The Ko’Drho are an intelligent species of Aisling, more closely related to canines than felines. They have thick coats of fur that peak in a stiff ruff of hair running from the top of their heads to almost all the way down their backs, and down the backs of both front legs. Female Ko’Drhos have triangular ears that curl up while males have triangular ears that curl down, and males also almost always have large lower canine teeth that overbite their upper lip. Both genders have eyes where the iris changes color according to the individual’s mood. Their coats are almost entirely natural colors, and all Ko’Drho have some sort of blocky marking around their eyes. Those Ko’Drho with coats of unusual colors are inevitably descended from magic users.
Ko’Drhos are the smallest of the intelligent species of Aisling, generally reaching no more than 6 feet from nose to tail. They range in weight from 200 to 300 pounds, with the males generally weighing a little more than the females.
Not only are they the smallest intelligent species of Aisling, but the Ko’Drho are also some of the shortest lived. A healthy female can live to 75 or 80 years, and an equally healthy male will only live 55 to 60 years.
Ko’Drhos reach sexual maturity at 12 to 15 years of age. At that point, the females become fertile only during one season a year, usually in the late fall. Pups are born in the spring, in litters ranging from a single pup to six pups, though a single pup is rare. The more pups a female bears, the more likely one of them will be a runt. Often the runt does not survive—especially during lean years, or in already overpopulated packs. Ko’Drhos do mate for recreation all year long, and some pairs will refrain from mating during the fertile season if they do not want pups. The Ko’Drho healers have learned certain herbs with contraceptive qualities from other species, but use of such herbs is relatively uncommon. Ko’Drho religion generally frowns upon a female who refuses to bear pups at least several seasons in her lifetime.
Ko’Drhos eat a variety of food ranging from the meat of smaller animals, scavenged scraps from Rhodri or Kyonshi kills, to some fruits and larger nuts and berries. Most Ko’Drho are not able to bring down larger kills on their own, but when they hunt in packs it is possible. Therefore, larger family packs that are willing to hunt together eat better in general. The fruits, nuts, and berries that the Ko’Drho find edible are mostly subject to individual taste and what grows in the area.
Social Structure and GovernmentEdit
Although they have no overarching government in place, Ko’Drhos live in strictly structured social groups. Most packs are small, between 25 to 40 members, with a fairly even split of males to females. Larger packs (anywhere up to 150 members) exist, but are rather rare. The larger the pack, the more likely it is to be predominantly female populated. In such packs, it is common for a male to have two or more female mates at a time. Both large and small packs are run by a male and a female leader. The male leader is charged with protecting the pack, while the female leader is responsible for feeding and healing the pack and is concerned with the pack’s religious state.
Ruqual and TarnoqueEdit
The male leader, called a Ruqual, is backed by several hand picked strong males whose main job is to maintain peace and stability inside and outside the pack. These males, the Tarnoque, have a lot of respect that often borders on fear from the other members of the pack. They get the choice of mates, the first pick of food, and enjoy more freedom than the average Ko’Drho. On the other hand, these Tarnoque generally lead shorter, harder, and more violent lives. Most Ko’Drho consider it a fair trade.
Aiya and Umla ShanaaEdit
The female leader, the Aiya, has her own followers and attendants as well. In small packs, the female leader might only have one younger female and possibly a male or two who aids her in her work, but most packs have 3 to 5 attendants, called Umla Shanaa, for their Aiya. These Umla Shanaa enjoy as much respect as the Tarnoque that guard the pack, but without the fear. The Aiya and her Umla Shanaa are the only pack members who are ever allowed to use or are even trained to work with magic, and even so their use of magic is greatly limited in comparison to the other intelligent species. Once a Ko’Drho is selected to become an Umla Shanaa, they rarely take a mate or have pups. It isn’t forbidden, but it is looked down upon somewhat. The Aiya herself is never allowed to have a mate, but there is often a strong emotional bond between herself and a single male Umla Shanaa who works for her.
Most of the members of a pack are just ordinary Ko’Drhos (called Erianoque, as far as social status goes) who follow their leaders without much question. There are simple craftsmen among them, hunters, hard workers, and families. But below that rank of the social strata are the one or two Ko’Drho that for one reason or another have been chosen for the Mykeinos, or scapegoat.
