With its brightly coloured pelt, the Llaoioo (lit. "Tail-Hand"), also known as "Thiefling" to the humans, is a sight to behold. It lives on the wooded slopes of the Dark Hills, to the east of the hidden Vale of the Brownies, which in turn is located in the western part of the Rimmerins Ring. No more than two palmspans, it seems to almost fly through the Darkwoods trees, making clever use of not only hands and feet, but also its tail. If one would manage to sneak up on them, the small monkeys would be found chattering in a large family group. Of course, that is assuming one can sneak up on them – at the smallest sign of danger, they take off like a volley of colourful birds, shattering in all directions and leaving their would-be captor in a dark and strange wood.
Picture description. A bunch of thiefling monkey enjoying themselves near a pool. Image drawn by Seeker.
A small animal even at its biggest, the Llaioo is singularly well-suited to hide
in the entangled underbrush of the Darkwoods at the least sign of danger, though
as often as not it will swing freely in the treetops high above. The body of the
slightly bigger male at full growth measures to about two
palmspans, although the
female is on average just a few nailsbreadths shorter. Their strong, tough, yet
thin-looking tails measure another two
palmspans in length.
By far the most noticeable thing about the Llaioo's appearance is its brightly coloured pelt. Colours range from bright xazure blue to injohue yellow and anything inbetween. There seems to be a correspondence between the hue of the false drasil flower, a tree growing throughout the Darkwoods, and the colour of the Thiefling's pelt; it is not entirely certain why one monkey would eat a certain colour more often than another. Possibly each colour flower tastes slightly differently. It is therefore entirely possible that one animal might change colour once or several times during his lifetime, perhaps depending on a change in taste. Also, monkeys who eat two different colours flowers will show a colour that seems to be a mixture of the two.
The Thiefling's "normal" fur colour, i.e. when he lives on a diet without the false drasil flower, seems to be a brilliant white, contrasting sharply with the skin underneath, which is of a deep dark, almost nor'sidian hue, for the most part only visible in the hands, feet and face. Every other part of the body is covered by the soft fur, down to the very tip of the tail. This white colour can be witnessed every year in the winter months, when the false drasil has shed its flowers and the Thiefling has to rely on other food sources.
Another noteworthy aspect of the Llaoioo's physique is the form of its hands. While it mostly resembles the hands of sentient creatures walking on two legs, rather than four upright fingers and one opposable thumb, they have five upright fingers, two on the one side of the hand and three on the other, moving in opposite directions from each other. The movement of a Llaioo grabbing a branch is greatly reminiscent of a lopstere's claws, even if it is done with fingers rather than metallic "grippers". The three fingers on the one side are rather elongated and possess four segments for "curling" around the branch, whereas the two on the other side (on a normal hand the thumb and forefinger) are shorter and stockier, with three segments and the strength to "grip" the branch.
The animal's feet look more like 'regular' hands than their hands do. Each foot has five toes, four of which have the same four segments as the larger fingers. The fifth toe is shorter but stronger, working much as a thumb to grip the branches and offer some counterweight when the animal is hanging from a branch solely by his toes (a sight not uncommon for this agile little beast).
The last body part that the Llaioo uses to move through the trees is its two-palmspan-long tail. Covered in the same brightly coloured fur that bedecks the rest of the body, it is almost entirely made of muscle. The strongest part of the tail can be found near the tip, which is capable of winding itself around a branch and carrying the whole body weight of the Llaioo. The fur, especially near the top, is somewhat rougher, because it is much more often in contact with branches than the rest of the pelt. At times when the Llaioo wants to find some warmth or appear even smaller than it already is, it will wrap its tail around the rest of its body, and at times even around the body of another monkey – a singular, if effective manner of hugging a loved one!
The Thiefling's face, as deeply black as its hands and feet, shows a flat muzzle with lips that seem frequently contorted into a mischievous grin. Above the muzzle are the nostrils, which are so small they leave the noseholes mostly open. The only purpose of the nostrils seems to be that they can be open wide, so that the sense of smell is heightened enough to allow the monkey to find its food. A useful trait, considering the typical smell of one of its favourite foodtypes. Above the nose, the face recedes slightly back to a pair of wide, clear eyes, the colour of which hovers between allia and barsa dusk, no matter the colour pelt. These eyes catch the smallest glimmer of light in the perpetually gloomy Darkwoods, allowing the Llaioo to find his way through the trees as easily as a flittermouse through a cave.
The first thing that comes to mind is the special way in which the Thiefling's
hands and feet are formed (see the Appearance
section). With this build, and helped by their muscled tail, they are able to
move through the trees at a neck-breaking speed, at times seeming even to fly,
aiming for and often reaching branches that for other beings would be far out of
reach. Even when they miss the branch they are aiming for, they are quick enough
to grab the nearest one, saving themselves from a sometimes quite deep fall.
