The Pelmen are a race of humanoid mineral creatures created by combining the solid elemental force with the spark of life. They live in hard rock tunnels and come to the surface to trade and tend their elaborate and magical rock gardens.
Pelmen are somewhat smaller than humans but are much stronger and more durable. Like the flinty minerals that make up their bodies, they endure physical damage until they reach the breaking point -- and then may shatter beyond repair.
Individual Pelmen can live for hundreds of years. There are Pelmen men and women and reproduction is similar to that of humans. The gestation period is much much longer however (over a decade).
Pelmen were once relatively common throughout the Heinlein's Empire, but they have largely been driven off the mainland by their bitter enemies: the Dwarves and Sanseine Troglodytes. Now they exist on Ilastian offshore islands like Osage, in High Craig, and possibly in Erie.
Pelmen can not vocalize and communicate with surface dwellers using sign language. There are too few Pelmen left to have a common culture. Each enclave has developed independently. For instance, the Pelmen in Osage live in relative harmony with humans and engage in trade, common defense, and a certain amount of shared culture.
Pelmen have an innate magical ability to tunnel through rock and to sense and locate underground deposits of valuable minerals or water. Pelmen shamen use their rock gardens to predict the future -- and according to some, to bend the future to their advantage. They are not know to use other types of magic (including Metaphor Ghods).