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Mecheiti; New Details (Very, very minor spoilers?)
Topic Started: Jan 19 2018, 01:22 PM (724 Views)
Neco the Nightwraith
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Trying to warm up my artistic skills again with a sketch of a mecheiti. One thing I love about CJ's books (and which is, also, slightly maddening) is that she drops little details here and there about things that help you form a picture of something, but it literally takes you years and multiple books read (not that that's no bad thing) to form a relatively decent picture in your head, and even then, some things aren't made clear at all.

But this new book dropped a few more details, so I'm going to try my hand at a mecheiti now. This is very rough, and no doubt looks like several sketches done by others in the past, but I am going to go back and collect those details again so I can incorporate them into the drawing.


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I'm trying to get the hard, lean, narrow look that everyone keeps describing. The feet are intriguing, though, as Cajeri mentioned that they had claws that never quite retracted...
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Neco the Nightwraith
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"Mecheiti were scary up close, taller than a grown man at the shoulder, their heads way above that-one never realized how tall until one was up close..."

"Though peace-caps were on the upright tusks, which were as long as a man's hand, that great long neck could flex in almost any direction, and if you went down, those slender forefeet had claws that never quite drew in."

"Jeichido heard him, ears lifted, head up."

"She came up to him, her lofty head on a level with his. She turned that head to regard him with one golden, pretty eye, and the peace-capped tusk on that side was right by his face."

"A delicate upper lip took it from his flattened palm. He took the chance to touch that velvety skin..."

That was the first little clump of info. In fact, I think it was established way back in Foreigner that they had pointed, slightly prehensile upper lips, and I pictured something like a black rhino, only much more graceful. They also have, according to Foreigner, a bony lump of plate on their nose, but that detail, once used, has never showed up again, that I recall.
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hrhspence
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I guess I never quite imagined them so lean. But, it looks very much a riding animal. And a fast one at that.
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Neco the Nightwraith
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I was surprised by the description of the feet. It makes them sound much more pawlike. I don't know what the physics is in regards to foot size and body weight, but I kinda like the pawlike idea. I've been instigating earth ungulates and their bone structures, and it's fascinating.
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lynxlacelady
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Your drawing is very interesting. I like it. The muscles of a large cat, with little fur or hair, feet possibly more wolf-like, since there is no indication that they can climb.

Her descriptions of mecheiti characteristics is also interesting in the diet and behavior. They are omnivores and pack hunters. But like zebras they all move as a group, not leaving anybody behind. Among zebras, as I understand it, it is a family group, genetically related. Among mecheiti it is manchi which holds them together. A herd of horses can be separated, zebras can't.

But riding animals which are pack hunters, very odd.

Mecheiti are reminiscent of the nighthorses of the Cloud series. Except the nighthorses don't move in packs or herds. But they are carnivores or omnivores (not clear about that characteristic). Of course, they also transmit visual images telepathically.

The beshti of the Hammerfall series seem to be large scale camels.

Taken all together, the mecheiti have so many interesting and useful traits -- transportation and lethal watchdogs.
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Aja Jin
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Very interesting rendering, by far my favorite Mecheiti so far!
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Neco the Nightwraith
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I was examining the characteristics of the cheetah, one of which is, of course, the paws with the claws that don't retract. They are used for traction while the cat is running. The spine is long and acts like a giant spring, with an incredible amount of flex that gives the cheetah a stride up to 25 feet long. It also has an oversized, powerful heart and enormous lungs for its size, and the long tail acts as a rudder.

Mecheiti have been and still are- according to the book- used for racing (I loved that little insight into atevi culture- just like us, they have their "horse races") so... perhaps that elongated spine should be included. The tail remains a mystery to me- I am fairly certain they have one, but the nature of it I cannot recall. Is it a short tail with a long haired whisk, like a horse? A long tail with a tassel, like a cow? If they had had tails like cats (roughly body length) or anything more extreme or specialist, I think it would have been noticed and commented on.
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lynxlacelady
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Neco - After I shut down my computer last night I kept on thinking about the mecheit foot problem. Part of my thinking went in your direction, to the cheetah. I am not a expert, but have a life long interest in evolution and in mammals in general. So I've read some things that might be relevant (but not exactly tailored to your question).

Wolves and ungulates together evolved in the new ecological zone of the grasslands about 40 million years ago, when the planet dried out (cooler temp meant glacier growth and less rainfall). Wolves are cursorial hunters. They rely on running their prey down. Their muscles and bones are designed to run in a straight line over flat ground very very efficiently. The deer runs itself to exhaustion, but the wolf pack has just enough energy left to catch up and kill it on the ground. They can't climb, they aren't anywhere near as agile as the cat family, but they run really well.

