Species: Niyia

Name: nya(i) [NY-yah]

Homeworld: Antra

Height/Length/Weight: Nyai have a rather extreme form of sexual dimorphism in size. Mother nyai stand 17-22' at the shoulder, 22-28' long (plus another 10' or so of tail), and weigh up to five tons. Males range from 11-17' at the shoulder, 15-22' long (plus another 5-8' of tail), and weigh between 2-4.5 tons. Females stand 8-13' at the shoulder, 12-18' long (plus another 5-6' of tail), and weigh between 1-2.5 tons. [Weights are approximate; I have yet to convince a nya to stand on a scale.]

Physical Description: Nyai are huge, quadrupedal felines. They have dense, glossy pelts and long, silky manes that can be straight, curly/wavy, or kinked in texture - they also have lengthy tailtufts of the same texture as their manes. With long muzzles, rounded ears, and a fairly stocky, proportionally-almost-square build, nyai are clearly impressive hunters and not creatures to be trifled with. Most, upon seeing them for the first time, would not assume that they're sentient - they retain a primordial, savage beauty and power.

Senses/Capabilities: Nyai are creatures with exceedingly keen hearing and a fairly good sense of smell; their eyesight is primarily motion-based, colorless, and works best in low light or outright darkness. Despite their size, nyai are quite swift in a run, easily reaching and maintaining a gallop at 60 mph, and fairly enduring. The larger ones, especially the big males and the Mothers, are exceptionally strong, and many of the smaller males and females are very agile and flexible.

Coloration/Clothing: Nya don't wear clothing. Manes and tailtufts, which are always the same color, are either gold or silver; eyes tend to also be gold or silver, though some jewel-tones (blue/green/purple) have been seen. Claws tend to be grey/silver, white, black, or golden. Nyai are vaguely ranked according to the color of their pelt, though this rarely matters in any day-to-day life. Though Mothers, despite the color of their fur, are highest-ranking (followed by their chosen mates), generalized ranking goes from highest downwards as follows: black, red/red-gold, grey/silver, dark brown to light brown, and then any other odd colors, which can be dark blues or purples, and occasionally even greens. A white nya is incredibly rare and nearly as special as a Mother, and in the same vein of highly uncommon pelts is a tri-colored nya — a nya whose mane is of a different color than its two fur colors.

Races/Breeds: There are several regional breeds, though there is no terminology to distinguish them, despite their inability to interbreed. The creatures described in this biography are by far the most populous, and the other breeds are almost exclusively wild, though they are all capable of Bonding as well. One breed is much like those described here, but much smaller, with a height range of 7-13' for all genders, even the Mothers. The second breed is of a similar size, yet much leaner and lankier, and also winged with furred bat-like/draconic pinions; the third breed is similar to the second, but slightly thicker in build, winged with bird-like pinions, and heavily feathered (as well as furred) along their maneless necks, flanks, upper limbs, and backs.

Language: Nyai have a guttural, growling-purring language that is never taught to outsiders, not even Bonded qynes. They communicate with their Bondeds via telepathy-empathy; Bonded nyai can communicate with other Bonded nyai in the same fashion, but the rest use niyan amongst themselves. It is thought to be a fairly basic language, simple in structure and small in vocabulary.

Technology: Nyai have no use for technology of any kind or level.

Magic: Nyai don't use magic. They have no control over the magic of Bonding.

Values: Nyai primarily value the structure of their clans, the roles that each member fills, and how smoothly and peaceably the clan can function. Respect for Mothers and their chosen mates is of utmost importance; the hunting prowess of the females and the fierce guardianship of the males is also highly valued.

Social Groups/Society: There are three main 'types' of nya - Mothers, males, and females - and all three hold a unique role in niyan society. Nyai have a complex but functioning social structure which hasn't changed for generations upon generations; Mothers have absolute authority over their own clan and considerable clout over non-clan non-Mothers. A Mother's mate is highly respected as her second-in-command, but he does not act in her stead; other males are guardians and protectors of the territory and those in it, especially when there are young ones in the den. Nearly all nyai will choose mates, although the smaller females are infertile and act as huntresses/providers for the Mothers; only the Mothers reproduce, once every three years, occasionally sooner if the population is low. The chirrs (cubs) are grown within two years and capable of breeding within three; all males are fertile, regardless of size. A litter consists of 3-10 chirrs, with younger Mothers producing less chirrs than more experienced ones; a litter will only have a Mother infant if the adult pair are healthy, strong, and large. Mothers care for their chirrs' chosen qynes as their own children, and the Mothers' Bonded qynes often reflect this attitude, fostering an atmosphere of family throughout the Bonded clan.

Habitat/Settlements: Nyai typically enjoy forests, mountains/hills, or plainslands; deserts, marshes, and the steepest or driest or coldest of terrains are generally avoided. They center their territories around a den, which is nearly always a cave or cavern or overhang of some sort; when lacking a natural cave, they'll either dig one into a hillside or break down trees to construct a makeshift den.

Religion/Beliefs: Bonded nyai tolerate their qynes' belief in everything having a spirit, but do not share it. They have no particular religion or belief system, other than a steadfast loyalty to their clans.

Interaction w/ Other Species: Nyai Bond with qynes (see next section); wild nyai are typically wary and avoidant of qynes, even those who are Bonded. Nyai of different breeds are often slightly standoffish and cautious when encountering one another, but nyai of a similar breed will usually greet each other warmly, with plenty of physical contact. Bonded nyai are courteous but distant to non-nyai, non-qynes; wild nyai avoid off-worlders.

Bonding: Bonding is the act of permanently establishing an emotional, spiritual, and telepathic-empathic connection between a young qyne (child to young adult) and a niyan chirr. Bonding occurs a week or so after a litter has been weaned, the chirrs being approximately four months old and two to three feet tall at the shoulder. Bonding, while sacred, is not something for everyone to aspire to; Bondeds are important to the safety and food supply (primarily being guardians and hunters, though many are explorers and messengers) of a qyne settlement, but they are not its entire population. It is both a profession, a role in the community, and a personal choice - being Bonded changes life forever. At the time of Bonding, a storm gathers over the den, and candidates for the litter hasten to the Mother's den and line the walls, motionless and silent. The chirrs' minds, at this time, are developed enough to be molded to another's; they send out mental impulses, almost like telepathic radar, searching for the right lifemate, one that is both similar and complementary to their own selves. When they near their chosens, their minds are impacted by the qynes' minds and change to suit each other. At the time, the chirr will feel exhilerated and light-headed, and possibly stumble or fall at the feet of its chosen; likewise, the qyne will feel overwhelmed and ecstatic as its mind adopts to the new link between it and the chirr. For a while yet, the chirrs and their new partners will live in the den, under the watchful eye of the Mother and her Bonded, being taught and welcomed by the rest of the clan. Interestingly, once Bonded, a nya loses all biological connection to every nya except for its Mother and father; when adult, they can choose mates even from their littermates, and there is no threat of inbreeding. It is thought that the process of Bonding changes the chirr to reflect its qyne so much that sibling and more distant relationships are negated; however, if qyne siblings were to Bond chirrs from the same litter, the chirrs would retain their familial closeness.

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