The following is a wiki-style article about the Wrognoth, one of the Native species in Nova Refuge. Since they have undergone revision since being introduced to the setting, I thought it fitting to post a fully revised article here. Art of the Wrognoth is coming soon. Enjoy.
The Wrognoth (WROG-noth) are tall, mammalian humanoids, who are so rarely seen that Humans do not count them among the four primary sapient Native species. They are large, with great strength, cunning, and ferocity, though many Humans assume they are unintelligent thanks to their bestial appearance. Wrognoth do not often mingle with Humans or any other Natives, due to their nature and culture.
Face and Body
Wrognoth vary greatly in size, standing around three meters tall on average, though they may be shorter or taller. Their posture is generally erect and proud, which further lends to their incredible height, and their builds can vary as wildly as a Human's.
When initially confronted by the Wrognoth, Humans associated them with werewolves from old Earth legends, for the Wrognoth have the head, legs, tail, and fur of a wolf. Some Wrognoth have very large canine teeth - either upper, lower, or both - that are too sizable to be enclosed by their lips, leaving the great fangs jutting from the top and bottom of their muzzle; this seems to be a genetic trait that varies according to individual.
Wrognoth have legs like an animal, and their hind feet are large paws like a canine's, though they bear retractable claws that they seem capable of baring and sheathing even more easily than the flexing claws of Earth's felines. Their hands are humanoid, with the insides of their fingers and their palms covered by thick paw pads, and their fingers have the same retractable claws as their feet. Finally, all Wrognoth have a long wolf-like tail.
Both male and female Wrognoth grow antlers, and these antlers vary wildly in size and shape. The antlers are only grown relatively briefly, during the Wrognoth mating season in the two or three months of winter - or what would ordinarily be the months of winter on their original homeworld, regardless of the Wrognoth's location - and shed thereafter, to be regrown each mating season every year.
Some Wrognoth saw off their antlers, especially those in the military who do not want them potentially getting in the way. Others, however, wear their antlers as a kind of symbol, regardless of their vocation - some warriors even tie their antlers in particular patterns to control their shape and growth, carrying them into battle as a badge of pride.
Fur and Coloration
Being mammals, Wrognoth are covered in thick fur that comes in a variety of colors. Their fur ranges in color from black, white, brown, grey, crimson red, blonde, and various combinations thereof. A blue-grey hue has even been observed in some Wrognoth, and some explorers have claimed they've seen Wrognoth with greenish fur dwelling in thick jungles. Stranger colors may exist, but given how Wrognoth tend to not mingle with foreign societies in general, these wilder colorations may only be myths. Underneath their fur, all Wrognoth have grey skin.
The eyes of a Wrognoth are extremely brightly colored and come in countless varieties, including - but not necessarily limited to - green, red, blue, yellow, orange, and even purple and grey-white.
As mammals, Wrognoth have a biology relatively familiar to Humans, at least compared to some other Natives. However, they still have various strange, outstanding features that set them apart.
Wrognoth have astounding physical power, with great strength and speed. They have acute senses, as well as the ability to "sense" fear and other emotions, and they can see even in extremely low light, leading Humans to say they can see in the dark. They are capable of running on all fours at high speeds for extended periods of time. The Wrognoth are well known for their endurance, and they are hardy against both injury and disease.
Being mammals, Wrognoth give live birth, generally to one or two children; Wrognoth have more than one child more often than do Humans, though identical twins remain rare.
Although they give live birth, the Wrognoth have a very strange attribute to aid in the rearing of their young: every Wrognoth - male and female - has an inner pouch in their abdomen. While Humans compare this to the pouches of marsupials, and they are indeed similar, they are not used for holding undeveloped young, nor are they the same as pregnancy. The Wrognoth access this pouch via their throat, and the Wrognoth have developed a unique biology to let them swallow remarkably oversized objects. It is not uncommon for a Wrognoth to "swallow" one or more pups to allow them to sleep the pouch. Such a trait has aided the Wrognoth in relocating and protecting their young since before the Wrognoth began to build cities, and, some speculate, before they fully evolved. Although the pouch is often considered unnecessary in modern Wrognoth society, many Wrognoth still make use of it, particularly if a pack must flee when a city is raided by a rival. Seeing a Wrognoth swallow their pups into the pouch has led to Humans claiming that Wrognoth eat their young, which is far from the truth. A Wrognoth's pouch can expand to incredible sizes to hold their pups, and it provides a constant supply of air.
