The Oekin are a semi-aquatic mammalian race native to the Minwan Basin, located in the northeastern portion of the Great East Plateau. Primitive, tribal, and with little contact with the rest of the world, they are very suspicious of other races, and in turn are often treated more like animals than people by most of those they come into contact with. Several tribes have died out completely, and there are thousands of Oekin already enslaved or otherwise captive.
Oekin are reminiscent of the otters of Earth, with webbed digits, a long, broad tail, a wedge-shaped face, expressive whiskers, and a thin, waterproof fur coat that ranges in shade from black to a brown-blond. They are shorter than most races, standing at between 1m and 1.5m. Comparative to their Earth relatives, they are somewhat lankier, lacking the fat reserves that would be needed in a cooler climate, and have larger eyes and long, rhomboid ears that typically hang behind the head. Necessarily bipedal, their frame swings heavily back at the shoulders to compensate for their tail, which is their primary means of steering and power while swimming. Underwater, a third transparent eyelid covers the eyes, and the ears and nostrils close. Most Oekin can hold their breath for roughly thirty minutes under normal swimming conditions, although this span is shortened under the strain of swift swimming or combat.
Oekin tribes are barely run at all, and might be considered something of an anarchy, or primitive commune. However, there are always older members of a tribe, each called oekin coe (pl: oekinel coer, lit. "old people") who are looked upon with respect and called on to resolve issues.
The Oekin prize only one activity more highly than the gathering and preparation of food, and that is combat. Of the three to six other tribes that one tribe may interact with around a lake, it is uncommon for it to be at peace with more than one at any given time. Battles are bloody, but rarely result in death in the lake itself, as retreat after receiving a wound is not frowned upon by either side. Instead, the greatest warriors take prisoners using their blades and nets, which are returned to the land owned by the victorious tribe to be slaughtered on the beach by the captor at the following sunrise.
When touching each other, it is considered taboo for Oekin to use their hands and feet, the pads of which are the only areas on their bodies that sweat and are therefore seen as no more clean than their genitals. Most of them wear gloves that cover their fingertips while not impeding the webbing on their hands, and even casual intimate relations will completely omit any contact from the fingers. Some Oekin devote a great amount of time into learning to tie wounds and perform other normally intimate tasks making minimal use of their hands. If a Oekin touches anyone using their hands, it can be assumed they feel very close with that individual.
Oekin diet is primarily comprised of fish, with some vegetable and fruit substance from the hills leading away from the lake as a supplement. They can live off of other meats, but as they spend so much time in and around the lake, they see little need to. Everyone capable in a tribe is expected to fish, which is done in the water or ashore using finely woven nets. The fish is then prepared in myriad ways to preserve it, but also to enhance flavour, cooking it and using salts and spices.
The Oekin are of the most primitive races on the planet in terms of their tools and construction. They use simple implements to construct huts of wood and stone, and bladed weapons and nets for use in battle -- of particular note is the harpoon, which has a distinctive design that maximizes its potential to both lacerate and grapple an opponent, and has a streamlined shape that allows it to even be thrown short distances underwater by a skilled warrior.
Oekin clothing is simple, but they do have something of a sense of modesty, employing patterned loincloths of scale or leather, often dyed. As morphological diversity is low among Oekin, and they rely primarily on vision as a species, they distinguish themselves by means of dyes and piercings, the latter which is often given as a gift, the gifter creating the piercing hole. It is not uncommon for a particularly successful or well-loved individual to have twenty or more piercings of bone, silver, and gems, which are highly prized and treated with positive superstition.
Scars are greatly respected and admired. As the fur grows back over a healed wound, they will frequently dye it a certain colour to mark the scar in the flesh beneath. This can give more seasoned warriors a highly coveted mottled appearance, but it is considered shameful, even sacrilegious to dye oneself without receiving a wound in battle.
Sex and Reproduction
Oekin children are raised by the tribe at large. They are kept well aware of who their mother and father are, as lineage plays a definite role in society, but it is expected of all adult members to contribute to child-rearing in every way they can.
Romantic and sexual relations are unstructured, and there is little sense of loyalty or ownership. A female may be with several males, and in such a case that she becomes pregnant, it is ultimately her decision which of her mates to credit with her children, and up to him whether he accepts her decision. This does not exclude males and females fighting, sometimes physically, among themselves over mates and parenthood, but violence over such issues is frowned upon.
Religion is extremely important to the Oekin, and revolves around the veneration and fear of animistic spirits in the world around them, not least of which are the spirits that embody the lakes themselves. Blood sacrifice plays a huge role in their religion, and any shedding of blood must be done on the beach to be allowed to drain into the lake. If a sacrifice, ie of a prisoner, is withheld from the lake, it is said to become angry with the tribe responsible, and curse it with bad luck that cannot be compensated for. For the same reason, they must scale an incline into the forest or hills some way from their lake in order to relieve themselves, and there are many linguistic taboos surrounding the lake and associated phenomena.
The Oekin language is one of the primary reasons they have been unable to form stable relationships with other species. Oekin articulators differ greatly from Sehali and Human articulators, rendering it impossible for them to learn any language of either of these races, and vice-versa. To the foreign ear, the Oekin language sounds like a lot of high-pitched whistles, squeaks, growls, and clicks.
The Oekin do have a manual language with a simplified grammar that would in theory be perfectly intelligible to outsiders. However, it is only ever used under the water, usually by fishers or warriors to communicate between each other when they cannot speak.