Vampire Bride Encyclopaedia
Three hornmothers wait outside a himehorn nursery.
Although hornmothers are not permitted to enter, the grassy "carpet"
outside the nursery door (really, spillover from the expensively maintained greenery within) is a popular lounging area for
many hornmothers. Some hornmothers even prefer
to lay their morning egg right there, in the living grass, instead of their personal nests (usually made out a variety of soft, dried plant fibers,
furs, strings, and/or blankets - a hornmother's haremhorns take great care in the selection of materials). If a hornmother lays her egg outside her own nest, the haremhorns usually take this as a sign the nest needs an upgrade, but some hornmothers simply prefer the living grass above all else.
Some hornmothers fall asleep after laying their morning egg in the grass and even try to have lunch there, but this is not encouraged.
The living grass is far too precious to have some hot tea spilled on it.
It's not unusual to see a haremhorn or two leading a sleepy-headed hornmother back to her nest in the morning, or luring away
a group of lounging hornmothers with the promise of a tasty snack.
A curious species of omnivorous, bipedal, parthenogenetic, egg-laying, breast-feeding, horned mammals with three biological castes and human-like intelligence. The last of the "lost races" of the North, they have survived both the coming of the Vampire
and the Templar extermination
campaigns. Though they once ruled the surface, they have long since migrated underground. Today, they cling to a meager existence under the protection of the Southern Witch-Apostle
History of the Horned Ones
According to the herd records
, the herd was once the dominant species of the realm:
"The surface used to be warm and green and there was a giant yolk in the sky. The whole world was a big happy egg! The herd lived in trees back then, too. The trees were really big so a whole herd could live there. But one day it got cold and then it got even colder and pretty soon it was dark and cold all the time. Then the nohorns came. At first the nohorns were kind of okay and didn't bully too much so we ignored them... ... but we shouldn't have ignored them!! After the Goldenhairs
ate everyhorn up the nohorns came to finish us off!! NOHORN GO HOME!! DON'T BULLY!! GO HOME!! It's a good thing the Apassal was there make the nohorns nobully I like her she's nice we should be nice to her."
- Early Herd Record Entry
Today the herd dwells deep underground, in an abandoned witch domain
maintained by the Southern Witch Apostle
Organization of The Herd
The instincts of the horned ones run deep, and the structure of the herd is entirely determined by the nature of (and interactions between) the three castes: the hornmothers, the haremhorns, and the musclehorns.
are the egg-laying caste, the heart of the herd, and lead a life of indolent pleasure, pampered day and night by the haremhorns. The hornmothers have no internal pecking order.
are the caretaker caste and have a pseudo-pecking-order based (roughly) on nursing potential. Those with the highest nursing potential are highest in the pecking order and spend their days looking after eggs and "smallhorns" (himehorn hatchlings). Like the hornmothers, they are tended to by the low ranking haremhorns. The low ranking haremhorns maintain and beautify the living spaces of the herd, prepare the food, carry out groomings, direct the musclehorns, etc. In short, the low ranking haremhorns are responsible for satisfying the day to day needs and maintaining the general well-being of the herd.
the hunters, workhorses, and protectors of the herd - all heavy labor is performed by this caste.
Additionally, there is one hornmother collectively recognized by the herd as "leader
" ("Leedah" to the smallhorns). The leader guides the herd, has authority to order (and override the orders of) the other hornmothers (who would otherwise squabble amongst each other endlessly since their caste has no internal pecking order). Besides her leadership duties, the leader also keeps and continues the herd records
and produces the majority of hornmother smallhorns for the herd.
The herd organizes itself naturally as each member of the herd seeks her own pleasure. When a haremhorn looks at a hornmother, egg, or smallhorn, she is overcome by very himehorn-specific "egg adoration" feelings. The natural outlet for these feelings is to pamper and look after the herd. When a haremhorn spends her days combing hair, warming eggs with her body, preparing food, and so on, she is in state of complete contentment and so naturally takes on these behaviors within the context of the herd. Likewise, the musclehorns live to work, lift, and wrestle, but are helpless without the haremhorns to direct and guide them -- in fact, the musclehorns may become listless or even mentally damaged if separated from the herd, left without orders, or forced into independent action. And of course the hornmothers are happy to be pampered, laze about, eat, play, and produce happy eggs.
