Scattersand Shoals is a land of
lush greenery, and thriving fauna. While walking through the humid, tropical
rainforests, listening to the happy chattering of birdsong overhead, one could
be easily fooled into believing that no predators lurked nearby. But it would be
foolish to allow that belief to take hold, and lull you into a false sense of
security. Both the ground and the trees are home to an intelligent, and very
capable hunter. One that does not rely on speed, or stealth, but more simply
Even if one were to scan the treetops or undergrowth, it is likely that this dangerous creature would be missed, despite its large size. The Night-stalker, camouflaged perfectly into its forest home, will wait, biding its time, until the last possible moment when it will strike with deadly precision. A ferocious, carnivorous sloth, it is the silent terror of the Scattersand Shoals.
|Image description. A Night-stalker preying on unsuspecting deer... Picture by Tikanni Corazon.|
The key to the Night-stalker's hunting technique is its ability to camouflage
itself seamlessly into the surrounding forestland, whether it be on the ground,
or high in the treetops. It's appearance therefore is very important to its
survival. The fur is greenish brown in colour, and matted into disc-shaped
clumps. The effect from a distance is of a dense cluster of leaves. So if one is
looking up into the trees from the ground, the Night-stalker is practically
invisible. When the animal itself is on the ground, the unusual texture and
colouring of the fur allows it to hide amongst the undergrowth just as
effectively. The green hue is caused by a form of algae, which grows in its fur.
The belly is the only part of the Night-stalker's that lacks this matted fur.
Though still quite coarse, the belly-fur is thick and curled.
A full grown adult Night-stalker can reach up to 2.5 peds in length, and nearly the same in height, but are more often found to be just under 2 peds. Though if tales are to be believed, there have been monstrous specimens of over three peds tall encountered by visitors to the Scattersand Shoals. None of these sightings have been officially documented, so it is unknown if it is true, but these animals are observed so little that it is a distinct possibility that it is.
The face is rounded, and small in comparison with the rest of the body. The eyes are beady, and look dark brown in colour, though this changes when the animal is in the middle of a slaughter. At these times, the eyes glow brilliant red, a reflection, maybe, of the creature's blood-thirsty desire. The nose is flat and consists of two narrow slits in the center of the face. The mouth is wide and smiling, and when open shows off a grin of many small pointed teeth, plus a set of fangs on both the upper and lower jaw. These fangs are around 6 nailsbreadths long each, and sharp as daggers. They are used to clamp down on prey, and the strong jaws then used to prevent escape. The head is located at the end of a long, thick neck, which takes up a whole third of the entire body length. While walking, the neck is held low, almost hanging, which combined with the animals slow gait, gives a clumsy, lumbering quality to its movements.
The legs of the creature make up much of the height, the front ones being quite a bit longer than the rear. Each leg ends in a long paw, which is almost shaped like a human hand, apart from the lack of a little finger. The three fingers each end in a long, sharp claw, curved for gripping tree branches, and also used for hooking onto prey. The claws are very sharp, easily piercing through both flesh and bone. The 'thumb' lacks a claw, and is thought to be used to aid the animal while walking on the ground.
Special Abilities. The Night-stalker has the ability to remain perfectly still for long periods of time. It is believed that they can stay in the same spot, completely unmoving for five hours or more, as discovered by Genani Ra'anouf and her husband Tenrans Jorek, during a near fatal experience. The following was a journal entry of Tenrans:
"The sun was beginning to set, as we headed back to camp.
We spotted a small group of hobbit deer in a clearing, and decided to stay
a while to watch them as they foraged for food. We were delighted to see
that there were a few babies that had only recently left the burrow. We
knelt down in the bushes, and concentrated on a mother and fawn that
grazed nearby. The fawn was tiny, just a little more than half a fore, and
it tottered daintily along by its mother.
Added to this is the ability to camouflage into it's leafy
habitat to the point of an observer being unable to discern the difference
between them. It blends seamlessly into whatever tree or bush it currently
occupies, and remains there unmoving until it's prey comes within range for it
to strike. This strike will come before the prey has realised what is happening.
The Night-stalker is able to perform short bursts of lightning fast movement.
Once it has a hold of it's prey it is strong, and only the luckiest will get
away. But it is unable to chase after them, so this ultra quick movement is
crucial for their hunting to be successful.
Territory. The Night-stalker is a resident of the Scattersand Shoals. Though they are not observed very often, it is believed that a majority of their population exists in the lush rainforests on the island of Aidan, as this is where most sightings have been. But they have been discovered on Triam and Sapphiria as well.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Night-stalker spends much of its time sleeping high in the canopy, occasionally waking to snack upon a passing bird or flittermouse. It awakens in mid evening to make its way to the ground, and find a suitable hiding place to await it's victims. It has been observed on the ground during the day on occasion, but this is very rarely seen.
They are solitary animals, with no adults ever having been observed in the same vicinity together. It seems the only time that another sloths presence will be tolerated is when they have young, and even then it is for as short a period as possible. The young will be taken care of by its mother for around six weeks. It will then be deposited in a tree, and left to fend for itself. For the first few months its life, the young Night-stalker will feed on a diet of insects and vegetation, until it becomes bigger and stronger and more able to take on larger prey. Their hunting abilities seem to be instinctual, as the young are never taught how to do it but are still capable from around the age of 6 months.
