THE TSOR-SHOTAK ("GIANT MOUNTAIN LIZARD")

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

The Tsor-Shota (TSOR SHOW-TAH, singl. "Tsor Shotak") or "Giant Mountain Lizard", is a heavy, slow moving lizard native to the mountains of Northern Sarvonia. They primarily can be found in the Imlith, Celeste and Prominent Mountain ranges. The lizard's extremely tough and scaly hide is often used as armour by the reclusive Kaaer'dár'shín human tribe while the lizard meat is often dried and stored for consumption during the tribe's winter months. Despite the lizard's unsightly appearance and dangerous bite, it is a shy animal and is rarely seen by travelers.

Appearance. The Tsor-Shotak lizard averages over three peds long, from the tip of its snout to the tip of the tail, with the males easily weighing nine hebs and females weighing up to six hebs. The lizards possess thick, muscular bodies covered in dark brown to black scales. They lie flat upon the ground when still but when they move, they pick themselves up on their legs and crawl with their bodies fully off the ground while dragging their tail. Their legs are heavily muscular with wide padded clawed feet that are approximately one palmspan across and toes with which to grip and hold the steep mountainous rocks of their homeland. Their heads are well over a fore in length with a blunt snout and two large nostrils at the tip. The lizard's eyes are small, dark beady looking organs.

The Tsor-Shotak Lizard

View picture in full size Image description. The Giant Mountain Lizard of the Imlith, Celeste and Prominent Mountains of Northern Sarvonia. Especially its hide is often sought and used for armour by the Kaaer'dár'shín. Picture by Seeker.

The Tso-Shotak's tongue and mouth are noteworthy in that the lizard's bite is nearly always fatal, causing a infection that will eventually kill whatever has the misfortune to be bitten, even if they escape immediate death. The anima's fully opened mouth is wide and is capable of seizing and holding prey much larger than itself. The many rows of teeth line the upper and lower jaw and are small with each tooth only one nailsbreadth in length. Light green saliva coats the animal's tongue and mouth. It is this saliva that causes the infection when seeped into an open wound. The lizard's tongue is a dark pink in colour, approximately two palmspans in length, which is used to flick in and out of crevasses and holes to detect food. The lizard uses the tongue to smell odours in the air.

The
lizard's tail is almost as long as its body, slightly under a ped in length. The tail is used for balance when the lizard runs, climbs trees or even for self defense. The lizard often uses its tail as a weapon when it swings it with the goal of tripping or sending its opponent off balance so the animal can bite its throat or belly.

The main parts of the Tsor-Shota's body that the
human Kaaer'dár'shín tribe finds useful is the lizard's hide and meat. The hide is mostly black in colour, and quite tough to penetrate, almost like a turtle's shell. However, when cured with salt water and the sap from the tulmine tree, the hide can be made flexible enough to actually be crafted into an armoured vest for a human to wear. The hide provides protection for the lizard from the sharp rocky mountain surfaces where the lizards live but also allows the lizard a surprising amount of flexibility. The hide scales are small, almost beady in appearance, arrayed in different patterns of varying degrees of brown, black and dark grey.
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Special Abilities. Tsor-Shota lizards possess two unique methods of defense. The first is the tough, elastic hide. The hide is flexible and difficult to tear or stab through and this provides excellent protection from the hard gravel and sharp rocks that the lizard frequently travels upon. This hide has also been adapted for use as armour by the Kaaer'dár'shín tribe.

The lizard's second method of defense is a highly infectious bite. The Tsor-Shota will rarely fight to bring down large prey and instead use its bite to infect it and slowly weaken it. The lizard's mouth and teeth are coated with a powerful, poisonous saliva that enters the bite wound of prey and infects the victim over a period of three to four days. The site of the infected bite turns red and swells causing extreme pain in the victim. Within those few days, the victim ceases to be able to breath and slowly dies. The lizard's acute sense of smell allows it to track down the dying prey and eat it without struggle.
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Territory. The Tsor-Shota are generally found in three major mountain regions of Northern Sarvonia - the Celeste, the Prominent and the Imlith mountain ranges and plateaus. They are not found elsewhere as they do not travel for long distances and crave solitary living among the caves and crevasses of mountainous terrain.

The lower areas of the mountain sides are where the lizard can be found. They do not generally venture much higher than about three strals as they do not prefer the colder mountain tops. The lizards prefer to live in heavily brushy areas where they can hide and where the soil is softer for burrowing. Small caves and rocky holes are favourites. The lizard will visit lakes and streams in lower mountain areas for drinking, but will rarely make a den near any major water source. Ideally, if a high mountain stream can be found, most likely a group of lizards will be living nearby. Anywhere dry, arid and rocky with few large trees are where the lizard prefers to live.
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Habitat/Behaviour. Tsor-Shotak lizards spend most of their time underground in burrows, caves and abandoned dens from other animals. The lizards prefer dark, damp places to live and sleep during the daylight hours and hunt at night. The lizards will typically search until they find a den or nest and if it is empty, they will quickly move to take it over. If eggs or young of another animal resides in the den, the lizard will waste no time eating the easy prey and make a home for themselves.

