The concept of the Ríli people I came up with about 14 years ago (almost half my life agoo–it feels a lot more recent than that, but that’s how time works, it seems) while on an extended camping trip with my family in the temperate rainforests of southeastern Alaska. I was in the forest living out of a wall tent with a small woodstove, sleeping on army cots, an hour-long boat ride from the nearest (small) town. Besides working (chopping wood, building structures, or cooking), my options for passtimes were practicing archery and writing and reading. So I spent a lot of time in Aeniith, thinking about what might exist beyond Keta–beyond the Gotevians, Lomi, and the Ei Lands. I wanted to expand and explore Aeniith. I started thinking past what my childhood and immediate adolescence had produced. I was also learning more and more about linguistics and language typology, and the Rílin language was in part a result of this. I hope you enjoy a small introduction to–and some meandering thoughts about–the Ríli.
The Ríli are a humanoid species of Aeniith. They are endemic to the continent of Izoi in Elta (the “eastern” hemisphere of Aeniith), mostly inhabited the central-northern parts of the continent. They are small compared to other humanoids, standing around 4’9″-5’5″ (144.5-165cm) on average, with males being a bit taller than females. Their skin is dark to light grey, ranging in tone from bluish to reddish. Females tend to have darker skin than males, and younger Ríli have darker skin than older. For this reason, darker grey skin is considered a sign of youth and therefore of beauty (in most subcultures). Skin color of most Ríli range from ashy white to dark grey, almost black. Ríli evolved in dark forests, and it is for this reason that their children (and younger members) are darker than the older. All Ríli have a stripe of paler skin down their spine and the sides of their neck, known as the pfókala (literally, ‘white stripe’). The pfókala on the sides of the neck marks a very physically sensitive part of the body, both with regard to pain and pleasure.
Rílin scout, called Silin. Art by Tara Williams (http://unit-3992.tumblr.com/).
Hair color can be yellowish gold, light orange, brown, pale grey, or black. What we would consider “blond” hair (strictly speaking) is rather rare, as is dark red hair. Dark red hair, however, is considered beautiful, though only about .05% of the population shows this color naturally. Hair consistency is usually thick but individual hairs tend to be fine, though they grow in massive amounts. Many Ríli must cut their hair frequently, as it grows fast. Facial and body hair is sparse in both sexes, however, though females have more pubic hair than males. Males have very little chance of obtaining any facial hair until after the age of about 35. Hair and nails grow very fast compared to other species. This results in hairstyles being quite long. But toenails and fingernails have to be cut frequently so that the Ríla is not harmed by their own toes and fingers. Nails of the fingers and toes have a dark tint to them. Dying the nails orange or red is popular for cosmetics reasons.
The eyes are larger and farther apart than a human’s. Eyebrows often extend over into the hair, being of a soft and full type of hair. Eye color can be blue, violet, grey, black, or brown. Golden-yellow and green eyes are also possible, but only about 1 in 300,000 Rili have this. Eyesight is very keen. The rods of the Rílin eye are very sensitive, giving them excellent vision in darker conditions. Ríli can consciously control the dilation of their eyes.
Ríli have a physical “sixth sense” which allows them to sense the neuroelectrical pulses of a living brain. They can sense the presence and relative distance of any type of organism with a central nervous system, and can also distinguish between higher life forms (such as another Ríla or other hominid) and lower life forms (a squirrel or deer). There have been extremely rare cases of Ríli having “telepathic” abilities, or the ability to sense the thoughts of another hominid. These individuals are very few and far between.
The onset of puberty usually begins around 18 years of age for females and 21 years for males. Gestation lasts for ten months. The hormonal (menstrual) cycles of the Rilin female last typically 15 days. The menstrual period itself thus lasts on average around 3 days.
Silin, Rílin scout. Art by Tara Williams (http://unit-3992.tumblr.com/).
- Rili are very physically flexible and agile, due to high levels of collagen in their bodies. About 65% of all Ríli have a slight split in the tip of the tongue.
- The sides of the Rílin neck (called the meslí) along a portion of the pfókala are very sensitive
- Fingers and toes are often long and tapered with square tips and small nail bases
- The stomach has three parts, in order to better digest cellulose in plants
- Wiggling and moving the ears is easy
- Ríli typically need 9 hours of sleep each night
- Rílin metabolism is on average higher than that of humans. For this reason, obesity is relatively rare. Emaciation and unhealthier levels of thinness are more common
- Facial features tend to be very fine and sometimes sharp
- The pads of the feet (and to a lesser extent the hands) are covered in a thicker gripping skin called samanken. These developed because of the Rili evolution in forested areas; they were originally a tree-dwelling species
- The ears taper backwards slightly in a mild point, and often have tufts of hair on the upper ridge
Traditional Rilin culture is based around the principles of harmony, equality, and pacifism. Violence is a very taboo subject, as is conflict, to a lesser extent. The value of equality has led the Rili to have a very egalitarian society and a democratic government. The populace (of the Sunuli) is governed by an elected council of sixty officials that are replaced every five years.
