped face.
All Exekians have either black or white hair, though there may be some variation in shades. Typical eye colors include black, yellow, amber, violet, or blue. The tapetum lucidum makes their eyes appear to glow in the dark like those of a nocturnal predator.
A common practice among the Exekians, first started by the hunyadi, is to let one's hair grow out until they must enter into battle, at which point their hair is shortened. It was thus assumed that an individual who had very short hair craved conflict, while one with medium length hair was seen as brave. A person with very long hair would be assumed to be non-confrontational, but it could also be associated with cowardice and femininity and was not considered a favorable trait in male Exekians. Falsely cutting one's hair in order to appear tougher was seen as cowardly at best, deceptive at worst, and could lead to mockery and derision if their true measure of bravery was revealed to not match the length of their hair. The act of forcibly cutting the hair of another person against their will was a way of issuing a challenge; it could not be ignored, lest the one whose hair was sheared suffer profound humiliation for refusing to defend themselves.
Abilities and Weaknesses
The average Exekian is physically stronger than the average human. They do not age and are technically immortal, though they may die of injury or disease.
All Exekians possess a tapetum at the backs of their eyes, making them appear to glow in the dark and allowing them a degree of nightvision. In addition, their internal body temperature is significantly lower than a human. Because of this, they prefer cooler climates with limited sunlight.
By far the most well-known Exekian attribute is their innately anti-magic properties. Merely being in the presence of an Exekian can disrupt a magic user's ability to channel their power. Exekian blood is used to make Exekian steel, a material used to create weapons wielded by human witch hunters and paladins.
Exekians do not become sexually mature until they reach 214 years of age, in a process known as kluuda. They reproduce in a manner similar to humans, with an act of bodily union. The female will carry the resulting child for about a year; the pregnancy is taxing and leaves the female in a weakened state.
Documented cases of Exekian/human crossbreeding are scarce, both due to the rareness of such unions and the limits of the Exekian reproductive cycle. Interracial unions have been historically frowned upon, resulting in the ostracization of the couple.
In ancient times, children that were either unwanted or born with any imperfection or birth defect would be abandoned shortly after birth. By the time of the Old Exekian Empire this practice had fallen out of favor. Disfigured or unwanted children would instead be made into "changelings" - Exekians that were given to enslaved human families whose child had died or been sold elsewhere - and forced to live and work among the humans.
Unlike the nomadic humans, the Exekians generally remained in and around their point of origin. By 4,000 BYZ, the Exekian civilization had taken the form of the Old Kingdoms, a series of feuding states ruled by petty hunyadi. The kingdoms were united around 3,000 BYZ under Taranis Kuhl, the first Emperor of the Old Exekian Empire.
For the next three thousand years, the Old Exekian Empire dominated the northeastern continent. At the height of its powers it was in control of numerous provinces, including the islands of Dardanos and Skadi. The Exekians also raided more distant human settlements, taking prisoners to be made into slaves. The humans were put to work as laborers, soldiers, servants, and performers.
Only two hundred years ago, the human slave population successfully revolted. Led by Erasmus Stirling, the slaves formed an army and, with the help of a newfangled invention known as a gun, killed the Emperor, destroyed the capital, and overthrew the Empire.
In the decades since, the Exekians have been slowly driven north into the shadowlands. Their government fractured into scattered tribes run by would-be leaders and former hunyadi claiming sovereignty. After a period of civil war, these groups eventually developed into the New Exekian Empire and the Clan, two rival factions vying for power.
Mannerisms and Ideology
Exekians are known for valuing honor and for having, if not a warlike culture, then one which favors and perhaps even encourages conflict and competition. Balance between emotion and rationality is sought, but if a dispute arises, one must fight to resolve it.
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