Wasn't too happy having to remove this as my featured submission on FA (on the basis the old version doesn't reflect my current standards) so pulled it back in to re-shade and re-line. Now re-finished, and with some extra description of Jiang and Lorii.
Chiran soldier (Sergeant Mei-Lin Jiang, 3rd Guards Infantry) and Aludran paratroop (Sergeant Mariella Lorii, 117th PIR) with equipment circa the Battle of Omar during the Fourth Battle of Kythen Ocean. Chiran gear is a standard bullpup 6mm carbine with a 36mm grenade launcher, Aludran a suppressed 8.1x55mm battle rifle with a night vision scope and a .22 calibre suppressed pistol, and both carrying single-shot anti-tank missiles.
Lorii is actually a member of 117 SPU, the specialist paratroop unit that carried out HAHO jumps ahead of the main static-line drops over Omar, with the aim of disabling Chiran air defence radar installations. An experienced paratroop drawing a Captain's salary (both militaries use rank to indicate command level rather than pay grade) her first combat jump was the one that established the SPU in the first place, the less than optimistically named "Operation Powder Keg." This HALO jump occurred in a bay near a bulk natural gas tanker that had been hijacked by pirates, with the Aludran force using captured Chiran SMGs to minimise the possibility of destroying the ship during the operation. The success of the mission led to years of the Aludran propaganda corps having to digitally retouch images of the team to replace these weapons with an Aludran SMG which was only on the drawing boards at the time.
Lorii was twenty-six at the time of the Battle of Omar, and the oldest of three direct siblings
*; she has one full sister, Nadine, and a half-sister, Sophie. She grew up in a Burlesque house, The Imperial, run by her family, and went to a local school. Not being particularly academic, she left school at 12 to go to a military-run finishing school. She's a good-hearted, honest and down-to-earth person, the sort who's fine living in the world rather than trying to change it.
Lorii speaks Aludran with a very common Alurna Dockland accent, and also speaks Chiran. She learned the latter from a classically trained Chiran ballet dancer, Li Min Huang, a red panda immigrant who wanted to perform at the Imperial Ballet and didn't realise she wasn't there until it was her turn to audition. She doesn't really mind, rather liking giving a more risque performance; besides, Chiran ballet requires vertical bars since it is difficult to appreciate the transcendent grace and beauty of the Chiran form if she's just walking around boringly. Since Lorii's childhood chores included helping Li to dry her tail, she became good friends with her and over the years learned to speak her language.
As a result of this, when speaking Chiran, Lorii uses a clipped, elegant dialect more commonly associated with nobility from the Southeastern capital, Xinshan, very different to the lilting East Mountains accent normally taught to Aludran soldiers by the military.
Lorii is not fond of her first name or any short form of it; even her own family just call her Lorii. She's fond of playing the guitar, a habit she and her girlfriend Maxine picked up together.
Jiang is a member of the Chiran Guards, the lowest tier of special forces
** in Chira. Guards units pre-date the modern Chiran Dominion and go back to the times when Chira was a group of states centred around two Empresses. The regular Guards were a force of specially selected Army soldiers charged with protecting important locations, the Imperial Guards were essentially police units tasked with apprehending dangerous outlaws, the Temple Guards the warrior-priestesses of the Chiran temples, and the Royal Guards the most elite soldiers hand-picked to escort members of the Imperial families. Today they are modern special forces units, though they retain many of their traditional training and selection methods.
The three Chiran species (lemurs, red pandas and genets) all have a large prehensile tail which is essentially a fifth limb
***, and strong enough that a Chiran can actually lift her entire body weight up using just her tail. Because the tail contains a major artery to allow this, combat gear includes smaller impact plates along the top surface of the tail slip.
The need to protect their tails is also based in religion: Chirans believe their tail is the physical manifestation of their soul and their body the manifestation of their mind.
Jiang herself is twenty-five, one of the older children of a Southeastern farming family with fifty adults, a common arrangement based around the right of Chiran farmers to demand a marriage contract to secure their relationship with the owner of the land they work on
****. Her farm is large and typical of farms in the marshlands, producing silk, rice and Chiran tea.
Like most Chirans from the countryside, only one in four children in her family were formally schooled, and she isn't one of those, instead being taught by her parents and siblings when she wasn't doing chores or working. She joined the Guards after speaking with a recruiter who came to their farm when she was seventeen, and her family is very proud of her. Jiang's service prior to Omar was relatively peaceful, though she saw combat against Lisian forces during their attempt to destroy the Chiran naval monitoring station on Song Island, and was deployed to Etrusea during the Battle of Enola Valley.
While she does work out in the fields, Jiang's most at home looking after her family's moths, and all of them are very fond of her. As a child she managed the rare feat of raising a Marbled Silk Moth, Cheng, and not having her fly away when she was mature; this was in part because Jiang was deathly ill when Cheng was thinking of doing so, and instead the solitary moth sat on the little genet's tail to keep her company. Cheng sleeps under Jiang's bed in a pile of silks since she tries to avoid putting the Spotted Moths in a position where they can annoy her, and rather than making a nest, she spins on a frame out in the yard since she understands that the family wants her to do that for some reason. Marbled Moth silk is coarser than that of Spotted Silk Moths, but is valued for its rarity.
While over a hundred members of her extended family are nominally her siblings, she is only has one direct sister. She is particularly close to a little lemur named Mei, who is more or less her "designated sister."
She is a cheerful, practical person, and when she's home she tends to do odd jobs in the village near their farm.
*Those sharing at least one parent, in both Aludra and Chira "sibling" implies a close bond one might choose to have with a family member they have no genetic relation to.
**Roughly equivalent to the US Marine Corps, minus being an all-aspect force.
***Yes, I know none of these species actually have prehensile tails.
****It's rather like jus primae noctis in reverse. The obligation requires land-owning nobles be willing to let those that serve them be in a position where they could easily kill them, and so Chiran nobility are people whose servants do not want to do so.