The term Kencyrath refers to the Kencyr nation as a whole, while Kencyr refers to individual members of it. Kencyr is also an adjective, used to describe things like Kencyr culture.
Before the Three-Faced God forged the Three People together, the people who later called themselves the Highborn called themselves the Kencyr. The term was later applied to all the peoples, and the Highborn renamed themselves.
The native people of Rathillien sometimes casually refer to Kencyr as Kennies.
This and none other was her own god, the one who had taken the Three People—Arrin-ken, Kendar, Highborn—and made them one against the enemy from outside, Perimal Darkling, Father of Shadows. For thirty millennia, three thousand years on Rathillien alone, the Kencyrath had fought the long retreat from world to world, down the Chain of Creation, waiting for their god to manifest himself through them in final battle. Chosen they were and proud, but bitter, too, over long delay, and angry that, the task being set, their god had apparently left them to accomplish it alone.
– Jame's narration, God Stalk, "Chapter 1: Out of the Haunted Lands"
The Kencyrath have a long history, stretching back thirty millennia. However, after the Fall, they lost the vast majority of their history, with only a few scrolls surviving, along with a collection of songs.
While there are many differences between Highborn and Kendar, and obviously both with Arrin-ken, there are many things that the two more humanoid peoples have in common with each other and differ from the common people of Rathillien.
What is it, I wonder, that draws Highborn men to Kendar women? One rarely hears of the reverse. Among our own kind, we can control conception as well—or ill—as Highborn ladies. But not with Highborn lovers. They take us and use us and cast off our children as the whim takes them.
– the Randir Tempter, To Ride a Rathorn, "Chapter VI: The Lordan's Coat"
Both Highborn and Kendar women have natural control over conception and can only conceive when they wish it, with the exception that a Highborn male can override that control with a Kendar female. It is not described how this occurs, and whether it is purely a physical reaction or whether it is tied into the ability to command that Highborn have over Kendar and thus is a matter of over-riding the woman's ability to decide in that way.
A child with a Kendar mother and Highborn father may inherit Shanir traits from the Highborn side and is likely to be of intermediate body form, more gracile than a pure-blood Kendar and huskier than a pure-blooded Highborn. The need to serve a Highborn Lord still appears to be there.
It is not certain whether a Highborn woman can conceive a child with a Kendar father. Highborn ladies that we've seen have in general been sequestered from males of either people. It would seem that there would be a reason for that, but it might be only that it would be a dishonor to a house if a Kendar male and Highborn female were intimate, even without the possibility of offspring.
Highborn can also have children with the native people of Rathillien, as the example of Graykin shows; his father was Caldane, Lord Caineron, and his mother was a Southron from Karkinor. Lyra was also contracted to Odalian, though prevented from having children by their contract.
Kencyr have very sensitive eyesight and excellent night vision, a racial legacy of dimmer worlds. A gibbous moon can look nearly as bright as day to them. This leaves them more vulnerable to temporary blinding from intense light; Jame is left totally blinded by the glare of New Pantheon Sun God Dalis-sar, while her two Easterner companions (Dally and Canden) are not as badly affected.
Literacy is fairly modern among the Kencyrath. Traditionally, they relied on memory, and receive extensive memory training as a children accomplish this. Nowadays, this belief seems stronger with the Kendar than the Highborn. Older Kencyr are also less likely to be literate or to approve of literacy, such as Adric,Marc,Index, and Tentir's horse-master.
"Memory is safer," is a common refrain. The basic idea is that paper is easier to destroy than people. The counterargument is that destroying people isn't too hard either.
Recently, Tentir decided to begin teaching its cadets to read and write, thought the decision was controversial. And though scholars traditionally don't use writing either, there's a large library at Mount Alban. It's rumored that Jaran learn to read as babies. Of course, the Jaran are known to be eccentric and unconventional.
There does appear to have been some Kencyr literary tradition at some point, and the Law Scroll is a notable exception to the tradition of memorization.Priam's Codex and the Book Bound in Pale Leather is another ancient works, though like the Law Scroll, not necessarily of Kencyr creation.
