Valbarans

Valbarans

The Valbarans are a reptilian species native to the planet Valbara, located in the HD-217107 system in the constellation Pisces, approximately 65LY from Earth. They were first encountered by the Coalition in the year 2625, during a long-range patrol whose mission was to investigate the system’s Oort cloud for signs of Betelgeusian activity. Initial surveys of the system using transit-photometry only detected the presence of two gas giants, but a terrestrial planet was later discovered between their orbits.

The Valbarans are a space-faring species that had achieved superlight travel prior to contact with the Coalition, and they were a multi-planetary species until relatively recently, having colonized a planet in a neighboring star system known as Kerguela. Their colony was evacuated and abandoned after the planet was invaded by a Betelgeusian hive fleet, and its current status is unknown.

A pair of Valbaran pilots in their spacesuits. Artwork provided by Oouna: https://www.oouna.com/

Biology

The Valbarans evolved from a reptilian ancestor with avian features, roughly analogous to the Dromaeosaurs of Earth’s prehistory. They are bipedal, with a humanoid body plan, sporting two digits and an opposable thumb on their hands that are tipped with claws. They are digitigrade, walking on two toes that are tipped with sharp talons, and with one vestigial digit resembling a dewclaw. They stand on average between four and five feet tall, with an average weight of sixty pounds for an adult female, and fifty pounds for an adult male. They have long, thick tails that are used primarily for balance but can also be manipulated with considerable dexterity.

A Valbaran Commando standing beside a UNN Marine for comparison. Artwork provided by Gungulon: https://twitter.com/gungulon

They have rounded skulls with a pronounced snout and small, pointed teeth that are covered by scaly lips. Their eyes are violet in color, with reptilian pupils, and evidence suggests that their visual acuity exceeds that of humans, with a greater sensitivity to color.

Their skin is covered with a layer of fine, smooth scales, which can range in color from dark green to light brown, and which tapers to a lighter shade on their underbellies. Valbarans are warm-blooded but do not sweat, and so they prefer warm, humid environments in which their scales can be kept moist. Individuals descended from populations that lived in the planet’s Northern regions have a covering of downy proto-feathers that serve to insulate them from the cold climate, which are usually a dull brown in color.

Valbarans are a viviparous species, they do not lay eggs, but rather retain their fertilized eggs in their reproductive system until the offspring are developed enough to be born. The females have mammary glands and can lactate to provide their young with sustenance during early life.

Valbarans are highly sexually dimorphic, with the males of their species sporting stunted snouts, a shorter stature, and reduced muscle mass. Males also have far larger and more vibrant feathers than females (see: feathers), with ornate plumes that resemble those of a peacock.

Muscles and Respiratory System

The Valbaran respiratory system extends deep into the body, with anterior, posterior, and thoracic air sacks. There are air pockets along the vertebrae, as well as inside the femur and the humerus, that expand along with the lungs to fill with oxygen. This makes the skeleton lighter, thus reducing the energy required to move it, and also provides a larger store of oxygen that can be expended more rapidly. Valbarans inhale and exhale through pressure changes, the expansion and contraction of muscles in the sternum either drawing in or pushing out air.

The primary types of muscle fibers responsible for moving the skeleton can be divided into two categories, fast-twitch, and slow-twitch. The former provides rapid, powerful contractions, while the latter provides slower contractions with greater endurance. Save for the cardiac and respiratory muscles, almost all of the muscle fibers found in Valbaran skeletal muscles are fast-twitch, in stark contrast to the more even distribution found in most species. They produce proportionally impressive speed and force, but only in short bursts, the subject tiring very quickly and needing to recuperate before activity can resume, often locking their leg joints to rest while remaining standing. This gives Valbarans a great deal of strength in proportion to their size and makes them extremely fast sprinters, able to briefly reach speeds of up to thirty miles per hour.

This lack of endurance results in Valbarans disliking walking for long distances, and favoring small, two-wheeled scooters when traveling over distances small enough that a larger vehicle is not required.

