by Chris Wayan, 2005-6
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Elaffes are the biggest people on Tharn aside from mamooks. As their name suggests, they resemble giraffes except for a somewhat shorter, stouter neck, a larger head (and brain), and a long, prehensile, rather elephantine trunk giving them great reach into the canopy, to strip branches and pick fruit. They stand 6-7 m tall (20-23'), massing 1-3 tons (though in Tharn's low gravity they weigh less--elaffes are more sprightly than you'd expect). Coloring varies as much as weight.
There are two distinct races: the original stock, found today only in Yoof Trench, and the larger Rronk elaffes who climbed out of the trench to settle the boreal forest above. The diaspora changed them, of course; Rronk elaffes are taller and shaggier than their trench cousins; their lungs are 50% bigger, their blood can carry nearly twice as much oxygen. They need it; a short run leaves a Rronk Wood elaffe out of breath, and they have trouble crossing mountains much above bedlevel. The air up here is, after all, as thin as the air atop Everest--most trench elaffes who visit Rronk Wood suffer days of altitude sickness adjusting to bedlevel. But at least they do adjust. Unless you're a Himalayan climber you wouldn't last the night.
Elaffes, like most four-limbed species on Tharn, evolved in the Yoof Trench (east of Dejah Upland). They eventually climbed up to settle the more wooded equatorial plains as well as nearby trenches. They're herbivores of the forest floor, who pick leaves, buds, fruit and nuts from trees. They can reach over 7 meters up without rearing, and a tall individual can fruit-pick up to 11 m (36'!)
They've bred fruit and nut trees for both the subtropical climate of the trench and (more recently) snow-tolerant varieties for Rronk Wood.
The elaffes who left the trench spread first through Rronk Wood around the Duhor Sea, then southwest around Wolak Sea, west to the Zuki Sea, and east to the Ohhh Forest on the Sea of P'tang--a band of cool forest 7000 km east to west (4500 mi).
But elaffes probably won't spread much further. It's too hot to the south for their huge, well-insulated bodies; and to the east and west, mountains block the way. Elaffes can't breathe in the uplands--their cardiovascular system works heroically already to pump blood up that neck, in only half the air elaffes evolved in. In a quarter the pressure (one-eighth of an Earth atmosphere!) elaffes just faint.
Elaffes are a calm, sweet-tempered and trusting people, since, like giraffes, they never had natural enemies. Most animals in their native Yoof Trench are winged, after all, so predators growing beyond a certain size must sacrifice flight, as the elaffes did. It's a heavy price for safety, but the elaffes seem content. Slow to anger and nearly impossible to frighten, they exude calm and reassurance. This is partly due to their slower perception of time (possibly a function of their size; like Terran elephants and whales, they're very long-lived). They gravitate naturally to positions of authority, judgment and public safety in mixed communities. Who want to argue with a patient, fair-minded, good-natured, pacifistic giant?
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