A mono-gender species, distinctly feminine in appearance, the asari are known for their elegance, diplomacy and biotic talent. Their thousand year lifespan, and unique physiology that allows reproduction with a partner of any gender or species, gives them a conservative but convivial attitude toward other races. The asari were instrumental in proposing and founding the Citadel Council, and have been at the heart of galactic society ever since.
Asari are bipeds, standing upright on hind legs, with two arms ending in five-fingered hands, and two eyes. Their skin tones range from blue through to purple, including light and dark hues, and some asari have varied skins (for instance, a purple overall body colour which shades to blue around the face). Asari skin has a scaled texture, but in many cases the detail will go unnoticed beyond closer inspection, with skin appearing at a glance to be perfectly smooth. Asari blood is purple.
Many asari sport naturally-developing patterns on their faces and/or scalps, though asari with plain faces are not uncommon.
The asari scalp is a multi-layered arrangement of semi-flexible cartilege structures - also called 'fringe' or 'crest'. Contrary to a persistent myth, the tendrils of the scalp, though possessing a small degree of flexibility, do not 'flop around'. Some asari have textures, including ridges and prominent scale patterns, on their scalp tendrils.
Although asari have no ears, the tympanic membranes occupying the same area, visible as a series of fine ridges extending from beneath the sides of the scalp, serve the same function. These are often referred to and translated as 'ears' in common speech for simplicity's sake, although some asari prefer the term 'aurals'.
Almost all asari possess some amount of biotic ability, the result of Thessia's pervasive element zero content. Although some asari are more biologically capable of exerting more biotic power than others, asari with no ability at all are rare.
The asari lifespan, sometimes reaching beyond 1000 standard years, comes about primarily due to a robust cellular regenerative system; this regenerative ability does not confer any notable acceleration of healing.
There is conflicting information regarding the gender of the asari. Though they resemble females, at least to humans, asari are non-gender specific, with no concept of gender differences. Many asari will describe their race as mono-gendered - male and female having no real meaning. All asari are sexually female, in that they will carry and birth their children.
However asari gender is defined, they are innately different from humans, for asari can mate and successfully reproduce with any other gender or species. Although they have one gender, they are not asexual. An asari provides two copies of her own genes to her offspring, which is always an asari, regardless of the species or sex of the "father", and in the case that the offspring is of two asari, the father is the one who does not give birth. The second set of genes is altered in a unique process called melding, also known as the joining.
Asari pass through three climacteric life stages, marked by biochemical and physiological changes:
- The Maiden stage begins at puberty and is marked by the drive to explore and experience. Most young asari are curious and restless, and it is not uncommon for many to try their hand at dancing in bars or working as mercenaries during this time.
- The Matron stage of life begins around the age of 350, though it can be triggered earlier if the individual melds frequently. This period is marked by a desire to settle in one area and raise children.
- The Matriarch stage begins around 700 years of age, or earlier if the individual melds rarely. Matriarchs become active in their community as sages and councillors, dispensing wisdom from centuries of experience. Their knowledge and guidance may be one reason why Matriarchs are rarely seen outside asari space.
However, it should be noted that each stage can be started whenever an asari feels that she has reached the correct level of maturity. While each stage of life is marked by strong biological tendencies, individuals do make unexpected life choices. For example, there are Maidens who stay close to home rather than explore, Matrons who would rather work than build a family, and Matriarchs who have no interest in community affairs.
Melding and Reproduction
Asari reproduce using a process known as melding.
During melding, an asari consciously attunes her nervous system to her partner's, sending and receiving electrical impulses directly through the skin. A common phrase used before melding is "embrace eternity", presumably to help focus the partner's mind. Effectively, the asari and her partner briefly become one unified nervous system. This unique means of reproduction is the reason asari are all talented biotics. Their evolved ability to consciously control nerve impulses is very similar to biotic training. The partner can be another asari, or an alien of any gender. However, since the asari began encountering other sentient species, non-asari mates have become preferred for the diversity they can provide. This reproductive process can lead to some confusion among non-asari, who might expect offspring with "mixed" genes. However, the offspring is always 100% asari as no DNA is taken from the partner, but is rather used as a "map" to randomize the genes of the offspring.
