The Ulatarim closely resemble bipedal wolves. They stand slightly hunched over at the shoulders, with their head jutting forward from their necks horizontally rather than vertically. Ulatarim normally reach about seven to eight feet in height, though some have been known to grow as tall as ten feet. Ulatarim are almost never shorter than seven feet, as litter runts are often accidentally killed in the rough wrestling that doubles as Ulatarim play. As prey populations shrank the Ulatarim were forced to become more intelligent killers, and those that learned how to use tools and set ambushes survived to pass their genes on to later generations. Ulatarim are normally gray, brown, or black furred, and all have a pair of ten inch long fangs where their canines should be.
For a race of genocidal madmen, the Ulatarim can be surprisingly good natured. They do not see the universe in terms of good or evil, merely of strength and weakness. Their main motivations amongst themselves is competition to prove which individual or tribe is stronger, and each tribe hosts a yearly Olympic style competition. The Ulatarim are also fond of story telling, having a rich oral history that goes back for several thousand years, though different tribes maintain different portions, and those portions may change based on fights between the tribes, as victorious tribes assume the responsibility for the loser's history. The longest current saga is that of the Tulomenouiac, which is told once every Ulat-year, starting on the New Years and ending right before the end of the last day. The Tulomenouiac allow only a single speaker to tell the tale, and have not had a single speaker speak twice in over a decade. Finally, the Ulatarim are professionally amateurish craftsmen, often turning hunting trophies in works of art and jewelry.
500 years ago a nuclear war broke out on Ulat between the various competing tribes. The final battle would eventually become known as the Three Confrontations, a horrific event that left more than a quarter of their planet's surface scarred with nuclear fallout, rendering it uninhabitable. The good news was that new advancements in science, both in the development of new power sources and a warp drive, allowed the Tribal Elders to begin dispatching scout ships to nearby stars, in the hopes that the still expanding population might be spared another such war by exporting the excess peoples.
One such scout was Scout Huwaloo, who was sent some ten light years. No one is entirely sure what transpired or what Huwaloo found, but he came back with a strange tale that was both wonderous and terrifying: not only had he found God, but God had a mission for the Ulatarim. It was foretold by God that in 500 years a race of Demons known as the Sky Eaters would appear to the Ulatarim, seeking their destruction. God did not want this to happen, and would give the Ulatarim the means to defend themselves against the demons. What the Ulatarim didn't know was that there had been a slight miscommunication. "God" in this instance was not a God but was named God. He had in fact been one of the original developers of the Ulatarim genetic code, which had been produced by his species in an attempt to study evolution in live speeds. Unfortunately, Huwaloo thought that he was the God, and sought to have him worshipped as a holy being, and so the word of God began to take on religious, as well as military, importance.
The birth of this new religion led to the political rise of the Shaman caste. Long restricted to roles as medicine men and advisors, the Shamans seized the opportunity to challenge the Tribal Elders for control of the Ulatarim tribes, and a new war broke out, with the religious adherents making up one faction, opposed by the Tribal Elders, much of the scientific community, and the higher ranked members of the Warrior Caste. Unknown to either side, Ulat was about to experience its once-in-a-million-years rendezvous with the local asteroid belt. Rocky death rained down from the heavens, obliterating entire cities and tribes. Worse, the many landings in contaminated zones spread radioactive dust around the planet, blanketing the planet with deadly fallout.
The Shamans declared this to be a sign from God (who, frankly, would have been appalled by all of this) and that He wanted the Ulatarim to take the fight to the Sky Eaters, rather than wait for them to consume the Ulatarim. In turn, the Ulatarim would not set foot on a new planet until they had destroyed the Sky Eaters, relying instead on robotic harvesters to gain them precious resources.
The Ulatarim are currently arranged into three castes:
The Shamans are the true rulers of the Ulatarim, as they manipulate the Warrior caste by controlling who may challenge for leadership, and when. They also declare the "Honor" to be granted to a warrior for his accomplishments on the Honor Hunts, as well as rewarding loyalty with stays at the breeding ships. The Shamans are a self selecting caste, picking likely candidates from amongst the youths of the tribes.
The Warriors are rulers in name only. They do most of the fighting, as befits their title, and rank in the caste is decided by combat, whether between groups or individuals. The only exceptions are the Tribal Leaders, as any challenge against them must first be "blessed" by the Shamans.
The Technicians are the lowliest class, as they are without honor, never being allowed to participate in the hunts. They are also self selecting, though the Shamans are careful never to allow them to train too many youths. They are kept at the rear guard of the Ulatarim advance, where they can guard the women, train the children, and repair and build new ships for the Tribal fleets. The Tribes must return to this refitting area every so often to be replenished of supplies and fighters, a situation the Shamans manipulate to maintain their hold on power.
But even now their grip is weakening, and already the stir of change can be felt...
World: Ulat is a rocky, cold world made worse by the disasters that have befallen it. Now it is populated only by the harvester drones that crawl across its surface, hunting for the ores and minerals necessary for keeping the Ulatarim alive in space. It has really brilliant sunsets, however.