THE FALSEROCK LIZARD (DRARD'LE)

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY- HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR
DIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE - RESEARCHERS

The Falserock-Lizard is, though only a small animal of up to three handspans size and only found in abundance in some parts of the Ráhaz-Dáth, possibly the most hotly discussed beast of its size. Many of the known animal and especially versified lizard researcher state that it is just a small lizard, despite its wings, whereas the famous researchers Aini Siuu and Lutius Strongleg and with them most common people say that one must be blind to not to see, that it is a miniature dragon. There are arguments for both sides and obviously more research is needed to clarify the true nature of this beast.

The Falserock Lizard
View picture in full size Image description. A colourful Falserock Lizard, also called Drard'le. Picture drawn by Talia Sturmwind.

Researchers name this little beast Falserock-Lizard, describing their habitat. "Drard‘le" or "Draard‘le" is what most common people in Santharia use when referring to them. This name which might be derived from "Dragon-Lizard", (‚le‘ being a diminutive additive by the Shendar) or chosen because of the funny sounds it makes while attacking. In the Norong'Sorno region the black variety is called "Demon-Lizard" or short "Deliz".

Appearance. The Falserock Lizard is hard to discover, as long as it sits motionless, for it is able to change its colour to the rock it sits on and hide before your eyes. This may be the reason as well, why it looks on the first sight like a little lizard with amber eyes, a handspan or two long, pregnant females three including tail. Only at a second glance the folded wings are recognised as such and some other features, which make it appear like a little drake. Generally this beast looks like a lizard, with its legs protruding from his sides, the movable eyes on the side of the head. What it makes different from most other lizards is its skin and the wings . The skin is evenly covered with tiny scales which are able to change the colour in a matter of a few blinks only to any needed hue or pattern of colours. Strongleg reported even a shorter time span when the little life was in danger. On the belly and the underside of the legs it is rougher and quite hard to protect from the often spiky underground.

The two wings are protruding symmetrically from the animal's back, shortly behind the neck at the height where the front legs are located. The first wing joint sits near the spine, the next in the middle of the wing, a last shortly before the wing ends. When spread out, a normal male has a wingspan of about three handspans or slightly more. They are folded together in a quite unusual manner. The joint near the spine moves to the head, the upper wing closes up to the body, the tip of the wing moves first to the body and then up, so that it lies nearly parallel to the upper wing, but protrudes a few nailsbredth over the raised head when the wings are entirely folded together, forming a small angle. The tips are hard and acuminate and can be used in this position as a weapon in situations where flying is not possible or not advisable. When stretched out, they look like a delicate built little work of art, with the gracile finger bones clamping the fine leathery skin. In the sunshine, this skin appears to be translucent, a closer look shows the same fine scales which cover the whole body.

But the wings are not the only features which make a lot of people believe that it is in fact a little dragon. All along the spine, from the the nose to the tip of the tail it has long thin spikes not too different in shape and position on the body from those of his bigger "cousin" the norrak, the drake living on the slopes of the Norong'Sorno.

One feature that the Falsereock Lizard has in common with some lizards and snakes is the long red tongue which it seems to use for smelling, but its sticky properties also help to catch smaller insects and other food. Its little white sharp and numerous teeth however favour again its relation to dragons.
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Special Abilities. The most outstanding ability of the Drard'le is of course the colour changing. Despite thorough researches, it is not yet possible to say how it is done. The Drard‘le are able to imitate any colour and any pattern the underground may have. How the lizard "sees" what colour this special part of ground has and to which colour it has to switch to match this ground is the biggest puzzle which might not be solved soon. The only chance to find a lizard sitting is when it has chosen a soil with a pattern so difficult that it takes some time to get the pattern right. But a very observant look is needed to recognise this. And if one comes near to verify it, then the Draard‘le might change its mind and frighten you away with the a sudden display of the brightest colours, the most impressive it is able to produce. Strong oranges and fiery reds may suddenly change to an intense blue or vivid green never seen in a plant or other living thing and all that on a time scale of a few eyeblinks. Normal predators are so surprised that the lizard wins the few moments it needs to either fly or run away and hide or to ram its poisonous wingtips into the aggressor. Only the amber eyes show always the same colour. This colour changing is most often the only chance to find a Draard‘le at all - accidentally.

