[Thanan] Dromae Growth and Development

Dromae are a sapient race from my Thanan setting, that evolved from the Paraves (birds and the most bird-like dinosaurs). These drabbles are mostly extended background reference material for myself, and the ones relating to biology are mostly written on ancestral, pre-civilisation dromae (just as we write about evolutionary development of cro-magnons).

Dromae eggs are laid in pairs and a clutch is either two or less commonly four eggs. While clutches of one or three eggs are very rare it is not infrequent for one of the eggs to be non-viable, resulting in one to four hatchlings. Ancestrally the female would lay eggs in warm sands and (depending on location) cover them with more sand or vegetation once laying was complete. The clutch would then be guarded primarily by the male, but with the female and the rest of the pack taking turns as well.

More basal ancestors brooded their clutches directly but as the Arenicalia grew in size this became less practical. This was compounded by the development of thicker protective tissue on the belly to assist in hunting that reduced the size of the brooding patch (a section of bare skin covered by elongated contour feathers that allows better heat transfer).

Newly hatched dromae are called egglings. Egglings are born almost completely covered in white down, with only their snouts and the soles of their feet bare. Sight and hearing are well developed, balance and coordination are not. Within a few days of hatching an eggling is capable of walking short distances but is unable to hunt for itself. Instead the mother will lay special unfertilised eggs for her children to eat and continue this for their first few months of life. Because of this, the male takes responsibility for protecting the clutch as the female must hunt for the significant amount of food required to produce these eggs.

At four months old the infants begin to shed their down in favour of juvenile plumage. The colour of these feathers varies somewhat based on geographical region of origin, but is mostly brown or grey mottled tones. Contour and body feathers are fully formed but primary arm, crest, tail and leg feathers are not. The hatchings will begin to hunt insects and be weaned off eggs and onto supplied meat at this point. As the offspring grow they will begin to hunt small prey to develop skills but will still be dependent on their parents until they are teens and large enough to hunt with the pack.

Adolescent plumage grows in at roughly eleven years of age. The juveniles will begin to take on adult body colouration and the feathers of the belly and inner legs will be shed as the skin structure changes to scutes. This process is often very uncomfortable and itchy for the raptor. Primary feathers of the limbs and tail are fully formed although the adolescent still has a reduced crest and the colourful breeding markings of adults are absent.

Adolescents will engage in vigorous arm flapping to become accustomed to the elongated arm feathers and to learn how to use them as balancing aids when leaping on to prey. At this point they will begin hunting with the adults of the pack. It is at adolescence that the difference between males and females becomes obvious; prior to this females bigger but not excessively so, yet while males cease growing early in puberty the females will continue to grow until approximately 30% larger.

(The Arenicalia  [“sand nesters”] are the genus that immediately precede ‘modern’ dromae, in the same way Australopithecus precede humans.)

[Aurelius Rising] Sobeki Beliefs on the Place of the Ground

In the cosmology of the sobeki, solid land is a thin wedge floating between the unending height of the sky and the infinite depths of the ocean. The continents are not even and, like a weather-worn log, are strongly tattered at the edges. In some places the land dips and slopes gently into the water and gives the illusion that the waves belong above and not below solid ground. But in other areas the land juts into the air as steep cliffs before abruptly crumbling into the sea. This, says the sobeki, is because the continents are not anchored and drift as they are buffeted from each side. Sand, soil and other solid matter that belongs to the land eventually makes its way home and is deposited unevenly and upsets the balance, setting the ground tumbling over the millennia.

It is further proof, they say, that no matter where one is if a hole is dug sufficiently deep the bottom will begin to fill with water. This is the liquid seeping up from the primordial ocean, the salt siphoned out by the spongy rocks that form the base of the continents. They do acknowledge that in some places there are mines of great depth that are dry to the base; in response one can point to the mountains stretching so far into the air and ask why the ground cannot extend equally far below.

The most adventurous sobeki, ones skilled at water breathing magics, talk of flooded caves that stretch in the dark for many hours swim and how scattered throughout are sections where a rocky roof will raise and against the rock presses a pocket of air. Connections to the outside are rare in these breathing holes and yet the snatches of atmosphere exist. They consider this evidence that if one could dive deep enough to swim the crushing depths beneath the continent and tunneled upwards the tip of the hole would eventually fill with air as the gases seeped from above, just as water enters a hole dug from above.

