by Erik Edler 2010
The Aviatrica are a race of winged humanoids with both avian and mammalian characteristics. Their bodies are covered by a very soft, downy coat of feathers, almost like that of a baby chick. Both the females and the males have a full crest of longer feathers which begins at the forehead, covers the head, and trails down the back. The body and wing feathers of both females and males are peacock blue and green (with occasional exceptions; more on this later).
The females are lithe and elegant in stature, standing on average nearly 2 meters tall (6' 6"), with longer wings than the males, more albatross-like. The males are shorter and slightly more muscular, though also still generally quite slim, averaging 180-185 cm (6') tall. Though the wings of the males are shorter, they are, like their bodies, more heavily muscled.
The Aviatrica are a graceful people with an intrinsically regal quality reminiscent of Terran lions or eagles, or even the mythological unicorns. Their voices are soft and cooing, as melodious as Terran doves or pigeons. Highly visual, they are fond of making and wearing jewelry of gold and precious stones; though with respect to garments, typically women will only wear a short, loose-fitting dress with a scooped back to leave the wings free; males wear a kilt similar to those worn by men in ancient Egypt. Aviatrica will peel down to their feathers readily in hot weather, but are reluctant to don heavy clothes in cold; they dislike being restrained or weighed down.
"Aviatrica" is a translation of the local term Ranuyo, derived from an ancient word meaning "female flyers," but has come to refer to the entire race, male and female, just as the term "Man" was long used for the entire human race. As the term hints, Aviatric females are predominant in public life, though their matriarchy is less extreme than most human patriarchy. As with many Terran hawks and eagles, females are simply larger, and perhaps more driven to roam and explore.
Though females spend more time on the wing, they do typically settle down with a mate when pregnant and they remain settled during the early years of a child's life. But many females have a need for deep solitude; over time, they resume wandering the flyways, returning to the village only to share the experiences and insights they found. As villages have grown to cities, the role of stay-at-home males has increased; the historical trend is toward equality.
HABITAT, RANGE AND SUBSPECIES
The ancestors of the Aviatrica evolved in the hot, sunny, savannah country of Continent 8. Their earliest ancestor was apparently a sort of six-limbed, beaked spider monkey, whose middle pair of limbs slowly developed showy plumes that could be spread and waved to enlarge one confronted by predators and to impress potential mates. Over time the feathers in these fans lengthened until the proto-Aviatrica could glide from tree to tree, rather than just leaping. Better gliding enhanced survival, and so the genes for more fully developed, useful feathers were passed on. The next evolutionary step was either an upright gait, freeing the forelimbs for manipulation of tools, or true flight. Or the two steps may have been linked; as the Aviatrica (no longer proto-) took to the sky, carrying things became more valuable than tree-climbing, so the nonwinged limbs were free to specialize into hands and feet.
Various genetic lineages began to split off as the Aviatrica spread across Continent 8. In late prehistory, there were several intelligent subspecies of Aviatrica living in different climate zones--notably:
Today, dozens of Machu Picchu-like cities dot the great mountain range from the far southern tip of Continent 8 all the way to ice-capped peaks of the far north. The hillsides surrounding the Aviatrica cities have been terraced Inca-style, to provide more farmland to grow crops. However, the architecture of the Aviatrica is airier, lighter than Incan cities, more like Rome or Kush; they long ago mastered the arch.
From their mountain cities, the upland Aviatrica began to gradually (re)colonize the lowlands, including forest, desert, coasts, and their ancestral savanna. They still treat these regions as frontiers, though cities in all of these regions are quickly growing. Like Stone Age human beings pushing their way into the ice age lands of Europe, and across the globe, so the Aviatrica have successfully settled in every region of Continent 8, though still concentrated in the highlands. Once again, with the diversity of habitats occupied, the Aviatrica are starting to re-diversify, both as a culture and as a species--though the highlanders might not like to admit it. Their view of Aviatric culture definitely puts themselves at the apex, flanked by the lesser figures of divers, savanners and other backward tribes.