Although pups are raised communally by all members of the pack, they know who their parents are. Wrognoth couples usually mate for life, particularly as Wrognoth are known for the sense of loyalty bred deep into their instincts. A Wrognoth betraying his or her mate is considered one of the very highest of offenses. Wrognoth are not capable of producing offspring with Humans or any other Native species.
An important aspect of Wrognoth reproduction is their mating season. Once every ten years, during the winter mating season during which they grow their antlers, Wrognoth of both genders will feel an extreme drive to take a mate for life: far more extreme than the comparatively mild increased urges of a normal mating season. This is not a purely sexual drive, despite Human categorization, as neither male nor female Wrognoth take a mate lightly; their mating urges by no means lead them to commit violent sexual acts. Despite these primal instincts, the Wrognoth choose meaningful life partners. It is in the Wrognoth instinct to mate for life, not solely their culture.
While some can overcome this instinctual drive, and some Wrognoth have even developed drugs to aid in fighting the compulsion, it is an extremely powerful urge that most Wrognoth cannot ignore. If they continue to deny it for too long, it can lead to violent mood swings and unpredictable or uncharacteristic behavior, as it is said that Wrognoth can lose themselves to their drive. Some tales speak of Wrognoth going irreversibly insane if they go too long in mating season without a mate.
There are, however, other ways to overcome the urges. Military Wrognoth choose to lose themselves in a berserk rage for a time, after which their mating season drive is spent; this is called the Time of Madness, during which some Wrognoth will run feral on their home planets, behaving as violent animals and killing non-Wrognoth creatures.
The mating season of the Wrognoth is little spoken of, even among Wrognoth themselves; it is understood to be a part of their existence, but they prefer not to talk about it openly.
As can be expected, Wrognoth are primarily carnivores, eating a wide variety of meats: including, in the case of some Wrognoth, Humans. Wrognoth are not entirely carnivorous, however, as they also occasionally eat fruits and vegetables.
It should be noted that cannibalism is nonexistent among Wrognoth: a Wrognoth will simply never eat another of its kind. This is apparently not a cultural ideal, but an instinctive one, as even insane Wrognoth are known to never devour the flesh of their kin.
Given their reputation for enduring most any hardship, Wrognoth boast an impressive lifespan. The oldest of Wrognoth can live over 200 years.
Overall, the Wrognoth culture is considered unusual by Humans, given their "monstrous" appearance. The primary ideals stressed by Wrognoth civilization are honor and loyalty.
Early Wrognoth civilization consisted of fairly small, closely-knit packs. Although Wrognoth still live in packs - and many have the same structure and similar sizes to the very first Wrognoth packs to ever exist - earlier Wrognoth civilizations were much simpler, with primitive tools and living conditions. In truth, the Wrognoth society in itself has changed little over time, save for advancements in technology.
As mentioned, Wrognoth society is founded upon two primary ideals: honor and loyalty. Although Wrognoth hunters frequently stalk their prey, they always choose to face their enemies in open combat, rarely - if ever - resorting to underhanded methods such as assassination.
Wrognoth packs have become much larger than they once were, with packs becoming the size of nations instead of individual settlements. Each pack, however, is still ruled by two individuals: the Alpha male and female. Ultimately, any decisions rest solely with them. The Alphas, however, are advised by a council of Elders, the oldest and wisest members of the pack. While they do not explicitly have to listen to the Elders, as they always make the final decision, the Elders aid in moderating the Alphas and providing more voice for the people. Only the Elders have the ability to deem one or more Alphas unfit and strip them of their power.
