The "cursed" Santhalian Black Hart,
also known just as the Black Hart, resembles a domesticated goat except for one
major difference. The colour of the horns is what gives the Hart its name, for
the antlers are jet black. These long, graceful, beautiful black antlers that
can weigh up to 36 ods. Both sexes have poisonous antlers, although the
female version is much smaller and lighter, they can still be deadly. At the
buck's shoulders, it is measured at about 18
palmspans, while the doe is
averaged at about 14 palmspans.
This sturdy animal is surprisingly agile while carrying the huge mass of bone on its head, being able to weave and dodge through the forests at top speed. The Black Hart has long white ears that droop at the ends, which give it excellent hearing capabilities and a comical look for their young. The coat of a Black Hart is composed of three layers. The outermost coat is a long, very thick and coarse guard hair that protects the animal from the jaws of their predators. The second layer is a softer, down-like coat of fine insulating hairs that keep the animal warm during the Santhalian nights, and through the winter. The third is another guard coat, but this layer is more like a wool blanket of rough hair, meant to protect the Hart from the swarms of insects that want to eat and suck the blood of the deer. The hide of the Hart is rarely used, for it is supposed to be a cursed thing, and all that wear one are turned to evil ways for it. Although some nomadic tribes pay no heed to this curse and use the entire body of the deer after they kill it. From the skin to the antlers to the meat to the brain, all the parts are put to good use.
Special Abilities. The Santhalian Black Hart is a formidable quarry although not hunted by men to eat for the meat is said to be cursed, and any consumption means death by poisoning. It can run at a top speed of 50 strals an hour and for over two minutes without pause, it can as well trot tirelessly for an entire day. So few predators, save a man on horseback, can outrun a Black Hart and kill it, it must be trapped or fooled. When surrounded, the entire flush (a group of Black Harts) will form a circle, young in the middle, antlers to the outside, thus showing the enemy a sharp wall of venomenous pain. This is often enough discouragement needed to stop an animal attack.
Territory. The Black Hart is mainly found in the mid-southern area of the Sarvonian Continent. They are concentrated around the city that gives them their name, Santhala, and are found in huge numbers around the Zeiphyrian Forest and the Auturian Woods. These are their main grounds, although they have been sighted near the Tandala Highlands as well up to the north of Santharia. But the flushes tend to stay more south from that, to avoid the Ashmarian Wolf, whose tongues seem to savour the taste of the poison, and it affects them little or not at all.
Habitat/Behavior. This Hart usually cannot be found away from its flush, and one that is seen separated is considered the most ill omen. Single Harts are often hunted by all the area's men until dead, then they burn the carcass to prevent anything from devouring the evil beast. Some say this is where the insult "You have a Black Hart," came from.
The average day consists of the deer grazing in early morning out on the vast fields and plains full of Alth'ho Grass, then spending the day lounging around water holes, rivers, or deep in the shade of the trees. They stay hidden until early dusk, when the deer emerge again for a final feeding of the day, after which they hide again to sleep. The Hart's main predator is itself, with so many flushless bucks running around, a lot of death's come from within its own species.
Diet. The main food source for the Black Hart is Alth'ho Grass, which grows abundantly in the territory of this deer. But this Hart will eat anything that grows, including Krakenweed and the leaves of the Adlemir Tree. The Black Hart is also known to eat many poisonous plants that dwell in the area. While these plants can kill most other creatures, the Santhalian Black Harts stomach lining is thought to be much thicker than most animals or people. This is why the deer thrives on the poison, even though the poison leaves the stomach and flows throughout the deer's body and into the tips of the antlers and the ends of the hair. Some men and women say this is the reason the deer are so poisonous to eat or touch, but most still believe whole-heartedly that Arvins set a curse upon them.
Mating. Does from the flushes usually give birth twice a year, once in spring and once in fall, although the latter birth usually results in a slow, frozen, starved death. The Red Hart buck is ready to mate whenever the female comes into season, and can smell when a doe is in heat. This scent draws other bucks and almost always a fatal battle ensues, after which the surviving buck(s), if there are any, mate with the doe. Within the pack, there are usually about two bucks for every 12 or so females, these two bucks battle over which female is theirs, and work together to drive away enemies and doe-less bucks. The doe usually gives birth to one young, but this number can go up, and there are stories of does with four young in her care.
Myth/Lore. The one thing that haunts the existence of the Black Hart is the rumoured curse beset upon it by the God of the Hunt, Arvins. As the myth goes, he saw what was becoming of the deer, which he considered to be the most beautiful of all game. He was deeply saddened by all the death and violence held within the Black Hart, and he shed a tear for them. They were meant to be a beautiful, graceful, peaceful breed, but they were not at all. They lived their lives in bloodshed and greed. The bucks of the species wanted all the does they could handle, and more than they could, which made for fierce possession battles, and a lethal competition that raged on daily. So Arvins, with a broken heart, drew from the earth a vile poison, and implanted it into the very heart of the deer, where it spread throughout the entire body, until it reached the tips of the horns. Now when a battle raged, even though every hart was filled with this toxin, each deer was immune only to its own, distinct flavour of venom. Thus any tiny scratch would kill the deer, inevitably. This poison is also found throughout the meat of the animal, thus, most men do not hunt it for food clothing or tools.
There are stories, however, of nomads who, as the myth goes, stand close to the God of the Hunt and are capable, to use the deer without being poisoned. Again some men see a reason to this. The herds of deer the nomads hunt are in an area of rather low amounts of poisonous growth. This could be why the nomads may eat the beast. Another popular belief is that over millenia, the tribes have become tolerant to the poison, thus it bothers them not. This may or may not be true, depending on one's beliefs.
Information provided by Ralhag