Archive for the ‘Creatures’ Category

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Ryarna is one of the more famous worlds in the Gurhai universe. It is one of the five most magic-rich worlds in the universe, as well as one of the five top technological worlds. The native race are the rarra, who govern the world through the Bardic Collective, a loose guild of bards who keep the peace between rarra, alien visitors, and disembodied spirits that are drawn to Ryarna’s dense magical atmosphere. Ryarna is heavily settled and civilized; because rarra are carnivorous and only protect their important food sources, the world is ecologically simplistic, much of the terrain dry and dusty due to industry and animetal traffic. Ryarna is a hotspot both for magic-workers who wish to train and mechanical tinkerers who wish to study rarran technology; there are many docks and plenty of trade and visitation from other races.

Rarra are bipedal, thin-furred predators who are slightly taller on average than humans. They have almost rabbit-like faces with a single, slender horn on their brows, long and expressive ears, and an upswept mohawk of fur along their skulls. Rarra have short-fingered, paw-like hands and large, clawed, talon-like feet; their legs are powerful, capable of impressive leaps and kicks. Gifted with magic and an inclination to tinker, rarra have melded magical power and steampunk mechanics into a highly-functional, highly-bizarre assortment of machines, robots, vehicles, and tools. Most rarran bits and bobs only work on Ryarna or another high-magic planet, but the mechanical designs are often adapted by other races (notably buthines) for use on normal- or low-magic worlds. All rarra are trained to use some form of magic, and most are educated in a hands-on mechanical trade or a design-oriented engineering field.

Animetals are known throughout the civilized universe as bizarre miracles. They are mechanical animals, comprised of a spirit (usually the ghost of a creature that wasn’t ready to die) and an articulated robotic shell (designed and made by rarran engineers and inventors). The spirit and shell are fused via rarran bardic magic, so that the spirit powers the shell and ‘dies’ when the shell dies. Though they are clearly robots and possess no feathers, fur, scales, or hide (or anything simulating those), animetals behave and live as animals, though some have unusually high intelligence, occasionally approaching sapience. Animetals can be varying sizes, colors/patterns, and animal types. They’re designed to never need actual maintenance, using the fused spirits to keep the shell in working order; heavy damage requires rarran mechanics to repair, however. (There are theories that, given enough time, a spirit can repair even considerable damage to its shell. However, that is a feral attribute and not one easily observed by rarra.) While some animetals have been made on a smaller-than-life scale – a large hunting cat weighing only ten pounds, for example – most animetals are 1:1 or set to a larger scale. Typical animetal shells are made on a 2:1 scale, while custom/display-only/rider shells are often made on a 3:1, 4:1, or 5:1 scale. Large, intelligent animetals are paired with a trained rarran pilot for use as soldiers (S-class animetals, typically with an internal cockpit set in the head or chest) or transportation (T-class animetals, often with an external cockpit and a tow-hitch for a bus or blimp). Animetals have largely replaced “fleshies” in Ryarna’s ecosystem, barring key species to keep the flora healthy and the rarra fed.

The tahori are a species of shapeshifter inhabiting the Gurhai universe. They possess three distinct forms or skins and use qki, or physical energy, to change between them. Shapeshifting is nonmagical and fairly swift, taking less than a minute on a normal world and healing most wounds in the process. The first skin (hamin) is quite humanoid and may pass as a genuine human if one doesn’t look too closely and spot the tail; the second skin (sanero) is a very large beast with few visual indicators of intelligence; the third skin (emigonu) is a bipedal hybrid between the first two skins. (Please note that tahori are not shapeshifting humans, but a distinct species who happen to have a humanoid skin.) Tahori do not experience a large change in intelligence or behavioral pattern when switching between skins – they are just as bestial in hamin skin and just as intelligent in sanero skin. Though tahori usually wear clothing in hamin skin, they rarely wear shoes or metal (such as armor), and they wear no clothing in sanero and emigonu skins. All tahori retain the same coloration and pattern throughout their skins, though the colors are often desaturated in hamin skin (due to the lack of pigmented fur; their skin in other forms, beneath the pelt, is equally dull).

