Today, I received the news that the most infamous and wretched Korat that Lavana had ever known is dead. Before Wureshi, my people had not had words for “rape” or “tyrant,” and no Korat had ever amassed a well-trained army of its own progeny. It took two of the greatest surviving masters to kill him in traditional combat, while his loyal children stood by the sidelines, commanded to not interfere.
He was my father.
Today, I celebrate outwardly with the rest of the world, though they would kill me if they knew my heritage. But then, my people have always been prone to genocide. That’s why I’m the only child of my litter still alive – the other two were stripeds, genetic mutations considered to be weaker, lesser than the pure, unicolored breeds.
As a baby, just as now, my long fur must have hid the faint, yellowed lines that stripe my belly.
Today, I am lost. My sole purpose for existing was righteously slaughtered, and my violent brothers and sisters will be hunted to extermination by vengeful purists. My heritage won’t be questioned if I am known to be a striped, since Wureshi killed all of his striped spawn, but there would be other purists who would want me dead for having an extra color stain my fur. And if I do not reveal my muddied genetics, then my age will call my parents into question, and I will have to lie very well to escape discovery as Wureshi’s seed.
So today, I am leaving the world. I hear the Olashi are looking for people to go into space with them.
Blood-red light. Fire-hot breath.
The vaguest of shapes – body, four legs, head, neck, tail. Deep in the chest and broad through the shoulders, thick in the limb, heavy in the jaw.
Blood and fire, interlacing like drumbeats, like heartbeats. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. A brand new heart contracting in an unfinished chest.
A spark. A glimpse of spirit. A nascent soul. Tha-thump.
Flesh knit heavy, bones knit solid. Tha-thump. Thick skin and thicker fur. Tha-thump. Sharp teeth and sharper claws. Tha-thump.
‘Average’ denied. Rebuke denied. Power demanded. Tha-thump.
Battle won. Far-seeing eyes, keen ears, sensitive nose. Tha-thump. Long whiskers and callused pawpads. Tha-thump.
Blood and fire, interlacing like sine and cosine, like firing synapses. Tha-thump. Alert, aware, analyzing. Tha-thump.
Cold, pale blue gaze unlidded. Tha-thump. First view of blinding light – a spinning orb – and a towering tree with bright leaves. Tha-thump.
Body coalescing like the first breath of the world, a shuddering inhale, a wave of physical sensation. Tha-thump.
Weight settling, pressing paws into the earth, gravity taking hold of a freshly-completed frame. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Tha-thump.
A silent voice older than time, a language deeper than intuition. “You are she.” Tha-thump.
A long pink tongue awkward against heavy teeth. Vocal chords snarling into soundwaves. “I am.”
The spinning light, luminous enough to blind, met with unblinking eyes. “Then you are she. You are the perfect one. What do you call yourself, she who awoke before created?”
No hesitation. No uncertainty. “I shall be called Redwood, as mighty as the kûsani under which I was created, and as red as blood, heart, and fire.”
Scents whipped to shreds by the radiance’s rotation. “And what shall you call your people, O Redwood?”
Broad black nose beginning to distinguish smells despite the whirling winds. Snf snf. “They shall be called Korats, for the word pleases me.”
A long pause. Korats. ‘Kings’ in a tongue not Lavanian. “You are unprecedented. Lavana would bow before you, should you choose to take her. This you must know.”
Ears angling backwards, a tacit display of disapproval. “Lavana is my home. Not my slave; not my kingdom. I hold no dreams of tyranny in my heart.”
A longer pause, the self-contained blaze spinning within its own tornado. “…then you are she.”
Confidence. Surety. “She I am, and she I will always be. None shall take my life, nor conquer my people.” Tha-thump. “Give me my sisters’ shadows, that I may add them to mine.”
Disdain. Disagreement. “They are weak.”
A lowering of the voice from baritone to growling thunder. “They are no weaker than I, and you daren’t call Redwood weak.” Tha-thump.
Silence. Two bodiless shadows crept over the fields and bled into hers, making it as black as the void.
Pleased. “Take it. My sisters and I shall lead our people together.” Unprecedented, three Originals instead of one.
A sound like shattering crystal – the abyss-dark shadow vanished entirely. Below the ledge, below the kûsani, the first fifty Korats breathed their first lungful of wind together. Three distinct breeds: black, tan, … and red. “I shall be watching.” Tha-thump.
