Sah'aar, some one hundred light-years distant from Terra, is the second planet of six orbiting the star Zrr'aal, a G-class sun somewhat smaller and more orange than Sol. Sah'aar orbits at a mean distance of approximately 145 million kilometers. The innermost planet is a tiny, rocky, sunbaked world, useless for colonization; the remaining four are gast-giants approximately the size of Neptune in Sol system, and possessing numerous moons and faint, dark rings. Between Sah'aar and its outbound neighbor lies a wide, dense asteroid belt, rich in iron, cobalt and other valuable minerals. Most of the larger asteroids are honeycombed with mines, while independant operators work the smaller rocks.
Sah'aar has two small moons in low, swift orbits. Sah'riil is the outer, larger satellite; his "mate" Ehm'riil is about one-third smaller. Both moons are extensively colonized and deeply mined.
Sah'aar has a slightly higher average temperature than Terra, and a smaller percentage of its surface--just over half--is covered with water. The surface gravity is .92 G. The atmosphere contains an approximately two percent higher concentration of oxygen than Terra's.
Sah'aar has three large continents, and a number of subcontinents and islands. Many of the latter--due to the Sah'aarans' deep dislike for water and boats--remained uninhabited until well into the modern era. There are two major oceans--the Western and Eastern--and a small number of minor seas. Freshwater lakes are small and scattered; Sah'aar has nothing resembling North America's Great Lakes or Siberia's Lake Baikal.
Sah'salaan Continent, occupying most of the Northeastern Hemisphere from the arctic circle to the northern tropics, is by far the largest land-mass, being one-third again the size of Eurasia on Terra. Much of its interior is flat and rolling, with an average elevation of no more than fifty meters, and is covered with millions of square kilometers of grassland, studded with dark, twisted Tatak trees. As one travels north the Tatak forests gradually become thicker, before giving way to narrow band of evergreens, and finally to the barren, windswept, uninhabitable wastes of the arctic zone. The Western seacoast is rocky and abrupt, and still somewhat tectonically active. The Eastern coast is flatter, with many hundreds of kilometers of gently-sloping beach, forming dangerous, shifting shoals. The interior of the continent is a "stable craton," with virtually no tectonic activity.
The central portion of Sah'salaan Continent has an extremely arid climate, with the annual rainfall restricted to a single two-week drenching monsoon, the so-called "Interval," dividing First- from Second-Summer. Sah'aar's capital city, also called Sah'salaan, lies just west of the geographic center of the continent.
Ehm'tarr Continent, approximately half the size of Sah'salaan, straddles the equator in the Western Hemisphere. High mountains on the Eastern seaboard, combined with the prevailing westerly winds, act to funnel moisture into the deep bowl that is the interior. Much of Ehm'tarr is thus covered with lush, dense rainforest, thickest in the equatorial belt. The annual rainfall is easily a hundred times that of Sah'salaan Continent. Huge, towering hardwoods form an impenetrable canopy, and are such a distinctive feature of the continent that the common Sah'salaan term for a native of Ehm'tarr translates literally as "Tree-climber."
In the past, extensive tracts of Ehm'tarr rainforest were cleared for grazing; but in the modern era that trend has been halted, and in many cases even reversed. It is estimated that the Ehm'tarr forests produce approximately one-fifth of the free atmospheric oxygen on Sah'aar.
Sah'taam Continent, three-quarters the size of Sah'salaan, lies in the Northwestern Hemisphere, extending from the high temperate zone across the North Pole. The higest latitudes are mountainous, ice-bound and uninhabitable, and even today are little-explored. The lower latitudes are flatter, but gouged by numerous, deep canyons, the rivers within fed by the glaciers of the far north. Much of the continent is covered with dense forest, the trees evergreen and similar to Terran conifers, though generally lower-growing. Fishing, fur-trapping and herding the local, shaggy variant of the common grazer have historically been the major industries of Sah'taam.
Sah'aar has no antarctic continent, but the polar icecap does enclose a number of small islands, unknown until discovered by orbital radar scans.
