Great Bears of Caldari Prime
Caldari Prime may appear unwelcoming to those unused to its special charms but it is undoubtedly a world of dramatic landscapes, weather and even fauna. As a relatively cool world, many animal forms are larger than most and this is especially true of the great bears of Caldari Prime. The two most famous, symbolically important, and spiritually significant bear species are the Storm Bear and the Emperor Bear.
Caldari Prime's climate is renowned for being colder than most temperate worlds, but the large polar and subpolar regions are frigid indeed. The huge swathes of territory circled around the poles contain various biomes, including vast tundras, but the taigas of the subpolar belts are iconic in Caldari culture and mythology. The most charismatic of the fauna inhabiting these belts are the great bears of Caldari Prime. In the northern taiga, the Storm Bear reigns supreme, a creature larger than any other predator save the Emperor Bears of the southern polar archipelagos.
The realm of the Storm Bear is far more mountainous than the southern islands and is known for the sky-wracking storms that sweep the forested slopes of the region. The Storm Bear, also called "Thunder Bear" in some Caldari animist traditions, takes its name from its rain-cloud grey pelt and its complete fearlessness, even in the face of the wind, rain and lightning of the greatest mountain storms. Certain highly-traditional peoples living in the range of the Storm Bear even have a taboo against speaking directly of the bears, employing euphemisms such as "Storm Wind's Teeth" or "Mountain Wind's Claws".
The high lords of the ancient Caldari Raata Empire used many different sigils but one of the most famous is the sign of the Emperor Bear, believed to have been the personal sigil of Emperor K'vire III Fuukiuye of the Second Unification Realm. While the ancient histories of the Caldari are shrouded in myth and legend, this bear sigil is clearly derived from a totemic attachment to the large Emperor Bears of the southern polar archipelagos. The Fuukiuye tribes are thought to have ranged as far south as the island taigas in their remarkable migrations across the face of Caldari Prime, and surely encountered the golden-furred Emperor Bears.
It is likely that a golden bear totem was used by one of the paramount tribes and became associated with leadership over the centuries. Emperor K'vire III Fuukiuye was no doubt concerned to cement his leadership of the Raata Empire by using the symbolism. The sigil was dispensed with some two centuries later when the Fuukiuye emperors were supplanted by the Orioyoni under the leadership of Emperor Deteaas IX Orioyoni during the Third Unification. The Emperor Bear, like its northern Storm Bear cousin, remains a potent symbol for Caldari, indicative in some animist traditions of leadership that serves the collective.
The great bears of Caldari Prime share certain features in common with a number of other animals native to the world. The triple-stage digestive tract that is almost universal among Caldari Prime's omnivores is present. As with many of the larger mammals of the planet, the quatrefoil lung arrangement is notable and gives the bears considerable respiratory capacity. A robust six-chamber heart permits an unusual variation in blood pumping rhythms depending on the activity of the animal. The stamina of the great bears is well-attested, and their ability to go from rest to a high-energy expenditure burst of activity, with minimal stress on their system, makes them the most fearsome predators on the planet.
Some biologists believe these arrangements evolved during a posited "Great Ice Age" that enveloped the planet and, so the theory goes, resulted in reduced oxygen in the atmosphere. Others argue these are adaptations for high-altitude species that spread across the planet, though this does not explain the presence of such species in the base fossil record in low-altitude areas. A radical theory that has been developed lately is connected with the Caldari Prime terraforming hypothesis and claims that almost all Caldari Prime native species are genetically-engineered introductions.
The larger of the two great bear species is the Emperor Bear and it is typically golden-furred, though brown- and red-furred subspecies have been documented. While the Storm Bear is usually somewhat smaller, there is a narrow range of overlap in size such that very large Storm Bears can rival the Emperors in size. Both species have very powerful front claws, probably evolved for digging and climbing, and formidable bites.
Behavior and Habitat
Although they are unquestionably the top land predators of the planet, leaving aside the human population, the great bears of Caldari Prime are omnivorous and highly adaptable. The limits on their ranges are in general determined by the availability of food and the presence of human populations. The largest of the great bear species, the Storm and Emperor Bears, prefer to remain in the mountain and island taiga regions. These bear species both have the ability to initiate hibernation at the onset of lengthy cold weather periods, or to mitigate temporary food-deprivation. The latter is most often connected with migration of certain fish species. They are adept at digging out large setts, or dens, that serve as their hibernation shelters, as well as the nests of pregnant females.
The Storm Bear is more inclined to aggression than the Emperor Bear, though the latter should not be taken lightly on any account. All inhabitants of Caldari Prime know to treat both great bear species with the utmost respect on account of their sheer power, let alone the importance of the bears in Caldari animist traditions. There has never been a credible account of successfully taming a Storm Bear, disregarding the use of invasive techniques. The Emperor Bear has on occasion been recorded as tolerating human presence and is more inclined to explore human settlements in its range.