Those kin of all shapes who have lived long on Sunside inevitably become firetouched. It is seen as a sacred mark of belonging by many, but a shameful affliction by others, especially the more traditional-minded of The Returned within The Protectorates. Becoming firetouched starts as small marks of colour on the skin, not much different from moles or freckles. They appear at first as a faintly reflective sheen, nearly imperceptible except upon close inspection or where they may catch the light. People who are only slightly firetouched may seem to glitter and sparkle, and this is often a mark of youth across the peoples of Sunside. Over time however, these marking grow into a myriad of patterns of spots, stripes and swirls which can cover the entire body of the person. The colours range from bright yellows, through all shades of red to deep purples.
"Glitterskinned" is a common, and mostly friendly, jibe among the Motu to refer to someone who has acted in a particularly foolish or gullible manner.
Signs of identity, expression and wisdomFor many peoples of Sunside, firetouched markings are signs of age and wisdom. The more intricate markings and the deeper colours often bring respect and honour. The patterns created by being firetouched tend to be random, and in many cultures they are used as forms of identity. Individualism is prized and famous 'skins' recognised and celebrated through art and story. Across the , people have learnt to design or guide the way the markings manifest. They do this to their children from birth, through daily ritualised applications of masks and paint to hide parts of the skin from the sun. Through this method, easily recognisable patterns can be created that identify their family, tribe, station and ancestry. Others, especially in places like the Circle of Malama and Camp Thrifty, will augment their firetouched patterns with tattoos, piercings and other body modifications.
Signs of shame and fearAmong The Protectorates, being firetouched is seen as something shameful and to be avoided. Much superstition surrounds the markings, with many seeing them as a reminder of the damage caused by their ancestors through the Destruction, and a sign of failing to resist the ravages caused by it. For many of The Returned, becoming firetouched is to be feared and disparaged in equal measure.
Some see it is a disease, or sign of weakness. Among the most bigoted it can be seen as 'losing one's mind' or 'going sunside', and they will tend to shun, or at least disrespect, those who exhibit the markings.Among the vilest rumours spread is that to be firetouched means you have been marked by dark forces, and that your soul has become forfeit. While most treat this as the most baseless of superstitions, it nevertheless persists. Many across the Protectorates who could not avoid the markings, nor afford the 'treatments' have been shunned, or forced to move beyond the borders to more accomodating locales in the , Camp Thrifty or the Circle of Malama.
Avoidance and treatmentMuch cosmetic industry has been built around the avoidance or treatment of being firetouched - especially within the upper classes of . These range from thick make-up to protect the skin, or to mask any markings and to the wearing of veils, literal masks, and thick clothing. Treatments have included the magical for the most wealthy, and many charlatans selling the dodgy ointments, or even the dangerous use of bleach and acids. Sometimes the 'cure' is worse than the condition, and many have become scarred for life simply because of the cultural shame placed upon them.
Changing attitudesThe shame and vilification of those within the Protectorates who have been firetouched is slowly changing as they have more contact with the peoples of Sunside, and the growing numbers of The Returned who have become firetouched themselves. In particular, many sub-cultures are emerging in the cities of New Lafealle and Helton, where being firetouched is becoming a fashion statement or sign of rebellion among the youth - much to the horror of their more traditional minded parents.