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Introduction

In an ancient chandelier of starlight–old even by galactic standards–sits a star. And around that star, a world. It is a world not unlike the one you know, emerald and blue, shimmering-wet. She teems with life and aches with the chaos life brings. She nurtures. She devours. Perpetually primeval.

She is Amalthea.

It is not Amalthea’s cosmic position, that makes her a story worth telling. But the beasts who toil and strive sometimes with, sometimes against each other upon her surface, they have given Amalthea a narrative. Consider the Ogboggs. Tens of thousands of years ago, the Ogboggs had only their mighty frames with which to enslave and dominate the other species around them. But, through the sharpening of time, their minds have become the more effective weapon. Empathy has fallen by the wayside in favor of craftiness.

The price is a life of lies and suspicion in exchange for the greatest scientific and technological developments of their world. It is hard to imagine a species which values more the pursuit of power or is so suited to this pursuit. In their city-hives, they have unlocked the secrets of genetics and manufactured murder machines. The inhabitants of Amalthea tremble before them.

Now fly away from the city-hives, away from the billowing, black smoke of the Ogbogg factories, fly away to the wind-swept grasslands of Ungallah where the Styrah dwell. It is a continent of vast plateaus, endless horizons where the Styrah can run, seemingly, forever.

The Styrah

There is much variation among the Styrah–by some counts nearly a hundred different species–but they are, on the whole, elegant creatures. They have an upright gate, outrunning predators on their powerful, hoofed hind legs. This frees up their hands to use tools and weapons, to create art, even to write books. Their tails are long and flexible with small horns used both as counterbalances and as defensive weapons.

The most distinguishing feature of a Styrah is the brow. Each Styrah’s brow is crowned with horn-like ossicones, varying in shape from species to species.

They are tribal, but not strictly; tribes intermingle often especially at CrayCornis. According to legend, the styrah once wandered Ungallah, each tribe separated from the others, alone, vulnerable. The World-Maker took pity and cast down from the heavens a moon, imprinting a crater in the Ungallahan grasslands. Cisterns sprang up in the crater, nourishing the vegetation Styrah feed on. And so the crater became an ideal place of meeting for Styrah. They named it CrayCornis and chose it as the epicenter of styrah culture. By tradition, the Ellandoran, who are widely held as the mightiest among the Styrah, are the guardians of CrayCornis.

It was at CrayCornis where Ma’hah, the young yet accomplished Ellandoran, made his case before the Styrah elders that he should be named the Legion Leader, the highest ranking warrior among all the Styrah. Though Ma’hah and his band of hunters had defeated a troublesome enosh, the Elders refused him saying that it requires more than strength and ambition to lead the legion; it requires strength of moral character.

The Ogboggs and the styrah highlight the diversity prevalent everywhere on Amalthea. They are vastly different creatures not just biologically but morally. Yet both strive to prosper in their world. Both are mighty and intelligent. But the Ogboggs and Styrah are just two examples among innumerable intelligent species subsisting on Amalthea. Even now, individuals among all these species are looking up at the night sky, self-aware, wondering at their own significance in the cosmos. Each has dreams and designs for the world around them. What adventures will they embark on? What bonds will they form or break? What will be the consequences?

Welcome to Amalthea.

The Elemex

“Take pride in the herd and not the self.”
-Connokee’kah Book of Wisdom

Arcturus woke with the first rays of the rising sun. He scratched his chin vigorously with a hind leg, yawned, and climbed out of his nest in the fork of a scrub-tree. His stomach growled; it’s the day of the enosh hunt, he remembered! He’d need to join up with Ma’hah’s band. As an Elemex, he had special talents the styrah could use–in particular his sense of smell.

An enosh had been devastating the countryside for days, smashing isopteran mounds to get at the tasty little bugs inside. When this happens, isopterans swarm all over their broken mounds, sending out alarm pheromones. Styrah can’t smell isopteran pheromones (much less follow them to their source) but a elemex can; that’s how Arcturus would help Ma’hah locate the enosh. And, of course, along the way, Archturus would slurp up as much of the little isopterans as his stomach could hold. His mouth got wet at the thought. He shook his shaggy coat, heaved himself to his four powerful legs and trotted off to meet Ma’hah

He lumbered up a rocky butte to survey the surrounding flatland, his nose twitching against his broad, flat muzzle, searching the air. Two Elemex approaching, his nose told him. Probably the brothers Ferstus and Pilurus–they always traveled together. He hesitated.

What do they want this time?

