THE AENYA BESTIARY: HORG

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Horg by David Pasco

HORG (singular or plural), the very mention of the names sends shivers down the spines of both children and seasoned adventurers alike, and with good reason.

EVOLUTION: The horg may be classified as a human subspecies, having originated from human ancestors prior to the Great Cataclysm (c. 0 AGM). It is believed that post-cataclysm humans from the eastern steppes were forced to seek drastic measures to survive, and after generations of bitter cold, under the greater moon and with a scarcity of vegetation, two distinct subspecies developed: the diminutive bogren and the horg.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: In the horg, evolution favored many inhuman attributes. The endless night of the dark hemisphere resulted in a dearth of plant life, forcing the horg to becoming exclusively carnivorous. Standing between ten and thirteen feet tall and weighing nearly 500 kg at maturity, the horg towers over humans and half-men alike. A drastic increase in size helped the horg to efficiently hunt and kill large prey, and a frightening set of tusks fend off other aggressors. Due to the horg’s fearsome nature, most of Aenya’s predators do not consider the horg prey, regardless of numbers. Its large size and a coat of fur also protect against the unceasing winter of the dark hemisphere. Large green eyes illuminate for low light vision, a common trait among dark hemisphere dwellers, and brighten with phosphorous whenever the beast is enraged, discouraging even intelligent hunters. Fortunately, most of the horg’s human-like intelligence has been lost to the ages. They retain the ability to use crude weapons, like clubs and throwing rocks, but the ability to make fire or anything more sophisticated is beyond them. There have been a number of scattered reports of horg possessing horns, wrapped around the sides of their head like a crown. However, the lack of any such specimen having been captured or killed makes these claims dubious, relegating them to the realm of myth, like the tale of how the Dark God Skullgrin transformed the worst and most savage of humans into horg so that they might revel in the slaughter of their kin; in retrospect, this may not be so far from the truth, considering the role evolution can play in transforming one species into another.

BEHAVIOR: Horg are solitary creatures by nature. This makes mating between them a rare occurrence. The species can go between 30 and 50 years between mating, and in their brief adolescence, the beasts have been known to be targeted by more intelligent enemies. Despite the rarity of offspring reaching maturity, their numbers are maintained due to long lifespans of up to 250 years and an accelerated healing and immune system. In an ironic twist of fate, the horg’s smaller, much less physically imposing cousins, the bogren, have managed to use this enhanced healing to their benefit. Using a crude form of surgery, bogrens manipulate horg like marionettes from strings attached to the horg’s exposed brain, allowing bogrens to use horg as weapons of war.

HISTORY: In recent history, horg have been used as siege engines on the tundra under the Pewter Mountains during the annual invasion of Northendell. Many men-at-arms have perished at the hands of the horg. On the Plains of Narth, an entire Krat’ battalion, led by the brilliant tactician Captain Dantes, was decimated by bogren armies, due, in part, to the bogren’s use of the horg.

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Thelana kills a horg on the Plains of Narth

 

THE AENYA BESTIARY: HALFMAN

It is believed the name half man or halfman originated with the Zo, who considered the halfman to be, in evolutionary terms, between beast and man. The nomenclature is in no way scientific, however, as the halfman shares 98% DNA with humans. Being a fearsome predator and omnivorous, the halfman is well suited to survival. Barring any cataclysm that might alter its habitat, the halfman is unlikely to evolve into a more human like state.

HISTORY: Halfmen did not evolve from humans, like the bogren and the horg, but share a common ancestor. They thrive primarily in tropical rain forests. After the Great Cataclysm, mass deforestation and loss of prey reduced their numbers to near extinction levels, as with 99% of all other species. No more than a thousand are thought to remain in the wildwood near Kratos, but since the wildwood is too vast and dangerous to be charted, precise numbers are impossible to ascertain.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Halfmen are truly terrifying to encounter. Adult males have been weighed at between 350 to 400 lbs. Their spines are curved so that they appear to be stooping, and they walk partly on their knuckles, supporting their weight on massive arms the length and breadth of which equal their thighs. In its natural position, the halfman stands between 6′ and 6 1/2′ tall, but a fully stretched corpse has been measured at more than 7′  from head to toe. A halfman skull is characterized by deep set eye sockets, a wide nostril ridge, and extremely long, jagged teeth of about 3″ to 4″. Like human fingernails, halfman teeth grow continuously, often pushing out older teeth. Its claws possess similar qualities. The halfman’s most striking feature is its shaggy fur, which reddens with age from yellow (at birth) to orange (children) to red (young adult) to crimson (aged).

