Another longish chapter. I decided to just... keep going until the point I'd decided on as a stop point, instead of divide it up.
Edit: Oops, got my colours wrong.
Covered in fabric that's meant to look like rocks with plants growing up between them, with little crimped-on metal corner protectors.
|Inside front page
I tried to make it look sort of like it was a real library book by some random scholar somewhere. Should be JUST big enough to see what's going on and read the text, I hope? I apologise for my foot being in the shot, haha.
|Vullish cave art
A vulline sets out to prove herself to her family by hunting the greater plains jerga. Although modern vuls are not recognised for their artistic prowess, this piece of art was found by mineral prospectors in a cave within the polar circle, on Vulpecula Prime. Radiocarbon dating has placed it at approximately 120,000 years old. This art goes some way to prove the contentious hypothesis that complex intelligence began to develop in this species much earlier than had originally been imagined; readers will note, for instance, the elongate jaw on the female character. Classical hypotheses suggested that a brain capable of such imaginative thought had not evolved until the much flatter facial structure of the modern vul began to develop. Although this could conceivably be artistic interpretation on the painter’s behalf, later discoveries of cave art demonstrate the more familiar “snub-nose” of modern vuls. This image also revealed some detail about the plains jerga; no modern equivalents have the fleshy wattles. The painter’s attention to detail – as no fewer than five individual pigments have been isolated from the painting – implies that the jerga was of great cultural significance.
|Cave art of unknown species
The nature of the artist responsible for this piece of work, found in an equatorial cave on Vulpecula Prime, remains unknown. It does not correspond to any known vullish techniques , and the pigments used are unusual, obtained from elevations that early vuls are unlikely to have been able to reach. While the fossil record contains good evidence for the existence of this species, their sentience has (until now) remained purely fanciful speculation on the part of a small number of biologists. Pigments used in the creation of this image have never been recorded in any traditional vullish art, lending support to the theory that this was indeed a sentient species. The species is known to have died out at the start of the most recent ice-age. Although some have suggested vul involvement in their decline, it is more likely that they were unable to cope with the dramatic temperature fluctuations and the loss of their rainforest habitat. Earthquake damage has unfortunately caused the loss of the lower portion of the image. Evidence from the fossil record has been used to fill in some of the details; it is notable that the hindlimbs of this species have never been identified.
Early Qii art from the largest ia’Maura coastal plain is notable for its bold, geometric (and often somewhat grotesque) style, and unusually advanced colour palette. This ferocious creature appears in the art of many cultures resident on the plain; although the representations are crude and inaccurate, it is generally accepted to be the amphibious “Greater Sun Mark”, a migratory reptile that comes ashore in spring to breed. Scholars have yet to make an official decision on the level of intelligence of these “monsters”. Living for most of the year in the benthic regions of the greater ocean, and highly aggressive when approached during their breeding season, they are notoriously difficult to track and study. The Qii are themselves one of the more primitive of peoples native to the Sapere galaxy; although their architecture is elaborate and ostentatious, and they have a well-developed system of herbal medicines, they have not yet developed electricity or the internal combustion engine.
|Qii picking lotuses
The unusual “thermal lotus” has long been a staple feature in Qii artworks. This rare bloom is one of the few complex species that has evolved to live in the volcanic hot springs of the coastal plain, well able to tolerate elevated temperatures up to 70 or even 80C without suffering any harm. Small wonder, perhaps, that it should feature in so much Qii art, and have taken on a semi-divine nature of its own. Harvesting of the blooms is a comparatively dangerous art, as they grow close to the central funnel of the springs. This image shows a native villager gathering the blooms for a spiritual elder, with what appears to be a small deity or water-spirit beneath the surface, encouraging more to grow.
|The Celestial Twins
The Celestial Twins swim around the galactic centre. No good original artworks have been found of the Celestial Twins of the early Xniki religions, probably due to the species’ amphibious, mostly-aquatic nature. Most images have been degraded through the flow of water, a large proportion being lost forever. It is notable that they still bear the long tails of the ancestral species; scholars believe that the flukes were lost and replaced by the large, paddle-shaped feet very early on in the species’ development, possibly even before the development of sentience.
