by Chris Wayan, 2006
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Bos are scaly, fork-tongued, saurian... mammals. Definitely mammals. You can be sure of this because they'll flaunt their breasts at you on the slightest excuse (yes, the boys too). Both sexes nurse their young (and, in a curious psychological not-quite-parallel, both sexes tend to fetishize breasts as symbols of sexiness.)
Structurally, however, bos are typical of small dinosaurian bipeds, leaning forward, with a long tail to balance. Bos have shaggy or scaly backs, tails and flanks, depending on race, but always a bare scaly face, throat, breasts, belly, and inner thighs. The long whiplike tail has a flyswatter tip, like a cow's (well, or like zebras, giraffes, or any grazer that evolved in warm land with flies and enough room to swat). Big mobile cowlike ears add to their, uh, bovinity. The ears are just the most obvious sign of a fourth mammalian feature: expressive facial muscles to signal mood, which Terran dinosaurs never evolved.
Bos like subtropical brush and open woods, where they evolved browsing fruit, grubs and leafbuds at ground level, digging roots. They occasionally eat meat, though they're not fast enough for serious hunting. But when it comes to snagging fish from streams, they're as good as bears. Indeed, despite their appearance, that's probably their closest Terran analogue. Biped, skinny, scaly bears.
With a perverse sense of humor.
Bos evolved in Merseia (eastern Flandry). Before recorded history they'd rafted across the Ynvory Strait to Starkad as well, where they flourished along the drier west coast. They're uncomfortable in the cool highlands, but a small population's settled riverside villages over the mountains, in the dense, dark eastern forests. Most of these are traders and craftspeople; they leave harvesting of deep-forest products to the arboreal, winged, mothlike sokas. Though they're biologically very different, the two species have a close relationship; the regions of Flandry where their ranges overlap or adjoin consistently do better economically (and are more culturally lively).
For precisely this reason, the sokas, who are better sailors than bos, helped ferry a colony of bos to southwestern Besar, which is a bit too dry for sokas to flourish on, but ideal bo habitat. The colony, now often called the Bo Coast, has flourished though it's isolated--it's 4000 km to the nearest significant population of bos, in northwest Starkad.
So far at least, bos are a rarity elsewhere, though a few can be found in Oronesia at the Trade Language Institute on Arinnian.
Bos may not look it, but they're mystics. They reject all religious authority and tradition, though--each individual must build up an inner spiritual language and cycle of visionary tales, which become something like currency in bo social life, defining one's worth as much as a bowerbird's sculpture. And despite their anti-hierarchical attitude, bos are highly social--extraverts, in fact. Psychologically astute and sure they deserve all the attention they can get, Bos make superb actors, singers, and clowns. The first illustration is typical; no bo in history has ever been sketched or photographed without mugging.
Those big ears pick up languages fast. Bos can't hear ultrasound as high as sokas, but they can hear most of the speech frequencies sokas use, and can grasp at least some sokan speech, which other species can't get at all. They've co-evolved, like humans and dogs evolving to read one another's body language and voices.
Note the clothing--and its very human function of both concealing taboo regions yet drawing the eye with bright colors. Even their poses are oddly human--flaunting cleavage?! Bos are the only one of Lyr's 17 peoples using clothes to conceal taboo regions, and it's suggestive (in both senses) that such parallel behavior occurs despite their very different bodies. The normal Bo stance is bipedal, though more like kangaroos or dinosaurs than humans. But it's upright enough to display genitals and breasts--and remember, rearing up while facing another is a threat display for many species. Other Lyran peoples are mostly quadrupedal; is that why they don't wear clothes?
But bos aren't the only bipeds on Lyr: icari and witweets normally stand upright too, and they lack the modesty concept. However, the other two species are both thick-furred; bos facing each other see bare, scaly skin; their breasts and genitals are more visible than in other species. Could it be that bipedalism and baldness are the one-two punch that generates the modesty concept... and the whole art of clothing?
Maybe not the whole art. It's true that the bo concept of clothes is more fragmented than the human one. Unless it's quite cold and a robe is needed, bos rarely wear much clothing, yet a well-dressed bo never wears just one thing, either.
Color-coordinated outfits closer to our ideas of costume jewelry or accessories are the norm--feathery, lacy 'skirts' and biblike pectorals, plus wristlets, anklets, earlets, tail-lets and a lot of worn flowers, sprigs and wreaths. It's like a banquet entirely of hors d'oeuvres and desserts.
The patterns of bo fashion are subtly nonhuman too: asymmetry is common, as in this round sketch of a bo outfit alternating down the body: right ear, left elbow, right wrist, left knee, right ankle, plus central pectoral, sporran/string skirt and tailpiece.
The parallels and differences make one aware that there is a pancultural human dress code of sorts: symmetry in large items, a focus on orifices of all kinds (hiding or highlighting faces, nipples, genital, and excretory orifices), and a habit of dividing the body into horizontal zones, not longitudinal ones. Bos seem to share the middle "orofice" concept but ignore symmetry and horizontality!
Or, in more Lyrical terms: humans, sartorially speaking, are (except for a few tropical tribes, Vegas dancers, five-year-olds, fetishists and circus clowns) just really, really stodgy bos.
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