So interlocked are the castes of the horned ones that the motivations for their individual behaviors only reveal themselves when overarching patterns are considered from the perspective of the herd itself. That is, when the hornmothers are fussy, demanding, and vocal about their needs, this is no mere "selfishness" or "childishness"(nohorn concepts), but the beginning of a complex and dynamic firing of processes by which the herd responds the environment, regulates its internal pressures, and modifies its own behavior. Consider a small herd, underground, suffering from starvation: how is it that the distribution of food is regulated without explicit orders? The answer is that the natural pressures created by the intrinsic desires of each horned one creates a spontaneous, dynanimc structure of balances, counterbalances, and feedback loops that gracefully culls the herd in a way that maximizes the probability of stable, long-term survival and wards off the possibility of sudden, catstrophic collapse. The hornmothers, who are loved by the haremhorns and musclehorn alike, are fed most, first, and best, starting with the leader, for the sight of a hungry hornmother fills the haremhorns with sickness and horror -- perhaps greater than the horror a nohorn experiences when seeing her own starving child. The feeding of the hornmothers is counterbalanced by the need to warm and care for eggs and feed the smallhorns (the younglings of the horned ones). Therefore the second best food is given to the care-giving class (high ranking haremhorns) and smallhorns, and then the workers (the musclehorns) and then finally the low-ranking haremhorns themselves who, because of their overflowing adoration for the other members of the herd, cannot bear to eat before all others have had their fill. Here, there is a noteworthy exception to the usual rule of nature: whereas in most species the highest ranked eats first, so overwhelming is the adoration the haremhorns feel for other members of the herd that those who are higher in the pecking order use their authority to force the lower ranking members into eating first. Without taking the herd perspective, this behavior seems bizarre, but as lower ranking haremhorns tend to be younger and consume less energy, this is an excellent adaption from the perspective of herd survival. In times of extreme starvation, the selective starving of the least useful haremhorns and musclehorns ensures a graceful, proportional culling of the herd. When starvation becomes so severe that even the hornmothers start to feel the pinch, they will begin to display behaviors that nohorns might consider "combative" and "petulant" but in fact these are behaviors designed to permanently sever herd bonds and gracefully break apart the herd into smaller, proportional, independent herds, prematurely triggering the herd budding/seeding process (see: Life Cycle of the Herd
). Though this is insanity from the perspective of the individuals (almost all such "seed" herds will die or kill each other in times of starvation), the behaviour, again, makes total sense from the perspective of the herd.
A final point of consideration on the subject of herd organization: members of the herd do not have names. Although the horned ones do differentiate each other on the basis of caste, scent, and pecking order (if applicable) the concept of "identity" seems to be a nohorn peculiarity that has no place in the herd. For the horned ones, the herd is the herd.
A hornmother laying an egg while eating breakfast.
are the egg-laying caste. A hornmother stands four feet tall at maturity (excluding horns), lives 25-30 years, and produces one egg a day during her egg-laying years. Egg production begins in the fifth year of life and continues until six to eight month before death. Hornmothers produce no milk and develop no breasts. Their horns are black, majestic, and continue to grow until death. Hornmother horns are seldom decorated, but when they are, it's a sign that her haremhorns may be doting on her too much (even for haremhorns). Hornmothers smell naturally of grass, dried leaves, and the earth after the rain. They wear warm, thick, dark robes created by the lower ranking haremhorns.
Hornmothers are, by nohorn standards, childish, playful, indolent, prideful, talkative, and quick to complain. Their great pleasures are laying happy eggs, eating, smoking, drinking, playing, napping, and being groomed by the haremhorns.
