Native only to the Peninsula of Iol in the far reaches of North Sarvonia, the colloquially known ‘Blue-tongue’ is a subspecies of ardol, a semi-aquatic, extremely adaptable creature known to make its home around waterways all over Sarvonia. Averaging around a ped and two palmspans long, the Blue-tongue is the smallest of the ardol subspecies. Encounters with this shy creature are rare, but sightings are common from a distance. Blue-tongues, as well as other subspecies, live in family groups known as ‘clans’.
Long tufts of fur tip small pyramid-shaped ears that rest on a triangular-shaped
head, a little large for its body. Supported by short, sturdy legs, the
Blue-tongue has a surprisingly swift, loping gate, due to its longer hind legs.
The forelegs have five fingers with deeply curved, semi-retractable claws
measuring up to five
nailsbreadths long. Shorter, non-retractable claws adorn their four,
partially-webbed toes on thickly muscled hind legs, rarely exceeding two grains
in length. Many, tiny teeth fill the Blue-tongue’s short, narrow muzzle. Within
is a thin and long, blue-toned tongue, coloured by the liquid it is secreted
from beneath the tongue.
Often only a ped and two palmspans in the length, the Blue-tongue is the smallest member of the Ardol species, though it weighs an incredible pygge and two hebs with heavier males reported to exceed a pygge and four hebs. Males and females are commonly close in size, with the male weighing a little more. Blue-tongue Ardol are heavily muscled animals with a thick layer of fat, and a dense double-coat of fur.
Though considered a characteristic trait of the Flat-tailed Ardol, the Blue-tongue shares a similar silhouette with a wide, flat tail. The tail is often as wide as the pelvis of the Ardol and tapers down to a wide, rounded tip. It commonly makes up a little over a third of the animal’s entire length, though individuals have been noted to have tails closer to half their length.
Along the jaw, though exempting the chin, the fur grows much longer, and thicker, in a ‘beard’ fashion typical of the Ardol species with males exhibiting longer hair. A double-coat of fur keeps the Blue-tongue warm in its northern habitat, preventing the creature’s skin from getting wet, even when submerged for extended periods of time. A soft, downy layer close to the skin provides the most padding, topped by a wiry, coat that is shed during the brief summer months. The greasiness of the fur is a secondary water-resistance layer, allowing water to dry off much more quickly. The trademark of the blue-tongue is not, in fact, its blue tongue but rather its unique hollow-haired fur, which reflects the light and color of its surroundings.
When the Blue-tongue is submerged, special ‘water-flaps’
are engaged. These flaps of skin close off the ears and nose, to prevent water
from entering. Hearing is the Ardol’s primary sense, and they rely heavily on it
when they are out of the water and therefore vulnerable to land predators. It is
also fundamental for the use of ‘chatter’, a large range of vocalizations used
as communication between the animals. Despite having a ‘water-flap’
for the nose, the Blue-tongue’s sense of smell is rather limited, due to its
excessive amount of time spent beneath the water.
A clear, second eyelid is used while the animal is underwater, allowing it to see clearly. This allows them to hunt along the sea or riverbed, where they are able to collect hard-shelled prey, whose shells they may easily crack open with their long, curved claws. These claws are primarily used for snatching fish, as well as digging, as they are able to clear away several peds of ice and permafrost. These are all traits common to the Ardol species.
Within the flat tail of the Blue-tongue there is a thick fatty deposit, located near the base, which functions as an emergency energy supply during times when prey is scarce. A heavy layer of fat is present beneath the thick, double-coat that provides a similar function, as well as acting as a secondary coat to keep the animal warm. Its remarkable coloration, specific only to the Blue-tongue subspecies, provides almost flawless camouflage no matter what the environment.
During the months when the waterways of the peninsula begin to freeze, the Blue-tongue begins to produce a blue colored liquid. This substance coats the tongue, and is able to melt the thick ice that would otherwise entomb the Ardol in water for the duration of the winter. The liquid is known to color the ice blue as it melts, staining it, and is considered the reason why the subspecies has a blue tongue.