Seismic activity on Sah'aar is generally low, though there are several dormant volcanoes in the high latitudes of Sah'salaan and Sah'taam continent, and the low latitudes of Ehm'tarr. The mountains on the eastern coast of Ehm'tarr are gnerally thought to be of the "Himalayan" type, thrust up by the collision of two continental plates. The Eastern Ocean contains several ranges of active, spreading seamounts, and the Western Ocean has no fewer than seven well-mapped deep subduction trenches. Apart from these depths, Sah'aar's seas are relatively shallow, and quite warm. They are thus somewhat less productive than Terra's colder seas; but the life-forms that do exist are widely-varied and spectacularly colorful. Only in very recent times has any concentrated exploration of the oceans been undertaken.
Flora and Fauna
A complete listing of the native plants and animals of Sah'aar is beyond the scope of this work. We will therefore restrict ourselves to mentioning a few of the more important species. Native names are given where easily reproduceable (see "Language"); otherwise, the most common translations are provided.
(Literally, "life-shade") The most common tree on Sah'salaan Continent, and sparsely found on Sah'taam, Ehm'tarr and many of the temperate-zone islands. A huge, spreading hardwood with shaggy black bark and dark-grey wood, it most closely resembles a Terran oak. It is deciduous, and has small, oval, dark-green leaves, which are lost in late winter. The tree produces tiny, sweet-smelling white blossoms after the Interval, which in autumn become small, tri-lobed nuts, food for many small animals and a popular export item, especially relished by Terrans. Tatak wood is an extremely common building material, most especially for furniture. Fortunately the trees are relatively quick-growing and germinate easily under cultivation.
(regionally, "boat-wood.") A pseudo-conifer with large bundles of long, light-green, corkscrew needles. A yellow-barked variety is extremely common on Sah'taam Continent; it also grows sparsely in northern Sah'salaan. A red-barked, much taller variety was at one time very common along the cool western shore of Sah'salaan Continent, where it was commonly used by the prehistoric Fisher-Folk to build dugout canoes. Red Talla is now rare, the once-dense stands having been clear-cut for building material. The remaining forests are legally protected. Yellow Talla has been a common export of Sah'taam Continent, though it is now seldom used in house-building.
(literally, "sky-shadow.") The most common tree of Ehm'tarr Continent, where it forms a major component of the rainforest canopy. An immense, evergreen hardwood, it bears huge, bright-green, heart-shaped leaves almost a meter long. The yellowish-white wood of Aar'chalak is also commercially valuable, as is the land the trees occupy (see "Geography," above); but the remaining stands are protected, and harvesting is strictly limited.
Common to the riparian fringe of permanent waterways on Sah'salaan Contininent, Broadleaf has smooth, light-grey bark and hand-sized, almost round leaves. It is evergreen, but loses its leaves and enters dormancy in times of extreme drought. It is not commercially valuable, though in earlier times it was occasionally cut for firewood.
Bushes and Shrubs
A meandering shrub with long, thick, green stems, it is the most common plant along waterways in Sah'salaan Continent. Leafless, the photosynthetic cells are in the stems themselves. The branches are sticky, and a wise hunter avoids getting tangled in them.
A low-growing, ground-hugging bush with tiny five-lobed leaves and--in Second-Summer--small odorless pink flowers. Its innocent appearance is deceptive: the leaves conceal long, sharp, barbed thorns, which can easily penetrate the Sah'aaran foot-pad, and are difficult and painful to extract. A careful hunter sticks to the trails.
(Literally, "Life-Grass.") This is the single most common plant on Sah'salaan Continent, covering many millions of square kilometers, and feeding uncountable numbers of herd animals. Grey-green in color, with a pale-yellow seed head, it sprouts after the Interval and grows throughout Second-Summer, autumn, winter and spring, except in the far north, where it becomes dormant in winter. With the right soil, it can reach heights of three meters. It dislikes extremely rocky or alkaline soil. A shorter variety grows on the southern steppes of Sah'taam Continent.
In addition to the Ta'chlass grass, the plains of Sah'salaan Continent are also home to a wide range of seasonal wildflowers, which bloom immediately after the Interval. Among the more conspicuous forms are Blood-drops, Goddess' Eyes, Blue-claws, and Violet Creeper.
Large, shaggy, bovine creatures with solid hooves, native to Sah'salaan Continent. The meat of the grazer is somewhat tough and "gamey," but still much relished as a delicacy. In contrast to their domesticated cousins, wild grazers are wiley and even dangerous creatures, difficult to stalk and nearly impossible to bring down single-handed.
