The Lupa are in part a humanoid species, having two arms, legs, a torso, head, and walking upright. They are divided into male and female in the normal fashion and their organs, musculature, and skeleton are laid out in the same manner as a Terran. On average, they are 10% faster than a Terran, and their senses are 10—12% sharper. They can lift 1½–2 times their body weight. Their bones are 15% more dense than a Terran's and their hair is 15% thicker, and a little coarse. Their skin has 4 layers, and each layer is thicker than the layers of Terran skin.
These physical advantages in strength and senses make far more sense when one looks at the versatility of their species' form. Lupa cells and proteins are extremely adaptable, and can shift between their two bodily configurations, or forms, in a matter of seconds.
Normal temperature for a Lupa is 102—104°F, and they can survive both higher and lower temperatures than a Terran. While Terran internal temperatures can't reach higher than 105°F, the Lupa internal temperature can reach 112—114°F. This allows greater range of exertion than a comparable human. Higher temperatures are likely to be recorded after transformation.
An adult Lupa in fur is a demonic looking 4 legged creature, about 3' tall at the withers with long fine legs and a long kinked tail, covered in tons of fur. The legs are long and slim while the dropped head gives the large withers an exaggerated hump like effect. The spine is protected by spikes that can be raised and lowered at will. The forelegs have knees in the manner of a horse, and both fore and hind legs can move in great angle to the body. The rib cage is large, leading to a small waist. All five non-retractable claws are situated in the foot, rather than one being further up the leg as in many Earth animals. The feet do, however, have very thick pads.
The neck is generally thick, the head slightly triangular in the upper portion and rather like a wide rectangle in the muzzle and jaw. The jaw is also deep enough to close with the teeth housed inside. The eyes are placed mostly on the side of the head, but with more of a view forward than most prey animals, as Lupa are both hunter and prey on their homeworld, xcheamo. The eyes have both upper and lower ridges, and are the same color and have the same iris shape as a normal skin or human eye. The ears are shaped like an isosceles triangle, pointing straight backward, the point being topped with a tuft of fur. The ears generally move in accordance to sound, but do not have as great a mobility as some other creatures. The front of the muzzle curves downward, the nose being two large gaping holes between a rather visible bone. Each hole has a movable flap that can open and close as necessary.
As for the spikes down the spine, there is a spike for every two vertebrae, and they are an elongated triangular shape. When down, they usually overlap and create a column of armor down the spine, and when up create a weapon against something that might injure the spine, as well. Lupa will usually raise these spikes when threatened, and do use them when fighting. The length and thickness of spikes may vary by family line, although they are always at least long enough to cover the two vertebrae.
In size, the Lupa are larger than either a Great Dane or miniature pony, but because the change is a mass to mass conversion, a Lupa without fur would appear skinny compared to either of these two animals.
The fur covering the body, upper legs, and base of the neck is usually about 10 to 12" long and is very coarse and thick. It covers the private area between the legs (it may be difficult to tell the sex of a Lupa for this reason) and all four feet. While the basic Lupa form is a tad elegant, it's nearly obscured with the way the fur lays on the body—some in tufts or wads depending on what the person's been doing, and it generally doesn't lay very flat. One's fur color is usually, though not always, based on their hair color, and may be solid, two-toned, flecked, roan, or bay, but not spotted or painted.
The Lupa body is best geared for protein and produce, and after weaning, derive most of their calcium from the bone marrow of their prey or lichen which grows freely in most forests. They require more calories than Humans and tend to eat throughout the day than have full meals. They can survive at least 2 weeks without water, 1 without serious consequences, and about eight weeks without food. They can last long amounts of time on minimal food.
In keeping with their high natural ability to adapt, the body will take out as much as it needs or anticipates by season—as much or little as it needs. Lupa will normally be thinnest (-5) in summer, and thickest (+5) in winter. During the summer, their body will absorb as much moisture as possible from anything they eat, resulting in extremely dry, pellet like droppings when necessary.
There is something in fresh meat, most likely some kind of enzyme, that is necessary for Lupa survival; a Lupa kept without fresh meat will eventually die. It is something generally found in animals on most planets, or they could never leave xcheamo.
Although personal body type varies nearly as much as with Terrans, they have a relatively lower body fat content, and a higher percentage of muscle. Thus someone with a little tummy pouch may yet have toned arms and legs. Both obesity and super skinny people are rarer than in Terrans, but people don't generally worry about their weight unless they can't hunt.
