The Carserrian Gopag, or more simply, "Carserre" or "Corsair", is a massive sea-dwelling form of gopag (or tortle, as Sarvonians would have it) that lives in the sea around the north-eastern R’unorian Isles. They are powerful swimmers, and some have been trained by the R’unorians to accept “ships” on board their massive shells.
Appearance. An adult Carserre is some seventeen to twenty peds from snout to tail, with a shell that measures roughly two-thirds this length, and another fifteen peds across. The average Carserrian Gopag is estimated to weigh between 20 and 35 pygges, though quite capable of moving as quickly as any seafaring craft.
Picture description. The gigantic ship-carrying Carserrian Gopag, a so-called "Corsair", representing a crucial part of the R'unorian fleet. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
is a mottled green, with large, pointed bone protrusions of a silvery colour
that give a Carserre a sort of camouflage when swimming near the surface.
Indeed, some unwary ships have sailed right over a Carserre and had it surface
beneath them, only to find their ships in dire need of repair or worse. The
webbed flippers of a Carserre push it through the
water with the greatest of efficiency, and rarely break the
water. R’unorians have copied this method of
swimming, though a similar technique is used by
Avennorian pearl divers.
The head of the Carserre sits at the end of their long, serpentine neck, which can extend or retract into its shell with surprising speed. The tail forms most of the remaining third of the length of a Carserrian Gopag, large and powerful it ends in a rudder-like tail that seems to allow these gopags to change direction with surprising alacrity.
It may be difficult for the layperson to tell the difference between a male and female Carserre. Short of examining the beast from beneath (not advised), the only method available to the observer is to note the few minor physical characteristics. A male Carserrian Gopag have fringed "crests" of bony plating, roughly two or three fores in height, on the top and sides of their head which turn silver at the edges as they grow older. Females on the other hand, sport similar silver colouration on their tails as they age, and lack any sort of crest.
A Carserre has an immensely hard shell, which thickens with age. This shell is
actually tough enough that large metal bolts can actually be hammered into it in
order to secure a hull to the back of the gopag. The ridges of this shell are
not especially sharp, though in younger Carserres they may seem so.
Though they breathe air, the Carserrian Gopag has a prodigious capacity to its lungs, which allows it to remain submerged for hours at a stretch.
Carserres have excellent hearing underwater, which the R’unorian navy has exploited in order to call and train a very small number of Carserres. Carserres have been known to pinpoint encroaching pods of carteloreen by their song, and even locate divers in this manner as well.
Territory. Carserrian Gopags are native to the R’unorian Isles, specifically the Carserre Sound between the Vale and Voggra islands. The currents here push accumulated debris and flotsam into large islands, which the Carserre hunt among.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Carserre is typically a peaceful animal; its great size and powerful jaw, along with its nigh impenetrable shell leave it with few natural predators. They are believed to spend vast amounts of time underwater. Carserrian Gopags are typically solitary, only coming together to mate or raise their young.
Carserres are not quick to anger, but will lash out if they perceive a threat. Carserrian Gopags have been known to surface under a ship that has weighed anchor on on top of them, and tear the ship apart with their powerful jaws.
Diet. The Carserrian Gopag is much beloved by sailors as one of its favourite foods is the large, floating beds of seaweed and other assorted nautical brik-a-brac that accumulate between the islands. A gopag will eat just about anything though plants are the most common fodder. A Carserre may lash out with its snakelike neck to snatch up fish, or as rumour has it, sailors that have fallen into the water.
Mating. Carserrian Gopags lay their leathery eggs (usually the size of an adult gopag of another sort) on the rocky islets that dot the outskirts of the Carserre Sound. Unlike other gopags, Carserrian gopags do not lay large broods, two or three eggs are common. Once laid, the male fertilizes the eggs and then covers them with debris to protect them.
Young Carserres rarely last long in the wild, some of them fail to break through the protective layer of flotsam, others are eaten while their shells are still soft. On average, a Carserrian Gopag takes between five and seven years to reach adolesence, the point at which formal training can begin, with another three years after this until they reach maturity and their full size.
Usages. Carserrian Gopags are used by part of the R’unorian navy, as their heaviest class of ship. While not physically large, the gopags are capable of moving much faster than most ships of a similar size, against the wind and does not require mast or rigging. A “corsair”, as this ship has been dubbed, is a wooden hull attached by means of large bolts driven into the shell of the gopag.
The gopag is then given commands and direction by means of a series of drums below the deck, or at the prow of the ship. The corsair also typically carries heavier armament than a comparable ship, a series of ballistae on rotating platforms, often equipped to fire phials of glass with flaming fish oil, or bundles of arrows at enemy vessels.
Training of the gopag begins while the creature is an adolescent. A series of weights are secured to the Gopag, in order to have it grow used to the weight of a ship on it's back and to improve it's strength. Once fully grown, the Carserre is fitted with a "mock hull" for training purposes. This hull is, as the name suggests, not a true ship's hull, but a rough facsimile used as a training aid. The training of Carserre takes several years before they can be used reliably. Younger Carserres are occasionally used for short runs along the coast of Vale Island as part of their training, or sighted alongside fully trained Carserres while in training.
There is a certain danger with using creatures capable of swimming underwater as a means of transport on top of the water. Careful training and discipline of the gopags is a must. It is unclear how this is accomplished by the R'unorians responsible for training the gopags, though the penalty for having a Carserre "sink" is rumoured to be severe. As a precaution, the decks of corsairs include bundles of lightweight wood wrapped in sailcloth tied alongside balistae.
Myth/Lore. The first Carserre is said to have been tamed during the reign of Varana the Turtleblessed, first Empress of R'unor. Many saw the sign of these creatures serving as the forefront of Varana's legions as a sign of her right to rule having been bestowed by the gods. Entire settlements would surrender at the sight of a Carserre approaching, partly out of fear and partly out of awe. Exactly how the Empress came to control even a single Carserrian Gopag is unknown, but they have remained the core of R'unor's fleet ever since.