Gemini (Homo ailuropoda)
Physiology: The gemini is one of the most humanoid species on Halcyon Island, almost identical to normal humans. They average six feet in height and have uniformly pale skin. They have bi-colored hair which is always black on one side of the head and white on the other, and their eyes are always different colors, one being blue and the other being green. Unlike most species on the island they are almost entirely hairless, though they do have unusual sharp, animalistic teeth, and very tough claw-like nails.
The truly striking aspect of gemini physiology is that they are all twins. Females always give birth to twins, who may either be both one gender or one male and one female. The twins are also nearly identical except that their pattern of hair and eye pigmentation are switched. This feature is present even in mixed gender twins, as the species as a whole is androgynous enough that it is often difficult to tell male and female twins apart except for the presence of secondary sexual characteristics. The sheer genetic implausibility of this trait leaves biologists completely baffled.
It is perhaps this curious twinning trait in their genetics that causes Gemini to exhibit empathic and low-level telepathic abilities. A pair of gemini twins are in constant mental contact with one another, though they are capable of modulating the amount of information passing back and forth. The strongest part of this bond seems to be emotional- a twin always knows instantly if its sibling is physically or emotionally hurt, angry, afraid, or otherwise upset. Likewise, they know if the other is content or especially happy. If the emotions of one twin are strong enough they can affect the mood of the other twin, affecting their behavior. The twins can also communicate through their link. Though they do not seem capable of sending concrete words, they can show images and express vague concepts, desires, or expressions. This link has obvious adaptive advantages, and the dual nature of the gemini make them extremely variable and unpredictable. This serves to offset certain physical deficiencies, as the gemini tend to be slight of build and even males of the species have deficient upper-body strength and tire easily.
Geminis are omnivorous, but are nearly exclusive vegetarians, occasionally adding fish or some other small game to their diet. As they generally make their homes in the island’s bamboo forests, the plant always makes up a part of their diet, but they also consume rice and other grains, as well as various type of fruits and vegetables.
Though nearly identical to humans, geminis have a much shorter life cycle, and on average only manage fifty-some years, though they can get as old as seventy. They reach adolescence between the ages of eight and ten, and are considered adults at 12, though they will not reach their physical prime until around fifteen. After this they do not appear to outwardly age, and continue to function as healthy adults until a few months before they die of old age, at which point their bodies suddenly and rapidly break down. Most females only have two pairs of children, though some of the more virile couples can produce as many as five in a lifetime.
Psychology: Geminis are by nature some of the most talkative and lively species on the island. They are eloquent and witty speakers, and love stories and jokes of all kinds. At the same time they can be over excitable and often annoy the quieter and more stoic species they encounter, but none can fault them for being unenthusiastic. Geminis enjoy novelty and variety, and will never turn down the chance to interact with other species. They have even attempted to use their communication skills to negotiate peace settlements between other species on the island that have been traditionally enemies, but without much success.
The most important feature to remember concerning gemini psychology is the mental link between twins. Geminis treat twin pairs almost as a single person, and they often act that way. They clearly have distinct personalities, however, and may disagree or even argue (sometimes often). When geminis die of old age, twin pairs usually perish within minutes or hours of each other, but when they perish of unnatural causes, one twin may survive the other. If this happens the surviving twin is afflicted by immense grief and serious mental trauma that may drive them to take their own life, either from their inability to function or in the hope of rejoining their twin in the afterlife. Those few that do survive usually manage it with support from their spouse and their twin’s spouse. Though their loss makes them unable to function optimally in society, they are still afforded great respect for surviving a trauma that few can. However, some surviving twins may go irrecoverably insane, sometimes dangerously so, and are usually either locked up or killed.
Habitat: The geminis are a cosmopolitan species, and dislike being tied down, so they generally move around a great deal within their preferred range. They primarily inhabit the few bamboo forests on the island, though they generally stick to the outskirts where food is more plentiful. Because they do travel significantly, they can be found more or less all over the island.
Culture: Because geminis dislike being told what to do by others, they have developed a purely democratic system of government, in which all members of a clan have a hand in decisions which affect the whole clan. For more personal matters they more or less rule themselves. A clan is a small group of related twin pairs who inhabit a semi-mobile village. Each bamboo forest on Halcyon Island is home to between four and seven clans.
