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RP Nestled Beneath a Sky Full of Rings


Wiki-chan! Ganbatte yo!
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RP Date
It could be almost any time before mid-YE45
RP Location
A forest moon around a gas giant, far away from the Kikyō Sector
Sometime long, long ago, or not, far, far core-ward from the Kikyō Sector.

The swirled, tempestuous gas giant loomed large in the sky of the forested moon, acting as a second sun whose reflected light behind the majestic rings that dominated the heavens made them scintillate in glorious iridescent spectra against the depth of its backdrop, and the sibling moons, dead and lifeless by comparison, danced from horizon to horizon. Even the stars, with no lights on the ground as competing pollution in the depths of the moon's short night, paled in comparison to the grand spectacle.

That wizened old gas giant, skirting the edge of the snow line of a late-middle-aged, undistinguished orange star at the base of a spiral arm, just outside the galaxy's core, had a crushing gravity well that warped and flexed the mantle of the moon, heating it up so volcanoes burst and water ice below the cracked and shattered crust melted and spewed forth as geothermal springs, pools, and geysers flowing through the bottoms of the ravines formed with the rock itself rent. And freshwater too, cool freshwater springs that met the hot mineral waters to form brackish rivers that in turn spilled into the low places to form the great salt lakes that were the oceans of this world without oceans.

And so the moon, whose titanic parent's eccentricity kept it one third of the year in the star's habitable zone, but two thirds of the year outside it, the one whose great gravity protected it from impacts and whose intense magnetic field shielded the moon's atmosphere from being stripped by the solar wind, began to awake. Those mineral springs brought a dizzying array of chemicals up from the depths, as did the gases spewed by the volcanoes. The dust and ice of the rings fell on the face of the churning tectonic world bursting with heat in protest of the smothering gravity of its gas giant, and from that primordial soup, something arose. No one knows what happened next but it wasn't long, at least not in the cosmic sense of the word, that the moon was covered in enormous trees, everywhere there wasn't water or bare rock, taking hold in the nourishing volcanic ash. The protected atmosphere was very dense, despite the moon's lesser somewhat lesser gravity than a full-sized planet, and very humid. There were things that might be, for convenience, called algae, and lichens, and mosses, fungi– there were things that might be thought of as mollusks and crustaceans and insects and before too long, in the cosmic sense of the word, there were things like fish and reptiles and even birds and mammals. Not exactly of course, but nature very often rhymes when the environment has the same beat. Not always, though, as the chaotic, alien mess of life on the by all rights downright Earth-like second planet of the system would remind one. But in the case of the forest moon, it didn't just rhyme, it harmonized.

And, where life competes to test its mettle against life, eventually, something special may happen. One of those quasi-mammals, its semi-arboreal, highly-social, omnivorous-foraging-frugivore ways, along with a brain fattened on the bounty of roots, shoots, leaves, fruits, berries, fish, mollusks, and crustaceans available in the forests and the brackish rivers and hot springs, did exactly what it did on Earth, and on countless other worlds in the countless galaxies of the unimaginably vast Universe– it realized "I am." Then it realized, "I can."

These creatures, let's call them the "Arborursa," though they have no such name for themselves, because of their bear-meets-lemur appearance and behavior, are not as quite as advanced, cognitively, emotionally, or socially, as humans, or Kodians, or Shukaren, or Separa'Shan, but the limits of their protosapient minds haven't stopped them from forming a rich protosociety full of simple protorituals, and developing a protolanguage of vocalizations, body language, and gestures, or rhythmic protomusic. They cannot express symbolic or abstract concepts in this almost-a-language, and indeed they can only just barely think about them at all, but they still can pass on sophisticated skills and learning through demonstration and mimicry along with their nearly-speech. Simple tools, such as sharpened sticks for spears, and polished choppers, scrapers, and pounders, woven reeds, grasses, and cane for baskets, and hollowed shells or wood for containers are within their grasp, they don't know fire or metal, and the heat of the hot springs has taken its job of heat for warmth and cooking. They don't have agriculture, or domestication, or even an actual hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The arborusa's short, stocky, muscular bodies, covered in soft fur, compact and round-bellied, with long, flexible limbs, ended in long, dextrous, prehensile fingers on both hands and feet, themselves ending in broad, robust, retractable claws are perfect for burrowing and climbing both. Their round faces have short, bearlike snouts, with large, forward facing eyes, and mobile ears that can move for sound, and are capable of displaying wide variety and great depth of emotion. They're usually bipedal, but can drop to all fours for speed or stability, and their long, lemurlike tails are prehensile.

