The Ski'pec (Pronounced Shkhai’pekh in Zlitharu) are the dominant species of Smohera. Oldest of the three intelligent species native to Azurullya, the Ski’pec have experienced more of Azurullya’s once dormant aberrations than both the Ryleiths and the Xherari combined.
Ski'pec are bipedal beings with a total of five limbs. The forelimbs of the Ski’pec are arms that are around 50-60% of their body length, ended with highly flexible and lengthened digits, one of which is opposable. The hind limbs are a set of powerful digitigrade legs, with musculature that allows the average Ski’pec to run at around 50 km/h. For balance, they also possess a thick tail.
Ski’pec are covered in a thin layer of fur that thickens towards the tail and base of the legs. They average around 2 meters in height, with a slight difference depending on the subspecies. The Ski’pec possess a pair of olfactory gill-like orifices on each side of their necks, which double as their respiratory openings.
The Ski’pec are divided into two subspecies. The primary subspecies is the Khuzhe (Grounded) subspecies, which have more muscular builds and greater physical strength on average, but are completely incapable of anything resembling flight. The other, less common subspecies, the Thakhezh (Flyers), have a taller and more slender build, less-than-average endurance, and a more energy-intensive diet, but have the ability of limited flight with patagium extending from their wrists to their waists.
The genetics of each subspecies are very similar, enough that interbreeding is possible. If this does occur, the chance of the child being a Grounded is roughly 70%, regardless of which parent is which subspecies.
Ski’pec inherit their respiratory system’s style from their ancient marine ancestors. As the marine life of Smohera began to transition onto land, the gills became deep chambers with muscles to control airflow. Descended from predatory species, the Ski’pec neck orifices are covered in strong olfactory receptors, giving them an extraordinarily developed sense of smell.
A major benefit of the Ski’pec respiratory system is that it never intersects with the digestive system. This eliminates the risk of choking, though it does cause a few limitations in speech, as the openings cannot be used as efficiently to articulate speech. Additionally, because each lung is separate from the other, Ski’pec can speak twice at the same time, saying one thing with one lung and side of their neck and a different thing with the other. This is mostly used by the Ski’pec to speak for great lengths without pause or, more notably, for music.
Ski’pec are descended closely from an apex predator of ancient Smohera, and as such are mainly carnivores. Their diet consists of around 75% meat from various types of Smoheran animals, though they have adapted over the past few million years to consume many species of fruits and herbs.
The roof of the Ski’pec mouth is lined with a high density of olfactory receptors, which increases their sensitivity to taste by many times. The evolutionary precedent for this is most likely sensory. The ancient ancestor species of the Ski’pec likely opened their mouths and breathing orifices very widely to gain a detailed sense of their environment through smell. Today, Ski’pec are noted to have an extremely precise sense of taste as a holdover from this.
Ski’pec jaws are capable of unhinging very widely, though historical records depicting such show a trend of this trait becoming less prominent. This may give precedent to the ancestral scent-searching theory. The average maximum bite radius of a modern Ski’pec is around 10 centimeters. This is complemented by their sharp teeth, which form two rows on the top jaw and one on the bottom jaw. The design of the Ski’pec jaws and teeth is meant primarily for ripping flesh apart, though the back few teeth are more flattened out and are suitable for crushing some plant matter.
Ski’pec have, as previously stated, incredible sensitivity to scent and taste. However, their other senses differ from this trend greatly. As crepuscular beings, they have highly light-sensitive eyes associated with nocturnality, but a translucent eyelid that can cover the eyes in the daytime to reduce unnecessary exposure to light. Without this eyelid functioning properly, even noontime skies on Smohera, which is distant from its parent star, can permanently damage and possibly blind a Ski’pec. This eyelid isn’t usually noticeable, as it tends to be the same color as the eyes of each Ski’pec.
The range of color vision for an average Ski’pec extends from near infrared light far into the ultraviolet spectrum, giving them a somewhat limited visual sense of heat. In the daytime, the translucent eyelid blocks much of the infrared and even some of the red wavelengths of light. The environment of Smohera seen through Ski’pec eyes is best represented through art, which features all manners of glows from different land features that diurnal species wouldn’t pick up on.
Ski’pec have a dull sense of touch and pain, however. Their bodies are more suited to sensing vibrations through sand or soil than to feeling textures. Flyer Ski’pec are notably more sensitive than the Grounded subspecies, but they still have less touch sensitivity than most sapient species.
With the other senses already serving purposes in the ancestral species of the Ski’pec, hearing has been adapted for primarily social purposes. The ears of a Ski’pec can rotate widely and have been tuned to pick up on vocal sounds more than ambience. Ski’pec can discern a familiar voice from within a crowd of other noises much more effectively than other species, but can’t discern natural sounds such as water running from a brush fire. This doesn’t hamper the Ski’pec much, though, as their other senses fill in the gaps left by their specialized hearing.
