Native Flora and Fauna

The Green Star is full of strange new plants and animals, unseen by Pernese eyes. This list is just a sample of a few of the more well-known species found in the area near Discovery Weyr; there are dozens of species of trees in the forests, countless fish in the Weyrlake, and plenty of other, even wilder things out there. Feel free to make up your own, and if you want them added to this list, PM them to Rannoch!

Native Plants

Blisterweed

A small, thick-leaved succulent covered in short, silky hairs, blisterweed looks innocuous, until it is touched. Then, like a nettle, the hairs from the leaves become embedded in the skin, causing instantaneous blistering and a rash that extends far beyond the area affected by the hairs and lasts for days or weeks. The best course of action after coming in contact with blisterweed is to wash with redwort and bandage the affected area. The irritation site is easily-infected, making blisterweed burns a particularly nasty affliction requiring extreme care.

Dragonbalm

Named for the similarity of its effects on dragonkin to that of catnip/catbalm on felines: a dragon, wher, or flit subjected to dragonbalm generally becomes extremely affectionate and drowsy. If ingested (depending on the size of the dragonkin and the amount of dragonbalm), the plant can cause mild dizziness or loss of motor function. Its strongly fragrant, electric blue flowers are numerous and easy to spot, even in mixed fields, making them an appealing decorative plant among Weyrfolk (and those 'riders and 'handlers with cruel senses of humor). The petals, when steeped in boiling water, make a mild, spicy tea that serves well as an evening drink, similar to chamomile.

Hazeberry

The unassuming perennial vines of the hazeberry plant cover wide stretches of the lowland forest surrounding Discovery Weyr. It produces tiny pink flowers, which at the end of its growing season become grape-like bunches of deep magenta berries. Hazeberries cause fever, sweating, tremors, and protracted hallucinations when ingested by humans and other Pernese imports. While the effects of the berries on the body are temporary, the hallucinations in particular are largely unpleasant and, depending on the quantity of berries eaten, can last several hours. Native fauna can ingest hazeberries without issue, and they are a favorite treat of rivercats.

Klahroot

Not technically klah, or even related to klah… but it's the next best thing. Klahroot is a floating aquatic plant, with broad flat leaves that float on the surface of the water. The sturdy lily-like leaves can grow to be up to a meter across, and like their distant cousins the raincatcher plant, the leaves are mostly inedible. But when the roots are dried, and ground, they form a pale green powder similar to matcha. Klahroot tea is an acquired taste, with a strong, distinctive grassy smell. The smaller plants are most prized, as the resulting tea has a natural sweetness; larger and older roots produce bitter tea. But all klahroot tea has the same strong stimulant effect as caffeine, making it worth the effort for some Weyrfolk who need the boost.

Moonflower

A small but hardy flowering tree, found preferentially along forest edges and riverbanks. During the daytime, the tree is nondescript, with pale grey-green leaves and tightly closed buds. At night, the flowers open up in sprays of brilliant, bioluminescent color and sweet scent. Moonflowers can come in any shade of pastel color, but their glow fades very quickly after they are plucked. In the late summer they produce small, round white fruits, which are edible. These fruits are crisp and tart with a very strong floral aroma, and bake up nicely. Moon pies are a very popular snack at Discovery Weyr.

Raincatcher

Large, parasitic air plants. They grow in the higher branches of tall trees, where they will get plenty of exposure to both sunlight and rainfall. These brightly colored flowers form huge, shallow, watertight basins, which quickly fill up with rainwater during the wetter seasons. A variety of small animals use raincatcher plants as shelter, a source of fresh water, or to lay eggs in. The leaves contain enzymes that make them inedible, but they can be pulped to make fiber for paper.

