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The Six Races: The Shu - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
The Six Races: The Shu
This is part of the bonus material for the February 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl, describing the six races of the series A Conflagration of Dragons.  Begin with Part 1, Part 2.  Skip to Part 4.


The Shu


Shu means "he who rises up," from the Egyptian god who separated the sky from the ground.  It has connotations of discipline and balance. Like other names pertaining to this race, it comes from the Book of Going Forth by Day, aka the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  The associated elements are Earth and Air.

The capital city Jehuti grew at the heart of a vast woodland, including not just wooden buildings but structures made of living trees, surrounded by a rich food forest. It was also known as the City of Trees, the Jewel of the Forest, and similar titles. Read about its destruction in "The Chant of the Return of Sebak."  Shu live in the woodlands. They deal in formation and shape, motion and travel, visible in the construction of the city and its use of kinetic power such as pulleys. They balance between expansive and insular, extroverted and introverted, solitary and gregarious. Individuals tend to have a long-term preference toward one or the other mode, and the society as a whole fluctuates slowly between the two modes. They have one marriage form (monogamy) with divorce.

Shu are average height, about 5'5" to 5'8" for males or 5'3" to 5'6" for females. Their lifespan is about 200 years. They have medium-size, furry, glider-like tails which are slightly wider on females. They have sugar-glider style wing membranes which extend from wrist to ankle; muscles in the edge of the membrane pull it in toward the body when not in use, although it remains noticeable as a large loose fold of skin. They can glide adroitly but not actually fly. They have long slim hands that are nimble and good at gripping. Their dominant senses are hearing and touch. Noses tend toward long and narrow, with a high straight bridge. Ears are a little larger than human size, and pointed. They may be either immobile or slightly mobile, depending on family heritage. Eyes are rounded. Common colors include green and lighter shades of brown. Uncommon colors include yellow-grey and sky-blue. Rare colors include grey, dark brown, and silver.

Skin tone shades gradually from dark on the back to pale on the belly. Variations of brown to buff or golden to cream are most common. Olive to buff is uncommon. Black to silvery-grey or white occurs rarely.

Hair is always straight, and often brindle. Common colors include shades of brown and blond. Bronze is an uncommon color, a shade of rich brown with hints of green and gold. It appears more often as part of a brindle than by itself. Auburn, white, gray, and black are rare. Like bronze, they typically appear as part of a brindle. Shu are unusual in that their brindle may contain multiple shades of a color rather than just two contrasting colors: for instance, light brown, sunny blond, and bronze.

Shu are resistant to cold. For bathing, they prefer sponge baths or showering to soaking. It can be challenging to get their wing membranes and their fluffy tails dry, so they prefer not to wash more than necessary. Therefore they try to stay clean. They are particularly fond of products that neutralize body odor without adding some other strong scent.

They are somewhat virile but less fertile. Shu infants are born with a rudimentary gliding instinct and will spread out all their limbs if frightened. They are lightweight, so they tend to land safely. Directed gliding takes longer to learn. Young Shu are prone to clinging to favored adults, but as toddlers will launch themselves without warning. For this reason, parents sometimes use a tether to keep them from getting lost.

The primary magic of Shu is defensive magic. This includes field effects (such as slowing action within the target area), directional shields (deflecting attack from a single direction), enhancement (making allies stronger, weaving vines into an impenetrable wall), adaptation (changing the qualities of living things), camouflage (changing color, invisibility), absorption (draining power), cancellation (negating a type of energy or a specific spell), etc. It can affect willing subjects directly (as in casting enhancement spells on allies) but can affect unwilling subjects only indirectly (as in casting area spells into which enemies may step). It can indirectly support the health of living creatures or environments, but cannot directly heal them. The range and duration are usually moderate, although some applications of adaptation or other spells may be permanent. Some spells require material components while others do not.

Shu are influenced by body and senses, mind and thought; therefore contrasts intrigue them. They are hedonistic toward comforts and relaxation. Their strategic and tactical mindset makes for some of the best leaders. They are moderate regarding conflict and compromise. They are secretive about special places but expressive about ideas. Their dominant communication modes are leveling and computing, so they take a very straightforward and practical approach to problem-solving, with little tolerance for obfuscation.

From their food forests they gather edible mushrooms and lichens, nuts, epiphytes, and fruits. They also grow leafy vegetables and a few root vegetables in small garden plots in the clearings. They hunt wildlife in the forest, including deer, elk, grouse, moose, partridges, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and wild boar. They also eat pork, chevon, poultry, and eggs. They have a strong sweet tooth, especially for honey. They make metheglin, a mead flavored with herbs; plus brandy, cider, perry, and wine. Theirs is among the most diverse cuisine. They have no common food allergies.

They raise goats and pigs. They keep chickens, pheasants, quail, and turkeys. They have domesticated greatdeer for draft and riding purposes. They raise a great many honeybees in hives throughout the forest. Leafcats are trained for hunting; they have a stiff stand-up crest, tufted tail, and jagged leafy spots similar to a Masai giraffe.

Because of their wing style, Shu wear long flowing robes so that they can stretch their wings and glide. They use lightweight fabric as much as possible, usually the landsilk that they gather from silkworms. They tend to avoid seasilk because they do not get along with the Madhusudana who make it. In cold weather, Shu may add layers of fur, leather, wool, or down. They like earth tones that blend well with the forest, primarily greens and browns, also grays, black, and small amounts of cream. They use pastel flower colors as accents, rarely brighter colors unless they are indoors. They have excellent understanding of camouflage patterning and make clothes that can disappear into the woods.

Preferred weapons include blowguns, chainsticks (nunchucks), compound bows, garrottes, knives, machetes, quarterstaves, shortswords, spears, and warclubs. They also excel at setting traps of many kinds, most using wood and/or rope to blend into the forest background. They use certain types of biological warfare, such as fungi that rot enemy equipment very quickly and toxins that retard wounds from healing. For music, they enjoy drums and woodwinds. Most of their instruments are made from wood, and they get reeds from the Hachi. They are particularly known for all-wooden drums.

After the Conflagration, the substitute currency of Shu (Earth/Air) is time. They organize barter systems of hour exchange where people can trade services. After the fall of Jehuti, few of the fancy instruments survive, so they switch to playing clapsticks or wooden croakers, along with reed instruments from the Hachi. They drum on hollow logs or branches when they can find some.

Shu (Earth/Air), Eofor (Earth/Fire), and Hachi (Earth/Water) have a strong trade alliance based on practical goods and services, opposed against the looser Imran (Air/Fire) and Madhusudana (Air/Water) alliance based more on exchange of news and entertainment. Shu (Earth/Air) and Madhusudana (Air/Water) are particular unfriends. Shu (Earth/Air) and Beneberak (Fire/Water) hate each other and conflict frequently.

Virtues: amiable, dependable, diligent, gentle, logical, objective, organized, patient, realistic, subtle, thorough, thrifty; designing; clarity, construction, detachment, instruction, love of people, maturity, memory, prosperity, silence, stability.

Vices: indifferent, overthinking, rigid, scatterbrained, selfish, stodgy, territorial, uncaring; anxiety, attachment, lethargy.

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