Species: Ztar'ai

Name: Ztar'ai [zDAR-eye or zDAR-ay]

Homeworld: Ztar

Height/Length/Weight: The Ztar'ai are a fairly sizeable race, though females are considerably smaller than the males. Average height is 7' for a male, 6' for a female, give or take half a foot in natural variation. Males weigh 200-300 lbs, and females weigh 150-220 lbs.

Physical Description: Ztar'ai are a very wolfish species, despite being primarily bipedal (though they often run on all fours, having limbs of similar lengths). They have thick, soft fur, which grows dense and shaggy in cold seasons/regions, but no manes. Their faces are lupine with long, strong jaws, canine noses, whiskers, bright eyes, and no eyebrows; their ears are also wolfish. They are fairly muscular creatures, well-built for hunting and fighting. Their arms are thick, their wrists strong, and their hands are tough, clawed, and padded like paws on the fingertips and palms; these arms can easily support them when climbing or running. Their legs are also muscular, ending in wolfish paws with unretractable claws; they walk digitigrade, balanced by a long, lupine tail. Females have fairly small breasts (A/B cup) unless pregnant or nursing (usually C then), and their loins are well-concealed by fur; males have internal testicles, but a visible penile sheath, despite their fur.

Senses/Capabilities: Ztar'ai have very keen senses, smell being their strongest, hearing just behind that. Their sight, while keen, is geared towards seeing motion (though stillness is still quite detailed within about a ten foot distance), so colors are somewhat dull (though still there) and visual beauty is limited to what is close. (Grand, sweeping vistas are mostly lost on them, but a mate's countenance can still be seen as lovely.) Ztar'ai are fairly fast runners, reaching up to 25 mph in a sprint and generally maintaining a 15 mph lope if they're traveling far; they're fastest and most enduring when running on all fours. Ztar'ai males tend to be very strong, but females are quicker (in reflex and movement) and more agile. Both are very good at climbing and leaping, and swimming tends to be an individual strength/weakness.

Coloration/Clothing: Ztar'ai fur colors are dependent on race (and, in fact, the races are named after the color of fur). Whitefurs, the primary Ztar'ai race, are white or very pale grey in color, with dark grey or black markings spattered across hips and shoulders, occasionally also on the face, hands, paws, and chest. Blackfurs rarely have markings and tend to be black, dark grey, or dark brown; on occasion, they have white splashed on their chests. Redfurs are reddish-brown in color with black hands, paws, muzzles, and eartips. Greyfurs were medium grey (ranging darker or lighter on occasion, but never as dark as a blackfur and never as light as a whitefur) with horizontal black stripes across their spines and black masks, fingers, toes, eartips, and tailtips. Brownfurs were medium brown to tawny, dappled with dark brown or black everywhere but their undersides. Whitefurs have blue or yellow eyes, blackfurs have yellow or green eyes, redfurs have green or blue eyes, greyfurs had blue or green eyes, and brownfurs had green or brown eyes. Clothing also varies, heavily based on climate; for the most part, Ztar'ai wear loincloths, females usually wear some sort of top (often just a band of cloth/hide/fur across their breasts), and leather armor is worn when a pack goes to battle or engages in a particularly dangerous hunt. Beyond that, hide and fur vests, leggings, and cloaks are worn against the cold; sometimes, even hands and paws are bound in fur or leather to keep the chill out.

Races/Breeds: The only remaining Ztar'ai ethnicity is the whitefurs, which basically comprises the entire species. Other races existed in the past, but largely died out (for various reasons, including war, virus, and arcane disease); however, some small populations of two other races do remain, grouped together. The blackfurs live in the depths of the Crynean mountains in two allied packs; the redfurs live in the bottom of a river-fed canyon in one large pack. Blackfurs and redfurs are loosely neutral, but generally too far away to give each other aid in times of trouble; whitefurs hold no enmity towards them, but they aren't about to leave their own territories to make a stab at helping another suffering pack. Whitefurs are quite territory- and pack-oriented, sticking to their own business and guarding only their own lands and packmates; redfurs are more family-oriented than pack-oriented, sharing a large patch of land between several families and defending it together, though in times of peace, that territory becomes a patchwork of smaller family-lands; blackfurs are loosely social, coming together to form hunting groups or find mates or defend their hunting lands and dens as need be. For simplicity, most of this biography pertains specifically to the Ztar'ai whitefurs, since everyone else is dead or dying out.

Language: The Ztar'ai speak ztarran, a harsh language filled with biting sounds and snarls. It is a fairly primitive language, despite having an extensive vocabulary of surprisingly descriptive words for even things they don't understand, like technology; regions and races tend to have their own dialects and naming systems, but -most- dialects can be generally understood by other Ztar'ai.