One particular troop of Arborursa, was about to have something extraordinary and unprecedented happen in their territory. But for now, the narrow ravine with its steep walls, and the titanic trees rising from the fertile volcanic ash and mineral-rich clay of the soil on the banks of the brackish stream beneath, its walls shot with the lava tubes they called home, had plenty of food of all kinds, and an abundance of fresh and hot springs, the latter in a useful variety of mineral and chemical characteristics they took full advantage of. For now, life for this troop was good.

In an Arborursa troop, the alpha pair, always carrying the stout clubs that were their hallmark, took the responsibility of educating and protecting the young, while the subordinate adults foraged under the alphas' direction for food and materials. And, one day, feeling the weight of their age, the alpha pair would step aside after choosing worthy successors from among their hand-mentored protégés. That day is also not quite upon the troop either, but it draws ever near. Today, however, began as any usually would. One of the alphas banged their club in rhythm on a hollow log placed at the mouth of a shallow cave near the top of the ravine. This natural amplifier made it boom out across the quiet forest morning. The tribe was being called together to start the day, and the oldest of the young mentees of the alphas were expected to be front and center.

The dirt was invisible, covered by the most dense canopy of shrubbish undergrowth. Desaturated blue-grey in the morning mists, the dawn still appearing like midnight below the overwhelming mass of tall imposing trees. White butterflies scattered in bunched clouds, lazily floating on humid air protected from harsh breeze or storm.

He had no real name, the thing that held the black gnarled root, but this tool was his symbol.

The lumbering animal gazed, brown eyes peering for mushrooms. Flaring nostrils tasting the air. Deep grey fur flexed with their patient breath, alabaster paws feeling the warm moisture below.

Triangular ears flexed and rotated backwards, finding the source of the distant wooden thudding sound... the big ones where calling... the smart ones...

How long had he been with them? Couldn't remember. Absorbed from another group, but couldn't remember.

Gnarl root used his makeshift mallet to mash a large amber beetle, and then eat it. Tasted bad.

Put his root in his teeth. Made his way back towards the nest on all fours, towards this new concept of a 'home'.

Dragged the leaves and sticks with him, into the fur.

Into the gloom of the overhang...

Then the butterflies came back, the silent mists settled. As if he had never been there.
A claw ripped away at a chunk of exposed bark, exposing the fat grubs beneath. They were scooped up and piled into the waiting mouth of the youth.

Thick, muscled arms. Scars from a dozen battles against the tribe's most vicious foes. A powerful body, far more stout than the average member of the group he belonged to. The white "V" across his chest, the only marking beside his scars that broke the continuous dark fur across his body.

As grub juice and saliva combined, congealed, and rolled down the outside of his mouth, his thoughts were those of satisfaction with his impressive capabilities and achievements. It had taken some work to bully some of the younger generation into accepting his greatness, of course, but power wasn't always recognized.

It didn't particularly matter to him that his scars came from any number of juvenile mishaps, such as falling down a hill and getting scraped up by every branch on the way to the bottom. Nor that the 'vicious foes' he had defeated were anything but. His powerful physique was less "imposing" and more "rotund". This level of awareness was simply not something his mind could grasp, and so he had become something of an inept bully built upon false glories.

The call of the elders reached him, then, and he was certain that, this time, they would finally acknowledge his greatness. Perhaps today they would name him the new alpha? It wasn't the first time he'd had this expectation and would surely not be the last.

He struggled to right himself. If this had been a zoo, it would have been an adorable sight. Alone, he raged against the unknown forces that held him to the ground. He got into a steady side-to-side rhythm as a byproduct of his flailing and made it to all fours, then onto his hindlegs with further effort. Standing there triumphant with juice running down his face and onto his chest, he was sure that he looked every bit as impressive as any of the tribe's most experienced defenders.

Back to the tribe he went, fighting the evils of the forest - the low branches, the too-tall logs, and the temptations of the bounty within the trees and under the rocks.
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