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Species Characterisation Sketch


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A lone hawk soared in the summer sky. A dark silhouette drifting on the sun-warmed currents, it was the sole blemish on the blue welkin, left dazzlingly clear after the morning fog had burned away. Now the plains over which the hawk flew were cast in a brilliant midday light, and the shadows, thrown on the plains by the occasional stand of trees or herd of gazelle, were just starting to lengthen

One of these herds was below the hawk now, grazing by the tree line on the plain?s edge. Now and again a watchful beast would raise its head and cast about for any nearby threats, returning to its feeding after satisfying itself that there were none. The bird gliding above them was paid little heed.

The wind carried the hawk over the herd, and it banked lazily, circling around for another pass. Large even for a bird of prey, it was colored a dull, earthy brown, save for its red tail-feathers. A long gash of a scar marred the lighter feathers of the hawk?s breast, an ugly jagged line that stretched to just under the bird?s left wing. Its dark brown eyes, lit fiercely from within, were locked intently on the herd.

The tercel had been following the gazelles for a fair part of the morning. Floating high enough to avoid spooking the herd?s sentries, it had carefully watched their movements, picking out the sickly and weak and waiting for a good moment to strike.

As the herd eased itself into a hollow in the tree line, the hawk sensed the moment approaching and, gathering itself, drifted to just above the herd?s outer edge.

In the blink of an eye the hawk became a dark-haired man prostrate in the air. He whipped a simple bow off of his shoulder; no longer supported by the currents, the man fell swiftly to the earth. Snatching three arrows from the quiver at his back, he nocked them all and, sighting as he plummeted, he fired them into the herd?s trailing edge.

Two of the arrows buried themselves in the earth, the startled gazelles nearest them shying instantly. The lucky third struck one beast in the neck, and its scream threw the herd into a panic. As they began to race to the open plain, the falling man let out a shout, reverting to a hawk with barely a man?s height to spare, his wings beating furiously to regain the air. His cry and sudden appearance balked the nearest gazelles, and in their turmoil half of them tried to reverse themselves, stumbling over the others who had not seen the man.

A cougar, also much larger than normal, burst from the trees in full charge. Now the herd fled in earnest, scattering in terror to the grassland?but the hawk?s surprise had done its work, and the cougar had already tackled one unfortunate beast and taken off in pursuit of a second. The grounded gazelle fought for its footing, but had hardly gained its balance when another arrow sank into its heart, and it collapsed back to the earth.

The dark-haired man, who had landed some distance to left, began retrieving his arrows in silence, plucking the first and second from the plain, then standing and looking for the beast he had struck earlier. It too lay dead farther off, having clung to life long enough to see the cat break from the forest and to run for a second or two before succumbing to its wound. The man, bare-chested save for the leather strap of his quiver, saw that his shot had pierced through his prey?s neck; he?d have to cut it free, meaning the arrow was lost. He would salvage the head, of course, and attach it to another, but the shaft itself was worthless now.

The man scratched absently at the scar on his chest, an old wound from a fight he never should have had. Fitting that he should carry the reminder the rest of his life, he thought, tracing its path to his left armpit with an almost stroking motion. The injury had got infected and had taken over a week to heal?and had not healed completely. He was fortunate that it had not been his strong arm, though his speed-draw had been affected at first. It had taken a few months to relearn a few of his old skills.

He was a well-toned man, like most of the men of his aerie, and of modest stature. His face was long, but not gaunt?though his nose did hook over, curved almost like a beak. His eyes, too, were like those of the hawk he had been, each a large ring of deep brown set in black, and the peculiar absence of eye-white only intensified the fierceness of his gaze.

Even stranger was the man?s hair. At a distance it appeared dark, but on approach it was clearly mottled, a scattered mix of cinnamon and white everywhere except for the hair at the back of his neck. There it suddenly became a dusty red, and was allowed to grow a little longer than the rest.

By contrast, the downy hair of his chest was so fair to be almost invisible. If it were not for his scar, only those of keen eye would have noticed the down at all; nothing grew around the unsightly blemish.

From the waist down the man appeared as any other hunter, wearing long, thick-spun pants and well-crafted but worn leather shoes. A thick-bladed wood knife hung from his belt, along with various other tools a man of his trade might want. He stooped by the second beast and tore his arrow free. Drawing a cloth from a pocket at his waist, he wiped the head clean, inspected it, and returned it to his quiver.

When he straightened and turned around, he found a sandy-haired woman smirking at him, her morning?s prize resting on her shoulders. She cocked her head to one side.[/pindent]

"We have a problem,? she informed him, her smile brightening.

She stood about half a head below the man, her features soft and rounded and her cheeks dotted with freckles. Here eyes were all faded-green iris around two vertical black-slits, and she looked out from under a slender brow with a self-assurance that, combined with her casual posture, projected an air of passive arrogance. She wore a leather jerkin over a plain white cotton shirt whose sleeves ended halfway down her forearm, comfortable pants, and well-traveled, dusty leather shoes. Her slim hands grasped her slain gazelle by the ankles. Traces of blood were smudged by the corner of her lips, left over from the kill.

The man eyed her, then darted a look around the plain.

"We do?"

"Mm-hmm!" The woman shifted her weight to her left leg, but declined to elaborate. Instead she waited while the man salvaged his remaining arrow and hauled the gazelle?s carcass back. Dropping the beast by the other, he looked up to her expectantly, then to her catch and back to her. He made a motion at his face.

"You've got something...."

