Name: corata [kor-AH-tah]
Height/Length/Weight: The corata have two skins (terokka = bipedal skin, corata = quadrupedal skin); their size is also determined largely by breed but is not influenced by gender. From tallest to shortest, the breeds are black, red, grey, brown; from heaviest to lightest, the breeds are black, brown, red, grey. In their terokka skin, corata stand 5.5-7.5' tall and weigh 125-300 lbs. In their corata skin, corata stand 3-6' high at the shoulder and 6-12' long from nose to rump (plus another body-length of tail for females, and that plus an extra foot or three for males); they weigh 150-600 lbs. (In summation: blacks are tall and muscular, browns are short and muscular, reds are tall/average in height and build, and greys are average/short in height and lightly built.)
Physical Description: The corata are (vaguely) theropsid-like shapeshifters, distant kin to but not precisely one of the tahori. They have two distinct skins, between which they can shapeshift easily and quickly (provided they're on a planet that isn't magic-dry). The bipedal skin is the terokka skin; it is an upright, longer-toed version of their corata (quadrupedal) skin. Corata do not have vast differences in features or body structure between their skins, other than the obvious change between bipedal and quadrupedal gaits (and the necessary slimming of the torso between corata and terokka skins); in this similarity of skins, they actually resemble Sivefi-rasarde. Corata, as quadrupeds, have strong bodies with powerful, coiled hind limbs that are slightly longer than their slimmer, straighter-held forelimbs; as bipeds, they have long legs but long arms as well, still walking digitigrade and holding their spines at an angle (rather than strictly vertical). Their faces are rather canine, long-muzzled and sharp-toothed with triangular, erect ears and almond-shaped eyes; their necks are longish, muscular, and held in an arcing curve. They have slender shoulders and toned forelimbs ending in four-toed paws, each digit tipped in a sharp, curving, unretractable claw; a fifth 'dewtoe' holds a noticeably larger claw off the ground. In terokka skin, their forepaws' toes lengthen into fingers, and that dewtoe shifts its position to become a short but opposable thumb. As quadrupeds, they have deep chests that sweep back to slimmer waists; as bipeds, they become much more flat-chested, losing the bulk and weight of their upper bodies in order to move about more easily on two legs instead of four. Their hind legs are muscular and held slightly bent, perpetually ready for a leap or to lunge into a sprint; their hindpaws are four-toed as well, heavy-clawed, and long-toed - more like talons than true paws. These toes elongate further in terokka skin, an aid to keeping balance on two legs. Corata have long, muscular, surprisingly deft tails that are near-prehensile. Each tailtip is barbed with a collection of flat, U-shaped, sharp-tipped 'barbs' that form a sort of serrated, spade-shaped tip; each barb fits together to form the foot-long blade like each rattle fits together to form a rattletail. A corata gets its first barb in adolescence, adding a new one every season until adulthood; the barbs then fuse together over the next year to create a single entity. This sharp-edged tailtip can be used to stab directly into an animal's body without fear of breaking any spines or bones of the corata itself - it can also be used to slice at flesh or branches in a side-to-side motion.
Senses/Capabilities: Corata have a keen, well-rounded group of senses. Their eyesight is moderately colorful and long-range during the day, and sharp and motion-sensitive during the night; their sense of smell is admirably distinguishing; and their hearing is quite keen, especially at close ranges. Their senses do not change in keenness or range between skins. Their capabilities are largely governed by breed. Blacks are quite enduring, very strong, not very agile, and fairly fast in a run (~30 mph in terokka, ~50 mph in corata). Browns are extremely enduring, immensely strong for their stature, not agile at all, and the slowest of the breeds in a run (~25 mph in terokka, ~40 mph in corata). Reds are the glorified 'average' - they are fairly strong, fairly enduring, quite agile, and fairly fast in a run, just barely moreso than blacks (~30-35 mph in terokka, ~55 mph in corata). Greys are fairly weak, not enduring, very agile, and extremely fast in a run (~40 mph in terokka, ~65+ in corata).
Coloration/Clothing: Corata don't wear clothing; they will, however, wear armor (usually only in terokka skin) when they know it'll be needed. (The armor is hardened leather, often layered for sturdiness, and strapped strategically to torso, upper arms, forearms, thighs, and shins. Head, neck, and tail remain unprotected for mobility's sake, as do joints, paws, and hands.) Corata typically have black claws, though a light ivory-grey can occasionally be seen; their eyes can range a diverse spectrum, including yellow/gold, orange, dark reds, purple, blue, green, brown, bronze/hazel, dark grey, and light grey-silver. Fur coloration is determined by breed: Blacks are simply coal-black with no markings or common variations; some are occasionally greyer on the undersides or around the face. Browns are medium-to-dark brown, occasionally tinged with red or grey or green; they have no distinct markings but are often mottled (upperside) and slightly lighter on the undersides. Reds are a lustrous rust-red, cinnamon, or brick-red with no shading, but they occasionally have faint barring along their flanks in a shade barely darker than their base fur. Greys have the widest range of hue, from light silvery-grey to solid iron-grey, occasionally tinged with pale blue or dull green; they have no markings, but their faces usually have an intricate light-dark pattern. Hybrids have a base color/pattern of one breed with overlaying patches, spots, rosettes, or a combination thereof of the other breed's color; their base color is the breed that is stronger within them, both physically and psychologically (usually).
