Chatcaava

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Dragon shapeshifter aliens.

Pronounced shot-CAH-vah.[1]

Physiology[edit]

  • are actually mammals despite some reptile and avian like characteristics[2]
  • eyesight, particularly distance eyesight, is keener than in humans, but colors are more vivid as a human [3]
  • smell is less intense than in humans
  • hearing less crisp than in humans [3]
  • human balance is worse than Chatcaavan[4]
  • think the Chatcaavan taste buds are more fat-and-protein-sensitive [5]
  • male Chatcaavan have spines on their genitalia[4]
  • not fond of cold or damp, and are comfortable with water temperatures that are hot for most Pelted[2]
  • Long, non-retractable claws, "talons to shame an eagle."[2]
  • The equivalent of a muzzle is a beak containing many white or ivory fangs, covered in skin, with a flexible lip.[2][4]
  • long tongues[4]
  • Thumb-claws on the wings are sharp, fully capable of damage, and are regularly used as weapons just as hand-claws and teeth are.[4]
  • When at peace, or pleased with something, Chatcaava may make a thrumming noise[4]
  • shorter fingers than an Eldritch[4]
  • Have sufficient control of their tails that they can deliberately stroke the tip along a surface.[4]
  • Age shows in drying wings, the development of tiny scales around the eyes, and striations and brittleness in the horns.[4]
  • they use green for their interfaces, I don't know why

Head types[edit]

  • Axe-head
  • Chicken-head (translation) - considered unattractive (too much forehead height)
  • Prow-head - shorter nose, smaller eyes. Prow heads grow manes more slowly.
  • Aerodynamic-head - admired for its utility but not considered as handsome as axe-heads.
  • Shark-head (translation) - associated with younger, clean-cut types.

A good brow ridge is considered masculine.

The brow ridges (with the spikes leading back over them) are seen only in adult males. Similarly, while females will grow the plate horns (the two that come straight back off the skull in line with the eye sockets), the other horns are grown only by males, and include a line from behind the cheek down toward the shoulder on either side of the face, and a row between the two central horns down the spine.

Horns continue to grow all a Chatcaava's life, if slowly. They don't mend unless you glue the broken bits of them back on, but they will get longer. Some males grow more horns than others; this indicates a more aggressive/dominant personality. (Whether that's true or not is up for grabs, as usual.) Most males Inside are missing at least some horns, as a rival who succeeds in defeating them may choose to break them off.[4]

Bodies[edit]

Their skeletons are more rigid than a human's because of the hollow bones (particularly in the ribs) that help create their biological airframe. They also develop a great deal of muscle flying.[6] The Queen Ransomed specifically notes that her stiffer neck makes her large collar "very comfortable."[4]

Chatcaava come in a variety of colors: white, black, many shades of gray and silver ranging from near-black to near-white, golds and browns from sable to bisque, and bronze. Some are striped, and some have freckles.[2]

In the current era, males are winged and capable of flight and the Touch and the Change, and the majority of females have four arms (two at the shoulder, two slightly below), breasts, and no ability to Change. Some rare females have wings and the ability to Change.[2] In the distant past, all Chatcaava--male and female--were winged and could Change.[7]

Chatcaava perform live birth, like most mammals. During the last stages of pregnancy, the belly drops, putting the child in the right position for birth; final labor should happen within hours of this, barring complications. Complications happen more frequently for four-armed females, as winged females can use their shifting ability to open their hips.[4]

Wings[edit]

Wing-oiling

Wings, like any other part of a body, are idiosyncratic and unique to individuals, but some variations are better than others: a good balance between a strong forearm and a long trailing limb, a long attachment point along the body, and flexible wing leather that is tautly connected all contribute to strength, endurance, and maneuverability. Wings that are large for the body size are, in general, better, but there's a point of diminishing returns: too large, and the wing becomes costly to maintain, physically, and can become cumbersome to shift.

