On the Cuío species
The Cuío species is the dominant species of middle- and southwestern Allura, and of the nations of Midland and the Commonwealth of Chromaros. A Cuío is, in many ways, much like a human. The casual observer will note the similar body stance, general shape, lifespan, and humanoid features. Indeed, Cuíoi and humans have common ancestry – their most recent common ancestor lived some two million years ago. Ekklisiasma priests claim that the Thireftís Sagónos fashioned men in his own image, but gave them a choice: either to glory in His teachings and earn their right to live by bloodshed in the greatest contest of all, or to debase themselves with greenery and scavengery. While most men chose the former, scraping a living off bare rocks by digging for roots or collecting plants and fruit, a few remained pure. These Sagónos took in his hand and, in His grace, He saw fit to grace them with further boons to aid them in their venture. These early devotees of the Thireftís, according to such teachings, were the ancestors of the Vaha people.
Besides the similarities, however, a number of striking differences quickly become apparent when comparing a Cuío and a Human individual. These traits were borne from their separate evolution as ambush predators, skulking in dark forests at night to bring down their prey through concerted action in large groups. For tens of thousands of years, the Cuíoi hunted their food by attacking and surprising it in its lair at night, intimidating and disorienting it through sound and light, and with early adoption of primitive weaponry like rocks and other tools. During the day, when many predators prowled, they retreated to their nests, which tended to be secure and fortified to withstand attack. The genetic predisposition to these behaviours is still reflected today in the tendency of Cuíoi and those with Cuíoi ancestry to prefer heavily fortified dwellings, as well as their military tactics. A specific nutrient is derived from being exposed to starlight. Individuals kept from it for, on average, two months or longer quickly develop symptoms of deprivation similar to a human with scurvy – bleeding gums, lethargy, muscle pains, and eventually seizures and death. Most individuals reintroduced to starlight in time recover successfully.
Cuíoi tend to be slimmer in general stature, with a higher leg-to-body ratio. The legs themselves are comparatively stronger, and well-suited for running and jumping. As with Humans, Cuìo males tend to be taller and more bulky than the females. Their senses are more sensitive. They hear more acutely, smell more sharply, and are capable of seeing in the dark with their slit-pupiled eyes. This also has its downsides, however. Cuíoi dislike bright light and can be temporarily blinded by it, due to the increased sensitivity of their eyes, and are generally less good at distinguishing colours. Sharp noises are likewise an irritant, and noisy areas are generally uncomfortable. The same goes for strong smells. As such, Cuìo cities tend to be relatively clean and the usual bustle of urban life more subdued. It is rare for a Cuìo to raise his voice. For one to downright get into a screaming match with another is all but unheard of.
The adrenal system has a greater emphasis for Cuìo than for Humans. Rather than the persistence hunting Humans, who evolved for the purpose of long-duration low-speed pursuit, the Vaha have specialized in sudden, rapid bursts of extreme violence. As such, their adrenal system gives them a huge boost in agility, aggressiveness and frenzied strength for between ten and thirty minutes, but will leave the individual drained for a period lasting up to several days. During such a frenzy, the Vaha is psychologically completely single-mindedly devoted to the destruction of its target. Anything else is disregarded, including potentially lethal wounds. As such, it is a curse as much as a blessing. Due to this recuperation period, Cuíoi display a strong communal focus in their social life. They needed the group to keep them alive for that duration.
The Cuío’s teeth are specialized for consuming meat. Sharp and more elongated than a human’s teeth, they enable to quickly rip and tear at a creature’s flesh. The jaw muscles are capable of considerably higher pressure. An adult Cuìo has been able to shatter bone with his teeth alone. The teeth replace at a higher rate due to the increased stress this puts on them, and on average Cuìo go through four new sets of teeth in their lifetime. A specific ailment affecting the teeth is known as hyperdontia, colloquially known as the Mad Hare. This disease is strongly related to malnutrition, manifesting primarily in the underfed. It is characterised by sudden rapid growth of the teeth, up to an inch or more per day. Unless taken care of quickly – often by drawing or filing down the teeth – the growth quickly makes it hard to eat and will eventually pierce the brain, killing the infected. Due to it being related to malnutrition, it only manifests in the poor of society, and primarily during times of war or hardship.
After Chromaros’ retreat during the elven invasion, a new race of Cuíoi emerged. These specimens, having remained in the north while the majority fled south, soon interbred with humans and now only very few pureblooded Cuíoi remain among them. The hybrids have generally more human features, and their distinct Cuío characteristics are far less pronounced. Unlike the southern Cuíoi, they tend to be diurnal rather than nocturnal, and their diets have adapted to be more plant-based.