THE DRELL (CAVE DRELL, ROCK LIZARD)

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOURDIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE

Found throughout the continent of Sarvonia, Drells are generally regarded by humans as equivalent to lizards. Though close kin, there are actually several distinctions between them and their reptilian cousins, the most notable difference being the Drells' habitation of underground caverns where they live in small colonies. They are also often referred to as Cave "Drells" or "Rock Lizards", and in ThergerimTaal as "Morlokerons".

The Cave Drells

View picture in full size Image description. The Cave Drells or Morlokerons, which are sometimes domesticated by dwarves. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Appearance. Even for the few humans who dare to venture underground whether into the caverns of dwarves or those of natural origin, sighting Drells is a rare event, perhaps no more than a slender tail disappearing within a dark burrow. However, many Cave Drells have been successfully domesticated by the dwarven folk, and it is to them we owe our current information about these engaging little beasts.

Torchlight is reflected in the glossy scales of a Cave Drell, making the reptile shimmer with each sinuous movement. Appearing in the open for only a moment, a sighting of a Drell may be no more than a flash of colour seen from the corner of the eye. Surprisingly enough to most
humans, the scales are smooth to the touch and not slimy as some would believe. Males are customarily darker shades and females lighter, but both genders may come in any hue from rubite to emeraud. In fact, the colours of every known gem are found within their luminous hides, each Drell being a solid, shimmering shade.

Tail included, the Drells measure the length of a dwarven forearm. As they are only a palmspan in width, the reptiles are not heavy and may be picked up by a child with ease. Four short legs descend from their slender bodies, which though stubby can move with surprising speed. Bright colours swirl within deep-set orbs on either side of their heads, gracing the Drells with a stare that mesmerizes the unwary. Slitted pupils constantly dart back and forth, seemingly attracted to movement. As they are adapted to live in seemingly eternal darkness, their eyes are sensitive to the slightest changes in light with brighter lights even inflicting pain upon the reptile.

Claws only slightly darker than their scales extend from slender toes with razor-sharp edges maintained by scratching them against the walls of their burrows. If one were daring enough to pry apart a Drell’s toes, risking several scratches in the process, then a nearly transparent webbing with spidery veins would be seen. Instead of the fang-filled mouths associated with most reptiles, Drells have relatively blunt teeth with only their incisors coming to a point. Between the incisors, a forked tongue often flickers as if it were tasting the air or enjoying a childish jest.
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Special Abilities. For years, human scholars have claimed that the Drells possess an acidic saliva capable of melting rock; however, the Thergerim scoff at such a naive simplification. Drells truly do form their burrows using acid spewed from their mouths, yet the acid is not contained within the creature’s saliva. In sooth, such burrows are formed by the creatures belching up the contents of their stomachs at will, a grotesque yet intriguing ability applauded by the well mannered among dwarves. Within a society that applauds belching, one can only wonder if offending a dwarf with one’s table manners is even possible! The more ambitious among dwarves have even been known to attempt an imitation of this belch at the communal table with greater volume and duration being applauded whereas actual eructation is frowned upon as a waste of food, some having more success than others.

As the creature has been known to spit the acid a distance of two peds and does so whenever threatened, one does not approach a Drell without first considering how fond they are of their unmarred skin. Since it appears as a clear liquid and is often mistaken as water, most will not be aware of the acid upon their clothes or skin until a burning sensation is felt, becoming agonizing if the acid is not immediately washed off. Applying a damp cloth to the affected skin is unwise, as the acid will simply be spread to cover a greater area, greatly irritating the skin as it is rubbed in. Among the Thergerim, dousing the skin in a rock pool is preferred, otherwise the pouring of water upon the skin seems to be equally efficient. An acid that can etch through rock has little difficulty with human skin, so immediate neutralization is recommended.

As one might expect from a cave-dwelling creature, their oval eyes perceive the slightest changes in light and texture, allowing them to see in anything but absolute darkness. Without such an ability, navigation within their dark burrows would be impossible. Sudden changes in light and bright lights in general are agonizing for the reptile, thus the Drell is rarely, if ever, found aboveground, one of many reasons that only dwarves and those of other races trusted with the locations of their caverns such as one Judith of Bardavos have been aware of the existence of the luminous creatures for so long.
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Territory. As their very existence is dependent upon dwarves or at least upon the scraps from the communal table, Drells are known to live underground in the eight mountain ranges in Sarvonia inhabited by dwarves though the creatures may inhabit other ranges as well, perhaps even those of other continents. In Southern Sarvonia these ranges are: the Mithral Mountains, the Rimmerins Ring, the Xythrian Ridge, the Kairean Teeth, the High Fores, and the Low Fores. To the north beyond the Tandala Highlands, Drells are found in the Imlith Mountains and the Prominent Mountains.
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Habits/Behaviour. Drells use their sharp claws, and, where necessary, their rock-softening acid, to dig out well-protected burrows deep below the surface of Caelereth. Burrows branch off from a central cavern, seemingly at random. Each burrow twists back and forth before ending in a sleeping chamber large enough for several Drells. As the opening of each burrow is only large enough for a Drell or something smaller, the reptiles are rarely disturbed.

On average, a colony consists of twenty individuals, with the males outnumbering the females two to one. As the creatures are incredibly social, seldom will one be found alone. In fact, the creatures are known for their talkative natures, chittering back and forth with one another in high-pitched voices. Only when seeking a meal does a Drell become solitary, jealously guarding its food against others of its kind.