The Styrah who educated Arcturus as a cub taught him there was more to life than following the base impulses located in your stomach and loins. But Ferstus and Pilurus did not have the benefit of a styrah eductation; their stomachs and loins were all they ever thought about. He pushed on down into the plain hoping to avoid them.

“And where are you going today?” called Ferstus, picking up his pace to intercept Arcturus. “Any interesting scents you’d care to share with us?”

“Anything tasty?” growled Pilurus, circling behind. “We’d be more than happy to travel along and help you out.”

Right, thought Arcturus, then turn against me so you can take it all for yourselves.

“Nothing interesting. Just two stinky elemex.” Quipped Arcturus without slowing.

“No need to be nasty, cousin.” Said Ferstus. “We’re all elemex here. Let us in on it.”

“I’m going to see what the Styrah are up to. Nothing you’d be interested in.”

The brother’s persisted.

“Styrah, styrah, styrah,” Ferstus grunted. “The way you hang around those cud-chewers, maybe you’re not a real elemex. You’re an orphan, after all, raised by those–what do you call them–Connokee’kah Styrahs. Most bizarre beasts I ever saw.”

“Yeah, he even looks like a styrah. You’re no proper elemex, Arcturus. You’re just a cud-chewer.”

“I am as much an elemex as the both of you put together!” growled Arcturus. He spun to face his antagonists, his back mane and chin ruffs bristling and his claws digging into the dirt.

“Let’s prove it then.” Pilurus snarled back. “I could do with a bit of a fight to get my blood going, how about you, Ferstus?”

He sidestepped to Arcturus’ flank.

“Indeed,” replied his brother, taking the other side.

Arcturus felt a rumble in his throat. His eyes went from Ferstus to Pilurus, back and forth, while his mind played through the impending fight in as many ways as he could imagine.

It would be a rough one, he thought. I’d be lucky to walk away. The Connokee’kah say loyalty is more important than pride and I promised Ma’hah I would help with the hunt.

“Another time,” Arcturus found himself roaring.

He turned and galloped off.

“Coward, calf-raised cud-chewer!” Jeered the brothers.

I’m no coward, Arcturus told himself as he ran. I owe the styrah my life. And for them, I’d face a hundred Enosh… Two scruffy elemex will have to wait.

The Teezorrs

“Never stand between a Teezorr and her eggs… especially if she might consider you a meal.” -Styrah Saying

The two Teezorrs were hungry. Tafarr, a golden male with magenta head feathers, led the way. They padded over one of the rocky buttes scattered across the endless grasslands of Ungallah. It had been several days since they’d last eaten, the day of their mating. Tafarr glanced at his mate, Nadarra, her ink-black coat with even darker rosette spots, her sapphire blue feathers. She was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. And now she had his cubs within her. It was important that she eat. Their eyes met. She gazed at him with the contentment of motherhood. Today, she would let him lead the hunt. Gnashing his beak and touching his long sinuous tail to her prominent shoulder-blades, he nudged her along, his keen eyesight scanning the horizon. Perhaps he might spy a lonely Styrah, and if it were young or wounded, so much the better. His kind did not run prey down, oh no, the styrah were too swift for that anyway. Rather, he’d use the art of stealth and surprise, stalking unseen until very close, close enough for a forceful leap, gliding on outstretched feather wings. Then, a snap-crunch to the back of the neck from his powerful beak. He could feel this, he could taste this. But, the Styrah must have been grazing elsewhere this morning, perhaps drinking from the springs.

For several more hours, they padded along, leaping up crags here and there, always vigilant, always looking to the horizon.

Tafarr’s vigilance paid off; something caught his eye – avimurids circling in the distant sky. A good sign. Those furry, flying scavengers would be circling food, either dead or dying. He and Nadarra were not choosy, not if the survival of their cubs was at stake.

The two Teezorrs approached the carcass. A Styrah. Not much left, mostly just the skeleton. But there would at least be marrow in the bones.

Tafarr could almost feel the styrah’s bones in his beak when a piercing screech rent the air.

“Mine, mine! Go away, I fight!”

A young golden male Teezorr leaped from the cover he had taken at the pair’s approach, his magenta feathers outspread with aggression, his beak sharp with youth.

But Tafarr and Nadarra were ready.

“Ours, ours! You go!” they screamed back, and flung themselves at him, their curved claws no longer retracted behind velvety paws.

The young male was outweighed and outnumbered. There was no choice but to retreat. He leapt away, spitting and snarling.

Tafarr and Nadarra settled down to crunch the marrow from the bones. But they were still hungry.

To Be Continued…