by Chris Wayan, 2005
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Elaffes are the biggest people on Lyr, though the tauraffes of Diomedes come close. Elaffes are herbivores of the forest floor, who strip leaves, buds, and fruit from trees up to 7 meters up. As the name suggests, they resemble giraffes except for a somewhat shorter, stouter neck, a larger head (and brain), and a long, prehensile trunk giving them great reach into the canopy, to strip branches and pick fruit. Coloring varies widely.
Elaffes evolved in the extensive open woodlands of Troisleons, and spread to Wold and Grib via swimming. Rafts with sails and paddles got them to Durindal and Ilrede (southern Scania). These sea-passages weren't quite as risky as the Durindal Saga makes it sound, as sphinxes had already told them of the other lands; indeed, mapped them out.
While elaffes evolved on Troisleons, they aren't ideally adapted for all of it. Populations are thin in the dense temperate rainforests of the Carahue and Balmoral Basins, or Swan Plain, where arboreal species like baps predominate, and also on southern Cape Papillon, which they find stiflingly hot.
Few elaffes live overseas (outside the Troisleon Region). They make awkward passengers on a sailboat, for obvious reasons. But a few families of elaffes are trade and cultural representatives on Hrill and Arinnian, in southern Oronesia, and there's an experimental colony (less than a Lyran century old) on the huge island of Ferune, in Ythri; its cool forests resemble those of northern Troisleons.
Elaffes superficially resemble the tauraffes of Diomedes, but they're quite unrelated; the reason two land animals 25,000 km apart have similar sizes, habits, and general shapes is simply that they fill exactly the same niche. The Troisleons woods are cooler; this probably let the elaffes grow larger without overheating. Diomedean tauraffes evolved from centauroids, and thus evolved hands to harvest buds and leaves, but the elaffes, being quadrupedal and too large to rear up comfortably in Lyr's high gravity, had to nose out another solution.
Proof that this Lyran forest niche favors big giraffelike browsers comes from chilly Altai, in the far south, where a third utterly unrelated giraffish species grows larger still. Shaggy, stocky, clearly adapted for cold weather, using a half-meter-long tongue to browse trees, the altaffe isn't listed in "Peoples of Lyr" for one reason: it's a bright animal with a long lifespan and complex social structure, but no more: its brain is baboon-sized, not human-or-elephant-sized. Maybe in ten million years... or maybe not! Evolution seems to proceed slowly on Altai, possibly because it's so isolated.
Elaffes are a calm, sweet-tempered and trusting people, since, like giraffes, they never had natural enemies. Most animals on Lyr are winged, after all, so predators tend to be small enough to fly too; even in packs, no carnivore on Lyr can tackle elaffes. Sacrificing flight is a heavy price for safety, but the elaffes seem content. Slow to anger and nearly impossible to frighten, they exude calm and reassurance.
They gravitate naturally to positions of authority, judgment and public safety in mixed communities. Though taller, they're less sought after than tauraffes as builders, since they have only one manipulative organ where tauraffes have two, and it's boneless and more sensitive to injury. Still, think of elephants; and the elaffe trunk is even more deft.
Elaffe calm may partly not be temperament but physical: they react slowly, and perceive time in a longer "now" than humans or most Lyrans. This may be a function of their sheer size, or of their longevity. Like Terran elephants and whales, elaffes are long-lived--typically one to two centuries.
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