Earth Kin

Birth and Childhood

Most Earth Kin come from the egg-like pods that grow in the Verdant Fields, also known as the Hatching fields. The adoption of eggs involves the Ritual of Bonding, in which the couple chosen to receive the egg imbue it with a bit of their essence, with the help of a trained midperson from the Verdant Fields clan. Applications to adopt are submitted to this clan’s elders. Only one couple from each clan is chosen each year to receive an egg.
These eggs have the appearance of rocks, a little bit bigger than a melon. The hatching couple will stay in the Verdant Fields for a few months with their egg until it is hatched, and then bring the baby home to their clan to raise.
Earth Kin children grow and age at about the same rate as Humans and Fey, but notably different is the way they develop in terms of sex and gender. Kin young are genderless, and thus typically called by gender-neutral they/them pronouns in early childhood, until/unless they start to display signs of physical sex and gender identity, at around the age of four or five. More on this later. Though they mature physically and mentally at the same rate as humans, society tends to consider them children until 30, and juvenile until 50 or so, due to their long lifespan. The passage to adulthood is marked by a coming-of-age ceremony on or around the 50th birthday.
Most Earth Kin children are raised communally by their clan, with only slightly more of the work done by the Bonded parents than by others. An Earth Kin typically considers all clan-members to be family; cousins, aunts, uncles and such. They take after their Bonded parents in appearance, and usually learn their trade from them.
Due to the changeable nature of Kin’s physical sexual characteristics, there is basically no difference between treatment and perception regarding one’s gender. Whether one is Male, Female, or Neutral has no effect on how one is raised and treated.
Kin who spend excessive amounts of time away from their home planes have occasionally developed the ability to impregnate or to become pregnant, depending on their genital configuration. This is a recent development, as travel between the Elemental and Material planes has only been possible for less than a decade.
As mentioned earlier, young Kin develop their physical sex and their gender identity in early childhood – more often than not, these tend to match, but when they don’t, a Kin can choose to undergo the “Month of Change” – about 30 days of rest, seclusion, and meditation during which their genital configuration and secondary sexual characteristics change to match the desired identity; male, female, or neutral. There is perhaps a higher tendency toward genderfluidity among the Kin races – though the Month of Change is an intense and serious undertaking, there are those who take it upon themselves to change yearly, or even a few times a year. Others may only do it once or twice in a lifetime, or never at all.

Courtship and Marriage

Traditional Earth Kin courtship, as practiced among the twelve central clans, is a slow and complicated process, which is undertaken very formally and seriously. Since they are raised communally by their clans, they rarely court and marry within clan, as all clan-members are considered family. About half of Earth Kin are often apprenticed out to other clans around their 100th year, in hope of finding a compatible match. Others stay at home and take up their clan’s trade.
The “twelve steps” are one example of how formal Earth Kin courtship used to work. Young kin will often experience a number of relationships, dabbling in the first two to six steps, not always in order, sometimes ignoring the steps altogether. Most Earth Kin consider formal courtship traditions to be archaic and outdated, though those with romantic hearts strive to keep the customs alive Societies are gravitating away from them. Asexual and polyamorous Kin are especially dismissive of the old traditions.
If a couple chooses to follow the formal steps, each step is often cause for celebration by their clans. Once the eighth step has been passed, the relationship is considered complete, and the rest of the steps are optional. Completing step twelve is considered, by old-fashioned romantics, the “perfect” relationship.

The steps are as follows:

Giving of gifts to show regard. Can be anything as simple as a flower or shiny stone.
Attending social events together. This stage announces to the public that the two are a couple.
Discussing life-goals together; planning the future of the courtship.
First kisses and touches.
First sexual encounters.
Monogamous sexual relationship.
Meeting of the Clans to discuss marriage.
Marriage; one Kin formally ties themself to their partner’s Clan.
Submitting an application to the Verdant Field clan for an egg.
The Egg-Bonding Ritual in the Verdant Fields.
Raising children together.
The couple, as they near their thousandth year, journey into the Elder Woods together to die.

Courtships proceed slowly; Earth Kin are patient and long-lived. It is not uncommon for a couple to be together for a century or more before applying for an egg from the Verdant Fields.
Interracial relationships happen on occasion, and are not looked down upon by society, but are not able to apply for an egg. History holds that it has been attempted, but the Bonding ritual has never been successful without two earth kin parents. Kin who have travelled the planes and developed the ability to become pregnant or impregnate others have produced half-breed children in the past. Those children are similar to those with mixed Fey and/or Human genetics – they inherit the species advantages and disadvantages of one parent, though they can display physical traits from both.
Due to the lack of gender-binarism in Earth Kin society, there is no difference in priority regarding sexuality when a couple (or polyamorous group) applies for egg-adoption. The stability of their relationship and ability to provide for a child are the primary subjects of inspection by those who review the application.

