The quaking and shaking of ice heralds the arrival of the Iceland Shortsnout, or "Icesnout" for short. Black horns gleam in the sunlight as a pack of the creatures come upon anyone unlucky enough to enter their domain. And it is with a mighty bellow that the male asserts his rule over the Icelands and the Peninsula of Iol.
|Image description. A Remusian woman is shown here tending to the mount of her husband, a scout in the army. Picture from the game Mystical Empireô, used with friendly permission. Illustration drawn by Quellion.|
Majestic and fearsome, the Icesnout stands at an average of one and a half
peds at the shoulder. With
shoulders that span a ped,
the beast is nearly as broad as it is tall. A thick hide serves as protection
from the elements, entirely
xazure at birth yet lightening with each passing year. By adulthood the
creatures are almost completely a pale blue, only the
xazure dapples across their
backs serving as a reminder of youth. Muscle and fat bulge beneath the skin,
further insulating the Icesnout against the cold.
Thick and low to the ground, their bodies hardly seem to possess necks and are more than doubled in length by a long, thick tail extending for more than two peds behind them before ending in a tuft of dark hair. A ridge of bone, black as darkest night, runs along the tail, starting midway up the beastís back. Stout legs carry the Icesnoutís great weight, each one ending in sharp, black claws suited for digging through ice.
The most dominant feature of the beastís face is perhaps the snout for which the Icesnout was named. Short and wide, the size of the snout hints at a heightened sense of smell. But there remains a facial feature even more notable than the snout, particularly to those unfortunate enough to anger the beast: long, black horns that ascend from the forehead and curl slightly before ending in cruelly sharp points. The horns are present in either gender, the only difference being that those of the females are noticeably smaller and less threatening.
With sharp teeth, black as the horns, their status as predators is made known. Incredibly strong jaws allow the Icesnout to snap even the thickest of bones with only a single bite. Within small, dark eyes gleam a cold intelligence, deep-set beneath a thick, protruding brow.
A frost-like mist is exhaled from the Icesnoutís mouth, emanating for a couple
of peds in a thick cloud,
perhaps earning it the shortened version of its name. Their icy breath is
apparently born of their ingestion of large quantities of ice and frozen
carcasses, ensuring that they remain near frozen on the inside, the way they
seem to like it. More than a mere parlor trick, this breath has been known to
freeze water and fresh kills. It has been
speculated that perhaps the beast uses its remarkable breath to slow or even
freeze prey, but it has yet to be shown which prey animal will hold still for
such a treatment.
An able hunter, the Icesnout does not rely on its poor eyesight to track prey but on its incredible sense of smell instead. A scent may be tracked up to a distance of several leagues; only the harshest of snowstorms are severe enough to interfere. More than prey is tracked by scent, as they will use their olfactory capabilities to track others of their kind or even avoid competitors for the same prey.
Without some ability at swimming the Icesnout would not be able to migrate through the frozen tundra, as there will be channels with either no ice or ice too thin to support their great weight. Luckily for them, Icesnouts are more than capable swimmers and even seem as at home in the water as they are on land. Whereas their powerful tails serve to balance them on land, in the water they are used to propel the beasts through the water as strong legs kick beneath them. A thick hide and layer of thicker fat beneath serve to insulate them from the frigid waters and maintain a body temperature slightly above freezing.
Territory. To date, Icesnouts have been found only in Northern Sarvonia, or to be more specific, the Icelands Coast for which they are named. The Peninsula of Iol is also home to them, particularly in the summer months as they migrate north to seek colder temperatures, contrary to the instincts of most animals. Their migratory pattern is known to follow that of the wison, hunting any injured or young animals to stray from the herd. However, they stray from the migratory paths of the wison as the herds turn south in autumn, the Icesnouts choosing not to venture far from their northern territories. Icesnouts seem to possess an intense dislike of warmth and noticeably suffer in warmer climes, where their thick hides and layers of fat work against them, bringing only discomfort.