The animals prefer to live in clustered groups of rocks and brush away from sight. During mating season, the females will gather in small groups and remain together within large dens while the males fight for mating rites. Once mating season is over, the males and females go their way to live and hunt alone. They are solitary creatures, usually taking a den for a lifetime and only search for another when the food within their territory becomes scarce or to find more room for laying eggs.

The
lizards are aggressive when provoked and are most alert and roaming at night. During the daylight hours, the lizards will burrow or crawl deep within a hole or crevasse and it can be quite difficult for hunters to find them. When cornered or captured, the lizard will thrash its heavy tail and attempt to bite with its powerful jaws. The lizard, however, is slow moving and slow to attack and a quick, agile hunter can easily dodge their attacks.
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Diet. The Tsor-Shota are meat eaters and will feed upon living or dead flesh. They hunt during the evening and night, crawling over and under burrows and caves searching for nests with eggs or young. They prefer small to medium sized rodents and birds. The lizards are slow moving and will usually not give chase to fast moving prey. They will lie in wait and ambush any passing prey by quickly lunging at it and biting it in throat or belly. Once bitten, the lizard holds on to the prey with its jaws while its poisonous saliva enters the wound and begins to cause an infection. The prey then can be allowed to escape, but not for long. Within three days (depending on its size), the prey will succumb to the bite's infection and begin to slow down. Usually, the area of the bite will swell and become inflamed while the animal experiences increased fatigue and pain. Once incapacitated, the lizard has only to find the dying prey and eat it. The Tsor-Shota eats large meals infrequently and once they eat their limit in food, they are not required to eat again for several weeks or months.
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Mating. The Tsor-Shotak lizard's mating season is in spring during a period of three to four months from the months of Changing Winds to Rising Sun. During this time, the male lizards seek out any females and begin their courting ritual by grunting and swinging their tails from side to side in rapid succession. When two males encounter each other, they will fight for domination over any females nearby. The winner of this contest, usually not fatal, will win the right to mate with as many females as he is able. The losing male is forced to move on to a new territory. Should he be lucky enough to find any uncontested females, he must first win them over with the mating "dance" before being allowed to mate.

The females are pregnant for about four months before laying eggs during late summer and early fall. The female will forage alone and find a damp, empty burrow and rest quietly for many days. She will be alert, but will not hunt during this time. Then, over a period of several hours, she will lay her eggs. Usually a typical nest will contain three to four eggs. She will stay with the eggs in the nest until they hatch five months later in the spring the following year.

The young look like tiny versions of their parent. They are born alert and full of energy and venture from the nest early.
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Usages. The Tsor-Shotak lizards are used primarily for their meat, which is said to have a stringy and heavy consistency, but also said to be quite tasty when cooked over a spit or dried and salted. When dried, the meat can last for many days and provides excellent nourishment for the nearby tribes who hunt it and store the dried meat for the winter months.

The hide of the
lizard is also used primarily by the Kaaer'dár'shín tribe for body armour and cover for their shields. The animal is killed and skinned and the hide is set to dry for several days. Once it is dried, the hide is stretched and tied together and worn over clothing and tied further around the warrior's waist, arms and neck. The dark coloored hide armour provides an excellent method of hiding in the dark and is also tough and flexible enough to withstand the rigours of hand-to-hand battle.
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Myth/Lore. The name Tsor-Shotak means "tough skin" in the old tongue of the Kaaer'dár'shín. This human tribe has made use of the lizard for many generations and guards the known lizard's hunting and living territories from others who would want to also use the animal as a resource for themselves. It is also known that the Ashz-Oc orc tribe utilizes the lizard's hide for a type of armor, but it is the Kaaer'dár'shín who have mastered hunting and using this lizard to its fullest.

The
Kaaer'dár'shín have an old fable about the Tsor-Shota that is told to young warriors by the tribal shaman. It goes something like this:

"The Tough Lizards are gifts to us from the gods. They provide all we need to live. They give us hide to soften the blows of our enemies. They give us meat to feed our hungry bellies. They strike hard and fast! Their enemies fear them for they know that certain death lives within their bite. Be as the Tsor-Shota! Mind your ways, but be ready, for the enemy may come as a thief in the night and you will be called upon to strike them low. Watch as your enemies cower and flee... watch as they whimper and cry. Watch as they die a slow death. Be as the Tsor Shota! Tough, deadly and without mercy." 
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 Date of last edit 11th Singing Bird 1668 a.S.

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