The Gahosén'ythréf, nicknamed "Tortua Scorpion" by researchers, is found only in the Ráhaz-Dáth desert in the far south of Sarvonia. Its characteristic flat shell-covered body and duel stinging tails makes it ummistakable from its more common world cousins, although much of the basics remain similar. The name derives from the Styrásh word "Gahosén", meaning hard, and the word Ythréf, meaning poison. This is owed to its incredibly hard central shell, and of course its typical poison sting.
Males can grow up to a palmspan
or more across, at the widest central point of the shell, making these scorpions
giants of their kind. Flat and low to the ground, their typical eight legs
spread out sideways, almost spider-like. Two large
pincers at the front bring back the image of their scorpion cousins though, and
this is further extended by not one, but two, large tails, complete with
individual stingers. Each is capable of seperately delivering a full dose of
Being so large, and considerably clumsier than its shell-less cousins, the Tortua relies heavily on camouflaged colouring for hunting rather than speed. Variations in colour will match their local sand type pretty well, but all are basically a dusky brown and yellow all over, aside for a red undershell which becomes important during mating rituals.
Their pincers are often a slightly darker shade than their body. Although it isn't known why, it is speculated that again this has something to do with mating.
Females are very similiar, except slightly smaller and more maneuverable as a result. Being much more nomadic than the males, they rely on these differences to allow them to hunt in open sands, where it is simply not possible to set up an effective ambush.
The Tortua Scorpion is a highly specialised creature, ideally suited to the
harsh environment of the Ráhaz-Dáth desert.
Its low, flat shape helps it hide in ambush under low rocks, or, if no nearby hiding place offers itself, to use its pincers and legs to dig itself shallowly into the sand and blend in almost immediately.
Its shape, when discernable at all, also gives it a large profile from above, making birds like the desert aguia, less likely to attempt an attack and to struggle to get good purchase if it does. This offers plenty of opportunity for defensive strikes from its tails whilst the preditor scabbles to get a hold.
Like all scorpions, the Tortua's bare skin is resistant to water loss from the heat. But Tortua's shell serves even better. Forming an impenetrable barrier to keep precious moisture locked inside, rather than being scorched out. Whilst typically larger scorpions tend to have weaker, more diluted poisons than smaller, in times of dehydration Tortua's poison will become increasingly potent as it litterally strips all moisture out from any source. If the situation becomes drastic, f.e. caught out in open sand during Sunblaze, then a Tortua will half bury itself under the sand, and then retract its small head and its legs inside its shell to minimize exposure. There's no room however for its pincers or tails which it will attempt to bury deeper into the sand for protection. It will remain like this until Greyshade.
The scorpion's twin tails are capable of each seperately delivering a full dose of venom with each strike, Tortua can bring down significantly larger prey than first appearances would guess. However, most of the time, when it has sufficient water, its venom isn't lethal to man. Even a double strike would only make a fully grown man ill for a few days albeit in considerable pain. A child would be in serious trouble from a double strike. - The smaller females have more concentrated poison, and are considerably more dangerous as a result.
Such is the energy used by Tortua to produce so much venom, that it must eat regularly, and can't afford to strike unnecessarily and waste its poison. Smaller prey may only be struck by a single tail, or sometimes taken on with pincers alone, using its armoured shell as protection during a protracted battle.
As a defensive measure, its two tails really show their benefit. Tortua are capable of precision strikes to different parts of an attacker to deliver poison more effectively, or even to two different foes at once. The Tortua demonstrates great awareness and control over its tails.
Territory. Tortua, whilst exclusive to the Ráhaz-Dáth in south Sarvonia, is surprisingly common to the region, although it takes a skilled hunter to prove this. They can be found anywhere from the Yar Dangs, to the Seven Jewels, and (in the case of females) everywhere in between. Whilst less common than in other areas, some have also been found within the rocky base of the Narfrost, although it seems the colder winter here keeps the population small.
The male require fairly regular meals though, and rely on ambushes rather than actual hunting, so they do less well where there is a sheer lack of potential prey. They haven't been found in any of the most severe part of the desert, including the Lands of Pain.
The females do much better at hunting, and survive well despite spending a lot of their time in the open sands. Dead, empty shells have been found as far north as the Oka'Seri swamplands, although whether they could survive there, or were simply lost, is unknown. It can be suspected that some females perhaps followed the flood waters north, and then, after the waters receded, they became trapped by the salt pan as they tried to come south again.