Death and Burial

Earth Kin can live to be nearly a thousand years old. When they near their thousandth year, they start to sense that their time is coming. After a farewell party with their closest friends and family, they journey alone or with their spouse(s) into the deepest reaches of the Elder Wood, where their bodies eventually fade away, and their spirits return to Lord Earth. Death by causes other than old age is not terribly different, except that the party happens postmortem and the body is then carried into the Elder Woods by clan-members. The deceased is typically buried at the foot of a tree, so their physical essence may rejoin the cycle of nature.
Earth Kin believe that death is an important part of the cycle of life; everything must return whence it came. Bodies rot and nourish the soil, spirit energy returns to Lord Earth. Even when prematurely killed, it is somewhat rare for an earth kin to choose to return from the land of the dead unless they have strong feelings about not being ready to die.

Politics

The 12 clans of the Earth Kin are each known for particular specializations, though societal roles are not enforced as law. The clans work together peacefully, and most rivalries between them are friendly and light-hearted. No clan is considered greater or lesser than any other. Political work is the duty of the Bleak Mountain clan, who serve as civil servants, diplomats, and police. Relations between Earth and the other elemental Kin are also usually peaceful, if complicated. Diplomacy is a constant effort, due to vast differences in communication styles.
Fey very rarely visit the elemental planes, but the earth kin strive to maintain civil relationships with them as well. Having known about humans for less than a century, political relations with the Prime Material Plane are still new. Earth Kin visiting other planes will protect the local elemental circles with their lives, prioritizing the Earth circle, of course.
When the Earth Plane is at war, the Tremor Step clan gains increased powers, since they function as Lord Earth’s army.

Crime and Punishment

Violent crime is relatively rare on the Earth plane compared to most places, but when it happens, punishments are severe. Criminals who get caught are typically sentenced to lengthy terms serving the Deep Rock clan in the mines. More minor transgressions are handled by the offender’s clan, and punished with community service.
Manners and formality are considered vitally important, and breaches of conduct result in loss of status in the eyes of one’s peers. An earth kin who is rude will not get very far in life.
The militant Tremor Step clan has a rigid Code of Honour much like the Fire Kin clans, and breeches are punished by clan elders. The worst offenders are taken to Lord Earth’s Courtyard of Stone, where they are petrified permanently. This Courtyard, full of statues that used to be criminals, is a long narrow yard one must walk through to reach Lord Earth’s throne room. It serves as a last display of the Lord’s power before coming into His presence.

Work and Play

Earth kin take work very seriously, and are expected to master their trades; some from childhood, and others from the time they are apprenticed to another Clan. Free time is typically spent in restful and relaxing activities rather than the more active types of play enjoyed by other races. Not to say they don’t have games, but typically they are slow-paced and involve careful decision-making.

History

Created by Lord Earth thousands of years ago, the early Earth Kin lived peacefully among themselves for a while. Early on, conflicts did happen due to misunderstandings with the warlike Fire kin, emotional Water kin, and flighty Air kin. The elemental Lords are brothers, after all, and sibling rivalry happens. For the most part, however, they get along and work together; and therefore their servants, the kin, get along as well.

Religion

Most Kin worship the four Elemental Lords, giving highest reverence to the Lord of their own element. Lord Earth is the creator and protector of the earth kin race. It is not uncommon to hear Him addressed in prayer as “Father” – but occasionally “Mother” or “Parent”. A devout earth kin will typically set time aside for prayer once in the morning and once in the evening, as well as before special occasions. On the Prime Material Plane, the nearest Earth Circle is usually the best place to pray to Lord Earth, but if for some reason it is inaccessible, anywhere with rocks and trees will suffice. Note that, though most frequently referred to as Lord, and typically with capitalized He/Him pronouns, Lord Earth is in fact a genderless entity.

The 12 Clans

Verdant Field
The most powerful clan, the Verdants control the Hatching Fields where new Kin are born. Most common professions are “Adjudicator” – those who review applicants for egg-bonding, and “Midperson” – those who coach soon-to-be parents through the Ritual of Bonding with their egg.