Tahori are striated into specific races that can interbreed in their hamin skins, but remain largely incompatible elsewise. All races but one live on Alasa Ka, a primal world similar to an prehistoric Earth with rather large fauna; the other race, keusune tahori, lives on At-lasa in a nearby sun system and are often outcast from the species by their fellow tahori.

Inlanlu tahori are lupine, living in tight-knit packs with a hierarchal structure. They’re the most populous of the tahori and hold territories in nearly every climate on Alasa Ka. Inlanlu are renowned for their physical endurance and are staunch hunter-warriors, unafraid of conflict although they don’t specifically seek it out; their trademark weapon is the double-bladed spear with a two-inch-thick shaft of hardwood with a metal core. They rarely truck with magic, although some hereditary lines have faint shamanic leanings, and usually shun technology beyond weaponsmithing. Inlanlu speak Uhjayi, which is the most common tahori language.

Atihresi tahori are feline with several markedly different breeds. Through necessity, atihresi have mimicked inlanlu pack structure and territory, though they are largely self-contained and independent individuals. They are more numerous than all but inlanlu and reside in any clime. They tend to use blades or bows and often have considerable skill with external qki, making them formidable fighters; however, few atihresi show any inclination towards magic. They speak Fulhu, the second most common tahori language. Atihresi are often rivals or outright enemies of inlanlu, and few individuals call themselves friends of the other race.

Dosa tahori are ursine. They live in small groups or alone, have a decided gift with natural and druidic magic, and are generally private people. They don’t interact or interfere much with other races. They rarely use weapons and have no love of technology of any kind, even basic smithing. They live in the coldest regions of the world, in a place where they can’t be out-competed by the more adaptive predators.

Izune tahori are avians with a wide array of breeds. They have no hair at all in hamin skin, usually refuse to wear any clothing, and tend to be vividly colored, so they rarely pass as humans, even from a distance. Renowned for their sensitivity to qki and magic, izune have keen senses and a knack for elemental magic, especially pertaining to wind and weather. They live in huge flocks, shunning technology, and are typically aloof; other races easily misjudge their calm reservation as arrogance or emotionlessness.

Ehsora tahori are equine and the least language-inclined of the tahori, often communicating solely through body language. They travel in large, nomadic herds and have nothing to do with technology or weaponry; their clothing is minimalistic and usually obtained from a hunting race. Deeply gifted with natural druidic magic with a special affinity for plants, ehsora are perhaps the most attuned to the earth of all the tahori. Being the only purely herbivorous tahori, they’re also usually wary of other races’ intentions and tend to be slightly xenophobic.

Kahashi tahori are shark-like, the only amphibious tahori – they can breathe on land and in water in both hamin and emigonu skins, but are solely water-bound in their sanero skin. They have no hair in hamin skin and most don’t wear clothing; they’re also the only tahori to have no tail in hamin skin. Kahashi scorn both magic and weaponry of all kinds, preferring to use their own bodies as the most deadly weapon at their disposals. They’re loosely social with each other but are usually viewed as dangerously unpredictable by the landlocked races. Their secondary name is sasemiyukashuh, meaning ‘death in the water’ in Uhjayi.

Keusune tahori live on At-lasa and are considered ‘Others’, having no clear zoological family (e.g. feline, canine, etc) to which they belong. Often stymying those who see them for the first time, keusunes are considered to be similar to large mammalian predators, as though a combination of bear, cat, and wolf with a long, prehensile tail. Keusunes have a more industrialized civilization than the other tahori, reaching into basic technology like machinery and refined architecture. Their trademark weapons are half-magic, half-technology: a curving blade atop a slender wooden hilt that can be folded outwards to create a double-bladed knife, then enlarged with qki to become a keusunian glaive. While some keusune communities are still very primitive, even feral, many groups are more civilized and act as merchants to non-tahori, especially k’anta, who are typically mortal enemies of the tahori; keusunes have a colony world in the same sun system as At-lasa, where most of their industry and trading takes place. Keusunes have strong inclinations towards bardic magic and are usually sound-oriented.