Alphas are chosen through a variety of ways; each pack tends to have its own methods of choosing the Alphas, depending on the nature of their government. In some packs, it is chosen simply by tests of strength. In others, it is chosen through duels, though rarely to the death. Some packs vote upon the next Alphas, while involving multiple tests of strength and character along the way. For not only do the Alphas lead the Wrognoth in government: the Alphas must also be strong and capable enough to lead their armies into battle. Some societies also vote on individual Alpha males and Alpha females, resulting in a sort of arranged marriage; others, however, vote for either the male or female first and then let their chosen Alpha choose his or her mate. It is not uncommon for Alphas to already be mates when they prove themselves to take the Alpha position, however.
Several more rules exist in common Wrognoth society: elders are always to be respected, and children are considered extremely important - including the pups of enemy packs. If one clan of Wrognoth defeats another, although Wrognoth always spare whoever they can and generally do not fight to the death, they will adopt the children from that pack and raise them as their own. War orphans are never left to die, regardless of their previous allegiance. Likewise, to kill a pregnant Wrognoth or any Wrognoth carrying pups is a great crime, no matter whose side they were on. Wrognoth pack wars, however, have become surprisingly uncommon.
The Wrognoth have a particular custom when it comes to reproduction, however, which is connected to their culture favoring only the strong: weaker females, and any females in poor health, are not legally allowed to breed, even if they have chosen a mate. Only the strongest, healthiest females - including the Alpha female - have pups, and they have them in relatively limited quantity. This has been a custom since the earliest Wrognoth culture, in order to make sure there is never an unhealthy excess of pups, and to maintain the strongest bloodlines.
The Wrognoth have extreme respect for their dead, and they will go to great lengths to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades in order to provide them a proper burial. Males and females are equally dominant in society, and, if anything, females often garner a bit more respect. However, Wrognoth women are in no way restricted from participating in battle.
With their sense of loyalty, Wrognoth rarely do anything alone. If one is outcast from their society, that Wrognoth is often shunned from all the others as well, as it can be assumed he or she committed some unforgivable crime against one of their brethren or betrayed their honor.
There are, however, Wrognoth who are not necessarily outcast for breaking laws. Wrognoth society values strength and perseverance, and the Wrognoth have no time for weak, lazy, or useless individuals. Such Wrognoth are outcast from their pack, forced to become Omegas, who live in the outskirts of Wrognoth civilization. Occasionally, some Wrognoth will throw them charitable scraps, but this is frowned upon by society itself, as the Omegas must work their way out of their position and prove themselves to be strong and useful. If they cannot prove their strength and rejoin the pack, Omegas often die of starvation, disease, or some combination thereof.
When it comes to outsiders and especially other races, more often than not, the Wrognoth prefer to be left alone. As they are highly territorial in nature, if they feel at all threatened, the Wrognoth will ask only so many times before they respond to intruders with violence. While Wrognoth are willing to tolerate the presence of other species, they do so warily, and they always put their own kind above any outsiders. Wrognoth are not unwelcoming, however, as Wrognoth honor dictates that any stranger who enters a Wrognoth's home in need of aid must be given food and rest before any questions are asked - regardless of their species or affiliation.
Almost impossible for most species to replicate, the Wrognoth language is a delicate set of growls, yips, snarls, groans, and grunts that form harsh, often guttural, words. To some, it does not sound like a language at all. Their language and sounds do not, however, include any form of barking.
The howl is a very important sound in all Wrognoth languages, capable of conveying an endless array of emotions to other Wrognoth, although these intricacies may be lost on Humans and most other species, save perhaps the Sarran.
The Wrognoth have a very complex religion that, to many outsiders, is difficult to grasp. According to the Wrognoth religion, spirits live in every aspect of the universe: every mountain, stone, each blade of grass, and every living thing. Even planets, moons, and stars have their own spirits, say the Wrognoth.
The soul of sapient beings such as the Wrognoth themselves is never to be put above the souls of other living creatures, including plants and animals; all destruction and use of the land must be done with respect to the spirits. Each hunt must end with the Wrognoth giving thanks to the spirits for blessing them and giving final rites to the spirits of their prey, so that they may have a safe journey to the afterlife. It is a religious crime among the Wrognoth to allow a prey animal to suffer.
Some Wrognoth take a spiritual path, becoming shamans of a sort. It is said these Wrognoth can communicate directly with the spirits, taming animals and speaking with the land and the sea.