Feathers

One very striking trait of Valbaran biology is their feather sheaths. These muscular appendages dangle limply from the back of the skull and from the forearms when idle, but can be extended to take on a rigid appearance, or manipulated like a tentacle in order to grip objects. At rest, the sheaths on the forearms are usually spiraled around the limb to keep them out of the way. When the sheaths are extended, they open up to reveal layers of colorful feathers. These feathers can be unfurled into a large headdress and fan-like displays on the forearms. Muscle groups control which layers of feathers are at the forefront of the display, and thus what colors and patterns are visible, the range of which includes reds, oranges, yellows, blues, purples, and greens. These displays are used to send signals to flockmates, to express emotion, and in courtship dances. Valbarans have a great deal of control over their feathers and are able to create complex, wave-like patterns, although emotional displays are often involuntary.

A female Valbaran displaying her feathers. Artwork provided by Meandraco: https://www.furaffinity.net/user/meandraco/
Syrinx

Valbarans lack the larynx found in mammals, and instead use a syrinx, a vocal organ commonly found in birds. This Y-shaped organ is located at the base of the trachea, and the entire structure is lined with vibrating membranes that are controlled by minute muscles, giving the Valbarans a large range of vocalizations. They are able to control the left and right valves of the syrinx independently, producing two distinct sounds at the same time. Valbarans are able to mimic the sounds that they hear with a great deal of accuracy, leading them to be compared to parrots or myna birds. Their voices are commonly high-pitched and tinny.

Capacity for Accelerated Learning and Non-Declarative Memory

Valbarans are gifted with heightened neuroplasticity compared to what is commonly observed in other Coalition species, which describes the ability of brain cells to reorganize and to form new neural connections. This gives them very vivid memories (often erroneously described as a ‘photographic memory’) and accelerates their rate of learning. This process is likely a result of neoteny, an evolutionary strategy whereby juvenile features are retained into adulthood. Valbarans are thus able to absorb new information and learn new skills very rapidly in comparison to other species, and the ease at which they pick up new languages is doubly impressive, aided by their ability to reproduce words and phrases through mimicry.

Memory can be divided into two categories, declarative, and non-declarative. Declarative memory refers to conscious memories that must be accessed voluntarily, while non-declarative refers to memories that are accessed involuntarily, such as reflex and muscle memory. The heightened neuroplasticity of Valbarans impacts their motor skills too, meaning that reflexive actions can be performed with extreme speed and precision. Valbarans leverage these abilities through what they refer to as ‘stacking’, whereby sequences of reflexive actions can be programmed through training and then executed without conscious thought. This can be observed in their martial arts, where rote training results in sequences of moves being performed at incredible speed, bypassing the conscious mind entirely.

There is a downside to this stacking behavior, however. Valbarans are very reliant on planning, often preparing a meticulous itinerary for their day which they do not deviate from, attempting to prepare a backup plan for every foreseeable eventuality. When confronted with an unforeseen situation, a Valbaran will freeze up, then it will attempt to retreat in order to formulate a new plan, usually seeking the consensus of its flock. This behavior also manifests as odd pauses during conversation, or apparent indecisiveness, with the subject being slow or even incapable of coming to a decision in a manner that humans would consider timely.

Society

Valbaran society is organized around social units of roughly six individuals, sometimes a few more or less, referred to as a flock. Flocks live and work together, forming the family unit that is the basis of Valbaran culture. It is said that “any task is made easier with more able bodies, and any decision is made wiser through consensus.”

Flocks are most often formed during education or training, when like-minded individuals congregate, but they can also be formed by friends, schoolmates, coworkers, or neighbors. Siblings may become members of the same flock, although the practice is uncommon. Valbaran young are born into a flock, where they are raised communally by their biological parents and their flockmates. Upon reaching maturity, they are expected to leave and form their own flock.