Not so spectacular abilities are their speed when running and their easiness while flying up to great heights during mating. - Pregnant females are soon after mating not able to fly anymore. They grow larger wings instead which they spread out during the morning close to the ground. There they rest for several hours and absorb the water which condenses under their wings.

These larger wings can be used effectively when folded tightly to the body as weapon against smaller predators. The tips are poisonous and are able to harm anyone who comes in closer contact with them (see Habitat/Behaviour).

Falserock Lizards aren‘t able to shed their skin like other of its kind, they simply grow, the scales getting bigger with age.

Strongleg, their passionate researcher, claims, that these beasts have the strange ability to induce the feeling of unease in sentient or half sentient beings. It is not confirmed from any other researcher, and even Aini Siuu, who disputes with him when their dragon relation hypothesis comes up, puts this down, but let‘s listen to Lutius Strongleg‘s words:

"When I approached, with nothing in mind or the thought to feed them, I 'was allowed' to come nearer and they even came near enough without fear so I could touch them slightly. Some brave ones even climbed on my rucksack, over my shoes and up my trousers. However, if I came to their resting place thinking 'I'll kill you', I soon fell sick, not very much, but I lost the interest in searching for them. And if I persuaded me to go on looking out for them - I couldn't see any, all were hiding and had the colours of the rock they were lying on."

There is one kind of Falserock Lizard, which differs slightly from its brothers in other regions of the Ráhaz-Dáth, that is the variety living on the nor'sidian black slopes of the Norong‘Sorno. They are similar in every aspect to the normal Drard‘le, except that that they are slower with colour changing and sometimes keep their black colour despite sitting on a blue flowering falserock cactus and - they are able to spit fire. It is of course only a small flame emerging their tiny mouth, but a hot one nevertheless. Aini Siuu is convinced, that this has to do with their diet, that the falserocks on the volcano have extracted substances from the soil which produce combustible gases in the stomach of the Deliz. How they are initiated is however yet unclear. Return to the top

Territory. The Drard'le lives in abundance in the Lands of Pain and at the foot of the Norong'Sorno, the hotter parts of the Aj'Nuvic Grounds and in all other parts of the Ráhaz-Dáth, where it is hot and the ground is not sandy, but covered with rocks, pebbles and solid earth. The steep sunny slopes of the Narfost cliffs are their most favourite territory at the rim of the northern Ráhaz-Dáth. - Rumours has it, that they live in Aeruillin as well, but this continent is not well enough researched yet and their existence there not confirmed.

Until recently nearly nobody managed to keep them in captivity, all died soon after some time despite all efforts to provide them with the right food and warmth. However, recently a first attempt was made to provide them with a habitat which matches exactly the conditions in the Ráhaz-Dáth and so far it seems to be successful: The Falserock-Lizard artificial habitat is the "animals garden" near the Big Library in New-Santhala. In this newly built temporary attachment made of glass and wood to the south side of the Big Library the guests from the south have found a new home, which they, as it seems till now, have accepted. So far none of the little creatures has died, though they live there for over a year already. However, great effort was put in providing them with their used surroundings. They have an area of about 300 square peds to live in, and the building is about 30 peds high, in summer the roof can be removed entirely to allow the Draard‘le to fly high. The ground is covered with pebbles and stones imported from the Ráhaz-Dáth, and the most important thing: Falserock cacti are planted in a much higher density as would occur in nature, to provide the lizards with the needed diet - apart from the usual worms, mice and insects. At present 30 individuals are living there, including the Norong‘sorno variety. They have not yet reproduced though, due to their young age.
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Habitat/Behaviour. The Falserock Lizard likes hot, dry weather. It rests on rocks and waits for prey passing by. However, around midday, when the Injčrá is high in the sky and the rocks which have absorbed the heat of the sun get uncomfortably hot, it looks out for falserocks to sit or lie on them for the rest of the day, for they are less hot than a real stone. This behaviour was the cause for their naming as Falserock Lizard, at least among the researchers.

Most times they run or fly away, when attacked. But sometimes, if this is not possible or advisable, they can, as already mentioned above, use their folded wings to attack a smaller predator, like the firebird or the aka‘lol. Then the head moves forward, till it is in line with the rest of the body, the wings, normally forming a small angle between upper and lower wing are pressed tightly against the body, so that the tips which are very sharp and covered with a lethal poison, produced in special glands in the wings, move even farther forward than usual and reach several nailsbreadth over the outstretched head. The attacking itself looks rather funny for an outside observer. The lizard jumps forward and back, like a little fighter, trying to scratch its enemy and insert the poison. During this time it emits a sound similar to a "drrrd". Most times, it is successful. The poison slows its predator down immediately - time to run away or finish it off together.