A predominately aquatic animal, the Blue-tongue is able to stay submerged for a recorded one hour, though it is unknown if this is the maximum amount of time the animal can stay underwater as they prefer to surface often. The Ardol dens in areas with strong, fast currents, proving that they are strong swimmers, and their presence documented many strals from shore in open seawater is also testament to this.
Territory. Due to their shy, elusive nature, researchers are unable to determine the full scale of the Blue-tongue’s territory, though they have only been documented to inhabit the Peninsula of Iol in the northeast of North Sarvonia. Family groups of Blue-tongues have been confirmed to den on the Camlyn River along the Plains of Antislar, with trappers confirming their presence in the Lofty Lake area as well.
No sightings have been confirmed of the creature inhabiting either the Sea of Iol or the White Sea in the far reaches of the peninsula. Despite this, the Blue-tongue is known to travel as far as the Forest of Contamar. Researchers speculate that the Blue-tongue is drawn to the warmth of the Mi’rhen’ael’on hot spring just north of the forest center, and the number of prey animals that also visit the warm waters. Half-crafted dens have been found around smaller hot springs and water springs of the forest.
Habitat/Behaviour. As with all ardol, the Blue-tongue often engages in group bonding, though is rarely spotted doing so since the location of their dens is so adamantly guarded. Due to the more solitary lives of the Blue-tongue, group bonding is even more essential to their way of life than the subspecies in the south. Behaviours include group grooming, rubbing, boxing, and mild ‘chatter’ that is characteristic of the Ardol species.
This ‘chatter’ is used constantly, for many reasons, such as: to greet members of the clan, emotional displays, the clan connecting with pups, or just for the sake of making noise. But the primary function of ‘chatter’ is an audible warning system of rapid clicks that is used to alert others of immediate, or approaching, danger. Often ardol will ‘chatter’ at or with other animal species, and it appears the Blue-tongue has developed an affection towards to snow mice and use soft, almost crooning noises similar to those engaged with pups, which harmonize with the songs of the mice.
Denning is the most remarkable habit of the Ardol species. Initially, the Blue-tongue carves a deep pit into the riverside, through ice and many feet of frozen ground, during the summer months when the ground is softer, and more importantly when there is less ice. Blue-tongues collect dead wood from clusters of trees to create the frame for their domed dens. Various, tiny holes are dug into the base of the pit where the thickest pieces of wood are shoved into and packed down with mud mixtures. These larger posts bear most of the weight of the structure, with other, more flexible branches being stacked and woven around these poles. Once the dome is completed it is covered with more mud and earth around the base, and then packed down with snow until only the very tip of the den sticks out. The melting and freezing of snow in the later months before winter sets it solidifies the structure, entombing it in ice.
Multiple entrances are dug beneath the water level, and up into the deep dome where multiple platforms will be constructed by carving away wood and packing areas with snow. Beneath the water, the Blue-tongue will dig deep around the entrances to prevent them from freezing during the winter. For the first winter after construction, the Blue-tongue will continue to pack on snow, allowing multiple layers to freeze one on top of the other so it is hidden among the snow drifts on the riverside.
Researchers have witnessed the Blue-tongue bring many various foodstuff into their dens close to the beginning of winter, and it is speculated that they create a cache for the months when the rivers and lakes freeze solid. Some quiet observers were able to witness the Blue-tongue brining whole sprigs of hrugchuck grass to their dens, complete with the hardy network of roots, which is able to take root in the warmth of the den (confirmed through the examination of abandoned dens).
