Castor is the second planet orbiting the star Kuhirichin, orbiting in the inner area of the star’s Goldilocks Zone. It is presently the home to the bear-like Castori.
Lackluster is the word to describe the amount of mineral resources known on Castor, with the most common being a mineral similar in nature to Earth quartz, and a stone similar to Earth granite. Besides an abundance of lumber on the planet, vast oil deposits have been found in areas where it should not have; an important piece of evidence for the theory about Castor being much older than Earth. However, the occurrence of coal on the planet is strikingly low, a fact that has geologists puzzled.
Forest ecosystems make up more of the planet’s biosphere more than the other biomes on the planet combined, with the banyan tree species, and sub-species, being the dominat multi-cellular, non-microscopic species on the planet. However, the different types of forests on the planet are many, and great in their diversity.
The sterotypical Castori forest is the tropical rainforest, akin to those on Earth, but four thousand feet tall. Hot, humid, and lush, the rainforests are called home by most of the planet’s animal life, as well as the largest banyan trees on the planet, the ‘true’ banyans. Flourish within 15°N and 15°S, dissipate by 25°N and 25°S.
The most prominant forest biome on Castor is the temperate forest. The ‘temperate’ is a relative term, being temperate only to Castor standards: temperatures generally stay between 70°F and 90°F (In comparison to the 80°F-110°F in the rainforests), though reach local extremes of slightly below freezing and 100°F. Though they are rare in the northern reaches of the temperate forests, the temperate banyan sub-species largely makes up the temperate forests: they are generally shorter than their tropical relatives, but expand outward more, and are generally more sturdy. Flourish between 10°-50° (N and S), dissipate by 65° (N and S).
The rarest forest type on the planet is the sub-polar conifer forests. Found no closer to the equator than 60° (N and S) and no farther than 75° (N and S), these forests are few and far between, the land they inhabit being the transition to the polar tundra from the sub-polar latitudes. Mostly made up of coniferous plant species akin to those on Earth, the banyans great reach ends with these forests. However, scientists have discovered a few, relatively young banyan individuals near the southern extent of the conifer forests, that appear to have aquired adaptations similar to their coniferous neighbors that allow them to survive in the cold regions.
The planet is relatively flat due to the large amount of erosion caused by plant life and falling water. Tall mountains are rare, and as with bodies of water, are more likely to be found the closer one is to the poles.
Scientific studies have generally shown that the amount of tectonic plate movement is significantly less than the amount of movement on Earth. Geologists are still not sure why exactly that is, but the prevailing theory is that the planet Castor must be older than Earth, with the core being cooler than Earth’s core, which causes less tectonic action- in theory.
However, Castor has a handful of extremely active volcanoes. While Earth has many volcanoes that are mostly dormant, Castor has a few, but almost all of them continuously, or nearly continuously, erupting, proving the vast amounts of carbon dioxide needed to sustain such substantial plant life.
Due to the highly tropical and humid nature of most of the planet, even in areas of cooler temperatures, the concentration of standing water is often higher the closer to the poles one goes. With that said, however, not much water is able to accumulate on the surface, so seas and other large areas of standing water are rare.
The of lack large bodies of water is caused not only by the large consumption of water, but by the looseness of the soil due to how relatively dry the soil stays. Most water that falls and gets past the root systems continues down to become ground water. It is estimated that there is more water in the atmosphere and underground combined than there is above ground, which is still a lot, though mostly as ice at the poles.
The Castori population is concentrated in the area around the planet’s capital, Ursiniru, with smaller amounts in other tropical areas, and even smaller colonies no farther from the equator than 35°, due to the Castori’s susceptibility to colder weather. The Castori cities, except for a few rare occurances, are built on and in some of the largest banyan trees known, Ursiniru being on the second-tallest.
In addition to the Castori, Castor is home to a vast number of animal species.
Renowned for their bright-to-deep crimson feathers, Crimsinons of Castor survive only in very hot, humid climates, and can’t tolerate temperatures below 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity for long; even Castori don’t find their preferred climates comfortable and thus the Crimsinon is not a popular pet bird much anywhere; unfortunately, their plumage makes them nonetheless one of the most popular species on Castor for poaching. Because of their high-temperature needs, Crimsinons are restricted to jungles in Castor’s tropical bands.
Actually a mammal, the engrilin of Castor are small, averaging 10-14 inches in length and only weighing in at an average of 4 lbs. Engrilin actually leap fully out of the water to swallow as much air as possible and can hold their breath for 30 minutes or more. Engrilin are predatory, and have the unusual capability of paralyzing their prey with a fairly strong electric shock. Engrilin have no predators themselves, as much of their bodies are actually a highly acidic battery to generate the shocks they deliver. Engrilin are highly aggressive, fearlessly preying on aquatic animals ten times their size or more. There is a rare freshwater variety of engrilin, native and still restricted to a large island on the equator.