Hornmothers are quick to voice their desires and their commands are instantly obeyed, but they are often quietly influenced (manipulated?) by the haremhorns. When a haremhorn leads a group of hornmothers around the cave with the promise of food, or lulls a hornmother to sleep with gentle combings while another collects her egg, it's unclear just who is in charge of who. It would be easy for a nohorn to consider the lower ranking haremhorns the "true power" in the herd, but in truth, from the perspective of the herd, ideas like "power" and "being in charge of" are simply out of place. All is for the benefit of the herd.
While the hornmothers are pampered from egg to ash, the haremhorns do change their behavior a bit once a hornmother stops producing eggs: more rest, more quiet, lighter meals, snacks are requested rather than scheduled, and indulgences (like sweet foods or alcohol) are not restricted (though in truth an elderly hornmother would really rather sleep than eat/drink anyway). When a hornmother dies her body is prepared by the haremhorns and burnt during a funeral feast. The bones and ashes are committed to the earth where the all-important nesting grasses grow. From there, they will continue to be part of the herd.
are the care-giving caste and roughly divide into two groups: high ranking haremhorns and low ranking haremhorns. This "pecking order" is determined (roughly) by nursing, care-giving, and egg-warming potential (usually a combination breast size, height, temperament, and body fat). A mature haremhorn is four to four and a quarter feet tall, excluding horns. Higher ranking haremhorns tend to be taller. Their horns are white, small, and do not develop after their first years of life (roughly when musclehorns and haremhorns begin to differentiate themselves, see: Life Cycle of the Herd
). Like the hornmothers, their natural scent is that of wet earth and dried leaves. Note: some high ranking haremhorns may also give off a slightly sweet milk smell. All haremhorns walk the cave unadorned.
The higher ranking haremhorns
spend their entire life in the nurseries. There, they warm the eggs with their bodies, sleep in the living grass, and nurse the smallhorns. All of their personal needs are tended to by the lower ranking haremhorns.
When a higher ranking haremhorn grows old and stops producing milk, she remains in the nursery and tends to the smallhorns for the remainder of her life. The higher ranking haremhorns are buried in the fields, where their bodies may become part of the soil that sustains the herd.
High ranking haremhorns are serene and "motherly" by nohorn standards, and prefer small, cozy spaces, happy eggs, and happy smallhorns above all else.
Lower ranking haremhorns
spend their lives maintaining and beautifying the living spaces of the herd, preparing and distributing food, grooming the herd, and ordering the musclehorns around (those musclehorns are just helpless without them). The typical low ranking haremhorn tends to be rather fastidious and maybe a bit strict compared to her higher ranking counterpart, but there is range of temperaments across the lower ranks: some are a little more motherly and like to spend most of their time in the baths and combing circles, while others have a bit of the musclehorn in them and spend their days cleaning or creating elaborate door paintings and combs for the herd.
Haremhorns rarely speak, and never out loud. On occasion, a hornmother might see a haremhorn whispering into another haremhorn or musclehorn's ear, but any attempt to get in on the conversation results in a graceful deflection -- usually a surprise snack or hair-combing that leaves the hornmother half-asleep and wandering back to her nest. To this day, the hornmothers have no idea what the haremhorns are talking about.
Haremhorns live about 15-20 years.
are the workhorses, hunters, and protectors of the herd. In the present age, musclehorns reach a height of six and half feet and can easily crush meat, bone, wood, and even some rocks with their bare hands. Despite their appearance, the musclehorns are the most passive and obedient of the castes. They work only under the direction of the haremhorns, show little to no autonomy, and prefer to stay in large groups. Though a musclehorn can be quite rough while working with her own kind, she becomes shy and eager-to-please in the presence of a haremhorn. A haremhorn can, with a single finger, compel a rowdy or naughty musclehorn kneel on the ground, be led by the ear, and even be seated in the "punishment position" (back to the herd, knees tucked up).
