Aligare wildlife: the sylphPosted: March 15, 2013
While building the Aligare world, I drew a lot of inspiration from Earth’s history of evolution. Nearly every living thing that has ever inhabited this planet has other creatures similar to it, splintered off from some common ancestor. We humans are very closely related to the great apes, but we can also look at monkeys, tarsiers and lemurs and see a vastly extended family. I wanted my Aligare races to see some different cousins living among them, too. For aemets, those distant relatives are the sylphs.
Earth mythology says that sylphs are air spirits. Sometimes they’re invisible beings made of magic or emotion. Sometimes they’re physical creatures similar to fairies. They probably have wings and they’re probably feminine, and that’s about all folklore agrees on.
Well, that left me plenty of room to worldbuild! I mostly drew on the fairy-wing part of the mythos, and the idea of whimsical, flighted beings. Aligare sylphs look more like dragonflies. Like so:
Like their aemet relatives, sylphs are betweenkind. Their skeletal system is a mixture of bones and chitin plates; they have mammalian eyes and insect antennae; their body temperature hovers around lukewarm. Sylphs lean more heavily to the insect side, though. They have two pairs of wings, and a simplified circulatory system made possible by their small size. Sylphs have airsense, but it’s much less sensitive than aemet airsense: sylphs mostly detect moisture in the air, so they can sense incoming storms and make sure to find shelter.
Sylphs are herbivorous, eating mostly lichens, mosses and exposed roots. They spend most of their time in flight, preferring open spaces and mountain peaks. Their skin and shells have speckled camofluage colouring, for some measure of protection while they’re on the ground feeding.
These creatures are social. They’re usually seen in lively colony groups, buzzing in playful circles and chirping a wheep-wheep-wheep cry to one another. Particularly brave sylphs might fly closer to a person or large animal for a better look, although they’re too skittish to really interact with. The Aligare peoplekinds think of sylphs as “luck bugs”, creatures who brighten your day just by allowing themselves to be seen. But because they are betweenkind, sylphs are affected by some of the same disease demons that terrorize aemetkind.
Tillian peered down. “Is that a sylph?”
It was a stick-shaped body, mottled with lichen-dull colours, shimmering where its clear wings caught light. Hiding in plain sight, indeed. Peregrine stepped around it, placing his feet careful in the muskeg. “Yes. They watch folk when they’re alive, though. The easiest way to sight them is by the sparkle in their eyes.”
“It’s– Oh.” Fur brushed against his neck as Tillian turned. She likely watched the still little body in their wake, mourning that no one had helped it.
“We’ll see more of them around here,” Peregrine said. “The same as that one. Sylphs are betweenkind, so they catch gripthia, as well. The only time they aren’t good fortune is when they turn up dead.”
—Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 10
Aemets have no gene theory, and they still think of sylphs as far-flung relatives. That’s not much of a stretch, though, when aemetkind considers trees and plants to be their sisters. It’s all part of the highly flexible definition of family that Aligare society lives by.
- Aligare greetings (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)
- Aligare weather and its lack of cold (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)
- The history of lichen: how I build ideas (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)