Ski’pec, due to their exotic biochemistry, have resistance to strong electric currents. They are less likely than organic beings to be the chosen path of a lightning bolt, and they are less physically harmed by strong electric shocks than other species. This has been demonstrated to be a property of most animal life on Smohera.
As a result, Ski’pec Magi share an emergent affinity for the electromagnetism sect of classical Thaumaturgy, showing greater amounts of control and overall power output than equally trained Magi of other species.
Ski’pec are one of the most attuned sapient species in the Universe. The average Pylon weight of an untrained Ski’pec at the age of maturity is roughly 2.4 times greater than that of a human. The reason for this is not well known, but it is hypothesized that Smohera passed through the Auramest as the early Ski’pec were evolving, which would have given the planet roughly 3600 years where the Lux Aeterna would have greater influence on the developing minds of the species.
As previously stated, the Ski’pec have a natural affinity for electromagnetic abilities within classical Thaumaturgy. It is often learned alongside basic language in the species’ young children. Their other thaumaturgic abilities appear to be more in line with the average across the major species. Nearly all Ski’pec are proficient in many different aspects of classical Thaumaturgy, as its prevalence in their species led it to become an integral part of their culture. The old nations of the Ski'pec would likely have become known as some of the most Aeterna-oriented civilizations across the Universe, were they not assimilated into the Theocracy of Silverstar.
Behavior and Social Dynamics
The ancestor species of the Ski’pec hunted in large packs, stalking and surrounding large herds of prey on the Smoheran steppe and crags. The sociability of Ski’pec most likely stemmed from this ancient behavior. Ski’pec often have large groups of peers that they maintain from a young age. These groups are anywhere from 150-400 individuals large. Ski’pec are very socially co-dependent, usually living together with up to 20 others in large colony buildings. Several colonies form generational groups of peers, which in turn form larger societies.
Ski’pec have highly cooperative tendencies. Groups often coordinate large projects through careful work delegation and common interests. Historically, Ski’pec governments have been very democratic, mirroring this.
Ski’pec are only found in Azurullya. Their local colonies across nearby stars did not remain connected for very long, as Azurullya’s turbulent starflow caused them to drift apart over a period of only a few millennia. However, technological improvements to starflight using Hypertryptine allowed the colonies to reconnect with the Sperxai system and remain as one connected species. The assimilation into the Theocracy of Silverstar has allowed Ski’pec to spread more throughout Azurullya. However, due to their silicon-based biochemistries, they are more limited in which planets they inhabit.
Around 65% of the Ski’pec population is the Khuzhe subspecies, with the remaining 35% being of the Thakhezh subspecies. Floating cities above many of the Ski’pec-inhabited worlds house the majority of the Thakhezh Ski’pec population, though every populated area seems to have a proportional mix of the two subspecies.
Ski’pec culture has been heavily influenced by their characteristics. From Thaumaturgy to art and music to governmental relations, the societies of Smohera have been guided by the core of the Ski’pec heart and mind.
Ski’pec religions have grown and evolved an incredible amount over their history. Their extraordinary eyesight seems to have given them a very strong fascination with the heavens, as many of their religions worship celestial bodies. Smohera’s moons, Sperxai’s other planets, and especially the Deagami Nebulis are recurring important figures in Ski’pec religions. The most prominent modern religions are descended from an ancient one that worshipped the galaxy of Azurullya as a whole, calling it the Khashirrur (Great Mother of Magic) and denoting many major celestial objects as her children. Modern Ski’pec religion Rrurkhiya (Magic’s Travellers) represents Azurullya as a two-faced maternal goddess, one who gives life to her galaxy before becoming jealous and sending disasters to end her creations. Rrurkhiya also notes large galaxies such as Via Aylathiya and Via Lacrimosa as gods, though distant and weak ones.
Ski’pec religions often place a heavy emphasis on Thaumaturgy, usually treating it as a sacred gift and requiring regular practice of it. Priests of these religions are often relatively powerful Magi.
The languages of the Ski’pec were once innumerable, with thousands of separate dialects scattered across multitudes of worlds. As the old languages evolved and grew, standardization became more and more necessary. The governments of the many worlds the species had colonized came together with the finest of linguistic experts and agonized over the creation of a new language. This language has been so strictly written that it has little room for grammatical drift. This engineered universal Ski’pec language is known as Zlitharu. The lexicon of Zlitharu covers the wide majority of the sounds that Ski’pec are capable of producing.
Due to the unorthodox hearing of the Ski’pec, most music is vocally focused. There are very few actual instruments, as it would be difficult for the Ski’pec to discern between most sounds. The instruments that do exist usually serve to supplement and support the singing. Talented musicians also tend to use a technique known as Khou’zhli (double voice), where the singer uses each lung to sing independently from one another. This skill can take years to master.