Although musclehorns are known to grunt a bit while lifting heavy objects and emit horrific bellows during a blood frenzy, they do not make noise under most normal circumstances. Since they do not speak, are not particularly expressive, and spend most of their life obeying the orders of the haremhorns, one could be forgiven for thinking the musclehorns a bit dull or slow, but any nohorn with that impression would do well to remember that the musclehorns are quite capable of understanding and executing the orders of the haremhorns, building complex structures, and solving novel problems while carrying out their orders.
Musclehorns live about 15 years and, like the haremhorns and hornmothers, smell faintly of wet earth and dried leaves. They also have a bit of a salty-sour scent, unique to musclehorns, which can become quite pungent if the haremhorns don't force them to wash. They enjoy wrestling, lifting heavy things and putting them back down again, and are happiest when they please the haremhorns. The prefer raw meat over all other foods, but the haremhorns exercise strict control over their diets and force them to eat roots and vegetables as well. Musclehorns do not have a pecking order, but the haremhorns tend to feed the youngest and healthiest musclehorns first. A musclehorn remains healthy and strong for almost all of her life, but undergoes a rapid decline in old age. In the span of two to three months before death, a musclehorn will loses her appetite, her will to work, much of her muscle mass, and loses much of her musclehorn scent. The loss of scent causes the haremhorns to ignore the musclehorn, stop feeding her, and then eventually drive her from the herd. An old musclehorn lives her last days confused, afraid, and alone. Luckily most musclehorns do not reach old age, and die from injuries while working, hunting, fighting another herd and -- in times of great peril -- starvation or overwork. Musclehorns that die this way are buried in the fields, so that they may always be part of the herd.
A note on the relationship between the musclehorns and haremhorns: if the herd records
are to be believed, a least a few haremhorns have been seen whispering something in a musclehorn's ear, causing a brief flash of embarrassment and shyness. The musclehorns spoken to in this way are fidgety in their sleep and distracted during the day. Perhaps being spoken to in this way is a special treat for a musclehorn? Or is there something else going on? No hornmother has made any headway on this matter: when questioned, both parties play dumb. Perhaps some things must simply remain a secret, even to the hornmothers.
The eggs of the horned ones
are usually white and speckled, but may take on various colors depending on a hornmother's diet.
is the generic term for all himehorn younglings.
Life Cycle of the Herd
Every himehorn begins as an egg. Like the giant yolk in the sky, a hornmother's egg arrives reliably each morning and is transported by a low ranking haremhorn from the hornmother's nest to the nursery of the horned ones. There, a high ranking haremhorn will warm the egg with her body amid the living grasses. Haremhorns and musclehorns take two months to hatch. A hornmother egg takes five months to hatch. Hornmother eggs are slightly more prone to mortality and defects. All smallhorns are swaddled in special blankets sewn by the lower ranking haremhorns: the musclehorns and haremhorns are kept in blankets with traditional lines and zigzag patterns reminiscent of the fields and hills they once inhabited, and hornmothers receive a thick black blanket that will one day become the seed fabric of her robe. The black fabric and white accents of a hornmother's robe represents the herd itself.
Haremhorns and musclehorns
share the same developmental path for the first year of life. Since a smallhorn's scent has not stabilized, even the haremhorns sometimes have trouble telling two very young haremhorn and musclehorn smallhorns apart. However, within a few weeks there is a divergence in dispositions that allows the haremhorns to reliably tell them apart (haremhorns are affectionate, musclehorns are sterner and less receptive to affection). A year after hatching, overt physical characteristics begin to diverge: musclehorns continue to grow taller, their horns darken, they develop a ravenous appetite, and they begin developing their prime physical characteristic: huge amounts of steely muscle. Meanwhile, the haremhorns grow no taller, begin to develop fat reserves, and about half develop great nursing potential. Two years after hatching, a musclehorn reaches her maximum strength and height (six and a half to seven feet tall) while a haremhorn remains much unchanged, looking a bit like a squishy juvenile musclehorn (usually standing about four feet tall).