These social units are usually fully formed by early adulthood, after which new members joining or old members leaving becomes uncommon, except in the case of courtship. Flocks are comprised exclusively of females, and once the members have reached sexual maturity, a solitary male may join their number and become a permanent member, reproducing with one or more of the females. Males will otherwise live with their parent flock until such a time as they find a mate, or they will live a solitary life until that point, which is an increasingly popular option in modern Valbaran society.

Males are generally considered weaker and less capable than the females, and are sometimes described as being overly emotional. Traditional gender roles confine males to the home, where they are expected to perform household duties and to be the primary caregivers for children, but even in modern society, males are almost completely absent from female-dominated professions such as the armed forces or construction. This can potentially be explained by the gender imbalance on Valbara. With a ratio of only one male for roughly every seven females, allowing a male to come to harm would have been considered unacceptable, and so males were highly valued and protected. These attitudes remain, and are deeply ingrained in Valbaran culture.

A male Valbaran displaying the eyespots on his plumage. Artwork provided by Dredjir: https://www.furaffinity.net/user/dredjirpariah/

Valbarans are slow to take initiative, and they must reach consensus within their flock before action can be taken, which results in short pauses so that they might deliberate, where they appear to huddle or whisper. Every aspect of their lives is democratized, with dissenting members of a flock being overruled by a majority, although serious disagreements are uncommon. There is no distinct leader of a flock, all members are of equal standing, but there may be more assertive or aggressive members who take the initiative and who propose courses of action more frequently than others. Individual members of a flock are rarely treated as such, and are referred to as one unit. Each member is responsible for the actions of the rest, and they are punished collectively in the case that some kind of infraction is committed. This behavior extends to the military, where a senior flock takes on the role of a commanding officer, their subordinates treating their orders as though they came from a singular entity. From a Valbaran perspective, this is not unusual, as any orders being given will have gone through a process of consensus, and it is believed that any resulting decisions will have been made all the more reliable because of it.

Valbaran cities are presided over by a flock of Valbarans known as the Ensi, roughly equivalent to a city council. They are generally afforded more autonomy in their decision making than the average citizen, and this is considered burdensome, as their duties often require them to operate independently of their flock. This further emphasizes the great trust that is placed in the Ensi, as they are relied upon to act without consensus.

A contingent of city guard protects the city and serves as its police force. They are a branch of the Valbaran armed forces and are equipped with military weapons and gear. The guard is led by a senior flock.

Cities

Valbarans live in walled cities that are carefully planned out, and are designed to be as self-sufficient and as eco-friendly as possible. The city is divided into several concentric rings, each one serving a different purpose.

The wall that encircles a Valbaran city is two hundred feet high, with a diameter of twenty miles, giving the city within an area of around a thousand square miles. The wall serves several functions, as well as acting as a barrier between the residents and the untamed nature beyond. There are lookout towers spaced at intervals along the top of the wall, which serve as weather monitoring stations, guard towers, and as a means for the Valbarans to monitor the migration patterns of the native fauna that they hunt for food. At the foot of the wall are spill gates that allow water from outside of the wall to enter the city, where it joins the local water system, or is processed for drinking. It is not uncommon for Valbaran cities to be situated near water sources, or even to be surrounded by a large moat. There are four gates that allow ground access to the city, one in each cardinal direction, although the majority of transit between cities happens by air. The walls are large enough that they can impact the climate inside their bounds, which helps to regulate temperature and humidity in the city.

The outermost concentric ring consists of parks and botanical gardens, dotted with footpaths and scenic lakes, designed to be enjoyed recreationally by the inhabitants. Valbarans are lovers of nature, and so these parks provide them with a safe way to experience it without being exposed to the dangers of native predators.

The next band is occupied by twelve large, 1200-foot-tall defense towers that are spaced at regular intervals, which have the appearance of giant cylinders with rows of glass windows. Each one is subtly different in design from the rest, with architectural flairs such as ornate buttresses and artistically sculpted facades preventing them from being too unsightly. Each of these towers has a domed roof that opens up to expose a defensive laser battery, powered by the city’s fusion reactors. These are the same class of weapons that are mounted on Valbaran carriers, and they are capable of seriously damaging or destroying any enemy craft that might approach the city at significant range.

