The aishineh are humanoid. They average a little shorter than humans, at around 140 cm (4.5 ft) when standing fully erect, and their slightly more hunched posture makes the difference even more obvious. They are sufficiently similar to humans to pass as one in a costume.
Aishineh sport a pair of curved horns emerging from the sides of their temples, pointed ears, slightly enlarged canines, and coarser head hair than most humans. Their backs, legs, and arms are covered in keratinous scales akin to those of the pangolin. They have no fingernails or toenails. They also have a long, flexible tail much like a monkey’s, though covered in scales instead of hair.
Most aishineh of either gender wear little clothing - just a skirt, loincloth, or pair of loose shorts. Some don’t even wear that much. High-ranking aishineh tend to dress more richly, however, often wearing long robes or dresses, elaborate hats, and bark sandals.
The aishineh life cycle is just like that of a human, just sped up a little. They reach puberty around the age of nine to twelve and are usually physically mature by age fifteen. Menopause for females usually hits around age forty, and most aishineh die before sixty. Although aishineh are mutually fertile with humans, the offspring of such a union are generally infertile.
Aishineh eat primarily plant matter, with meat being reserved for special occasions. Their staple is a heat-resistant species of rice, and they also consume a number of other species that were ancestrally native to East Asia.
Aishineh have the same powers as humans - weak latent telepathy and the ability to be born with the magical Gift. Their visual spectrum is a little different though, as a result of living in caves. They also have a greater resistance to heat and, due to the keratinous scales, a somewhat greater physical resistance to damage.
Society and Culture
Aishineh society is highly hierarchical. Every citizen has a place, which is assigned by the government when they turn fifteen, based on a number of factors including their demonstrated skills. Individuals may ask for a specific job, and these requests are often granted (especially if it’s an unpopular job), but if you don’t happen to be so lucky, there’s little you can do about it. It’s possible to change jobs later in life, but few ever go through the trouble.
In order to prevent population decline, each citizen is required to produce at least two offspring. The state generally lets individuals choose who to mate with, intervening only if they show no intention of complying within a specified time frame. In practice, around 5% manage to dodge this requirement.
Aishineh reside primarily in seven habitat domes on the surface of Venus and a number of interconnecting caves and tunnels beneath the surface. The interior of the domes are filled with vegetation, mostly consisting of hardy drought-resistant plants. The food crops are grown in special greenhouses. The domes are constantly being repaired, and ruptures occasionally occur with devastating results. Fortunately, the domes are sufficiently segmented to limit the damage in such cases. Sometimes, workers must venture outside the dome in special suits.
Some particularly brave souls have built smaller, personal domes (or sometimes other structures) out in the “wilderness”. These people are largely shunned from aishineh society. Many of these hermits are mages.
There is no organized religion, but many aishineh revere an entity known only as “the death wind”. This most likely arose from the lethality of the hot, unbreathable atmosphere on Venus.
The aishineh remember little of the advanced magic and science of their ancestors, mostly retaining just enough to keep the aging habitat domes functional. Any research sponsored by the government is in service of improving the domes or the methods of repairing them.
The aishineh are a genuine offshoot of humanity, most likely a separate species in the genus Homo. The ancient Kingdom of Mu had highly advanced magical technology, and around fifty thousand years ago, they launched a project to send people out into space. The plan was to send people to Venus, then Mars, and finally to seven of the brightest stars - Sirius, Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Procyon, Altair, and Aldebaran.
At first it seemed like a huge success - they had built thirteen shuttles that would, upon arrival to Venus, expand into habitat domes with a viable ecosystem inside. However, the initial design had a number of huge flaws. The first spacecraft broke down just before exiting the atmosphere, and crash landed in the Pacific Ocean. This prompted a detailed investigation of the remaining craft. In the end, only seven were deemed spaceworthy and sent off, with the intention of repairing the rest and sending them later.
However, the space program was interrupted when the kingdom went to war against the Pillar of Heaven, a loose alliance that had formed between humans of the mainland and nearby islands (such as Japan and the Philippines) and the faerie host. The most they could do before support for the project dried up was to send a final support craft to Venus, which carried a variety of seeds and other supplies that the colonists would need. Many of the researchers on the project were moved to other areas, such as weapons research (leading to, among other things, the Combat Assistant and Armour Suit Devices that would, millennia later, be used by modern Japanese “magical girls”).
Abandoned by Earth, the colonists were forced to fend for themselves in the hostile environment of Venus. The magical cooling system of the habitat domes wasn’t quite enough to keep up with the oppressive heat of the atmosphere, and the hot winds constantly whipped at the domes, requiring constant maintenance to avoid the breathable atmosphere from venting. In search of some respite from the heat, the colonists burrowed beneath the rock, building a network of underground caves and tunnels. Eventually, the tunnels grew into a network connecting the domes (although people travelling from one dome to another would continue to use the teleporter network instead).
Linguistic analysis suggests that the Aishinehta language spoken by the aishineh is linguistically related to the modern Ainu language. Quite a few cognates can be identified, including their name for themselves. The relationship is quite distant though, as might be expected for thousands of years of divergent evolution.
There are at least five distinct dialects, most of which are associated with a specific dome. Two of the dialects are not even mutually comprehensible, though speakers of most other dialects can understand both with some difficulty. Some linguists have argued that Aishinehta should be treated as a language family, rather than a single language. The aishineh themselves consider it to be a single language, though.