Body became permanent in every final detail as the light rose into the lavender sky like a phoenix ascending. Tha-thump. Redwood breathed deeply, flesh and fur and bone moving in sweet synchronicity. Tha-thump. Scents were easily read and sounds suddenly audible as the wind calmed. The retreat of brilliant luminance let color creep into vision, staining objects with vivid life. Natural sunlight and a planet-born breeze replaced the alien power of the intangible Creator as its light faded entirely from view.
The red mother smiled.
“What is that?”
The grey-furred Nila looked up, no expression crossing his flattened face. Yellow eyes sought the origin of the inquisitive voice, but the forest greenery was thick and concealing. He drew his brows low to express disapproval. “It is a drum,” he answered flatly, four-fingered hands stilled on the wooden carving. He had been binding the head of the drum, made of Leasheas hide, to the mouth.
“What’s a … drum?” the voice asked, carefully pronouncing the new word. “What’s it do?”
The Nila identified the general direction of the speaker and shifted his position to face it, black claws carefully resuming the tedious stitch-and-wrap. “A drum is this,” he answered impassively. “It makes noise.”
“Wood and skin and–” There was a pause, then the faint sound of sniffing, “–gut-rope? How does that make noise?”
The Nila sighed. He really had no need to humor his invisible watcher, so he stayed silent and completed the very last bindings. Tufts of silver and violet fur still ringed the edge of the drumhead, and the wood had been carefully carved to preserve the grain-patterns. Even the gut-rope had been skillfully braided. He allowed himself the smallest of smiles as he drew a dyed leather strip from the pouch at his hip and wound it about the waist of the small drum.
“What’s that for?” the voice pestered.
“Do you not have anything better to do?” the Nila countered peevishly, removing a few strings of braided cords from the same pouch. These were decorated with teeth, claws, and feathers, and twined in the weave were long hairs from the same Leasheas that gave its skin for the drum’s head. The wood’s rich red-brown color was well-complimented by the silver, violet, and deep blue of the decorations.
“Not really,” the voice responded. It sounded cheerful, and a few leaves whispered a warning of movement. The Nila looked up as the speaker poked its dark face through the canopy, a fanged grin stretching open a long, sleek muzzle. “I noticed the reek of Leasheas blood. Tell me, did you actually eat it?”
“It was a sacrifice,” the Nila replied, frowning up at the black Korat. “We do not eat sacrifices. Its flesh was burned.”
“Food is scarce on the best of days, and you don’t eat what you kill?” The Korat snorted, nostrils flaring wide. It descended to a lower bough, the sturdy branch five feet thick, then sprawled languorously. “Even if Leasheas are sentient, no sense in wasting meat. You could have at least left it for the Chitters or something.”
The Nila huffed, then lifted the drum reverently to study it from all angles. It was a good work of craftsmanship, and he was proud of it. Far better than his first two.
“Why do you even need a noise-maker like that?” the Korat asked conversationally. Its blue eyes remained trained on the Nila below.
The Nila didn’t reply, shifting his weight on the log that had served as his workbench. He had to lean forward, his ankles pressed against the rotting bark and his knees jutting out, and his tail got in the way and bent awkwardly upwards–but he managed to settle the drum between his knees and hold it there with his legs alone. It was a good fit, a good solid feeling – not too heavy, not light enough to be fragile.
“That looks uncomfortable,” the Korat commented from thirty feet above. “I didn’t know your tail could twist like that. Your tail is short and fat – I don’t think you’re supposed to–”
The Nila slapped the head of the drum with one flattened hand, and the resulting bark of noise silenced the Korat. The forest was too dense to allow an echo, but the sound was satisfyingly loud nonetheless. The Nila allowed himself one more tiny smile, then lifted his yellow gaze to the lounging Korat.
The Korat blinked down at him. “Uh,” it mumbled, looking uncertain.
The Nila flattened his other hand in the same way, careful to keep his claws from piercing the head, and slapped the drum three times. Left-right-left. The last note was the deepest, and it rang a shade longer than the other two. He curled one hand and extended his long thumb, then slapped the drum with the side of his thumb. It produced a deeper, shorter note when he struck the center of the head, and a lighter one when he struck near the rim.