Next is the residential band, which is a ring of grassland, forests and hills that is populated with Valbaran homes, roughly the equivalent of a human suburb. This is where the majority of the city’s population lives. These dwellings are made up of domes that are joined together, somewhat resembling soap bubbles, with rounded windows and a tunnel-like porch. They are partially below ground, which helps with climate control. The average Valbaran dwelling has a large dome that serves as the main living area, a dome that serves as the kitchen, and a windowless dome that serves as the bedroom. Toilets are not joined to the main building, and take the form of an outhouse. Each property has a lake that is commonly used for communal bathing, along with enough decorative plants and trees to provide the occupants with privacy. Great care is taken to obscure the dwellings from view using carefully placed patches of forest, and strategic landscaping, meaning that no dwelling is ever visible from another flock’s property.

Next is another band of parkland similar to the outermost, the purpose of which is recreation and beautification.

The next band is roughly analogous to an industrial zone, with factories, hydroponic farms, and other operations housed within large, 600-foot high structures that resemble tower blocks. This is where the Valbarans work, and where they produce most of their products and food. While there are farms and ranches situated outside of the walls, usually in mountainous regions where larger predators don’t roam, the majority of Valbara’s food is produced in these buildings. Hydroponics, aquaponics, and insect farming produce fruits and vegetables, fish, and insect protein that makes up the majority of the Valbaran diet. This diet is supplemented with seasonal hunts that venture beyond the wall to bring back fresh meat and other animal products. This band is also where weapons and technology are manufactured, with extensive factories and assembly plants hidden within the structures, out of view of the public.

The innermost area is populated by large skyscrapers of exotic and creative designs, serving as the cultural and physical center of the city. This is where most recreational and cultural facilities are located, being an equal distance from all of the city’s inhabitants. The skyscrapers are decorated with balconies and terraces that extend from the sides of the buildings, serving as rooftop gardens and landing pads for aerial vehicles. Valbarans are fond of heights, and their long tails give them excellent balance, and so guardrails are not deemed necessary.

A mag-lev rail system spans the entire city and serves as fast, efficient public transportation for the inhabitants, and each city is equipped with a spaceport that can handle aircraft and spaceplanes.

Military

The Valbaran armed forces are divided into two branches, the Army and the Air Force. The Army includes ground soldiers referred to as Commandos, and the city guard, while the Air Force is made up of pilots and starship crews. Valbarans are not especially militaristic, and the organization of their military is somewhat outdated. This means that Commandos usually serve the same role that Marines would in the UNN, operating from spacecraft in conjunction with the Air Force, despite being a separate branch with their own chain of command.

Suits

Both branches wear flexible, form-fitting jumpsuits that are air-tight and rated for use in a vacuum, with the only notable differences being the presence of flexible armored padding on those worn by the Army, and the color of their camouflage. The Army wears green and purple camouflage that’s suitable for the woodland environments of Valbara’s surface, while the Air Force wears grey and blue, which is symbolic of their nautical origins. Boots are optional, and Valbarans seem to prefer to go barefoot when not operating in space.

The suits include a helmet with an opaque visor that closes over the snout, and which is functionally similar to standard UNN Marine helmets. It provides a heads-up display in the form of an augmented reality overlay that displays tactical information, and can interface wirelessly with various Valbaran technologies such as weapons systems and aircraft. These systems are powered by an on-board computer and a battery pack that are built into the lining of the suit. Flexible LCD screens are built into the suits on the forearms and on the feather sheaths that extend from the helmet, allowing the wearer to communicate using color patterns even when their feathers are obscured.