An asari's melding ability extends to a mental connection as well, which some asari describe as being the true union between an asari and her partner. It allows the asari to explore her partner's genetic heritage and pass desirable traits on to any offspring. During mating an asari and her partner share memories, thoughts, and feelings. It is also possible for an asari to meld with another for the sole purpose of transferring thoughts, without reproduction.
The pantheistic mainstream asari religion is siari, which translates roughly as "all is one". The faithful agree on certain core truths: the universe is a consciousness, every life within it is an aspect of the greater whole, and death is a merging of one's spiritual energy back into greater universal consciousness. Siarists don't specifically believe in reincarnation; they believe that spiritual energy returning to the universal consciousness will eventually be used to fill new mortal vessels.
Siari became popular after the asari left their homeworld and discovered their ability to "meld" with nearly any form of life. This ability is seen as proof that all life is fundamentally similar. Siari priestesses see their role as promoting unity between disparate shards of the universe's awareness.
Before the rise of siari pantheism, asari religions were as diverse as their political opinion. The strongest survivor from those days is the monotheistic religion worshipping the goddess Athame, known simply as the Athame Doctrine. Like the asari, the goddess cycles through the triple aspects of maiden, matron, and matriarch. Asari often swear "by the goddess", though this may be a cultural legacy rather than reflecting an individual's belief.
Mythology and Folklore
Although no more inclined to superstition than any other sapient being, asari commonly treasure their cultural heritage and mythologies. Folkloric tales and figures are widely known, and often woven into modern use as metaphor with a frequency that can seem archaic to more conventionally 'modern' observers. Legends and beliefs include:
- Auora's Journey
- The Malari Canon
- Song of the Journey (a funerary tradition)
- Viseka and Janama
See Asari Republics.
The asari governmental structure, known as the Asari Republics, is relatively broad; the asari came late to the notion of world government. For centuries, their homeworld of Thessia was dotted with loose confederacies of great republican cities. The closest Earth equivalent would be the ancient Mediterranean city-states. Since the asari culture values consensus and accommodation, there was little impetus to form larger principalities. Rather than hoard resources, the asari bartered freely. Rather than attack one another over differing philosophies, they sought to understand one another. Only in the information age did the city-states grow closer politically; communication over the internet evolved into an "electronic democracy".
Aside from their Council representative, the asari have no politicians or elections, but a free-wheeling, all-inclusive legislature that citizens can participate in at will. Policy debates take place at all hours of the day, in official chat rooms and forums moderated by specially-programmed virtual intelligences. All aspects of policy are open to plebiscite at any time. In any given debate, the asari tend to lend the most credence to the opinions of any Matriarchs present, nearly always deferring to the experience of these millennia-old "wise women".
In modern times, the asari normally act as the diplomatic arm of the Citadel Council, and asari exploration efforts have discovered many races over the years. In approximately 200 BCE, the asari made first contact with the elcor and played a key role in helping them establish a regular trade route to the Citadel. In 2184 CE, the asari cruiser Azedes encountered the pre-spaceflight raloi, who were officially welcomed into the galactic community a year later.
Seemingly at odds with the generally liberal Republican approach to law are the justicars, an order of elite warriors sworn to uphold the ancient Justicar Code. Justicars are never recruited or selected; when an asari is so affected by injustice that she cannot be satisfied by any conventional legal redress, she may seek entry to the Justicar Order, whereupon she undertakes long and gruelling training (it is accepted that not all trainees will survive), and forsakes all family, children, property, and any other connection to anything but the Code, which she must learn by heart. Justicars travel with only their weapons and armour (which are of the finest quality, despite frequently being constructed in archaic styles to embody the long history of the Order), and in the course of pursuing criminals assigned to them (those the conventional justice system regards as too inherently destructive to prosecute by any other means) are duty bound to enforce the Code at all times, punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent wherever they become aware of an injustice. In their single-minded adherence to the Code justicars are capable of ruthless methods that would give even a seasoned huntress pause; however they also will not hesitate to lay down their life in protecting an innocent, no matter how inconsequential the circumstances may seem on a grand scale.