“Hey,” the Korat said, drawing its limbs beneath its body into a crouch, “do that again.”
Feeling pleased enough with his work to oblige, the Nila repeated the notes. Short-short-long, deep-light. He kept his right hand flat and alternated the slap with the thumb-strike from his left hand. Short-deep-short-light-long.
The black Korat stood on its branch and swayed, as though it were going to topple. The Nila eyed it, then repeated the rhythm. The Korat seemed to be moving in time to the beat. “That’s catchy,” the Korat said, its muzzle creasing in a grin. “Keep it up.”
The Nila continued to drum as the Korat began to dance.
Words heard not too long ago rang out in silence, repeated constantly in one hunter’s thoughts.
‘You must not let them hear you, for that may be your death. You hunt alone, so you must be exceedingly careful — if you are wounded, they may attack, and you will die if they do. Seek out the slowest, the weakest; choose your target well, and wait for it to emerge from the herd’s protective bowels. You are swift, but you do not want to immerse yourself in the herd, for they will kill you. These are dangerous prey, young Kiva, and you are a fool for wanting to hunt them… but you are a skilled fool, and I believe you will succeed.’
The old warrior was right in saying that Kiva was skilled, but the young male didn’t believe he was so foolish… perhaps reckless and overly confident, but not a fool. He knew the risks in hunting the deadly Helk, but he would not back down so easily. It was a personal challenge, and one that he refused to decline.
Silky apricot fur rippled with the movement of lean yet powerful muscles as the tan crept forward, shoulderblades protruding bonily above his slender frame with each stride. Absolute silence. The herd was only a few hundred meters away from him, and he was fast approaching the limit of the tall, wheat-like grass that effectively concealed him. In a few more slinking steps, he would pause, and then… strike.
Jade green eyes glittered with a brilliant intelligence as Kiva came to rest at the very edges of the longer grass; hardly breathing, he regarded the herd. Helks were massive ungulates, shag-furred in earthy brown and possessing a fearsome rack of sharp-tipped antlers, as well as heavy hooves that could crush his skull as easily as a red’s jaws could. Narrow, pointed ears flicked forward, funneling each little sound that the prey made inwards; Kiva’s senses weren’t exceptional for a Korat, but they were incredibly keen compared to those of most other Lavanians. Soon.
He’d already chosen his target: an old bull with a greying muzzle and blunt hooves was carelessly near the edge of the herd, and with age-weakened antlers, he should not be much of a fight. The Korat knew that the true danger was from the elder’s herdmates — should they decide to avenge his sudden death, Kiva would be hard-pressed to escape with his life, let alone his meal. He grinned, baring razor-sharp rows of small, thin teeth, at the thought. He needed this challenge, newly-adult and without a reputation.
The bull wandered farther out; no longer did any young, healthy Helk stand defensively between the elder and the open plains. Kiva’s grin tightened, whiskers slicked back and hidden in pale fur, as he slowly unsheathed narrow golden claws and readied himself. Just a few more moments — there were Helks keeping an eye out for the old one. Best to let them fall into a false sense of security before attacking.
‘These are dangerous prey, young Kiva, and you are a fool for wanting to hunt them…’
Aye, Athuta… perhaps. But tonight, you and the others will feast.
The tan waited five excruciatingly long minutes until he felt the Helk herd relax minutely. They would never let their guard completely down -no Lavanian would, if it hoped to live another day- but they were as calm and inattentive as they would become. It was time.
Kiva could reach speeds of over sixty leagues per hour; Helk could barely manage twenty.
This speed, coupled with almost instantaneous acceleration, send a slim blur of hunter towards the herd, a mere hundred meters away, and he was sailing in a leap before any Helk had time to react to his presence with an alarmed bellow. As though he were suspended mid-air and floating leisurely down, Kiva seemingly had time to look around at the Helks, and then straight at his target.
The old one knew his time had come; though not sentient, Helks were quite keen (and vicious) grazers. But in defiance of fate, he swung his rack to impale the young Korat lunging for his spine and neck–
Kiva struck with his tail, the powerful appendage wielding a blued ebony tailblade that plunged into the herbivore’s muscular shoulder. This first contact between hunter and hunted allowed the tan to avoid certain death and absorb the shock of landing from such speed with all four legs, and the Helk was bowled over with the force–
Suddenly, normal time resumed.