Habitat/Behaviour. Being an ambusher, male Tortua love land with lots of rocks to hide under, and enough rain to maintain a steady supply of small rodents and insects to feed on. They are territorial, and between meals they will circle their area looking for any squatting competition. Their territory won't be large, usually encompassing no more than a half dozen rocks or good hiding places, but they'll fight to the death to see off any other Gahosén'ythréf looking to steal their prime spot.
With extra protection from the sun provided by its shell, the Tortua Scorpion is not one to let opportunity slip by. They will take advantage of an ambush possibility day or night, watching from within the shadows of their hiding place.
Females actively hunt their food, so spend much more time active at night, when it is cooler, and there are more animals around in the sands. They travel during the day, but bury themselves under the sand if it gets too hot. They rely on moisture gained from their prey for water.
Diet. They feed on any small mammal, or insect they can get their pincers on, upto and including animals their own size or even larger. On numerous occassions, Tortua have been found with the remains of a dune mouse within their dens. These squirrel-like rodents can be as much as a palmspan, five nailsbreadths in size, but are helpless to a double strike from a Tortua Scorpion and during their wide wanderings looking for food, often stumble inadvertently into an ambush. Such a feast would keep a Tortua well fed for several weeks, the venom also serving to stave off decomposition for a short time.
Mating. Little is known about these scorpions' mating habits. As skilled as they are at hiding, and so well camouflaged, makes witnessing them in an act of courtship very difficult. Stories from the Shendar speak of strange 'dances' where the Tortua use their back legs and their two tails for balance to stand up and display their red undershells, and wave their pincers to admiring mates. Given their size, such bizarre acts sound almost impossible.
If chosen, like other scorpions, the male will lay his seeds on a twig or rock, and drag the female through them, where they will be taken into her body via an opening in her abdomen at the very back of her shell.
The territorial males never move far, so it is assumed the females are the nomads. Moving vast distances across the desert during their life time, stopping only to mate if a male proves impressive enough. They will stay hidden inside the male's den during the whole of the pregnancy, relying on their mate to bring them food. As soon as the young are born, untypically, she abandons them to the male, and carries on her journey. He will look after them for a few weeks before they go off alone.
Usages. Training to hunt and kill a Tortua is no easy task. But it is one the Shendar have mastered, and a challenge many young Shendar practice on as they grow up and reach puberty (whilst there's still some considerable danger from a sting).
Once caught, little of this large arachnid is wasted. The twin halves of its great shell in particular are put to a great many uses. From simple bowls and dishes, to shoulder plating to compliment the ráhaz'estár skin armour the Shendar are also famous for. Any spare are sold, where they are greeted with enthusiasm and put to just as many uses.
The red undershell is mainly undesired by Shendar, who prefer their blues. Some will paint over the shell, so as to not waste such a heavy duty bowl. However, such a rich, vibrant red colour is very popular outside of the desert, and valuable in trade. Increasingly, jewellery made from broken parts of these shells is making its way into the fashions of the Salt People women. They love a larger variety of colours as a result of bright coloured clothes' imported from the Sor'inyt people of Aeruillin.
Heavily diluted, the venom can be used to help preserve meat in the desert heat, along with salting. Cooking will remove any traces of it.
Beneath the hard shell, the fleshy body of the Tortua is surprisingly tasty, and goes well in soups and stews. It's not recommended to be eaten raw, as the flesh may be saturated in its venom from the result of its death. A thorough boiling, or roasting, will nutrilise this.
Myth/Lore. The two tails of the Tortua Scorpion are often compared with the twin blades of the Shendar, known as double-kilij. Was it the sight of this strange creature that gave Asilah, daughter of Asra, the inspiration to create such a defining weapon?
Researchers. The sage and researcher Keneada Mand has spent many years among the Shendar, one of the few non-Shendar to be accepted by their culture, studying the reptiles and insects of the Ráhaz-Dáth desert environment. Keneada was given permit to stay with the Shendar after saving a Shendar child from a scorpion sting one day while being led through some of the treacherous desert passes. Though Keneada has passed away recently, his descriptions and observations are still the most accurate and detailed and serve as the most important source at this special kind of arachnid.