Nearly all Lupa fit into these body types, regardless of height. They generally see 2 main groups—those built for running, and those built for fighting. Thus there are also 2 major fighting types employed by most Lupa: one for strength and stamina, one for speed and agility. There are, of course, masters of both in all body types, and which combination is most effective is usually of much debate. Not to mention most people like the chance to demonstrate their own skills.
The Lupa do not believe they were once anything else, but openly acknowledge that their environment has naturally eliminated the slow, weak, susceptible, fat, or otherwise unsuitable traits from the gene pool. Thus, over time, the better traits have become standard and normal throughout the Lupa population, including: adaptability, agile, fast, lean, good fighting skills, the ability to identify poisons, etc.
At the beginning of Lupa history, the survival rate was rather low for quite some time. As a result, Lupa are "hard wired" genetically to create the best situations for survival, such as sometimes overwhelming instincts for sex (see procreation section below) and protecting their children, and only being attracted to pheromones of the opposite sex. It is for this reason, rather than any bias or distaste that Lupa do not practice homosexuality.
Nature has also favored those who adapt easily, both to environment, each other, and situations. The physical appearance of a family line will adapt to those around them over several generations, hair and skin tone adapting to mimic those around them, and to some extent, facial features. On xcheamo, Lupa have skin tone appropriate to where they live, anywhere from pale to dark brown, but never albino, extremely pale, or black brown.
Since Lupa don't have larger noses in skin than Terrans, their sense of smell is supplemented by a set of microscopic openings in the gums and roof of the mouth whose nerves go to the olfactory center of the brain. Sniffing in puffs of air will automatically route some of the air to the mouth. However, it also means they can taste whatever they're smelling quite clearly at times.
- Skin: Lupa have sharper vision, can see further than Terrans, and see better at night. However, very bright light can sometimes be a problem, such as in summer or the glare off snow or ice. Some can see traces of ultraviolet light.
- Fur: As you might expect, Lupa in fur have superb night vision, somewhat similar to infrared. Although they do see in color, very light colors are viewed as white, while saturated colors are quite beautiful. However, instead of relying on bright and neon colors to indicate poisons, smell and taste are usually employed for that purpose. They have a kind of dual system, one geared toward light levels, and a more 'normal' one for day time and color.
Lupa have the normal taste groups (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami), plus one that is on the very tip of the tongue for poisons. They will not eat anything that stimulates this part of the tongue. It doesn't take much effort to distinguish individual flavors/smells, and too much put together can be confusing. Most Lupa prefer simple, uncomplicated flavors, and a true cook is one who can seamlessly blend flavors together in the most natural manner.
Since the change is carried through the nervous system, the Lupa nervous system is a bit more advanced, and any Lupa can feel and command nearly all, if not all, of the muscle groups in any part of their body. This is what makes them such good fighters and survivalists. Of course, what they feel when they touch something is quite accurate, and they are able to feel dirt on their skin more acutely (and this, along with their sense of smell, makes them very clean).
- Whispers are not really whispers around Lupa, and among themselves, whispering is usually too low for a Terran to make out. Much secretive communication is carried out with low throat noises and vocalizations. They can hear quite far when outside, and their brain usually highlights the most important ones, although all the sounds are there. They can hear both higher and lower than Terrans. The ear canal is set a little deeper in the head, while the entire ear is subtly tilted toward the canal. For example, Eiry's pager is set to a tone rather like a dog whistle, but only carries a few feet.
- Because xcheamo's atmosphere is dense, they are used to and built for a louder/more extensive range of sound, and don't speak as loudly as Terrans might do in normal conversation, but one on Terra would only notice it in someone who's just come from xcheamo. It's more of a carrying voice than a loud one. But make no mistake, when a Lupa yells, they yell. A hearing overload can be quickly dealt with by a gentle blowing of air in the ear, which establishes a white noise and kind of “refreshes” the ear.
Because of the acuteness of their senses, Lupa are very well aware of what's going on around them, and are very good weather readers and at reading times from the sky—night or day. They can usually feel advanced tremors in the ground or air of earthquakes or events like collapsing buildings, etc. The very sensitive and Touched might feel the air shaking when lightning strikes.
The Lupa immune system is incredibly formidable, and has numerous advantages when compared to a Human. Since all Lupa cells alter when they receive the physiological signal to change form, any microbes or pathogens are rapidly identified by their failure to participate. This, in conjunction with aggressive Lupa antibodies, quickly identify, purge, and attack all foreign substances in their body. The Lupa immune system thus routinely goes after any foreign things which enter the body, to the point that Lupa cannot procreate with other species. This thorough immune response will kill the sperm of another species, and these same protective enzymes in Lupa sperm have been shown to destroy the egg of another species.
