The word silessi, singular siless, means “person” in the chief language of the species (it’s often spelled silȯssı). Their name for themselves as a species is solonoss (plural solonossı), but this never caught on among English speakers. Another term that may sometimes be used to describe them is Shasskheznı, but this is more properly the name of a nation on their original homeworld.
Due to the fact that the siless settled on Mars in the year 2036 CE, all time periods (days, months, years) in this article will be given according to the Mars Darian calendar, unless otherwise stated. Note that a month in the Darian calendar is equivalent to twenty-eight Mars days (which is just slightly longer than an Earth day), and a year consists of twenty-four months. The abbrevation TE stands for Telescopic Era, in which 1 TE begins around the same time as 1609 CE.
The silessi are only barely humanoid, appearing like bipedal lizards, with no obvious neck and nothing resembling hair. Though their entire body is covered in soft, tiny scales (except on the palms of their hands and insides of their fingers) in a shade of green or brown, the scales on the backs of their heads are significantly larger and harder, like a built-in helmet, and come in several different colours including teal, reddish-brown, mauve, and burnt orange.
Silessi have no nose or ears whatsoever; their tongues are narrow and almost appeared to be slightly forked. They have four fingers on each hand, including an opposable thumb whose nail is commonly left unclipped, growing into a sharp claw. If allowed, the other fingers would develop similar claws. Their long, thick tails help them to balance on their thick Y-shaped (ie two-toed) feet. They periodically shed their scales a few at a time, and sometimes (especially in older silessi) the rough greyish skin beneath (also visible on the hands) is exposed.
Like most Earth species, the silessi are divided into male and female genders. The physical differences are generally more subtle than in humans. Males typically have a slightly more pointed chin and more pronounced brow ridge. Females have slightly enlarged breasts1 – on average, what would in humans be considered A-cup (and basically never larger than B-cup). Instead of nipples, each one bears a sort of dimple, though normally they are covered in scales and not visible. Females also have a bare (scale-free) patch on the belly, though this is typically hidden beneath clothes.
Typical clothing consists of a knee-length tunic-like garment with a small slit in the back to allow for their tail. Some wear leg coverings, like leggings or stockings, beneath their tunics. Females often wear longer tunics than males, but males also wear longer tunics at times, particularly (but not exclusively) those in the priesthood. For footwear they use a heavy cloth wrapping that is tied at what would, in a human, be the ankle. Though some silessi have picked up on human fashions, most human footwear never caught on due to the thickness of the soles.
Silessi give birth to live young after a gestation period of around six and a half months. During pregnancy, the mother’s breasts swell significantly (gaining around two sizes by human standards and bursting out from beneath their scales to expose the bare skin) as they begin to produce onȧnȧ, a thick nectar-like substance that serves the role of milk for their species.
The infant subsists on onȧnȧ alone for three to seven months. Even after they start eating external food, some continue to suckle for up to ten months, at which point the supply will dry up. Twins are fairly common among silessi, at around one-seventh of all births. It’s possible for identical twins to be of opposite gender (as gender is less closely linked to genetics than it is in humans), though it’s not common.
Silessi mature just a little slower than humans, reaching full maturity after around 16 years. Roughly half of this is adolescence, starting around 8 years of age. During adolescence, most silessi begin to show interest in the opposite gender. Around 5% however do not manifest such attraction; of that 5%, two-thirds simply manifest no attraction while the remaining one-third manifests an interest in the same gender.
Silessi who choose to start a family typically enter a monogamous or bigamous relationship (with two females and one male). Other arrangements do occur, but are usually kept quiet. Many silessi also choose to remain single. They are generally seen to be in their prime until around 25 years of age.
Silessi tend to live a little longer than humans. The average life span for a siless is 50 years; the record is nearly 80 years. (This excludes mages, as use of magic is known to subtly extend one’s life.) After death, most silessi are cremated, and the ashes are placed in a small wooden box and buried. Usually soft woods are used for the box, since the intent is for the box to decompose and return to the soil along with the ashes.
Like humans, silessi are omnivores. In fact, they will eat almost anything, from meat to fruit to tubers to fish. Fruit in particular forms quite a substantial part of the average siless’s diet, with meat actually coming in a close second. Over half of the plant species they imported from their old homeworld were fruits.
Silessi also have a strong liking for eggs, and imported three distinct species from their homeworld just for their eggs. They’re not so keen on the eggs of Earth birds, however.
Silessi absorb sound and vibrations directly through their skin, which in addition to giving then fairly decent hearing allows them to pick up on even small earth tremors. Their tongues can detect scents, though only slightly better than the human nose.
Like humans, silessi can be born with the magical Gift. It seems to be less common than it is on Earth, however.
Society and Culture
Silessi culture is something of an honour culture. Silessi gain honour in the eyes of society by acts such as winning a duel (typically in combat, but other forms of duels sometimes occur), starting a family, being successful in war, or gaining a high-profile position such as a priest. They lose honour through actions such as losing (or yielding) in a duel, refusing to support their children, or being fired from their job for misconduct. Of course, these are just examples; there are many, many other honourable or dishonourable acts a silessi could perform, and furthermore some acts are more honourable (or dishonourable) than others. In some cases it’s actually counterintuitive.
Many silessi are religious, with around 80% of the Mars population believing in the Trinity, a set of three deities which they believe aided and blessed their exodus. Of the remaining 20%, two-thirds still cling to other old religions from their homeworld, while one-third either don’t believe in any deity or simply don’t care.