Inquisitive by nature, the creatures explore every nook and cranny found near their dens and will not hesitate to investigate the slightest sound. As the Drells are known for appearing in the oddest places, most dwarves are rarely surprised by the sight of bright eyes watching as they work. Woes never seem to afflict the diminutive creatures as they play and gallivant, full of energy with never a worry for tomorrow. As excellent swimmers, the reptiles often dive into the rock pools found near their dens, delighting in the splash of cool water. The dwarves scoff to see such playful abandon, yet even those ancients seemingly crafted from stone cannot resist laughing at the creature’s antics.
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Diet. Drells are not too ashamed to beg and have even become quite skilled at charming their way to a meal. Any time dwarves gather around the communal table, especially on feast days, several Drells are bound to be under the table, rubbing against the legs of those dining and cheeping reproachfully in their twittering voices. One can even imagine that the reptiles are intelligent enough to know when no food is forthcoming as they chitter angrily at the offending dwarf before stalking off to find a meal elsewhere. Older, more experienced Drells seek out children, receiving scraps for their trouble whenever the parents aren’t watching.
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Mating. Seemingly at random, the females of a colony come into heat, sometimes simultaneously but more often one at a time. As her time nears, the hide of a female begins to glow as bright colours whirl rapidly within her eyes, both features attract the attention of the males. Slowly a female in heat crawls into an empty tunnel, allowing her tail to swing outside it a moment to attract the gazes of any nearby males before it disappears completely within the tunnel. Only wide enough for the passage of one Drell, the tunnel ensures that only one male may mate with a particular female as she halts before entering the sleeping chamber. The swiftest male and thus first to follow the female into the tunnel will be the only one to successfully mate with her. Those exceptionally clever among the males lie in wait within the sleeping chambers, quickly rushing into the tunnel as they become aware of the female's presence and climbing over her prone form as they block the tunnel with their own bodies. Whether this courtship ritual ensures that only the swiftest and most clever of males mate is not known.

A month after their conception, the eggs are laid, sparkling with as many jewel-toned hues as can be found amongst adults. As they are extremely brittle, the females collectively guard them for the weeks required for them to hatch, hissing at anything and everything that comes near. Even the males are not allowed near the eggs. With teeth ill-suited for the tearing of flesh and sharp claws, the females defend their eggs, even sleeping alongside them instead of in their customary burrows. The body warmth of the gathered females warms the eggs, aiding them in hatching, though the females are not above laying their eggs near hot springs or lava warmed walls whenever possible.
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Usages. As the Drells are considered by the dwarves to be favoured by Trum-Baroll, their hides are used only in the binding of copies of the Rock Tales, the tome upon which the dwarven faith in Trum-Baroll is founded. Drell leather is smooth to the touch and known for its durability, lasting for centuries as long as it is handled regularly (the natural oils in the skin of the hands seems to help protect, rather than degrade the beautiful sheen of the scales). Since the Drells themselves are known for their varying hues, books crafted from their hides possess equal beauty with each one having a unique color and glow.

With their sparkling eyes and bubbling personalities, Drells are renowned for being docile yet energetic pets. They are popular among dwarves of all ages, with the young especially enjoying their rambunctious antics. As older Drells are exceedingly difficult to tame, the dwarf that stumbles upon a den of hatchlings is indeed lucky. Only with caution should one approach the den wherein eggs are laid. Even one unhatched egg will ensure that the females of the colony remain to guard it, spitting acid at any intruders. The acid spewed from so many throats drenches a larger area of skin than that of a single Drell and only a bath will be able to completely cleanse the skin. Males are more commonly kept as pets, simply because they exist in greater numbers. Few dwarves attempt to tame a female, as they often run away when in heat, whether to a mate or the den of their birth is unknown.
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Myth/Lore. Within the Rock Tales exists a passage believed to pertain to the creation of the Drells. The myth is known only among dwarves as it is within their religion that the UnSthommerons may be found. As the tale offers a different view of the reclusive Father obliged to count and name every pebble created by Trum-Baroll in the shaping of Caelereth, often it is the younger dwarves who believe the myth.

"Before Trumvil, Master of Gems, descended to Toll Dispor'Baroll [Realm of the Lost Father in ThergerimTaal], he gazed upon the caverns of the Thergerim, seeking beauty in the unmoving stone. Indeed, there was much beauty in those caverns delved by the Thergerim, finest of craftsmen, yet such beauty was eternally captured within stone. With his great hands, Trumvil fashioned statues from the gems which were his domain. Of rubites, emeraulds, saffires and even gems yet unknown to our kind were the Drells sculpted, remarkable in their astounding beauty. Yet it was not enough to satisfy the Master of Gems. Much as He and his Brothers bestowed life upon the Thergerim, so too did Trumvil bestow life upon the statues he’d created. Slowly at first, they moved, yet in only moments they were leaping about the cavern with a curiosity never before seen beneath the earth. And He laughed."

A chant often repeated by the dwarves of the Thrumgolz clan reveals their devotion to the resplendent reptiles:

!Blessed She
Who Keeps
A Drell
For In Her Cave
Shall No Worm Be!

.Blessed He
Who Feeds
His Drell
For Mold Upon
His Tools
Never Grows.

:Blessed Drell
Of TRUM-BAROLL
Loved And Delighted In:
!Blessed Be!

--Collected at Een Puvtyr and translated from ThergerimTaal by Bard Judith, 1656
 
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