The Cheerk is a strange-looking large worm, generally white or red, with two small pink stripes running down its body. It is regarded as a pest by many throughout Caelereth, as it will, with time, take all the nutrients from the soil it inhabits. This is a result of the venom it secretes from its double-forked tails, as well as the Cheerk's ravenous eating habits. It is however, the staple diet for many creatures, and is necessary to the ecosystem.
A Cheerk, to be simple, looks like the Tharian letter Y. It could also be
described as resembling the dwarven rune
which represents the CH sound. (The name itself is from the
Thergerim Taal; in the
original dwarven 'Cherk' or 'Liar',
interestingly enough!) The body is long and slender, splitting into two tails,
and the top body segment is the head, which is slightly thicker than the two
ends. The tails both have tiny, venomous tips. Although it is difficult to find
them, there are six small eyes, scattered randomly about the top of the head.
There is also a wide slit that forms the Cheerk's mouth.
Cheerks are about a fore and a half to a ped in length when fully grown. They weigh about a quarter of an od. The skin is extremely moist and slippery; this is believed to be some sort of defence mechanism, to stop anything that may harm it from attaining a firm hold upon it. They are either a white colour, which is more commonly seen, or a rarer red. Both types have pink stripes running down both the sides.
The Cheerk is able to secrete a venom from the tip of its two tails. It uses
this secretion to kill the tiny insectoid paeth that reside within the soil. The
venom is also poisonous to elves,
dwarves, although not fatal. Strangely enough, no other species are affected
negatively. It is actually seen by some orcish
tribes as a medication - some are known to take Cheerk venom as a headache cure.
However, the venom has an unwanted effect that is an annoyance to any species – it will kill nutrients within the soil. Coupled with the amazing appetite of a Cheerk, as time passes by, the patch where it lives will become sterile and no plant life will be able to grow there. It is easy to tell if a patch of soil has been Cheerk-poisoned, as it will have a slight pinkish tone in contrast to the brown, black, or tan of fertile soil around it. However, if the affected ground is rid of Cheerks, then gradually the venom is diluted and washed away enabling nutrients to return so plant life can thrive once more.
Territory. The Cheerk can be found anywhere. As long as there is soil to live, Cheerk will thrive. They prefer nutrient-rich ground, but soil that has previously been affected by Cheerk poison and then recovered seems to be a particularly attractive target for them. Thus farmers find it very difficult to get rid of a Cheerk infestation, for no sooner has a field built up its strength than a new wave of the pests attack it again.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Cheerk live alone, simply eating, tunnelling, and surviving. If two meet, they ignore each other and continue on their gustatory paths. They are not territorial, and roam the soil of Caelereth as they please. During damp conditions, such as rainy weather or flooding, they must emerge from the earth or drown, and are often easy prey at such times. Generally, however, they remain tunneling about a fore below the surface of the ground, their holes filling naturally in behind them, thus loosening soil in their vicinity.
Diet. The Cheerk eat soil particles for nutrients. Unfortunately for Santharian farmers, they tend to eat so many that the soil becomes unsuitable for growing anything, since there is nothing to sustain the plant. Also, as mentioned above, their venom causes the soil to become sterile. They also digest tiny bugs within soil, which are known as paeth.
Mating. When a Cheerk feels it is time for mating, it will slowly make its way to one of the several, small underground caverns that are made by Cheerk simply for the purpose of reproducing. It could be some time before they find one, as they are not stable; unsurprisingly they constantly cave in, being made only from loose soil. Upon arrival the Cheerk will claim an area and start a strange waving motion with its two tails, which it hopes will attract it a mate. It is generally a female who seeks an impressive tail display from a male, not the other way round.
When the partner is chosen, they couple by joining in the cloacal area at the junction of the tails. After this, the female will leave with an egg pouch, containing hundreds of eggs, attached between the tails. She will find a suitable place amongst the soil to leave them and then continue with her life. The young Cheerks, known as Cheerklins, are left to fend for themselves from birth. It is because of this lack of care during their youth and growing, coupled with the instinctive nature by many in Caelereth to kill the Cheerks and the fact that they are so heavily preyed upon, that only perhaps ten to twenty of the hundreds of eggs make it to life as an adult.
Researchers. Although not a creature that you would think would be studied, there has been many a researcher who has spent time studying the venom of the Cheerk, to see its effects on living beings. What is of particular interest also is how exactly the venom will rid the soil of nutrients, and also how orcs find the venom beneficial, while humans, elves and dwarves become ill upon direct contact.
Usages. Although this creature is poisonous to humans, elves and dwarves, it does have uses within other sentient species. For example, orcs have used the venom of a Cheerk as a headache cure, which is taken in a rather unusual way. An interesting description of an outsider watching an orc use Cheerk venom is given below:
"I was astounded. One minute the orc was complaining of a pounding headache, next she was down on her knees scrabbling in the soil. She dug a large hole, and chanced upon one of those filthy Cheerks. I fully expected her to bring down her large orc foot and pound it into the ground, but, to my surprise, she picked it up. My amazement was confirmed when she threw back her head, roared, and slashed open a patch of skin on her brow with her blade-like nails. She grasped the wiggling Cheerk firmly by the head and squeezed the venomous tips causing venom to drip slowly onto the wound. She dropped the Cheerk, which I promptly squashed, and spent a few minutes almost in a trance. Upon emerging from her dazed state she proclaimed that all was better, and the headache was gone."
The orcs also apply the venom to open wounds, reasoning that it will kill any paeth that may reside, which if left would cause infection. The Cheerk is eaten by many species as part of their daily diet, the poison it secretes are seemingly inconsequential to them. The Cheerk is also favoured by flying creatures, especially birds, who will often hunt them in damp weather.
Information provided by Artemis