The Quaerash, sometimes also spelled "Kaerash", derives its name from the Styrásh words "quaer" (tusk) and "ashán" (to dig), which - put together - result in the coloquial term of "Tuskdigger" used by the people of the Santharian north. The term "Quaerash" by the way is also used for the plural form. Quaerash are indeed beasts that dig with their tusks in the earth to uncover roots they eat and partly to also expand their underground territories. Adults are truly massive lizards of several peds in size, very docile and social beasts though in general if left alone, living predominantly in the subterranean areas of the Troll Mountains area in today's Enthronian province of Santharia. However, a good deal of these extraordinary animals have been domesticated and are used as draft beasts for Erpheronian and Caltharian noblemen. It shouldn't be left unmentioned though that capitivity makes it difficult to keep the temper of these beasts at bay. One especially needs to make sure that the toxic fumes they blow out of their nostrils are repressed before causing any harm to bystanders.
Picture description. A bunch of Caltharian warriors carrying a Quaerash Ram using the head of the monstrous lizard lending the Ram its name. Image from the game Mystical Empire, used with friendly permission, drawn by Faugar.
Quaerash lizards are bulky herbivorous quadrupeds, with short, but very thick
and powerful limbs. Adults can reach sizes of up to three
peds in length, with a
height of one and a half
weigh 8-10 pygges if
battened. Unlike other lizards they
basically only consist of an impressive head and an enormous body, but have no
tails worth mentioning, only a small one to conclude the spine's slightly
The Tuskdigger's bodies are massive and cylindrically shaped, where the ribbed underbelly is soft and often overly fat at domesticated beasts. The back on the other hand features varying smaller body armour parts, some in the form of scales (often used for shields), others have crusted skin with a strong bony structure, at a few even small horns adorn the backs - these often make good daggers for example. It seems that the structure Quaerash have on their back are to a great degree inherited from the parents - if both parents have scaled backs for instance, the offspring very likely will have very strong scales as well. Breeders make sure to enforce such combinations in order to be able to make profit out of these parts once the lizards have served their draft purposes for a while and will eventually end up on human plates.
The head of the lizard is round and elongated, with a huge maw that covers half of it, giving it a somewhat frightening apperance. Prominently visible are of course the large tusks that protrude from the lizard's mandibles, reaching the size of a palmspan while being 2-3 nailsbreadths in diameter. The tusks also give the beast its name and are indeed strong and powerful tools to dig with - and to pierce opponents if necessary. The skull roof of the Quaerash is also extremely thickened and hard as stone. Head-battering behaviour between opponents during mating disputes might lead to serious insuries., The killing of a mating rival is unlikely, but not impossible. Aggravating a Quaerash for these reasons is not to be advised! Even though the lizards are docile in general, a serious headbutt of such a beast or an attack with one of its tusks can be deadly!
Also worth mentioning are the large nostrils between the tusks that can blow toxic fumes, the latter obviously being quite a nasty by-product mainly of tengra root consumption. Domestic Quaerash are not overly fed with tengra roots therefore to keep the risk for humans working with them at a minimum, even though the lizards' digestive system obviously needs these roots to be part of the diet. The nostrils of Quaerash used as draft beasts are furthermore covered with so-called "pluggers", making it more difficult to breathe for the beast - and also hindering it to blow out dangerous fume.
Special Abilities. Quaerash are known for mainly three abilites that stand out: digging with their enoromous tusks, the possibility to blow toxic fumes out of their nostrils in self-defense and - as domesticated beasts - to serve as draft animals.
Quaerash use their mighty tusks to bare the strong tengra roots that grow in the natural caves below the Troll Mountains and the Tandala, and also to scratch various kinds of mushrooms from the tengra-covered "walls" of their homes. They might even expand their caves from time to time by digging little alcoves in the lose earth, e.g. to harbour newborn in them.
The Toxic Breath ("Queueme")
Indigenous to this kind of lizard is the ability to blow toxic breath out of their nostrils ("Queueme", pronounced like "queue", with a distinctly audible "e"), similar to the fact that certain kinds of dragons can spew fire. Supposedly a result of tengra root diet, Quaerash use this usually to mark their territory - Quaerash living in the wild let off steam constantly, and utilize it to defend themselves when threatened. The fume has no harmful effect on Tuskdiggers themselves, but humans or beasts easily become dizzy and eventually unconscious if they enter their caves unprotected. Should a whole pack of Quaerash become irritated by intruders, they'll for sure let off Queueme, and in their clumsiness might trample upon univited guests who have passed out temporarily. Several unfortunate events in this respect prove that one cannot be careful enough in the vicinity of these lizards.