developmental path is entirely different: it takes a hornmother 4-5 years to reach her egg-laying stage, and she undergoes no sudden physical changes. Instead, she grows smoothly from a smallhorn to a full-grown hornmother while retaining a great many of her juvenile characteristics: her food and pampering demands are much like that of a smallhorn, her disposition remains childlike, her body does not develop excess fat or muscle, and she never develops any nursing ability. Furthermore, the hornmother retains the smallhorn's need for a blanket in the form of a robe. After reaching maturity, the hornmother will spend the next 20-25 years producing about an egg a day. She will lay roughly 7000-9000 eggs over her lifetime.
In the present age, the herd lives under the protection of the Southern Witch-Apostle
in a massive underground cave and tunnel system. In these unnatural conditions, the herd has grown to unusual size (nearly two dozen hornmothers and over ten thousand haremhorns, musclehorns, and smallhorns) and depends on an artificial herd-budding system facilitated by the apostle herself. When the herd becomes too large and crowding becomes an issue, a hornmother (usually a younger one) will get fed up, make a ruckus, and generally cause trouble until she generates bad blood between herself and the rest of the herd. Somehow, the Apostle always seems to appear at the right moment, just before things get rough, and offers to escort the dissatisfied hornmother (and a few hundred haremhorns and muscles to take care of her) to a new cave where she can start her own herd. Invariably, the dissatisfied hornmother agrees. As the Apostle leads her away to a new cave (an escort is required since the deep underground is far too dangerous for the horned ones to travel alone), the hornmothers of the main cave will find themselves overcome with bitterness and perform the "badhorn go home" dance and tell the departing hornmother to "never ever come back". Many departing hornmothers begin their journey in tears. Inevitably, the extreme stress of being rejected by her original herd and the trials of the long journey causes the hornmother to fall ill. Although this greatly pains the departing hornmother and her seed herd, this is the course of nature and a necessary part of the herd-budding process: The sick hornmother spreads a weak version of her alarm scent that draws in the haremhorns and deepens her bond with them. The scent also lights a fire in the hearts of the musclehorns, causing them to turn their backs on the original herd for rejecting their leader and putting her into such a state. Finally, the onset of the "budding illness" signals the end of the journey for the new herd, as the sick hornmother prevents further travel. At the height of her illness, the musclehorns will scramble to establish a nest for the hornmother to rest in, and then a nursery for her eggs, a room for the new herd records, and so on. Within two to three days, the hornmother recovers, but slightly changed: her scent is no longer the scent of her original herd. The sickness has changed her. With this, a new "herd scent" is established and a new herd is born.
Although the Apostle will not reveal the true size and extent of the domain she protects, the herd records
of the main cave have detailed the departure of thirty seed herds since the initial migration to the caves. If each of the seed herds are flourishing and spreading seed herds of their own, there may well be hundreds of thousands or even millions
of horned ones within the domain.
Although there is very little genetic diversity between the musclehorns and haremhorns (all musclehorns and haremhorns who share the same hornmother are essentially alike) the hornmothers themselves do exhibit some genetic variation. This is not due to the introduction of novel genetic material (the horned ones are parthenogenetic) but an intrinsic biological mechanism that slightly widens the genetic pool of the herd at the cost of slightly higher defect/mortality rates for hornmother smallhorns.
When a haremhorn hatches an egg and finds that the smallhorn within is weak, blind, deaf, deformed, discolored, has brittle horns, thin hair, fails to vocalize properly, or is otherwise defective, a lower ranking haremhorn is summoned to the nursery. In the middle of the night, while the hornmothers are asleep, the haremhorn will carry the defective smallhorn to one of the cave exits and leave her outside to die of exposure.
While a smallhorn is in the nursery, she may be culled at any time, as some defects do not reveal themselves until the smallhorn begins walking, eating solid foods, and interacting with the other smallhorns.
