Strange Ecology – Critters, Critters Everywhere!

In this series of posts on Strange Ecology, I am introducing various aspects of the ecological nature of particular regions in my campaign setting, Memory Fading. I hope to let you see a little bit about how I make the decisions I do, and how I am trying to bring just a bit more realism into my setting. The Chulgeth is a large archipelago in the equatorial region of Ord. This land encompasses two main islands, each over three hundred miles across, and a number of smaller islands that surround the two main islands, and expand further south in the shape of an open hand. The majority of the islands are covered with tropical rainforests. The ecosystem of these lands is very diverse, and in this post, we’ll expand a bit on the other unique creatures in the Chulgeth.

At the very bottom of the food chain are the gardlers, those small beetles that have a painful bite. The gardlers live in hives of mud and sticks that are built around the base of banyan trees. The Feng Tower is pretty sure the reason they pick those particular trees is because the large amounts of vines and roots of the banyans give the gardlers easy access to the canopy of the forest. Sometimes, these hives will connect between several trees, creating a massively frightening site of honeycombed mud and twigs with swarms of clicking beetles. These hives get up to dozens of yards around, between the banyan trees, and the Hiths steer far clear of these larger nests.

The gardlers have three main predators in the Chulgeth, the ezhrinoles, the beautiful zhurmbirds, and the frightening scergitur. The ezhrinole is already pretty well detailed, I believe, so let us look at these other two unique creatures.

Zhurmbirds (shortened, zhurms) are large, colorful birds with long, curved beaks made seemingly specifically for eating beetles. These beaks are nearly as long as the rest of the bird’s body, and have amazing power in them, able to take off a human finger, or the leg of a ezhrinole with little effort. The zhurms are arboreal and typically make their nests in already-existing treeholes like natural cavities and holes excavated by other animals. The birds are very long-lived, sometimes living at least fifty years, and they are monogamous, mating for life, and having few eggs in their lifetime. These birds are named as such after the Hith deity of beauty, Zhurma. Hiths have a deep reverence for zhurmbirds, and will go out of their way to protect the creatures. However, their beautiful feathers and beaks are highly sought after by other people of Alsa Eru, so much so that there is even a black market for these body parts poached from the birds. Non-Hiths in the Chulgeth have the very evocative and venereal name for a large group of these birds, a “radiance of zhurms.”

The scergitur is a creature that causes adult humans to jump in fear, and can kill most creatures smaller than a cat with little or no problem. It is a massive insect, with hundreds of legs and powerful pinchers, that can grow as long as an adult human’s leg. They are extremely fast, able to scale a tall tree in just a few moments, and even scarier, they can stand up like a cobra and jump up to five feet into the air. They have no poison, but their mandibles are terribly strong. Perhaps the most terrifying part of the scergiturs, however, are their eyes. They have four multi-faceted eyes that are pitch black, and seem to gleam with a malevolent intelligence. They burrow into the ground and many an unwary traveler has stepped into one of their holes and gotten quite a scary (and painful) surprise.

Other than the ezhrinoles, there are a few other unique reptiles in the Chulgeth, in particular, bhing dragons, circoidilles, and horlitors. Bhing dragons and horlitors are both just large carnivorous lizards, both of them able to grow up to around three feet long (though some people claim to have seen them up to six feet long). The bhing dragons are brown and spiny, while the horlitors are more green and slimy. Circoidilles are even larger reptiles, and feed on both of the two smaller lizards, as well as on most other creatures in the Chulgeth. They can grow up to ten feet long, and have grayish, bumpy skin. They have been known to be man-killers, one of the few creatures in the Chulgeth that goes out of its way to hunt humans, and are possibly one of the main reasons the Hiths live on stilts.

There are many different varieties of mammals in the Chulgeth, but only a few of them make themselves known to adventurers very often, and thus, those are who we’ll focus on next. The most abundant mammals in the rainforest are not large ground-dwelling creatures, but bats. There are dozens of varieties of bats in the rainforest, but one in particular is unique to this strange area.