Habitat/Behaviour. Holes dug into the ice and snow, enlarged by tooth and nail, comprise the homes of the Icesnouts. Sharp claws serve to dig into the tundra with ease as strong legs supply the power. Despite living as a pack, the creatures sleep one to each hole, a mother and her young being the only exception. Frigid ice makes for a better bedmate than another of their kind, as the shared body heat would only serve to make them uncomfortable. A cluster of these holes, created anew each night, is commonly found wherever the Icesnouts slumber and are not to be stumbled in carelessly. A rudely awakened Icesnout is scarier even than any noblewoman seen without her cosmetics.
The pack is all there is. Each individual animal lives only to serve the pack and to ensure that it thrives. An individual may die, but the pack is immortal, living on beyond the lifespans of any Icesnout through their offspring. They move as one, whether hunting or merely traveling, the entire group moving in unison, guided by the one and only male. There exists an exception to the rule, lone males that roam without a pack of their own. Miserable creatures they are, scarcely able to hunt and unable to mate. Little more than scavengers, the rogue males seek packs of their own by deposing the dominant male, if possible.
Whereas females are docile and subservient, always deferring to the dominant male, the males are anything but. The male of a pack may be challenged by a rogue on any given day. Challenges are issued by the gnashing of teeth and stomping of feet before the two males charge at each other, locking horns as they push against one another. They may remain locked so for hours on end, each refusing to submit to the other. Only after one is thrown to the ground and his feet knocked out from under him is a victor determined. The loser is left to wallow in his own self-pity as the pack moves on, perhaps with a new leader.
Should a new leader arise, his first order of business is to slaughter any young traveling with the pack. Only his progeny is allowed to thrive; the offspring of an inferior male cannot be allowed to survive. It is only then that Icesnouts can be considered cannibals, as no food is to go to waste, not even the carcasses of their young. One by one the new male throws down the females much as he did his former opponent, staring into their eyes as his dominance is made known. With his greater strength and larger horns it is not much of a struggle.
Diet. Icy cold, frozen solid meat is what the Icesnouts love to chew. Fresh kills, complete with warm, flowing blood, are to be avoided with disdain. It is thought that once the beasts merely buried their kills in the snow, waiting for them to freeze, yet such a method often earned the caracal a free meal. Now the Icesnouts treat their kills with an icy breath, believed to be a gift from Pargis, the God of Ice, freezing the carcasses in mere moments. Incredibly powerful jaws help to break the ice into smaller, chewable chunks.
Pack hunters, the Icesnouts stalk their prey, moving effortlessly through ice and snow. With the male out front, the females spread out, their gazes intent upon the male, following his lead. He is the first to strike, the one to mark their chosen prey. The net closes as the females move in for the kill, surrounding the unfortunate beast. Wison are by far the preferred prey, stragglers in particular as they are herded away from the safety of the herd. Icesnouts follow the wison as they migrate north, often preying on the newborns of the herd. Any wison to drown in the icy channels are set upon by the Icesnouts, the pack diving in after their intended meal and taking chunks out of it at a time, the frigid water ensuring that the meat remains nice and cold.
As the wison migrate south in autumn, the Icesnouts prey upon other herd animals such as the taríandus deer and cloaked elk. Their hunting tactics remain the same, as the only difference is that they require more of the smaller animals to sustain them than they would the much larger wison. Icesnouts have been known to hunt the gigantic thunderfeet in times of desperation, always choosing the lone males, but otherwise they give the majestic creatures a wide berth.
Mating. The summer months are perhaps the only time that the blood of these frigid beasts warms as the mating season comes upon them. The males sense the readiness of the females by scent alone, making a whuffing noise as they inspect each of their females in turn. Any found to be ready are then mounted by the male as he attempts to impregnate them. Should he be mistaken about any given female, then she will not tolerate his advances, for once acting out of character as she becomes aggressive and refuses to stand still long enough for him to mount.