Races/Breeds: Breed is, effectively, everything to a corata. Everything from physical size and build to physical capabilities (speed, strength, endurance) to psychological tendencies is nigh-determined by breed; check Size, Coloration, Capabilities, Values, and Interaction for details on each breed. Blacks are the largest, tall and well-muscled with long limbs and snouts, with shaggy fur that enables them to stand the colder climes and harsher terrains. In essence, they are logical, calm, self-disciplined people who value order and their bloodkin. Browns are actually bulkier than blacks in build, but are much shorter with coarse, dense fur and heavy, blunt features; they are blunt, aggressive, honest people who detest manipulation, deceit, and cowardice. Reds are 'average' in build, possessing a sleek and sinuous grace and a deadly beauty that sets them apart from the other three; their fur is smooth and glossy, features refined and sculpted. In essence, they are vain, intelligent, socially active people who delight in riddles, tricks, and garnering admiration through physical or mental feats. Greys are small but not frail, wiry and agile in build with a speed that puts even reds to shame; they are often graceless but still not clumsy as some browns are. They have small, angular features with thin muzzles and digits, thin but smooth fur, and exceptionally sharp teeth, claws, and tailtips. In essence, they are pacifistic and family-oriented people who enjoy a quiet but playful life and avoid unnecessary violence or aggression. Hybrids combine the qualities of two breeds, one of which is more influential than the other, both physically and in temperament. (See Reproduction for more.)
Language: Corata speak kalache, a somewhat animalistic language that is often difficult for those with delicate vocal chords or no muzzles to pronounce. Despite its guttural first impression, kalache is a rhythmic language that puts great emphasis on the pattern of syllables and sounds, reminiscent of the long-distance method of communication that corata clans use: drumming. Kalache has a simplistic structure but an extensive vocabulary; little of it deals with technology or magic, but plenty with qki.
Technology: Corata do not use advanced technology. Some clans have developed metal-working, primarily to forge weapons with more reach than their own bodies, but most corata shun metal and its processed forms. Corata do not weave or woodwork; they typically use hides for armor or roofs, furs for warmth if necessary, hooves and horns and bones for decor or what few tools they might need. They are largely a primal race and most clans live without any kind of tools or crafts at all.
Magic: The vast majority of corata do not use any 'traditional' kind of magic; some very few learn elemental magic (generally in the druid or shaman caste, though they don't use the human classes). However, like all true shapeshifters, corata are qki-converters; they not only have an internal and self-sustaining source of qki in order to shapeshift, but they can also draw on the raw, unrefined magic of the world and convert it to qki to enhance their physical abilities. All corata can convert enough qki to increase their speed, reflexes, and strength for short periods of time - corata can use enhancement qki much more deftly, with more control, in terokka skin than corata skin, though the strength of qki that they can draw does not change between skins. Many learn to use external qki (qki blasts or balls, qki auras, qki bursts used to enhance leaps) quite well, but it takes focus, will, and plenty of study/training, usually under tutelage of a master.
Values: Corata share some few values across breeds, those being physical prowess (both in battle and in the hunt), loyalty and protectiveness towards family and/or packmates and/or close friends, and the ability to adapt to and live with individuals of various breeds. Blacks value control over emotions and their expressions, calm logic even in extreme situations, and a stoic sense of duty that overrides fleeting impulse or desire; they dislike messy emotions, irrationality based on those emotions, and hedonism. Browns value honesty, transparency (as in bluntness), and a fierce will to live and protect; they dislike deceit and masks, manipulation or tricks, and cowardice/weakness. Reds value mental sharpness (both intelligence and cunning), problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to any situation/individual; they dislike stupidity or slowness, unwillingness to expand one's mind or store of knowledge, and stagnancy. Greys value peace and diplomacy, a gentle sense of humor, and extended family; they dislike aggression and violence, cruel humor, and a lack of emotion. There are exceptions to every rule, especially in multiracial groups.