Most creatures will not attempt to take on a full grown Night-stalker, with the exception of the dragonbird, and it seems to be the only creature that the Sloth is truly wary of. Despite it being far larger than a single dragonbird, the Night-stalker is apparently no match for a pair. They stay out of dragonbird territory most of the time, and when they don't, the consequences are severe, sometimes resulting in the sloth's demise. An example of this was discovered by Genani Ra'anouf and Tenrans Jorek, when they came across the body of a dead Night-stalker while in the forest one day. They were attempting to observe the dragonbirds in the area when they found the mutilated body of the animal. It also happened to be their first sighting of the creature. The following is a journal entry, written by Tenrans:
"The body lay bloodied
and broken in the undergrowth, the limbs all twisted awkwardly beneath it,
as if it had fallen from the trees. It was a huge beast, slightly less
than 2 peds in length, and, from the length of the legs, I would imagine
the same in height. Three long, curved claws resided at the end of the
four legs, and the strangely textured fur was a greenish brown in
colouration. If it hadn't been for the large amounts of blood that
spattered it and the surrounding bushes, I fear we would have missed it
The Night-stalker's diet consists mainly of smaller mammals and birds, it's
favourite being hobbit deer, though it will eat pretty much anything that
crosses its path. Night-stalkers are not fussy, consuming bones, teeth, fur,
feathers and scales along with the flesh of its kills. When it is on the hunt,
rather than killing just to satisfy its hunger, the Sloth will continue to kill
and eat until it comes time for it to ascend back into the treetops. While in
the treetops, the Night-stalker will snack on small flying creatures, including
flittermice and varcosparrow,
which it will catch by keeping its neck curled against its body, then shooting
its head forwards as the unsuspecting prey flies past.
Mating. The mating rituals of the Night-stalker are a complete mystery. No two adult Sloths have ever been observed in the same vicinity, and there has only been one incident where a mother and baby have been spotted together. By pure good fortune, the body found by Genani and Tenrans was both female and pregnant. It is thought that the female Sloth was about halfway through her gestation period when she died. The reproductive organs are similar to that of an ape or monkey, but there is yet to be a documentation of the mating itself.
Considering that it isn't possible to get close enough to them to even discern the sex of an individual, it isn't known if the male even looks the same as the female, or how common it is for each sex to be reproduced. Does the male take an active roll in the care of the baby sloth, or does the mother do it alone? Or is the baby passed on to the male after it is born? The answers to these questions have yet to be discovered, though the latter seems unlikely, as the baby would need feeding. Most mammal babies are fed through lactation, though this is not necessarily a fact, and it is possible that the baby Night-stalker could be fed in another way.
The one baby that has been observed, looked very little like the parent Sloth. Lacking the matted, green hued fur, baby sloths are covered in soft downy fur of pale silver-grey and are very tiny in comparison to the adults, being only around a fore in length. They snuggle into the belly fur of the mother/father Night-stalker, which lacks the matted texture of the rest of the body, and seem to sleep for much of the time. When open, the eyes are bright and curious, and despite the terrifying predator they will one day become, they are as delightfully sweet as any other baby animal.
It is not possible to use the Night-stalker for anything. Due to their hostile
and vicious temperament, it is highly recommended that people not only do not
attempt to capture the animal, but that they make sure to stay away from it
completely. Even if this was not the case, there is very little that the animal
offers that is considered desirable. The fur is coarse and matted, so would not
be greatly sought after. When she examined the body of the dead sloth, Genani
discovered that the coat was waterproof. This, along with the excellent
camouflage it provided, prompted Genani to use it to make an observation tent,
through which she could get a closer look at her subjects and witness them going
about their everyday lives. It could be used in the same way by hunters, to hide
them from their quarry, and give a greater chance of a successful hunt. The
claws could also be used in weaponry, as
they are extremely strong and resistant, as well as being razor sharp. However,
the risk to obtain these items far outweighs their usefulness.
Myth/Lore. Early visitors to the Scattersand Shoals returned to their homeland telling tales of a huge, looming, night-hunting creature, that lay waiting in the shadows, before attacking with lightning speed. There were some that said that these creatures were sent by the gods as punishment, to feast upon the blood of those who had wronged their fellow man. The following story tells of one such tale, told originally by the keeper of a tavern in Cape Strata, though it has been passed along and is a popular spook story to tell around the camp fire. This is a reproduction of the original tale, told from the point of view of the tavern keeper:
The Terror of the Haunted Shores of Sapphiria.
It was a stormy night, the night it happened. I was stood behind the bar,
making slow conversation with one of the locals, who'd had a little too
much of the new ale. When I heard the ruckus coming from outside, I
figured that, since it was near to closing up time, that a couple of lads
were brawling over some drunken disagreement. But then I pricked up my
ears at the word 'help' being hollered from nearby. I made for the door,
and opened it. A group of locals were making their way along the street,
carrying something between them. When they saw the light from my open
tavern door, they headed straight for me.
Researchers. Most of the research on the Night-stalker was done by the Eyelian researcher Genani Tallclimber Ra'anouf. She resides in the Scattersand Shoals, with her husband Tenrans Jorek, and is dedicated to the discovery of the flora and fauna that share her island home. Her current discoveries include the scattersand ray, the dragonbird, and the stunning harmony tree.