The most significant event in recent Rílin history is the military invasion by the Tosi, a warlike people of the Zuna species to the south. The invasion completely reshaped Rílin society, culture and philosophy. Prior to the invasion, the Ríli had no military and their religion and cultural values did not permit them to engage in defensive combat. Some decided to flee northward and hide in the deep, impenetrable forests there. Many of this group also took refuge in underground caverns beneath a mountain nearby; soon constructing subterranean settlements and eventually cities there.
This period of escape is known as The Flight. The Ríli that took refuge came to be known as the Lunauli, or “people of the darkness”. Their religion remained largely intact, but their societal values changed: strict hierarchies began to replace the original egalitarian system. However, many of the Ríli refused to abandon their homeland. They stayed, developed an army and determined to fight the Tosi. The Tosi had a definite military advantage in this situation being brilliant strategists, having massive armies of formidable and highly-trained warriors, and having made many conquests throughout their history of neighboring peoples across Elta. The Ríli, however, had a few natural advantages of their own; their neurology gave them a “sixth sense,” the ability to detect the neuro-electrical pulses of living brains at a distance of up to a kilometer. They also had extensive knowledge of their own territory, which consists largely of deep forests that the Tosi, being largely desert-dwelling people, found difficult to deal with, militarily.
Domestic Lives and Common Personal Values of the Ríli
Work ethic is held in high regard, however, it is generally believed that personal happiness is paramount. The arts and sciences are greatly valued and often taken up as pursuits by amateurs in early and later adulthood. This may be related to the Rílin idea that one’s mind is kept healthiest when it is positively occupied.
The Rílin family unit typically consists of two parents and one or two children. Often the parents have extensive hobbies or personal activities that they pursue apart from their daily occupation, and thus many do not have children immediately upon marriage. Ríli are matrilocal, which means that the male goes to live in the household of the female for some time before the couple have their own household. The family name of a child is usually that of the male, however, this is not always the case. Babies are breastfed until around age four.
Ríli eat four meals per day. The first meal is taken in the morning and often consists of a sauce made from red berries with shredded nuts and seeds, called perut. The second meal is taken around noon. The third meal is taken around 4pm. And the fourth meal is around 9pm. Seaside-dwelling Ríli love to eat steamed sea cucumber with pickled vegetables in a dish they call íshne.
The structure and size of houses depends on whether the family is seaside- or forest-dwelling. Space is more plentiful in the big forests and seaside locations with immediate ocean access are limited, so houses tend to be smaller and more compact, also because it is colder near the northern sea.
Pets are not particularly common, but sometimes small mammals might be kept; typically mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits. Trained birds, such as kestrels and falcons, are also used for hunting.
Perfume is worn by many individuals of varying demographics, but is most commonly worn by women in their mid- to late adulthood.
Cosmetics, however, are generally only worn by young men seeking to attract a mate. Most other people would only wear cosmetics during festivals or parties. Jewelry is common, and worn by everyone. Earrings are the most popular type of jewelry. Often individuals who wear no other jewelry will at the very least wear one earring. Piercing are also not uncommon, especially brow piercing (women sometimes wear a series of small piercings in a line above the eyebrow). Gemstones are mined for use in jewelry as well as currency. Any gemstone or piece of precious metal can be used as currency; these particular pieces are called íka. Garnets, sapphires, turquoise, diamonds, agate, and two Aeniith-specific stones called turí (a translucent brownish-red and very hard gem) and nashím (a soft blue gem) are also popular.
Women sometimes tattoo their feet with curvilinear designs or organic symbols relating to their identity, family, profession, or hobby.
Modern Rili are a fairly rational and not overly superstitious people, but that hasn’t completely erased some old superstitions and false assumptions that have existed among the masses throughout their history. Here a few of them:
- It was a common superstition that drinking the amniotic fluids of a woman who has recently given birth will increase longevity and health.
- It was believed that having two butterflies of the same species land on you was good luck.
- It was a superstition that disobeying one’s grandmother’s financial advice would bring back luck.
- Rotten onions were thought to invite bad luck.
- It was thought that to get the blood of someone else on one’s skin linked one to this person in some way.
- It was believed that letting one’s baby cry for too long could cause it health problems later in life.
- Coffee was believed to cause insanity.
- Seeing a turtle was thought to be good luck.
- Having a bird land on one’s shoulder could either signify god or bad luck: good luck if facing forward, bad luck if it was facing backward.