BEHAVIOR: Halfmen are solitary hunters rarely seen with others of its kind. Adult males have been known to kill each other over a kill, which might explain their preference for seclusion. They prefer ambush tactics to direct chases, hiding high in the treetops under cover of foliage. The halfman kills in a variety of ways, including breaking the spines of smaller prey, bashing skulls in with rocks, even using pointed weapons against larger prey. Its claws, though lethal, are used primarily for wounding. Should the halfman’s quarry escape the initial ambush, the halfman is not averse to giving chase. With remarkable speed and agility, a combination of bipedal movement and swinging from branches, they can outrun most creatures of the forest.

SOCIETY: Being that its resemblance to humans is minimal, the name half man may refer, instead, to the species’ human like intelligence. Halfmen use language (but cannot write), bury their dead, and can make fire and simple tools. These tools consist of clubs, crude obsidian tipped spears, daggers with obsidian shafts, and hammers made with stones and sticks fastened by twine. They will adorn themselves in the blood of their kill, to darken their fur and grow their social standing, and may also wear trophies of bone and sinew. Despite their intellect, they are utterly lacking in curiosity, prone to superstition, and easily fearful. They have even been known to hide from a thunderstorm. When it comes to foreign species, halfmen are shy and reclusive, just as likely to hide from a human as to attack one. But they are quite social among their own kind. Villages consist of a central fire pit, used for cooking and heating, and crudely thatched huts made of mud, straw and sticks. Except for hunting or to look for water, halfmen rarely wander far from their tribe, and even then, it is only the adult males who do so. Females and children have never been seen in the wild. For this reason, it is believed that they are extremely protective of their families. Halfmen rarely migrate, but if forced to abandon their homes, they make certain to hide any evidence of habitation.

The eldest and most revered of the species is the shaman. Though never proven to exist, Kratan rangers describe the shaman as a blood-red creature with loose fur, bone piercings, and bone trinkets. Shamans are said to carry small carved objects called totems. Through use of the totem, the shaman is thought to curry favor from the gods.

Guns vs. Nudity: What is Truly Offensive?

Again I feel compelled to alienate potential readers with my stance on gun control. Both my brother and my best friend are card carrying members of the NRA, and yet I feel morally obligated to champion this cause, and the view held by more than half of all Americans. We are morally obligated to make it harder for criminals and terrorists to obtain guns. We are morally obligated to shut down the gun show / online store loophole. And we must ban semi-automatic weapons, and oversized magazine clips which can serve no purpose but for the zombie apocalypse. We should also be encouraging, not prohibiting, organizations like the CDC to do the proper research with regards to gun safety. If the NRA is truly confident in its position, why not allow a third party to prove it?

I happened to be vacationing with my family in Orlando when the terrible shooting that claimed 49 lives took place. Of course, with a wife and two kids, I was nowhere near any gay bars, but it’s frightening just the same, because in the theme park capital of the world, crowds are always plentiful and security is often lax. With millions of impatient visitors eager to jump on the latest rollercoaster, and parks eager to accommodate those visitors, we go through the motions of what can only be described as ‘security theater.’ Someone determined to get beyond the underpaid staff poking around your backpack is going to succeed. Even if security were to be beefed up, there are enough potential victims waiting in line to make the recent shooting seem tame by comparison.

Here’s the sad truth: this is going to happen again. It’s only a matter of time. And when it does, the same rhetoric will get bandied back and forth. What we are not seeing is change, change to help lessen these occurrences, or, when they are likely to happen, change to ensure less people suffer.

Every time a mass shooting takes place, gun advocates refer to their talking points, framing the conversation as to divert from gun legislation. It can’t be the guns. Blame anything and everything but the guns. After Newtown, the NRA insisted mental health was the core issue. If we could rein in every troubled teen, they argued, we could solve the problem of gun violence. This, of course, seems a more reasonable position to a gun lover: legislating people instead of things. But the massacre in Orlando had everything to do with religion and homophobia. Had we listened to the NRA and focused our efforts on the mentally ill, we’d still be mourning the loss of 49 innocent people. Now Donald Trump proposes we lay the blame on Muslims. Again, we are presented with the solution of regulating people rather than things, which is somehow constitutional, whereas gun control remains a violation of civil liberties. So lock up anyone with a history of mental disorder, lock up anyone who is Muslim, and lock up anyone who doesn’t like gays. This might work, until another shooting happens under a different motive. Perhaps a fundamentalist pro-lifer will gun down an abortion clinic. Eventually, we will run out of scape goats, and our capacity to lay blame on people with grievances, because reasons for mass murder might as well be infinite. And when all is said and done, when hundreds, maybe thousands more are killed, we will be left with the problem of guns.