Territory. The Llaioo monkey can be found in one place only, the Darkwoods forest sprawling on the Dark Hills. Located to the east of the Vale of Brownies, and on the western side of the Rimmerins Ring, this spooky forest offers by far the best protection for this brightly coloured monkey, with its gripping branches and dense, almost impenetrable underbrush.
Outside the Darkwoods it is practically impossible for the Llaioo to survive, considering the target it presents with its bright pelt. Even if he survives long enough for his pelt colour to return to normal, the brilliant white would still attract the eye of just about any predator looking for an easy snack. The only safe place for him to be is close to the dense underbrush of the Darkwoods, where neither eagle, nor cat, nor human can touch him as soon as he hides in it.
Habitat/Behaviour. The main characteristic displayed by the Llaioo when he comes into contact with travellers is curiosity. When a group of travellers skirts the edge of the forest, it is entirely possible that on waking, they find their watch gone – although this has more to do with the forest than with the monkey – and their belongings scattered all over the place – the work of the Llaioo. Or possibly of a whole family of them. This behaviour has earned them the reputation of thieves (and their human name of "Thiefling"), even though they rarely actually take something with them. From this reputation stems the saying “quick as a Thiefling”, used when someone is suspected of dodgey dealings but has never been caught.
However, curiosity is not the only trait that the Thiefling shows. When a family of them feel themselves to be safe – either unobserved or, when observed, not threatened – they love to cuddle and play, the younger ones playing tag with each other and trying to convince their elders to join in, while the older monkeys wave them away, seemingly remembering their own days of endlessly running and climbing. It is quite a sight, albeit one that very few people have witnessed, to see the colourful animals tumbling over each other in one of the hard-to-reach glades of the Darkwoods, or hanging lazily from the surrounding trees, using hands, feet and even their tail.
As soon as one of them even suspects the hint of a threat, though, he will utter a piercing cry that sends the whole family flying for cover in the dense underbrush of the Darkwoods forest. They can seemingly fit into the smallest of spaces, in such a way that even their brightly coloured fur cannot be spotted. In such a way it can happen that within moments, a brightly coloured glade filled with playing or snoozing monkeys turns into a brown and dreary place with not an animal in sight, except perhaps the cause of the alarm circling overhead.
The Llaioo are active almost all the time, sleeping whenever they feel tired, whether it be night or day. They can choose any place to sleep, up in the higher reaches of a false drasil, snoozing in the sunshine, or hidden deep in the underbrush. Sometimes they can even be seen sleeping while clinging with hands and feet to the branches of a tree. However, at the smallest sign of danger they are wide awake and flying for cover, almost as if they have a sixth sense for these things.
A strange phenomenon that can be found in these monkeys is a sort of burial ritual. While they do not have the tools or physical build to dig actual graves, when a family member dies from old age the group gathers together and seem to mourn the departed with deep, almost barking howls, an eerie sound that can at times be heard even outside the Darkwoods, adding to the strange tales coming from this forest. Afterwards, the departed is either taken to a favourite spot and left there to decay, or brought to the marshes, where they are taken to the water's edge to sink.
Diet. The Llaioo's main diet seems to be the flowers of the false drasil tree, and this in turn determines the colour that the monkey's fur will take on. The most likely reason for the Thiefling to choose a particular colour flower would be that each colour has a slightly different taste, and that each monkey eats only what he likes best, or combining the two tastes he prefers, thus getting a mixed fur colour. As they don't seem to build a nest, it is not very likely that they choose the flower according to proximity to their "living place".
However, while this flower is an important part of their diet, it is not the only part – else they would not survive the winter. Baych nuts complement their staple fare in fall, while the leaves of the urban tree add to it in summer. They also enjoy twigs, either from the trees growing in the Darkwoods, or taken from the dense underbrush.
But the Llaioo does not only eat greenery. When they can catch it, a veritable delicacy for the colourful animal is the feylien bug, or "fairy feylien". While in summer this slender bug is often too fast for the Thiefling to catch, during wintertime they slow down. During this time they stay in their marshes, but the Llaioo are smart enough to go down there and catch the feylien, even though they usually avoid the place.
Mating. The Thieflings will mate all through the year, whenever both male and female feel like it. When one Llaioo likes another (the initiator can be both male or female), they bring presents to the other. These presents can be e.g. a favourite food, like the false drasil flower of the correct colour or a feylien bug, but they can also be pretty or shiny things that the initiator found in the forest – or "found" at the forest's edge, for example in a travellers' encampment. Their reputation for thieving, while grossly exaggarated, is not entirely unfounded.