The aggression of the Lupa immune system to eliminate foreign pathogens developed due to the incredibly strong poisons and hardy microorganisms native to xcheamo. While likely more vulnerable to pathogens native to Xcheamo, Lupa are extremely resilient against Terran infections.
Lupa are extremely hardy creatures, shaped by their hostile homeworld into creatures of considerable resistances. Though they might be vulnerable to infamous “species jumping” illnesses such as Rabies or Mad Cow Disease, and in a dangerous multiverse there are plentiful bioweapons that might pose a threat to Lupa. Theirs, however, is a race built for survival, and their ability to detect poison before eating or to quietly relocate means that Lupa miss almost every Human epidemic (they also avoid hospitals, being uncomfortable around the sick).
Viruses are shrugged off by Lupa due to the inherent narrow range of a virus' possible hosts. A virule, which relies on having a similar protein covering to be allowed entry into a host cell finds the difference between Human and Lupa cells to be an almost impassible obstacle. Likely due to the dissimilarities between human and Lupa cells, Lupa have proven immune to Terran viral infection. AIDS, being a retrovirus that affect Helper-T cells, faces the obstacle of both the different structure of Lupa immune system AND the lack of a suitable host cell. No record exists of a Lupa succumbing to AIDS.
A disease characterized by mutated cells that divide out of concert with the body, it often spreads rapidly before the human immune system recognizes it as a threat. Lupa have a major advantage in fighting it. While even human cells have a mechanism for identifying cells with damaged DNA that are a threat, the Lupa mechanism is much more expedient. Any cells in a Lupa’s body that do not heed the sign to Change are rapidly identified as pathogens, and subjected to relentless immunological attack, or, in some cases, expelled wholesale from the body, being considered a “poison.”
While Lupa are immune to AIDS and cancer, almost any organism is vulnerable to microbes multiplying in their body. While Humans may fight this with a 101.5 degree fever, the Lupa body often sits at 102 to 104 degrees all the time, heavily obstructing the progress of infection. This “fever," combined with their immune system, mean Lupa are thus far more resilient to infections than Humans. That said, many Lupa are exposed to far more opportunities to get a large or infected wound than the average Human, so infections can still present a problem for them.
Since nearly 25% of creatures or substances on the Lupa homeworld contain poisons or other toxins, Lupa cells carry incredibly strong antibodies that process them. Over time, the adaptation of the species to their world has rendered most of the poisons nonpoisonous to them, but those that are act very quickly and need immediate attention. A Human living on xcheamo would be best advised to become Lupa, as otherwise the environment would most likely kill them very quickly.
When a strong but non-lethal poison has entered the body, it will be expelled through the skin in a kind of film or sweat. Depending on the severity of the poison, the person may experience something akin to a fever or even unconsciousness or delirium while the body expels it. The expelled sweat substance may be colored depending on the poison, although green is the most common. It can then be washed harmlessly away. Followup treatment usually includes plenty of water, some sleep, and heartening foods.
Some of the incredibly deadly poisons for Lupa on xcheamo are ones that leave the victim paralyzed. As with any injury leaving the spinal chord/nervous system disconnected (i.e., unable to change form completely), such a poison which would otherwise not kill other species will kill a Lupa if they are not immune to it. The same is true for a pressure point move or anything of that nature which effectively cuts off the nerves for more than a few minutes, as this is a similar condition which prevents one from changing.
Unlike most other species, Lupa are incapable of interbreeding with non Lupa. Much like Raihosha's symbiote does, the Lupa immune system will attack anything it deems foreign contaminants, such as non Lupa sperm. Anyone who takes a non Lupa mate is essentially giving up their children. As can be seen from the numbers (see below), Lupa have a low birth rate, and most couples have two children. They also tend to have them one at a time, in order to watch them carefully and raise them to adulthood.
Like most mammals, Lupa females ovulate once a year; the majority of them do so in the spring. Once the egg is released into the Fallopian tube, a female has two weeks to attempt pregnancy. The beginning of ovulation is often marked with distractedness, and a sleepy state brought on by the rise in internal temperature, about 5°F, which takes places over about two hours. The body's chemical balance also changes during this time, and the woman will wake up in the state she'll be in for the next two weeks.