Every group of freshly hatched lizards stays together till the time of mating comes near, hunting, resting and sleeping in the same place, though they don‘t nestle together, but choose a distance of a few lizard lengths to each other. Co-ordinated defence seems to help them to survive the attacks of predators better, either by confusing a hunting bird with the display of colours or by attacking a snake or other ground hunting animal as a group.

However, only lizards of the same origin are hunting and living in such a social group, they all will observe calmly the death of another individual not belonging to their group which has strayed too far away from its own sisters and is hunted down. How members of the own group are recognised, either through smell or for us indistinguishable features of their appearance is not yet researched. But it is known, that this "bonding" happens in the first fifteen minutes of a lizard‘s life.
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Diet. All what is not too big for the Falserock Lizard to bring down its throat, this beast will eat: insects, terters, orms, myrmex and flies they try to catch or simply collect with their sticky tongue, small worms are a treat if they can find one in the dry desert areas. But not only that. Adultt Falserock Lizards hunt small rodents as well, like the desert jumping mouse or the tiny siltglutton. A delicacy seem to be any eggs they might find, be it those of birds or snakes. They take carcass as well, if they happen to find one which is not already just bones.

An essential part of their diet are however the blooms of the falserock cactus as well as fresh sprouting cacti themselves. This is what makes their survival in captivity outside of places where falserock cacti aren‘t available difficult.
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Mating. The mating ritual is what made the little dragon-lizards famous over the boundaries of their normal territory. They mate and reproduce not until they are three years old, but before that they kind of 'practice', performing attempts of a mating ritual without the final insemination.

The Mating Ritual of the Falserock Lizards
View picture in full size Image description. A bunch of Drard'les engaged in their famous and excitingly to behold mating rituals. Picture drawn by Talia Sturmwind.

It is not known yet, how the beginning of mating or the prequel is triggered, but at some time in the morning or in the evening, when the temperature seems right, the female stops hiding and starts to change its colour rapidly. As soon as at least one male is attracted she jumps up to fly, followed by up to three or more potential mates. While circling higher and higher she changes her colour, and not only the greys and browns which are needed for camouflage on the ground are seen, but the brightest colours imaginable, mostly starting with soft hues of mercoral or fyrit pink followed by brighter reds and yellows. After the reds the blues and greens are displayed, in the end a spectacle, a quick changing of all rainbow colours in their brightest and most intense hues are shown, and all this happens during an artistic flight show high up in the air.

The males try to imitate her as fast as possible. The female looks back, the males observe the females to be able to follow her colour change. After what can take up to one hour and leads to heights the lizards never reached before and will afterwards, the female finally chooses one of the males and allows it to approach her back. Her spikes are at these moments soft and can be easily pressed aside by the male‘s body. So the male sits tight on her back and impregnation takes place in the air. From then on they soar slowly down to the ground again. The higher they have flown, the more time they have to descend and the more successful the mating will be. The colour of the two now changes first to a pure white, but gets a golden hue soon, which evolves to a bright golden colour when the mating comes to an end and the pair has nearly reached the ground again.

As soon as they touch the ground, they change their colour back to a brown or grey, hiding as they normally do. This is a unsurpassed spectacle in the desert realms.

After mating the female starts to grow, until she is up to three palmspans long, her body gains weight and soon she is not able to fly any longer. Restricted to hunt on the ground, the male supports her and her growing eggs with bringing food to her. The matutinal spreading of the wings to gain moisture from the ground seems to be necessary to support developing eggs. When the time of hatching comes near, the female chases the male away.

After three months, the young hatch, about thirty at one time, mostly females. The lizard has carried the spherical eggs all the time in her body, feeding them through the shell. During birth the young hatch, some already inside the body, some when just ejected from the body. They are entirely ready to survive on their own, just their skin needs one full day to harden out. In this time they stay with the mother, which uses her wings to provide the young with shelter against the sun and possible predators from the air. After this day, the young Draard'les are ready for life, their colour changing abilities are nearly perfect. The next day, the mother dies from exhaustion and serves as a first meal for her young. They feed in a quite competitive way on her body, but mainly her skin, which seems to perfect their colour changing to that of an adult.
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Usages. The Falserock Lizard is of not much use to anybody. Though some people have tried to catch one, kill it while it was bright coloured and pin it dried or stuffed to their wall, it didn‘t work out, because they lost the colour entirely when dead, and who wants to pin a grey, brown, fading something to his wall? Gnomes tried to find out something about the colour changing, but without success, and the poison turned out to decay after some hours even when collected from life individuals.

