Ashainmi, a plains-dwelling female Welphie, next to her traveling companion, a male Ské (scaled) Kiforn named Niang.
Plural and Adjective~ Welphies / welphs — welphan
Home World~ Thaizi
Height~ When height is mentioned, it's almost always measured from the middle shoulder while standing as a quadruped or on all sixes. That said, welphs are 2.5' to 4' tall; when standing as a 'taur, their height (head-level) is 5' to 8'. On those rare occasions when they rear up to stand on their hind legs, their height at head-level ranges from 8.5' to 12'.
Coloration~ Welphies, for the most part, are colored according to where they live, though some travel and thus mix colors and fur textures. Mountain-loving welphs tend to be dark colors, like black, brown, and dark reds; plains welphs tend to be light browns, medium to light greys, goldens, and whites; desert welphs tend to be golden, light browns, white, reddish, or orange-ish; those welphs in northern evergreen forests tend to be brown or black, occasionally with white or silvery/grey if they're far enough north; and welphs in tropical jungles tend to be reddish, medium brown, or black. While Welphies can be one solid color, they're more often shaded or flecked (like Earth's wolves) with two or three different colors; the only actual markings that welphs can have (aside from socks and the like) are large, blurry-edged patches and occasionally streaks of color on their faces/muzzles. Welphie eyes have a large range of colors, from blue to red to green to purple to gold and silver and brown… while their claws are metallic in hue (often black or white, but can be silvery or gold).
Temperament~ Welphies are overwhelmingly pacifists, and that's perhaps their defining quality. [See Pacifism and Ambassadors for extrapolation on this concept.] They're very social, family-oriented creatures that are extremely devoted to their chosen mate and any and all pups they have, as well as more distant relatives such as cousins, aunts/uncles, and etc. [See Family Life.] While Welphies as a race have achieved space flight, only about 10% of the population lives in contact with any level of technology that includes electricity. [See Technology and Clans vs. Cities.] Welphs overall prefer a simple life of hunting, farming, fishing, and gathering — they enjoy simple pleasures, art included, and are very tactile creatures with no regard to personal space. Most welphs are curious and will question just about everything, 'tradition' included, and with the exception of songs and other forms of art or toys, they won't keep anything that has no practical use or no effect. Welphies aren't overly vain creatures, though they have a natural (but modest) pride in themselves, their appearance and abilities, and their clan/city and race. Most welphs are very perceptive, due to their keen senses and their general closeness to other welphs, and they're also quite canny creatures. They don't fight unless literally attacked, though some call themselves warriors for their physical prowess. They generally view Alubens and Kiforn as kindred — it was Welphies who coined the term 'Thaizi's Children', referring to the three sentient races of their homeworld. In keeping with this friendly-towards-nonwelphs attitude, they generally like offworlders and, while they don't exactly welcome them into their clans, are quite happy to travel in Olashi or other aliens' faster, more deadly spaceships to other worlds. Welphies have a particularly close bond with Alubens.
Physical Description~ Welphies, as seen in the picture above, are six-legged lupines that most often move around on their hind four legs, rearing up to use their foremost pair as arms; however, they can also go on all sixes easily, as their limbs are nearly equal in length (but, unless climbing, they rarely do so), and they can rear up for short periods of time to stand on their hindmost legs (but they can't walk very easily on just two legs, as their tail is little help in balancing their top-heavy body). Welphies are quite wolfish in appearance, with a canine muzzle, long but fairly lupine ears, and basic build; their upper torsos resemble that of a human man's, but their rib cages are a bit deeper, almost a cross between human and wolf. Their arms are humanoid, but their wrists are far more flexible than ours, making going on all sixes painless and easy; their hands are humanoid as well, but with slender, retractable claws and are furred very sleekly and thinly. Their lower torsos are very wolfish with a deep chest and a spine with cat-like flexibility which extends into a long, bushy tail that's almost prehensile in its mobility. Their medial legs, which they refer to as their forelegs, are wolfish in shape with feline flexibility; their forepaws are wolfish, but the four toes are elongated, nimble, and tipped in retractable, curving claws. Their hindlegs are muscular, slightly longer than their other four legs, and cat-like in power but, again, wolfish in shape; their hindpaws are broad, feline in shape, and tipped in long but blunt unretractable claws. Welphie fur is generally medium in length, coarse, and rather wolfish and shaggy, but this varies with climate — welphs in hotter areas have sleeker, glossy, short pelts, while those in arctic places have long, silky, dense fur. Their senses are fairly good: eyesight is a little better than a human's with good night vision, hearing is simply superb, and their sense of smell is better than a wolf's, able to track aged scents and even deduce another welph's current emotion from the minute smells of hormones. Welphies are exceedingly tough little beasts and shockingly strong for their compact, almost small frames; they can run (on four legs) up to 60 mph for an hour or so, but with their endurance, they can hold anything under 40 mph for hours on end. They have cat-like flexibility and agility and are notoriously difficult to break, tear, or otherwise injure by falling or other natural accidents. They're excellent climbers, due to having sharp claws on four out of six paws, and can navigate almost any terrain; they're also good swimmers.