The Justicar Code is composed of over five thousand sutras, which define the just course of action for any situation a justicar may find herself in. Although justicars do not believe in variable interpretations of the Code, the Code itself gives certain avenues for a justicar to tailor her actions in response to circumstances; despite popular myth, justicars are not required to simply execute every law-breaker they become aware of. Even so, justicars are aware that their absolutist methods have the potential to inflict disproportionate harm on relatively minor offenders, and they take care not to investigate beyond the narrowly-defined parameters of their cases, enforcing the Code on those within their view but deliberately avoiding exposure to unnecessary provocations.
The Code is a publically available document, and within the Asari Republics the Justicar Order is legally empowered to act in accordance with the Code by the democratically expressed will of the population. Most asari raised in Republican cultures view justicars in a quasi-mystical fashion and consider them nigh-infallible, or at the very least so unswervingly dedicated to their cause as to merit the carte blanche faith they are shown. Although any act of injustice falling within a justicar's notice demands action, regardless of the perpetrator or potential repercussions, the Order is primarily intended to address injustices committed by asari, and justicars rarely leave asari space except in direct pursuit of asari criminals they have been assigned to kill or capture.
The Justicar Order was all but annihilated during the Reaper War, as its members deliberately sought the fiercest areas of conflict to engage in; although the death toll among justicars was extreme, their actions were frequently decisive. The few who (somewhat miraculously) survived are now serving as the elders of the Order, overseeing the training and initiation of a new generation of justicars. Although their devastating losses leave only a handful on active duty to cover the entire Republics region, the Order has reaffirmed its unwillingness to deviate from the dictates of the Code in any way, and no lessened requirements for entry or training for expediency's sake are being entertained.
(See also: Second Founding of Justicars).
The asari military resembles a collection of tribal warrior bands with no national structure. Each community organizes its own unit as the locals see fit, and elect a leader to command them. Units from populous cities are large and well-equipped, while those from farm villages may be only a few women with small arms. There is no uniform; everyone wears what they like. The asari military is not an irregular militia, however; those who serve are full-time professionals.
The average asari huntress is in the maiden stage of her life and has devoted 20-30 years studying the martial arts. Asari choose to be warriors at a young age, and their education from that point is dedicated to sharpening their mind and body for that sole purpose. When they retire, they possess an alarming proficiency for killing.
Huntresses fight individually or in pairs, depending on the tactics preferred in their town. One-on-one, a huntress is practically unbeatable, possessing profound tactical insight, a hunter's eye, and a dancer's grace and alacrity. Biotics are common enough that some capability is a requirement to be trained as a huntress; lack of biotic talent excludes a young asari from military service.
While fluid and mobile, asari can't stand up in a firestorm the way a krogan, turian, or human could. Since their units are small and typically lack heavy armour and support weapons, they are almost incapable of fighting a conventional war, particularly one of a defensive nature. So asari units typically undertake special operations missions. Like an army of ninja, they are adept at ambush, infiltration, and assassination, demoralizing and defeating their enemies through intense, focused guerrilla strikes. Asari huntresses were among the first individuals to be chosen as Spectres and played a key role in the Krogan Rebellions.
A noteworthy Turian once said, "The asari are the finest warriors in the galaxy. Fortunately, there are not many of them." Despite this, the asari military is still rather large (it must be kept in mind that the turian military encompasses most of the adult population).
Food and Drink
Virtually all flora and fauna on Thessia, and thus native food and drink products, contain the trace element zero ubiquitous to the planet. These traces do not confer any benefits or abilities to non-biotics, and visitors to the planet are advised to stick to zero-eezo fare, typically offered at hotels and tourist establishments.
