List of alien species in the Honorverse
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By the time of the Honorverse accounts, humanity had met 12 sentient alien species. Only a few have been mentioned in the books (Stilties, Treecats, Beowulf Gremlins, Terran dolphins, etc.). The list also includes human variants resulting from genetic engineering.
Alphanes were a species of sentient bipedal reptilians, perhaps related to Growlers, which vanished from the galaxy considerably before humans even left the Sol system. They inhabited several planets in what is now Human space over 100,000 years ago. They built cities out of crystals that seem to have been grown from bedrock. Their books were holographic crystals activated using AC power. "A Grand Tour" HHA1, David Drake
An intelligent species native to Beowulf in the Sigma Draconis system near Old Sol, the first human colony system. They are about as intelligent as Old Earth dolphins and seem to be slightly less intelligent than Sphinxian treecats.
Human variants due to genetic engineering
All are generally referred to as 'genies'; depending on context and the period, this can be a strong insult.
- Grayson-Masadan variant (Resistance to heavy metal toxicity. A side effect of the modification is a high number of male miscarriages, resulting in a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men.)
- Mesa Genetic Slaves
- Mesa Human Variant (Mesa was founded by Beowulfian settlers determined to improve the genetics of humanity. Their 'alpha' and 'beta' lines are bred for technical and executive strengths.)
- Scrags ('superhuman' descendants of the Ukrainian soldiers of Earth's Final War era; widely believed to be extinct, but actually widely distributed as small populations in many systems)
- Mfecane genetic variant, two varieties which differ in pigmentation due to differences in solar irradiation of the two planets involved. The systems were populated by Bantu racialists who left Earth and deliberately selected both high gravity planets to produce an optimum physical type. As of Honor Harrington's time, both planets were under the oppressive control of the Solarian League's Office of Frontier Security. Some hundred years earlier, they had contributed (involuntarily) as breeding stock for Manpower's genetic slavery projects.
- Meyerdahl Beta modification: Honor Harrington's first Sphinxian ancestors were from Meyerdahl and the modifications are dominant, so the entire Harrington family all have the modifications. Designed for a high-gravity planet, the modifications improve strength and reaction speed, at the expense of needing much higher food intake.
- Winton modifications: The Terran family of Roger Winton included a set of modifications in his genome which appear to have been somewhat parallel to the Meyerdahl Beta modifications. They are not well known to the Manticorean public, however. Treecats are aware of them, since the Winton clan is, like the Harrington clan, specially attractive to treecats and are more likely to be adopted than most family groups.
Stilties are a fictional species in the Honorverse fictional universe. They are native to Medusa in the Basilisk system, and were more or less equivalent technologically to late Bronze age humans when discovered. They live in clans, some nomadic, while others settled in small towns at important trade junctions. Politically, most groups are organized as extended families/clans and are led by the head of the currently dominant family. Town organization is more complex, but political arrangements everywhere are similar to Terran Bronze Age political arrangements in most places.
They are tall, slender and trilaterally symmetric. They are warm-blooded and bear living young, yet are somewhat similar in appearance to a very large praying mantis (an insect) from Old Earth. Stilties use their upper limbs for manipulation (much as humans use their hands and arms) while standing on tripod legs (with 6 knee joints), which appear impossibly long and slender to human eyes. Instead of bending hip joints, Stilties swivel their bodies with the assistance of the complex knee joints. They are able to move very quickly when they wish to do so.
They are intelligent and communicate via a combination of chemical clues, sounds, and postures (primarily of the three arms). Nevertheless, it was possible for humans to interact with them despite having the wrong chemical emissions and only 2/3 of the correct number of arms; the discovery that this was possible was one of the triumphs of xenobioloigcal linguistics. Establishing communication presented more than the usual difficulties after they were discovered by humans from the Star Kingdom of Manticore when the Basilisk terminus of the Manticore Wormhole Junction was mapped.
Being colored an all-over mottled green-gray, similar to Medusan moss (a persistent visual theme throughout Medusan biology), the natives looked "like some sort of circus freaks" and the atmosphere "smells like the downwind side of a chemical refinery with buggered filtration." (Stromboli, p. 104 HH1) Their coloring has the effect of providing exceptionally good camouflage, at least to human senses, in the Medusan environment, when desired. Medusans are quite good at moving stealthily, especially in their natural environment.
After their discovery, which coincided with the discovery of the Basilisk terminus of the Manticore Junction, the Star Kingdom of Manticore assumed a protectorate over the planet and its inhabitants, but disclaimed sovereignty. There was strong political opposition to a Manticoran annexation of the planet and populations itself, and against any but the least possible protective role with regard to the Stilties. However, the Basilisk terminus itself was claimed outright by Manticore. Medusa acquired, over the first couple of decades of its relationship with Manticore, substantial orbital trading and transshipment facilities, most in orbit around the planet. Nearly all of this orbital infrastructure was destroyed during the Basilisk raid in the second phase of the Haven-Manticore War by Admiral Giscard of the Havenite Navy.