Sweetsap

A large, abundant hardwood tree named for its use in sugar-making: the sap from the sweetsap tree is abundant and can easily be collected and boiled down to make either a thick syrup or a fine, powdery, dry sugar with a distinct, pleasant flavor. Sweetsap runs in early spring, and is easily tapped with a simple spigot-and-bucket. It takes a lot of sap to make a gallon of syrup (and even more to make a cup of sugar), and sweetsyrup is still rarer than beet sugar while the farmcrafters refine their collection processes. Sweetsap wood is light-colored with a striking wavy grain pattern, making it a popular aesthetic choice for furniture, and adds a pleasant, mildly sweet flavor when used to smoke meats.

Native Animals

Brightbacks

Strange, neon-colored gecko-like creatures. Brightbacks are small, only a few inches long, and mostly harmless if not disturbed. They have an array of tiny, sharp, barbed quills along their back to deter predators, which makes handling them unwise. Brightbacks have three pairs of sticky feet which allow them to climb even vertical surfaces at great speed. (They leave a tiny trail of sticky footprints in their wake, because this is accomplished via means of a mucus-like secretion.) Having a small number of brightbacks around can be useful because they eat insects, including the harmful and pesky kinds. But some of them have venom in their quills, and all of them have an unfortunate habit of leaving their droppings everywhere, which makes them unwelcome houseguests.

Furwings

Nocturnal, arboreal furry pests. Furwings are so named because they can glide on delicate membranes that stretch from ankle to ankle - rather like a flying squirrel, but closer to a rabbit in size. They are six-limbed, like most native fauna, but the middle set of limbs are a pair of slender fingerlike extensions which can be folded smoothly against the back or outstretched to expand the gliding surface to its maximum. Their fur is quite soft and comes in a range of dull, nondescript colors. Males during the breeding season will feast on moonflowers, then store the bioluminescent chemicals in glands which give them glowing markings; this is apparently insanely attractive to female furwings, but also makes them easy prey. Furwings primarily eat leaves and other plant matter, but when given the opportunity they will often sneak into Weyr storerooms to feast on nuts, grains, fruit, and berries.

Leapers

Lightly built, caprine-sized herbivores found in the forests and wetlands around the basin. Leapers are extremely common, and a favored prey item of whers; the leapers come out primarily at dawn and dusk, which is right when the whers are hungriest. Their overall shape is similar to that of a Terran antelope: four running limbs, slender and light-boned, built for speed rather than strength. In the case of leapers, the third pair of limbs that most Green Star native species possess are vestigial. Instead of six legs, they have a pair of small fin-like appendages along their backs, used for mating and territorial displays.

There are two distinct species of leapers around Discovery: water-leapers and wood-leapers. Both are very similar in overall build, but with very different methods of locomotion. Water-leapers have broad, webbed feet with long toes, and soft silky hides that tend to come in shades of green or blue. They generally swim in the shallows, or in areas thick with klahroot, they will use their broad feet to actually run across the floating leaves on the water's surface. Wood-leapers have more ungulate-like feet: the claws are exaggerated in size, producing a running surface almost like a cloven hoof, with almost no vestigial webbing. Wood-leapers are larger and shaggier, with fur in shades of brown dappled with white or cream markings. Both species have a short trunk, which water-leapers use as a kind of snorkel when hiding from predators, and wood-leapers use as a kind of prehensile limb to snag leaves from high branches.

Plainsbeasts

Plainsbeasts are enormous herbivores, the new favored food of dragonkin residents of the Green Star. Humans tend to find their meat almost inedibly tough unless it is stewed for a long time, but dragons and whers like it just fine. As the name implies, they move in large herds across the plains near the Beastcraft Hall, although they will often venture into the forest's edge to browse on shrubs and young saplings. (Some beastcrafters have speculated that it is the presence of plainsbeast herds that has kept the forest from overtaking the grasslands entirely.)