The domesticated version of the Grazer. Almost twice the size of its wild relative, the Maxigrazer has extremely tender, but surprisingly lean, meat, and is also remarkably efficient, producing a large quantity of meat with a relatively small input of food and water, and an astonishingly small quantity of waste material. Maxigrazer meat is a popular export item. The animals are the result of millennia of selective breeding, and several centuries of genetic engineering. A slightly smaller variety has been bred for dairy purposes. Sah'aarans are especially fond of fresh, warm maxigrazer liver and kidneys.
A small, gazelle-like creature, with long, delicate legs and slate-grey coats, with brown spots on the hindquarters. Both sexes possess four horns, two pointed straight up and two straight forward. Extremely fast, and capable of prodigious leaps, they are commonly hunted from ambush.
A large pig-like creature, with four splayed toes on each foot, a wrinkled brown hide, and a short trunk-like snout. Native to the wet jungle-floor of Ehm'tarr Continent, and has been domesticated as a food animal on Sah'salaan and (to a limited degree) Sah'taam. Intolerant of cold and drought, they would not be successful in the wild on either continent.
(literally, "little digger.") A small, rodent-like creature with chisel teeth, short grey fur, and large, round ears. Native to Sah'salaan Continent; accidentally imported to Sah'taam and Ehm'tarr, as well as most islands, where they are considered a pest. As the name implies, they are burrowing creatures, and create elaborate warrens. On Sah'salaan Continent this activity helps to turn over and aerate the soil. They are opportunistic feeders, but their most common food is the nut of the Tatak tree. Most Tatak germinate as the result of nuts gathered and stored underground by Ha'chaar. Not considered edible, tame Ha'chaar are occasionally kept as pets.
A pseudo-feline creature native to Ehm'tarr Continent, and a distant relative of the modern Sah'aaran. (see "Evolution," below.) Nocturnal, extremely rare, and almost never seen; it is a long, lithe dark-furred creature, preying largely upon small creatures in the upper branches of the forest canopy. Seldom if ever ventures down to the ground. A clever animal, but by no means sapient. It does, however, possess fnger-like digits on its forepaws, which it uses to grasp the tree-branches. This perhaps points the way to the true toolmaking hands of the Sah'aaran.
Another distant relative of the modern Sah'aaran; in fact the only other one still extant. A native of the cold, windswept steppes of Sah'taam Continent, it has shaggy white fur with grey stripes. A compact creature, less than a meter long, it preys mostly upon small mammals. It is particularly fond of Ha'chaar, which makes it well-liked by the inhabitants of Sah'taam. It is named for its nocturnal habits, and its distinctive and penetrating mating call. Another intelligent and cunning predator, but not sapient.
Three meters long, low-slung, with pebbly grey skin, a short, wide, craggy spike-fringed skull, and a beak-like mouth filled with sharp snaggle teeth. Oviparous; the females lay from six to ten eggs, but only one or two from each brood commonly survives. Breeding males have a purple throat sac and an unmistakable, musty odor. A nocturnal carnivore and scavenger, this Sah'salaan Continent native holes up during the day, close to water, and emerges at night to hunt. Exposure to First-Summer heat would kill it. Extremely vicious, it must be approached with caution. Not hunted for food, but the populations are sometimes thinned to protect herds of Grazers or Spotted Leapers.
A large schooling fish, which occurs in great numbers on the Sah'salaan coast of the Western Sea. A major foodsource for the ancient Fisher-Folk, in recent times the Redstripe flirted with extinction. Current populations, bolstered by pollution-control and stream-management measures, are healthy, and support a sustainable fishery.
A rather bizarre mollusk, which burrows in the mud on the tidal flats of the Western Sea. It is a trivalve, the shell having three distinct segments. The common name indicates a superficial resemblance to the three-lobed nut of the Tatak tree. Along with Redstripe, Nutshells formed an important part of the Fisher-Folk diet, and is still used in the regional cuisine of western Sah'salaan Continent.
A freshwater fish, common to the rivers of southern Sah'taam Continent, and successfully farmed elsewhere. It has a succulent pink flesh, very similar to Terran catfish. Its skin is bright silver, and its fins and tail are narrow, with sharp, dangerous barbs. Extremely hardy, they can be raised in crowded tanks, with very little attention.
