A Primer for Advanced Study from The Worlds Consortium University
The Barin-Bál (\’per-ən-\’pȯl), The Children of Fire, are an intelligent species of biped humanoids known for their pale skin, light sensitivity, and bioluminescent black eyes, which produce a bright red or orange glow as a byproduct of respiration. The most ancient, extant worlds with native populations are an estimated 400 to 700 billion years old. Naturally occurring varieties of Barin-Bál have been observed most frequently in highly radioactive conditions, typically located in systems with multiple stars, where planetary life forms evolve in direct opposition to their extreme biospheres.
There is still much to be learned about their biology, in the absence of official correspondence between the Worlds Consortium and any civil, military, or religious organizations of known Barin-Bál societies. However, survey data from the WCU archives provides a large sample of their most common traits. Evidence suggests that Barin-Bál populations most frequently evolve on planets that are in the process of cooling from a lava-rich environment and transforming into a rockier composition, which, in turn, plays a role in the development of their anatomy and physiology.
The average height of an adult female ranges from six-and-a-half to seven feet tall, while adult males are larger, at seven to eight feet. A tall, rigid body type is the most commonly seen, giving the vast majority of the species a lean and wiry appearance, which, by human standards, would be considered unhealthy. This skeletal look is enhanced further by protrusions of bone along the forearms and shins that form thin parallel ridges.
Barin-Bál are not the strongest or most durable predators in their ecosystems, having overall poor constitution and some severe disadvantages, due to their photosensitive skin and a lack of natural armor, such as an exoskeleton. They rely on speed and stealth, as well as a highly adaptive mind. From their earliest times, the Barin-Bál created tools and displayed proficiency at using their environment as an ally against more physically imposing foes.
Extreme cases have been observed in which individuals grow to a size well beyond normal, healthy expectations. These abominations, known to the Barin-Bál as ógæfin (oh-‘gey-fin), show a diminished cognitive ability and speak poorly, or not at all. They often grow to heights in excess of ten feet and weigh twice as much as three average Barin-Bál combined. These hulks tend to be relegated to the fringes in modernized Barin-Bál cultures which cultivate intelligence in favor of strength, but they have occasionally risen to high status among the militant tribes where their tremendous physical attributes can be an asset in war.
The eyes of the Barin-Bál are one of their most striking and recognizable features. At present, very little is known about their form and function. They have rounded, solid-black lenses, which are larger and more ovoid in shape than the human eye. A small, bright light, typically red or orange in color, can be seen flaring up from below these otherwise impenetrable surfaces. Their eyes appear entirely opaque, and foreign light sources are not reflected within them. Several researchers, including a trio of Cartographers involved in the second-wave surveys of recently discovered Barin-Bál worlds, hypothesize that the non-reflective surfaces act as a defense mechanism. Despite their debilitating reactions to direct light, the Barin-Bál do not suffer any impairment of vision when exposed—a feat that has yet to be otherwise explained by the WCU’s ongoing research.
Multiple studies have confirmed that the flickering light that emanates from behind their eyes is directly tied to respiration. The respiratory system of the Barin-Bál is largely a mystery, given the species’ lack of a nose—having only two thin nostrils that exist independently of each other and lack a septum—or any other apparent anatomical feature that aids in filtering air before it enters the body. It is unclear how they are capable of breathing freely in their common natural environment, where the atmosphere contains high amounts of volcanic debris and the surface temperatures can reach oppressively high levels.
The exact function of this optical light is the subject of much debate among WCU members. Among the most popular theories are the Eye-Print Theory, which suggests that each Barin-Bál possesses a unique “signature light” that can be distinguished from all others in the same way humans use fingerprints; and Cartographer S. Howson’s original theory, which makes connections between this light and the primitive mating rituals mentioned in several ancient Barin-Bál writings.
Additional research has shown that this trait is present in all known varieties of Barin-Bál, and that the flickering light effect persists regardless of whether or not they currently reside on their world of origin, eliminating several theories that proposed a connection between the bioluminescence and the atmospheric conditions that have birthed the species.
Barin-Bál have a marked sensitivity to natural and artificial light sources, and are highly susceptible to burns on their skin, even with only minor exposure to radiation. A majority of precursor species of Barin-Bál evolved below the surface of their planets in networks of caves and other natural structures, leaving their future generations unprepared to walk in the daylight above. Barin-Bál skin is a thin and pale white membrane, with some areas being nearly translucent under sunlight. Tiny clusters of veins can be observed through these spots, most notably in the skin around the eyes and near joints of the fingers, elbows, and knees.
Most Barin-Bál have at least a slightly pink skin tone as a result of exposure to direct light, even when great care is taken to avoid it. The burnt skin does not return to its original pale pigmentation after healing. Instead, it becomes leathery and scarred with additional damage. Tribal culture among the Barin-Bál often revolves around ceremonial exposure, in which an individual walks into the light as a rite of passage to adulthood, with tests of endurance involving prolonged periods of exposure. The latter of these practices is an integral part of establishing rank and respect among the warrior caste, with any given tribe having at least one member with a deep red or brown skin tone—the leaders of their respective tribes.
Barin-Bál are primarily carnivorous, using their long, sharp teeth to tear apart their hardy prey. A large variety of armored insects, reptiles, and similar types of fauna make up the bulk of their diet. The prevalence of melee and hand-to-hand combat weapons among tribal Barin-Bál is used by some as evidence that their teeth, though well-suited for ripping apart and chewing food, are not used as natural weapons.
Their average lifespan is comparable to humans, but new research shows that a number of advanced Barin-Bál cultures have begun developing methods of artificially extending their lives. [The WCU cannot confirm or deny the success of these experiments, and is unwilling to engage in the frivolous speculation that has recently overtaken the public discussions of popular science.]
Perhaps the best example of a prototypical Barin-Bál world is WID: BAR-BAL-0000, the first universe discovered by the Worlds Consortium that contained living members of the species and home to the planet Aldirnföld (‘awl-durn-føld). Considered by many to be the site of their biogenesis, Aldirnföld contains the highest concentration of Barin-Bál known to the WCU—estimates of the total population are reported to be between one and two billion, to say nothing of their purported colonization efforts within their cosmic neighborhood—as well as several fully developed cities, which easily rival those of other advanced civilizations. These cities are marvels of Barin-Bál science, fertile and hospitable places that would otherwise be impossible without advances in terraforming technology. Fewer than ten million Barin-Bál native to Aldirnföld live in cities or towns, with the majority still operating under tribal codes, scattered among the expansive archipelagos and coastal regions, where food sources are plentiful and nomadic tribes build encampments in or around dormant volcanoes.
The tribes are living the old ways, still beholden to ancient customs and fighting for survival. They have rich traditions of mysticism and practices which prove their respect for the natural world to be of a deeply spiritual nature. On the other end of the spectrum are their more scientific-minded foils. The modern, industrialized Barin-Bál have learned the secrets of their planet through centuries of dedicated experimentation and study. They are now moving to explore and colonize other worlds, as well as learn about other life forms throughout the multiverse.