Plainsbeasts are almost uniformly dark brown to black in hide, with rare markings of lighter colors. They may grow to be up to ten feet in length, and weigh up to two tons: twice the size of a herdbeast, and enough to split between two smaller dragons or an entire pack of whers. They are a challenge to hunt, however, due to the thick, leathery plating on their backs. This natural armor can be up to two inches thick, and necessitates flipping the beast over before it can be dispatched… at which point the dragon is still in danger of being kicked in the face by one of six broad, elephantine feet.

Rivercats

These gregarious creatures were among the first native species to approach Pernese settlements. They bear some faint resemblance to Terran river otters, but with six limbs instead of four, and silvery-blue fur interspersed with smooth scales. Rivercats have large black eyes with a transparent eyelid to protect them underwater. They have a dorsal ridge of elongated, modified scales which come to sharp points: these can be laid flat for a more streamlined profile, or raised to deter predators. Vocalizations include chatters, clicks, chirps, and rarely warning whoops. Adults range from three to four feet in length.

Rivercats are fish-eaters primarily, adapted to be agile swimmers. But they also seem to be opportunistic omnivores, ranging well away from the Weyrlake's shores to investigate anything that might be an interesting source of food. They prefer to stay near the shoreline because they are faster in the water than on land, not because they require immersion to live. They build shared nests that house large family groups, and will readily adopt humans as surrogate family members. Indeed, the first rivercats quickly learned to lead human boats to good fishing spots, in return for small gifts of fruit or other foods they couldn't get themselves. This (along with their cuteness) led to an unfortunate trend of taking rivercat pups as "pets"… though calling them domesticated is a far stretch. They're extremely destructive, prone to chewing or taking apart anything they can get their rudimentary opposable thumbs on.

Sharptails

A carp-sized, edible freshwater fish, extremely common in the waters around the Weyr. Sharptails eat water weeds, algae, and pretty much any plant matter that falls into the water. They aren't particularly fast swimmers, with round bodies and a series of small fins that work well for tight maneuvers in shallow water, but not so well for sprints away from predators. Instead, their primary method of defense are sharp spines in their tail, which they jab into the face of anything that tries to eat them. This technique doesn't work so well against human anglers, who have learned to handle their nets with care.

Striders

With the difficulty of importing runnerbeasts to the Green Star, Discovery Weyr's beastcrafters have turned to the native fauna as possible replacements for riding mounts and beasts of burden. They settled on Striders: large, flightless avians not unlike the prehistoric terran terrorbirds. Striders, on average, stand roughly nine feet tall, approximately six feet at the shoulder, and are heavy enough to comfortably carry a human passenger or pull a cart. Females are larger than males by up to a foot. In addition to their powerful hind legs, they have two pairs of vestigial forelimbs - one a single-clawed wing, and the other a rudimentary set of front talons capable of grasping and manipulating small objects. Their bodies are covered with a soft coating of downy feathers that range in color from black to pale buff, with various patterns of banding and spotting. Their beaks are vibrantly-colored, with related species usually sharing similar markings, and the brighter the beak, the more dominant the Strider.

In the wild, Striders are social and matriarchal, traveling in flocks numbering anywhere from six to thirty led by a dominant female. Adults are capable pack hunters, even small groups able to take down healthy adult plainsbeasts. They communicate by vocalizations and raise their young in large, communal nests watched over by young males and subordinate females.

In captivity, they are relatively easy to train, as they are highly food-motivated: they are obligate carnivores, but often take a shine to human foods - particularly cheese. A well-fed Strider is rarely inclined to misbehave, and most learn new commands quickly once they've been "broken" to saddle (an arduous process involving a lot of food and more than a little kicking). Young that have imprinted on humans are more docile and obedient than wild-caught stock. As predators, they are both smarter and less easily-spooked than runnerbeasts, but also more aggressive, with razor-sharp beaks and powerful, killing talons. The common joke is "dangerous at both ends, crafty in the middle." Discovery Weyr's flock is run by a single alpha female, and she will not tolerate other dominant females in her space, going so far as to kill challengers. Beastcrafters are careful with their imports and have been working to selectively breed more docile individuals.

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