Dependent on intense heat for their reproduction and survival, the firenewts have a history of totalitarianism and war. This is fueled by their limited resources, drive for survival, and intense religious devotion.
Firenewts resemble salamanders on the most part; flattened heads, beady eyes, king bodies and serpentine tails. Their limbs are longer than in typical salamanders, allowing them to walk upright. Firenewts are most easily recognized by their skin: bright red in coloration and slightly transparent, showing the feint outline of their skeletal systems. Despite this translucent skin, it is tough and resilient to heat. However, the eggs of firenewts are not as durable. They are incredibly dependent on warm water for their survival, and waste away if the water drops too low. This necessity for heat means that the firenewts must live in hot regions such as thermal springs and volcanic regions.
Volcanic regions come with a variety of benefits and risks. The fertile soil provides good nutrients to plants, which in turn provide food for the firenewts’ prey items, including insects, crustaceans, fish, and small mammals. The presence of a volcano deters any neighbors from arriving, so they can generally build on volcanic land in peace. What’s more, the thermal heat allows the firenewts to breed safely, meaning that they can maintain healthy population sizes. On the down side, living near active volcanoes means that there is always a risk of lava flows destroying their settlements; they are heat resistant, but not heat immune.
To combat this, firenewt settlements are designed to be protected from the threat of lava. Barriers are formed to steer the lava flow away from settlements; when magic is present, they will usually cause lava to flow around the settlement so that it solidifies as magma rock, which can resist the lava’s heat. Some settlements are built underground with molten rock doors to protect them, whilst also providing them better access to the heat of the earth. No firenewts live entirely underground however, as their respiratory systems are not equipped for subterranean life.
Food is harvested and stored as much as possible, with insect farms being common place. These farms are kept fenced in, with plants thrown in the tops on a regular basis. In this way, their prey is easily stocked and gut fed, ready for periods when lava flows may decimate their food supplies. Even this insect farming is not always the most sustainable of food production methods. When this fails, gatherers are sent further afield to collect more meat, either from markets or from the wilderness. Favored foods of the firenewts are large worms, molluscs, and other soft bodies creatures.
The firenewts are however blessed with resources besides food. The presence of metal ores mean that they have quick access to building materials, resulting in a penchant for smithing. Firenewt crafts tend to be elegant but practical in design, mimicking the curves and coils of their own bodies. Their metal is used only for practical purposes, as their general mentality is that resources, no matter how surplus they may be for the moment, are finite in the end, and as such should only be used when needed.
Firenewt politics has a tendency to move towards political extremes. This is simply due to their need for efficient control of resources, as well as their typical liking of strong leadership and organization. Typically this takes the form of a single ruling group, which in turn controls all of the laws and regulations of the population. These leaders often form a warrior elite, with those that can fight being given the same political control as those that can truly lead. Leadership is passed on through military ranking, ensuring that the strongest, most efficient leaders in the harsh situations of battle are also those that lead the firenewts in the harsh conditions of their own homelands.
The firenewts are historically known for an era of intense raiding and slavery, caused by a period of famine and internal unease. Volcanic eruptions and political discord had resulted in them becoming low on morale and resources, which in turn had threatened their long term survival. In response to this, the warrior elite of the time decided that the best course of action was to work towards ensuring complete security of their territory, as well as to take resources from other settlements that were producing more than they needed at the time. This was soon followed by the repeated raiding of nearby settlements, taking their food away from them and their people as slaves. Whilst their treatment of slaves was not as barbaric as other races, there are still some individuals that remember when the fire worms stole their children and took them off to work in the lava mines. This warrior elite was eventually overthrown in a serious of rebellions, but their influence still remains in their desire for land security and awkward discourse amongst outsiders.
Firenewts have worked hard to reduce their historic sexism, giving males and females the same work opportunities and the right to vote. Despite this gender equality, there is a strong disdain for relationships outside of male-female pairings, as it is seen as the duty of each individual to have children and to continue the firenewt way of life. Just as fire needs fuel and a spark, so too do the firenewts need a male and a female.
What’s more, females are still treated differently when their eggs are laid: as they must be kept at a constant temperature, the females are expected to ensure that the eggs remain at a constant temperature. Failure to do so results in the eggs dying, and as such the hatching of eggs is seen as a trial of the competency of the parents. Childcare is seen as a hard labor task, and as such females are not expected to work or get their own food whilst working, with the males providing the food and other items. Young newts are often encouraged to take on apprenticeships, in order to encourage an early work ethic. This also helps them adopt the firenewt philosophy that all individuals must work together to build a strong, stable community.
Crimes are punished through fines and food ration reduction, with the latter used for crimes of theft. In firenewt culture, stealing, overindulging, or underworking are the three most heinous of crimes. They believe that they are each alive to do their part, and failure to fulfill their roles means you no longer see the importance of your role. This can lead to culture shock for traveling firenewts, when a crime such as assault is more looked down on than stealing from others.
Firenewts can live up to and over fifty years of age, which is considered long lived amongst reptilian beastfolk. Their funerals are short events, culminating in the body being cremated and the ashes being stored underground in special memorial chambers. These chambers are built above households, where firenewts live with family and close friends. These family units used to be heavily monitored and accounted for, so in the current era family members change houses as they please, ensuring that toxic relationships aren’t allowed to maintain themselves in the same building.
Technology of the firenewts is mostly focused around exploring the potential of the natural resources available to them, so as to ensure that they make the most of their environments. Firenewt scientists and alchemists are common occupations, due to the presence of rich sulphuric deposits and underground colonies having access to subterranean ores. Whilst most experiments are practical in purpose, others have resulted in the discovery of recreational substances. One such substance is known as fire flour; a chewable substance that warms the body. Other substances include cracklers, which come in two pieces. Chewing both at the same time causes small sparks that can be made into small balls of fire when spat out. The consumption of these has led to the myth that firenewts can breathe fire.
Firenewt literature is written on imported substances, with previous historical information being passed on through word of mouth. This has led much of their ancient past to be forgotten, but their present experiments and philosophies are carefully inscribed and preserved. Literature is also used to inscribe their holy texts: whilst religions can vary between settlements and individuals, the primary religion of the firenewts is fire worship, with each volcano given a name and personality. Food offerings are provided when it becomes active, and priests often make holy journeys to the mouth of the volcano, with those that return from having gazed into the mouth being considered devout worshippers.
Firenewts in other regions often find positions as sellswords, miners, and guards, due to their no nonsense approach to life. They are seen often wrapped up in insulating layers of clothing, so as to retain as much heat as possible. This contradicts the typical elegance and slender forms of their culture’s armour and architecture, meaning that those that are unfamiliar with firenewt culture could easily assume they are all stocky and constantly complaining about the weather. Some firenewts are known at times to get a bit too excited over the freedom of life without constant struggle for resources, leading them to excessive gambling, drinking, and smoking. A rare few turn into artists and bards, as with less need to work manually, it allows them to explore alternative ways of life. Despite these stereotypes being present, there is still the overarching knowledge of what the fire worms were able to make the firenewt empire do. Though the tyranny is long gone and enslaved individuals were sent back to their families, there is still a bitterness surrounding settlements that were the worst affected by this era of expansion. All firenewts, regardless of how they feel about their past, must carry the burden of their ancestors’ actions.
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