The woman frowned and rubbed at the side of her mouth with a knuckle. Discovering the smudge, she wet the back of her hand with her tongue and wiped the blood away, washing her hand and finger clean. Her eyes sparkled mischievously, but she revealed nothing further.

The man surveyed their catch. Two elderly but still appetizing males (one rested on the woman's shoulders), and a female in her prime. A very good catch, he decided. Not exceptional, but certainly good. Perhaps, he thought, if Naeir had been well enough to come with them....

He sighed. "What problem do we have?" he asked, relenting. "And why are you so pleased about it if it is one?"

The woman let out a satisfied giggle. "We have three kills today," she said happily.


The woman waited a moment for her companion to continue, or at least indicate he understood. When he did not, her brow furrowed and she tilted her head.

"There are only two of us, Drannet." Her tone was reproving; she had expected him to be as pleased with their 'predicament' as she. She should have known better. Her companion rarely showed any sort of excitement. She knew he felt it occasionally; she had seen his eyes glitter with pleasure on feasting days, or with anger, as they had when his second son had been caught harassing one of the Wolf cubs. But she was always hard-pressed to pull such feelings out into the open. Even for a Red-Tail he was reserved.

"Sticks," he was saying. His eyes were already scanning the trees for suitable branches. "We've carried our prey on them before. There's no reason we can't today."

The woman huffed. "You and Naeir are about the same height, though. Won't this make the burden uneven?"

Drannet looked her over out of the corner of his eye. "Are you saying you can't handle a little extra weight?" he inquired, arching an eyebrow.

"I am a Cat," she sniffed haughtily. "I could out-lift you any day. But," she continued when he turned away, "we still only have two sets of shoulders."

The Red-Tail sighed. "We will tie one between the staves. Then we can also remember which beast is yours." He turned an impatient stare full on her. "Will that appease you, cantankerous woman?"

"Of course it will," she snickered. "Clever, clever Drannet. Always thinking of me." In a single easy motion she swung her gazelle over her head and thumped it onto the ground. "Now go and make your sticks. I'm hungry."

Drannet caught her arm as she stooped to change.

"Restrain yourself—at least until we return," he added hastily. "We hunt for many, not just ourselves."

"It's my kill!" she exclaimed, affecting a hurt expression. It lasted a fleeting moment, though, chased away by her devilish grin. "Besides, I only want a haunch." She shoved him playfully. "Go. I don't want to be on the plains in the heat."

Edited by Allamorph
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Preliminary Comments

Hooray for the double-posting system, I guess. :p It does work well for post-manuscript comments.

Right, so this is basically a rough to see if I can portray the species well. (For those who don't know quite yet, these people are generally referred to [in about four or five thousand years from the point of this narrative] as allamorphs, and they are from where I take my screenname. Animal characteristics are mixed in, but I always feel like I'm walking a fine line between tasteful and anthro.) Other criticism (syntax, style, what have you) is always appreciated, but since I don't know anything about this scene other than what I wrote, and certainly don't intend to include it in any major section of narrative, that kind of stuff will only be noted; the sketch itself is a draft with one transcription into Word where I did some minor edits/revisions, and then pulled a second minor edit/revision session just a few minutes ago, but it will probably not be polished further.

Anyway, near as I can figure, these people divide themselves into four groups: Falcons, Cats, Wolves, and Bears. Really I had expected a general grouping for Dogs, but seems Wolves and Bears don't like to be lumped together. After that, they seem to identify based on species type—which is basically identical to ours because I'm just going ahead and having this world develop a common tongue almost exactly like English.

At the time of this scene's writing, the different groups mingle a lot more freely than they do at the main point of my narrative for this world. In fact, after the Great Extermination and the flight of the allamorphs, they broke into sects and almost completely disassociated from each other, and the Falcons are almost impossible to find.

Took me from about Friday afternoon until Monday morning to finish?with breaks, of course. Gears of War 2 is awesome. I got into doing the sketch basically because, what with me being a music [education] major for the past two years, I've been lamenting not having worked on my own universe for the entire time I've been at college. Now that I'm out (and into MechE, WOOO), I have considerably more free time. I could have gone and delved into some of the future stuff, I thought, but I've been more interested recently in building and exploring the past of my 'verse, and I've done almost nothing at all in the way of working with the actual allamorph species.

Guess what I spent all Sunday afternoon staring at? Exhibit A, Exhibit B.

That said, Drannet's eyes are freaky as heck.

Edited by Allamorph
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As far as I can tell, the characterization and portrayal of them seemed to work rather well. The only question I have, and I'm sure it's something that given time would be explained, is how does having weapons and clothing with them work with the shape shifting aspect? Anyway, other than that it was a short, entertaining read.
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  • 2 weeks later...


The only question I have, and I'm sure it's something that given time would be explained, is how does having weapons and clothing with them work with the shape shifting aspect?



No, seriously. The important background bits about this species are that they were originally animal—not human—and that they are not truly lycanthropes. As time wears on in their history they gradually shift to a more human-esque society, and that presents interesting changes in itself. But the people are simultaneously human and animal, not a hybrid between the two. So when they shift, it's not a quick but gradual process of features morphing into other features (i.e., a nose becoming a muzzle, or teeth lengthening into fangs) but an actual switch.

The magic comes into play by basically remembering the last items the person was wearing when they last switched. If you notice, though I have ascertained privately that almost all allamorphs are martially trained, the Cougar was wearing no weapon, while the Red-Tail was. What they were carrying was simply what they brought with them when they left. Drannet wouldn't be carrying half of those items on his belt come trading day.

So basically, there is no rational explanation. It just is. But it's rooted in fantasy, so what have you. =P

Edited by Allamorph
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