Bellowing tore the air apart and flashes of black hooves and greybrown antlers surrounded the young Korat. The entire length of his ten-inch blade was embedded into thrashing flesh, and though instinct had caught him in time to rip open the beast’s flank with his longclaws, the Helk refused to die so easily. Blood spurted in erratic geysers as Kiva jerked blade and claws from his prey, ducked a vengeful swipe of brittle antlers, and took a precious nanosecond to catch his balance with all four paws firmly on the ground.
He shouldn’t have done so, for a few points of the rack caught his left shoulder and chest in the next strike, ripping furrows in his lean frame that immediately gushed blood. The brilliant crimson fluid stained his fur, stickily pouring down his chest to fall in immense droplets to the short, blue beadgrass below. The shock of pain jolted Kiva out of his pause, and he reacted with a silent, drawn snarl, his tailblade cracking at an angle to shatter one half of the Helk’s rack.
The ungulate bellowed in pain and, Kiva imagined, shame as he was left with little defense against the speedy hunter. The tan shoved himself close to the big beast’s side, avoiding younger herdmates’ wild attacks, and looked up as the elder looked around and down. For one heart-shattering moment, brown eyes looked into jade, and prey understood predator.
Time resumed as a healthier Helk smashed into the Korat’s hip with one broad forehoof, nearly breaking bones and tearing a wide slab of flesh, skin, and fur off. Kiva howled in shock and pain, and a frantic whip of his bladed tail made the beast back away momentarily.
‘…If you are wounded, they may attack, and you will die if they do.’
There was still the matter of his target, who -mere inches away- heaved his last gasping breaths, mutilated flanks rising and falling jerkily with each huff. There was still the matter of a swift death, an honorable death. And there was still the matter of surviving the hunt to bring the meat back.
Kiva sprang away and faced the elder, his tail’s constant lashing protecting him from attacks from behind, and once again he locked eyes with his target. Younger bucks were beginning to gather, bellowing and rearing their fury, hooves flashing through the air like knives, like boulders, like death…
‘You are swift, but you do not want to immerse yourself in the herd, for they will kill you.’
The male charged, dodging one last desperate attack with the old one’s remaining points, and ducked under a flailing muzzle to angle his jaws upwards and feel his razor-sharp teeth pierce flesh. For a moment, it was a bloodless bite, but the Helk tried to rear and tore his own throat open with the movement… The lifeforce fled from him in crimson falls, waves upon waves of red splashing down and staining Kiva’s face, pouring into and burning his eyes, flooding his mouth. The tan hacked and spit to avoid inhaling and thereby drowning, and in his temporary blindness, he felt a hoof connect with his right shoulder.
He was flung backwards as an incredibly loud cracking sound registered in his mind as his own bones shattering, and he found himself skidding on his back away from the main herd. His haunch still burned terribly, but this new wound sent waves of immobilizing, mind-numbing agony surging through his system. For a long second, Kiva could not think.
‘And you will die if they do.’
He could almost hear Athuta’s voice as his vision blurred; the thunder of pounding hooves rumbled up from the ground to rattle his body.
‘And you will die if they do…’
The danger of his current position was driven home as Kiva saw a hoof descending — should it connect, it would crush his skull instantly. A messy but swift death. Green eyes flew open and the male jerked out of the way, slashing a shallow but painful furrow into his attacker’s heavy muzzle as he shoved himself upright. A broken shoulder blade would slow him, but the pain had already begun to become a way of life, a background noise that was hindering, but tolerable. It drowned out the burning of the flap of skin that still hung from his haunch.
He blinked once to clear the red tinges (sheens of spilt Helk blood) from his vision, then focused in on his target. The old one was on his knees, moaning loudly as crimson bubbles began to appear around his mouth and wide nostrils, popping with quiet, death-like sounds. Kiva snarled; he could not let such a formidable beast die in misery and in dishonor.
The male lunged forward, screaming in shock as the first step caused the two splintered halves of his shoulderblade to scrape together, but the next strides only allowed the grinding to become another background noise. There was a mission to be completed, and pain was not on the agenda.
‘But you are a skilled fool, and I believe you will succeed.’