Although some nohorns might find this practice cruel, it is absolutely necessary for the survival and well-being of the herd. The haremhorns are extremely strict when it comes to culling musclehorns and haremhorns: if a musclehorn is weak, too vicious, or too disobedient, it could be disastrous for the herd. For haremhorns, this is doubly true: a high ranking haremhorn with a defect could potentially harm the eggs or smallhorns... an utterly intolerable result. When it comes to the hornmothers, however, the haremhorns are somewhat more forgiving: slightly misbehaved hair or a slightly unusual horns are no reason to cull a precious hornmother, the life and future of the herd.
Himehorn Diet and Cuisine
Himehorns are omnivores.
Musclehorns are fine with anything, even nuts and seeds or nothing at all in lean times, but they love love LOVE
raw meat. It's really not good if they overindulge, though -- they can become overexcited and enter a feeding/killing frenzy if a haremhorn isn't around to manage their food intake.
Haremhorns have little snacks throughout the day and balance their diet for work (low ranking haremhorns) or healthy milk production (high ranking haremhorns). Haremhorns higher in the pecking order always have their snacks prepared by lower-ranking haremhorns, as they're too busy feeding the smallhorns to do much else.
Hornmothers always get the best food and eat 3-5 meals a day along with a few light snacks, depending on the particular hornmother's needs and preferences. Hornmothers are the only horned ones to have sit-down-and-eat meals. The low ranking haremhorns take great care to prepare beautiful, tasty, nutritious, and comforting meals for their hornmothers -- it's a real point of pride and a great honor to be put in charge of cooking!
Tastes vary from herd to herd and depend on the hornmothers' preferences, but there are a few general tendencies:
- Very thick sweet-and-savory sauces
- Most main dishes are simply prepared meats with roughly chopped vegetables
- Side dishes are often very intricately prepared (small animal-shaped vegetable carvings with almost every meal, patterns created with sauces, etc.)
- Innards are common
- Grains are rare
- Thick vegetable-based soups served in small portions are common
- Group meals are fairly regular (whole-animal roasts, giant shared platters, etc.)
- Nuts, seeds, and sweet things are favored snacks
- Cakes are an especially favored food, but very rare
Nohorns might find the food a bit rustic for their tastes (except for the side-dishes which are almost too pretty to eat).
Horned ones do not pair bond or mate, and so have no mating instincts or rituals. However, horned ones are highly sociable and engage in a number of bonding and grooming behaviors that strengthen the bonds of the herd. Hornmothers bond with each other by playing, eating, and squabbling together. Haremhorns bond with hornmothers by giving them combings, hugs, bathing them, or giving sleepy hornmothers a nice haremhorn lap-pillow. The feeling of resting on a haremhorn's lap reminds a hornmother of her time in the smallhorn nursery. It's a safe and comfy feeling. A musclehorn is lucky to get a little ear-whisper from a haremhorn once or twice in a lifetime. A good scrub-down and rough combing are all she usually gets, but it's enough. The musclehorns bond with each other by wrestling and sleeping in close quarters together.
Note: A nohorn should not attempt to mate with a hornmother. Her cloaca is not designed for that, and putting something inside will break her egg, cause an infection, and almost certainly kill her.
Culture, Intelligence, and Psychology of the Horned Ones
Being parthenogenetic herd animals, the horned ones lack any mechanism for competitive sexual selection and pair bonding. Therefore, concepts like status, competition, and love (such as nohorns understand it) are not part of himehorn psychology. Instead, the horned ones have herd-belonging feelings, egg-adoration feelings, the special hornmother-adoration feelings of the haremhorns, the weakly pseudo-hierarchal feeling of "yearning" that the musclehorns hold for the haremhorns, and so on.
When it comes to "culture", the major difference between himehorns and nohorns is that himehorns a) don't have strong pressures for internal competitive behavior (i.e. no mating game) and b) have needs and desires that are capable of being satisfied. Their lack of culture has nothing to do with their sapience.