Quaerash as Draft Animals
Additionally, Quaerash have been domesticated by the tribes in which territories they live in, the Erpheronians and Caltharians, for the simple reason that they are the perfect draft beasts. While somewhat slow compared to horses, a single Tuskdigger can pull a heavily loaded cart quite a distance if there's a prospect of being rewarded for it. You will see many Quaerash at Erpheronian maintained ports like Westhron or Olddon.
Unless domesticated, Quaerash lizards live in subterranean lairs in central
Sarvonia, mainly in the Troll Mountains in
today's Enthronian province of Santharia.
They are also known to inhabit the Allsiscaeys and vast cave areas in the
northeastern parts of the Tandala
Highlands. As far as is known varieties of Quaerash also live up north in
the Northern Sarvonian
Caael'heroth lands, in the Caaehl Mountains and even in the Shaddhar in the very
Domesticated lizards are usually put into regular, spacious stables where generations of these beasts have been conditioned to outside circumstances over centuries, so that they don't require their underground lairs anymore and can be used as an important work force. Some famous noblemen are also known to hold them in caves, like for example the illustrious lizard-friend Kelashaer Tuskkeeper, who among other things maintains a well-known Quaerash farm between Acht and Holm. There many beasts live in semi-freedom in own cave systems in the mountainside stretching over several strals, where they are trained by Kelashaer and then sold to people who require such draft beasts.
Habitat/Behaviour. Quaerash are pack animals, living together in their caves in groups of up to a dozen lizards. Once there, they can hardly be removed - not that this is recommended, but the mountain trolls of that area or the Ban-Yuk Ogres sometimes get the bright idea to conquer a cave, and end up dead, having their senses blurred by a massive release of Queueme that brings them down. Wild Quaerash should be better left alone, as they don't harm anyone. They are docile, quiet, very friendly beasts, which you can pass by in close range and all a Quaerash will do is to watch you. You can even walk straight into a Quaerash pack grazing at a meadow and you will be barely noticed. Only if you make a deliberate attempt to enter their lair you won't get much time to reconsider.
While sleeping at night (and part of the day as well) in their subterranean homes, during daylight most of the time the beasts can be spotted in close vicinity outside their caves. There they are looking for things to eat or they simply enjoy the sun by lying around and doing not much. Interestingly, these animals show very affectionate behaviour the way you see it at humans - partners will mostly forage together, point one another to an interesting spot and rub their heads against each other from time to time, obviously to demonstrate that they care. Quaerash move very slowly when exploring, taking a few steps, then they stop to listen a while, befor moving on again. They don't move away too far from each other in general, though, so if you spot one, you can be sure that others are near, available whenever needed to defend their kind. Hunters looking for lizard meat might get more than they intend to take home with them - and they can also experience how fast the seemingly slow lizards can run all of a sudden...
The life of domesticated Quaerash of course is somewhat different. They pull carts all day long and are fed regularly during the process in order to keep them content. It is important however, that the beasts used to load a ship for example are of the same pack, so that they can stay together like they are used to in the natural environment. If one member of a family is sick, it is very difficult to efficiently use other relatives, so exceptional care must be taken.
Diet. Tuskdiggers are herbivores. In their natural underground environment they especially enjoy to eat tengra roots, which is supposed to cause them to belch up Queueme through their nostrils. Tengra are a form of underground "tree", that grows in dark, damp caves without needing any sunlight. Actually, tengra appear most often more as roots only, interlocking with each other and climbing up cave walls, so that they form fantastically looking wooden tunnels. Quaerash inhabit these tunnels while decimating the nutritious walls and feasting on all kinds of mushrooms that enjoy growing as parasites along with tengra roots, like mouvtver and grishroom.
Tuskdiggers also venture out in the open, eating grasses and fruits that drop from trees. They aren't particularly choosy when it comes to eating, so they "enhance" the mild stench of Queueme for example with adding wild pricklepeas to their diet, but dried leaves, doch nuts, mosses, redberries or meldarapples will do as well. Domesticated Tuskdiggers get pretty much everything that can go through as vegetable - fresh or not, Quaerash consume it all. What a human might consider as garbage, Tuskdigger will munch happily.
Mating. Like most lizards, Quaerash lay eggs. Females get in heat as soon as the climate becomes agreeably warm, which is mostly in the mid of the spring season, at that time mating also takes place. Between the possible male mating partners at times confrontation incidents can be observed, which last as long as the female remains undecided which one to prefer. Until then males press their heads against each other every time they meet and try to knock each other down by running into the other unexpectedly. Taking into account that Tuskdiggers are pretty heavy beasts, it is not difficult to imagine that such fights cause quite a commotion. For these reasons breeders of domesticated Quaerash lizards have to make sure to alleviate the decision for a female, and give her no more than a single option during the time of heat.
