Introduction: The Yldars
The Yldars are a humanoid species whose basic body plan and size betrays several similarities to Earth based humans. They have four limbs, two legs and two arms, the latter of which end in hands with five digits, four fingers and a thumb. They come in two biological sexes, are warm blooded and omnivorous and are at least ancestrally diurnal. Any hypothetical human meeting a Yldar would be amazed by how close in size and shape they were to his or her own species, and equally amazed and perhaps unsettled by their differences, especially if the human was unlucky enough to have ophidiophobia!
The Yldar are, bluntly 'snake people'. Their skin is covered with fine scales and though they can hear and see well enough their primary sense is smell, with the portion of the Yldar brain deputised with interpreting odours and scent more than ten times the size of the equivalent area in a human cranium. The average Yldar could easily rival a dog for his ability to track a man by scent or differentiate but the most subtle differences in similar vintages. This trait undoubtedly evolved from their ancestors as a means to hunt prey on their vanished homeworld; even today while Yldar can and do eat much plant matter they favour meat consumed whole and alive with ylirri (delicate rodent like creatures) considered a universal treat.
Unfortunately for the Yldars these specialised traits have their disadvantages. There are many reasons why Yldars feel uncomfortable outside of an artificial environment (see below) but one of the most important is the sheer overload of unfamiliar scents that bombard them when setting foot in an unfamiliar place. A forest, swamp, even a meadow would all present a olfactory cacophony for the average Yldar. They can master such disorientation - physically Yldars are as resilient as humans and proportionately stronger - but it is a distressing experience for all but the most experienced vagabonds.
Yldar males and females are similar in size and build, though differ in pitch of voice with males having a notably deeper sound (another eerie similarity for our hypothetical human to ponder.) The most striking differences between the sexes are colouration and ordour, though the second is only really apparent to a Yldar or other species with such a sharp sense of smell. Female Yldars have green (occasionally golden) eyes and silvery grey scales with green markings. Male Yldars are black scaled with purple (occasionally orange) eyes and purple or mauve markings. Both sexes apply comestic facial tattoos with males favouring lighter colouring and females darker.
Yldar females lay eggs, generally one at a time and Yldars at age at slightly faster than human rate. Reaching the age of eighty or above is rare but not unheard of.
Society & Culture
For thousands of years the Yldars have inhabited three giant space habitats in the Cevant system and this at least as much as their biology has shaped them. Each of the habitats collectively known as the Three Daughters - Oros, Pirgak's Freehold and Lastagarvin's Shelter - is a near-identical space station on a titanic scale, akin more to a small moon than 'merely' a city in space. Each habitat is a curious blend of the obviously artificial and the strangely 'planet' like, with countless corridors, rooms and machinery bays blending with vast domed gardens, farms and forests. Yldar lifestyle is certainly urban and living space is expensive but it is not unthinkable for a wealthy merchant prince to own something akin to an estate with a palace surrounded by vegetation and artificial streams all under dome and lit by the refracted starlight from one of the Cevant systems three suns.
There are notable differences in history and culture between the inhabitants of the Three Daughters and there is a lingering patriotism and rivalry to each but it would be fair to say there is a common Yldar culture. Yldar's tend to be clever and to have a strong sense of individualism and personal drive. Greed, when accompanied by ability, is considered part of a healthy drive at least when not taken out on one's fellows. By human standards many Yldar would also come across as rather vain; their is a strong cultural drive to show off one's success and thus ability and intellect to attract a mate or to impress one's peers. Tempering this very strong sense of self is an innate curiosity. Coming from a very stable, controlled environment Yldars are fascinated by the outer galaxy. They are aware much of it is hostile to their nature but the fascination remains. Though there have been no confirmed contact with alien life originating from beyond the Cevant system most Yldars passionately believe it exists and long to see it.
In terms of government the Yldar are currently (circa. 2200) ruled by the Yldar Free Traders, an oligarchy of wealthy startraders who elect a chairperson from among themselves. Merchants have long enjoyed a prestige in Yldar society and to a very real extent they are the glue that keeps three independent minded habitats from permanent war with each other (a valid concern - the Three Daughters have clashed numerous times over the centuries, twice erupting into outright war.) Even so the Free Traders rule with a light hand. Individually the different habitats jealously guard their differing histories and privileges and as long as trade continues to flow and smuggling and piracy is kept down the reigning Chairperson and their council is content to let them administer themselves.
Religion is not a major part of life for most Yldar and especially on Oros, the capital habitat most are agnostic. Nevertheless there are still numerous small faiths practiced in private or small groups throughout Yldar space and the oligarchs are more indifferent to religion to than antithetical to it.
Three hundred years before the invention of the hyperdrive the the Three Daughters first (?) made contact with each other via primitive spaceships. Indig, then a young space pilot of Oros and later an envoy to Lastagarvin's Shelter wrote down her impressions of the era and noted:
'All these generations we [of Oros] had known in our blood that the answers to our questions lay in those tiny glimpses of silver we could see through our viewing lenses. Surely they, whoever they were, could unravel the mystery of our history. It never occurred to us they would be looking back hoping likewise.'Recorded history on Oros - generally though not universally believed to be the original habitat - stretches back some three thousand years. Beyond that period the habitat's records are either inaccessible or non-existent. Scientists on Oros have long theorised that the exploded remains of the rocky world Oros orbits are the original Yldar homeworld, destroyed in some cataclysm but the truth can never be proven. Whatever happened the Yldar on Oros - and the other habitats - were reduced to barbarism, only slowly and painfully rebuilding their socities and disovering or rediscovering technoloy. In this Oros had the edge. While both Pirgak's Freehold and Lastagarvin's Shelter had and have certain advantages Oros houses the fabled Arcane Replicator, a fantastic machine directly connected with the main reactor which can synthesize elements of almost anything given time. Even after three millenia the finest minds of the Yldars have not even come close to fully understanding the technology. It simply works.
The majority view among the Yldar is they are the descendants of a planetbound species who successfully retreated to space to avoid the imminent destruction of their planet. A minority view has always pointed to the Arcane Replicator and wondered whether the Yldar might come from somewhere else and have been transplanted to their current abodes by benign aliens, who had also built the habitats in question. This faith in benign and highly advanced 'Outsiders' is probably the largest single 'religion' amongst the Yldars and true believers staunchly hold that they are still out there waiting (more cynical Yldar usuaslly snort in contempt at this point in the conversation.)
The Cevant System.