Technology: The Ztar'ai do not use technology; they abhor it and will not stand for it to be brought to, created on, or used on Ztar.

Magic: Though Ztar is a magic-rich planet, not all Ztar'ai use magic - in fact, magic-users are a minority. Magic-workers are called windsingers; they often double as healers and story-tellers, as well as cub-watchers. (Windsingers are closest to druids in the human magic system.) Most windsingers are elders; once a Ztar'ai cannot keep up in the hunt, he or she often takes on another role in the pack. Very few adults who can still hunt bother studying magic or nature lore; it's considered a worthy occupation of sorts, but not taking priorities over the hunt. While windsingers are not leaders, lacking the physical fitness to hold the role against challengers, they are still highly respected in a pack and are often responsible for educating cubs while their parents hunt.

Values: The Ztar'ai value physical prowess, bravery, integrity, and skill in battle and hunting. Domestic and social skills are often on the second tier of the "good characteristics to have" tree. Physical strength, endurance, and swiftness is of prime importance, since all Ztar'ai (who are not pregnant, too young, too old, sick, or wounded) hunt, unarmed, for the entire pack; bravery and quick reflexes play a key role, as well, in being able to bring down a dangerous prey animal or to participate in battle to defend the territory.

Social Groups/Society: Ztar'ai live in packs, led by a mated pair who come into power by fighting and defeating the previous leaders. (Previous leaders, if displaced due to age, are often simply demoted; leaders who are displaced due to incompetency or malice are killed. Leaders can voluntarily step down and nominate another pair to lead in their stead, but if this nomination is a poor choice or refused by the nominees, the pack can erupt into chaos.) One half of the mated pair leads the pack in hunts and battles; the other stays back to lead and defend the settlement. (It is decided between the mates which one does which; it is not solely gender-based, though most often the male goes out to hunt and war.) Packs are cooperative entities with no ranks beyond the leaders; the leaders delegate duties and roles to the pack as best fitted to the individual's skills and limitations.

Habitat/Settlements: Ztar'ai live in fairly low-key villages, constructing family houses from wood or individual huts from sticks and hides. The pack leaders typically live in the largest building on the territory, which is usually taken over by the new leaders when the old are displaced. Ztar'ai whitefurs live in colder regions, typically in evergreen forests or on sheltered parts of the tundra. (Ztar'ai blackfurs typically live in mountains and cave systems, redfurs live in rocky outcroppings, canyons, and deserts, and the now-extinct greyfurs lived in more seasonal forests, while the also-extinct brownfurs lived in plainslands and savannahs.)

Religion/Beliefs: Ztar'ai have a nameless, fairly loose religion. They believe that the First Ztar'ai (often called Ai), both an ancestor and a force of nature, created Ztar and their people by giving its life-force to the world, thus bringing life to an otherwise dead planet, magic to the air, and souls to bodies. They honor this by living attuned to nature, thanking the spirits of animals and plants for their sacrifices when taken as food, and guarding their brethren against danger. They consider technology to be an abomination, an act against the very nature of life.

Interaction w/ Other Species: Ztar'ai are typically uninterested and wary towards other species, though they do take a vested interest if outsiders are intruding on their lands or bringing technology to their world. Ztar'ai whitefurs are much more impassive and reclusive than the other races had been; greyfurs and brownfurs, especially, were very vehement about enforcing a closeness to nature and a lack of technology.

Notes: Ztar is almost as magic-rich as Ryarna, easily in the top five magic-heavy worlds in the universe; rarra approached the Ztar'ai, who at that time had settled maybe 40% of the habitable land area, to ask if they could start a colony where the Ztar'ai had not settled. Ztar'ai agreed, not knowing that rarra were technological, and later wiped out the budding colony. (Big war - lots of Ztar'ai packs died - but they did win, and the few rarran survivors retreated to Ryarna, pissed.) After understanding how rarra made animetals and just what they'd done to the native wildlife of Ryarna, greyfurs and brownfurs committed mass suicides, especially the old/sick/deformed, to send their spirits to Ryarna. Not many of them made it, but enough managed to get fused into animetal shells and withdraw from rarran cities, gathering and waiting for enough of their people to make it so that they could wreak havoc. Some whitefur packs are feeling stirred to act, but not many are; still, enough will try and make it that the Ztar'ai animetals feel prepared to wreck Ryarna. There's some back-and-forthing about how 'right' it is, to become a part of what they hate in order to destroy it, but those who make the attempt feel that their sacrifice is worth the safety of their world and the sanctity of nature.

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