Oh, Ykinde. One of my prized worlds, a land of organic magic and dieselpunk technology, the setting of Into Fang Wood. I have done more work on this world than I have on most others, Lavana and Cadora being the exceptions that spring to mind. (Cadora may be introduced in a later blog post, but as I have no current projects set there, it may be some ways down the road.)

Bear with me, as there’s a lot to tell about Ykinde and this post may wind up a little long.

The People

It’s impossible to describe Ykinde without briefly introducing you to its four major intelligent races: Avans, humans, Lupos, and Panthera. Each link will take you to a complete page on their physical capabilities, their castes/classes, and their cultures, but I’ve provided a brief summary below.

Avans are tall, slender, wingless bird-people with round faces and curving beaks. Renowned for their knowledge of and skill with magic, Avans are sophisticated, civilized people whose bright plumage and love of flowing, ornate clothing easily sets them apart from all other Ykindeans. Living under the idea of Beauty in grand and beautiful cities, most Avans are mages or artful warriors, though many are medical scholars, and some few profess to be naturalists. They are mortal enemies of the Lupos, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and relentless in their quest to see the wolf-people vanquished; they are allies with the humans and most Avans are neutral towards the Panthera, although many will fight them alongside Lupos if necessary.

Humans are remarkably average, tail-less, flat-faced people with bare skin and unimpressive bodies. Well-known for their ingenuity and inventiveness, humans tinker with mechanical devices and sort themselves into family-run businesses. Neutral in the Elderwar, they act as merchants and traders to both Lupos and Avans, supplying both races with whatever goods and raw materials are in high demand. One human family enslaved the Panthera Walker tribe as bodyguards and servants, but after the Walkers’ escape from slavery, most humans will kill or seek to capture Panthera on sight. Humans preserve and enforce their neutrality with both Lupos and Avans, straddling the most profitable line of action at all times. Though they are businesspeople first and foremost, dedicated to their family’s trade, humans also study other paths: they are soldiers, medics, witches, or engineers.

Lupos are powerful, furred, tauroid wolf-people with four legs and two arms. A strong and spiritual people, the Lupos live in harmony with the natural world around them, worshiping Father Sun, Mother Moon, Brother Sky, and Sister Earth. Lupos band together in clans, led by a single chieftain and a few betas; many are shamans and braves, while others are healers and rangers. Their tools and weaponry are simple, sturdy, and plain; they have little use for showy luxuries or impractical belongings. They are mortal enemies of the Avans, engaged in the Elderwar for centuries running, and they are tireless in their efforts to defend their land and their people; they are allies with the humans, and most clans are also allied with or neutral towards the Panthera. The Tehar Lupos were the ones to succor the Panthera Walkers when they escaped from human slavery in Royalwood.

Panthera are lithe, agile, feral cat-people with wide faces and rounded ears. Traditionally primitive and nomadic, the Panthera wander Ykinde in tribes, moving as part of the predator-prey cycle as hunters. One particular tribe, the Panthera Walkers, was captured and enslaved by humans; after many years, they escaped and found sanctuary with the Tehar Lupos, rebuilding their tribe and becoming the first stationary band of Panthera Ykinde had ever seen. (The Hunters are the only other non-nomadic Panthera tribe; they are an off-shoot of the Walkers.) Nomadic Panthera have few possessions or tools, but the Walkers and Hunters trade with Lupos and have a similar quality of life. Many are bloodwalkers and spiritwalkers, while others are lifewalkers and beastwalkers. They are enemies of the humans, their former slavers, and allies with the Lupos; they are neutral towards many Avans, but will fight those who attack their wolfish allies.

The Place

Most of Ykinde is fairly temperate, experiencing seasonal changes. The farther north you go, the less lush the land becomes, devolving into sparse deciduous forests, mountains with evergreens, and finally flattened tundras. There is quite a large portion of land that consists mostly of rolling mountains, savannas, and scattered greenery. The coasts are extensive and tend to be quite tropical, except for the northernmost stretches; nearly all of the coastline is well-forested, oftentimes a jungle, and pocked with inlets and small bays that make perfect seaports for the human traders. Both Lupos and Avans prefer to settle in rich lands with many trees; the Lupos keep their lands well-forested to encourage grazing animals, whereas the Avans will clear out patches to build their cities and to farm.