I distinctly recall my first visit to Barnes & Nobles, circa 20 years ago. The magazine section was extensive. Of particular interest to me was N Magazine, which featured naturism, but after two weeks the publication was pulled from the shelves. But what remains to this day are High Times and Guns & Ammo, because apparently, nudity is more offensive than drugs or killing.

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Advocates like to paint the gun debate in terms of freedom vs. tyranny, but this is not the reality. Absolute freedom is an American myth. Historically, what people can and cannot do has always been curtailed by common sense restrictions. You cannot legally drink and drive a car because it’s dangerous. You cannot smoke at a gas station or use your cell phone on an airplane for the same reasons. We all abide by these rules without a qualm, but when it comes to guns, we are beholden to the notion that freedom trumps safety. Why? It boils down to one simple word: MONEY. There is a lot of money to be made in the sale of bullets and pistols and semi-automatic rifles, and this money pays for lobby groups like the NRA, who pay off our politicians. Innocent civilians are dying for profit.

I can think of no other, more personal decision than what I choose to wear, if anything at all. Last time I checked, no one has ever been killed by the sight of a nipple or a penis. And if you really think about it, a penis is a kind of reverse-gun, creating life instead of taking it away, but should I decide to visit even a remote part of the beach in nothing but my skin, I’d get arrested, and possibly be put on the Sex Offender Registry List, to forever be associated with rapists and child molesters. If, on the other hand, I were to show up at a Starbucks armed to the teeth, I’d be heralded, by about half of all Americans, as a patriot. Again this begs the question of why. Why is the sight of the human body, something that has never harmed anyone, deemed illegal and offensive, while owning a device that exists for no other purpose but to kill regarded an inalienable right? I have no doubt aliens would find this dichotomy, between what is “modest” and what constitutes “freedom” utterly absurd, which is perhaps why they have yet to visit us. But again, I have the answer: there is no money to be made in public nudity. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Imagine how much revenue the clothing industry will lose when people realize the uselessness of bathing suits?

Open Carry March on March 12, 2014

This is legal.

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This is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we truly wish to lessen the frequency of mass shootings, not to stop, mind you, but to lessen, we need the political will to pass new safety legislation. The will must come from the people. Celebrities like Seth McFarlane, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert have all come out for sensible legislation. Even Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly admitted “you can’t have a bazooka.” It’s only a matter of time before we’ll look back at this gruesome era of gun violence and wonder how we could have waited so long. How many more needless deaths before common sense prevails?


 

Now before you start sending me your comments, consider that I’ve read all of the arguments, and have fully addressed them here in an earlier post: One Dead Child is One Too Many

 

 

 

 

 

THE AENYA BESTIARY: MERQUID

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Merquid by David Pasco

Merquid (singular or plural), otherwise known as gill, or waterlings to the avian people, are relatively benign, reclusive creatures. It is thought they are the oldest intelligent species on Aenya. Tales of sailors encountering merquid can be found among the most ancient of Hedonian and Shemseliniharan texts, featuring prominently in the Ages of Aenya and among the myths and lore of coastal cities and villages. Before the Great Cataclysm, merquid dominated the planet, living in ocean-vast cities that have since become desert. What remains of their species is now concentrated along the coasts and depths of the One Sea.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Merquid are amphibious anthropoids, but despite their humanoid like appearance, differ biologically in significant ways, and having evolved independently, are of no relation to humans or other humanoid species. Their hide consists of a waxy membrane not dissimilar to a jellyfish, reinforced by chitinous, fish like scales. The torso narrows much more than a human, so that a fully grown adult, at 5′ in height, measures from shoulder to shoulder like a ten year old boy, tapering to a waist half that width. This shape allows the merquid to glide effortlessly through the water, but on land serves as a disadvantage; being top heavy and unaccustomed to bipedal movement, merquid move slowly and awkwardly on land. While merquid possess both gills and mammalian-type lungs, allowing them to breathe in and out of water, their tender membranes dry quickly. A merquid can die of bodily “thirst” after a single day without moisture. While benign in appearance, merquid can become terrifying when threatened or hunting prey. With a set of retractable teeth, much like an angler fish in appearance, and barbed claws and wide glossy eyes the size of teacups, a distressed merquid can give any sailor pause. Depending on the region of the Sea from which they spawn, merquid may differ in size, color and with regards to the shape and location of their fins, as might types of shark. While these other groups, or schools, are thought to be of another species, this is a misconception, owing to the fact that a majority of merquid are encountered by fishermen in and around the coast of Sarnath, and little to nothing is known of their kind from lesser explored parts of the Sea.

