Chupadores (Homo chupadorae, or "chupas" for short) are bipedal mammals (with some reptilian features) that inhabit the alien ring-world of Sirca. They are a sentient race with developed cities, a common spoken and written language, a structured system of government, organized religion, and technology advanced enough to traverse outer space, although exploration of other worlds is limited to their own solar system.
Chupas sport a wide variety of hair, fur and body types, which are documented in a variety of breeds. In general, two major body types are recognized: shia (shi'a) and fila (fi'la). Of the two types, shia chupas are short-statured, standing between 5'-6'. They're identified by their long legs, short feet, small neck and upright posture. Conversely, fila chupas are known for their shorter legs, longer feet, broad neck and slightly stooping posture. When standing upright, filas can reach over 7' in height. Both types walk on their toes, utilizing their long tails for balance, although fila chupas are adept at running on all fours, while shias are better sprinters on two legs. Filas are generally regarded as the faster, stronger and hardier of the two types, whereas shias are more crafty and intelligent (although it's considered rude to compare intellect on that basis.) Deviations among the two body types are due to inter-breeding, which is gradually rendering the distinction obsolete. It's partly for this reason that racial tension between chupas in modern times is drawn from color rather than breed.
Chupa fur appears in a wide range of colors, from bright yellow, red, green and blue to brown and grey. The pelt is a solid color from birth, although adolescents may develop spots, stripes or other dark patterns that fade as they mature. Chupas also grow a mane of hair on top of their heads, and a matching tuft on the tips of their tails. Like their fur, the color of this hair varies wildly from individual to individual, and does not necessarily match the color of the fur. The fur of elderly chupas grows long to match the length of their manes, giving them a "shaggy" appearance.
Males are taller and more muscular than females, whose wider hips and higher percentage of body fat facilitate child-bearing (much of a female's fat is stored in her tail.) Early chupa societies practiced a polygamous mating system, while its modern one tends towards monogamy (frequent exceptions prove the flexibility of chupa sexual behavior.) An adult female's fertility can fluctuate from one estrous cycle to the next and they do not overtly menstruate, yet they can be sexually active at any time, right into old age. Sexually mature males, on the other hand, experience rutting "seasons" up to three times per year, the timing of which is dependent on the individual rather than shifts in climate, since the chupa world has no seasonal weather cycle. The ruff is the ridge of long, stiff, brightly-colored hair that grows down the base of the spine and top of the tail on males when they're in season. Being "in the ruff" also refers to this condition, which lasts from two to three weeks.
Chupas are born in litters of two or three, after a gestation period of six months. They are born with hair and blunt claws on their fingers and toes, yet their eyes don't open for the first tweleve days. Spots or stripes may start to develop after six weeks, and not fade until the onset of puberty, sometime between the age of 8-12 years in females and 10-14 years in males. A chupa's lifespan is roughly one third of a human's, although since years on Sirca are measured to only half of Earth's years, an elderly chupa of seventy years would only be in his thirties on Earth.
The central governing body is the House of Omega, an organization of priests who obtain divine guidance from their deity, Lord Omega. Omega's word is regarded as the highest law, while priests carry out his bidding in temples and offices across the land. The House of Omega is seated in the capital city of Omegrad, while the immortal Lord Omega resides in his citadel in Kaprime. The Circle of High Priests convene in Omegrad to interpret Omega's law and issue ordinances to the common people that are enforced by the police and military. On top of preaching Omega's word to the people, Omegite priests serve many public functions, from arbitration to tax collection. Civil disputes or other calls for justice are brought before priests for a swift and undisputed trial, often with sentences (up to and including capital punishment) carried out the same day.
The law of the land can be reduced to a code under which the penalties for crimes are either imprisonment or amputation:
Chupas speak a single common language, known simply as "common," and possess a common alphabet for written correspondence. The standard currency of Sirca is "bucks," minted nickel coins that bear Omega's sigil on one side. Books and records are kept in schools and libraries for public access and education, although historical documents dated more than 500 years (or in reference to factual events more than 1,200 years ago) are withheld from public access by the central government. For this reason much of a chupa's knowledge of history comes from oral lore, passed from elders to children.
