The following article was written by Nathan Nichols as an entry to the Alien August competition.
The Tulira are a sapient race that resemble the dryads of Earth folklore. They have characteristics of both plants and animals, starting in a stationary life stage and gaining mobility halfway into their adolescence.
Having a complex form of chlorophyll incorporated into their cellular structure, the Tulira are naturally photosynthetic throughout their entire life cycle (though the buildup of bark-like tissue on their outer skin sometimes interferes in this process.) When a Tulira is planted, it usually takes eight or nine solar days to take root and sprout. Once the sprout has access to the sun, it quickly grows into an upright, tree-like form with a slightly bulbous trunk. The upper branches and leaves serve to gather solar power more quickly, allowing the young ‘sapling’ Tulira to grow more quickly.
When the tree grows large enough, its hollow trunk becomes a womb of sorts to ‘grow’ a more humanoid form. This second stage of life, when it emerges by splitting the drying husk of the tree, which has sacrificed its moisture and most of its vital fluids to its second form. This second stage is called a ‘sunchild’, as its new body has yet to balance its body metabolism, and must remain in the sun as often as possible. From the sprout of the sapling, it usually takes about two or three months to reach sunchild stage.
As a sunchild, a Tulira will be inquisitive and hyperactive, to the point that they have gained a reputation, as a race, of being annoyingly curious and rambunctious. In this life-stage, a Tulira has soft skin ranging between a soft golden-brown to olive-green, and bright, luminescent green eyes. Their body structure is similar to that of a human’s, but often much more slender and a good bit shorter, averaging four feet tall and usually weighing in at seventy pounds dripping wet.
When a sunchild’s metabolism has balanced, they become a ‘starwalker’ (previously ‘worldwalker’ before they discovered space travel.) In this stage, they form hardened barklike deposits over portions of their body, while others remain soft and attain a peach-like fuzz. Included in this is a ‘crown’ of branchlike protrusions on their head. As their metabolism slows down, they can go without sunlight for some ten or twelve days, though they suffer depression and become irritable the longer they go without exposure. In this stage, they can also digest plant matter and meat. Starwalkers are generally much more sedate and world-wise than sunchildren. This is the second longest stage of a Tulira’s life, usually lasting two to three hundred years.
The final stage of a Tulira’s life is the ‘lifegiver’, when the barklike deposits on a starwalker’s skin become prohibitive to movement. At this time, they are compelled to find a habitable planet of the proper climate (temperate or tropical with sufficiently nutrient-rich dirt) and plant themselves—near other Lifegivers of the proper gender, or with their mate, if they have selected one. The preparation is quite simple—a shallow hole is dug, which the lifegiver stands in, spreads their arms, and allows their bark to cover them, at which point they again begin to resemble a tree. Their humanoid form is absorbed into a simpler treelike shape, which buds and produces some three or four hundred seeds every five or so years. A Tulira instinctively knows their parent Lifegivers.
Tulira do have genders, although their reproduction plays less of a role in their culture than philosophical affection does, so while marriage is a respected institution in their culture, it’s less common than in human society.
While the Tulira began as a tribal culture, and were discovered by spacefaring races in a very primitive state, their philosophies are very advanced. As a starwalker, a young Tulira is expected to take the philosophies of their Grove or Forest to other races (other Groves or Forests when they weren’t space-capable) throughout the galaxy, in the interest of eventually forging a lasting peace between all intelligent races.
Because the Tulira immerse themselves in others’ cultures, their social structure is limited to the lifegiver, sapling and sunchild stages. They live in Groves and Forests, essentially being similar to villages and cities, merely varying in size and complexity. While the sunchildren are guided by the voices of sifegivers, they are often left alone to develop their own society, which leads some Groves to have peculiar, childish laws, and operate mainly on a barter-based economy rather than establishing a lasting currency.
Tulira courtship is very unlike that of humans—when a male and a female Tulira encounter one another and find that their philosophies are compatible, they grow to respect one another first, and seek each other out to learn all they can from the other. Soon after, they become inseparable, until they either are forced to part ways or decide to marry. Tulira marry for life, choosing the same ‘burial’ site for their transition to lifegiver state. In some cases, when two starwalkers of varying ages marry, the mate left in starwalker state when their partner ‘moves on’ stays with them, and helps to nurture the tree their partner has become.
The Tulira worshipped the sun when they were not space-capable; as they have learned more about the universe, they still revere suns and their power, but now worship what they call the Solar Spirit, or simply Solar, which they believes give all suns their power and, by extent, all life its source. They believe that when they become lifegivers, they gradually understand more of the Solar, and may eventually, when their tree-bodies die, fly into the void and become suns themselves. They allow other races to hold their own beliefs, claiming that the Solar looks after all life, but only ‘ministers’ to plant life. In other words, it is an exclusive religion, but not one that believes itself to be the only correct faith.
In interstellar relations, the Tulira do not have a central government, as their homeworld is not, in the strictest sense, governed; but they have made their presence known as an appreciator of other cultures. They eagerly pursue all avenues of education, and can be found in any occupational position that isn’t detrimental to their health or their philosophy—some even become pirates or criminals if they believe the laws they break to be irrelevant or harmful.
This article was written by Nathan Nichols as an entry to the Alien August competition 2015.