Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Species Profile: Phyhene

The Species of Universe XGT: the Phyhene

Perhaps one of the least-understood races of Universe XGT, the Phyhene have never impacted on intergalactic history in any large scale, but their presence has been recorded at more important points in space and time than one might expect.  Limited almost exclusively to their isolated home planet and usually suspicious of visitors from the outside, they have a distinctive physiology and one of the richest and most complex cultures in the known universe, and are a source of fascination to many scholars in the fields of sociology and anatomy.


Species facts & figures
  • Homeworld: Rhugestis, Vartoi starsystem, Morumu galaxy
  • Other distribution: species has settlements on Calateonis and small colonies on Zhazraionis (both also in Morumu); virtually no presence outside their native galaxy
  • Biology: egg-laying mammals
  • Incubation: 6 months
  • Time to maturity: 15 years
  • Natural average lifespan: 90 years
  • Average adult height: 7-8 ft
  • Language: Rhugoric
  • Currency: various

Language & Culture

The Phyhene language, Rhugoric, is extremely complex, using over sixty different letter sounds, a vocabulary of well over a million natively-developed words in common use (discounting technical terms and proper nouns), and an intricate grammar which often requires subtle alteration of some four or five words within any given sentence to correctly articulate the tense.  There is no widespread written form - a few very localised pictographic scripts exist, and some written records are maintained through a textile-based object-script system known as Cording, but the vast majority of the Phyhene are illiterate, and their culture an oral one.

The Phyhene's homeworld, Rhugestis, has six habitable continents, and the largest-scale government the species have ever recognised is the Continental Parliaments, which operate with very little reference to one another let alone to the outside universe, and even these are informal councils and their deliberations often are not considered binding.  Actual power resides in the hands of various princes, kings, emperors and priestly hierarchies, ruling several hundred, if not a few thousand, independant nations and city-states.  While there are a few shared threads (most notably the core of religious belief), the Phyhene's culture is generally as diverse as their politics.

The planet has been largely closed to outsiders and engaged in little to no interstellar trade since the collapse of the Arpathian Principality over three hundred years ago.

Many sociologists would describe the Phyhene culture (or perhaps rather, cultures plural) as 'primitive', thanks to their adherence to belief systems and ways of life which many other species would regard as outdated or simply illogical; however, a more objective assessment would show that despite being pre-technological and deeply polytheistic, the species is far more sophisticated than many give them credit for.

Perhaps their most outstanding characteristic is that the Phyhene are creatures of intense moral fibre.  While some species (the Gruds, for example) view things in terms of practicality, and others (such as the Harrakk or the Todma) are simply out for personal gain, the Phyhene have a deep-rooted sense of right and wrong which informs all areas of their lives, and which derives largely from their religious outlook.  They worship a complex but highly-ordered pantheon of some thousands of deities and semi-deities, and regard their own kind as being the sacred creatures of the chief gods.  This view of their origins and their place in the universe leads them to condemn not only murder, but even much more minor alterations of the body such as piercings or tattoos, which many other species would regard as nothing significant.  The surface of Rhugestis is dotted with thousands of vast temple complexes, more than a hundred of which are located on the shores of the holy freshwater lake Passandyne in the continent of Solond.

While a few nations practice polygamy, most are monogamistic, and all regard marriage as a sacred institution, with any violation of its sanctity being grounds for the severest punishment, often death.  The wider family structure is very variable between one nation and another, with some maintaining large multi-generational family households while others separate children from parents at an early age and practice collective upbringing.


Physiology

The morphology of the Phyhene is bipedal, and mostly humanoid in its broader strokes, but much of the detail is very different.  The most obvious outward differences are the shape of the head (with a long muzzle, and pointed, back-swept ears), the presence of a tail (usually on the order of three feet long), and the structure of the feet (the joint equivalent to the heel in most other bipedal species is raised off the ground, leaving the entire weight to be carried on the enlarged ball of the foot).  Internally, the species has a core body temperature of 39 degrees celsius, and an oviparous reproductive system.

The egg-laying mechanism, which the Phyhene have in common with the vast majority of the higher animal species on their homeworld, is one of the contributing factors to the race's cultural distinctiveness.  The adolescence of a female Phyhene concludes with her laying a single sterile egg, usually regarded by the scientific community as a gearing-up process for the newly-matured body, and it is near-universally agreed that the production of this first egg marks the point at which a girl comes of age and is counted as a woman. The process is often a difficult experience, and the various nations have developed a wide array of traditions as to how to deal with it; many cultures link it with courtship or marriage in some way, ranging from those who take it as an indication that the girl is ready to be courted, to others who will already have chosen her husband in advance of the event, and send him in to begin their marriage by supporting her through the egg-laying process.

A Phyhene's tail is a fairly straightforward structure: an line of loosely-connected vertebrae with a nerve chord and artery running through its centre, a vein underneath, and enough musculature around it to make it semi-prehensile, with a line of long hair growing from the upper edge.  Its principal role is providing balance, which is more necessary for a Phyhene than for most other bipeds due to the species' leg and foot structure.  The tail (in particular its hair cover) provides a convenient indicator of a Phyhene's general level of health, as it is often one of the first areas to start showing outward signs of trouble in the event of malnutrition or trauma.

Skin colour in Phyhene is usually some shade of brown, but can sometimes be yellowish, near-white, or near-black.  Most individuals have hair of a darker hue than their skin.

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