During this time, she will have a heightened sex drive, great sensitivity to males of breeding age, and generally exhibit a lack of concentration in other areas. She may or may not have trouble remembering things. Her stomach may be more sensitive than usual to certain types of foods. While ovulating, a female will put out a very effective pheromone, drawing males who smell it.
While the degrees of these symptoms may vary, nearly all women will retreat to a secluded area during this time. However, it is often very hard for most women to stay away through the entire two week period of ovulation, or for them not to arrange for their mates to come see them, whether or not they want a child. It takes a great deal of meditation and will to channel such energies in another direction. Comparing the birth rate among Lupa to the amount of sex a woman might have during this time indicates that attaining pregnancy or a viable embryo is not exactly easy. If around males, a female in her mating season will mate often and with abandon, and in cases of more extreme nature, will mate with anyone old enough to procreate or attack a male for sex if deprived of it (except close blood relations), no longer in any control whatsoever of her actions. This kind of extreme mating season often subsides once a female thus affected takes a mate, as the nature of bonds introduces greater stability. This is because her mate can use his dominance to control her, and she would depend on him to do so. Women also usually try to do this for each other, as Eiry and Miara have done (The Paris Hunt). This is one of the times that intimidation would normally be required and used. On the other hand, a likewise small percentage of women experience very mild seasons and need only avoid males rather than isolating themselves entirely.
The danger for unmated Touched, especially astralgia women, is that unwanted bonding may occur with a male with whom she is romantically attached, or a close male friend. For such women, either abstinence or complete strangers are recommended.
Once the two weeks of a woman's mating season are over, menstruation will occur if pregnancy is not achieved. All the usual menstrual symptoms are included: cramps, pain, bloating, irritability, heightened propensity for fighting, mood swings, lack of appetite. Most Lupa women, when asked, would actually prefer to be sick than menstruating.
Lupa women can nearly always tell if they're pregnant right away. Because they only ovulate once a year, if their mating season stops prematurely or they don't menstruate, they know they're pregnant. If the woman herself can't feel the small life, a higher level Touched or astralgia will be able to. Lupa carry for 12 moons, or 9 months, the same as Humans.
The types of symptoms a pregnant Lupa will usually display include nausea caused by foods and smells in the first moon only, mild swelling, cravings for things like extra protein and folic acid, eating for one and a half people until about half way through the pregnancy, and then for two for the second half, and not wanting to eat for about one week before labor. This is because the body will start feeding from the fat the woman has stored during the pregnancy. Lupa living on Terra usually display an intolerance to milk and grain based foods. Another side effect of pregnancy is itching, and it's not uncommon to see a pregnant woman scratching a lot.
Lupa women are more aggressive than usual when pregnant, especially if threatened, and can have a more volatile temper. Anything that may threaten them and/or their baby is highly suspect, and pregnant women are extremely likely to overreact due to overwhelming instincts to protect their unborn child. Some experience the urge to clean, and many don't. Most women use their tails in skin for balance during the last trimester. Like with ovulation, their bodies become incubators, their temperatures rising about 5°F during the pregnancy. Sleeping more and tiredness are more common toward the end of the pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the senses of smell and taste increase, while hearing and sight usually stay the same. Touch will usually decrease, and for some Touched women, their astral will not be as sharp while pregnant. This is because the woman's body and astral will be focused much more internally, monitoring and keeping watch on the baby.
Through the bond that a mother has with her unborn child, which will usually develop within 2-3 weeks of pregnancy, and by the end of the first moon at the latest, she will often know the sex of the child before it is born. Touched women will generally pick this up from 4—7 moons, and normal women somewhere between 8—11 moons. Lupa rarely have twins, but an astral person would be able to feel both lives unless the bond between the twins is extreme (Eiry and Sali). Lupa never have more than two at a time unless something very weird, unusual, and bad is going on. Virtually all pregnancies with more than two embryos end in miscarriage.
Most Lupa views on pregnancy originated in the past when the survival rate was extremely low and it was paramount to do whatever one could to keep a child alive to adulthood.
- NEVER threaten or do something to a pregnant woman
- Don't get her worked up, especially at the end when the mother-child bond is strong; the woman will wither go off on you or hold onto a strong grudge and beat you even worse later
- Always do what you can for a pregnant woman, as much as they will let you
- You can pretty much continue with life until 1—2 moons before birth, depending on the person
About three days to one week before labor starts, the baby will drop, turning in the proper direction for birth. In doing so, however, the baby will hit the sciatic nerve, causing often intense pain to its mother's lower back, usually lasting for one to two days. It is very painful, but can be momentarily relieved somewhat through movement.