Social Groups/Society: Corata live in packs or clans - groups who are primarily in corata skin refer to their communities as 'packs', where groups who are more often in terokka skin (or even simply half-and-half between the two) are more likely to refer to them as 'clans'. Nearly all clans are multiracial, including more than one breed, while as many packs are uniracial as are multiracial. Most clans are led by a small group of leaders, often a representative of each breed - nominated or chosen by the existing leaders but approved by the whole clan. The clan leaders generally keep the peace between neighboring clans/packs, as well as within the clan itself; they negotiate where necessary, strategize battles when necessary, and often lead major hunts, but otherwise allow clanmates to live their lives on their own terms. Most packs are led by one or two leaders, typically of the breed that comprises most of the pack, and often siblings or mates. The pack leaders serve the same function as clan leaders but are usually much more involved in their packmates' lives, both as an authority and as a peer. Ineffectual or otherwise unfit clan/pack leaders are either displaced by their peers or outright attacked and exiled/killed (if the situation were bad enough) by sufficiently strong packmates.
Reproduction/Aging: Corata have a gestation period of six months; cubs are grown in five years. (First year is infancy/toddlerhood, second and third years are young childhood - learning to speak, to fully use their bodies - and the fourth and fifth years are adolescence, learning to hunt and fight. Cubs are sexually mature at the end of the fourth year but do not stop growing into their adult builds/sizes until the end of their fifth year.) Corata have no seasonal cycles; they are fertile at any point in the year, though far less likely to conceive if both parents are not well-fed and healthy. While corata are aware of the fact that heterosexual sex will produce cubs and start a family, they still use sexual activity as a social bonding tool outside of mated pairs; if it occurs between a male and a female who don't want children at that moment, they'll usually engage in alternate forms of sex that have a decreased or nonexistent chance of conception. Sex often occurs directly after or even during an intense or angry confrontation - not because it's associated with hostility or dominance, but because it reestablishes the physical touch and intimacy between the individuals, reassuring both that anger has not broken any friendship or bonds. Sex used in this manner is infrequent among young adults and adolescents, becoming more common as the corata emotionally/socially matures into full adulthood. On average, half of all corata choose a mate of their own breed, generally out of personality compatability - mates are lifelong and courtship periods are often stretched over two or three years to ensure no mistake is being made out of haste. On the rare occasion that a mated pair splits, one of the two typically leaves the pack/clan entirely. When two corata of different breeds produce children, there are four possible outcomes: a cub of the mother's breed, a cub of the father's breed, a hybrid cub whose main breed is the mother's, and a hybrid cub whose main breed is the father's. Generally, the stronger of the parents will have the stronger genes, and so hybrids are likely to be that breed as the 'base' breed. (In coloration, this means a red-based cub would have red fur with, say, black patches. In terminology, they are referred to with the less-influential breed first: black-red, a shortened form of black-spotted red, a reference to their telltale pelt.) If two parents have good, solid genes, the cubs are likely to simply be one breed or the other; same case if both parents had weak genes. Hybrids are only produced when only one parent has strong genes, and even then, only half the litter is likely to be hybrids. Similarly, when a hybrid breeds with a unicolored mate, the stronger genes 'win', be they the hybrid's base-breed genes or the unicolored mate's 'pure' genes. A pair of hybrid mates are more likely to have hybrid cubs than a pair of unicolored mates, but there will still likely be unicolored cubs in their litters.
Habitat/Settlements: Corata can thrive in most environments and climates, though some are more kind to certain breeds than others. Blacks prefer colder climates and avoid hot, humid areas; greys avoid colder climates and tolerate hot, dry areas well; reds thrive in moist climates, avoiding dry ones; browns avoid vast open spaces, preferring mountains or thick forests. In the coldest areas and in the driest areas are where most uniracial packs are found - blacks and greys, respectively - simply because the other breeds don't do as well in such climates. As for actual settlements, most packs/clans simply claim a territory - only a few clans bother building anything, though some have smithies/forges for limited metal-working, and others will have a building or a den for their leatherworkers. Buildings for sleeping purposes are unheard-of.
Religion/Beliefs: Corata have a rather animistic worldview; they believe that living things share the same life-force. However, they view consciousness/personality as separate from life-force, which seems to be synonymous with qki or raw magical energy (even though things can be alive without having either). They have no real opinion on gods/spirits, having no experience with them personally and having little inclination to go to other worlds where such entities manifest.
Interaction w/ Other Species: Corata, as a whole, are a proud and inquisitive people, willing to interact amiably until the other person/group/race proves itself potentially dangerous and hostile. Individual corata communicate by touch and vocal inflection, so they often bond more closely with non-corata who use the same methodry. Browns are usually the easiest to befriend, provided the non-corata is blunt and physically inclined, while blacks can be standoffish. Humans spear-headed the contact process with the corata of Oakh, and at the request of multiple clans/packs, have mostly gone away and ceased active communication, bar two still-active docks that see an annual merchantship.