Cats evolved in a riverine environment -- in the forest edge near rivers. This kept them near trees, which they can climb for escape, or from which they can launch an attack. And it kept them near a resource that all their prey animals had to use. They are ambush predators. They are very well muscled and their joints have a much wider range of motion than a wolf and its relatives. The problem with the range of motion is that it takes effort to keep the joints locked in position for running. Cats, as a result, run out of energy very quickly. They have to catch their prey quickly. Sprinters, not endurance runners.

As you point out the cheetah has only partially retractable claws, making it a better candidate for foot type than other cats. But cheetahs have very fine, thin, delicate bones. So the shape of foot might work, but the size would not. The cheetah can't climb. Neither can mecheiti

Clearly hooves would not work on mecheiti. While they might make for efficient running, I can't imagine a predator which never uses its feet on prey. The cheetah uses its claws only to trip up the prey and get it on the ground, but not for grabbing.

The artist's painting of mecheiti on some of the covers (book 9) makes them look somewhat like camels. But camels aren't predators, and I don't know what sort of predators they have to fear. Not cheetahs certainly. Desert lions?

I've never seen a discussion about wolverine feet, or that whole weasel family. But that group does not run down prey over long distances.

So maybe a wolf shape foot with cheetah elements?
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Neco the Nightwraith
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Made some progress on the mecheita, after I did some anatomy study on both the greyhound and the cheetah. Both are animals built for speed.

Also, I reckon that- like humans and their horses- the atevi probably have different breeds of mecheiti designed for different things- racers, jumpers (in fact, Babsidi, Ilisidi's mecheita at Malguri, is a "high bred Matiawa Jumper", used on hunting courses), and those used for draught animals (pulling wagons and such). Emergence mentions that western and Padi valley mecheiti are larger than southern mecheiti, which were smaller and had "faint leg striping".

I may try to build mecheiti bred for those different purposes, and perhaps even demonstrate how they were used.

Also: when in doubt, build a skeleton. :wub:

Note: because I've changed the positioning of the shoulders, the neck probably looks out of whack, and will need adjusting anyway. Also because I remembered some tidbit about one of the stirrups being on or near the curve of the mecheita's neck, and the atevi habit of riding with one leg to the fore, or crossed over. I'm not sure if that is to provide better bracing for the rider because of the gait of the mecheita, or because that is what better accommodated the shape of the animal.

I will probably do several concept drawings.

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lynxlacelady
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Interesting to see the bones inside.
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Neco the Nightwraith
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Yes, placing the bones helps you to envision muscle attachments, which helps with the overall shape of things, lol

I reattached the neck, thanks to some influence from the llama and gerenuk.

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Then I spent probably way too much time trying to figure out a skull shape and tusk placement. After looking at the skulls of various deer, elephants, rhinos, wild boars, hippos, a variety of tusked prehistoric mammals, skunks, badgers and wolverines, I finally told myself to stick a generic skull on and do all the variations later.

Then I stuck a pair of generic ears on for good measure. I can fix all that later when I find pertinent details.

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He looks angry. Probably because he knows he has no feet yet.
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Neco the Nightwraith
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Does anyone remember how the mecheiti's tusks grow? From the upper jaw? From the lower? Are they parallel or perpendicular to the jaw? I know only that they are relatively short- just the length of an (atevi) mans hand. And they must be sharp, on account of needing peace-caps. Also that they are upright, which suggests a sharp curve to point the tips upwards.
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Neco the Nightwraith
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Not sure that I have my heart completely set on it just yet, but then, it is a first concept. There are lots of ideas I could put to use for this project.

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selden
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lynxlacelady,Jan 20 2018
05:57 PM
The cheetah can't climb.

A quibble: cheetahs can and do climb trees, although they might not be very good at it.

Within the past couple of weeks I watched a TV program which seemed to be an episode of a long-term documentary following the life of a female cheetah bringing up a pair of cubs. At one point they had to escape from some hyenas that had stolen one of the cheetah's catches. When they were found in the morning, the photographer was relieved to discover all three of the cheetahs up in a tree where they proceeded to wait out the hyenas. It was a relatively low tree with broad horizontal branches, not a tall, spindly one.

*Of course* I don't recall what program I was watching. It was on either BBC America or the National Geographic Channel, not PBS. A significant fraction of the time was spent (in the vehicle in the field) with the primary photographer talking about what was going on. There seemed to be at least two other people with him (one was recording him, after all), although they never got any screen time.
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lynxlacelady
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Selden - I'll correct my statement to say a cheetahs' climbing skills are minimal. Apparently mecheiti can't even do that much, making cheetahs a poor candidate for copying their feet in a mecheit sketch.

Neco
What's a gerenuk? That's one I haven't heard of.

In your last sketch the critter has really wicked looking feet. And the expression on his face is delicious. "Just give me an excuse to toss you in the air. Go on. Make my day."
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