Some ponder if a different species of people could live on the other side of the continents. Are there water breathers who would explode if dragged too far upwards, who dig wells to extract oxygen for their cookpots? Do they too seek magics that will compensate for the fragilities of their flesh and allow a brave explorer to cross a continent’s threshold and explore the other side? Would these distant kin – and kin they must be, for surely they too must worship the Twin Sisters, mirrors of the sobeki as they would be – fear also the day that their home’s balance may tip and usher in a disaster beyond reckoning?

There are some that even suggest the True Peoples alternate lives. One life as the sobeki, living in the air and forever drawn to the water; then upon death reincarnated as these hypothetical siblings, born to the deep and seeking sky at the edges. While the symmetry is pleasing the idea makes most sobeki uncomfortable. It strikes them as speculation based on what is known of the Sisters, and arrogance to claim to know them so well.

Aurelius Rising: Chiropers

Of all the forms of communication, one of the swifter and most reliable are the services of the chiropers. While well taught in codes and able to swiftly reduce a missive to a carefully written scroll their true art lies in the training and handling of the bats used to transport these messages. A chiroper’s status and reputation in the broader community depends on the number of destinations they can send messages to, and this in turn upon their relationships with their collegues. The chiropers are by necessity a group more heeding of internal than external pressures.

The main tool of the chiropers is, of course, their trained bats. The hermes bat is the near universal animal of choice. No other species so far attempted has matched the hermes for speed, direction sense and tractability. Hermes are a pale grey in colour with darker ears, noses, feet and wingtips. They favour a diet of large winged insects such as moths and crickets and occasionally consume very ripe fruit. Wild colonies roost in caves and the hollows that form in ancient bower trees. As dusk falls the colony will rouse itself and seperate ribbons stream towards favoured hunting grounds before returning at just before dawn.

It is this last trait that the chiropers take advantage of. Young bats imprint strongly on their birth roost and once weaned learn of their colony’s feeding areas by trailing after their elders. A hermes bat taken from its cave when it is less than a month old can be hand reared by a chiroper and imprint upon an artifical roost as home, and upon the human as the elder who shall teach it to find food. The stylized and seemingly impractical shoulder adornments worn by chiropers are designed to assist the pup in imprinting on their handler alone and not all humans.

When a hermes bat begins flying it must be taught how to find the loft of neighbouring chiropers as food sources, so that messages can be passed on. For the first few trips the bat is placed in a cage or basket with widely spaced bars and carried by a chiroper (or apprentice) riding a swift mount. As they ride the chiroper will repeat a specific whistle upon their bone flute. At their destination the bat will be passed through the loft’s flying gate and be met on the other side by that loft’s chiroper, who will feed and handle it. After several hours the bat will be returned the same way.

The next few trips the bat will be tethered via a long cord and encouraged to fly after the riding chiroper. Eventually the bat will be able to make the journey unaccompanied and will soon find swifter and more efficient routes to its destination, no longer encumbered by the need to follow paths that a human can. The goal is to have the bat link the whistle and the loft it is connected to, and to fly there on command.

Some chiropers will focus on a single destination until mastered before moving to another, while others prefer to teach two or three alternating nightly until all are mastered. Most hermes master four or five; an exceptional bat as many as eight. A chiroper in a major city may service over a dozen locations with an extensive personal colony, with each destination being known by several of their bats, but most chiropers restrict themselves to three or four animals at a time with a similar number of connections.

Once fully grown the bats will be trained to carry a cloth or thin leather pouch on a chest harness. Short messages may be sent in plain text but longer onces are generally converted to the chiroper shorthand, for there is a sharp upper limit to the weight the bats can easily carry. Deliveries are not always sent by an outgoing bat; many chiroper’s are happy to host unoccupied bats of their neighbours for an evening so that the returning bats can convey late messages home.

Hermes bats are slow to reproduce in captivity and the pups must be gifted to another chiroper if they are to imprint upon their human handlers and not their parents. Consequently the majority of trained bats are wild-born. Collecting pups from wild colonies is a dangerous undertaking and chiropers rarely do so themselves. (Apprentices seeking to prove themselves and establish their own roost are amongst the few willing to risk it.) A chiroper seeking to expand will pay handsomely for a healthy, uninjured pup of the correct age and each spring the guild will post public notices of the bounties any chiroper is offering for new stock.