|Raan the protector
Early Kiravai art has a fluidity and spontaneity that is often lost in more modern works, which are more concerned with ensuring deities are placated with precise, opulent, often excessively grandiose artworks. This appears to be an early rendition of Raan, the more warlike masculine face of the primary deity, facing off against the serpent Kxa. The wings are representative of their ancestry, as the actual power of flight was lost early in this species development. Additionally, all aspects, or “ciires” (faces) of this deity possess four upper limbs, to symbolise the perfect union of male and female in one entity, however the second pair of arms are usually rendered as wings in images of the warlike protector. Good versus evil is often represented in such a way in art all the way back to the primitive art of the kestavai (Protokiravium auroros); serpents are known to have preyed on this early people, and although modern kiravai are rarely threatened in such a manner, the racial memory persists.
Artists impression of a small flock of kestavai, preparing to sleep in the evening. As a species, kestavai were small – barely half the size of their modern kiravai counterparts – and comparatively defenceless; although themselves omnivorous, their size made them a common prey species in the forests of their homeworld. They had the largest brain capacity of species in their family, however, and evolution selected for smarter kestavai – better able to outwit their predators, surviving longer and more likely to pass on their brainy genes. Their advancing capacity for complex, abstract thought allowed them to develop the capacity to defend themselves with tools and weapons. At the same time, it has been suggested that this intense selection pressure through predation might have driven the species’ xenophobia. It is interesting to draw parallels between these small, primitive biological sentients and our own more advanced synthetic fliers. Although the kestavai lost their ability to fly at quite an early stage, they maintained the gregariousness and tendency to flock. These same characteristics have been noted in the mindset of our own “wing kin”, particularly the strong bonds formed between often otherwise-unrelated trine-mates.
A pair of kestavai cement their social bonds. While modern kiravai (Kiravium imperialus) are fairly well-known for their elaborate courtship, recent discoveries have shown that this practice in fact pre-dates the earliest known true civilisation. This prehistoric wall painting is one of the earliest known pieces of kestavai art, and shows a male (cob) courting a female (pen) with flowers. Interestingly, he appears to also be presenting her with a knife or a weapon of some kind, presumably for defensive purposes. This is an interesting development, as no modern pen would be permitted to carry such weaponry. Although it could be argued that this blade is for food preparation, the shape closely resembles the fearsome stone blades often found alongside fallen chieftains. The degree of feathering on these kestavai is not clear from this image, however scholars believe that they had already lost the bulk of their pelage at this point, hence the attraction shown towards bright objects. The arms and the head were the primary areas still feathered. The raising of the arms is not a supplication to a deity, but rather considered to be a ritual dance, to display the plumes that still remain on the upper limbs.
|Zaar skull comparison
A comparison of early and modern zaar skulls. The avian ancestry of the modern zaar is evident only by observing detail of the skull; the fleshy lips of the living individual come down to cover the thick blades of the internal beak, which now more closely resembles the incisors of the average mammal. The early zaar were quite clearly of avian descent, with exposed bony beaks, although it is clear from this reconstruction that the beak was diminishing. An important series of fossils, with the outlines of their soft tissues preserved in the rock, have been discovered, and have demonstrated that the lips have advanced and the beak receded over the millennia. It is considered that the increasing social awareness of this species has led to increased reliance on facial expressions, and thus a greater degree of complex musculature to reflect this.
A small proto-zaar female out foraging for food. Although zaar and kiravai both have avian ancestry, their development could hardly have been different. The small, stocky Zaar quickly became one of the top predators in their marshy homeworld, designing a variety of stone tools for hunting and defending themselves. This artist’s impression is of the family matriarch, out hunting; her mate is presumably at home in a mud-and-thatch nest, tending to their single egg.
A better view of that nice fabric.