Sah'aarans (scientifically, Xenofelis sapiens Sah'aar) are sentient, bipedal mammals, bearing a strong--though entirely coincidental--resemblance to certain Terran felines, both in physical appearance and behavior. They are rather small, and deceptively light in build. The average adult male stands approximately 170 centimeters tall, and weighs perhaps fifty to fifty-five kilograms. The average adult female stand approximately 160 centimeters, and weighs forty kilograms. Sah'aarans possess a long, tufted tail, a little over a meter in length, which is expressive and flexible, but not prehensile. They have large eyes with vertical-slit pupils, usually greenish-gold in color, and tall, triangular ears which can move independently to "zero in" on sounds. Their jaws are strong, with a pronounced muzzle, and their teeth are sharp, the canines especially so. Their muzzles are lined with long, stiff, black whiskers. Their feet are digitigrade, meaning that they walk upon their toes and the balls of their feet. They have four toes; an undeveloped fifth digit, or "dewclaw," at the back of the heel is commonly amputated soon after birth. The toes possess long retractable claws, which "express" for traction either at will or involuntarily. Their hands have four digits (a dewclaw at the base of the palm is also removed in infancy.) The three fingers appear stubby, but are remarkably sensitive. The thumb is fully opposable. Fingers and thumbs also possess claws, extremely strong and sharp, the care of which occupies a great deal of their time. (See "Culture.") With the exception of the palms of their hands and the pads of their feet, their bodies are entirely covered with
the color and texture of which varies by ethnicity. The natives of the Sah'salaan continent have smooth fur of medium length, ranging in color from golden- to dark-brown. Those from other areas vary considerably. The natives of the equatorial Ehm'tarr Continent will often have short, coppery fur, and markings--such as pronounced "tear streaks" on the cheeks--are common. Those hailing from Sah'taam Continent, where the climate is colder, will generally possess a much thicker, "fluffier" coat, especially in winter. Muted stripes and/or spots are common to all ethnic groups. Sah'aarans experience shedding seasons twice a year, a two-week period of extreme physical discomfort. Upon their heads, Sah'aarans of both genders possess
a mass of fine, straight hair that never curls. Mane colors vary extensively, again due to ethnicity, but are commonly a variation on orange. This can range from an almost fluorescent hue to a more muted red/orange mix. Again, faint stripes and/or spots are not uncommon. Males generally wear their manes at shoulder-length, or slightly longer; any shorter is considered gauche. Females usually wear their manes quite long, past the base of their tails, and will often hold the hair back with clips or other ornaments. As a male enters adolescence, fuzzy "sideburns" matching his mane will begin to descend his cheeks. In adulthood they will join beneath his chin. In both genders, the tuft at the end of the tail matches the mane in color and texture.
Two marked exceptions from the normal range of fur- and mane-coloration are known to occur. The first is albinism. As with most species, this results in white (actually pigmentless) fur, pale-pink flesh, and red, sensitive eyes. In Sah'aarans it is also commonly accompanied by a range of other physical, and even mental, ailments. In earlier times "whitefurs" would be viewed as worthless to a hunting community, and would be shunned or even killed.
The other (more accepted) variation is the "blackfur." This is an extremely rare mutation, which turns every hair on a Sah'aaran's body jet-black. An accompanying mutation turns the eyes emerald green. Blackfurs do not suffer from any marked physical or emotional ailments, and in earlier times they were much prized, looked upon as mysterious or mystical. This may have resulted in part because they were more effective night-hunters, and were thus strongly associated with twilight and shadow. Even in modern times, blackfurs are considered strikingly beautiful. To have a blackfur as one's mate is to be fortunate beyond belief.
At first glance, the most obvious difference between an adult male and adult female Sah'aaran is one of size--as well as the aforementioned male "sideburns." In every dimension--height, weight, thickness of torso, limbs and tail, size of the muzzle--the males are distinctly larger. In children ("kits") and adolescents, this is much less pronounced. Neither the male nor female genitalia is readily apparent to the casual observer. An adolescent or adult female will possess a single pair of mammaries, carried (as in humans) on the upper region of the chest. They are generally inconspicuous, however, except when the female is fertile, pregnant or nursing.