Trade and other interaction with Medusans on the surface of the planet was limited, as the Medusans produce little of economic value elsewhere. Nevertheless, trade increased steadily as they acquired more technology and as Manticoran sponsored economic development proceeded. Manticore maintains a Resident, with police and a small armed force, to keep peace and to prevent importation of goods and materials unsuited to the Medusan technological standing. No advanced weapons, no chemical industries with toxic effluents, and so on. With the exception of some serious problems caused by an attempted coup de main by Haven before the start of the first phase of the Haven-Manticore War, this policy had proven to be a success for both Medusa and Manticore.
Treecats, often simply called 'cats, are the native sentient species of the planet Sphinx. They are commonly around 60 centimeters, not including tail, and weigh typically 9–10 kg. Treecats are hexapedal, meaning they have six limbs with hand-like paws, with three fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand-paw. The paws are formidably armed with extremely sharp, retractable centimeter-long claws composed of a substance more similar to ivory than keratin, used for tree climbing, hunting, and attack and defense. Treecats are also a tool-using species; they use nets both for carrying things on their backs and for fishing and they also use small, tomahawk-like flint axes as tools or as long-range weapons. Treecats often hunt in groups in their native Sphinxian forests and are formidable foes when provoked. Treecats use fire, both for light and for warmth. After observing humans, treecats began gardening some of the plants and vegetables they needed. They can reach a natural age of over 200 T-years.
Treecats think of themselves as "The People", though their telepathic\empathic means of communication cannot truly be rendered into any human language. In their native forests, they are organized into territorial clans of up to several hundred, centered on their memory singers. Governance of the clans is done by elected Elders. Treecats are very intelligent, but they have deliberately obscured their true intellectual capacities and social arrangements in an attempt to seem less threatening to the humans that originally settled on Sphinx. They have complex and sophisticated social arrangements and are rated 0.83 on the sentience scale, but it is highly likely that they would achieve higher scores if they did not deliberately hold back. In the more recent books the Treecats have changed their policy of appearing less intelligent than they are, to the point that they have been learning human sign language to communicate directly with the humans they have adopted (previous attempts to teach 'cats sign language had always had inconsistent and lackluster results since the 'cats were hiding what they had learned) and that they have now spread their numbers to the planet Grayson. The latter step was taken after the 'cats that had adopted members of the Royal Manticoran Navy reported back to their clans what kind of devastating weapons the humans could actually wield. To prevent their species from going extinct in case that Sphinx were ever to become involved in a truly cataclysmic event (e.g. interstellar war, orbital bombardment, etc.) they have now established a true colony on Grayson.
Treecats are able to "feel" other treecats' and humans' emotions. Treecats are empaths and (according to some theories, and among their own kind only) telepaths who can form a very intense, though limited, bond to humans, which is essentially permanent for both and if the human dies, the paired treecat nearly always starves to death or suicides. In rare cases, a treecat might (re-)bond to another human.
Species of uncertain intelligence
Growlers are a sort of reptilian dog which makes good pets. They have a characteristic growling noise, from which comes their name. They are thought to be degenerate descendants of the Alphanes (see above). They are found on all former Alphane worlds.
Native to Gryphon, the "Kodiak max" is a bear-like predator hunted for its pelt. There are strict limits to the hunt, and smuggling of poached pelts carries heavy penalties.
They are hexapedal (six-limbed) creatures native to the planet Sphinx orbiting Manticore-A. Adults are commonly five meters long, making them Sphinx' largest predators; they are both deadly and ill-tempered. Apart from their size, they bear a striking resemblance to their relation, the treecat, except that they are not sapient.
Hexapumas have retractable eight-centimeter claws on all six limbs. These claws were essentially scimitars with razor sharp inner edges; unlike protein based claws in many Terran predators, they are a kind of mineral. They also have fifteen-centimeter long stabbing teeth, which protrude from the jaws in a manner similar to those of Terran saber-toothed tigers.
Hexapumas are the apex predators in their part of the Sphinx ecosystem, although they generally avoid treecat territories; a single treecat is no match for a hexapuma, but a group (especially a clan) of treecats is easily able to take down even a healthy, mature, hexapuma. Treecats call them "death fangs" due to their strength, ferocity, and nearly universal aggressive attitude, even when not hunting. Human settlers on Sphinx almost never travel in or near unsettled lands without powerful weapons due to the threat presented by hexapumas and the other large Sphinxian predators. Stephanie Harrington is believed to be the only human ever to face a hexapuma armed with only a vibro-knife and survive.
A particularly vicious freshwater predator native to Sphinx.