The Mykeinos is most often a male, but in some cases it can be a female, and is chosen by the Aiya during times of trouble for the pack, whether it be natural disaster or a lean season for food or attacks from Rhodris, Kyonshis, or other Ko’Drho packs. The Mykeinos is bit, kicked, clawed, and spit on as the entire pack symbolically puts their troubles on the scapegoat’s shoulders. Mykeinos are an important part of a well-functioning pack, and many take a sort of pride in their job. When one is selected in a long ceremony, that pack member is from that moment on not counted as a true member, and the new Mykeinos’s family will not say their name ever again. Mykeinos scavenge their food from the pack’s leftovers, do not receive the protection or healing care from the leaders, and are shunned by everyone. Still, most stick close to their pack and the families they used to belong to.
Relationships to Other SpeciesEdit
Ko’Drhos are definitely at the bottom of the pecking order on Aisling’s surface. They are the smallest and weakest of the species, and they tend to get out of the way rather than stand up for themselves. There have been a few Ko’Drhos throughout history that have made a difference in how the other species act, but because the Ko’Drhos do not make stationary dwellings and tend to move around some with the seasons, it is easy for them to be pushed aside by the bigger species. Their strength lies mostly in their ability to adapt to different environments. Ko’Drho can be found in most climates all across Aisling, though they prefer wooded mountain foothills.
Rhodris are by far the most troublesome neighbor for Ko’Drhos. If Ko’Drhos were larger or more able to use magic, they would have been conquered and enslaved by the Rhodris long ago. As it is, most Rhodris think of the Ko’Drho as more of a simple minded nuisance than anything else. Ko’Drho and Rhodris get into many disputes over land, and usually the Rhodris win.
Like the other species, Ko’Drho are particularly suspicious of Kyonshis. Interactions between the two species are limited at best because of the Ko’Drho superstitious nature. Kyonshi seem to look at Ko’Drho as a quick snack, but less filling prey than Rhodris or Nebulions.
Ever since a rebel Nebulion named Errom was cast out of Nebulion society, the relationship between Nebulions and Ko’Drho has become much more complicated. A long time ago, Ko’Drhos worshiped the Great Mother in much the same (if more simple) fashion as the Nebulions, but when Errom arrived, the Ko’Drho began to worship Nebulions themselves as living gods they could see and touch. Even after Errom was killed and Nebulion society disrupted, the practice of worshiping Nebulions stuck with almost all of the Ko’Drho packs.
Ko’Drho religion is predominantly Nebulion worship, but it varies from pack to pack. All packs practice a sort of shamanistic superstition led by the Aiya, with a focus on the Great Mother who created everything, but most packs at this time have a Nebulion that they call by name and leave fruit and herb sacrifices for, often at a roughly carved shrine. There were a few cases where Ko’Drho actually began leaving meat sacrifices, and there were rumors of a few packs that even sacrificed their young, but those packs were soon eliminated by the others. Nebulions themselves rarely take notice of their worshippers. While both male and female Ko’Drho can be active, devoted followers of whatever version of their religion their pack follows, it is much more common for the males to be less involved in the ceremonies and celebration than the females.
Ko’Drho do not have the innate ability to use magic without the presence of Johari stones. If any stones are discovered or bartered or stolen, they are immediately given to the Aiya to be prayed over and given to her Umla Shanaa as she sees fit. Many who are given the stones never even know how to tap into the magic and use it, but those that do are considered miracle workers by the rest of the pack. Ko’Drho magic is simpler than any of the other species. Mostly the magic is used in healing and occasionally in carrying heavy loads, but little else. While most Ko’Drho have coats of natural colors and standard markings, extended magic use does bring out bright colors and patterns. The bright, unnatural colors and patterns in coats show up much quicker in Ko’Drho lineage than in the other species, too. For instance, if a Ko’Drho uses magic, their pups almost inevitably have some color changes. At times, if magic use is heavy enough, the individual themselves may begin to show signs of color change in their own coat. While bright colors do appear from the use of magic, it is only among the Umla Shanaa and the Aiya herself, and since not many Umla Shanaa take mates, the bright colors have not been bred widely into the species.
The Ko’Drho actually have two separate languages that they learn to speak fluently at an early age. The common tongue, Groquii, is used for everyday dealings and is a hard, guttural sound with lots of clicks and grunts. The other language, called Aiya Bai, is much softer and more lyrical. This is the language used in religious ceremonies and for legends and stories. The Ko’Drho have a rich heritage of such stories that are repeated often and learned each generation. The same stories are told in each pack, with surprisingly few variations. Although some of the details are changed, the core of each story kept and told in Aiya Bai stays very much the same in all packs.