As previously noted, Sah'aarans are mammals, practicing both live birth and lactation, and have two distinct genders. They achieve sexual maturity between the ages of eleven and thirteen (Terran Standard.) At this time both genders begin to broadcast an insensible cloud of pheromones. When two Sah'aarans--of the opposite sex--with matching pheromones (often described as the "key" to a hormonal "lock") encounter each other, they undergo the process called "bonding," forming an unbreakable physiological connection which will last as long as they live. Thus Sah'aarans are biologically "hard-wired" for monogamy. During adolescence there will often be a certain degree of sexual "experimentation"--occasionally with members of the same gender--but only a bonded, male-female relationship will stand the test of time. Bonding can occur at any time after adolescence, with the vast majority of Sah'aarans finding their life-mates before the age of twenty. It can occur with lightning rapidity, or can take days or weeks to develop. With very few exceptions, bonding is utterly unpredictable, and thus can be termed the "great equalizer" of Sah'aaran society.
Sah'aaran females are fertile just twice a year, for approximately one week on each occasion. With one exception, however, they are sexually receptive at any time, an adaptation which facilitates bonding. The single exception is the unbonded female. During her fertile period, she will reject the advances of every male, except the one to whom she is destined to be bonded. To him she will be extremely receptive; thus bonding and pregnancy often occur together. For unbonded females, the fertile period--and the days leading up to it--are extremely unpleasant, accompanied by violent mood swings. Hormones are often prescribed to help the female cope. These symptoms largely disappear with bonding, and entirely so with menopause, which normally occurs after age fifty. Sah'aaran males are sexually receptive at any time. After bonding, however, neither gender is capable of sexual relations with anyone other than his or her own mate.
The Sah'aaran gestation period is eight months, Terran Standard. In almost every case, a Sah'aaran female will give birth to fraternal twins, male and female. This fact is so ubiquitous that a Sah'aaran without a sibling is considered literally "incomplete," and is the object of both pity and scorn. The kits are born quite helpless, with their eyes closed and their limbs and tails somewhat undeveloped. No matter his or her ethnicity, an infant's fur will be light in color, with camouflaging spots and stripes, most of which will disappear in a few weeks. Until they are about six months old, kits' eyes are bright blue.
Sah'aaran children grow very fast, and usually reach their full height and weight by age seventeen. Not until adolescence, however, do their claws harden sufficiently to hold a sharp point--a fact which has doubtless prevented many tragedies.
Sah'aaran females are extremely protective of their kits; a perceived threat can send a mother into a state of almost berserker rage. The kits themselves are protective of their siblings, and are extremely close, oftentimes sharing a bed until adolescence. Playful bickering between siblings is common, but physical violence is unknown, and even the arguments seldom last long.
As with Terran humans, Sah'aarans are the final remaining "twig" on their particular branch of the evolutionary bush. Their physiology and brain-size has remained essentially unchanged for approximately forty thousand Terran Standard years. The fossil record contains many recognizable ancestors, some of which existed contemporaneously with the modern form for a (geologically) brief period. Judging by cranial capacity, none of them were as intelligent as the current model; nor did they possess the hands of skilled toolmakers. What happened to them is unknown; possibly they were out-competed by the modern Sah'aarans, or were actively exterminated by them; or perhaps (the prevailing theory) there were climatic changes with which only the more intelligent species could cope.
Unlike Terran humans, however, who have numerous primate relatives, only two other examples remain of the pseudo-feline order from which Xenofelis sapiens Sah'aar arose. Like Terran primates (the chimpanzee, for example), they are animals of superior intelligence, but are not sapient. See "Tree-phantom" and "Night-screamer" in "Fauna," above. Other forms have existed, but again, were unable to compete with an intelligent competitor.
In general, most modern Sah'aarans live to well over a hundred years old, thanks largely to advances in geriatric medicine. In their early fifties, both genders will experience a gradual greying of their fur and manes, usually beginning with the muzzle and whiskers. By the time they are seventy, most will be pure white. Approximately 90% of Sah'aarans, before they reach the age of eighty, will require the implantation of an artificial heart, as their own hearts "wear out," developing extreme valvular insufficiency and muscle degeneration. As they age, Sah'aarans are also subject to such ailments as arthritis and cataracts, but these can generally be kept in check. In general, Sah'aarans retain their mental agility and senses until just before death. The oldest known Sah'aaran reached an age of one hundred and twenty-two years; that record, however, may be broken as advances in nanotechnology continue.