Genders~ Welphies are a tri-gendered species — that is, they have three different genders. The first two are exactly the same as those found on most Earth species — male and female. The third, however, is hermaphrodite — welphs refer to these individuals as double-gendered, as they have both male and female mindsets and sexual organs and can reproduce within themselves, rather than having to find a mate and breed. Those of this third gender can fluctuate between masculine and feminine mindsets or find a healthy balance of both; the appropriate hormones and glandular secretions accompany these mental switches.
Double-gendered individuals are very valued in welphan society, both because of their rarity and because they, alone, have the ability to continue the race. While they're considered equals to males and females, doubles are usually honored and respected as default; no welph of any gender will ever outwardly show dislike for or insult a double. Doubles, due to their mateless nature, seem to be part of every family in their clan and are generically well-loved, not to mention valued for their sheer presence and the diversity that they bring to a community.
While Welphies have a language which embraces three genders and proper terms, pronouns, and titles for them, I have no urge to use 'govem' as a male/female additive and risk confusing my reader. I've developed some English-based words/terms/pronouns to use. Most importantly, in my mind, are the third-person pronouns: he/she becomes hse (pronounced see), him/her becomes hem (heem), and his/hers becomes hes (hez). [Example: Hse is member of this clan; they value hem as a teacher for young pups, hes own included.] Rather than come up with a word for mother/father (mather? think not), I just use 'parent' and refrained from using parent to describe a female or male parent; likewise, I use sibling and restricted its use to double-gendered welphs only. And lastly, in the class of male/female, I've just adopted 'double' (as I've been told shemale is offensive to some).
Family Life~ Welphies, as I've previously mentioned, are very strongly family creatures — however, with a third gender that does not find a mate and 'marry', family life is often a little complex. For non-doubles, life is a bit simpler: once he/she is about ten years (having been an adult for two years), he/she can choose a lifelong mate. Naturally, a strong relationship might have popped up when the welph was younger, thus making the choosing time a lot shorter; welphs have a reasonably short period of courtship, as they grow up knowing everyone in their clan on a first-name basis, so to speak. For two welphs to become mates, three conditions must be met: first, the age (they both must be older than ten and within ten years of each other's ages); second, they must have a good relationship and be willing to accept the 'consequences' of having, raising, and providing for pups; third, they must live in the same home for one year before the ceremony of mateship. Said ceremony is the equivalent of marriage to humans: it's a public, strangers-welcome event that the entire clan attends. Once official mates, the two stay in the same home and consider themselves part of the other's family.
Double-gendered welphs have a different time of things. As they have absolutely no genitalia, they reproduce within themselves, and thus have no need for a mate. Most doubles live alone or with another mated pair, enjoying the familial atmosphere while still complete unto themselves; in fact, a double will often seem like a member of every family with hes clan. Doubles have cycles of reproduction which occur, starting when hse's around ten years of age, every ten years; if certain conditions are met around and within hes body, then hes reproductive system will fertilize eggs in hemself and hse will become pregnant. These conditions are as follows: the welph must be healthy (not sick, nor in any danger of becoming so, nor recovering from an illness or wound), safe (expressed by the lack of large amounts of adrenaline and other stress hormones in the body for the last few weeks), and well-nourished (well-fed, supplied with plenty of water, etc).
Females and doubles have gestation periods of five and a half months, during which they'll need to avoid excess exercise, eat plenty of a variety of foods, and drink lots of water and other natural fluids. After this time period, they'll give birth to a litter, which consists of anywhere from two to five puppies, in the safety of their own home, surrounded by family (and, if female, her mate). The pups can be weaned within four months; however, most mothers/doubles prefer nursing at least for another four months, as welphan milk is extremely rich in nutrients and will help the pups develop healthily and swiftly. With the sole exception of nursing, raising the pups is shared equally between mates or shouldered entirely by the double; close family also tends to help raise the pups, resulting in a well-adjusted, extremely social youngling. Sibling rivalry is much lower among welphs than it is among humans, mostly because the involvement of so many welphs in the pups' lives makes them realize their own worth and not exactly long for yet more attention. Pups are adults when they turn eight, but usually stay with their parent/mother and father for at least a few more years, and sometimes for far longer.