So there is only one possibility left - to use the black demon-lizard variety as a candle lighter. However, the only person who is able to do this right now seems to be the sage Federkiel in
New-Santhala, to the annoyance of not few merchants and other rich people in Thalambath and Strata, who heard of this, for there were not few who wanted to impress with a candle lighting demon-lizard in the past 30 or so years, after one rover had managed to accomplish this task and showed it all around especially in Strata. But unlike their more friendlier cousins from the other regions of the Ráhaz-Dáth, the Deliz is - as his name implies -, a demon and would more likely burn the fingers of his captor than light a candle - as not just one greedy soul in the towns south of the Norong‘Sorno had to learn. From these attempts even a saying was born: "He tried to light a candle with a Deliz!" That means, that somebody tries to achieve something impossible, knowing well, that he would fail and "burn his fingers".

Well, one could now ask, how did this sage in
New-Santhala accomplish this? The author of this report has witnessed it herself:

The Secret of the Deliz Candle-Lighter. Aini Siuu and Lutius Strongleg had reported about the Falserock Lizards in a talk before interested people of New-Santhala. They narrated so brilliantly about these animals and showed some coloured drawings (done by the Shendar writer and artist Talia Sturmwind), that they caught the interests of some well-of nobles. The idea which came up at one point was to bring the lizards up to New-Santhala, to provide them with an area big enough to imitate the Ráhaz-Dáth conditions, so they could survive there as well. Normally this would have happened in one of their estates, but the longing for political influence and the wish to impress not just the visitors of their estates let three of them agree on building it together in the new part of the animals‘ garden near the Big Library.

It took a year, till the building was finished and the stones, sand were brought up the Thaehelvil River by ship and the falserock cacti had rooted and the first flowers appeared. Even soil of the slopes of the Norong‘Sorno was carried through the whole desert and shipped to the capital. Then Aini Siuu went to find a few pregnant female Draard'le and brought them up as quickly as possible to
New-Santhala. The females not only survived their voyage and were set into their new habitat , but accepted it. After four weeks the first lizards hatched, and because this was a great event, some of the persons present in the library came to watch. All made room for the famous sage Federkiel and Dalá Valannía in his company. So it happened, that they both were very near when the actual hatching took place - near enough to be seen by the new little lizards. They were so sweet to look at, trying out their colour changing abilities and showing all colours of the rainbow, that Dalá held out her finger to one, which immediately climbed on her hand. She was so charmed by it, that she handed it over to Artimidor and reached out for another one. That was enough to bond these two to her and to Artimidor, and not only these two, but the entire clutch of fifteen in this case. Obviously the scent of both had clung to the two both had in their hands and when Artimidor put it cautiously back, he became a member of the whole group as did Dalá.

So when they visited the lizard house in the following days, a swarm of Draard‘le came to greet them, took place on every free part of them, not just a convenient shoulder, but the head as well. They showed some intelligence and can be trained to sit on the the shoulders only, but most times they just prefer to do what they want. Especially the two which they had actually touched, show some kind of affection or closeness to them. Accidentally, the first lizard which had given birth to its young had been a Deliz, the black variety living on the Norong‘Sorno slopes. That means, that they are able to spit fire, when they feel threatened. And being a social animal which uses to defend in groups, they try to defend Artimidor and Dalá as well - every time when another person comes too near, they spit a little hot flame towards this person. However, only the sage asked his friends to hold a candle when approaching - and indeed, the little Deliz send their hot flame towards the nearest thing, which is in this case the top of a candle in the outstretched hand - and they manage to light it up!

Now already a year has passed, and the lizards still seem to thrive. In summer the roof is removed at sunny days, and then the Drard‘le are able to fly high. They always return to their refuge, their food and their falserocks. Only two sometimes search for a group member - and if they find certain open windows, they may well leave their footprints on a freshly done map or the next chapter of Katya Dragonseeker.
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At least, the little lizards were good for one thing: They inspired a game ("Catch the Draard'le") and a children song, which goes like this:

Dragon small, dragon tall, fly up in the air!
Dance around, without sound, glister light and fair!
Dragon small, dragon tall, flee the risky air!
Hide away, without delay, time to search your lair!