HISTORY: While next to nothing is known of their history, merquid once congregated along the coasts of the One Sea, building strange monuments of coral. But with the rise of human settlements, violence against the species became common. At Sarnath, upon which the city of Hedonia was founded, merquid were hunted down and burned, and as the species is relatively peaceful and soft bodied, they had no recourse but to return to the depths. For this reason, it is believed, merquid avoid confrontations with humans to this day.

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Xandr vs. the Merquid by Tazio Bettin

CULTURE: Owing to their alien minds, comprehension of merquid culture may be nigh impossible, which might explain the many misunderstandings and resentments between human and merquid over the ages. Among their many oddities, there is no concept of action or use of any verbs in the merquid language. Everything in their society can be described as simply a state of “being.” Their perception of time may also differ. Vocal sounds are made through a number of water-filled cavities in their skulls, making their language impossible for others to learn or speak, but varies enough so that merquid can mimic any sound to communicate with any species. Females lay spherical eggs the size of melons, which are often mistaken for giant pearls due to their color and texture. Every year, tens of thousands of eggs are produced. Males move them into protective coral houses, known as pods, while fending off predators. After only thirty days, eggs from the same pod hatch simultaneously. Newborns swarm among the females without any affinity for the biological parent. Merquid exist solely for the community, without any concept of marriage or family. In defense of their offspring, however, they are aggressive and violent, and will not think twice before giving their lives to preserve the species as a whole. Though rare, merquid may go rogue, separating themselves from their schools to travel the Sea. Encounters with humans have resulted in limited trade and emulation of human habits. While land fabrics typically disintegrate in salt water after time, merquid have developed aquatic alternatives, using shell, pearl and seaweeds with which to adorn themselves.

TECHNOLOGY: Merquid use primitive tools made of shell, coral and barbs from urchins and mollusks. Much of their technology is based on a type of symbiosis with other aquatic species. While their relationship with other living organisms remains a mystery, merquid have been known to manipulate massive crustacean and cephalopods to their purposes.

RELIGION: Even less is known of merquid religion, if one exists as humans perceive it. According to the High Priests of Hedonia, merquid worship an enormous squid known as Gulgola, which may or may not refer to Tsunamis, a monster described by Omeos, a Hedonian poet.  

I looked out across the waters

and there came Tsunamis

mightiest of the depth’s demons

that with flailing arms,

shook the seas,

and split beams of ships,

and made cities fall

—Omeos, Hedonian poet

THE AENYA BESTIARY: SEPTHERA

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Xandr vs. Purple Death Adder by Alexey Lipatov

Septhera (plural), otherwise known as snake men, reptile-kin or lizardfolk, are a long extinct race that ruled over Aenya approximately twenty thousand years ago, or 10,000—9000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon). They are infamous for having enslaved the early race of man or protohuman. Traces of their civilization have been mostly lost beneath the sands of the Dead Zones. However, Shess, a prominent city now in ruins, can be found far to the west of the Great White Flat. Descendants of the Septhera are rumored to exist. Remarkably adaptable, these “snake spawn” alter their skin, much like a chameleon, to take on a more human appearance. Despised by the native races of Aenya, these progeny of the Septhera live in hiding as nomadic merchant traders, though some are hired as assassins due to their stealth and face changing ability.

HISTORY: With little material evidence, what is known of Septheran history is conjecture, pieced together by pictographs found on ruin walls and fragments from the Ages of Aenya, the lost tome of Zo historian, Eldin. Despite the lack of knowledge, Septheran history is of crucial importance, as their past is inseparable from that of early man. The history of the Septhera is, in essence, the history of Aenya.