It is speculated that the Blue-tongue migrates between the central den and smaller, more isolated dens during the winter months when they are presumed to be locked beneath many palmspans of ice. These smaller dens are believed to be used by many different family groups, as the Blue-tongue navigates its way through the frozen Camlyn River up to Lofty Lake, and eventually Contamar Forest. On the lake, holes of half-frozen, blue-toned slush have been found during the winter. Trappers have witnessed the Blue-tongues popping up from the ice where no such hole existed before. This is caused by an ice-melting liquid that allows the Blue-tongue to tunnel through the many layers of ice separating it from the winter-locked land above.
Along the lake, researchers have discovered rabbit-like burrows around the bases of trees that are believed to lead to these small dens on the lakeside. It has led to the assumption that the Blue-tongue digs a network of passages from the den into the snow drifts, providing a door to the winter-gripped peninsula. More of these ‘Ardol-holes’ have been found in the Contamar Forest, at the base of the Pheran’Exhonhanhe trees close to the banks of small hot springs. It has been verified that the Blue-tongue at one time used to inhabited the forest long enough to build dens, and now only use the hot springs as winter retreats, even then only by the boldest of individuals.
As with other subspecies, the Blue-tongue males are known to scent mark their territory, but this is not strictly enforced. It is known for wandering members of a different family group to be accepted into a foreign den if they make a gift of some sort of food, it is believed this unusual behavior is an effort to prevent unnecessary aggression and fighting in an already harsh environment. Male Blue-tongues are much more numerous than the females, and the few females are carefully guarded, often herded close to the den.
The Blue-tongue is not a top predator of the north ice, and often falls prey to other predators, such as: the snow wolf, pinnip, white bear, and carcal wild cat. Other predators include: the dark stryke shark, the reintroduced Eanian warg, and pups are especially vulnerable to the snynx fur snakes. Some Blue-tongues have been spotted far out to sea, and been taken prey by caefan whales of the deep waters. But their most fearsome predator is the Antislar, who pursue them for their rare, extraordinary fur.
When hunting in the open ocean, only done in large groups, the Blue-tongue will employ a multi-tier swimming pattern. Three tiers are established, with animals at varying depths, and it would appear the tiers are rotated every third of an hour. It is known, should predators be close, for the tier that spotted them to shoot up through the hunting circle and scatter the animals of the other tiers, as they swim for shallower, safer water.
Diet. Naturally omnivorous, the Blue-tongue’s diet is primarily composed of cold water fish such as the bonehead and evoor. When they venture into the open ocean, it is common for the Blue-tongue to forage for hardy crustaceans, oysters and trysters found at the seabed. Other prey includes the snow mouse, nue’mon bird, and on the rare occasion when they may be found, hargrive and tar’andus deer fawns. The Blue-tongue will wallow in the deeper water of the springs, and snatch the fawns while they are eating near the lip of the spring. It is assumed that the Blue-tongue then proceeds to drown the creature.
Though few plants are able to survive the bitter cold and snow winters, the Blue-tongue is a creature of opportunity and has taken to ingesting large quantities of the staple hrugchuck grass and some carefully guarded asen’evathron fruit bushes. In times of near starvation, the Blue-tongue will even resort to eating the stems of the poisonous alth’mon plant, in small doses to stave of hunger until a solid meal can be found.
Mating. Both male and female Blue-tongues reach maturity at one year, yet the female will only breed once every three to five years during the early winter months with offspring arriving three months later. It is believed this large gap in the female’s breeding seasons is due to the large number of pups in a litter, and the harshness of the winters on the peninsula. A litter is comprised to five to seven pups, though numbers vary based on the amount of prey available the previous season.
All animals of the family group participate in the raising of the pups. Though furred and clawed, the pups are born blind and toothless, very vulnerable to predators. Within hours the pups open their eyes, and it only takes four weeks for them to begin ingesting vegetation around the den. At eight weeks they are considered to be fully weaned and begin eating meat brought to them by the family group. During the first few months of their lives, the pups will be completely confined to their den until the first summer after their birth. This is also the time when they will be introduced to the water, able to withstand the strong currents around the den.