Chatcaavan wings are not stiff or tough like leather, but soft and heavy like suede. They vary in size proportional to the body; the Emperor has notable large wings.[2] The wing vanes are densely latticed with blood vessels and nerves. Significant injury to them can induce shock.[8]

The wings of aging Chatcaava grow dry and brittle, and must be oiled to keep them functional and prevent stiffness and chafing. If the dry wings are not tended to, the chafing can become friction burns, and the wings can become dry enough to rattle when opened or closed.[4]

Snapping the wings open makes a noise; in the case of a male as large and powerful, this can be deep as a drum.[2] Wings are also a particularly vulnerable place; an effective way to hurt or disable a winged Chatcaava is to put pressure on the joint of the wing-finger, where it meets the thumb-claw; it's possible to pop it out of joint from that position.[4]

Claws[edit]

Chatcaavan wings have non-retractable thumb claws; most will have wingtip claws as well on the end of the leading edge. The thumb claw turns outward, so the knuckle folds over on the outside of the wing (not on the inner vane, facing the back); claws will have thumb-joint-like flexibility, though some Chatcaava are born with "stubbier" thumbs than others. The wing-tip claw is usually vestigial, and not jointed, but some individuals might have more flexible talons at the wingtip than others. (Some may have no talon there at all.)

Body Language[edit]

  • Chatcaavan nodding is slower, and singular: one long inclination, not the quick bob of Pelted culture.
  • Wings lowered and tilted forward is a submissive posture.
  • twitch a hand to shrug[2]
  • rolled eyes in a human: a little twitch of brows and huff of breath in Chatcaava
  • Licking (we see licking a forehead, cheeks, and one another's mouths) seems to take the place of kissing, presumably due to mouth shape[4]
  • Sipping from a cup involves lapping with the tongue[4]
  • Creased brow ridges and wings twitching or being folded and unfolded are signs of agitation[4]
  • Laughter sometimes manifests as "snakelike, hissing chuckles"[4]

Shapechange[edit]

See Chatcaavan Shapechange.

Culture and Society[edit]

(Should probably note here that the customs we know of are mostly drawn from the wealthy and powerful, and those Inside, rather than necessarily applying to the majority Outside, and also slaves and harem members have their own microsocieties.)

For customs specific to the Imperial Court, see Throneworld Court Society.

"Inside" and "Outside"[edit]

Chatcaavan society is actually several societies coexisting in the same space. There are those Inside, who have power, wealth, and political clout, but are subject to the violent rules of the Throneworld Court and similar courts across the Empire. There are those Outside, who have no such power but are not beholden to any political power and cannot be casually killed. There are also nonentities, who are not officially Inside or Outside: aliens (both enslaved and free) and females.[2]

Inside[edit]

The males who are Inside play the game of politics, domination, and strategy. Unlike those Outside, they are obliged to their political patrons, even if those patrons might have cause to want to kill them. They are also subject to the rules between males Inside that excuse murder between rivals in most cases.[2][4]

Higher-ranking males may choose to "test" lower-ranking males through rape, torture, and humiliation, to put them in their place and see their limits. It is considered an honor, as only the most promising and dangerous males are put to the test. Those who pass the tests, however, rarely live long, as they become a threat.[4]

Castrates and palace servants are the lowest of the low within the Inside sphere. "They did not speak; they were Inside, and the lowest of the low Inside, and confronted with a male Outside they were permitted only deference."[9]

Outside[edit]

Those Outside are not obligated politically to any male, not even the Emperor, though they still follow the general laws of the Empire. This means that they are unable to strive for power outside that afforded them by their role, but are also shielded from the violence of those Inside. Accordingly, they may not take sides in conflicts between males who are Inside. Males Outside may nevertheless become powerful and influential if their particular skills are needed (as with the Imperial Surgeon, who knew very well that he was needed to heal the injuries they inflicted on each other).[2]

Those Outside will not share information that they have learned from or about those Inside with others who are Inside; this is part of their neutrality.[4]