Aeons ago, before history was recorded, when humans and halfmen shared many characteristics, there existed a civilization beyond this world, that shone among the stars like a pale dot against the sun. This world was wet, warm and tropical. Massive reptilian creatures, called saurians, dominated its landscape, and of these, two became self-aware. The first were the Xexaz, but so little is known of them that they are referred by Eldin as the Forgotten. Xexaz were large, slow moving, and deeply curious about the nature of existence. But as they focused their acumen on their ever expanding understanding of the universe, their bodies deteriorated, and the lesser race, which valued strength, came to wage war against the elder. Stealing technologies they could not replicate or comprehend, the Septhera soon dominated the planet, and in doing so, doomed themselves to extinction. What they did not know was that their sun was expanding, and had been expanding for untold aeons. Only the Xexaz knew to keep the sun from scorching their world, but as the Septhera had slaughtered them to the last, intent on driving the elder race to extinction, their only recourse was escape. In a massive ship, called the Ark, the Septhera gathered those of royal blood and their servants, along with the giant saurians they most valued for meat and labor, and set to the stars in search of a new home.

When the Ark landed upon Aenya c. twenty millenniums ago, the Septhera found a primitive world, far different than what is known today. Only the merquid, who dwelt in vast coral cities spanning planet-wide bodies of water called oceans, could contest them, but being elusive creatures, the merquid paid the newcomers little mind. The protohumans on the land, however, were simple hunters and gatherers. They did not wear clothes or build shelters, but knew to make fire and bury their dead, and use farming tools like the spade and the hoe, and weapons like the spear and the atlatl. Primitive and scattered, the protohumans were no match for the Septhera, who were physically stronger and faster, and armed with steel. For centuries, men and women were herded like livestock, forced to do labor, fight for entertainment, and at times, used as food. It was not until a man known as Batal, who was made to battle a Septheran prince, did the protohuman revolt en masse. Martyring himself to defeat the greatest of their race, Batal proved humans capable of overthrowing their masters. Once organized, the Septhera were overwhelmed by superior numbers, and when the last of their kind, their Pharaoh, was slain, the newly united race declared that they were, “free from slavery and death,” calling the new age, The Age of Life, and themselves the Zo, a word meaning “Life.”

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Septhera by David Pasco

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: The Septhera vary in appearance greatly, but all have scales, elongated and flexible necks that can turn in a complete circle and move independently from the torso, and tails between half and double the length of the body. Females stand between 5′ and 6′, while males can grow up to 8′ with neck extended. In hue, Septhera can be utterly black, green, red, purple or multicolored. Fangs can grow from 3″ to 9″. Stripes, ovals and diamond patterns along the arms, legs and tail are common among females, the more colorful, the more attractive to a male. Though smaller, females are just as agile and deadly. Septheran royals can be identified by their hoods, a membrane that expands from the head and neck, and are the only of their kin to produce natural venom. Death by venom, which is known as the “purple death,” is quick and painful. Bony ridges and hard scaly protrusions define the lesser castes. While clothing is unknown to the species, Septhera adorn themselves in elaborate ornaments of gold, whether bangles, necklaces, or tattoo like plating implanted directly onto their scales. Their weapons are finely wrought and deadly works of steel, curved like their teeth, which include daggers, scythes, sickles, khopeshes, and the moon blade, named for the waning crescent of the moon. Physically, Septhera are stronger and faster than humans; they are also ambidextrous and can jump from a standing position up to 15′. Despite these advantages, their lack of imagination and inability to organize served their downfall.

CULTURE: Females abandon their eggs in sand. A Septheran comes into the world alone and fights for survival from birth. For this reason, they are physiologically incapable of compassion or mercy, or of even understanding the suffering of others. Mating between Septhera is a brief and often violent affair, and it is not uncommon for males to be killed in the process. Their only respect is for power and so their society revolves around a power hierarchy. The lowest caste are workers and slavers, followed by warriors, with royals at the top. Status is attained by killing someone of equal or higher status, which is why those of the royal caste must continually prove themselves worthy in battle. This is why, it is thought, when a lowly human (Batal) managed to slay a royal and prince in battle, the social hierarchy was thrown into chaos.

TRANSLATION OF GLYPHS FROM A SEPTHERAN STELE
First came the Xexaz
And the Quid bowed to them
And the Ilman bowed to them
And the Seps bowed to them
But with Time the Seps envied
And stole the fire of the stars
And stole the words from the minds
And the Life from the Xexaz
Now the Quid hid in the waters
And the Ilman of the mountains in the clouds
And the Ilman of the woods in the woods
But the Ilman of the land hid in himself
and became Man
Then was the Seps
And Man bowed to them.