One strike of a gore-coated tailblade ended the elder’s pain, and another Koratian hunting scream unnerved the younger Helks enough that they did not attack. Kiva held himself upright through sheer willpower, narrow muzzle jerking to look at the herd. Only three or four bucks were still close — the rest had wisely moved off, as Korats usually hunted in packs. They feared that the tan had kindred nearby, and he was better off for the assumption.
Kiva drew breath and screamed again, putting more enraged madness into this bone-grating, heart-clawing sound, and the remaining Helk began to retreat, perhaps fearing attack, or perhaps just realizing that the kill was made and they could do no more. The tan watched until he was sure that they would not attack again, and then, he struck one last time. His blade sank deeply into the still-warm flesh and carved a deep gorge into the Helk’s flank, and the male poked his muzzle in the gaping wound, nosing around until, eyes squeezed shut, he found his reward.
To the hunter goes the heart.
Narrow jaws and razor-sharp teeth gripped the massive muscle and painstakingly pulled it from its nest between deflating lungs. He held it in his mouth for a long moment, the weight pulling his head down, before he dropped it at his forepaws and threw his muzzle back to howl triumphantly. As he plunged his foreclaws into the bleeding organ, he heard Athuta’s acknowledging warble echo across the lands, and he grinned before devouring his prize.
“Korats? You mean those pretty silver-blue housecats from ancient Siam?”
Um, no. I mean these:
That, my dear readers, is my kind of Korat. (The fact that they share a name with an admittedly nifty breed of cat is completely accidental. My Korats got their name years before I ever found out about Korats-the-housecats.)
Korats are my favorite and one of my most-often-featured fictional species. They reside on Lavana, one of my primary worlds. Lavana is slightly larger than Earth with proportionately stronger gravity and a similar range of terrains and climates; its sky is pale violet, its clouds rosy pink, its sun – Ghrayu – a bold orange, and much of its grasses pastel blue. Don’t let the fanciful color scheme fool you, though – Lavana is a hostile, deadly world, filled with strange and dangerous creatures.
Quadrupedal predators, Korats are often regarded as the ‘average Lavanian,’ for all that they seem to be one of the most successful species. Korats have canine heads, shark-like teeth, round-pupiled eyes, and lupine ears. Their necks are a few feet long and held tightly in an S-curve, almost jointed; it takes a muscle spasm for them to ‘unlock’ their necks, and it’s also rather hard to slit a Korat’s throat, as their necks are thickly-muscled. They have deep chests and narrower waists. Their forelegs are slender compared to their hind, ending in forehands with small V-shaped palms and two retractably-clawed ‘fingers’. Their hind legs are powerful with a three-toed paw resembling that of a Velociraptor; their innermost toe is held upright, off the ground, and totes a ‘longclaw’ – a scythe-shaped claw usually 6 inches long. Males have long, fast tails with a curving ‘tailblade’ made of bone branching off near the tailtip; some females can have this as well, though it’s rare. Most females, instead, have shorter and very muscular tails.
Korats are small for Lavanians, standing at 3-6 feet at the withers. They’re striated into five distinct breeds – lean and swift tans, graceful and toned blacks, sturdy and muscular reds, tall and powerful whites, and tough and shaggy browns – as well as a genetic mutation, a striped that combines two breeds. Koratian breeds determine not only the physical appearance, but also the body’s strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and agility, as well as the mind’s general temperament and sociability. Korats tend towards a pack structure, with a leader and a few secondary leaders guiding the group’s activities and drawing the bounds of territory; they don’t use tools and many abhor the scent of metal objects.
The complete biography – including full physical description, breed details, history, society, and culture – can be found in the Bestiary under ‘Korat’. I have all the details I could think to write on that single page, so it’s fairly long (and why I summarized, rather than copy-pasted, in this entry). You can also check out the Korat Gallery for some illustrations by various artists.
I’ve written (but not finished) one Korat novel so far, entitled Outcast, and I’m contemplating either completing that story or starting anew for my third writing project. I figured now was a good time to get you used to hearing about Korats; I’ll see if I can’t find a little piece of fiction to toss up shortly. Besides, the Korat biography is a good glimpse of how detailed my creature-building can get – and perhaps an inspiration for other worldmakers to write their ideas down.
What kinds of creatures have you come up with to populate your fiction?