7’ tall and sensitive about knob-gags.
The cactusfolk — ‘folk’ for short, ‘cats’ if you want to be familiar, or ‘catties’ if you’re coming for them with a sock in a half-brick — are humanoid walking plants with thick, prickly flesh like that of a cactus. Like a cactus, they are filled with water, and retain it well. They don’t eat, instead putting down roots into the ground through their feet to feed on the soil’s nutrients while they sleep. Most cactusfolk keep a tray of compost or soil near a comfy chair for this purpose.
Cactusfolk flower rarely, perhaps less than once a year: a display which is said to be deeply beautiful. Showing flower is an intensely personal experience to cactusfolk, and during that time only a few select friends might be permitted to observe.
Cactusfolk flesh holds scars well, and scarification is often used as a form of body art, much as other species might use tattoos. Adding a new scarification design is a key part of many cactusfolk rites of passage.
Cactusfolk don’t mind the sun or the heat one bit: it’s good for the photosynthesis. The cold and especially the dark are exhausting to them, and sends them to sleep: cactusfolk bars will often have prominent roaring braziers lit from sundown, even during warm summer nights. Their ability to cross rough terrain has made them natural traders, explorers, and cartographers, though they maintain a bitter sap-feud with the living banyans in the swamps to the east.
The spines that sprout from cactusfolk flesh make delicate or careful work, especially work with paper, near-impossible. Many of them are pressed into manual trades: construction, haulage, and agriculture; as well, of course, as the obvious martial applications of being covered in spikes. Because of this, a disproportionate number of Tarsium’s cactusfolk find themselves trapped in poverty.
Spines are painful to remove manually, and regrow quickly enough to make continual despining impractical, but about a decade ago a collaboration between surgeons and alchemists uncovered an agonising but safe way to scarify the flesh and prevent the spines from regrowing.
This led to a rift between the younger ‘smoothskin’ supporters of the procedure and their elders: the smoothskins believe that this is their only opportunity to build a future where they can be scholars or administrators, rather than trapped in poverty; their elders believe that their new generation are betraying their heritage for the dubious values of the big city, and in the middle, disreputable back-street fleshmongers offer cut-rate despinings, no questions asked.