The Vashkoon is a rust coloured, tree-climbing creature that dwells in the Forest of Souls on R'unor. It is one of the most clever beasts in the chain of islands, seemingly possessed of both hands and the intellect to use them. The Vashkoon is named based on the noises they make, seemingly to warn each other.
The Vashkoon is roughly
a fore in length from nose
to tail, though its tail takes up at least half of that length on its own. They
have a face similar in appearance to that of a fox, with a pointed nose and
"flashes" of lighter fur about the nose and muzzle. The remainder of the
Vashkoon is uniformly covered in surprisingly thick, red fur except the tail,
which features rings of a discoloured red spaced regularly along its length. The
fur of the Vashkoon is typically described as a rusty red though when first born
the cub has a dark, almost brown coat, which lightens to the typical rust and
reaches a dark orange tone as it reaches what would be considered the old age of
The "flashes" about the face vary in colour from a pale orange through creamy shades of red to white. These do not develop until a cub reaches maturity and are unique to an individual. One Vashkoon may have an entirely white face, which is considered lucky, while another may only have markings about the forehead, eyes or cheeks. Regardless of the placement of a marking, flashes are typically symmetrical.
The fur of the tail is also an indication of gender; males have tails with lighter bands between their usual fur colour, while the tail of a female features darker bands. The males also possess lighter coloured ears than females, often of the same colour
The ears of the Vashkoon are curious in that they possess the ability to swivel about on its head, so that they might point to either side, rather than straight ahead. These are pointed, much like a fox's ears, though not as expressive as those of other canines.
The forepaws of the Vashkoon have long, prehensile digits and thumbs, which it uses to climb. The claws on the forepaws are capable of retracting to a length of roughly two nailsbreadths. When fully extended, for use in eating or climbing, these are roughly five nailsbreadths in lengths and have a downward curve. The rear paws resemble more closely the foot of certain simians and also possess claws; these however do not retract and measure roughly four nailsbreadths.
Interestingly, though unexpected given its resemblance to other meat-eating creatures, the Vashkoon has both sharp teeth and blunt teeth within its muzzle, used for its omnivorous diet. Like many varieties of feline, the Vashkoon has eyes that seem to reflect light back, giving them an eerie appearance during their preferred roaming hours.
The Vashkoons are easily among the most intelligent
R'unorian creatures and their facility with
their "hands" is a matter of sayings and proverbs among
R'unorians. Vashkoons use their hands to
handle food, going so far as to shake the boughs of ash fruit trees to obtain
food, and have been observed washing the fruit to remove the bitter taste.
The ears of the Vashkoon are capable of turning in place, a quality which seems to allow the creatures to pinpoint sounds more accurately than some other creatures. Indeed, those who attempt to catch or even observe Vashkoons must be very wary of making noises for they have been known to avoid all but the most cunning of ambushes if they feel threatened.
Territory. Vashkoons are endemic to R'unor. Attempts to transplant them to Nybelmar or Sarvonia as pets fail without a consistent supply of ash fruit, which it seems to require in order to live. In particular, Vashkoons are native to the Tinderwood, as the southern branch of the Forest of Souls is often called. Their preference for living about the roots of ash fruit trees protects them from the fires which ravage the forest from time to time.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Vashkoon is a familial creature, living in groups of up to a dozen adults quite happily. They are fiercely territorial and claim a roughly circular range of some hundred peds across for themselves. There is a tolerance for overlapping territories of other Vashkoons about the edges, but otherwise they will brook no trespass. They have a fierce dislike of the U'arels, with whom they compete for food, particularly ash fruit.
A Vashkoon den is typically a burrow under the roots of a particularly old ash fruit tree. These trees are quite resilient to the fires that periodically raze sections of the forest, and at a ped and a half below the surface, their burrows are quite safe. The fear of fire that they possess is very noticeable, the sound of fire crackling, the scent of smoke or the sight of flames is sure to drive any Vashkoon back to its home with all due haste.
Vashkoons are known to store food in their burrows, including a healthy stash of ash fruit, throughout the later months of the year when the ash fruit tree no long produces fruit.
On average, Vashkoons are most active during the twilight hours, when it chooses to forage for food. They often sleep through the warmest parts of the day, often in the branches of trees about their homes legs splayed to either side of a convenient branch, which gives rise to the idea that these animals are lazy.
Vashkoons seem to have a simple method of communication, among which has been identified a sort of warning call and response. For such small creatures they can produce a noise which carries farther than one might expect, with a cry of "Vash!" going up when there is danger or something suspicious and a cry of "Koon!" when things appear to be clear. The majority of their communication is a combination of barks, yips, assorted chitterings, growls, howls and even bird-like squawks and trills. The sound of a happy Vashkoon is quite enjoyable however, as they seem to whistle a joyful sort of tune in chorus with each other.
Diet. The Vashkoon is omnivorous: insects, root vegetables, nuts or seeds, mushrooms and fruit are all fair game for these animals. Vashkoons have been observed digging up plant bulbs, or nibbling on the leaves of plants to find food, which has begged some researchers to note that it is not a matter of what the Vashkoon is capable of eating so much as what they are incapable of eating.
In addition to simple insects, assorted forms of myrmex or grubs, the Vashkoon is also one of the few creatures capable of dining on the otherwise indestructible tuffchafer, by means of a curious gesture that has only been described as "tickling" the beetles.
They do have one particular favourite, however: ash fruit is crucial to its diet. As evidenced by attempts to domesticate them, Vashkoons die without substantial quantities of the fruit to eat. To eat this typically inedible fruit, they will wash or rub them off in some way, removing a bitter, waxy coating to the fruit, and then split the fruit open with their claws, remove the stone and consume the flesh.
The ash fruit, however, is not the only fruit the Vashkoon has been observed "washing". It seems to treat any food recovered from the ground in much the same way.
The Vashkoon is also capable of fishing. They will stand in the shallows of a river and slap small fish out onto the bank much like a bear, before eating them raw. They shun carrion, but strangely have been observed eating over-ripe fruit, and exhibiting symptoms that can only be described as drunkenness.
Mating. Vashkoons produce litters of up to four individuals. Of these, three typically reach adulthood; at least one succumbs to disease, fire or other animals. Mating occurs in the spring, with the cubs reaching adolescence by the late autumn of that year. By the time the next spring has arrived, the previous season's cubs have reach maturity and have begun mating in their own right.
Males are generally the aggressors among their kind. A male will attempt to prove his worth to a female through gifts of food, and may offer to groom the female as a way of attracting a mate. If two males both attempt to court the same female, chances are that the two will fight over her.
There is a slight discrepancy in population between males and females, with females being in the greater proportion. Generally, Vashkoons will only form one pairing in a year, but in a case where there is a surplus, a male may attempt to attract two mates.
Myth/Lore. Debate rages among scholars as to the nature of this creature, and where it should be grouped. The first specimen presented to Sarvonian researchers, the preserved body of a Vashkoon, was believed to be an elaborate hoax and it was suggested that the creature had been put together piecemeal from other cadavers and then dyed.
One camp believes that it is actually a form of small bear, and suggests that it be grouped with other creatures of that variety. Another believes that it is either of a feline or canine persuasion and point to the Vashkoon's head, which strongly suggests relation in some way.
A small group of scholars believe that the Vashkoon should be properly categorized with monkeys, owing to its very simian hands and seemingly advanced intellect, well beyond that of a simple animal.