Aging~ Welphies, while grown in eight years and able to live up to ninety years, age at a different rate than we humans do. It's easiest to just show you, so here's a table:
Pacifism and Ambassadors~ Welphs, as I mentioned in Temperament, are pacifists first and foremost. They are gentle creatures who value a life above all else; while they're not afraid to die for their loved ones, they will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their family and, in fact, any welph… and, in fact, any of Thaizi's Children. This respect and honor towards life and every living being means that they're far from aggressive — while some welphs might be eager to start a debate or even a physical tussle, it's simply unheard-of for one to actually kill a sentient being in a non-kill-or-be-killed situation. Due to this pacifistic outlook, Welphies have developed the concept of ambassadors — welphs who will travel between clans or between species to ensure good relations and all-around contentment. While a common joke roughly translates into English as, "Welphie ambassadors are a dime a dozen," these ambassadors are what keep Thaizi a peaceful place; however, few non-ambassadors realize this and those who do tend to be annoyed at everyone else's negligence and lack of esteem for ambassadors, as ambassadorship is considered a mediocre profession at best, though still a necessary one. Ambassadors between clans or cities tend to be the most eloquent and perceptive welphs around; they can read another welph's expression, body language, and tone of voice to judge with almost alarming accuracy their state of mind, their mood, and even their thoughts. Ambassadors toward Kiforn or Alubens, however, are given the task of learning that race's native tongue, behavior, culture, physical abilities, and everything else that might be useful in order to better work with them; while Welphies can speak the Aluben tongue with little problem, they simply learn the Kiforn language but cannot speak it, as their tongues aren't forked. Welphie ambassadors are the sole reason that Kiforn ever bothered learning the other races' languages (those who do so are thought of as linguists or translators, rather than actual ambassadors), and they're also the main reason that Kiforn and Alubens have such good racial relationships. Through welphan efforts, Thaizi's Children can meet in the wild -even at a touchy place like a territorial boundary or crossroads- and not fear attack. Even though the tension between Kiforn and Aluben, two powerful predators, is a bit higher than between Welphies and either race, the likelihood of hostilities or actual violence erupting is low. Even ambassadors towards aliens are highly-valued (most are toward Olashi, the race with which they have the most contact, due to Thaizi being near the Olashi home system) and quite skilled.
Clans vs. Cities~ Nearly all Welphies live in either clans or cities; less than 1% of the population are loners, while about 8% live in cities and the rest in clans. Clans are more like towns than packs; they consist of familial homes, some communal buildings, and a set territory which includes the area around the clan as well, as those lands are frequented by the welphs. Cities, on the other hand, are the only places on Thaizi that have electricity and higher-level technology like computers; a few cities also act as spaceports. Clans have technology like rudimentary plumbing that requires no electricity, but otherwise utilize natural light, torches, and etc to live. Clan members are very communal and know each other extremely well, considering that there can be up to 5,000 welphs in a clan with sufficient resources. Cities, on the other hand, can hold up to 25,000 welphs in the immediate vicinity, with more living nearby in clan-like (but technological) suburbs. Oddly enough, Welphies are unruffled by their society being striated into these two extremes. Clan welphs respect those in cities for their drive to discover and learn more; city welphs respect those in clans for treasuring family values and appreciating the simpler things in life. This mutual respect strengthens the racial unity of Welphies in general, earning them the respect of offworlders who land to trade or as ambassadors.
Technology~ Welphies have two levels of technology — clan-level and city-level. Clan-level technology is simple: much like ancient Romans, they have excellent (if modest) architecture, rudimentary plumbing, beautiful gardens/farms/orchards/etc, established streets (occasionally cobblestone; usually dirt), paths through the wilderness, and general skill with basic tools. The main separation between clan-level and city-level tech is the presence or absence of electricity — clans don't have it and cities do. Cities that don't act as spaceports rather resemble Earth's cities: they have electricity, computers, hovercars, larger buildings, paved streets, a good communication network, and an open, huge information database that functions like the internet (only it has valid data ^_^). There are only a handful of Welphie spaceport cities and they don't tend to have many residents, only workers, scientists, and ambassadors a-plenty to meet and greet the aliens who frequent that 'port. Welphies have developed their own spaceflight, more advanced than we humans have managed, but a far cry from other alien races'; their spaceships, mostly unarmed (except with electric shields and small lasers to take care of incoming asteroids and space debris), are designed with the sole purpose of exploration and are more related to airliners than fighter jets. Several Welphie ambassadors have been offered places as honored crewmembers of other alien ships, most notably Olashi, and a good many of those have taken the offer and relayed what they learn -both of other worlds and their alien compatriots- back to Thaizi. Despite all this, Alubens and Kiforn usually consider Welphies to be low-tech creatures like themselves, except for those who live near the cities; most welphs agree.