"It made her wonder suddenly if the world Outside was striated with the fault-lines of ancient and provincial attitudes, and if that was part of why they were not permitted Inside."[10]

Alien Slaves and Females[edit]

Unlike those Inside and Outside, alien slaves and females are nonentities or objects; they are treated as furniture, to be used and perhaps to be appreciated or enjoyed in their use, but not as people in any way. Slaves and females are immediately brought to the Preparation Room to be stripped, cleaned, fitted with collars, and decorated. Some slaves are also branded to mark them as the Empire's property. It was the Slave Queen's duty to bring new harem members to the Preparation Room to be stripped, collared, and decorated. [4]

Dining Customs[edit]

See also Chatcaavan Foods.

While meat is often served already slaughtered and dressed, it is not unexpected for a live beast to be brought in to be killed at table by one of the diners' hands. Food is eaten with the fingers, with claws used to cut and tear meat.[2] At the Throneworld Court, important figures have poison-tasters. The Emperor chooses his own by assessing who values him most, and "some say that the feeling is mutual."[4]

Material Culture[edit]

  • Seats with low or narrow backs, or narrow backs that flare out at shoulder to head level, to account for wings[4][4]
  • Seating commonly on the ground on pillows[2]
  • Cups with broad mouths or spouts to accommodate drinking with a beaklike mouth[4]
  • Shallow shelves[4]
  • Tall, thin books[4]
  • Mosaics as dominant art form[2][4]

Titles[edit]

Titles are preferentially used over names by those with them, as names denote status either as a low-ranking male (e.g. Uuvek, Oviin) or a female or child (e.g. Firemint, Whisper). The following titles have been seen in the series:

Emperor
Most dominant male of the Chatcaavan Empire
Exclusive title
Holders of the title
Emperor Kauvauc Ueneuvin[2]
Queen Ransomed
Most prominent female in the Empire; formerly known as the Slave Queen[2]
Holders of the title
Queen Ransomed
Second
Right hand of the Emperor[2]
Exclusive title
Holders of the title
Second-Who-Was
Second, formerly Command-East
Second, formerly Worldlord
Third
Left hand of the Emperor[2]
Exclusive title
Holders of the title
Third-Who-Was
Lisinthir Nase Galare
Throneworld Thorn[2]
Hand
A male who acts as an extension of and assistant to a more dominant male[2]
Holders of the title
Hand to Third-Who-Was, Baavo
Hand to Second, formerly Worldlord, former Deputy-East
Knife
The traditional guard of the Queen Ransomed's parts of the palace and also her person, and assistant in matters that needed his skills. Title revived by the Emperor.
Exclusive title
Holders of the title
Huuru, now Liaison
Hautsuun
Liaison
Liaison to aliens
Holders of the title
Huuru
Surgeon (Title)
Medical professional, often (always?) Outside
Imperial Surgeon
Chief surgeon to the Throneworld Court
Exclusive title [2]
Holders of the title
Sehkvit
Other surgeons
Holders of the title
Kuuvel
Triage
Male who receives injured males and directs them according to priority[4]
Holders of the title
Triage
Bodyguard
A new title invented by the Queen Ransomed
Holders of the title
Bodyguard, the first holder of the title, assigned to protect Lunet Silin Eddings
Master of the Preparation Room
Male who oversees the preparation room where females and slaves are collared and decorated, and where jewelry is made
Holders of the title
Master of the Preparation Room
Pilot
A ship pilot prominent enough to merit a rank[2]
Holders of the title
Pilot, the pilot who brought Lisinthir Nase Galare to the Throneworld
Mother
The female currently pregnant with one of the Emperor's offspring[2]
Holders of the title
Emerald
Lead Attendant
An unofficial, self-given title of one of the attendants in the Imperial Nursery
Holders of the title
Sojourner Stars
Priestess
An ancient title revived by the Queen Ransomed
Holders of the title
Stripes, the first one given the title in the modern era
Slave
An honorary title given to slaves who belong directly to the Emperor[2]