Myth/Lore. Aini Siuu tells us a myth of her native tribe, the Shen-Siuu living in the southern Ráhaz-Dáth:

How Foiros brought the Lands of Pain to Life. Once Foiros walked over Caelereth and when he came to Southern Sarvonia he came to rest at the top of the Narfost cliffs. And Baveras joined him to look over the vast Ráhaz-Dáth to the south. She pointed at the green valley of the Sharadon below them, at the tocon trees with their white fluffy balls and the bluish shimmering fields of the vhin, at the green dotted open woodlands, and asked him: "Foiros, would you not prefer to see the landscape of the whole desert as lovely green as down there?"

Foiros let some minutes of silence pass, then he answered: "Yes, indeed, I love a green, lush landscape as well. Let me remind you, that it is my hands work, the Injčrá, who brings light and warmth to the northern lands and makes thriving green forests and pastures possible. But look over there," then he pointed at the sand dunes to the southeast, the Seven Jewels, and continued, "Doesn‘t there lie a beauty as well, when the winds caress the golden dunes and bring them to sing a song of durance and eternity?"

Baveras couldn‘t deny that the desert had a charm, despite the dryness. But then she turned her gaze to the far away Lands of Pain and asked: "But what about these regions, nothing than dry stones, emptiness and sadness. Nothing to please the eye and make the soul sing."

And Foiros didn‘t know what to say to these accusations. Baveras went away to dive in the cool waters of an oasis, while Foiros stayed and stared into the desert for three days. But then something which one could interpret as a smile enlightened his face and he left his place to walk through the Lands of Pain. Not long after his visit, a new animal appeared there, the Falserock Lizard. It was a sight to enjoy, it brought beauty to the barren landscape - and it showed Foiros‘s colours white and golden once - when mating - and the eggs had an unusual form, they were perfectly round and had a golden shimmer.
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Researchers. The two most renown researchers of these beasts are Aini Siuu, a Shendar guide known for her excellent knowledge of all paths through the southern Ráhaz-Dáth and Lutius Strongleg, a Helcrani nobleman who is an expert for drakes.

Aini Siuu was called originally Aini Springflower, daughter of Alima the Wise, daughter of Izzah the Mighty, but to make it easier for Non-Shendar to remember her name, she called herself just Aini Siuu after her tribe. Already as a child she was interested in all the living beings around her, her natural affection for animals made her dome sigh every time she came with a new injured beast to take care of. However, what her made famous over the borders of her small community was that she had managed to bind a Falserock Lizard to her. She said, she had found accidentally a lizard which had given birth to its young and that she took one of the eggs with the hatching young. So a female Draard‘le was her companion till it set out to its last mating flight and didn‘t return. As a young woman she accompanied a mithrilan transport from the southern Aj‘nuvic Grounds to Thalambath. During this voyage she fell in love with the arid beauty of the Lands of Pain and the desolate area north of the volcano Norong‘Sorno. What impressed her most, was the abundance of Falserock Lizards and watching their unequalled mating flights was the reason of her frequent returns. After only a few years she was one of the most sought-after guides for the western trading route through the Ráhaz-Dáth.

Lutius Strongleg's passion are dragons. Since he was a small child, he read all what he could lay his hands on. But since dragons are more seen as mythical beasts than as real animals, he turned his interest to beasts which a man could more likely meet, and that where the drakes. With enough nest egg to sustain his researches, he set out to gather all what he could find about drakes, and where it was possible he travelled to actually have a look at the beasts of his desire.

He met Aini Siuu when looking for a guide to the slopes of the Norong'Sorno to visit the famous norraks, a black drake variety living on the volcano. However, the norraks were not what he spent most of his time with, but he encountered the tiny Falserock Lizards, and as a aficionado of dragons and drakes, he at once classified the dDaard‘le as a drake.

So two Draard‘le enthusiasts had found each other, and this was for the benefit of the beasts - and of us, because of the combined efforts of the both researchers we are now able to admire these beasts in New-Santhala. Return to the top

Information provided by Talia Sturmwind View Profile