On Processing Corrosive Beasts

Breaking down corrosive carcasses can be challenging. The first step is to determine where the corrosivity comes from. If it originates from secretions such as a coating of acidic slime the carcass can be washed in suitable solvents before use. If it is too large or unwieldy to wash it whole the hide can be removed first, but this requires protective equipment such as gloves and a blade immune to the secretions.

The same will apply if the hide itself or inner tissues are corrosive. Acidic blood, alkaline ichor or corruptive arcane-infused flesh are common. If the internal tissues contain the substance the hide can often be removed conventionally as long the membranes separating the skin and muscle are kept intact and the hide peeled rather than cut from the flesh.

Blood, ichor or other fluids can be drained by suspending the carcass and slitting all major fluid vessels in the lower portion. Small carcasses can be affixed to sturdy chains and whirled vigorously for several minutes (make sure the area is clear of anything that can be damaged, including fellow hunters!)

Spitting organs, breath weapon sacs or toxin glands can often be removed intact. Clean the skin around their exits first and be willing to sacrifice the meat surrounding them to extract the organ intact. Those in the throat may require approaching from below or even via the top of the ribcage, while those near the tail often can be removed alongside the intestinal viscera.

Resistant blade materials are often a necessity. The material for them depends on what makes the creature corrosive. Coating a steel blade in resistant metal rarely works as the blade steel becomes exposed along the cutting edge whenever it is sharpened. Solid blades are equally difficult as resistant metals are oft too soft to hold an edge. Glass, ceramic or stone blades are more generally useful. The bones, teeth, spikes or claws of a creature often resist its own corrosive compounds and can be fashioned into tools to break subsequent carcasses down. As these tools are normally duller than steel it is best to use them only for the corrosive parts of the carcass and one’s preferred tools for the rest.

Thanan Bestiary: Tylos

I’m working on a planet for the Infinite Worlds setting in GURPs 4th ed. The world is code named Thanan and its divergent point is that the Chicxulub meteor still struck but was not as large. Some of the smaller dinosaurs survived.

The following is a species of wild pachycephalosaur.

Tylos   -74 pts

Attributes: ST 13 [15]; DX 10; IQ 3 [-140]
Secondary Charactistics: HT 12 [20]; HP 13; Will 11 [40]; Per 8 [25]; FP 12; Basic Lift 34; Basic Speed 5.5; Basic Move 5
Advantages: Blunt Claws [3]; Damage Resistance (Skin: Flexible, -20%) [8]; Damage Resistance (Bony Skullplate: Skull Only, -70%); Striker (Skullplate: Limited Forward Arc, -40%) [3]; Striker (Tail: Long, +75%; Cannot Parry, -40%; Clumsy, -40%; Limited Backwards Arc, -40%; Weak, -50%) [2]
Disadvantages: Wild Animal [-30]; No Fine Manipulators [-30]
Racial Skills: Brawling 11 (DX+1) [2]

Attacks: Headbutt 11: 1d+1 cr, Reach C; Tailwhip 10: 1d cr, Reach 1 (behind); Bite 11: 1d-1 cr, Reach C-1; Kick 1d+1 cr, Reach C-1

Appearance: Tylos are a species of pachycephalosaur that grow to about 1.3 m high and ~2 m long (not including the tail). Their scales are mottled a bluish grey although browner morphs exist. Males and females are similarly sized with males having a solid bone dome over the top of their skulls and females having many small bony nodules. Both sexes can use these for defence.

Behaviour: Tylos live in small family herds consisting of 1 dominant male and 2-5 breeding females. Nests are defended and hatchlings permitted to roam with the protection of the herd but no true parental care is given. Adolescents are driven away by adults of the same sex. Males compete for females via ritualised fighting: if threat displays do not drive one male away the pair will begin walking in parallel making clicking noises before spinning and attempting to headbutt each other in the flank. Despite a strengthened ribcage and protective ridges around the eyes some fights do end in serious injury and many weakened male tylos are killed by predators after losing strenuous fights.