Firearms

The standard-issue battle rifle of the Valbaran Army is a compact, man-portable laser rifle. The weapon is made from a lightweight polymer, black in color, and comes equipped with a variable magnification scope. The weapon is powered by a hot-swappable battery bank and fires a high-wattage neodymium laser in a continuous beam that is focused through a flashlight-shaped lens on the barrel, the scattering of which makes it appear a vibrant green in color. The weapon is recoilless, however the beam must be held on a target in order to inflict maximum damage. The weapon is extremely accurate, but its usefulness is reduced over longer distances, as particulates in the air or in a vacuum scatter the beam and result in fewer photons successfully reaching their target.

A standard-issue Valbaran laser rifle. Artwork provided by PimpArtist: https://www.deviantart.com/thepimpartist

The standard-issue sidearm of the Valbaran military is a scaled-down handgun variant that makes use of the same fundamental technologies, albeit at reduced wattage.

Spacecraft

The Valbaran Air Force makes use of several spacecraft hulls as part of their day to day operations, the largest of which is the carrier. The carrier serves both as a mothership for dropships and fighter squadrons, and as a ship of the line. The Valbarans lack specialized battleships, cruisers, and frigates, and so they rely on their carriers to fill most battlefield roles. This is not because the carriers are especially suited to said roles, but due to a lack of practical experience on the part of the Valbaran Air Force. Valbaran interstellar warfare has so far been limited to two engagements with Betelgeusian hive fleets, once during the fall of Kerguela, and then a second time during the defense of Valbara, in which they were assisted by the UNN Rorke and her support fleet. Much of their modern military technology was developed during this interwar period.

All Valbaran vessels come equipped with external light panels that can be used to signal other ships that are in visual range, and to simulate feather displays. This is especially useful in fighter squadrons, where vessels are flying in close proximity. Signaling using feathers is more natural to a Valbaran, and often faster than giving commands over radio.

Carriers

The Valbaran carrier is around three hundred meters in length, and is made up of cylindrical, modular sections that are a matte white in color. The Valbarans lack orbital shipyards, and the carriers are unable to make landfall, so the individual segments are manufactured on the ground and then assembled in orbit. This presumably allows for some modularity and variation between vessels. These modules include hangars, which allow smaller vessels to dock externally via an airlock system, engine modules, nuclear fusion generators, superlight drives, storage modules for supplies such as chemical fuel and oxygen, sensor modules that house communications equipment and scanners, weapons modules that house laser batteries and torpedo tubes, and bridge modules. Valbarans lack artificial gravity technology, and so the crew lives on a rotating torus when not working in the microgravity environment of the ship’s main hull, which is commonly situated at the ship’s center of mass. Unlike UNN jump carriers, Valbaran carriers are not suitable for long-range patrols or force projection, despite being jump-capable vessels, as they are unable to replenish their own fuel and supplies. Their operations are commonly limited to a single solar system, or the gravity well of a planet.

Carrier armaments include laser batteries that are powered by the ship’s fusion generator, and nuclear torpedoes, although many are currently being retrofitted with railguns based on UNN designs that were shared by the crew of the Rorke during the defense of Valbara. The UNN is also incorporating Valbaran laser technology into their point defense and laser targeting systems.

Dropships

Valbaran dropships are large vessels used for carrying troops and supplies, roughly twenty meters in length. They are spaceplanes capable of operating both in a vacuum and in atmosphere, with a large cargo compartment that tapers into an aerodynamic chassis. They have stubby, swept wings that provide lift in atmosphere, and twin tail fins. The cockpit is placed high on the nose, providing good visibility for the pilots. The hull is protected by layers of ceramic heat tiles, and is camouflaged in the traditional blue and grey of the Air Force. The vessels are unsuited to VTOL, although capable of it in an emergency using their ventral thrusters, preferring to make use of a runway for takeoffs and landings under gravity. The main engines can achieve orbit under their own power, and the vessel glides to the ground during reentry. Troops and cargo are loaded via a landing ramp at the rear of the vessel, via sliding doors to either side of the bay, or via a hatch in the deck when docked to a carrier or a station. The aforementioned sliding doors are also equipped with door guns, laser weapons mounted on a flexible gimbal that can be used to support ground troops and to provide covering fire during an operation. A dropship can carry 24 fully-armed Commandos, or roughly four flocks.

