The Rubit is a small oontrom-hued amphibian, similar to a newt or lizard. It is best known for its ability to create semiprecious gems called ‘rubites’, rather in the way that a tryster builds up a pearl, within its large, protruding ears.
Image description. The Rubit at its natural environment, the sandy shores of southern Santharia. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
The Rubit has a tapering cylindrical body about two handlengths from tail tip to
nose. Quadrapedal, it scuttles along with the top joint of its legs horizontal
to the ground and the lower joints pointing down and outwards, so that it always
looks braced to pounce. There are three short toes at the front of each foot,
with tiny sharp claws, and minor webbing between the toes, while a ‘spur toe’
protrudes backward like a predatory bird’s. The Rubit's face is almost chubby,
with a soft, triangular muzzle, plump ‘cheeks’ and large scoop-like ears. Huge,
glossy eyes which are glazed over by an opalescent ‘second eyelid’ give the
Rubit an ethereal expression. The ears are lined with a vivid
colour of delicate, glossy
flesh, which may be either a deep crimson or an intense bluish-purple. The rest
of the Rubit’s body is smoothly scaled in varying shades of ruby tones, with
rounded overlapping plates about the size of a
human child’s fingernail.
Special Abilities. The Rubit builds up a protective substance called ‘rubeum’ (roo-BEE-um) around little bits of grit and dirt that lodge in its ears; eventually it may have from ten to twenty small shiny purplish nodules inside its earflaps. The nodules can be removed and polished as hemispherical shapes, which are then referred to as ‘rubites’ (ROO-bytes), and set into brooches, rings, and other jewelry. Both the Red-Eared Rubit and the Blue-Eared Rubit have this characteristic; as they are fairly common animals but hard for humans to catch because of their very acute hearing, rubite is considered a semi-precious ‘stone’ and priced accordingly in the markets.
Territory. Rubits can be found throughout all of the middle and southern areas of Caelereth. They are not very cold-tolerant. The Rubit lives on damp sandy shores, burrowing into overhangs of beach grass or the faces of low dunes. Sometimes it is also found in swamps, or marsh lake edges, but it seems to prefer salt water habitats.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Rubit spends most of its short life (two to three years) eating, burrowing, nesting, sleeping, or being eaten. Like many small reptiles or rodents, it is an important food source for several large predators, among them the wargs of the Skeleton Coast, the carnivorous tsor-shotak, the swamp-dwelling ranlesh, the smaller sea dragons and some lesser drakes, and the occasional bear that ventures out of its forest habitat. It prefers saltwater to fresh, but can be found in smaller numbers around swamp areas, lakes with dunes, and marshes with a high insect population.
Rubits have a strong group dynamic, unusual for reptilian species, which allows them to warn each other of predators and cooperate in protecting egg caches (see Mating). They do compete for food but as insects are numerous and not many other species enjoy dune grass, there is always enough to go round the group.
Diet. The Rubit is often seen diving in and out of the surf, catching insects, fingerlings, frogs, or other small animal matter. It also appears to enjoy vegetable matter such as the tough stems of dune grasses, washed-up seaweed, and bogwort. There must be something as yet unidentified in its wild diet which is crucial to its survival, however, because a recent attempt in the Yorick area to ‘farm’ Rubits to produce the gemstone in bulk failed spectacularly – the Rubits, despite eating everything set before them voraciously, failed to prosper and eventually all died.
Mating. The Red-Eared Rubit seems to have a monthly ‘season’ in which the females signal ovulation by a flushing of their already-vivid ear linings. A quiet observer on a dawn beach would see what appeared to be a weird slow-motion fan dance, with writhing reptilian bodies waving the crimson velvet circles of their ears back and forth. The female chooses and receives one male, then immediately begins to burrow, making a shallow hole in the wet face of the dune. She remains there for the next few days, during which the egg casings form inside her body. After laying a clutch of five to fifteen eggs, the female crawls out, kicking a loose layer of sand over the eggs.
The entire group of Rubits takes turns keeping the face of the dune damp by hyperactive behavior, running back and forth from the water’s edge to the sand and shaking their wet bodies like so many dogs. The damp sand seems to cause some sort of alchemical reaction in the shells so that they slowly degrade over about a week’s time, as the baby Rubit absorbs the last of the yolk sac within the egg. It is for this reason that the Rubit is classified in the element of water, as much as for its preferred habitat.
The adult Rubits ‘forget’ about the eggs at this time and go back to their normal feeding, digging, and swimming, letting the sand dry out and become loose just as the baby Rubit needs it to. It struggles its way out of the loose sand, leaving the last few fragments of shell and membranous coating behind, and comes out glowing and polished, its baby ears unfolding in the sun. Within the same day it usually is able to make a successful food catch, mimicking its elders, and enters the water, instinctively swimming.
The Blue-Eared Rubit’s reproductive system is similar except that the females do not have a synchronized ovulatory cycle, so the mating ‘fan dance’ can be observed almost any dawn in the warmer months and the same pattern of burrowing, laying, damping, drying and hatching then takes place incessantly.
Myth/Lore. Rubites are not easily confused with rubies, since the former generally are more maroon or purplish in colour, and more opaque than the precious stone, not to mention their smaller size. However, it does occur that a particularly large, bright rubite is formed from time to time, and unscrupulous dealers attempt to pass such gems off as rubies. A simple test may be performed on a suspect stone without damaging it in any way; place it in contact with your flesh in such a fashion as to surround the stone as much as possible. One’s hand will work, or one may tuck the stone under one’s arm, or in the pit of the knee when sitting. A ruby will feel cold at first and then warm to body heat, while a rubite will not – it seems to retain a cool atmosphere within itself.
Supposedly this allows the Rubit to retain the growing stones in its ear crevices without overheating in the sun where it enjoys basking. At any rate, for this unique characteristic, the rubite has been nicknamed ‘the summer gem’ or ‘the icy beauty’. For summer wear, women often favour rubite jewelry set in fyrite; not only do the ruddy hues of the metal complement the stones beautifully, but the poor heat-conducting properties of fyrite make for the ultimate luxury of comfort in necklaces and earrings.
Men, however, claim that a lady who wears rubite instead of rubies tends to be less sensually responsive, if we may be allowed to put it that way; thus the expression “She’s as cold as rubite…” to refer to a woman who has just brushed off a male’s unwanted advances. Women treat this belief with unified disdain and continue to wear their Rubit-gems in comfort.
Information provided by Bard Judith