THE FIRE FERRET ("SCORCHER")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING

"Scorcher" (Fire-Ferret) is the common name given to a sub-species of Ferret that lives in deep volcanic caves, usually near magna outcroppings. This Ferret was first recognized as a unique species due to its metallic droppings, which contain a high concentration of minerals from the surrounding areas. This Ferret is also noticeable due to the light flame which it emits through the end of its leathery tail. Although hard to find, the Fire Ferret has been researched extensively for its potential usefulness.

Appearance. The Fire Ferret is commonly double the size of the Common Ferret (up to 6 palmspans in length and 2 palmspans tall), although size and weight can vary depending on the concentration of metals and other nutrients found in the areas which they inhabit. It has a rodent-like shape and appearance, similar to the Common Ferret, although it is hairless. A long snout and sharp black eyes decorate the narrow head, while the body is lean and supple. The leathery black hide excretes small amounts of sulphur.

The most notable feature of the Fire Ferret is the tail from which it gets its name; the tough hide which covers the tail excretes various highly flammable liquids. The claws of the Fire Ferret are also worthy of notice, since through some process yet to be analyzed the metals from the area in which the Ferret lives seem to bond to and reinforce its teeth and claws, allowing the Ferret to burrow through soft dirt and hard rock alike.

The process which makes the metal bond to the claws and teeth also seems to make it resistant to extremely high heat, and less prone to rust or degradation, which is another reason this Ferret has attracted so much attention.
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Special Abilities. Fire Ferrets have many interesting abilities, all related to surviving in its harsh habitat. The Fire Ferret is able to take in a number of poisonous liquids and then excrete them through its skin, such as sulphur. Some catalyst within the Ferret's body causes these ingredients to harden harmlessly on the outside of its skin, eventually flaking off and falling to the ground as the animal moves.

The Fire Ferret is also able to digest metals, purifying and refining them in its body; the dross is excreted along with its other fecal wastes while the pure forms are bonded to its teeth and claws. As these body parts begin to wear, the metallic build-up is redirected to replace any deficiencies. If necessary, excess metal is stored within the bones of the Fire Ferret or excreted in the droppings as a last resort.

The metals thus stored in its body are extremely resistant to high heats and seem to be stronger than in their original forms; lead, for example, has been found to be almost as strong as steel when bonded on a Fire Ferret's claws.

The most well-known ability this Ferret has is its flame-throwing tail, which excretes the most flammable of all the volatile liquids the Ferret consumes. The liquids can then be ignited, usually from the high heats in which the Ferrets live - although it has been found that the liquids are so unstable that they can spontaneously combust even at low temperatures. Fire Ferrets have also been observed to literally "explode" once dead; it is thought that this is because the corpse can no longer excrete the flamable liquids held within it, causing a reaction intensified by the tough hide which hardens very quickly after death.

The last but most fascinating ability of the Flame Ferret is its resistance to poisons. Scholars believe that because the beast has been exposed since before birth to its hostile environment and the various poisons, it has simply built up an immunity. However, experiments to validate this point of view by removing pregnant or breeding Fire Ferrets to a more controlled environment in which they can be observed by our mages have been completely unsuccessful to date (by which we mean that a number of explosions have taken place and rendered our observations useless...)
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Territory. Fire Ferrets can only be found deep underground, in volcanic territory, near sources of magma. Fire Ferrets also appear to be non-territorial creatures who ramble where they please in small groups, burrowing as they require new sources of metals and other nutrients.
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Habitat/Behaviour. Fire Ferrets appear to live a very long time and have been observed to form small family communes in which both males and females live alike. This relationship will be disbanded after a single mating season. Although in areas where metals are scarce Fire Ferrets will often live alone.

The Fire Ferret will spend most of its day either sleeping or tunneling for metals of which it will eat. Due to little or no contact with humanoid species they seem to be fearless towards them, although they are a passive creature which will only defend itself if attacked and even then will try to run. If attacked a Fire Ferret will try to urinate on its attacker and if successful it will then attempt to swing its tail near the attacker, trying to ignite the urine and deter the attacker.
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Diet. The main diet of the Fire Ferret consists of minerals in the area of which it lives. The Fire Ferret will also drink Magma and has also been seen to lick sulphur off rocks near magma flows. Not much else is know about the Fire Ferrets diet or digestive system due to the fact that they litterally "explode" after dying. It has also been noted that the Ferrets somehow have a stable amount of liquids in their diet although where the liquids come from or what they are is as of yet unknown due to the unstable nature of all excreted liquids from a Fire Ferret.
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Mating. Mating is very similar to the Common Ferret's mating cycle except it happens once every 3 years instead of every year. This could be because of the Ferrets' harsh living conditions. The mating season lasts for only 2 weeks in which females will seek out males to mate with. The females could move through many miles of tunnels or even make their own to find a male. When mating time draws near a male will excrete substances from its tail it would normally excrete in its urine only. The male will normally do this in a large area, the effect being that the urine can ignite and the resulting smoke will filter through the tunnels attracting females. It is yet thought that males that have a higher sulphur content in their urine will attract more females, though how females are able to tell what smoke comes from what male is still a mystery.

Mating itself is very brief once the female comes in contact with a male it will get into a ready postion allowing the male to mount it. The male will stay mounted for only a few minutes before seperating. After this the female will leave the male who on his part will continue to attempt attracting more females by igniting its urine.

After the two weeks of mating season are over the males will return to normal, whilst female will attempt to find a running magma flow. Once found she will collect large amounts of soft dirt and use it along with sulphur from the magma itself to create a nest the female will stay in and around this nest for a month before giving birth. Before the birth the female will also take large amounts of hot magma in her jaw and deposit it in the nest using the fire on her tail to keep it hot. She will then give birth to a litter of 2-4 pups which she will place in the magma to climatise them to the heat. During this time the pups are most likely to die. Those that do survive live in and around the nest for the next two months growing rapidly and seemingly doubling in size every week. During this time the mother will bring the pups more magma to eat as well as metals and rocks she has excavated during the final two weeks before giving birth. After these two months are over, the mother will take the pups away from the nest and teach them how to survive. After another 2-4 weeks the pups will be fully grown adults and will leave the mother to live on their own. The exception of this is if the area where they live is abundant in minerals in which case they will live with the mother until the next mating season until they will go their own ways.
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