Native asari food and drink includes:
- Kaffe, a non-alcoholic beverage analogous to coffee.
- Ke'ah, a style of dough with several varieties, similar to pasta.
- Uloth, the asari equivalent of cheese.
- Yefal leaves.
Technology and Industry
Asari technology is known for long life and upgrade capability - in contrast to salarians, who typically produce new designs to take advantage of cutting-edge technological development, asari focus on optimising potential for new developments to be integrated into existing hardware, and employing long-lasting (or renewable) materials. Although this imposes additional demands on designers and manufacturers, it permits end users to retain a high level of working experience with hardware, rather than starting fresh each time a new innovation is produced. To asari, accustomed to patience (and reluctant to discard technology as 'obsolete' frequently over the course of their long lives), this is regarded as an acceptable trade-off.
- Artarva Project: A communications infrastructure venture during the post-war recovery.
- Auora Type Seven: A model of high-performance motorcycle.
- Dancing Bird: An historic long-range sailing ship.
- Fleet Orison Class Shuttle: A post-war heavy shuttle design.
- Irati (VI): A public information and tourist assistance VI employed on Illium.
- Memorial Sphere: A crafted artefact of great cultural value.
- Songblade: A traditional pre-firearms weapon.
- Tactical Micro-drones: A battlefield sensor system.
- TAKIA Mech: An asari-designed security and law enforcement mech.
Asari sports are well-known in the galaxy at large, due to the reach of asari media. For those acquainted with the asari only by their reputation for diplomacy and harmonious coexistence, the fervour some asari display for their home teams - and heated rivalries between them - can be surprising, although for the most part any hostility towards opponents is confined to the sporting field only, and regarded as a (generally) harmless expression of competitive spirit. Given the asari predilection for mixing and mating with aliens, most of their competitions accept non-asari participants, although in many cases biotic ability is a prerequisite; various systems of handicaps allow for fair competition between species.
- The Biotic Games are a major event featuring a number of biotic sports and disciplines. The Games are traditionally held once per Thessian century; although open to non-asari biotics, this timetable means athletes from most other species will only ever be able to compete in a single Games. Organizers have acknowledged the disparity, but maintain that the traditions of the Games should not be altered.
- Pildavi is a widely-enjoyed sport, with a long history in asari cultures. The game is played between two teams using biotics to control the ball - in human terms, roughly a kind of biotic hockey. In Republican space the Asari Pildavi Union is the premier championship, supported by various planetary and regional leagues. Asari settlement in the Terminus Systems brought the game there, resulting in the creation of the Independent Pildavi Championship, known for a higher percentage of non-asari biotic players, and (in the eyes of APU followers) a reputation for promoting spectacle over substance.
- Skyball is regarded as one of the quintessential asari sports, and is also notable for being almost entirely amateur, with its leagues and championships being predominantly social affairs with few professional players or teams.
- Springball is a popular school and college/university sport, but one that has never caught on as a professional competition, or enjoyed a substantial following beyond asari themselves.
- The Tour Epira is a long-distance single-crew catamaran race, one of the most hotly-contested sailing races in the Republics. Entrants of any species are permitted, as are various boat designs (providing they comply with standards laid down by the organising Harbour Song Yacht Club), but Asari entrants routinely dominate.
- Waveball is a popular water sport, traditionally played on beaches, although sealed pools with artificial wave generators are also used in non-coastal areas.
- Zeroball is a sport notable for its two major competitions which employ wildly different rule sets. The Asari native Republican League is a non-contact form of the game, emphasizing grace, timing, and precision; the Tuchanka Zeroball Challenge off-shoot, by contrast, prioritizes physical contact as much as possible.
Asari athletes are also known for participating in non-asari sports (given their lifespan, it is far from uncommon for asari athletes to train to top proficiency in a number of different sports during their lives) and various offworld sports and games frequently gain a following among asari. In 2186 Amara Rusto became the first asari tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament, at that year's UNAS Open.