Species design: Tyler Mayes
tylermayes271 at gmail dot com
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Imagine a fog bank rolling through the coniferous forests of Nevos (eastern Continent 1), sending cold chills down your spine. Is it the temperature, our something else? The mist begins to strangly twinkle, and through the fog you see an angelic form slink through the trees with a ferret like quality, not fast, not slow, but with a purpose.
The twinkling increases as the creature nears you. It seems to not know you are there, but yet you think it does. It nears a small pond and turns to look at you. To your suprise, it hovers briefly over the crystalline pond and sinks into the water without a ripple. It quickly returns with what seems to be two fish susppended in the air that should be its stomach. One of the fish simply dissolves. You realize that this must be how it eats. The creature half-walks, half-floats to your side and offers the other fish as a gift.
"Do not be afraid, we are here as friends," it quietly says in a quiet elfin tone.
Its body suddenly dissolves and joins with the surrounding fog. The twinkling lights fade away into the darkness leaving you in the Pegasian night.
You have just had an encounter with one of the Nevros.
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY
The Nevros are one of the oldest sentient species on Pegasia. Their bodies seem to be formed of mist, but in fact are composed of extremely small creatures known on Pegasia as airfleas. These resemble Terran sand-fleas but can fly as well as burrow and swim. The Nevros first diverged from their sand-flea cousins along the temperate coasts of eastern Continent 1; it's still their heartland.
They evolved the ability (via ultrasound, electrical or magnetic fields? If the Nevros know, they're not telling) to congregate into one entity--a well-coordinated cloud. This led quickly to sentience; unlike stand-alone creatures, for whom brain enlargement is an expensive and risky evolutionary path requiring major adjustments, for the Nevros it was merely a matter of optimal cloud size. Larger aggregations were more intelligent, up to a point where coordination got difficult and thought slowed and split into sub-minds. The optimum size and configuration, a dense cloud weighing about 3-7 kg, gave the Nevros an intelligence comparable to a human genius--though individuals vary. Still, you'll rarely meet a stupid Nevros, and that usually means a convalescent Nevros--some accident or predation killed too many fleas, and the swarm isn't big enough yet for full intelligence.
The illustration to the left demonstrates that where the Nevros are concerned, Heisenberg was right--and not just on a quantum scale. A Nevros is polite, and normally mimics the form of a visitor. Thus, the Nevros you meet is just one shape of many that a Nevros may take daily. Not that any single form could be more representative; a species type is, er, cloudy to define! But these sketches are as typical as we can get. They are fond of winged shapes, and a mist of dissenting fleas often trails from the main body image...
The Nevros inhabit the coniferous forests of eastern and northern Nevos (Continent 1). They have settled some coastal regions of southern Continent 1, Busre, and northern continent 5. Although the Nevros can live in warmer forests they flourish only in cool coniferous forests near the sea.
The preferred environment of the Nevros is damp and cool, but not cold; their fleas can survive freezing, but they go dormant. They retain a distinct salt-craving from pre-sentient days. There's a steady salt trade between the coasts and the inland forests.
The Nevros Empire stretches from:
the Great Peninsula to the east and south--mild and maritime, it's densely settled to the tip--all but the alpine meadows and icefields of its rugged spine.
the Volatir Islands to the northeast--the lowland forests here are ideal habitat
the Solks Tundra to the northwest--coastal only, as the mountains inland are too cold
the Ksol Desert to the west--outposts only, along creeks, on lakeshores, and in marshes. The steppes and open woods bordering the Ksol are more settled, and the wooded coast of Nevos Gulf is the Nevros heartland (and their probable place of origin).
Even in fertile country like Nevos Forest or the Peninsula, the population's always densest along coasts and rivers; the Nevros have come a long way from the seashore, but they still like it wet. The steppes, deserts and barren mountains of central Continent 1 have limited their spread west.
The rainforests to the south might seem a friendly environment. But a small pseudofrog, a sort of dragonfly/bat and two insectivorous birds (all nesting only in mature jungle) find Nevros airfleas deliciously crunchy, salty, and rather easy to catch--they are, after all, less alert to simple animal considerations than ordinary insects; that's the cost of intelligence. A Nevros in the tropics gets, well, moth-eaten. The Nevros describe being half-devoured not as injury or death, but as a sort of tropical wasting disease, one that affects more than the body: memory seems to be encoded somewhat holographically, so a given flea lost doesn't necessarily mean a hole in your mind; but if attrition is severe, long-held memories blur. It's no wonder they shun the attrition-plagued jungle: the Amnesia Shore.
The Nevros will welcome any member of any species into their forests, but these visitors don't stay long as they must bring their own shelter. Nevros rest inside cracks in tree bark. To others it seems they simply sink into their home tree. Greek Dryads come true!
When you visit Nevos, it's common to see Nevros playing with other flying species in the clouds.
Although you may encounter Nevros in the daytime it is much more likely to see them at night. Going out while it is raining, snowing, or while there is heavy cloud cover will also increase your chances of meeting the Nevros. They like the damp.
To offworlders having ghosts in their folklore, the Nevros may seem a bit unnerving, but Pegasian travelers soon learn there is nothing to fear from the Nevros. Feeling little fear themselves, they are outgoing, curious, and hospitable.
Their music is beautiful if faint to human ears--high pitched singing in complex harmonies.
Their art is mostly abstract, playing with pure shape. They do have a tradition of representational sculpture, both in wood and soft stone, but these take a lot of gnawing! They aren't considered art so much as educational tools--classroom maps, if you like. They're meant to teach young Nevros the forms of species not native to eastern Continent 1.