The nosferubats are small, barely the size of a human adult’s open hand, but they fly in swarms of up to a thousand. They feed on small mammals and reptiles by latching to the poor victims, usually a dozen at a time, and draining the blood out of their prey with their hollow canines. They live in caves, or beneath ridges in a ravine, where they can avoid sunlight during the day. Mostly they hunt at night, but they are not harmed by daylight.

The other mammal unique to the Chulgeth is also the apex predator, and one of the deadliest non-magical creatures known in this part of the world. It is the jaduk cat, a massive and powerful feline that can wrestle a spineyback bear, circoidille, or human with equal ease. The cats grow to five feet tall and up to ten feet long, with paws large enough to cover a man’s head. The retractable claws are not unlike daggers, and the cats have an amazing amount of strength. The jaduks have yellow or brown fur with large, black spots on the fur. Perhaps the deadliest aspect of these creatures is that they make their layer on low branches of trees. More than one skilled Hith warrior has met his quick and bloody end by being literally lifted off the ground while walking beneath a jaduk’s tree. The fur of these cats is highly sought after by poachers from the mainland, but unlike the zhurmbirds, the Hiths don’t have too much problem with the jaduks being hunted.

That should pretty much cover all the interesting critters of the Chulgeth, I’ll talk about the plants in the next post, and then bring everything together after that. The main purpose of the description of these creatures is to show not only the various animals PCs can encounter, but also to show how much is going on in this strange land. Any suggestions for additions, or other ways to use the creatures here? This post turned out a bit longer than I originally meant, I’ll try to make the next few shorter.


3 thoughts on “Strange Ecology – Critters, Critters Everywhere!

  1. My inner biology major would like to point out that hundreds of legs doth not an insect make. Arthropod, yes. I’m still having a hard time with the image on the scergitur–is it like an oversized millipede?

    You have bats. That’s awesome. Do the nosfers do the regurgitating feeding of other members of their swarm the way standard vampire bats do? (It’s a really interesting phenomenon. Comes from the fact that for the vamps, it’s blasted hard to find something they can get the blood out of. Turns out that they’ll do it for other bats once, and then stop if the other doesn’t reciprocate. Nifty, huh?)

    Where do you explain the spineybacks? I seem to have missed them.

    Are jaduks nocturnal or diurnal? If they were grouped in Earth’s terms, would they more closely fit with the felidae or the pantheridae (to be more closely relevant, do they purr or roar)? What exactly do they prefer to eat; do they choose to eat humans, or does it just happen due to proximity? Are there things they will try to avoid tangling with because it’s too big a bother?

  2. Well, my wife is the biology major, and I didn’t have her look over and approve of this article, so I suppose I only have myself to blame. To answer the questions:

    I once awoke on a Sunday morning to see a bug crawling on the ceiling over my head. I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on, so I couldn’t see what it was. Then it dropped on me. To this day, when I see a House Centipede withing legs-reach of me, I will very literally rain down all forms of hell on this terrifying creature.

    The scergitur is quite frankly, my attempt of creating a horrifying monster that characters could face, based loosely on an already horrifying monster. I took a bit of creative liberties with this one, I hope you’ll forgive me. :)

    For the bats, I actually did notice that fact when I was doing the bit of research I did, but couldn’t really think of a good reason for including it in the article. It’s an interesting altruistic behavior, and I would say that, yes, they probably do that, but I don’t see many instances of people encountering that. Perhaps when I detail the Feng Tower a bit more, the scientists will start looking into this phenomenon.

    Forgot about the spineyback bears – they’re detailed on my site, just not here, I’ll edit this later to fix that.

    Instead of diurnal or nocturnal, I would call the jaduk crepuscular. It is panthera, having a powerful and terrifying roar. They seem to prefer larger, fleshier creatures, which may be why they track down humans when they can find them, and are known to prey on any mammal smaller than they, and even the occasional reptile such as bhing dragons or horlitors. I would say that they enjoy the taste of humans, but tend to think that humans can be too dangerous to mess with, with their weapons and defenses. Humans that are killed and eaten by the jaduks are typically solitary, and usually unarmed (unless they are able to catch the human completely by surprise). There are few animals in the Chulgeth larger than the jaduk – the only one worth mentioning is a sloth variant.

    Thanks for reading!

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