Elphans are the most humanlike of all the extra-terrestrial races encountered thus far. They’re home planet is Tethys, one of Saturn’s moons. Although the race claims to date back to the forerunner times the Elphans do not appear to possess any Forerunner technology. Elphans are known for their societal lack of ambition or spirit of adventure that seems to drive Humans, Endurians and other races. Elphans instead focus on the here and now and excel in transitory endeavors. They have extraordinary skills in music but have no method of recording. Every product of Elphan industry includes artistic design but the function is rudimentary. Elphans are renowned story tellers but their tales lack lessons or morals.
Separate but cooperative societies on Tethys exist in a variety of technological levels of development. The arboreal or sylvan Elphs live in the forests and practice no technology beyond aboriginal hunting and gathering yet their language is as sophisticated as high Elphs. An agrarian class of Elphs works the lands and harvests the seas of Tethys and employ technologies as simple as single row plow shares drawn by beast of burden to botanical hybrid splicing. Elphs inhabiting the cities are referred to as craft Elphs because they craft finished goods from the raw materials. These cities are centers of trade and commerce and their architecture is delicate and wonderful to see. The high Elphs occupy the highest technological station of Elphan society and travel the Æther trading with the Endurians and other races. These different casts associate freely with each other and no civil unrest has ever been recorded. Elphans can sometimes be found in the company of other alien races as interplanetary merchants, ætherwhalers and free traders throughout the system but these individuals are the minority of their population that has been infected with some degree of personal initiative, curiosity or taste for adventure.
Little is known of the history of the Elphan race as they do not rely on a system of recording their past other than in song and story. According to the oral tradition the Elphan people claim to have descended from one of the many forerunner races that existed prior to the Promethean cataclysm.
The nigh human characteristics of the Elphan race has only the following exceptions to human physiology; the most obvious is pointed ears and a slightly more acute sense of hearing, a not so obvious distinction is the lack of coarse facial or body hair, the last difference is their unique metabolism and life span. Compared to humans, Elphan live almost twice as long and always maintain a optimal level of health. Overweight or under developed Elphans are unknown. It has been suggested that their style of living and not their physiology is responsible for their life span as the Elphan individuals infected by wanderlust tend to die at a relatively young age.
Elphans verbal communication has a bountiful pallet of tone, timbre, percussion and inflection and sounds to humans to be very florid and beautiful. The Elphan vocabulary is rich with descriptive adjectives and evocative verbs. In contrast it seems that technical terms rely on words constructed from artistic base words and truncated to a manageable nickname. It has therefore been dubbed a non-technical language.
There are literally hundreds of Elphans scripts that range from a system of ancient intuitive pictographs to a script of but three symbols which they use to interface with their equivalent to computational engines. Human philologists have been able to understand most of the phonetic letter scripts each with its own rules of style and design. The Elphan cursive scripts range from fluid adaptations of the letter scripts to scripts that boarder on musical notation.
It is an oddity that the average Elphan can instinctively recognize and read the majority of scripts that exist especially when the rudimentary Elphan educational system is taken into account.
Elphan communications officers are prized in situations where they are communicating to other Elphans because they can slip in and out of cultural dialects so readily that even the top translating engines have a hard time interpreting the flow of ideas.
Society and Social Order:
All Elphans consider their fellow Elphans as equals irrespective of position, rank, family or present economic status. There are various casts of Elphans living at various levels of technical sophistication but there is free association between all technological, vocational and regional groups. Gender plays a large roll in ceremony and traditional rolls but has no basis in political structure, occupation or vocation. Leaders in Elphan society do not win their position but seem to naturally rise to their calling by a general consensus of the individual’s peers. Leadership in Elphan culture has been divested of many associative assumptions common on Earth, for instance in the tree dwelling tribes of the equatorial rain forests the greatest of the hunter is not necessarily the leader because hunting has little to do with leading the tribe. Elphan leaders also seem ready to defer to others in the group depending on what the situation calls for. Therefore when wisdom is needed the leader will defer to the wisest Elphan present, when a particular skill is crucial the leader will defer to those skilled in the art. To men from Earth Elphan leaders seem weak but the system seems to work well among the Elphans.
Elphan clothing emphasizes style and artistic expression but is only secondary to comfort. Most traditional Elphan fashion can be described; at best as uncomplicated, comfortable and functional and at worst as revealing and immodest. In hot climes both genders walk about bare-chested without giving it a thought. The curves of the body are considered a natural art form and are regularly complemented, revealed and even showcased by Elphan garments. This attitude is evident in the Elphan practice of body art. Unlike tattooing the Elphans paint their bodies with organic pigments that will persist in the skin until removed. A typical Elphan may don a design or piece of art for a number of years until they decide if it truly denotes a facet of their character. If so it may never be removed and if not it could be replaced without reflection.
Mechanology and Ætherfaring:
As stated above Elphan technology exists at all levels on Tethys from pointed sticks to navigational computational engines. The variety of technological tools has produced a particular type of optimization in technology. Tools tend to have specific applications which they fulfill adequately but not much beyond their essential requisite. On the other hand every tool is also a work of art that adds harmony to its function. The Elphan attitude toward technology is rather minimalistic in its practice. High Elph æthership captains would rather rely on a optical sextant than a navigational course calculator, a minor would rather a drill bit than explosives, a builder would rather a ramp than a crane, a bow rather than a gun, a mirror rather than a monitor, etc. Although all the technology is available to them Elphans have a sense of what is technologically appropriate.
While the Elphan designed æther torque drive is quite efficient the majority of Elphan ætherships employ æther and solar sails. These stylish ships utilized a plurality of transparent gossamer sails supported on spider like strands of monofilament. The ship's large wings, rudders and flukes have a very distinct appearance. These ships will never achieve the speeds of other forms of æther propulsion but on the other hand they are incredibly efficient as they burn no form of fuel. A high Elphan ship's crew is content with their long and patient life style because they are simply not in a hurry to get there.
Elphan ships are rarely molested by pirates due to the fact that they are practically invisible. The transparent sails and the lack of a high energy drive makes them very difficult to detect even with sophisticated sensors. This combined with the fact that their courses between planets are neither scheduled or predictable makes the occurrence of meeting up with an Elphan æther-clipper exceedingly rare.
British economists would describe “Elphan Economy” as an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms. Tethys is by all estimation self sufficient and has no pressing need for trade. Products of Elphan manufacture are only considered adequate but are prized for their artistic character and reliability. Elphan merchants seem to engage in trade not so much as a means of necessary income but as an æsthetic mental exercise in interplanetary diplomacy. Chief exports from Tethys include; raw materials such as exotic woods, polished stones, feathers, etc. finished good such as tools, stained glass, wine, ornamentation, furniture, musical instruments, etc. and objects or art including paintings, garments, sculpture, jewelry, etc.