Fierce competitors and brutal warriors, the lizard-like salamanders have carved out for themselves an empire of blood, iron, and fire. Under the watchful burning eye of the Dragon Gods, the salamanders view those around them as inferior beings whose ultimate destiny is to serve as salamander slaves.
Salamanders are thinner than humans but stand at least a head taller. The skin of the salamander is covered with leathery scales that are shaped in diamond patterns, and range in color from red and brown hues to white and black. Their hands are thin and bony, each with three claws and an opposing thumb claw for grasping. Their feet are clawed and widespread to give stability. Their legs are different from other humanoids, as their knees are reversed like a horse with huge thigh and hindquarter muscles. Their arms and torsos are long and muscled. Salamander facial features are long and angular with frill appendages on the neck and back side of the head. Their eyes are black coals with yellow slitted pupils. A salamander’s whole body balances on a heavily spiked tail.
Salamander males are well groomed and proud to show off their physique to anyone. The frills on a male’s neck encircle his head and are displayed in battle, for sport, or to catch a female’s attention. These frills can be dyed in various colors and patters. Warriors wear metal armor over small sections of their bodies to mostly protect parts of the feet, hands, arms, legs, and torso. None of these armor pieces protect the whole body part, but just flat areas to reinforce the thick leathery skin. Males who hold a high position often wear a cloak with no hood, along with a very long loin cloth, to display their status.
Females of the species do not flash their small gills except for when truly angered. Most females do not like to display much color, preferring to wear warm-colored silks in simple patterns. The main physical difference between males and females come in the size of the head and tails: Females have smaller heads, but longer tails with no spikes.
Salamanders are fiercely competitive. They have honed their abilities to help them thrive in their constant war against the environment, their enemies, and even each other.
Salamanders are incredibly hardy. Desert heat that would kill a human in minutes is actually invigorating to a salamander and icy winds that would burn thinner skin can’t touch a salamander’s leathery hide. They can go weeks without food or water if necessary. Their thick scales serve as simple armor against most small weapons.
Metal holds few secrets for the salamanders. Copper, iron, brass—even strange new compound metals unknown to the other races—all these have been bent to the mighty salamander will. Most metal is formed into weapons, armor, and other equipment for the salamanders’ constant war of conquest.
Even without their metal arms and armor, salamanders are fearsome warriors. Theirs is a militaristic culture, in which everyone has at least a little martial training. Their warriors are not citizen-soldiers; they are soldiers and know nothing but the violence and glory of battle. Furthermore, because of their mastery of metal-working, salamanders are armed with some of the highest-quality weapons available in the Known World.
Of course, not all a salamander’s enemies are outside her own race. Politics are just as brutal as any battlefield, and can be just as deadly. Salamanders are experts at diplomacy, subterfuge, and back-room dealings. While salamander nobles rarely use their subtle wiles against outsiders (who they prefer to simply crush), they keep them finely honed in their constant duel of wits against each other.
Salamanders are at home in desert. Their colony cities can be found in arid wastelands across the Known World. These cities are invariably large walled affairs, with numerous flame-like towers reaching up as if to burn the sky. It is from these cities that the salamanders march their armies and send forth their raiders for fresh slaves.
Life in the cities is comfortable, even pleasant, for the salamanders who live there. The nobles play politics in the beautiful temples and civic buildings, while the merchants work their shops and stalls, and the soldiers drill in the sun beneath the cities’ walls. But for the countless slaves who do the work to keep the cities running, it is nothing short of a living hell. Their days are filled with drudgery and pain, and their only hope is for the release of death.
Salamander culture is based around a single belief: “Only the strongest survive.”
This belief fosters an intense, viciously competitive spirit that permeates everything they do. From competing for rank, competing for a mate, or even just competing with a merchant when haggling over the price of lunch, every challenge is taken with deadly seriousness. Salamanders never surrender. Mercy and humility is for the weak. Respect is only given to an opponent who cannot be beaten.
This belief, when combined with the salamanders’ belief in their inherent superiority to all other races, makes it no wonder that they have so many enemies.
Salamanders are primarily carnivores, though they do eat some fruit and grain. Meat is provided by the cities’ hunters. If the city is particularly large or game particularly scarce, they may raise livestock to be slaughtered. Grain and other crops are raised in and around the cities to help feed the slaves (and other livestock).