↑God Stalk, Book I: Tatters of Dusk, "Chapter 1: Out of the Haunted Lands" — " 'Odd name, but then you Kennies are odd people. You are Kencyr, aren't you? Ah, you can't fool me, boy, not with that accent;' "
↑The Sea of Time, "Chapter IX: Into the Wastes", III — " 'You would not have gotten this far if your guides were not his initiates. You Kennies don’t have to believe in Tracker, but you show him good manners if you know what’s best for you.' "
↑Seeker's Mask, "Part V: Mount Alban", II — "since the Fall, when the few surviving scrolls had gotten so mixed up that no one knew which was fact and which, fantasy. The singers' cherished prerogative, the Lawful Lie, hadn't helped,"
↑Seeker's Mask, "Part II: Gothregor", III — "looking as it did only like a blood-soaked scrap of cloth. The Caineron captain had dismissed it with a glance: 'That time of month, is it?'—as if some suspicion of hers had been confirmed."
↑Honor's Paradox, "Chapter VI: History Lessons", I — " ‘Rawneth went back to Wilden that same night, contracted with a Highborn of her own house, and some nine months later gave birth to Kenan.’ "
↑God Stalk, Book I: Tatters of Dusk, "Chapter 1: Out of the Haunted Lands" — "her excellent night vision—the racial legacy of far dimmer worlds than Rathillien—"
↑The Sea of Time, "Chapter XXII: The End of Many Things", III — " 'They didn’t reckon with our ability to see in the dark, which it wasn’t anyway with a nearly full moon.' "
↑The Sea of Time, "Chapter XI: Night in a Lost City", II — "A gibbous moon lit all with a glowing, nacreous light, nearly as bright as day to Kencyr eyes."
↑God Stalk, Book II: Crown of Nights, "Chapter 5: Winter Days" — "Shaken, she left the temple, her fingertips on Dally's arm, for the brightness had left her temporarily blind."
↑God Stalk, Book I: Tatters of Dusk, "Chapter 1: Out of the Haunted Lands" — "Fists raised, wrists crossed, she silently challenged the temple before her: let it be war, then, until the truth was known. It was a mad gesture,"
↑God Stalk, Book I: Tatters of Dusk, "Chapter 4: The Heart of the Maze" — "She saluted him warily with crossed wrists held low, but not the open hands of friendship."
↑Bound in Blood, "Chapter I: Naming the Dead" — "Traditional Kencyr believed in well-trained memories rather than in the written word;"
↑ 14.014.1To Ride a Rathorn, "Chapter IV: Testing", II — "It was a new idea that cadets should learn how to read and write rather than to depend, as for millennia past, solely on a well-trained memory. Things were changing. Not everyone approved."
↑God Stalk, Book I: Tatters of Dusk, "Chapter 3: Into the Labyrinth" — "Like all Kencyrs, Jame had received extensive memory training as a child. She knew the lengthy epics of her people by heart and could recite genealogies of leaders and important people stretching back thousands of years."
↑ 16.016.1God Stalk, Book II: Crown of Nights, "Chapter 9: A Matter of Honor" — "Like most Kendars with their faith in memory, he had never learned how to read."
↑Honor's Paradox, "Chapter III: Pyres and the Pit", IV — "Like most traditional Kendar, Brier trusted her memory more than words on paper."
↑ 18.018.1Dark of the Moon, "Chapter 6: The High Council" — " 'Memory is safer,' he said placidly. 'I never could understand the compulsion to write everything down.' "
↑Seeker's Mask, "Part V: Mount Alban", V — "Index apparently used the wall of herb jars as a mnemonic device, with nonsense verse as its key, a clever solution for an old man with a failing memory and no trust in the written word—"
↑Bound in Blood, "Chapter XIII: A Day in the Life", II — "—as an old-school randon, the master generally mistrusting the written word—"
↑ 21.021.1Bound in Blood, "Chapter XIV: Two Chests", IV — " 'That never occurred to me. They say that memory is safest.' 'Not if some overenthusiastic hillman is waiting to flatten your skull.' "
↑Honor's Paradox, "Chapter XV: Wilden", I — " 'The written word is so easily destroyed, though, isn’t it?' And she had thrust the scroll into the fire."
↑Seeker's Mask, "Part V: Mount Alban", III — "Memory, not writing, was the true scholar's way, the title of 'scrollsman' notwithstanding. Like most traditional Kencyr, he had probably never learned how to read."
↑To Ride a Rathorn, "Chapter XX: The Bear Pit", III — "according to rumor, the scholarly Jaran were taught their letters before they learned how to walk."
↑The Sea of Time, "Chapter XVII: Wolver Hunt", II — "Traditionally, the Kencyr favored memory above writing for most things unconnected with the law."