Apart from agriculture, most industries in chupa civilization are centered around warfare, with the majority of scientific research conducted and controlled by the military. Many of the world's tools, buildings and vehicles (including ships capable of low-orbit flight) were developed with military applications in mind.
Some devices and structures in the world were not created by chupas at all, but rather left behind by inhabitants of the ring prior to the holy wars that destroyed all records of their existence. These former inhabitants are only known as Predecessors, and it is speculative whether these people were ancestors to the modern chupa or another race entirely. There's also some debate between scholars and theologians over who (or what) originally built the many mysterious, ancient structures dotting the ring-world. Omegites say Lord Omega raised them from the earth as monuments to the fallen, while archaeologists wonder if their construction pre-dates even Predecessors.
At any rate, chupas hold a special place of reverence for their ancestors and the Precedessors. Family shrines and ancient ruins are places of quiet retreat and meditation, and they are tended by a sisterhood of shrine maidens. These maidens come from all kinds of families, yet during a holy war the majority of them are orphans, their parents slain in battle. Maidens are valued as mediums and credited with the power to banish evil and grant good luck to visitors of their shrine. A maiden is bound to her shrine by a vow of chastity that makes them "spiritually pure" enough to communicate with spirits that haunt the grounds. The vow also provides for the only way to officially leave the Maiden Sisterhood: once a maiden finds a mate, they are dismissed from their shrine. This is generally considered more lenient than Omegite sects, where clergy are bound to serve for life, and desertion is punished by death. Although they are not members of the House, shrine maidens are considered clergy for taxation purposes, since they provide shelter to travellers and soldiers, maintain the surrounding burial grounds, and facilitate prayer to passed-on spirits. These spirits are ones who did not fall into disgrace during their lives and were rewarded upon death by existing in a state of paradise, able to watch over their families and loved ones. Those who do not achieve honor with Omega or their families upon death are reincarnated as lesser beings, to live again to try to regain Omega's favor.
The ultimate way to achieve honor is to die on the battlefield, although for those unwilling or unable to join the military, there are alternative forms of worship. Congregations are held weekly in temples, where believers swear to Omega's Creed while Omegites preach on the law and tell stories from wars past and present, glorifying the savage details of battle while denouncing cowardice and promoting brotherhood-in-arms. Non-clergy civilians are required to wear no special garb, although it is customary to wear black or brown to services and temples. Pious families pray together daily, once before breaking fast and then once before the last meal of the day. There is no standard recitation for these occassions, although it is common to open prayer with, "In the name of the Precedessors," and close with, "Omega preserve us."
Another option for those who do not wish to fight is to swear an oath to the priesthood (this is called "taking Omega's mantle" or just "taking the robe.") As a priest, a chupa would forfeit all his possessions, titles and family ties, and live in servitude (and celibacy) under the House.
A follower of Omega swears to a common Creed: That Omega is the one true, eternal god and king of the ring, and that those who serve Omega and deny any other supreme authority will be honored in life and revered in death. It is believed that Lord Omega preceeded the chupa race, and was the one to preserve them from the terrible (yet unspecified) fate that wiped out the Predecessors. Some radical believers even claim that Omega himself destroyed the Predecessors in a feat of wrath for not swearing to the Creed. There is no allowance in the Creed for a omnipotent Creator, nor for an origin of the ring and its inhabitants outside the natural laws of science, yet chupa folklore allows for paranormal entities such as spirits and ghosts.
Chupa society is a militant one, marked by a succession of holy wars sanctioned by the House of Omega. In such wars, two opposing armies are drafted from the population and organized into Red and Blue, according to a chupa's birth-color. The armies are allowed to choose their mascot and flag design (as of the present holy war, the red army's mascot is the cobra, and the blue army's is the falcon) and then are each assigned a capital city. The objective of the holy war is to capture the opposing army's capital base. The victorious general will be bestowed a seat of honor in the House of Omega, and his army assured control of all the ring's territories, until the next holy war is declared (and then only by Lord Omega himself.)
