The Humans of Canno (They of the Crimson Fields)
Canno’s people are, on average, slightly taller and markedly stronger than their cousins in other universes. They’re the largest of all Canno’s sapients, beating the average Ilbaret in height by six to eight inches (the Ilbaret average 5’4″ in height for men and 5’2″ for women), and the long Arjoth by almost double in weight. They are renowned for their valor, force of will, and aptitude for war. As the ones who fought hardest against the Loar, they’re lauded even above the other Grand Peoples. While Canno’s men and women are close enough to their cousins elsewhere that they’d recognize each other as one species, most of their cultures do not organize themselves by gender. The brutal genocide of the Loar disproportionately weeded out physically weaker and milder-natured members of the human race, and drove the survivors of both sexes to seek partners for physical strength and size. In the space of a few years, this informal custom became iron law among almost every human culture.
The result is that there’s very little sexual dimorphism left between Canno’s warstock men and women, aside from *ahem* a few key areas. Instead, people are organized according to two “stocks.” While relationships between the stocks are common enough, interbreeding is rare and bitterly stigmatized. The only nationalized exception are the Tresar, whose seclusion after the first few battles in the Loar War allowed them to preserve their existing society. Whether this was really healthy for them in the long run remains to be seen. The Ulmish, on the other hand, were so devastated after the Loar War that they couldn’t afford to partake in the stock system. This gives them uncertain status among the rest of humanity. Some peoples revere them as a last remnant of the Age of Splendor; others see them as a pitiable regression, a throwback to the ignorant days before the stocks.
Subsection A: Warstock
Though they vary from culture to culture and one ethnic group to the next, warstock humans as a rule are more statuesque, sculpted, hard-bodied, and fierce-hearted than peacestock. They fear less from birth, and easily learn to ignore it (though some choose to harness it instead). They’re taller and longer-limbed, denser-boned and quicker-muscled. Purebred warstock are hard to find, but easily recognized. The Ton Matriarchs are famous for fanatically protecting their bloodlines.
Surprising though it is, warstock pay just as much attention to their appearance as others. Their approach, however, is different. Warstock may choose to appear beautiful or grim, elegant or rough-and-tumble, but it’s always to enhance the appearance of power. Whether makeup or warpaint, embroidered dress or dread armor, the most refined warstock use even the tiniest details to control the opinions of others. The Ansethi Empress Shayris was renowned for her presence; in her memoirs, she explained that this was achieved by minute shifts in facial muscles, posture and tone to convey peace, sadness, simmering rage, or anything else she wished. Regardless which expression, she always gave the impression that she felt exactly what she wanted to. At best, those around her only gave her the excuse.
Shayris never gave her secrets to this last element.
Because of their fighting ability and because they’re defined by their role in taking life rather than making it, warstock are remarkably casual about sex and sexuality. Sexual assaults on warstock are rare–as an all-gender rule, they’re an excellent way to wind up gutted, throat-slit, castrated, and so on–and effectively purged from history by claims that the victim “wasn’t pure warstock.” In order to avoid this, most will say they just wanted to make a contest out of it.
Some will “confess” to never having been warstock in the first place, and usually end up believing it.
While it’s tempting to assume that warstock people lose talent elsewhere for their gifts, the truth is they don’t. Even as they are stronger than other humans, they have the same endurance. The vigor of their bodies drives keen minds, though it’s true that many ignore knowledge for brute force. They’re less given to pursuits which require them to wait for a while or which take away their initiative, admittedly, and their larger stature overall does hamper them in survival situations where food, water, or other resources are limited.
It would seem reasonable to expect warstock would be more likely to suffer from neurological disorders, madness, and all the physical symptoms that result, but psychopathy was bred out as carefully as cowardice. That said, warstock ideology makes discussing any disorders that do crop-up nearly impossible. Both because so many warstock, as the bitter legacy of violent lives, suffer from these things, and because all warrior philosophies reward the discipline and grit to push through suffering unhindered–or at least, without seeming hindered–many warstock are ashamed to admit remorse about killing, disturbance by what they’ve seen at war, or sadness at destruction.
