Sunday, March 2, 2014

Novel Worldbuilding Teaser: Lilkirgynyyn

I'm just wrapping up a comparatively long stint of working on a novel. I don't want to post any teaser text from the actual story yet (mainly because I don't really know when it will be done, and would rather not have anyone clamoring for more at this point). Instead, I thought I'd put up a few worldbuilding notes that I worked out before I started writing. These are a work in progress; I find that I learn more about the setting as I work on the story, so I go back and edit my notes now and then.  There are four intelligent creature races in the world I'm working with (possibly five, but nobody knows much about the last one). I'll introduce one of them here, and save the rest for other times when I don't have robot stuff to talk about.  This particular race grew out of my mulling over how a society of wolf-like creatures with human-level intellectual tendencies might operate.  All concept art and notes here are copyrighted by me; please respect that.
The Lilkirgynyyn (singular: Lilkirgyn) are a race of winged quadrupeds, vaguely canid in appearance. Although historical records suggest that they were once widespread, today they dwell in rugged regions that other races find unfavorable: the far north, the peaks of high mountain ranges, deserts, and impenetrable swamps. Proud, serious, and scholarly, they view themselves as the keepers of the world’s knowledge, and mock the other races’ ambitions for territory and sensual pleasures. This attitude means that they are often the losers in any serious confrontation – they simply don't have the ambition to build up a powerful military. Having grown to expect that the Krippin and Rynsor will overwhelm them, they have become withdrawn and elusive, and most of them have few dealings with outsiders. It is believed that they were the first of the races to discover and understand mathematics, and the first to invent a written language. Their patron is Kyrysyn, the Spirit of Truth and Logic.
A full-grown Lilkirgyn attains roughly the same size as a greyhound. They possess some avian features, including hollow bones and a curious respiratory system which allows air to pass through the lungs. Rather than being trapped in air sacs and returned through the lungs to the mouth or nasal cavity (as in birds), the air passes along the whole length of the body and is exhaled from vents on the creature’s thighs. Females of the species are lighter in appearance than the males, grow a short, fluffy mane along the spinal column, and have long upper canines that protrude outside the mouth when it is closed. Barring rare mutations, Lilkirgynyyn are always bicolored, with one color on the main body and a secondary color on the “points.” White with black points (the “mountain phase”) is by far the dominant coloration. Red with pale yellow points, rust or tan with white points (desert phase), and brown or charcoal gray with black points (forest phase) are other common color combinations. A few more exist, but are quite rare – perhaps throwbacks or remnants from Lilkirgyn populations that were nearly driven extinct by past wars. Lilkirgynyyn are long-lived creatures, with an average life expectancy of 120 Senticronian years. Heavily furred, they do not wear clothing, aside from ornamental accessories and protective armor.
The Lilkirgynyyn are obligate carnivores. They do not appreciate this, and associate it with a curse bestowed on them for some great wrong performed by their race in the distant past. Due to the shame associated with the curse, they have a taboo against eating in public. All food is obtained by hunting; the Lilkirgynyyn consider the killing of a tame or helpless animal dishonorable, and thus do not keep livestock. However, they alarm and disgust the other races by eating the bodies of their own dead, and keeping the bones and hides for use as tools. (They do not murder each other for food, as is sometimes falsely claimed in rumors, but the body of anyone who dies of natural causes or in battle is fair game.) The Lilkirgynyyn, for their part, have trouble understanding why the other races “waste” the empty shells of their comrades by burying or burning them.
Like many canids, the Lilkirgynyyn form packs, and these constitute their basic social unit. Packs typically have three to ten members, all of whom are fiercely loyal to each other. Sometimes the descendents of a Lilkirgyn pair remain with their parents into adulthood, forming a multi-generational pack. Others leave their parents’ pack at maturity, and collect with unrelated individuals whose goals and ideals they share. The Lilkirgynyyn recognize a distinction between these two types of groups, calling the former “body packs” and the latter “mind packs.” Both types are more or less equally respected in Lilkirgynyyn culture, and each has a loosely assigned role to play in society. The body packs are seen as a conservative force, whose goal is to preserve tradition and pass down old knowledge, while the mind packs are the champions of novel ideas, and the bringers of renewal and progress. Lilkirgynyyn have one given name, and use the name of their pack as a surname, connecting them with the pronoun tyryn. Most of the significant social bonds a Lilkirgyn forms will be made with pack members; they are known for being cool and formal with anyone not belonging to their exclusive group.
