THE OPHOCHIO (SWAMP SERPENT)

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

The Ophochio (oh-FO-chee-oh) is an immense swamp wyrm that is found in Northern Sarvonia. It is known by various names: As Swamp Serpent in Santharia, Otorm’tog (Kuglim'seitre), Chor’haz (Styrásh) Kanarolon (Thergerim-Taal), to name a few. It is located in the magic-polluted Crystal Lake of Northern Sarvonia, just north of the Tandalas, and is thought to be something created by the warping of Diorye’oleal magics in that area.

A fight against a swamp wyrm
View picture in full size Image description. A Kuglimz involved in a fight with an Ophochio. Picture drawn by Eratin.

Appearance. This great beast is usually between 5-7 peds long when fully grown. The largest ever killed was 7 peds and one fore long. It has an immense draconic head about 2 fores long, with very sharp, long teeth, large yellow eyes and, like all snakes, a forked tongue. It breathes underwater through its gills, located just behind the jaws and covered by a thin, spiky, cartilaginous crest that usually extends down flat along the neck but is roused and spreads out around the head and face when the creature is fighting. However, it can survive above water without breathing for fairly long periods of time. The long segmented body, which is nearly the thickness of a human man in diameter, is (at the widest point) covered by a thick shell-like hide, except for the softer underbelly. Each segment is about two palmspans long. The hide is a silvery blue-green, the underbelly a pale reddish colour. An interesting property of the hide is that it has a rough, abrasive surface, like that of sharkskin or fine sand. However, the underbelly skin, though fairly tough, is soft and smooth to the touch. A series of sharp ridges runs along the animal’s back from head to tail. The Ophochio also has two small, sharp, curving horns, though they are not used much as weapons. In terms of bone structure, and skeletal formation it is rather unusual, for the bones are a dark purple-red in colour. (If left to dry in the sun, however, they will eventually fade to a pale lavendar shade.) It is thought that this colour comes from the creature's blood, which is thick and mucous-like in consistency, not at all resembling normal blood. The Ophochio's muscles are very thick and dense, rendering the beast extremely heavy. Return to the top

Special Abilities. The most interesting special ability of the Ophochio is the ability to survive above water. Since it has gills, it needs to be submerged to breathe properly, but it seems to be able to go without breathing for as much as a quarter hour without showing any signs of distress. If it is being very active, then it needs to submerge more often. The Ophochio makes use of this ability when lying in wait for prey (see Diet). Return to the top

Territory. The only place this creature is found is in the
Crystal Lake, sometimes along the Luquador River where it feeds into the lake. This is between the territories occupied by the Diorye’oleal Elves and the Kuglimz tribes, just north of the Tandala Mountains in Northern Sarvonia. Since it is not known anywhere else on Caelereth, it is believed to have been created by dark elven magics. There is only ever one Ophochio at a time, but there is always one. Return to the top

Habitat/Behaviour. The Ophochio is solitary and savage. It does not make a territory for itself, though it usually stays in one particular area where the hunting is good. It does not seem to be bothered by climatic changes, though it is not seen often in the winter months. It is not known to hibernate, however.
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Diet. There is almost nothing this carnivore won’t touch when it comes to food. Yellowtail and barsa are some of the most common fish, and it will prey on kaimuni, but it will also lie in wait, floating along just below the surface of the water, watching for something to come along. Once it sees a prey animal (ho’shi, tirpan, capricus, leveret, or even the occasional wooly boar) it waits, then makes a violent lunge forward, seizes the prey in its jaws, and drags it back into the water. It has been known to attack and eat people as well, which does not endear it to the Kuglimz tribes.
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Mating. The Ophochio does not mate, since there is only ever one at a time. However, dissection of one proved it to actually be dual-gendered, or both male and female in the same body. When an Ophochio is killed, a new young one is discovered shortly thereafter. The smallest ever seen was 3 1/2 peds long.

Although the Ophochio continues to grow throughout its lifetime, it reaches maturity in about five years, after which it grows less than a handspan a year. The lifespan (for an individual that survives to old age) is thought to be about 50 years, though few Ophochii actually reach that age.
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Usages. There are not many uses for these beasts, rare and magical creatures that they are. Adult Ophochio are too tough to eat. Kuglimz men who kill an adult will often string the teeth or even some of the sharp back ridges into a necklace to demonstrate their prowess. Possession of the teeth is considered to enhance one's sexual stamina and fertility. Thus they are much sought after when a warrior has actually managed to slay one (which happens very rarely). Some of the Kuglimz familes possess Ophochio teeth which have been handed down for generations. Unattached warriors who have slain this beast enjoy extreme popularity with the ladies. Two women, previously thought to be barren (and so put aside by their husbands) became pregnant by one such warrior, which has led to the belief that possession of the teeth enhances fertility. This belief became firmly entrenched in the Kuglimz mind when one of the women actually bore twins.
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Myth/Lore. As mentioned before, the Ophiochio is thought to be the result of an unsuccessful magical experiment on the part of the Diorye’oleal Elves, which was then repeated deliberately to produce a new one whenever the old one dies or is killed. No-one has successfully attempted to determine exactly what they were originally trying to do.

Kuglimz folklore tells of a hero by the name of Vuk'ine ("Brave Axe"), so named for the heroic deeds he accomplished with his trusted axe, and how he fought the great beast. It relates that the Otorm'tog grew restless and hungry one summer and squirmed its way out of the swamp to the nearby Cur'tyr encampment of Zei'kor ("Lake Camp"). During the dead of night it snatched children and elderly alike and then made its way back to Crystal Lake. Some stories say Vuk'ine's son was one of those eaten, others say his grandfather was, whatever the case, he followed the beast. There was an epic battle, but in the end, trapped by the muck of the Lake, he perished. The Cur'tyr bards say that even though he died, he put so much fear into Otorm'tog that it never ventured from Crystal Lake again.
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Researchers. The main researcher for the Ophochio is actually an elderly Kuglimz ex-warrior, known as Fa’ine (lit. "the brave man"). He is the only warrior ever known to have killed 2 adult Ophochios and survived, once as a young man and again in his early forties. He studied them with great interest and learned about their habits and behaviors. He communicated his findings to a northern traveler from one of Drogo’s expeditions, who passed the information on to the Compendium. Return to the top

Information provided by Alysse the Likely View Profile