If the receiver likes the initiator back, he or she will accept and hoard the presents (or eat them with a show of appetite), and give presents back. In case the receiver does not reciprocate the initiator's feelings, they will either leave the presents as they are or gently give them back – it does not seem as though aggression and anger are very present in this animal. The initiator will usually accept the rejection and go in search of a more willing partner. Courting lasts for about half a year.
When a mutual liking has been established, the two monkeys will mate both for pleasure and procreation. The fact that it is for pleasure as well can be deduced from the fact that they mate even after it is obvious that the female has become pregnant, something that they do seem to realise, as her status in the family is subtly altered, receiving more attention from the other females than she otherwise would. After the young are born, most commonly a single young or twins, the two partners will care for them, staying monogamous for the duration of the young's education. Both the parents and the larger family group are responsible for teaching the young what it needs to know to survive.
As soon as the young Llaioo can survive on its own (although as always with the help of the family group), the parents split up and the cycle starts once again. In some rare cases the same parents choose each other again, but more often than not they will go in search of a new partner, thus bringing new blood into the family. In this way, a female can have up to five or six birthing cycles before she grows barren. Even after she is unable to have more young, however, the cycles may continue, though in this case it is obviously more for the pleasure of courting and mating than for procreation. Sometimes, in this later period in life, both male and female may even choose a partner of the same sex, an act that seems to be accepted without question by the family group.
A young Llaioo is ready to survive after roughly one year, although he does not reach sexual maturity until he is about three years old. After the monkey has gone through five or six birthing cycles, they may still live for several years, helping to teach the young everything they need to know. On average, the Thiefling lives for about 16 years.
Usages. In principle, the fur of the Llaioo Monkey is quite well suited to make clothing, but it is rather difficult, not to say impossible, to catch enough monkeys with the same fur colour to make it worthwhile for any humans to wear. However, the Llaoihrr Brownies are able to make rather pretty clothes from the fur that they collect where the Thieflings left it behind, snagged behind bark for example. They even have a special day on which they go out to gather this fur, as well as feathers and other pretty things that they might be able to use for clothing.
Myth/Lore. One myth about the Llaioo's fur colour is told by the Llaoihrr Brownies. It is told that long ago, long before the Council Tree was formed, the monkeys were of a dull brown colour, and really nothing remarkable, except that they stole... everything. Not a thing could come in their sight that did not belong to them, or they grabbed it and ran off with them. Of course they targeted the Brownie settlements scattered throughout the Vale, as these were filled with things not belonging to them, and they were agile enough to reach even the highest home.
This stealing, however, they did without the consent of their Spirit. According to Llaoihrr mythology, each and every object surrounding them, either living or inanimate, has a guardian Spirit, which takes needs to be appeased. The Llaioo Spirit kept trying to stop them from stealing, but without success. So one day, it decided that it had had enough, and it left the monkeys, leaving them spiritless. As it did so, the brown fur thanks to which they managed to sneak up on the Brownie settlements changed into a brilliant white, warning everyone with eyes to see of its arrival. As word of the departed Spirit spread, other Spirits tried to take over the monkey, most notably the Spirits of the singing birds living in the Darkwoods, where the Llaioo fled to. As they did so, the monkey's colour changed again, depending on which Spirit was trying to control it, while mixed colours meant that two Spirits were fighting for domination. However, during the winter, when birds are quiet and dream of the warmer months ahead, the Spirits are far less active, and the Llaioo returns to the white colour of the Spiritless one. Whether or not they are trying during this time to convince their Spirit to come back to them is not a part of this particular myth.
The Lloahao on the other hand, have quite a different view of things. With a lot more chance to observe the Thiefling in its natural habitat, they are not convinced that the Llaioo is Spiritless, despite its white fur. Rather, they believe that the animal has always been white, though more present throughout the Vale than it is now. Their myth details how a group of Life Mages, arrogantly convinced of their own prowess, decided to change the monkey's colour, going for whichever colour took their fancy. The reason behind this decision was nothing more than wanting to admire the things they could do with their magic. The monkey's Spirit, however, was less than pleased with this change, as it was rather fond of the colour white. As a result of the change in colour, the Spirit caused all the monkeys to retreat into the Darkwoods, so that the Llaoihrr life mages could not admire their handiwork without braving the dangers of this strange forest. The Spirit then sought the help of all its brethren to undo the changes wrought by the life mages. However, none could help it, no matter how much they tried. Only during the winter, when everything is sleeping and life magic is at its weakest, does the Llaioo spirit succeed in restoring the monkey's fur to its former brilliance. Its work is undone again come spring, when new life starts and the changes wrought by the misuse of the magic are forced on the animal again.