Species: The Menchanu

The Menchanu are a complex and highly political race, lovers of intrigue, deception, and doubletalk.

Physically the Menchanu are humanoid. They generally stand somewhere between six and seven feet in height, and their skin is extremely pale, a gray-white color that shades to green or blue in certain subraces. They are very blocky, quite powerful in appearance and in fact, and entirely hairless except for a colorful (usually blue, red, green, black, or some shading of these) crest of hairlike material from approximately the center of their heads to the base of their necks. They have six digits on hands and feet, each with four joints, and their faces, although basically humanish, are extremely rigid and sharp, with nose, eyes, mouth, and cheekbones very clearly defined; humans often say they look as though they have been carved, rather than born.

The Menchanu are technically ruled by a Mallaki, or “Emperor” to humans, with a Council of hereditary noble houses and appointed offices who carry out his/her bidding. In reality the Emperor is a figurehead, a ceremonial figure to be trotted out on certain occasions, spoken of with reverence in all official documents and communications, and carefully hemmed about with ceremony and tradition at all other times to prevent any actual power collecting there. This suits the Menchanu mentality very well. Everyone, down to field workers, is involved in political maneuvering in some way; the entire history of Menchanu is one long dance for power. The noble houses vie with the three different and almost indistinguishable religions who parry with the elected officials who cross words with the military who fight with the merchants who compete with the appointed officials who alternately curry favor and betray all the other faction in an effort to get the single, important piece of paper with their name on it in the right hands and in front of the Emperor so that he may smile vaguely and thumbprint it— and all the factions also fight among themselves, for position, promotion, and prestige.

37687a499890774a797a51e4c129f757The Menchanu doubletalk— “vek,” meaning literally “many meanings”, in their language— is one of the major reasons for the human/Menchanu rift, because even 50 years after first contact only a few humans can manage it. One of the major tactics, for example, is self-abasement and utter elevation of one’s superiors, absolutely insincere and meaning anything but what it says. For example, a Menchanu who says, “I am an utterly unworthy and foolish servant of the Mallaki, seat of all wisdom, who has blessed me with my lowly position as an undeserved reward for my service, faithless and poor though it is,” means absolutely nothing of the sort; he is subtly naming himself a “servant of the Mallaki” thus claiming her (the current Mallaki is female) as his direct superior and naming himself as very high status indeed, reinforcing this status by saying “lowly position”, suggesting that the Mallaki herself had seen to his promotion, hinting at some special service he has done to warrant his position, and, by running himself down so far, suggesting that he can afford to actually have people think that; therefore any Menchanu would instantly mark him as highly positioned. Humans, however, had a tendency to take these sort of speeches at face value and almost never got the hang of the ritual self-abasement necessary in reply, insulting huge numbers of officials in the process. The Menchanu retaliated by sending gifts, a huge victory in Menchanu society, since the receiver of a gift obviously owes a debt to the giver and must at least thank him, giving the giver a chance to refuse or discount his thanks, a sort of political coup. The most perfectly nasty gift a Menchanu can gift will be hideously expensive, extremely flashy, utterly useless, and, as the icing on the cake, something the receiver will have to spend time or money on the upkeep of— an insult, a debt, and a drain on your enemy all at once. The humans accepted these gifts as signs of goodwill and missed the insult, for the most part, entirely. The Menchanu decided they were hopelessly stupid and have been working on that assumption for some two centuries.

In personal relations Menchanu are considerably different— it is significant that their word for friend is “tevek”, or “one meaning”— “not many meanings,” to be technical. Friends are not subject to vek, doubletalk; friends are rather people one is honest with, at least in theory. Gifts are important as non-insults as well; someone seeking to cement a political alliance, for example, would probably send something beautiful and expensive, such as jewelry or some sort of spaceship, and especially something rare or unique; but someone seeking to secure a friendship would probably give something handmade by they themselves. Time is more valuable than money to the Menchanu, and therefore giving someone a gift you have made or modified yourself, spent time on, is a sign of high regard. The gift is usually highly appropriate and useful as well; for example, a gun specially modified to fit its owner’s hand exactly for a warrior, or a book of hand-collected alien poetry for an xenoculturist.

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