One other sort of sculpture: edible! They like combining flavors, shapes and colors; tastable sculpture is considered high, if ephemeral, art.
The Nevros like to imitate every new and interesting creature they see. Not surprising, then, that for centuries eastern Continent 1 was shunned because it was haunted. Tourists invariably spot what look like ghostly, translucent versions of their own species... No wonder every society in the Outer Hemisphere that worshiped ancestors declared eastern Continent 1 to be their Land of the Dead.
Did the Nevros play up the confusion? Well, yes and no. Individuals found it hard to resist. Nevros children have a natural urge to imitate, and every class has a clown or two who never grew up... And ancestor-worshipers and ghost-fearers tended to appease them with offerings... wouldn't you play along? For the Nevros, there is a free lunch!
Their mimicry isn't flawless; there's usually a twinkling mist or halo of absent-minded or non-conformist fleas beyond the cloud-body; their wings reflect the ambient light. This of course only added to the ghostly reputation of the East.
Though the Nevros can take any shape, they do have a "native" or "default" form. It's merely a cultural ideal of beauty, a convention that's become the self-image for the average Nevros: an upright, vaguely angelic figure with four wings. But this is mere custom; they can reshape themselves in a few moments.
Nevros airfleas reproduce in tidepools. Over the winter, a Nevros's body-cloud gets sparse; attrition kills off as many as a fourth of the fleas. In late spring, the Nevros feel a hunger to return to the sea. For a week or two the Haunted Land is empty, as swarms mate, eggs are laid, then hatch, the young fleas join a swarm, and during a week or two of reminiscence and gossip, memories are refreshed and backed up.
The migration isn't total or uncontrollable. Nevros far inland can make do with bathtubs and salt. It works, but would you choose a Motel 6 instead of a beach vacation at the Hilton?
The illustration shows a Nevros re-forming after the mating season, by a rivermouth. The picture is fanciful: Zeus appears to be hanging above the horizon, though the Nevros inhabit the Outer Hemisphere where it's never seen. And that companion is pure fantasy!
But the Eastern Peninsula stretches toward the Inner Hemisphere, and Pegasia's dense clear air has more atmospheric lensing than Earth's; also, Zeus is so big it hulks over the horizon by 170 east. Still, even from the very tip of the Peninsula, it's just a low pink dome floating in the eastern sea: the legendary Sea-Dragon's Palace.
But the mood of the picture is true. Angels in mist, angels of mist... no wonder solid explorers from the West and South weren't believed.
The Nevros, like all Pegasians with eyes, are tempted by Tharn, that huge, rusty moon with visible clouds and tiny seas. But while most species are forced to settle for metaphysical speculation, the Nevros are in a position to do something about Tharn. A nesting Nevros normally squeezes into quite a small space, and airfleas can take a lot of acceleration. So even small, crude rockets were sufficient to give the Nevros a toehold in space! No astronaut has orbited Pegasia yet; that will take larger-scale and perhaps multistage rockets that will be costly to hand-craft. So to speak... of course, for the Nevros "hand-crafted" is close to "nano-assembled": individual fleas may not be bright but they can manage microscopic precision. No pinholes in these fuel tanks and windowseals! In three hundred local years of experimental missions, they've had exactly one failure not due to design errors.
In that incident, in which an astronaut did lose cabin pressure, it was found that the hard shell that allows a Nevros airflea to live in both air and water lets them survive vacuum for minutes--several times longer than the record for Terran mammals. This astronaut was able to think coherently and seal the leak (incidentally proving that Nevros airflea coordination probably isn't by ultrasonics!)
One small unmanned (unnevrosed?) satellite did achieve a few low orbits before air resistance brought it down (Pegasia's atmosphere extends much higher than Earth's; the pressure starts higher and drops slower.) But traveling to Tharn, Pegasia's life-bearing sister moon, has so far proved impractical. It's no simple Apollo mission: Luna's low gravity and lack of atmosphere made landing on it and taking off again a predictable engineering challenge. But climbing from one orbit to another in Zeus's deep gravity well takes more fuel than sailing from Earth to Luna; and how do you plan a landing and take-off in Tharn's unknown atmosphere (and weather)?
Still, the Nevros are the Pegasians most likely to land on Tharn... eventually.
All this without high technology. Yes, steampunk space travel!
As of now the Nevros keep their space capability quiet. Eventually, pooling their knowledge with the people to the south of them, the Busrehi, may win them true space capability. The Busrehi have never built a steam engine, but the electric eels in their rainforest streams have inspired research into basic electronics: these are ants with radio.
But for the foreseeable future, all astronauts, even of a united Pegasia, will unquestionably be Nevros; they have such a biological advantage. Miniaturizable astronauts who can take brutal acceleration and catastrophic decompression...
To the Nevros, rocketry is a form of mystical devotion--spreading life. It's religious (and as long-term!) as medieval Terrans building stupas and cathedrals. The Nevros equivalent of NASA translates as "Awakening", and its ultimate mission is to invite settlers of all species into space and to share the universe in peace.
TOUR PEGASIA! The following route snakes around Pegasia, covering all major features:
Continent 1 - 165 Is. - Continent 2 - Continent 3 - Rift-Junction and Curl 9 Is. - Busre Is. - Continent 4 - Continent 5 - Curl 5 Is. - Continent 6 - Continent 7 - Continent 8 - 89 Is. - Continent 9
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