The ability to use language and get around in the world in creative ways has nothing to do with using excess time and labor to express the superiority of your genetic payload to your community. Nohorn males may make fancy pictures, songs, arguments, theories, empires, etc. to show that they have a higher horsepower brain than the next guy, and nohorn females with better brains will be able to better evaluate those externalizations and look into the future and see what traits will be most favorable for her offspring's survival, but this is all just an oddity restricted to certain kinds of creatures that sexually select for better brains (whatever "better" means in the current and foreseeable environment).
Now, himehorns don't have sexual selection, but they do have a slight pressure to prefer bigger brains (the herd recognizes this trait in the leader and she produces most of the new hornmothers) so they're able to select for intelligence without needing cultural productions.
As for why himehorns and nohorns are roughly the same intelligence, it turns out that for thermal, evolutionary, and computing reasons, all wet electric brains that are initially capable of limited future prediction and language use will, when put under selection pressure for better future prediction and language use, tend to converge to one of several theoretical hilltops on the intelligence landscape. Nohorns and himehorns both inhabit one of these hilltops. There are higher hilltops, but the evolutionary path to get there is totally different and totally unreachable from where humans and himehorns now stand. Unfortunately, nohorns and himehorns won't get any smarter, but at least nohorns can use their machines and culture to do more than their brains could do alone.
Relationship with other factions
In the present age, the horned ones live under the protection of the Southern Witch-Apostle
and The Pact
. They live in relative peace (except for the occasional nohorn bullying), but their position is extremely precarious and their continued existence depends entirely on indefinite continuation of the conflict between the Templar and Vampire. Should the Templar succeed in exterminating the Vampire, it will only be matter of time before they break the pact and resume their extermination campaigns. And should the Vampire destroy the Templar, The Pact will be nullified, the Apostle will depart, the domain will resume its collapse, the fields will wither, cold will seep back into the caves, and there will be nothing to protect the herd from the Vampire. The herd's only hope is that someday, somehow, the vampires and Templar annihilate each other and the sun returns.
What do each of the himehorn types do to pass the time? Do they have any type of himehorn-exclusive sports or write any literature?
Musclehorns don't really "play" in the normal sense of the word. They might wrestle, sleep, or mill about when there's no productive work to do, but that's about it for autonomous "play". If you see a musclehorn doing something interesting, she's probably been directed to do it by a haremhorn.
The haremhorns lowest in the pecking order do a lot of sewing, crafting, ordering the musclehorns around, and beautifing of living quarters. They also badger the leader into writing the herd records, which make up their "literature". They also produce lots of toys for the smallhorns:
- Ropes and heavy balls for strength games for young musclehorns
- Juggling bags, card games, paper and ink, cloth for embroidery practice, carving sets, for small haremhorns.
Haremhorns also have an obsession with making combs. The designs can get very intricate. The finest designs go to the hornmothers or haremhorns at the top of the pecking order. "Work" and "play" don't really mean much to haremhorns -- the idea of a "pastime" doesn't really make sense to them. Everything they do is for the herd.
Hornmothers really do "pass the time" and "play". They eat, smoke
or play with the herd treasures (usually rare trinkets given by visiting witch-apostles). They'll enjoy paintings, complain, dance, sing, make trouble for the haremhorns, get massaged or groomed, nap, snoop around, and so on.
What teachings do Himehorn parables espouse? Do these fables differ for each type of Himehorn?
Himehorns don't really have parables or fables. You could call their herd records "stories" if you like, but they don't really contain lessons or teachings -- just the state of the herd, descriptions of newly built rooms and developed lands, notable events, how certain problems were solved, and to-do notes for future hornmothers, recipes, sewing and crafting techniques.... -- those are the sorts of things you'll find in the himehorn herd records. There's not really such a thing as himehorn "literature" or folktales.
On the other hand, the himehorns do love their door carvings. These are usually images of the herd surviving a time of struggle -- clearing out scary surface beasts, beating out another herd for territory, etc. The carvings don't really contain teachings, but they could be called inspirational or comforting.