Costume[edit]

Males' Clothing[edit]

At the Imperial palace, and perhaps elsewhere, males in relatively casual circumstances wear robes of silk or satin with slits to accommodate the wings, and, optionally, loose pants; the robe is pulled over the arms and beneath the wings and tied.[2] The robes and pants have a range of levels of formality, from satin robes decorated with tiny beads to casual robes and sleep pants. Robes include slits for the wings. When worn by an Eldritch, the pants fit by hanging off the hips instead of around the waist.[4]

Females' Clothing[edit]

Females generally wear nothing but jewelry and possibly paint/cosmetics, but they can be dressed for special effect; for instance, the Slave Queen wore a low-backed sideless robe and translucent shift to Lisinthir's introduction to the court, and Bethsaida was dressed in a thin shift shot through with silver thread for her presentation. Within the harem, they may wear sashes, scarves, or translucent shawls, but nothing concealing.[2] [4]

Jewelry[edit]

Jewelry is reserved for females, who are decorated to enhance their beauty and show the wealth and power of their masters; males do not wear it. Jewelry is created in the Preparation Room, where collars are also fitted.[4]

Types of jewelry:

  • Collars, used to denote status as a possession. Collars have a fastening to attach a leash, and may be elaborately decorated and set with cabochons. Temporary collars can be removed, but permanent collars are welded in place. The welding is done without causing damage to the skin thanks to a thin sheath placed between the metal and the neck. The Queen's collar has raised patterns and is set with amber cabochons; Bethsaida's, with opal.[2][4]
  • Rings
  • Bracelets, including bracelets with chains connecting them
  • Horn-rings, with or without gems hanging from them
  • Armlets
  • Anklets
  • Chains with gems and bells strung through and around the perforations in the Queen's wings; exclusive to her
  • Waist, tail, and horn-dangles[2]
  • A pendant, worn when a female sought to become pregnant by the Emperor and was given permission by the Queen to "seek his divine attention." The menders recognized it and would give the female advice on conceiving, and the Emperor recognized it too and might choose to give the Mother-in-progress special favor.[4][11]
  • The Mother's face-jewels, draped over the brow and anchored on the horns, given when the Mother-in-progress conceives a child by the Emperor and becomes the Mother.[4]

The Queen kept a piece of jewelry from each harem member who was killed, retrieved from the body by the Mother.[2]

Cosmetics and Toiletries[edit]

  • Smoothing lotion for the mane[2]
  • Paint and powder to accentuate wounds and injuries[4]
  • Scented oil for wing-oiling[4]
  • Soap intended for Chatcaavans are not suited to the skin of aliens; Laniis Baker used her own rose-and-spice scented soap, which the Queen later offered to Lisinthir.[4]

History[edit]

"We were not always as you find us. We have histories, just as you do, and we were a prouder people once. The Emperor did not dictate, he guarded. The military did not rape its charges, but carekept their safety. The petty kings did not extort labor; we did not keep slaves. And the Slave Queen was once the Queen Ransomed, a person to whom great dignity was accorded. I have never been a person." She stared at her knees in silence for a time. "We have grown easy with ourselves. The court is famous for its challenges, but once those challenges served a greater purpose. They honed the edge of a keen blade. But it has been long and long again since any nation honed the edge of the Empire."[4]

Trivia[edit]

  • While finding pleasure in the pain of another is completely normal in the society of males Inside, it is considered crude to kill during the process. "...to actually destroy one's playthings was considered a lack of self-discipline."[2]
  • Protocol discourages the use of technology for communication, preferring living messengers instead. This rule is bypassed during emergencies.[4]
  • Many of the poisons that affect Chatcaava do not work on aliens, or work unpredictably. Some poisons that do work on aliens, like hekkret, are recreational drugs for Chatcaavans. Alcohol seems to work on both.[4]

Chatcaavan Characters[edit]

References[edit]