Aviatric myths and legends have always been aware of the far side of Pegasia--the Outer Hemisphere. The rare Aviatrica adventurer must have made it across the ocean to these huge, strange continents, returning with fantastic tales. Today, Aviatrica routinely cross the sea, via the trans-hemispheric flyway discovered by Aviatric pioneers some 300 years ago. From Jumpoff, the city at the southern tip of Continent 8, island chains lead south to Continent 9 and east to Continent 3 and beyond.
Thus, fliers of many species from around the world (and even some nonfliers crewing cargo ships) are mixing and settling in Jumpoff; although it's on the very edge of the Aviatric territory and far from the heartland, these days Jumpoff is the continent's most advanced and interesting city. Rebellious, ambitious chicks in villages all over Continent repeat the mantra "Fledgling, go south!" The lowland frontier has come of age.
The Aviatrica evolved under a full, crowded, and dynamic sky. There was no simple sun/moon dualism as on Earth, lovely and fascinating as that is. Aviatric civilization grew up with the huge, powerful presence of the planet Zeus floating like a monstrous blimp in the western sky, with its colorful bands and circular storms, moving through phases corresponding with (causing?) the weather. Zeus caused a stunning eclipse changing the color of the world every afternoon (and cooling the fierce afternoon heat of the savannas). The large, bronze sun was its own inspiring presence, as was rusty Tharn, with its red Martian uplands and lowlands of gold and green jeweled with small but glittering seas. Smaller but equally fascinating was Galilea, with its lurid, constantly changing surface and naked-eye eruptions. From the far west, in the direction of Zeus, came the spectacular, ghostlike, hauntingly beautiful Aurora Occidentalis. And quite early in the emergence of the Aviatrica civilization, the most ambitious flyers returned from long journeys across the seas to the east with fantastic tales of dark nights filled with thousands of tiny but brilliant stars.
The Aviatrica saw with eagle eyes, through clear mountain air, and with a heightened electromagnetic sense; and as they soared through the sky, the vast world laid out before them, nothing hidden, nothing blocking or limiting their vision. At the core of the Aviatric psyche is the sense of inexpressible awe at the beauty, diversity, and complexity of reality. Early in Aviatric civilization, the belief in the plurality of worlds and of other civilizations living on those worlds moved from imagination and speculation to a nearly-verifiable conclusion. Psycho/spiritually, the Aviatrica achieved the Gaia-hypothesis realization at the dawn of their civilization, not in its gathering dusk, as on Earth.
Aviatrica are both more and less social than humans. They embrace both deep interpersonal connections as well as solitude; though they form families and enjoy spending time in small or large numbers, conversing through the long days and the long nights about their ideas, dreams, feelings, and adventures past and future, bonding intensely with one another, they nearly all regularly retreat to warrens of solitude, from hours to days to weeks at a time.
They are fiercely intelligent and perceptive, but more emotional/intuitive than reasoners. This is likely related to their inborn ability to sense electromagnetic fields; in eons past, when the Aviatrica migrated with the seasons, they used this ability for guidance over long distances. This added sense opens the otherwise highly visual Aviatrica to the unseen. They are empathic toward one another and toward other species; they are lovers of beauty and lovers of art; lovers of mystery; and they have a passion to always want to know and discover what's over the next hill. Wanderlust is intrinsic to their nature.
They are masters of song, often breaking into short, little songs as they speak, and often speaking in a kind of half-sung, half-spoken, amusingly rhyming kind of iambic pentameter. When moved, and that's often, double meanings and puns slip into their song-speech, too. "The courtship dance of words", they call it.
Mainly vegetarians, the Aviatrica grow mostly perennials--tree and bush crops. Their diet has no real equivalent of our grains, and is mostly fruit and nuts; one nut, their equivalent of the soybean, is as rich in protein as meat. Aviatrica will eat a little meat: mainly fish, 'crawdads' (a small amphibious crustacean or large semiaquatic insect that frequents mountain streambanks) and small burrowing mammals like Terran pikas with rabbit ears. The Aviatrica never eat fliers of any kind, or their eggs; that would be sacrilege.