Soldiers for a holy war are collected from every city of the ring. Many city-states make enlistment compulsory for males upon either completion of schooling or reaching an age of fifteen, while for females it is voluntary. Other cities hold a draft by lottery under the same criteria. There are also conscripts, which are convicted criminals allowed to serve in the army as a form of parole.
Although it is considered a sacred calling to fight--and die--in a holy war, these often escalate into bloody and devastating affairs, leaving countrysides ravaged, families without children and cities in ruins. Omega's Circle of High Priests eventually put a stop to needless slayings (and the impending destruction of the ring) by drafting the High Law of Conflict, which states:
• Red and Blue armies will compete for territories by capturing the flags of their opponent’s bases. Each territory houses a flag that is safeguarded at a central base, and whichever army claims it may submit that claim to the House of Omega for control of the whole territory.
Despite these lawful safeguards, many civilians consider it a blessing that holy wars are only declared every few hundred years.
Other paramilitary groups on Sirca are:
The Sircan Special Forces are a privately-owned task force that provide civilian groups highly-trained bodyguards and security. Their services range from the exotic to the (very) expensive. SSF operatives are trained in a variety of weapon sets, martial arts and "focus arts," the latter-most a technique unique to the organization. Their business model is permitted under the laws of the House of Omega, so long as the SSF does not interfere with holy wars or other functions of the House.
A map of Sirca (click to enlarge)
Chupas occupy the inner-land-surface of their ring-world, Sirca, which lies in orbit around a giant gaseous planet, Nerom, in a solar system with no other (known) inhabitable natural bodies. A standard year on Sirca is measured by the time it takes the ring-world to revolve around Nerom, while a solar year is the length of time it takes for Nerom to revolve around the system's sun.
Chupa populations are centered around a dozen city-states and their territories:
The name of the ring-world comes from an old legend about Sirca, a giant black she-cat who devoured a falling star. From this star Sirca conceived and gave birth to a litter of chupas, the first in the world.
The House of Omega perverts this legend a bit, saying that Omega came riding into the world on that falling star, and that the chupa race was conceived when Omega coupled with Sirca. In many older churches there are murals depicting both versions of the legend, with Omega's sigil drawn on the body of a comet that's being swallowed by the mother-cat.
The mythical city of Pretora was created around the dawn of chupa civilization. It was known as a bastion of knowledge, technology and (depending on the legend) magical power, and is spoken of reverently in chupa lore, since some versions of the myth connect the city to Predecessors.
Among its many amazing attributes, it is said that Pretora's city was built upon a mountain that floated in the sky. It also bred warriors of supreme skill, whose exploits became the basis of many legends.
One popular legend speaks about a Pretoran prince named Namis, who traveled across the world and performed fantastic feats of strength and heroism (illustrated versions of these tales depict Namis with wings, suggesting a pegasi lineage.) Namis had one great nemesis in a werewolf she-demon named Krainen, and stories of the battles between the two are woven into old prophecies about the end of the world (most of these prophecies are considered apocryphal by the House, and are stricken from Omegite teachings.)
Although the cause of its downfall varies depending on the version of the legend, a common thread is that Pretora was ravaged and brought to ruin by Krainen. Once the she-demon's wrath grew so profound that it threatened all life on the ring-world, Omega used his power to seal her in a tower called the Onyx Spire. Krainen was henceforth known as "The Restless," and figures prominently in children's horror stories. Meanwhile, the fate of Namis is largely left unspecified, although common belief is that he was sealed away alongside Krainen.
To the present day, treasure hunters seek the Onyx Spire for the riches said to be kept in its halls, yet most skeptics deny the existence of Krainen, Namis and the spire. Nonetheless, Loch Krainen in Lactan is named for the myth, and rumors from the territory suggest that the heavy, perpetual fog that surrounds the lake was created by Krainen to conceal the ruins of Pretora. The fog is referred to as the shroud, and suspicious natives claim that a pet demon of Krainen's called the Shimmer stalks the mists, preying on intruders and biding its time for its master's return.
In Omegite texts, Pretora's story is expressed as a cautionary tale against shunning the divine protection of the House.