"It is a strange thing, to be welcomed into a Slade community. They so often treat guests as though they'd always lived there, and are just as personal and familiar with travelers as they are with their closest friends. However, as soon as their visitors depart, they are seen as having always been gone, and are spoken of as though their departure is as far in the past as the beginning of time itself. Such is the memory of the Slade: what is, always was—and what is not, has never been."
Architect Ferrethan, "Pilgrimage," 3341 Darkness
The intensely loyal and reliable defenders of Vulcanica, the Slade take tremendous pride in both their mother and her choice to awaken them. Massive behemoths of stone, they are gentle giants at heart, deeply fond of peaceful times and cooperation, but a truly terrible force when roused to anger. They are the most inclined towards solitude of all Vulcanica’s people, but even they tend to prefer communities over reclusive life.
Slade typically stand around 9 to 10 feet tall, and usually weigh around 2000 pounds. Their skin is rough and craggy, (indeed, it is indistinguishable from raw stone in all regards), though the actual texture, coloration, and pattern will vary among individuals. Their incredible stature can make life difficult when interacting with those not accustomed to their height and mass, especially if they attempt to enter places not built to accommodate them. However, their gargantuan frames make physical tasks effortless, and they can complete with ease work that would be borderline impossible for smaller people.
Slade do not have a natural lifespan, perishing only when death is brought upon them by outside forces. Slade are also unable to reproduce voluntarily, only coming into being when Vulcanica deigns to give birth to another child, usually during one of her rare forays into Slade towns. Furthermore, Slade are agender, and neither possess nor recognize such a dichotomy among their kind — the only one among them that is decidedly “male” or “female” is their mother, Vulcanica, and many consider that a privilege afforded to her as their creator.
The Slade do not possess the biological need to eat or sleep like other people. However, they do benefit greatly from prolonged contact with earth and unworked stone (it performs very similarly to sleep for other people), and will, on occasion, even consume small rocks or handfuls of dirt—especially when they are injured or particularly tired. Though they do not possess lungs (or, indeed, a circulatory system), they do still require air in order to function, and can be hurt or killed by suffocation, cracking and crumbling into dust as they expire.
Because of the way the Slade approach concepts like permanence and constancy, their culture struggles at remembering times that were different from the way things are now, often erring on the side of “this is how things are; therefore, this is how things always were.” They do pride themselves on their ability to maintain deep and richly-detailed accounts of history, but the way they tend to fill in gaps often leaves their records somewhat confusing to outsiders.
It is well-known and well-documented that the Slade were the first people to appear on Vulcanica, their history beginning a solid 200 years before any other people were spotted. Unlike the others, the Slade also arrived with a fully-fledged language and writing system, making them the earliest historians of Vulcanica. This advantage disappeared with time as the other people eventually discovered writing and record-keeping of their own, but nearly everything from the first thousand years on Vulcanica was recorded by Slade hands.
"Rubbletongue" is the common name for the Slade languages, as their actual names—a sound much like rocks falling and crashing into one another—are very difficult for non-Slade to pronounce. A much more polite name, "Mountain Speech," does get used on occasion, but few enough Slade take offense at "Rubbletongue" that the need for a more formal term is rare.
Outside of a few deeply xenophobic caverns, the surviving Slade cities and mountain homes have all become extremely diverse hubs. As such, nearly all Slade language has been assimilated into other, more flexible tongues, as other people picked up terms and phrases that they liked using. It is not uncommon to find a dozen or so Rubbletongue words and phrases peppered into the local languages of any city-state, especially those that were once Slade caverns.
Slade are natural linguists (being so closely tied to Inscription), and pick up languages with ease. As such, they much prefer to learn the languages of others than to bother teaching their language to outsiders. This has lead to some Slade viewing the Rubbletongues as something of a privileged secret, only to be shared with those worthy of bearing it. Being the first people to have a language at all (let alone a written language), many Slade consider literacy to be the height of civilization, and view illiteracy as not only a weakness, but also a character and moral failing.
The Slade lack of gender or sexuality manifests in very neutral terminology. The only pronoun Slade possess—"Bek"—applies to all Slade equally, and doesn't account for things such as age, gender, place of birth, or any of the other myriad factors that other cultures like to address. Likewise, "Mons," their honorific for rulers comparable to Kings or Queens, is similarly neutral of all descriptors outside of status. Furthermore, objects and concepts are completely devoid of gender in the Slade tongue.
The deep connection Slade possess with Vulcanica allows them to always be equipped with the proper tools for whatever task they may be attempting. Slade characters may, at any time, reach into any nearby stone of appropriate size and retrieve a stone-made tool of their desire. These tools are always simple in form, and can never have any moving parts, but will always perform as any normal tool of average quality otherwise would. This ability can only be used to retrieve tools that would actually function if made from stone (for example, a Slade could use this ability to retrieve a hammer, a shield, or a bucket, but could never retrieve a pair of tongs, a wagon, or a belt). Tools retrieved this way crumble into rubble as soon as the Slade stops holding it.
The primary Slade magic, however, and the one they're best known for, is Inscription, the language magic. Through the impressive power imbued into the very words they speak, a Warden (one skilled in Inscription) is able to write, draw, carve, or otherwise mark a given surface with a powerful word or phrase of protection. These markings are often incredibly strong and nearly impossible to remove, even through magical means. However, despite its strength, Inscription is very limited in scope, and can only ever be used to keep things as they are. It functions only as a preserver and protector, but fails utterly when attempting to make even the slightest change.
"It was Warden Arrek who volunteered to give me a demonstration. Gesturing at a simple wooden door, he asked that I open it, which I did with ease. He pulled it closed, and, using his finger, ground a small-yet-intricate symbol into the wood, which he later explained was the character for "Sealed" in his dialect. Once finished, he asked me to open the door again. For all my strength, I could not."
- Architect Ferrethan, "Pilgrimage," 3341 Darkness