Fighters

Lastly are the fighter craft. The Valbarans make use of small, single-person fighters that resemble rounded arrowheads, with sleek hulls and stubby, upturned wings. Like the dropships, they are spaceplanes, able to achieve orbit under their own power and preferring to glide when landing. These fighters operate in squadrons, and are usually crewed by one or more flocks. They are capable of flying in impressively tight formations, and of pulling off very closely coordinated maneuvers worthy of aerobatics teams. They are protected by heat tiles, and they are decorated in the traditional ocean camouflage. Fighters are commonly equipped with a single laser cannon whose damage potential is increased by the squadron coordinating to focus their beams on a single target. Due to their small stature, Valbarans are well suited to high-G maneuvers and make admirable pilots.

Orbital Defense Platforms

The Valbarans make extensive use of defensive weapons platforms, ringing their planet’s equator with orbital stations. These platforms are made up of two rings connected by spokes, the outermost of which is equipped with a series of high-wattage laser batteries that are powered by an on-board fusion generator. They can also be equipped with nuclear weapons, and they are currently being retrofitted with twenty-millimeter railguns. The innermost ring spins to simulate gravity and serves as a habitat for the crew who live and work on the station. The stations also have several docking ports for dropships and fighters, although they cannot dock directly with a carrier. Stations are defended by Commandos who are equipped with magnetic boots and are expected to fight off boarders by venturing out onto the hull. This was observed during the defense of Valbara in 2625, when a series of firefights took place on the outer hulls of several orbital stations.

Valbara

Valbara is an Earth-like exoplanet located in the HD-217107 star system, in the constellation Pisces. The system is approximately 65 light-years from Earth. The star is a spectral class G7 with a mass and luminosity comparable to that of Sol, being only ten percent brighter, and 98% of its mass. The star has an estimated age of 7.7billion years, meaning that it has consumed most of its hydrogen and is beginning to evolve away from the main sequence.

Valbara shares its solar system with two gas giants, HD-217107b and HD-217107c, which were detected by transit photometry long before the system was visited by the Coalition. The innermost gas giant is especially large and hot, with an unusual orbit that brings it very close to its parent star. It orbits at a distance of 0.07AU, and completes one orbit every 7.1 days. The outermost gas giant is four times the mass of Jupiter, and orbits at a distance of 1.6AU, completing an orbit every two years. HD-217107c has a small system of moons that the Valbarans use as outposts, mining the planet’s atmosphere for Helium3 and other elements. The size and proximity of HD-217107c means that it is visible from the surface of Valbara with the naked eye, appearing slightly smaller and dimmer than Earth’s moon.

The planet Valbara viewed from high orbit.

Valbara orbits at a distance of 1.2AU from its parent star, with an orbital period of 1.3 standard years. The atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen and oxygen, along with carbon dioxide and other trace gasses such as argon. It is breathable, and has a somewhat higher oxygen content than that of Earth. The planet has a smaller mass that Earth, giving it a slightly lower gravity of 0.9Gs. The planet has many different biomes, but the climate is primarily tropical near the equator where the majority of the planet’s population lives, which is hot and humid all year round.

Valbara’s night side, with walled cities and sparse trade routes visible.

The philosophy of the Valbarans stipulates that they remain in their walled cities, while letting nature flourish beyond their bounds. The majority of the planet is completely uninhabited as a result, serving as a kind of planet-spanning nature preserve. After venturing only a few hundred feet outside of a Valbaran city, one encounters wild, untended wilderness.

Flora

The dominant flora on Valbara are trees, grasses, and flowering plants. Trees commonly feature thick, water-retaining trunks similar to a baobab, with fronds that resemble those of palm trees. Many of the leaves and grasses on Valbara have a blue or purple hue, as well as the more familiar green, using anthocyanins instead of chlorophyll for photosynthesis. Plains carpeted with blue-green grass, and forests of trees with purple leaves are common sights. The planet is home to dense, rich jungles, tropical beaches and island chains, mountainous regions, and extensive coral reefs in warm, shallow oceans.

