YURLING

The origins of many creatures that can be found upon the Urth in these late red days are no longer recorded and the natural philosophers who debate such matters in languid smoke-dappled parlours are guided towards their conclusions only by intuition, legends, and dreams. The gene-alchemy perfected in epochs past has given birth to a number of baffling monstrosities, and the passage of aurum barges to and from distant spheres has brought to the Urth numerous stowaways, prisoners, and pets, some of whom have thrived and founded exile dynasties upon this dying world. In such milieu, who can say from when or where a creature first came? 

The Yurling, then, may once have been created for some purpose or it may have its origin out amongst the stars. If they came to Vaarn on an aurum vessel then it must surely have been as stowaways, since their unusual diet makes them a dangerous nuisance aboard spacefaring vessels. Whatever their origin, Yurlings have spread prodigiously across the Urth and are found in abundance in Vaarn just as they are in the heart of the New Hegemony and their spoor and cries are familiar to all.

The Yurling’s prime attributes could be considered guile and mischief, and they are pests to all households. In appearance they are somewhat like an ape and somewhat like a sly and ancient child, with hairless, brightly coloured faces and hands. Their eyes are small and dark, and their mouths are wide and toothsome. Their hunched bodies are coated with a fluffy down that resembles hair but scholars know to be a symbiotic fungus, for Yurlings despite their ape-like forms have as much in common with mould as they do with humans. They cannot speak but are of a high intellect and can be trained somewhat like a dog or hawk, although they must be instructed from birth as adult Yurlings are rebellious and wilful and have little interest in following directions. They use a limited range of tools, and construct elaborate clan-nests from stones and wood. 

The Yurling’s diet consists solely of metals and metal alloys, which the symbiotic mould in their digestive tract converts into chemical energy. They display a preference for noble metals such as gold, silver, palladium, iridium, and platinum, but they are quite willing to devour base metals as well. Their teeth are of utmost sharpness and density, and they can quite easily chew through steel. This diet makes them unwelcome in all civilised places, for troops of Yurlings can devastate valuable machinery and are a life-threatening hazard for synthetic lifeforms. The peoples of the New Hegemony breed large grey ferrets, know as ‘Scrapyard Friends’, to hunt and kill the Yurlings that otherwise would run rampant anywhere large quantities of metal were stored. 

Yurlings are genderless and reproduce through binary fission. Yurling that are ready to ‘cleave’ will be notably larger than their companions and often have two visible faces and multiple pairs of legs. Under certain circumstances, Yurlings are also capable of fusing their bodies rather than fissioning, creating a large spherical organism known as a Yurlump. This lump can be formed of hundreds of Yurlings, and may reach prodigious size. Yurlumps move by rolling, and will be accompanied on their journey by a retinue of Yurlings that sing a raucous travelling song. The stimulus that causes Yurlings to form a Yurlump is uncertain, as is the purpose of the unsettling mass of creatures that results. Yurlumps have attacked well-defended stores of precious metal, and  used their bulk and hundreds of gnawing mouths to breach perimeter fences – this perhaps is their function.  

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