Senses and Abilities
Sah'aarans evolved as hunting carnivores, and thus possess all the tools for the job. Apart from their teeth and claws, discussed above, they also possess extreme agility and a surprising degree of strength. Their vision and hearing are many times more acute than a humans', as is their sense of smell. They can see in near-darkness, and like those of a Terran cat, their eyes glow green in low light. They can hear much higher- and lower-pitched sounds than any human, and at a far longer range. They are easily able to distinguish individuals of any species by scent alone. They have a finely-tuned sense of balance, and perform well in such activities as gymnastics and high-wire walking, as well as any sport that requires speed and flexibility. They move with almost absolute silence, even when they do not consciously mean to. In general they are extremely intelligent, adaptable, and have a well-developed ability to think on their feet.
Sah'aarans experience a range of emotions very familiar to humans, though they tend to feel them more strongly. Pleasure is expressed by purring, or by a closed-mouth smile. Irritation--depending on the degree--is expressed by a growl, a flicking of the tail (which is also a general stress-release), or the involuntary expression of claws. Humor is expressed by a curious sound, halfway between a purr and a hiccup, which with practice can be distinguished as laughter. Physically speaking, Sah'aarans do share with humans the habit of expressing grief or sadness through an excessive flow of tears--in other words, crying. But in virtually all Sah'aaran societies, including the dominant Sah'salaan culture, weeping is strictly taboo. It is considered a weakness, both by males and females, and is not tolerated in any but the smallest kits. (On Sah'salaan Continent there is one interesting exception to this rule; see "Holidays and Celebrations" below.) In general Sah'aarans are an affable people, easy to get along with, and both war and crimes of violence are extremely rare on Sah'aar. This is good, because with their claws, teeth and speed, an adult Sah'aaran would easily be capable of killing another--or even a human. An interesting aspect of Sah'aaran behavior involves
Most Sah'aarans dislike open water, with reactions ranging from mild nervousness to outright hydrophobia. The majority do not know how to swim, nor do they wish to learn. It seems likely, however, that this may be more cultural than instinctive. History contains many examples of Sah'aarans living at the seashore, or beside lakes or rivers, and depending on fish or shellfish for the bulk of their diet. Evidence also suggests that Sah'aaran kits, if introduced to water carefully, can become enthusiastic swimmers and/or boaters. It is generally thought that the "proverbial" Sah'aaran fear of water originated in the land-locked, dry savannah of Sah'salaan Continent.
Sah'aarans are carnivores. In order to maintain good health, approximately 95% of their diet must consist of animal protein. They are capable of assimilating carbohydrates, in moderate quantities--and in fact some studies suggest they are healthier if they do--but the protein base must be adequate to insure proper digestion. Vegetable matter--especially uncooked--is bad news: the Sah'aaran digestive system cannot handle it. A green salad would not only be emotionally repulsive to a Sah'aaran, but would make him physically ill as well.
Sah'aarans prefer their meat raw, at body temperature, and fresh; but they will eat previously-frozen, or even cooked, meat, if necessary. The staple of the Sah'aaran diet is the "maxigrazer," a huge, bovine creature genetically engineered to provide the maximum of lean meat with the minimum of byproducts. Sah'aarans also relish Terran beef, poultry and fish. They are very fond of spices and sauces, most especially Terran black pepper. Very few Sah'aarans will ever hunt their own meat, though opportunities do exist. For the most part they content themselves with a visit to the butcher's shop.
Sah'aarans cannot successfully consume alcohol; their livers are incapable of breaking it down with sufficient rapidity. Thus a single drink usually results in extreme--and long-lasting--intoxication, followed by a violent and unpleasant hangover.
Sah'aarans have a high metabolism, and must eat fairly frequently to maintain their strength. In times of famine they will lose weight and energy at an alarming rate.
As with most species, Sah'aarans require a period of restful unconsciousness. Most adults function well on seven to eight hours a day, though kits and adolescents require more. Unlike Terran felines, however, Sah'aarans take their sleep in solid blocks, rather than frequent quick "cat-naps." An exceptionally high percentage of the Sah'aaran sleep-period is taken up with REM or "dreaming" sleep, and Sah'aarans experience extremely vivid dreams, which they usually recall in precise detail. Many attach considerable symbolic significance to their dreams, looking to them for spiritual guidance. Sleep-deprivation (or, more specifically, the deprivation of REM sleep) has dire psychological and physical consequences, causing extreme disorientation and lack of coordination, erratic, incoherent and often paranoid behavior, and terrifying hallucinations.