What determines what caste a himehorn is born into?
Their biology is set from birth. A small musclehorn will always grow up to be a big musclehorn, etc.
It's not clear what causes any particular egg to be a musclehorn, haremhorn, or hornmother. All the himehorns know is that the proportions seem to work out right -- there's never an overabundance of hornmothers or too few haremhorns, etc.
If for some reason the proportions got really out of whack, it'd be up to the haremhorns to start culling smallhorns to preserve the well-being of the herd.
Are there any traditional Himehorn musical instruments? Do they even music?
The hornmothers love to sing and dance, especially during feasts.
No musical instruments, but if a song and dance party gets them excited they'll use anything they can find to make some extra noise -- sticks, empty pots, etc.
The haremhorns hum little tunes to the smallhorns to lull them to sleep. Sometimes an especially childish (or sick) hornmother will whine and demand the same.
Do their horns serve any function?
In the distant past, a musclehorn's horns may have been used to intimidate others and skewer enemies, but now they are mostly for show. They are still strong enough to skewer, but himehorns now stand upright and their use is greatly diminished. The horns on the haremhorns and hornmothers are totally useless for combat and are simply there because all himehorns share the same developmental path (roughly, horns on a haremhorn are like nipples on a man).
The fact that a hornmother's horns continue to grow throughout their entire life may be connected to their egg-laying ability (maybe those traits are linked up in the underlying machinery) but no one really knows for sure. (A haremhorn's horns stop growing early on, and a musclehorn's stops around the time they get HUGE).
Do hornmothers ever eat their young or eggs in times of stress or famine?
The hornmothers rarely notice a famine -- it's carefully hidden from them. The low ranking haremhorns and weakest musclehorns are fed less and less and then allowed to starve. The hornmothers will continue to be fed normal amounts of food and the eggs will continue to be cared for. If a starving haremhorn ever ate an egg... well, no one has ever heard about it. Then again, they'd never let anyone know about such a thing if it happened...
What role does the Leader actually perform? It seems the herd would run without any particular leadership entirely based on instinct. Himehorns seem to have human-level intellect, do they not?
The problem is that hornmothers can still issue commands and there's no natural order of precedence to these commands. If the hornmothers make conflicting commands, the herd falls into disarray. There has to be a last word and "most important thing" for herd to operate smoothly -- that's the leader. When the leader is happy and well fed and her orders are followed, everyone is happy.
Do musclehorns speak at all? You've said previously that haremhorns whisper things, but do they speak out loud ever?
Musclehorns are the strong, silent type. You might hear them let out a terrifying bellow during a feeding frenzy or during battle, but that doesn't happen much these days. They must be able to talk, but maybe they don't have much to say...
The haremhorns probably prefer to avoid making too much noise -- it might be an adaptation from an earlier age when they had natural enemies... since they're around eggs and motherhorns all the time, it pays to keep quiet... or maybe there's so many of them that it'd be tough to talk if everyone were loud? There are a lot of possible reasons. In any case, haremhorns consider it just the height of shamelessness to presume to speak above a whisper -- that's reserved for hornmothers.
If a grown up Himehorn has an accident and breaks a horn, what does she do? Will she be thrown out as a defective? If not thrown out, do Himehorns have a way to glue broken horn parts back onto a horn?
If it's a musclehorn it's not a big deal. They'll give her some treatment for the horn, give her a little time to heal up, then send her back to work. Now, if she became lame and unable to work, they might have to make some hard decisions.
A haremhorn might be given a little horn hood (like a tea cozy for your horn) so she doesn't scare the smallhorns.
As for a hornmother -- it's a real tragedy. They'll make every attempt to repair it, and if it doesn't work they'll either dress up the horn or try to ignore it, depending on what works best for the hornmother. To lower her stress and raise her spirits, the haremhorns will probably increase their pampering and demand that the musclehorns acquire more rare foods.