Most couples choose to have their babies alone, at home, and if possible, outside. However, most babies are born in late fall or winter, so that would be impossible. Births, like bonding, are considered private. Sometimes an important person will help in the last moon or so, up until the birth, and then leave it to the father. If the woman has long hair, he will cut it when labor starts. Most women will let their hair grow for this. The father will take care of his mate during labor and deliver the baby. Someone experienced in birth, most likely his own his father, will have instructed him in delivery.
A healer or someone experienced in births will be nearby in case of a medical emergency during labor and/or birth, but for the most part drugs are rarely, if ever, used at such a time, as the bond between the mother and child, and often between the couple, as well, is critical. The mother will use the bond to her mate for stability and a place to take strength from and dump some of the pain, while her bond with the baby will enable her to know instantly if something is wrong. It will also, however, produce a somewhat confusing and chaotic time for the mother as the baby is squished through the birth canal.
Once the baby is born, the father takes care of it, the afterbirth, and the mother, and then the new family will spend their first moments together. While most of the time leading up to and immediately proceeding birth are usually in skin, most births actually take place in fur, as it is physically easier for both mother and child.
Lupa babies, for the most part, change when their mother does, or encourages them too. However, they are too young to know when not to change, and will also change whenever they feel like it. Changing form makes babies cry for the first few moons, until they realize that what comes after it is good. It is a pain one becomes used to from infancy, and so Lupa don't think about it.
In fur, an infant can walk, etc., like any other mammal shortly after birth, and can crawl fairly early in skin. All Lupa babies identify people mostly by smell, sound, and the bond to their mother. They wear cloth diapers until they learn to change and go on their own, and will suck a pacifier if offered. They don't, however, suck their thumbs.
All babies are born with the eye and hair colors they're going to have. They don't have quite the same amount of fat as a Terran baby. Due to the harsh environment of xcheamo, Lupa babies develop movement and mental facilities before any major growth spurts occur, and so they are not as large as a Human child of their age. However, they can understand more, move about easily, and can often put together short phrases by their first birthday. They will start growing more after the first year.
The bond between a mother and child the strongest normal bond that Lupa generally participate in. On xcheamo, this bond is vital in keeping a baby or young child alive until they can fend for themselves, especially since they can move around quickly from infancy. Lupa mothers spend most of their time with half their mind focused on the baby's wants and needs, helping the baby understand people and things around them, and when necessary can "take over" to keep them out of danger. They can anticipate feedings, handle pain, and know why their babies cry. They can also use the bond to surround the baby with love, keep them happy, and understand their feelings. This bond with weaken over time, and by the time the child is placed (11 or 12), the bond will attain dormancy.
Although a baby will run with its parents, it will ingest only breast milk and mashed foods until its teeth and jaw are strong enough, usually at about 9 moons (half a year). In fur, a baby can eat softer fruits within 2-3 moons. Mother's instincts of high reaction to threats continue over the first few years of their child's life, waning more significantly after for our five years.
Lupa breastfeed their children exclusively for the first few moons, and then add soft or mashed foods to their diet. A child will live on both, and then the addition of solids as well, for about one year. However, breastfeeding at least every week or so is critical for the building of immunities for at least two years, and most children are breastfed until sometime between two to three years of age when they loose interest in it.
Orphaned children, if not breastfed by a milking woman, have a much lower survival rate on xcheamo. Therefore, attempts to find a “milk mother” are made if at all possible. If no one has a young child, a female in the community may choose to take trokai, an herb which produces pregnancy hormones in women, causing the production of milk.
While whether troka (fooled milk) is as effective as natural milk is sometimes debated among herbalists, it is accepted as much better than no milk at all. Trokai takes two to three weeks to produce a fooled milk, and the female must take it every day. A sprig of fresh trokai or a good pinch dried will produce enough milk for an infant, and half that will produce enough or a 1-3 year old. Trokai is rather bitter, with a faint milky flavor.
Once a child has been weaned, they will be prepared for their first real hunt, which is a significant event in their young life.
Notable Physical Differences from Terrans
- rib cage is slightly bigger to accommodate higher lung capacity (+2 inches)
- feet always face straight forward
- skin is usually tighter and more elastic
- tendency to long arms
- no body hair other than top of head, brows, lashes
- born with hair and eye color they're going to have
- no birthmarks, freckles, etc., at birth; they develop later