THE STEPPE DEER

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

The Steppe Deer, or more accurately named "Fork-horn" or "Green Deer", is a small greenish deer usually found in the Warnaka Mountains, and in far more limited numbers around the Bolder Forest, the Heath of Jernais, the Aurora Fields and a bit spread around western Nermeran.

Why this kind of deer is actually called Steppe Deer is unknown, and there have been several discussions about that name among researchers, as not that many Fork-Horns live on any steppe. The theories are that there once were a lot of Steppe Deer in the Heath of Jernais, but were hunted down by humans and large predators, and lost the best grazing pastures to the larger starback deer. Their small size gave them possibly less chance for defense and speed, which made them a far easier target (except in large numbers), or that there were far more hunters, wolves and other predators who waited along their trails to the Warnaka Mountains, where their large caves and grottos used for hibernating can be found. The Fork-Horns travel to those caves each autumn, along a set of trails trough the Heath of Jernais, the Aurora Fields and the Bolder Forest.

Appearance. A male Green Deer is usually about 0.5 peds tall at the shoulder and about 2.5 fores from the buttocks to the neck, with the females about 5-7 nailsbreadth shorter in both height and length. The body is covered in a dull green fur, with a brown underside and ďbehindĒ.

The Fork-horns don't have the same elegant design as the Starback, possessing a more crudely-shaped body. They have a barrel-chest, with the ribs clearly showing in the early spring. They acquire lots of fat during the summer and autumn, which is used during their winter hibernating. The rest of their body is usually slender and muscular.

The antlers are fork-shaped, which is the obvious reason for the name "Fork-horn". Their greenish-black antlers are built as one thick, straight horn with a sharp pointed end. From the mid-section of that horn, two symmetrical horns grow out, to reach the same height as the ďbasic-hornĒ. Both antlers are symmetrical, and from a distance, only two forks can be seen moving around. Contrary to most other deer, these horns stick on through most of their life, which makes it more important that they are being kept whole through their entire lifespan. Thatís also why theyíre far more bendy, tough and solid than those of other deer species. The antlers are about a fore long, and grown on both sexes, and are wielded as weapons against predators if necessity requires, as they prefer to flee instead of fight unless they are in very large numbers. The antlers don't fall off at the winter, as they do on most other deer.

The Steppe Deer's split hooves have the same greenish black as their antlers. Theyíre made of the same material as the antlers, which makes them tough, and they donít get as easily damaged as other deer hooves. They are broad for their size, which makes it easier to climb around in the mountains.

Another characteristic of the Steppe Deer is their large, broad and curved nose. It is guessed that it is of that size so it can warm the cold winter air when they breathe during the hibernation. It is thought guess that besides that huge nose, and the thick fat layer, their only trick to keep the cold out is to snuggle together in their caves. It is important to remember that Fork-horns donít have a very thick fur, even during winter.
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Special Abilities. The Steppe Deer has some very tough antlers, which donít break easily.

Steppe Deers are not very good sprinters, but they can easily outrun a human on the steppes, or a horse in the mountains. Steppe Deers can keep running for several hours if necessary, so if you donít catch them at the sprint, it is not easy to get them at all.

Steppe Deers can also withstand the winter cold in the Warnaka Mountains, because of their large nose (which also doesnít break easily), a thick fat layer and their snuggling up in the caves.
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Territory. The Fork-horns are concentrated in the Warnaka Mountains, but can be found in the Aurora Fields, the Heath of Jernais, the Bolder Forest and through western Nermeran.

The Steppe Deer migrates from those areas to the Warnaka Mountains in the autumn. They go for hibernating in a few large caves there, until the spring thaw. Then they go all the way back again. There is a set of tracks from these migrations, which can also be used by humans during the summer (but NOT during spring and autumn. Thatís when the Steppe Deer use those tracks, and to stumble on a large group, isnít a nice experience...
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Habitat/Behaviour. Green Deer are pack animals, and can be divided into two different groups of packs. The female packs and the male ones. The female ones usually have the strongest female as a leader, who is on top of the hierarchy. She has a couple of females straight below her, and a few females below those, and a large handful at the bottom. At the bottom, there is only one: the weakest female.

The males usually travel in twos and threes, roaming around their harem, which is a pack of females. Those males also have a hierarchal system, the strongest male on top, another below him and another at the bottom. The one at the top gets the female leader, and the top half of the females. The one below him takes the rest, except the one at the bottom, which the deer of lowest rank reproduces with.

Fork-horns are cowards; they prefer to run instead of fight. They only fight if they are in far superior numbers. Their antlers are sharp, and their hooves hard, so when they choose to fight, they win.

Steppe Deers are not exceptionally bright, but they can as well be quite cunning. If you think you got one, it might be faking death, just to stab you in the belly with its last strength. 3 ten nailsbreadth deep abdomen wounds like that can be fatal out in the wilderness.

The Steppe Deer hibernates through the winter, sleeping in a set of large caves through the Warnaka Mountains. They travel to those caves each autumn, along a set of trails through the Heath of Jernais, the Aurora Fields and the Bolder Forest.

The packs usually join with other packs when the trails join with each other, for protection. In the end, in the Warnaka Mountains, you can see nearly all of the Steppe Deer south of the mountains in one place. Then they quickly split up, into a few large groups and go to each group's cave. To attack such groups, or even a large assembly of deer might be tempting, but most experienced hunters will keep a distance, as:

Large amounts of Steppe Deer are usually very aggressive, and will charge at every excuse. Such hordes of deer are impossible to outrun, and finally they will either trample you, or stab you to death. That also counts for their caves, and when disturbing their peace, you wonít find mercy (unless you climb a tree where they wonít reach you, they will return into their cave to continue their sleep after a few minutes). Return to the top

Diet. Green-Deer - as the name implies - will eat anything green. They prefer grass and similar plants, but theyíre not choosy. When migrating, they might pick the surrounding countryside clean, but as always, nature recovers each spring.

The best pastures are taken by the starbacks, so there isnít that much fodder for the Steppe Deer in those areas, compared to the Warnaka Mountains.
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Mating. Steppe Deer usually mate in the early autumn. Then, as mentioned under Habitat/Behaviour the reproducing is done according to rank.

In the late spring, the females give birth to one or two fawns. The young can usually walk on the day they where born in. About half the fawns survive their first year. If they make it through the winter, the worst part of its life is over, and thereís a fair chance that they will reach adulthood. Nobody knows how long a Fork-horn might live, but it is guessed around 10-15 years. Those who donít live in the mountains probably die at an earlier age.
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Myth/Lore. It is said among hunters, that some of the ogres in the Tandala Highlands use the Steppe Deerís antlers as eating tools. But these are just rumours, said among men around campfires. After a good hunt, you sometimes can hear, "Aah, if an ogre would see us now, heíd eat us with those horns over there, roasting us over that fire." Still, itís a small chance an ogre has ever seen a Steppe Deer, and even less chance that it knows what a fork is. According to Warnaka hunters, this is a tradition built on superstition. Nobody knows where it originated from, it has always been there.
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