Beneath the eaves of the Zeiphyrian Forest, the graceful Santhalian White Hart lounges placidly in the shade. This small deer is a close cousin to the Black Hart, and scholars suggest that it is the result of crossbreeding between a doe-less buck and a Sarvonian White Deer. It is slightly larger than its black counterpart, although the poison that protects the Black Hart also courses through its veins.
While both species are considered beautiful in their own right, the White Hart
is said to be the more graceful of the two. The average male stands a little
over 2 peds, with the female
about a fore shorter. Their
long, gray antlers curve away from their heads toward their tails, and the
points are very sharp; however, as a rule they are not nearly as intricate as
the Black Hart’s, and measure slightly less than a
fore to as long as a
fore and two
Typically, the deer has keen, pale blue eyes for spotting obstacles in the darkness under the thick canopy of the forest – which is necessary, because it can weave its way through the wood nearly as fast as a galloping horse and as agile as a kitten. Its coat has two layers; the top is completely white, with sleek and smooth hair woven tightly together to help protect it against some predators (it is not very effective against a determined hunting hound, of course), and to help keep its delicate body warm in the winter; its second coat is a curly mass of light gray hair – invisible under its elegant top coat, but essential to its health nonetheless – that protect it from the bites of blood-sucking insects. The White Hart’s hide is rarely used by hunters, as it is considered an ill omen, but some nomadic tribes disregard such superstitions and use the whole beast.
Even those who are capable to feed on the fell meat of the beast have a terrible
time tracking and hunting it, because of its incredible agility and eyesight.
Indeed, few actually bother to engage in such a rigorous exercise, as it is
usually fruitless anyway – and not usually worth the effort. If successfully
trapped, one must be wary of its antlers, which will drip poison if the animal
is threatened, and even a small scratch on the arm will cause an intense and
normally fatal illness. Some cases of Hart Poisoning have been observed, and the
victims have all died in agony: a few moments after becoming inflicted, the
subject will begin to get drowsy. A minute or so later, they will be almost
completely paralyzed, and their muscles will start convulsing uncontrollably.
Usually, the subject vomits a tacky, sticky substance several times during this
– and will die either of a failure of the heart, or by drowning in the bile.
This same poison is also present in the meat of the deer, and will cause similar effects to most subjects. However, some nomadic tribes of humans are reputed to be able to consume it without trouble, as are some species of hounds, such as the Ashmarian wolf. Strangely, no elves, regardless of tribe, have been able to withstand the meat's poison.
Territory. The White Hart is usually found in the mid-southern area of the Sarvonian continent – namely, the provinces of Manthria and Sanguia, within the twin Zeiphyrian Forests and the Auturian Woods. Flushes, or groups of deer, are also sometimes found farther north, around the Tandala Highlands. For the most part, though, it prefers the shade of deep forests.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Hart is not often found away from its flush, which is slightly smaller than that of the black hart – typically two to four individuals, with some of the larger groups containing half a dozen deer. Like its cousin, however, men fear lone White Harts; unlike the black hart, though, it is only chased from the area, and not killed and burned. The average day consists of the deer grazing in early morning out on the vast fields and plains full of alth'ho grass, then spending the day lounging around water holes, rivers, or deep in the shade of the trees. They stay hidden until early dusk, when the deer emerge again for the final feeding of the day, after which they hide again to sleep.
Diet. The main food source for the White Hart is alth'ho grass, which grows abundantly in its territory. But this hart will eat anything that grows, including krakenweed and the leaves of the adlemir tree. The White Hart is also known to eat many poisonous plants that dwell in the area. While these plants can kill most other creatures, this deer’s stomach lining is thought to be much thicker than most animals’ or people’s. This is why the deer thrives on the poison, even though the poison leaves the stomach and flows throughout the deer's body and into the tips of the antlers and the ends of the hair.
Mating. Does from the flushes usually give birth twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. Males are ready to mate when they sense the females are in heat, which they can smell from a long distance. Unusually, male White Harts are reputed to stay with their does for a lifetime, something very uncommon among animals. During the mating season, couples set off on their own to reproduce, and flushes are remade a few weeks later.
Usages. Besides being a food source for various wolves, the hardy Santhalian tribes that feed on the White Hart also use its antlers for the contruction of basic tools, such as daggers and other weapons, as they are very hard and sharp. Its hide, however, is said to be cursed and very few tribes - save the most ignorant or barbaric - elect to use it.
Myth/Lore. The deer is said to be the result of the crossbreeding between the black hart and the Sarvonian White Deer. There is a myth passed among the nomads of the Santhala area that attempts to explain this:
Tale of Black and White. When the
God of the Hunt, Arvins, observed
what was happening to the black hart, he was
filled with sorrow; for he considered it to be the fairest of all game,
and shed a tear for them. They were meant to be a beautiful, graceful,
peaceful breed, but they were not at all. They lived their lives in
bloodshed and greed. The bucks of the species wanted all the does they
could handle, and more than they could, which made for fierce possession
battles, and a lethal competition that raged on daily. So Arvins, with a
broken heart, drew from the earth a
vile poison, and implanted it into the very heart of the
deer, where it spread throughout the entire body,
until it reached the tips of the horns.