Once firmly entrenched in a pack, a young Lilkirgyn will usually remain with that pack for life, unless he marries a member of a different pack. When this happens, either one of the pair will join the other’s pack, or the two will split off on their own, hoping to become the founding members of a new body pack. The departure of an established member is always trying for a pack, and many of the murders in Lilkirgyn society are motivated by the pack’s jealousy against a lover who is preparing to “steal” one of their companions. It might even be accurate to say that, for the Lilkirgynyyn, pack bonds are generally stronger than pair bonds. Fortunately, young Lilkirgynyyn develop romantic attachments early, and lovers usually end up joining the same pack to begin with. Hence stressful pack splits are relatively uncommon. Although the Lilkirgynyyn take marriage very seriously once it has been entered into, they are less likely to marry in the first place than are most of the other races. About a third of the population remain single (and, usually, celibate) for their entire lives. This behavior partially accounts for the race’s slow rate of population growth. Single Lilkirgynyyn participate in the raising of other pack members' children.
There are very few Lilkirgyn loners. Most of the ones that exist were never truly part of a pack to start with. Other Lilkirgynyyn think of them as aberrant or eccentric, and the more prejudiced among them actively shun loners. For a normal Lilkirgyn that has become established in a pack, isolation or ostracism is devastating. Packs only expel members for the most terrible crimes, and in such cases, killing the offender is usually judged more merciful than sending him away. Individuals who are lost or otherwise separated from their packs may waste away and die, even if they are taken in by another pack. The sole survivor of a slaughtered pack seldom retains the celebrated rationality of his species. He may collapse and let himself be killed or captured, or he may fly into a terrible berserker rage and fight to the death. These social traits have made it impractical for Lilkirgynyyn to be taken as slaves, as the other races have discovered with disappointment over the years. Separated pack members promptly fall ill or go insane, becoming useless for any sort of work, and a pack left united is nearly impossible to break to obedience.
Packs cluster together to form clans, the next level of social organization. The clans form the basis of Lilkirgynyyn government, but the level of formality varies greatly from one clan to the next. Some of the larger clans possess laws or codes of conduct, courts of justice, taxes, elections, administrators, and the like. Smaller clans often function more like extended families or local communities, in which disputes are resolved and needs provided for through informal discussion and action. The most common system for choosing clan leaders is to subject candidates to a contest of skill, and anoint the winner leader. Unlike the individual’s membership in a pack, a pack’s membership in a clan may be quite fluid. Some packs have changed clans several times in a generation, as the interests and loyalties of their members evolved.
The highest level of Lilkirgyn social organization is the nation, but the word has a very different meaning for them than it has for, say, the Krippin. A nation of Lilkirgynyyn is a loose grouping of clans, usually based on geography. It has no centralized government, seldom imposes any universal laws, and most likely does not even have a formal charter. Rather, it exists in the form of understandings and promises of mutual aid between many clans. Although a Lilkirgyn might take pride in his clan, he would think it strange to feel any great sense of loyalty to his nation – it is too vague an entity to excite feelings of patriotism. Nations only exist to bring large numbers of Lilkirgynyyn together in times of emergency or monumental enterprise. They rarely go to war against each other, as conflicts are judged to be the private business of the clans directly involved, even if they belong to two different nations. However, an entire nation is likely to mobilize if it faces an attack by members of some other race.

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