Gangurns are massive bears of Castor, males averaging 1,000 – 1,500 lbs. and females even larger, averaging 1,200 – 1,700 lbs., able to rear to heights of 12 feet or more. Despite their massive size and matching strength, generally non-hostile unless they feel threatened. Prefer tropical to sub-tropical coastal areas or large river/lakes. They are omnivorous, feeding mainly on fruit, fish, and small-to-medium mammals.
A very unusual felinoid of Castor, grencats are actually almost completely herbivorous, though they have been known to go after fish and avian and reptile eggs; they also eat larger varieties of insect in addition to their primary diet of grass and leaves. Considering their lack of leading a predatory life, grencats still possess felinoid agility and speed. Grencats are fairly solitary and prefer forest and mountainous environments.
A popular Castori pet, the Jorini are bipedal lizards averaging 3-4 feet in height and weighing approximately 50-75 lbs. on average. Jorini are popular for their renowned docility, trainability and their pack nature that adapts to Castori and other species as well as each other. Jorini are strictly herbivorous, eating fruit, grass and broad leaves.
So much resembling the Terran wolf in not just appearance and behavior but genetically as well, the Lupini have been a bit of a mystery. Archaeological finds have dated Lupini ancestors on Castori at least as early as was known on Terra, so their similarity with the wolf is widely regarded as a natural fluke, though some have developed rather interesting theories on how the Lupini and the Terran Lupine may have had a common ancestor. Castori being the generally nature-loving species they are, the Lupini has fortunately not suffered the fear and hatred the Terran Wolf did. Castori farmers actually occaisionally intentionally sacrifice domesticated animals raised for food to the Lupini. Castori stories of the Lupini often portray them in an honorable light, remarking the tight Lupini pack structures and devotion to their families and packs. The more outdoorsmen of the Castori commune with Lupinis. A few Castori have even attempted (a few successfully) to abandon society to actually become members of wild Lupini packs. Castori have never domesticated the Lupini as the Terran Wolf was domesticated into dogs. A few Castori do have wild Lupini for companions, but those that do, view them as companions and not as ‘pets.’
Averaging 2-3 feet in length and weighing an average of 40-50 lbs, the Nikilin appear a docile, non-threatening fish, but are, in fact, one of the deadliest aquatic species native to Castor. They possess several razor-sharp fangs that inject their prey with a fast-acting paralyzing agent, capable of neutralizing prey several times their size. With poor eyesight and senses, Nikilin do occasionally mistakenly attack divers. And though once they taste the foreign flesh they will generally not eat it, their paralyzing agent often has deadly results, preventing divers from moving or even breathing. Nikilin fangs and jaws are extremely strong, and have been known to penetrate even titanium-mesh protective suits.
Possessing an intelligence just below that of the old Terran dolphin, scillids of Castor are very large saltwater fish, averaging 7-8 feet in length and weighing 100-150 lbs. Scillids are socially very much like dolphins, very family-oriented and an inordinate amount of their time is devouted to prey. For many centuries, scillids defied the most dedicated of Castori researchers with the mystery of how they sustain themselves with no identifiable stomach nor digestive tract; a mere 300 years ago, an oceanologist researcher with the Ursiniru Zoological Center by the name of Rykinlin became obsessed with solving the mystery and ended up commiting 24 years to finally discovering the answer: the scillids actually absorb dissolved nutrients from oceanwater directly into their bloodstream. This astounding discovery was heavily debated, though Rykinlin’s research was very thorough and his results very clear; it wasn’t until 20 years after Rykinlin passed on from old age that his research became widely accepted as no alternative theories could be proven. Their unusual means of sustaining themselves makes it debatable whether Scillids can even be classified as members of the animal kingdom. Rykinlin’s research on the scilids inspired a the hydroextractive mining plant, in floating or neutrally-buoyant configurations, named in his honor as Rykinlon extractors. Rykinlon plants precipitate minerals directly from ocean water with very low energy requirements, similar to the Scillid, with the added benefits they also precipitate out harmful toxins as well, actually cleaning the ocean as they operate.
A bottom-dwelling herbivorous crustacean, the shalmin of Castor average 15-20 lbs. Shalmin are fairly intelligent, organize into herds and cooperatively build complex nests of gathered stones, coral, and any other available material. Shalmin nests are often trans-generational, some of the largest measure more than 40 square miles in size. Many of their larger nests include primitive underwater gardens they cultivate for food, burying decaying organic material (including their own dead) in sand as fertilizer.
