In the far north of Sarvonia, in the blighted land known as the Plain of Ehelvin, strange creatures, warped by evil magics, are known to lurk. One such beast is the Darkmist Whelp, a vicious ape-like creature with bizarre abilities and behaviour. Few people have dared research this creature and not all of them have escaped unscathed.
This northern ape is not
a large animal, being about a
ped tall on all fours. It ranges in colour from black to dark brown. Its
forelimbs are longer than the back legs and very muscular and strong. It has a
large head, which is round, with a short muzzle full of very sharp teeth. Large,
hairless ears stick out from either side of its head, adding to its
unprepossessing appearance. There are two layers to this beast's pelt. The top,
or longer hair, is heavy and quite coarse, feeling rough to the touch. Beneath
this long coarse hair is a very soft, fine-haired undercoat of silky black fur,
which is extremely thick. This pelt is very water-resistant,
like that of the oloy or the
pinnip, although the ape is not an aquatic animal.
Like all apes, the Darkmist Whelp has no tail. Its buttocks are hairless and a livid purple in colour. The palms of its hands, its ears, and the soles of its feet are the same unattractive hue. It has hands similar to those of a person, but with only three fingers and an opposing thumb. The hands are proportionately quite large and broad, as are the feet, which also resemble hands somewhat, in that they have an opposable digit as well. It can cling to rocks or branches with all four limbs if needed. Beneath its skin, the ape possesses a thick layer of dense fat covering the entire torso, which seems to help it stay warm even in the frigid temperatures of this region.
Special Abilities. This animal has one particularly bizarre trait, the cause of which is unknown. Like many other apes, it will throw its own dung at a rival, a predator, or an enemy of some sort. The difference is that the dung of this creature, when dried, becomes explosive. When thrown, it bursts violently apart on contact, with enough force to seriously injure a human and which can kill smaller animals. It is thought that this trait is caused by some substances in the animal's food but what these substances are has not yet been determined. The animal's dung is formed in small dry pellets, like that of a leveret or tarepi, making it easy to collect and use as missiles. In his notes, Reve'lor describes the animal's behaviour as follows:
While we were yet some distance away, I observed the approach of a young mari wolf, intent on making the ape serve as its next meal. The ape appeared to notice the wolf at about the same time. Instead of fleeing or appearing frightened, although the mari was considerably larger, the ape seemed angry. It stood its ground and uttered a piercing shriek, at the same time seizing a handful of its own dung and throwing it at the startled young wolf. To our great astonishment, as the missiles struck the animal they burst violently apart with a great noise like a clap of thunder. The mari was tossed backwards into the air and collapsed in a heap on the snow. The ape then turned its back on the luckless predator and recommenced its foraging. As we gaped in shock, the young mari struggled slowly to its feet and staggered away on three legs, one foreleg dangling limply as if broken...
The Plain of Ehelvin, where the tower of the Deep Winds Portal of Osthemangar
looms above the land, is the only place these animals may be found. It is
thought that the apes are one type of a number of
creatures in this area, known collectively as the Children of Osthemangar. They
do not seem to live in the mists themselves, but on the outlying edges and
nearby mountain areas. They will occasionally disappear into the mist, but do
not seem to be harmed by it, unlike humans
Habitat/Behaviour. Unlike other apes and monkeys, the northern ape is a solitary animal. It is rare to see two of them together. Savage and unfriendly, they deter most intruders by the afore-mentioned repellent practice of throwing dung. This is effective against all but their largest and hungriest predators, such as the Cartashian bear or the caracal cat. If they do not have access to dung when attacked by a predator, they will try to either flee into the mists, where most predators will not follow, or climb a tree, if one is near enough. They tend to live in small burrows dug into the snow or in trees.
Diet. The Darkmist Whelps eat mostly plants; juklan leaves, fungi, waterberry plants, mutnuts, neeps - any plant that will grow in or around this blighted area. However, they will also eat grubs, eggs and baby birds or young kuatu, so they are not solely herbivorous. Eleanna Kalrinwenens, a gnome botanist, accompanied Reve'lor on his expedition into this region and she was able to determine that a warped variant of juk'lan seemed to be responsible for the explosive quality of their dung. This distorted plant has yellowed leaves, which give off an odour similar to that of rotten eggs. It will not grow anywhere else than in this region, despite attempts at transplantation.
The ape also has an odd habit, that of chewing on charred wood and ashes (from orc encampments or traveler's fires) Apes will often watch a night campfire for the purpose of stealing the wood. Eleanna writes of such an incident in her trip notes:
At fourth watch I saw the Dark Whelp approaching. I did not move for fear of causing it to take fright and attack. However, it crept very close, eyes flicking betwixt myself and the flames. As I stared, it reached towards the fire and snatched a small log that extended past the surrounding stones. Dragging it clear, the Whelp threw the half burned log some distance away, into the snow. It then picked up the cooled log and carried it away. Later it was seen in the distance gnawing on the blackened part as if it were one of Dame Sausade's finest delicacies.
These creatures are difficult to research and solitary by nature, but our
researchers were able to determine that when a female is receptive to mating,
she emits a distinctive scent, which is extremely pungent and unpleasant to
humans. It is reminiscent of the odour exuded by the
great wolverine, but perhaps not as strong.
This attracts one or more males, who will proceed to mate with the female and
then depart. If more than one male arrives, oddly enough, they will not fight.
Although a good deal of growling and aggressive show ensues, they keep their
distance from each other, and each will mate with the female in turn. Each male
brings a “gift” of some food item, which he lays before the female before the
mating occurs. This may include charcoal as well as vegetation. The female
appears to remain in heat for a period of about three or four days, during which
time she may mate with many different males.
Afterward, the female collects up whatever food gifts she has received and takes them to her burrow. If she has not mated with many males, she will collect more food items on her own. She remains in the burrow until her babies are born, in about eight to ten weeks time. Most females seem to produce two young per breeding season. However, they are less than exemplary mothers and not all of the infants survive.
Usages. The orcs that roam this area have taken to collecting the ape’s dung, which they use as an offensive missile against enemies. Thus the researchers were unable to obtain much information about this use, although Eleanna did bring back many samples of the dung for research purposes. The ape's pelt is used by the Osther-Oc orcs to make waterproof outer garments. The soft inner pelt (with the coarse outer fur removed) is also used by the orcs to make baby clothes.
Myth/Lore. It is thought that this ape is the result of the dark evil magics that envelop this region and have warped and blighted both creatures and plants. The warping effects are such that one cannot always completely trust one's senses, and all our researchers were very careful to avoid the mists after an over-zealous half-orc assistant stumbled into a misted area and was ill and raving for nearly a week.
Researchers. The most successful researcher of these animals is the intrepid Reve'lor, the well-known owner of the Nauroothian menagerie of Northern animals. Although he did not have these animals in his collection, he was willing to travel north to this region. Accompanied by Fa'ine, another northern researcher, Eleanna Kalrinwenens, and some half-orc porters and assistants, Revelor spent some time observing these creatures, collecting information with which he then supplied the Compendium writers. He also captured two youngsters when their mother was otherwise occupied and brought them triumphantly home for his collection. It is interesting to note that the dung they produce in this territory is not explosive, although it is corrosive and will burn naked skin if touched.