Fauna

Valbara is home to diverse animal life, including numerous species of impressive megafauna. Some noteworthy native animals include the Gue’tra, a species of herbivorous herd animal that resembles an ostrich in size and appearance. They are bipedal birds/reptiles that stand between two and three meters tall, with large eyes and a long, flexible neck. They are flightless, with atrophied wings, and they are covered in a coat of brown feathers patterned with white tips. Their heads, necks, and legs are covered in exposed scales. The Gue’tra serve as prey animals for many of the planet’s predators, including the Valbarans, who hunt them for their meat during certain seasons. Gue’tra move in large flocks, behaving like a shoal of fish, making fluid and well-coordinated changes in speed and direction in order to evade predators.

Another noteworthy species is the sauropod-like Do’patli, long-necked creatures with large, round bodies that stand on four elephant-like legs. They are covered in a coat of striking, blue feathers, and they sport decorative sails that run down their spines. They have ornate crests on their heads which may be used as part of mating displays, or for signaling other members of their species, which catch the light using iridescent scales and can be seen for many miles. Their long tails taper into a whip, which is used both as a counterbalance for the long neck, and for defense against large predators during adolescence. Once a Do’patli reaches adulthood, they become too large to have any natural predators, attaining heights of forty feet and weights exceeding thirty tons.

Last but not least is the Teth’rak, Valbara’s apex predator. The Teth’rak resembles the giant therapods of Earth’s late Cretaceous period, and occupies a similar ecological niche, ambushing prey and scavenging by claiming the kills of smaller predators. An adult female can reach 50 feet from nose to tail, and weights in excess of ten tons. They have large, powerful jaws with tremendous bite force, and thick skulls that allow them to use their heads like battering rams in order to knock down and incapacitate prey. Their forelimbs are atrophied, and are either obscured beneath their covering of feathers, or have been lost entirely. Their coat of proto-feathers is a vibrant orange in color, with red and white warning coloration around the eyes and along the snout, extending down the flanks. Peacock-like feathers run down the spine, patterned in similar red and white. The feathers around the neck can be puffed up in a threat display, exposing the red coloration beneath. Their three-toed, taloned feet are covered in yellow scales, resembling those of a chicken. A Teth’rak can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour at a sprint.

A Teth’rak. Artwork provided by Oouna: https://www.oouna.com/

Teth’raks are fiercely territorial, occupying territories of hundreds of square miles, and they will attack anything that they perceive as a threat or as prey. This includes vehicles, as a Teth’rak either lacks the intelligence to differentiate between animals and vehicles, or simply does not care. Teth’raks have excellent vision, a keen sense of smell, and a good sense of hearing, making them more than capable of monitoring their large territories. Their vocalizations take the form a loud, low-frequency pulse that can travel over great distances. Many find this sound unnerving, and it has been compared to a musical sting from a horror movie. One of the few animals that is not preyed upon by the Teth’rak is the Do’patli, which becomes too large once it reaches maturity. Do’patli and Teth’raks may still come into conflict, as Teth’raks will attempt to kill and eat juvenile Do’patli when presented with the opportunity. It is not uncommon to encounter Teth’raks that bear scars from the whip-like tails of adult Do’patli.

Killing a Teth’rak, even in self-defense, is both illegal due to their protected status, and considered sacrilegious. Ancient Valbarans saw the Teth’rak as a guardian deity, and they were revered as part of the animist religion that played a large role in ancient Valbaran society and culture. Despite those beliefs no longer being widely held, they are still an important aspect of Valbaran culture and heritage. Teth’rak movements are monitored from guard towers that are mounted atop city walls in order to avoid crossing paths with them where possible, and when contact is unavoidable, grenades are employed that mimic the scent of Teth’rak urine, distracting the creature and making it believe that its territory is being invaded by a rival.