The Tol Averyim (Thergerim for "one who lives underground", short "Avrym" commonly also called "Mine Thief") is a medium-size mammal, about a ped in length if stretched out from its nose to the tip of its bushy tail. It dwells underground in caves and mines. A pair of very large eyes dominates its sharp face. The Tol Averyim is an herbivore and will eat whatever plants it can find, including fungi, moss, and lichens. When near dwarves, it eats tuberroots, carroots, turnips, and blood-fists.
Appearance. The average Tol Averyim weighs a little more than two hafebs and is about a ped in length when measured from its nose to the tip of its tail. The Tol Averyim is covered with a thick layer of black fur with three gray stripes running down its back. The creature has a large bushy tail (about 1/3 of a ped long) with black and gray rings that resembles an elongated pinecone. There are no obvious external physical differences between male and female Tol Averyim. It normally walks on four legs but stands up on its hind legs to see. To help dig up and handle its food the Tol Averyim’s hands have three long fingers with sharp retractable claws at the end. Yet its most outstanding feature are its eyes. They take up over half of its face, allowing it to see in the caves where it dwells. The Tol Averyim has very thick eyelids to protect its eyes from falling rock and debris. It also has a rather large, pointed muzzle tipped with a keen black nose, allowing it to sniff out food very effectively.
Beside its remarkable sight and good sense of smell, the Tol Averyim is an
excellent rock climber. It uses its climbing skill to reach high rock
outcroppings and ledges safely above ground. Mine Thieves also possess a good
amount of intelligence and are rather clever.
Territory. Tol Averyims live underground. They only dwell in caves and mines near the surface, where food is available. An individual’s territory is often very limited, usually only a small cavern or two. They often like to live near Thergerim settlements where they find an abundance of food from the farms. There is especially a high concentration of Tol Averyims in the Mithral Mountains and in the city of Kor Mithrid.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Tol Averyim spends most of its time looking for food. They are most active around dusk to midnight. Though they are living and sleeping alone, they often form groups of three or four to seek out food. They group together like this to confuse farmers who cannot fight them all off and almost always lose some of their crop to the creatures. When the Tol Averyims sleep, they prefer to sleep on rock outcroppings and ledges high above the reach of possible predators. This has caused them to become rather skilled at rock climbing. The Tol Averyims are active almost all year long but whenever food becomes scarce, especially in the winter, they hibernate for approximately a month.
Mine Thieves normally don't show aggression toward each other. If one wants to pass through another’s territory it will announce itself with a loud screech; the occupant will then screech back, allowing the other to pass through the territory unharmed. If one enters another’s territory unannounced, the occupant lets out a high-pitched, extremely annoying, scream, warding the other away. Usually the intruder will simply leave, but if the intruder won't leave a fight breaks out. Whichever one wins keeps the territory.
Diet. Tol Averyims will eat nearly any plant. But they have a special liking for tuberroots, carroots and turnips. The Tol Averyims often sneak into farmers' fields to have their fill of those roots. Some lucky Mine Thieves, who are near enough to the cavern cities, can live off scraps of food they find. Where dwarves aren’t present or when a crop has been harvested they settle for certain types of edible fungi, moss and sometimes lichens.
Mating. Mating season is in the mid-summer. During mating season both male and female Tol Averyims leave their territory in search of a mate. There is no behavioral difference between male and female and both tend to be non-aggressive.
Once two of the opposite genders have selected each other, they mate. It is unknown how the mates choose each other and there is no knowledge of any dances or other mating rituals. After they mate the male stays with the female until the babies are born. Gestation period is on average three weeks long. Once the babies are born the younglings are divided between the two parents. There are normally six babies in a litter, but if there are an odd number of babies the male always gets the extra one. Both males and females have functional teats along the belly, and are able to feed their young milk. So, the male then takes his younglings back to his territory where he cares for them.
At birth the babies have no hair and are about a half of a palmspan long. Within three weeks the younglings have almost a complete coat of hair and have grown to a little over a palmspan in length. At this stage the young have learned to climb and start learning how to feed themselves, by following their parent around. After about three months the young are fully developed and are forced to go live on their own by their parent.
The average lifespan of a Mine Thief is about five years and they first mate at age two.
Usages. The dwarven farmers who kill the Tol Averyims while protecting their crops often skin and dry the pelts. They trade the pelts to local tailors and craftsmen who fashion hats and coats out of them. The warm, fur clothes are used by many in the cold winter months. The meat that comes from the animal is tough and possesses a rather metallic taste, but is edible. The small white bones are often used to carve intricate pipes and are sometimes shaped into simple daggers.
Myth/Lore. Farmers will do anything to keep the pesky Tol Averyims away from their crops. Here is the account of one dwarf who watched her neighbouring farmer go to extremes in the attempt to protect her crop...
this spring my neighbour, Cudac Thoren, dug a three fores deep and six
fores wide trench around her entire field. She filled it with water,
because those pesky Tol Averyims have no great fondness of water. A small,
but well built drawbridge was constructed, allowing her to access her
field and keep those evil demons away. I thought her a little obsessed
with protecting her crops, but I saw no reason why her idea wouldn’t work.
Information provided by Lucius Helvil