To offworlders, they are almost indistinguishable from Castori. Same height and capable of standing and walking upright, with a similar range of fur and eye colors. Sibines are generally quiet and shy. There are several variety: cold-tolerant polar, altitude-preferring mountain, heat-preferring desert, and old growth-preferring wood sibines. Capable of digesting ruffage almost no other species can, polar Sibines prefer scrubbery and fish; mountain sibines prefer pine needles, berries and small lizards or mammals; desert sibines feed on lizard eggs, cacti and other desert roughage. They also have an extraordinary ability to retain water for weeks; and finally, wood sibines prefer fern, flower, and actually do consume wood.
Named for a famous early Castori explorer, Thindukili dragons of Castor are large lizards, often 10-15 feet in length and weighing in an average 800-1200 lbs. Although better known for having bands of strongly contrasting gold and red scales, pale blue, green, and mauve scales are also present, though not common. Thindukili are known for cannibalism, but usually eat medium-to-large mammals. Thindukili generally prefer oasis in equatorial deserts, preferring temperatures of at least 80 degrees but low humidity.
The largest predatory bird on Castor, the Titanikin Eagle has an average wingspan of 12-14 feet, with recorded wingspans as high as 18, and weighing in at 150-200 lbs. Titanikins have bands of black and lustry gold feathers, giving the Titanikin the nickname Flying Gold. Titanikins have adapted to an incredibly wide variety of climates, from polar to tropicle, desert, jungle, and even aquatic environments – the aquatic Titanikins actually construct floating nests near shore that can drift hundreds of miles from land following oceanic currents, but the Titanikins almost never abandon nests, even when they take severe beatings from storms. Aquatic Titanikins feed on large fish near the surface, using their extremely powerful and sharp talons, their massive wings capable of carrying prey up to 100 lbs. Very rare incidents have been recorded of Titanikins preying on Castori and even a couple off-world visitors. These incidents have been blown well out of proportion on several worlds that, following the hysteria and hype, have banished the Titanikin from import. Nonetheless, Titanikins are one of the most popular wildlife species on Castori, and several smugglers have attempted to nab their eggs and young to breed them on other worlds. Attempts to place adult Titanikins in captivity, even by very dedicated and caring researchers making extreme efforts to reduce stress on the birds, have all invariably resulted in premature deaths; for this reason, without a very hard-earned researching license, it is illegal to get closer than 50 feet of a Titanikin nest.
Seemingly having no relative on any other world, the Trikolin of Castor are tripedal beings that walk upright. They have two hind legs, and a single foreleg from their front centerline, and a single forearm from their upper forechest. Trikolin have a long, heavy, muscular tail that helps them maintain balance and have very short but dense fur covering nearly their entire bodies. Trikolin stand on average 4-6 feet, and weigh between 150 and 200 lbs. Their heads are somewhat cervid-like, with both adult males and females possessing 3 short but wide knobby horns. All three of their feet consists of four claws – three long, thick and strong claws facing forward, with a thicker but shorter rear claw; their single hand also has four manipulateable claws, allowing them to grapple their preferred foods of fruit, eggs, and broad leaves from low-growing plants or defending themselves. Trikolin are not widely domesticated, as despite their primarily herbivorous nature, they are known for commonly aggressive behavior. They don’t commonly kill, but through a combination of clawing with their arm and pouncing, they do inflict deep cuts with their claws.
Tiny bears of Castor, only averaging 5 – 6 lbs fully grown and able to fit in an average single Castori paw. Urmics prefer small fruit or insects, but have been known to hunt small (obviously) mammals as well. They are intolerant to both extreme cold and extreme heat, preferring 60-70 degree sub-tropical climates.
A massive bird, with a wingspan averaging 17-20 feet and recorded as large as 28 and weighing in at an average of 200-250 lbs, the Vivovilan are the largest bird native to Castor, larger even than the largest flightless bird, a true marvel of nature’s engineering. Their feathers are generally pure white, though silver/gray or gold speckled or bands have been recorded as well. The Vivovilan are herbivorous and insectivorous; their primary foods are large fruit and a variety of large, wide leaves. Vivovilan nests are impressive, often spanning 10-15 fee or more in diameter.
Each city is governed by a Council of Sages, and each council appoints a High Sage to sit on the planetary Panasagia. From among the members of the Panasagia is chosen the Ubercast, who speaks on behalf of the planet and holds office for one year. Most civil and criminal matters are handled by the local Council of Sages, usually resolved through fines, community service or psionic rehabilitation. Extraordinary cases are taken to the Panasagia for consideration. Weapons are frowned upon in general on Castor, but are allowed so long as the proper permits are secured.