Elder Wood
The Elder Woods clan guards the forest they’re named for, which is where elderly Earth Kin go to die. As such, they are the primary source of the Earth Plane’s priesthood. Prayers for the dead and guidance for the grieving are trained into them from youth, along with the care of the forest and the careful harvesting of its resources. Secondary professions include hunters, foresters, and loggers.

Green Hill
Responsible for agriculture. West of the Bulwark is an immense stretch of nearly uninterrupted farmland, where the Green Hill Clan produces most of the Earth Plane’s food.

Deep Rock
Miners of ores and gems. South of the Bulwark is a vast desert, and near the middle of this desert is a great canyon called The Wound, where most of the Deep Rock clan dwells. Beneath The Wound are near-boundless mines that harvest the mineral wealth of the Earth Plane. Because indentured servitude to the Deep Rock Clan is the most common punishment for crime on the Earth Plane, prison guards almost equal miners in number.

Bleak Mountain
Civil Servants; politics and police. They Bleak Mountain Clan originally hails from the mountain ranges north of the Bulwark.

Red Cliff
Merchants and traders. Most are nomadic, though some are permanently settled in cities.

Blooming Dale
Academics and scholars. In the central city called The Bulwark, Igneous University is the main hub of Higher Education on the Earth Plane. Elders of the Blooming Dale Clan make up most of the University’s Board of Directors.

Dark Loam
Landscapers and gardeners. Known more for growing flowers and decorative plants rather than food-bearing crops like the Green Hill Clan.

Crystal Tower
Crystal-growers, artists, and entertainers.

White Stone
Architects and builders.

Tremor Step
The Tremor Step Clan is the Earth Plane’s “army”. Their rigid code of honour is more typical of the militant Fire Kin clans. They specialize in unarmed martial arts, though many train with weapons as well.

Lost Cave
Artisans and Smiths. Most Lost Cave Kin live in and around the canyon called The Wound, along with the Deep Rock Clan. They work with the rocks and ores the Deep Rock kin bring up from the mines.

There are many professions within each clan. The listed ones are just what the clan is known for. Also note that there could be other clans beyond the central area of the Earth Plane, in what is known as The Outlands.

Tips

Looking The Part
Brown and/or grey tint to the skin. Make sure brown is not covering more than half of visible skin, to comply with Epoch’s “No Race-Face” rule. Skin is decorated with “Power Lines” — the patterns that the lines take can vary from clan to clan. You will need at least three visible horns; size and configuration vary greatly. They don’t all have to be on your head. Decide whether you are a more ‘rocky’ or ‘woodsy’ kin and try to dress appropriately for that.
Jewelry has significance for all Elemental Kin; most wear a pendant with their clan’s symbol on it. Crystals and gems are popular for some clans, flowers and leaves for others. For example, the Elder Woods clan’s emblem is a tree in a circle.

Mannerisms
Be careful and cautious in all things, especially decision-making. A reckless earth kin is unheard of. Politeness and formality are highly valued in earth kin society; try to show respect to everyone, especially other Kin and the local Elemental Champions. Earth Kin tend to be a little stubborn, and very resistant to change. While not unintelligent, Earth Kin can be slow to process things.
Earth Kin can tend toward stiffness and tension in their movements, and only really relax when they feel completely safe.

Relationships
Remember formality in all things. Try to use full names or surnames for those you don’t know very well. An earth kin can be a little slow to trust and let their guard down, but once they make up their mind how they feel about someone, that is unlikely to change. To those who have earned your regard and loyalty, you are unwaveringly steadfast.

Values
Elemental balance is very important to earth kin. You should strive to protect the elemental circles; the Earth circle only comes first if more than one is threatened at the same time. A strong sense of community and duty toward other Kin is also common.
Remember that Earth Kin society is one without gender-binarism. There is no “typical” behaviour ascribed to a person’s status as male, female, neutral, or otherwise.
Earth Kin should respect all life and all stages of the life cycle. This includes death. Earth Kin beliefs about death as the natural end to life might make your character reluctant to come back from the Land of the Dead, unless they have something really important to return for.

Roleplaying interactions with Air Magic
All Air magic does two damage to Earth Kin characters, on top of the effect in each spell’s incant. Air Defends, for example, will do two damage to you when the enchantment is applied, but still protect you from the next weapon strike as the spell’s description dictates. This has been played as causing nausea or extreme discomfort as well as direct harm, as the character comes into direct contact with their opposite element. Holding Air mana also tends to cause nausea or discomfort. Note that these are Role Play effects, not part of Epoch’s canon of rules, so you are free to play it as you see fit.