Many Sah'aarans have the interesting ability to "re-tune" their sleep cycle, almost at will, making themselves either fully diurnal or completely nocturnal. This ability--which no doubt evolved, along with the Sah'aarans' keen eyesight, to enable them to hunt at night if need be--means that "graveyard-shift" work is seldom a hardship.
Sah'aarans can endure a human-style bed, but they prefer one that is low to the ground and (because of their habit of curling tight around themselves when they sleep) extremely soft. Pillows are preferred but not required; the tip of the tail can substitute. Most do not bother with pajamas or nightshirts, preferring the entirely-adequate comfort of their own fur, along with light- to moderate-weight coverings.
Sah'aarans dislike close-fitting or restrictive clothing, but there are times when it is unavoidable. In general, there are two unbreakable constants in Sah'aaran dress: they do not wear shoes, and they do wear collars.
are generally unnecessary, and can in fact be quite hazardous. As mentioned above, the Sah'aaran sense of balance is extremely delicate, and greatly dependent on input from the toes and tail. Shoes, or any other sort of foot-covering, will make a Sah'aaran unstable and clumsy. Their foot-pads are extremely durable, being covered with thick, leathery skin, and are proof against most surfaces. Occasionally a Sah'aaran will reinforce his or her pads with adhesive polymer sheeting--but even that small loss of sensitivity is resented. In general, they would prefer to endure the occasional scrape or cut rather than stumble. Sah'aarans who must carry heavy loads--backpacks, for example--will often wear elastic ankle-supports, which leave the toes and foot-pads bare, while preventing the ankle-joint from "blowing out" under the unaccustomed weight.
are the single most important item of Sah'aaran clothing. They are universal, and seem to have developed independently and simultaneously on several continents. They are occasionally misinterpreted, most often by humans, as symbols of domination, control or submission; but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the collar is intended to preserve modesty--the neck and throat being an extremely sensitive erogenous zone--and few Sah'aarans would willingly be seen in public without one. Kits are trained to wear them at a very early age. In general the collars are soft, woven or braided, and are often elaborately embroidered or beaded. Fancier models of gold or silver links are available for formal wear. It is also acceptable, though uncommon, for a Sah'aaran to substitute a silk scarf or similar covering.
are the most common Sah'aaran unisex garment, having spread from Sah'salaan Continent across the globe. Light and loose-fitting, the day-robe commonly has a knee-length hem and short, open sleeves. Earth-tones and other muted colors are preferred. The robe is belted around the waist with a contrasting sash, which holds a pocket-pouch over one hip. There are endless variations according to climate, time of year, and regional preferences. The "evening robe," which is worn on formal occasions, is longer, heavier, and made of richer (often metallic) material.
In most warm-climate regions, preadolescent kits generally wear nothing apart from a collar, except when attending school or a formal function. If a child is in need of a pocket, he or she will simply strap a pouch to his or her thigh. In the very hottest climates, such an outfit will do for school as well; even, at times, for adult wear.
There are of course professions--and circumstances--which call for other types of clothing. A good example is the Combined Forces uniform jumpsuit. These are endured, but never enjoyed, and shed as soon as opportunity allows.
An extremely common accessory is the
This is a snug-fitting hinged anklet of gold, silver or platinum, layered over a core of steel (for sturdiness) and inlaid with gemstones of various types. Cabochons of emerald, ruby and sapphire are very popular, as are polished strips of red-and-white veined "bloodstone," a variety of marble unique to Sah'aar. Natural gems are the rule, but some prefer synthetic stones. When two Sah'aarans bond, an identical pair of bands is purchased by the male--or his family--and in a private ceremony, the lovers fasten them around each other's legs. Once in place, they are never removed: to do so would be extremely bad luck. To minimize the risk of accidental loss, the bands have exceptionally strong hinges and clasps. If by mischance one is lost, its mate must immediately be destroyed, and a new pair acquired. Planetwide, more than 95% of mated Sah'aarans wear bonding-bands.
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