by Chris Wayan, 2006
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Koreens are winged jungle-canopy dwellers the size of large monkeys. With their loud reds and golds, koreens are built to be noticed. They have features resembling both Terran parrots and cockatoos (feathering, crest and feet and many behaviors) and primates (fur, build, face, mixed bipedal/quadrupedalism). Despite the feathers, koreens are mammals, suckling their young. They're omnivores, mostly eating fruit, buds, and oil-nuts which they crack with stones, like otters or chimps.
Koreens are marsupials: they have a small pouch, though it's now used to carry only newborns. Most of the time, a koreen uses it as a pocket for nuts, wisps of dry kindling, and a favorite nutcracking stone--in the rainforest, good stones are rare, and a koreen's stone has acquired mystical overtones--a sort of portable soul.
When a baby's born and the mother thus has to quit using her pouch as a pocket and resurrect its original purpose for a few months, she clicks stones ritually with her mate, who then carries hers as well as his, until the pup's ready to leave the pouch, when he gives her his old stone, keeping hers. (It sounds like wedding rings, but they're practical tools, too; a koreen sneaky enough to acquire several stones at once is both scandalous and perversely admired.)
Warm rainforest canopy. Koreens are highly social and live in treetop villages of up to 500 individuals.
Koreens evolved in the rainforests of Diomedes on Lannach, and slowly spread to Holmenach, Daurnach, Kilnu and the wetter parts of T'kela. Outside Diomedes, they colonized the northern Rorvan Islands perhaps six millennia ago, and in recent years spread east along the Boran and Nadi Islands to western Gaiila--Carnoi, Tau, Tyrlan, Equatoria, and Quetlan (beyond this point, griffets have already filled their rainforest-canopy niche). They've spread up the Rodonis Islands to Ayoch and Nicor, in far southern Roland; the rest of Roland is just too cold for them.
Koreens and griffets may look quite different, but both exploit the same niche and are in many ways behaviorally convergent. Both are small, social, treetop omnivores who've developed silviculture. Small but smart, they're both basically just parrots... squared.
Throughout much of their range, koreens they coexist with tauraffes, huge wingless people of the forest floor. Coexist is perhaps too strong a word; though they live just fifty meters apart, they have little in common. The relative size difference is like humans and whales; more importantly, the size gap means a time gap. They simply live at different speeds. No koreen can bear perching around while a tauraffe ponders its next sentence!
Koreens are superb weavers, not just of decorative and narrative cloth, but of their very homes. Woven treehouses may sound flimsy, but in waving trees, they survive where rigid structures would smash.
They're fond of dyes and cosmetics; they find color a turn-on, and often dye their feathers.
Koreens pairbond much like humans--that is, sexuality is ongoing not cyclic, and couples do stay together longterm and often profess fidelity, though there's a fair amount of cheating, squabbling, serial monogamy, and occasional triangular and group marriages.
Koreen music tends toward tale-ballads like a fusion of rap, folk and opera (which sounds like whalesong, and is as complex, though individuals and small groups compose their own, instead of one communal song). There's a quite different music played at koreens' three-dimensional treetop "vine dances": swing music. Musicians gather on the platforms round the rim, with their didgeridoos. Not quite like Terran didges, but they are termite-hollowed branches, with equally complex resonance and a "talking" sound. Each has four fingerholes, allowing a pentatonic scale, and each horn's in a different key; a group can play complex harmonies and fur-raising dissonances.
The torchlit dance begins graciously; couples bow, then swing into the center like trapeze artists, meeting and parting, meeting others, rejoining their mates to swing away again. It tellingly parallels their love lives, of course--as it's meant to. Negotiations are going on in this looping chaos! But only a koreen could follow the patterns of this three-dimensional dance. And soon a new phase begins: the swooping and the didges' roar sends the vine-swingers into a moving trance. They swing beyond their personal concerns into a communal dream. The dyads fade, replaced by intricate snowflake patterns. Unity!
Meanwhile, the musicians breathlessly playing these instruments bigger than themselves slowly slip into a hyperventilation trance! Their visions guide villages much as shamanic dreams do in many human tribes. Every band has a note-taker who questions the musicians about what they saw and reports it to a sort of dance-debriefing committee later.
Yes, koreens are literate--I'm making them sound Stone Age, and given the metal shortage on Lyr, that's mostly true, but they have a sophisticated literature and long written history. Indeed, they were probably the first people on Lyr to invent writing--their fabric designs and woven-hut patterns incorporated symbolic glyphs, which evolved long ago into pictographic and then syllabic bark-writing. Ink-grinding stones thirteen millennia old have been found, though no actual samples of such early writing on fabric or bark paper survived--the koreen homelands are just too humid.
Even today, concave ink-grinding stones have a mystical significance among koreens rivaling nut-cracking stones. A worn inkstone in your pouch and purple-stained fingers (koreens mix a purple-black berry pulp with soot for their ink) are badges of intellectuality--and sexiness. Brains turn koreens on as much as good dancing.
Koreens may well have been the first on Lyr to invent murals, too, and possibly even sculpture, though icari insist they carved stone long before koreens started clawing bark.
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