After a gestation of half a year on average, the young are born, sightless with only their sense of smell to guide them to the teats of their mothers. It is rare for the mothers to give birth to more than one infant, though twins are a possibility. The young fully mature only after a full three years have passed, the females joining the herd as adults whereas the young males are cast out by their sire. Only after another two years have passed will they be strong enough to take over packs of their own. On average, Icesnouts live ten to fifteen years with the females living a few more years than the more rambunctious males.
Usages. Believed to be beloved of Pargis, the Icesnouts are not hunted by most of the Ice Tribes. They will not even make use of the carcass should they come across one dead for fear of being taken by the Lord of Ice. Those that make their lives in the frozen tundra have come to respect the power of ice and its ability to deliver death.
But there is one tribe that makes use of the Icesnout, though even they will not eat of its flesh. Remusian scouts ride the fearsome beasts, using only an ornate collar to remain in control of their mounts. Only the docile females are ridden so, as it would take a fool to try and tame a male Icesnout. Fools have tried in the past, only to become their mountís next meal.
The method in which the Remusians claim their Icesnout mounts is ingenious considering the nature of the pack. Mounted on their horses, other Icesnouts are not to be used for fear of disobedience, the majority of the Remusians surround the dominant male, using their spears to occupy him, all the while trying not to injure him too severely. Should they kill the male it is of no matter; there is always a rogue male willing to take his place. As the maleís attention is occupied, the nearly mature females are herded away toward the nearest settlement. It is of the utmost importance that the females be around two years of age, old enough to be weaned from their mothers yet not fully grown and thus too ingrained in the ways of the pack.
Once stabled, the females are kept separate lest their pack natures reassert themselves. It must be noted that the way in which the Remusians assert their dominance resembles that of the male Icesnout. Ropes are tied around each leg of the female as her soon to be master grips her horns and stares into her eyes. With the aid of several men she is thrown to the ground, her eyes never leaving those of her new master. Only one scout may ride any particular female; she will accept only one as her dominant male. From then on, her rider is to be the only male around her on a daily basis lest she begins to question his dominance. Women will see to most of the Icesnoutís care.
Scouts range far and wide from the cavalry, relying upon their Icesnoutsí sense of smell to track any quarry through the frozen tundra. Each scout is solitary, operating almost independently, which is well for the Icesnouts considering that were they to be gathered as a group, their pack instincts would undoubtedly take hold.
Myth/Lore. As to the creation of the Icesnout, the men of the Ice Tribes tell a tale of the union of the gods and the gift one bestowed upon his children.
The Union of Ice and Snow. Snow and ice
caroused in the sky above, flakes of snow falling only to be pierced by
shards of ice. It soon covered the world in a snowy white blanket, much as
it is today, and a mist formed as the very
air chilled. Two figures danced high above the world, one as soft and
yielding as snow and the other as hard and reluctant as ice. Flurries of
snow and ice swirled around them as they descended to the world below, the
very earth beneath their feet freezing
with every footfall. They became as one then, and of their union were born
a pack of creatures formed of the ice and the snow, never freezing so long
as they remained in the domain of their parents Pargis and Chelinor.
The Remusians do not hold true to the beliefs of their less sophisticated brethren. Instead, they believe the Icesnout was created by Koríoch, their God of War and Creation, to serve as mounts for their scouts. It would not do to show scorn by rejecting the gift of a god, so it is with almost a religious fervor that the Remusians tame the mounts for their scouts.
Carved from Ice. Snow and ice beat
against the great oaken doors of the mansion as the fierce
winds howled their fury. Only torchlight
lit the great chamber as the sun was
barred from shining by the gathering of dark, ominous clouds. The men and
women of the Lanrulís hall counted themselves fortunate for the roof over
their heads, yet there was one not quite so fortunate, his presence made
known as the great doors were thrown wide and the bitter cold entered
unbidden. Ice clung to him, slowed his every movement, and his fingers had
blackened with frostbite. With a piteous voice, one humbled by the
snowstorm, he spoke to the Lanrul, the leader of his people.