The Aviatrica are natural dancers. They are highly aware of their own bodies, as well as spatially and interpersonally aware, with an almost-psychic ability to sense another's mood or thinking. Two Aviatrica, wheeling midair to greet or exchange news, will improvise a short dance. This happens on the ground too, on city streets--a dance full of hops jiggles and flutters as they dodge carts and try not to knock over passers-by (and often fail). Other species find this compulsion sexy but quite funny--viewed from a safe distance. (The comedy evaporates close up, as seven-foot storkwomen pogo like lunatics until they land on your head.)
Choice of mate is very instinctual, largely based on immediate attraction, though of course with the Aviatrica this includes an enormous amount of psychically-sensed information about the other person. One's electromagnetic field reveals a lot about mood; it's hard to lie to an Avia. On average their relationships typically only last five to seven years, by which time any children from the coupling will be able to thrive with the care of the 'nesting' parent (often the father) and the extended family of relatives and friends in the city who are also raising young, while the other parent (more often but not always female) answers the call to wander on the wing.
In the portrait, note that's not a weapon on her belt, but a small collapsable telescope. From time immemorial, adult Aviatrica have carried a small spyglass when traveling, not just to study lands (and weatherfronts) on distant horizons, but also to study the moons, planets and stars. Navigation? Folk astronomy? Astrology? Weather prediction? Plain curiosity and appreciation of beauty? The Aviatrica don't distinguish these; you need to know where you are and what's around you, in both a practical and spiritual sense.
The Aviatrica are a deeply spiritual people. Their psycho-spiritual belief system was articulated and consolidated in writing nearly 1000 years ago with the appearance of an Aviatrican woman of great wisdom and influence named Thironu, which translates as 'Horizon-seeker.' Her natural abilities to teach and to influence those around her were only amplified by her astonishing red and orange foliage, a very rare genetic mutation, which has only been seen a handful of times in the centuries since. Because of her great compassion toward all living things, she came to be known as the Linlarku or 'the Angel of Mercy,' by which she is mainly referred to now. She lived to an advanced age, and since her death, has been the central figure in Aviatrican religion and spirituality.
An enormous, resplendent temple dedicated to her, with a golden ark containing her red wing feathers, is located in the Aviatrican capitol city, Linnarol. The city rises on the shoulders of Kanwelin Mountain, a peak the Aviatrica consider the Axis Mundi, the center of the world: its birthplace. On this sacred peak, land and sky are believed to meet. In the great tower of the temple of the Angel of Mercy, which is accessible from both a wide, winding, circular staircase, and of course from the air, resides the oracle. This person, typically an Aviatrican of such advanced years she does not often fly anymore, but who has seen much, resides there to give personal guidance and to clarify the teachings of the Angel of Mercy.
Nearly all Aviatrican towns have at least a small temple and oracle of their own, but most Aviatrica make the pilgrimage flight to Linnarol and Kanwelin Temple at least once. The Kanwelin Oracle, if she is long-lived, can thus acquire the curious distinction of having personally interviewed (briefly, perhaps, but at some depth just the same; few pilgrims ask trivial questions) a large fraction of all living Aviatrica!
Another great monument to Thironu is the Linlarku Thana, the Colossus of the Angel of Mercy: a 50-foot tall statue carved from a granite spire atop the peak of Mount Lengeru, a sacred peak nearly 5 km high that's visible along much of northern Continent 8's east coast. The Colossus lifts a long string of pearls in her hand, from around her neck, symbolizing the interconnectedness of all things.
Every midsummer the polychrome of the Colossus is reapplied in a joyful and sometimes raucous mixture of religious rite and aerial dance, leaving many of the participants splotched as red as the plumage of Linlarku. Though playful, even this paintballish game expresses spiritual feelings, voiced in the closing hymn:
The gazetteer will have a full index of native placenames, with descriptions--once the contests's over and we have natives to name them.
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