Humans have controlled Ykinde’s economy since the beginning of the Elderwar. They established a basic currency using gems and coins made of precious metals, made prices relative to the buyer’s race, and also established a quality check for items to be bartered, rather than purchased. They trade only with Lupos and Avans, killing or attempting to capture Panthera on sight. Panthera barter goods with Lupos, who barter goods or use currency to trade with humans, who use currency (or very rarely barter) to trade with Avans. Each race has its forte in amassing raw goods and crafting some things: Panthera are skilled leatherworkers, Lupos construct sturdy homes and also are good weaponcrafters, humans invent and create technological gadgets, and Avans are skilled weaponsmiths. All of the races are at least decent at making weaponry and armor, as well as living quarters and other basic tools to survive.

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“Korats? You mean those pretty silver-blue housecats from ancient Siam?”

Um, no. I mean these:

That, my dear readers, is my kind of Korat. (The fact that they share a name with an admittedly nifty breed of cat is completely accidental. My Korats got their name years before I ever found out about Korats-the-housecats.)

Korats are my favorite and one of my most-often-featured fictional species. They reside on Lavana, one of my primary worlds. Lavana is slightly larger than Earth with proportionately stronger gravity and a similar range of terrains and climates; its sky is pale violet, its clouds rosy pink, its sun – Ghrayu – a bold orange, and much of its grasses pastel blue. Don’t let the fanciful color scheme fool you, though – Lavana is a hostile, deadly world, filled with strange and dangerous creatures.

Quadrupedal predators, Korats are often regarded as the ‘average Lavanian,’ for all that they seem to be one of the most successful species. Korats have canine heads, shark-like teeth, round-pupiled eyes, and lupine ears. Their necks are a few feet long and held tightly in an S-curve, almost jointed; it takes a muscle spasm for them to ‘unlock’ their necks, and it’s also rather hard to slit a Korat’s throat, as their necks are thickly-muscled. They have deep chests and narrower waists. Their forelegs are slender compared to their hind, ending in forehands with small V-shaped palms and two retractably-clawed ‘fingers’. Their hind legs are powerful with a three-toed paw resembling that of a Velociraptor; their innermost toe is held upright, off the ground, and totes a ‘longclaw’ – a scythe-shaped claw usually 6 inches long. Males have long, fast tails with a curving ‘tailblade’ made of bone branching off near the tailtip; some females can have this as well, though it’s rare. Most females, instead, have shorter and very muscular tails.

Korats are small for Lavanians, standing at 3-6 feet at the withers. They’re striated into five distinct breeds – lean and swift tans, graceful and toned blacks, sturdy and muscular reds, tall and powerful whites, and tough and shaggy browns – as well as a genetic mutation, a striped that combines two breeds. Koratian breeds determine not only the physical appearance, but also the body’s strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and agility, as well as the mind’s general temperament and sociability. Korats tend towards a pack structure, with a leader and a few secondary leaders guiding the group’s activities and drawing the bounds of territory; they don’t use tools and many abhor the scent of metal objects.

The complete biography – including full physical description, breed details, history, society, and culture – can be found in the Bestiary under ‘Korat’. I have all the details I could think to write on that single page, so it’s fairly long (and why I summarized, rather than copy-pasted, in this entry). You can also check out the Korat Gallery for some illustrations by various artists.

I’ve written (but not finished) one Korat novel so far, entitled Outcast, and I’m contemplating either completing that story or starting anew for my third writing project. I figured now was a good time to get you used to hearing about Korats; I’ll see if I can’t find a little piece of fiction to toss up shortly. Besides, the Korat biography is a good glimpse of how detailed my creature-building can get – and perhaps an inspiration for other worldmakers to write their ideas down.

What kinds of creatures have you come up with to populate your fiction?