Subsection B: Peacestock
The other of humanity’s two core stocks, peacestock are exactly as one would expect. Softer in features and body and more given to a wide range of emotions, peacestock are less confrontational than warstock. The key phrase is “less”. Even a comparatively angry Ilbaret may never match the most placid warstock, and most peacestock humans will be about the same. Somewhat shorter and less lean than warstock, peacestock folk account for the “home and hearth” side of humanity. They plant crops, perform time-consuming but less physically dangerous labor, and handle all the less-warlike aspects of day-to-day life.
For various reasons, the decisive advantage of the peacestock is longer life. Besides the obvious fact that most of the killing and dying are handled by the warstock, peacestock psychology is better suited to happiness and letting stress go. The peacestock handle helplessness, lack of control and slower-than-expected progress better (in emotional terms) than the warstock. This doesn’t always work in their favor, however; if a corrupt monarchy or fascist dictatorship seduces the bulk of the warstock to its service, the peacestock will usually fall in line.
The peacestock produce many of Canno’s artists, and here they have some advantages. Warstock may pursue the arts, but in some cultures they’ll draw scorn if they stray too far from “warrior-worthy” subject matter. Some Ton–mainly those southernmost on Taifen, who consider themselves the “progenitor” Ton–are especially stringent with this. Engraving spear-fittings and sword guards, laminating armor, and the like are all admirable; painting lively pastoral scenes or earnest young feed-skims, less so. The peacestock, on the other hand, can create whatever they wish and have it admired for beauty, functionality, or any other reason.
Besides that, many warstock forget that less yearning for a direct fight doesn’t mean the peacestock can’t survive in political circles, trade, or other fields where acumen trumps directness. They’re particularly common in criminal organizations where common social mores break down and fearless warstock can be more liability than anything else. Peacestock rely as heavily on assassins, poisons and the like as their warstock counterparts, though they may be overly polite in the contracts for such killing tools.
The insidious–and at first, unintentional–side effect of humanity’s slavish obedience to stocks after the Loar War was that breeding affected only the warstock. The peacestock became mostly an afterthought. Or, to put it more bluntly, as the Black Havener historian Erma Zeller asserted: “The peacestock weren’t supposed to exist.” In the immediate aftermath of the Loar War, the only surviving humans–theoretically–should’ve been warstock. After all, the Loar killed the rest! But even those most fitting the mould still carried the genes which created their fallen peacestock siblings.
Suppressing those genes took centuries, by which time the cast-off pool of warstock considered slightly too weak or otherwise flawed to breed in the ‘pure’ stock further muddied the peacestock’s status. Even in the present day, some peacestock parents give birth to children who grow up to act and look like model warstock. Most societies give them a choice: stay peacestock with all the social pitfalls that brings, or become warstock, but give up the right to have children. It’s telling that more than half of them choose the latter.
This extended beyond pure physiology into social structure, classism and especially gender politics. There are sexists in the warstock, but not sexism as a pervasive social construct; a warstock man who hates women will quickly demonize himself to all the warstock men who’ve fought alongside, bled with and frequently owe their lives to warstock women, and vice versa. The peacestock have neither this, nor the multitude of other pressures on warrior society to bind them into a cohesive whole. The peacestock are, on the one hand, expected and able to be more pliable and compassionate, and on the other, more open to bigotry.
Worse, the selective breeding which went towards making warstock women physically equal–or near enough as made no difference–with men obviously had no bearing on peacestock women. If anything, constantly singling out taller, stronger and hardier women for the warstock has made the peacestock’s women scrawny, unhealthy and overly timid. Peacestock men, made frustrated and insecure by warstock of all genders, regularly take out their anger on the peacestock women around them. While this is theoretically punished harshly in every country aside from Tresamer, warstock biases about the “glass’d frailty” of peacestock women mean many of their accusations are treated with disdain. And far from seeing peacestock women as more vulnerable versions of themselves, most warstock women consider them a voluntarily oppressed class.
There are many on both sides who feel that the stock system needs fixing, but few with a plan and fewer still with any notion what to put in its place. At its core, the stock system seems to justify itself: grouping humans based on the traits that define them as individuals.