The Trinity is in fact a family of father, mother, and son. Though only one of these is a war god, all three are considered to be great warriors in the mythology, which is said to date back nearly one thousand revolutions of their original homeworld. It’s hard to pin down exactly how long this is, but what is clear is that their original homeworld’s year was longer than Earth’s but not as long as Mars’s.
The father, Ganasskinȧn, is the god of war, represented by the war sickle, a large, double-edged crescent of steel with a grip at the centre used by the silessi both in ritual combat and in actual war. The sickle is both his symbol and his physical implement; a Trinity Temple always possessed at least one ornamental war sickle in his honour.
The son, Sissinisshc, is the god of honour, represented by a stylized flame. Silessi consider the sound of a gong to call upon him. The gong, then, is his physical implement, carried out during festivals in his honour.
The mother, Lhu̇shakhno, is the god of family and love, represented by a trefoil knot. Priests (or, more commonly, priestesses) venerating her carried a 25cm articulated folding fan made of steel, which was kept sharpened to be usable in emergencies as a weapon. This is her physical implement. All temples possess at least one.
Exact years for events on the old world cannot be accurately given in either Earth or Mars years, due to a loss of records during the exodus. At some point, an environmental catastrophe broke out as a result of nuclear war between two of the more aggressive countries.
Fortunately, Shasskheznı (together with a handful of smaller nations) had already pioneered their Alcubierre warp drive, which they had been using to explore nearby stars. This enabled them to fast-track an exodus into space, building a fleet of city-ships each of which was capable of sustaining over two thousand citizens, complete with residences, gardens, and even a shopping mall. Though the city-ships were equipped with cannons on the outer hull, just in case, their defense was primarily entrusted to Shasskheznı’s military space fleet.
Citizens were migrated up to the city-ships at the earliest possible opportunity, even before construction was complete, since the planet was becoming increasingly hostile. Naturally, the exodus focused first on the populations of Shasskheznı and their smaller allies, but once all those citizens were on board, the project continued to rescue silessi from other nations until all the city-ships were full to capacity. By this time, most of the other victims of the disaster had already fallen prey to the newly-hostile environment down on the surface anyway, so the fleet departed with a not-too-heavy heart to search for a new home.
Unfortunately, their scouts had great difficulty locating another habitable planet, so when they finally discovered Earth, it was decided that taking it (or even just a part of it) by force would be worth it if it meant they had a new home. However, the scouts had vastly underestimated Earth’s magical prowess; while the silessi had greater technology, Earth possessed stronger magics.
As a result, the war ground to a stalemate after less than two Earth years, and in Earth year 2021 CE, a treaty was formed. Part of the treaty was a promise to make Mars habitable as a new home for the silessi, a process which was completed surprisingly quickly. In 227 TE, it was finally ready for mass offloading of citizens to the surface, though some had been already trickling out for around two years by that point.
The surviving silessi speak three or four distinct languages, but the dominant one is called Zalhakho by speakers. In English it has come to be known as Silessian, perhaps in part due to the difficult-to-pronounce
The language has 15 distinct consonants, /s z ∫ ʒ k g q ɢ x χ ʁ̝ l ɬ ǂ n/, with the two unvoiced sibilants also having distinct elongated versions, /sː ∫ː /. The click is either aspirated or nasalized, depending on the speaker. There are eight distinct vowels, all rounded, with a tense-lax distinction: /y ʏ u ʊ ø o ɶ ɒ/.
There are two common Roman transcription modes for the language, used almost exclusively by human linguists. The right column is the mode used in this article.
Since the Silessian language has a very simple syllable structure, it is written with a syllabic alphabet of 47 characters and 2 diacritics. Four of these characters represent a lone lax vowel. 36 characters represent the pairing of each unvoiced consonant with a lax vowel. (Note that /l/ is considered the voiced version of /ɬ/, even though that’s not technically accurate.) Two characters are reserved for the elongated sibilants, which are considered syllabic consonants, and the remaining five characters represent syllable-final consonants, which can be any of /s z ∫ ʒ l n c g x/. The diacritics represent vowel-tensing and consonant-voicing. Though /l/ and /n/ use separate characters when paired with a vowel, they use the same character when syllable-final, with a voice-marking added for /l/. In other words, going by the orthography, unvoiced /l/ can be either /n/ or /ɬ/ depending on whether it’s paired with a vowel.
Nouns and verbs have fairly simple rules. A noun forms a dual by appending -o, a trial with -a, and a plural with -ı. For example, “silȯssa” means “three silessi”. Nouns also form an accusative case by appending -in, which stacks after the number. The plural accusative of “silȯss”, then, is “silȯssıin”.
A verb’s basic form is the imperative, used for giving orders. Appending -lhuin gives the infinitive, and appending -lha gives the indicative. A subjunctive form can usually be obtained by appending –sslı, but some verbs change more drastically in the subjunctive. Except in the present infinitive, non-imperative verbs also require a tense suffix, which can be one from the following table.
Basic word order is VSO. Adjectives follow the noun, but adverbs come before the verb. Silessian uses postpositions to indicate functions or relations other than the accusative; most postpositions are paired with an accusative noun.
A common idiom in the Silessian language is obtained by taking an adjective that normally only applies to animate objects and applying it instead to an inanimate object. Rather than personification, this creates a meaning of a place people gather. For example, “lhul shȧnlo”, which literally translates to “wise tower”, actually means “tower of the wise”, not “tower that is wise”.
To those who complain “but reptiles don’t have mammaries!”, my answer is this: These are aliens. They may resemble reptiles in many ways, but they are neither reptiles nor mammals. They come from an entirely separate evolutionary tree which just so happened to develop some features of both reptiles and mammals. ↩