At eight months old, the male pups will begin to wander around the territory, though not far from the family group. Once they reach maturity it is common for the males to venture many strals away from the family group, hunting and foraging and often looking for new locations to den away from predators. In contrast, the females are kept near the den at all times, and do not even participate in hunting excursions to the open sea.
Usages. Primarily, the Blue-tongue is pursued for its reflective fur commonly known as ‘Living Fur’ by the Antislar, which provides almost flawless camouflage no matter the environment. It is not uncommon for many adult animals to be used to make a variety of large articles such as blankets, though hooded jackets and boots are the most common clothes to be made from the fur. Due to its nearly flawless camouflage, the garments made from the Blue-tongue pelt are in high demand. It is used by hunters, trappers, fishermen, as well as scouts and warriors, from tribes all across North Sarvonia, bringing in hefty sums for the Antislar. Their long, hard claws are also harvested and crafted into crude tools as they are able to penetrate hard ice and many feet of permafrost earth, or as fastenings for garments.
Though not particularly appetizing, the meat is very fatty and nutrient rich making it a staple in the diet of many northern tribes. In previous years, the Evathonrhim elves harvested the blue-tongue’s ‘ice liquid’, which can only be gathered while the animal is alive, that is used by to melt ice at a considerable rate. It is a rare practice after the induction of the Eaninan warg, but some elves do still use the ‘ice liquid’ in moderation to create sculptures out of ice.
Myth/Lore. Migration of the blue-tongue. During the winter months, the Blue-tongue shares the Contamar Forest with the Evathonrhim elves that live high in the canopy. Accounts from Antislar who trade with the elusive elves say the elves initially sought to remove the blue-tongue from the forest, as the ardol hunted year-round using a water pathway from hot spring to hot spring. This chased many of the other animals from the Blue-tongue’s hot springs, causing them to broaden their network. In an attempt to preserve the life in the forest the elves began to hunt them. For many years they trapped the ardol, going so far as to use the ice-melting blue liquid they produce to dismantle the dens and collapse the tunnels, until they creature left their hot spring burrows and moved south.
In order to preserve themselves, the Blue-tongue began a forced migration that caused the large clans to separate into smaller groups, though still of a considerable size. Many of the clans took to the White Sea and its many interwoven waterways, and into the Sea of Iol. Only the smallest clans, forced out of such areas due to the dramatic decrease in prey, moved further south into the Camlyn River and Lofty Lake. Along the Camlyn, the blue-tongue came into contact with the Antislar men, who greatly desired their reflective, hollow-hair fur. These Antislar would prove to be their greatest predators. Years later, these southern Blue-tongues would soon become the only clans left on the peninsula after the introduction of the Eanian warg.
Actively pursued by the Antislar to greatly reduced numbers, the Blue-tongue moved further and further up the Camlyn River towards the Sea of Iol. During a cold, windy year where prey was scarce and the snow plentiful, the Blue-tongue braved the territory of the warg and travel back to the Contamar Forest. It would appear the Blue-tongue has retained some ancestral memory that prevents it from rebuilding dens in the area, and using the forest only as a temporary retreat during the coldest winter months when prey becomes scarce in their underwater world.
Encounters on the Ice. An account from an Antislar trapper, detailing the Blue-tongue’s use of the ice-melting liquid during the winter:
“...there wasn’t anything there, no sludgy pond freezing up, like it
should have been. Cold enough to freeze the fur off a wison, especially
that far north, but that’s where they [the Blue-tongue] go when the Camlyn
freezes up. Not up and out on the plains, or in the gulf, but north,
Researchers. The compilation of information on the blue-tongue subspecies of Ardol is attributed to Bartholem Stone, who saw the animal many times during his interactions with the Evathonrhim elves of the Contamar Forest. Much of the information was collected from various Antislar trappers and hunters, who have pursued the Blue-tongue Ardol since their arrival on the Peninsula of Iol.