Competition is particularly fierce when it comes to mating and reproduction. Since females rule the society, they have their choice of mates when their breeding time arrives (once every three years). A female makes it known that she is looking for a mate. For the next moon, males petition her for a chance to compete to be her mate. Those who she accepts meet in a contest of her choosing (usually gladiatorial combat), and the winner becomes her mate. Of course, because these are salamanders, many of the suitors are eliminated by their competition before the day of the contest.
Females typically dispose of their mates after fertilization. This is usually a simple banishment, but it could mean the death of the male if he is particularly obnoxious. Two moons later, the female lays a clutch of 10 to 20 eggs, then returns to her pre-mating life.
When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings are raised as a brood by the female’s servants. The hatchlings are taught to compete for their mother’s approval. Those who earn it are rewarded. Those who don’t are punished. Roughly half of all hatchlings are killed within their first five years due to this competition. Those who survive can expect to live for up to 200 years—though few last that long before meeting a violent end.
While the salamanders control large areas of land, they have no central government. Instead, each colony has its own queen, and no single colony is considered the race’s “homeland.” Under the Queen is her Consort, and her council of ladies called the Nathraa, created from eight prominent houses in each colony. To balance the powers in a colony, a unified action from the Council is equal to the Queen in terms of power. This unified action rarely happens since political infighting is the norm. Executing the wishes of the Queen and the council is the General of that particular colony’s army, called Xdthomaansrr (pronounced ‘Kith-o-man-cer’). Salamander governments are steeped in secrecy and paranoia from the Queen down, as everyone is out to reach the top no matter who they step on.
Salamander society is ruled by the females of the species. Noble females hold the hereditary offices, while lesser females control the government public offices. Male salamanders are relegated to military and labor roles; while they may achieve greatness within those roles, it is the duty of males to serve.
Slavery is the unspoken backbone of the salamander economy. Slaves are everywhere: in the fields, in the kitchens, in the temples, in the government offices—even in the queen’s private chambers. It is the slaves who carry out the most “menial” tasks, freeing the salamanders to focus their energies on fighting with their neighbors and amongst themselves. Slave revolts are uncommon. At the first sign of unrest, the salamanders cull any troublemakers—or potential troublemakers—before they can do any actual harm.
As masters of metal, the salamanders have forges and smiths more advanced than any except the gnomes. They make more than just arms and armor, however. Their smiths work the metal into fine jewelry, sculptures, and mundane tools. While most outsiders consider salamander craftwork to be crude and blunt, some pieces are actually quite delicate and lovely.
The salamanders have no friends amongst the other races of the Known World. They believe themselves to be above everyone else in thought and deed. This arrogance, combined with their love of competition, fame, and power leads to inevitable conflict. Pacts are made with the gnomes, sylphs, and giants only to dissolve at the earliest opportunity the salamanders have to advance themselves, usually at the other race’s expense. The undines, gnomes and nymphs are the salamanders’ mortal enemies. The three races attack any salamander on sight.
To Salamanders, humans are soft and weak. They are rarely considered anything more than potential slaves. The only time salamanders think of allying themselves with humans is when they have a common enemy who grossly outnumbers them. Once the enemy is no longer a threat, the salamanders betray their allies and collect a new generation of slaves.
Beliefs and Gods
Religion in salamander society is a complex affair. The queen and her eight ladies each represent one of the nine Dragon Gods, and serve as priestesses of nine different temples. Salamander society revolves around these nine gods as they also represent the nine houses in each colony. Sometimes in smaller colonies, a house may represent more than one of the Dragon Gods.
The nine Dragons are:
- Kanos, Dragon God of the Fires Above
- Xtheni, Dragon God of the Flaming Sky
- Maathenos, Dragon God of the Burning Moon
- Thaminx,, Dragon God of the Burning Earth
- Xethalchoate, Dragon God of the Fires Below
- Draax, Dragon God of the Boiling Sea
- Kalamandi, Dragon God of the Flaming Spirit
- Moorhanos, Dragon God of the Melting Ore
- Tukonos, Dragon God of the Searing Thought
In theory, each god is held in equal esteem, but in practice the salamanders hold the Dragon God of their own Houses in more reverence than the other gods. Each time a new queen ascends to the throne her corresponding god will be more favored than the other gods for that period of time.