Geminis are one of the few races on Halcyon Island who have a concept similar to employment. As children geminis choose a trade that will define their activities for the rest of their lives. They most commonly become warriors, healers, craftsmen, or farmers, but there are also diplomats, explorers, and artists. The warriors aren’t soldiers so much as they are entertainers- the gemini martial arts are extremely fluid and graceful, and performed almost as a dance instead of a fighting technique. Since geminis tend to be peaceful, they rarely need to use their fighting skills in earnest, but when they do they are deadly combatants.
For a gemini, you are your twin, and your twin is you. Twins are born together, raised together, eat, sleep, and play together, and usually learn the same trade. Most will experiment sexually with each other, and may continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Twins even choose their spouses together, and one twin pair is always married to another twin pair, with one twin from each pair being married to a twin from the other pair. Usually homogenous pairs of the opposite sex and mixed pairs will marry, but it is acceptable for a mixed pair to marry a homogenous pair or for two homogenous pairs of the same gender to be married. Curiously, while it is not considered inappropriate for twins to continue a sexual relationship when they are married, it is an extreme breach of trust for an individual to be sexually involved with their twin’s spouse. Twins share an extremely close bond, but the bond between two spouses is considered to be equally strong, and married twin pairs are inseparable family units.
Nudity is not considered a taboo by geminis, but it is inappropriate to flaunt it, and clothing is always worn outside the house, though it is not uncommon for either gender to go bare-chested while inside the bamboo forest. Outside the forest, however, the gemini’s pale skin is vulnerable to the sun, and they always cover up, as well as wearing a large-brimmed hat if they are going to be out for long periods. Geminis appreciate appearances, and most clothing is highly decorative, and members of particular classes will wear clothing designed for their trade. Simple jewelry, makeup, and tattoos are also common. As infants, twins have identical symbols tattooed on their foreheads to identify them as the other’s sibling, and when they are married the spouses will receive identical tattoos on the backs of their hands to serve the same purpose.
Geminis strive to have good relationships with other species, and are on at least neutral terms with all the other humanoids on the island. They are great friends of the aries, who share their love of novelty and adventure. Leos find them amusing and even scorpios will tolerate their presence, while pisces constantly wonder how they could not enjoy swimming. Tauruses are mystified and sometimes offended by their apparent prudishness, and Libras hold them in contempt for practicing incest and homosexuality, but they are all outwardly polite. Indeed, most species find the gemini to be outwardly polite, but rarely, if ever, is the interspecies relationship anything more than superficial. A capricorn will tell you that the geminis are “everybody’s second-best friend.”
Technology: Geminis have a comparatively high level of technology, centered around individual craftsmen using their skills to produce goods as needed. They have no knowledge of smithing, but make surprisingly intricate tools from stone, wood, and bamboo. They weave reeds into hats and baskets, make dishes, cooking utensils, and farming implements from stone and wood, and even construct ovens from dried mud. They have a vast knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants which are used to treat diseases and to flavor food. Their shelters are boxy affairs constructed of bamboo that can be easily taken apart and rebuilt elsewhere as needed. Though they are an itinerant species, they maintain fields for farming on a rotation that allows them to raise various types of crops for food and other uses, particularly rice and cotton. Cotton is refined with an invention similar to the gin and used to make cloth for a variety of uses. Geminis also construct weaponry for use with their martial arts, primarily staves and sword-like weapons made of wood and bamboo. They also produce weapons similar to nunchuka and tonfa, and create knives with stone blades. Most of these are either decorative or designed to be non lethal, however. Their real weapons, carved from ironwood by master craftsmen, are carefully maintained and only used in time of serious conflict. It is said a skilled pair of gemini with such swords can shatter boulders, like lightning.
Inspiration and notes: A Japanophile embarking on a project like this and not creating a culture with vaguely Asian roots? Preposterous. But it’s not meant to mirror the culture so much as represent convergent evolution. I’d like to think that, given their physical characteristics, it makes sense that they would have developed a culture with the attributes that it has. I could be wrong, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Developing a creature around the concept of “twins” was difficult, and while the obvious was to make them conjoined twins, that seemed like a poor adaptation for any species, not to mention some of the ways such twins are combined can be pretty creepy. Don’t ask me how animal DNA makes them telepathic…
The gemini species is also native to Halcyon Island, and a strange species it is. This is the last one for now, I'll post the others as I finish them.