The mating act itself is a noisy and seemingly quite painful affair, that might keep the whole staff of a Quaerash breeding nobleman awake the whole night! After successful fertilization the female will lay 1-2 eggs and protect them until they hatch in about three months of time.
Usages. As has already been mentioned, every Erpheronian and Caltharian nobleman who runs a larger business which makes transportation of wares necessary, is proud to have a bunch of Quaerash for drafting purposes at hand. Especially port towns train their own beasts to help with loading and unloading ships. It must be taken care however that these working beasts aren't easily distracted, well trained and harnessed properly with so-called "pluggers" in place, ensuring that they cannot blow out toxic fumes. Quaerash are rather slow, but beasts running amok are hard to come by and can cause a lot of danger as an unfortunate incident near Voldar proved only a few years back. Quaerash mainly pull carts - they are no riding beasts as they are quite uneasy with people on their backs. You will see some lizards carrying small children around though from time to time, but this is as far as it goes. Once a lizard senses something moving on its back, it gets irritated, can stop abruptly, attempt to stand on its hind legs like an angered horse - thus throwing off possible riders (and cause a little earthquake upon hitting the ground again). It can even attack the next bystander or generate further commotion together with other Quaerash close by. One cannot warn enough of trying a riding feat - Quaerash are not very amicable in this regard to put it mildly.
For the very same reasons just mentioned these beasts are absolutely unsuitable for all kinds of work that go beyond dragging items in a rather relaxed environment. Work in too busy town areas with people moving to and fro is not suitable, nor is utilization on the battle field or for games like speed races an option. Such things would mean danger for friend and foe. There are on the other hand incidents reported that some had their own special ideas and misused the uneasiness of the Quaerash. It is known that vile noblemen led opponents they wanted to get rid of into a situation that involves an aggrevated lizard - well, "accident" sounds much better than "murder", doesn't it?
Other then drafting loads the lizards are quite helpful for peasants, as they can use their extrements as dung. There is hardly anything better in this respect, at least not in northern Santharia, some claim. Once Quaerash have served their main purpose - they can live up to 50 years -, they are also slaughtered as other draft beasts and can provide a good meal for several families. The meat is not too bad, but it is not for everyone's taste as it reeks considerably and is best described as a combination of fish and fat pork. Combined with some secret ingredients, a good cook can make it taste rather delicious though, for those who enjoy something different (try the "Thyrrinth's Candle" in central Voldar in order to please a gourmet's palate!). However, if someone, who has eaten Quaerash meat lately, escapes a rather rude belch, people also like to call it the "Quaerash's revenge", and some even might call for a plugger...
At any rate, other parts of the Quaerash are of use as well for armourers, weaponsmiths or carpenters. Lizards with scaled backs provide nice raw material for shields, rarer horn parts can be used for daggers or as decorations of exquiste chests and similar items. The menacingly looking and rock hard heads also were used in various wars as head parts for battering rams. These heads also make quite an impression if put on the wall as a trophy - like the one you can see at an inn in Voldar, that now bears the name "The Rampant Duskdigger". Go, check it out - Burrick, the innkeeper, surely can tell you quite a tale!
History. Tuskdigger lizards inhabited the Troll Mountains, the Allsiscaeys and the Tandala Highlands already for quite a while before serious attempts were made by the Erpheronians to domesticate these valuable beasts and breed them. Success finally came shortly after the end of the First Sarvonian War in the 680s b.S. when Calcor Vastfields of Astran and his inventive wife Shaera managed to seperate a male and a female lizard from their parents. They put them in secluded caves and finally got them used to a first kind of harness that covered the nostrils back then with special leaves. Later these were substituted with more effective pluggers which falls in the responsibility of a creative Caltharian. At any rate, since these years Erpheronians and later Caltharians, who after the War for Ancyros had strong Erpheronian ties, relied on the Tuskdigger for all kinds of works and the beast has gained major importance in especially Erpheronian society, as it also serves a symbol of status to be able to own and maintain them.
Attempts to export Quaerash to the Santharian south have been made in the first decades of the unification of the northern realms to the Kingdom of Tharania. But while Tuskdiggers eat practically everything that is not meat, the lack of tengra makes these lizards very troublesome to deal with. They become lazy and eventually immobile, thus useless for anyone who needs them to work. This makes tengra roots, a plant that only grows up north, a necessary and daily ingredient of their diet. However, tengra is difficult to acquire for southerners, especially in vast amounts as would be necessary to keep a whole family of Tuskdiggers alive, plus the price is rather high - maybe intentionally kept so by the Proudmen to secure themselves advantages. In short: While you might spot a Quaerash here and there in southern Santharian lands like Manthria where you have extremely rich merchants, this however is by far an exception.