The Great Races: The Lhassa
To speak of the Lhassa seems foolish, as they are everywhere. How can one not know them? They are second only to the mighty Dryth in influence and they, more than any other of the Great Races, dictate the timbre of our artistic and cultural lives. Lhassae fashions fill the streets of any Union world, Lhassae music is more popular than any other, and the Lhassae concept of beauty dictates the self-image of dozens of species on hundreds of worlds. They are slender, graceful, and lithe, dancing on long legs designed for running and leaping, with flowing manes and smoothly furred skin. Big eyes, long lashes, long ears – I, being a squat, slimy Thraad, have them to thank for my species’ perceived ugliness.
It is well known that the Lhassa were once the prey of the mighty Lorca, living in great herds on the broad plains of Hodan’a. What is less well known is how this came to change. They lived in extended family groups (clans) made up primarily of females (mares) with only a few males (bulls). Though they reproduced quickly, life was difficult. Food was hard to come by as the Lhassae clans grew, making starvation common. The predations of the Lorca kept the population further in check. The Lhassa were a harried people, an intelligent species made into victims by another intelligent species of the same world. To my knowledge, this has never happened elsewhere.
The Lhassa, though, were intelligent and innovative. They worked together well, and clans were known to share knowledge and expertise when they met. Though it likely took many millennia, the Lhassa eventually developed agriculture, industry, and the other building blocks to a modern, star-faring society. Of course, what the Lhassa learned so, too, did the Lorca. The Lorca made themselves essential to Lhassae society, acting as judges, tyrants, and even gods in some cases. Though far fewer in number, the Lorca were able to read the writing on the wall as well as any: the Lhassae were growing too numerous and too powerful to be hunted at a whim. The Lorca established elaborate customs and rituals to keep themselves fed and the Lhassa happy with their servitude. This lasted for many centuries, or so Lhassa histories insist. Lorca histories (when found) are somewhat more vague on this score.
At length, tensions between the Lhassa (whose population now outnumbered the Lorca some 1300:1) and their ancestral predators grew to a breaking point. The typically peaceful Lhassa were starving on their own planet, consuming resources at a rate too fast to sustain life. The Lorca, seeing this, increased the consumption rate of Lhassa, which enraged the population. Breaking with their peaceful traditions, the Lhassa turned themselves to war and sought the eradication of the predators who had lorded over them for so long. The Lorca, with Dryth assistance, laid waste to the Lhassa armies, but chose to retreat from the planet in Dryth ships paid for by the Lorca’s vast wealth. The Lhassa were at last free.
This freedom, however, was also their curse. Gone were the old checks upon the Lhassa population. They multiplied like never before. They reached a period in their history where the average Lhassa female gave birth to upwards of 8 pups a year, and the vast majority of these survived to adulthood. Their planet’s environment buckled beneath this pressure, and the only solution was the stars. Vast colony ships were build, attended by fleets of supporting vessels. The Lhassa hit the galaxy like a plague.
The Lhassa were, as much as anyone, to blame for the turmoil that led to the Unification Wars. The Dryth, intimidated by their sheer numbers, made sport of destroying Lhassae colonies and slaughtering Lhassa wherever they were found. The Lhassa, in turn, attacked Dryth fleets and planets with vast armies. Though their technology was inferior, their numbers were enough to give even the mighty Dryth pause. The Lorca again appeared, this time steeped in Dryth military strategy and technology, and once again set to consuming their erstwhile food source. The tales of Lhassae suffering and death were widespread and well known.
The Union and the Law saved the species, and no mistake. Now the Lhassa, while more numerous than any other of the Great Races, have the freedom, wisdom, and space to spread out to support their vast population. When, at last, the period of War comes around each cycle, they fight to keep what they have and to advance their claims, the same as any. For a peaceful people, they are now well versed in the arts of death. They greet it with a poet’s wisdom, laughing at the brevity of it all. The Dryth respect them, the Lorca mostly acknowledge them as equals, and the status quo is retained.
One wonders, though, for how long this will last. The Lhassa continue to grow in number and, should my calculations be correct, there are only so many cycles this growth will be sustained. Perhaps it is simply the tragedy of their species, or perhaps it is their own lack of foresight, but it seems that the future, like the past, will be steeped in Lhassae blood.