"Blessed (is) the man who calls an Aj‘ his friend" - "Seyella blesses you with an Aj‘, a tent and a true husband" - "All a Shendar needs is the wide desert and his Aj‘" - All these sayings show us the importance of this perhaps most prominent animal of the desert Ráhaz Dáth and the Narfost Plain. The Aj'Nuvic is vital for the Shendar way of living. The name derives from the elven word for ai, meaning "before" and "nuvic", the word used for all races. Thus it is said that the Ai‘Nuvic is the animal which lived already in the vast planes of the Ráhaz Dáth before the intelligent races arrived.
|Image description. Two young Aj'Nuvic drinking at an oasis. Picture drawn by Talia Sturmwind.|
With a shoulder height of over two peds, the Aj'Nuvic
is one of the tallest mammals living in the Ráhaz Dáth.
The Aj‘Nuvic has a shiny fur ranging from a soft white to a light gold brown. If you touch it, it feels hard and smooth, but underneath it is very soft. Its hind legs are slightly longer and more pronounced than the front ones, this gives its back a gracious curve which is carried on by a long neck. Tha Aj'Nuvic's head seems a bit small, but has the same delicate features as the whole body. The pointed, in comparison to the head rather big, ears are able to move in nearly every direction and can be twisted in a manner that they cover the opening and protect it from sand whirling around in a sand storm. The soft sensitive nose can be closed as well. But the most prominent feature of the Aj'Nuvic are the eyes of a golden brown, able to see very well in the dark. To protect them the eyes are surrounded by dense eyelashes. In the bright daylight an additional transparent skin covers the eyes and the Aj‘Nuvic closes the eyes at least half as well.
Another remarkable part of the body of this beast are the paws. They are qite large and have three limbs pointing forward and one very small to the back. Between these limbs, which the Aj‘ can spread apart quite far, is a skin so indestructible like the one of the Rahaz Estar. With these the Aj‘ is able to cross moving sands without effort and is very fast compared to horses. It also has a not too long tail without any remarkable features.
Male Aj‘nuvics furthermore have especially long hair on the chest (which is sometimes ornated by the Shendar with coloured ribbons or braided skillfully ).
Special Abilities. The Aj‘ is adapted to the desert to a very high grade: It is able to live without water for over two weeks and can drink salty (sea)water without any harm. If it is very hot the Aj' has the ability to sweat with every part of the body and cool therefore his body temperature or, if the water in the body drops under a certain level, raise its body temperature up to 20% over the normal value. It takes the needed water not from the stomach, but out of its blood circulation and other liquid reservoirs within the body. This way it can lose one quarter of its body weight - and gain it again very quickly when water is available. An Aj' may drink up to 20 buckets of water in half an hour and is able to stay without food up to four weeks without losing its strength and endurance.
The Aj's nasal capabilities are very extended and perform the task of heat exchange.The air which is taken in is cooled down so that the amount of water in the air exhaled is cut down to 30%.
Territory. Aj'Nuvics can be found exclusively in the Ráhaz Dáth desert at the southernmost part of the Sarvonian continent.
|Image description. A Shendar woman of the Shen-D'auras living around the Seven Jewels in her typical clothes with her aj‘nuvic, the familiar every Shendar bonds with when coming of age. Illustration drawn by Faugar.|
Habitat/Behaviour. As the Aj'nuvics play very important roles in the life of the Shendar, they habitat is strongly related to the Shendar way of life:
One of the most important times in the life of a Shendar is when (s)he comes into maturity. At this time every Shendar child goes into the wilderness and tries to capture - with the help of relatives - one of the young Aj‘s which are nearly mature. This is the time when an Aj‘ is looking for his life time partner, but is not yet ready to leave the parents. The relatives - only men in the case of a boy and only women in the case of a girl - help to separate the young Aj from the parents with the help of their own animals. Then they beat the young Aj into the direction of a fenced small area where it is held for 61 to 77 days and where only little food or water is available for it.
The task of the child is now to win the "heart" of the young Aj by bringing him the favoured leaves and water every day, sit near it, talk to it, tame it. The child itself gets only little or no food as well to share the feeling of hunger with the animal. In the beginning the food is only given to the Aj by stretching out an arm through the fence, but the Aj won‘t accept it, so the child has to go after some days into the fenced area which is highly dangerous. The Aj then has nearly its full size of over two peds shoulder height and is in a desperate mood. All relatives have gone back after the first days and the young Shendar has to prove as well in this time that (s)he is able to survive in the desert.
The Shendar believe that the desperation of the the children, barely 13 to 14 years old and for the first time alone in the desert move the hearts of the Aj‘nuvics and that they finally accept the donated leaves of the kids. And as soon as a child has been given a leave from the Aj' it is save and has found a friend for the entire life. The human child is now the partner of the Aj' which won‘t look for one of his kind any longer.
After the given time of 61 days the relatives of the child come back to see if the bonding was successfully, which is the case nine out of ten times. The Aj' will now follow the child back to the tents and eventually after some time allow the child to ride it. If the bonding wasn‘t successful, the Aj' is released and the child gets a second chance in the next year.
Sometimes it happens that two of the Aj‘Nuvics that live with the Shendar produce an offspring. But this young Aj‘ is very unlucky. None of its parents will care for it, it is totally neglected and has to be raised by the humans. Though much effort is put into this, the young animal will never gain the strength and the radiant appearance the wild raised animals have and will eventually die. Those who come near maturity are bonded, or at least the attempt is made with handicapped children who could for any reason not go through the normal maturity ritual. They are both brought into the desert where they have to live on there own for a short period of time (3 to 9 days). This is very often successful, the need of the two, Aj' and human child, to support each other seems to tighten their relation.
How to ride an Aj‘Nuvic
The first thing what is to mention is that the Aj‘Nuvic will not allow a lead on its head or anything touch its head in general. It is a sign for a very close relation between an Aj‘ and its human if the Aj‘ allows him to caress it between the ears. So the rider has to tell it where to go either with signs with his/her hands or feet or by shouting different words in several distinct modulations and a combination of both.
To give its rider some security and allow him/her to ride in a fight standing on his back more easily, a broad leather band runs horizontal around its chest and to its back, under its tail and back to the chest. From this leather band several smaller are running over the back to the other side, which are fixed to each other in a complicated manner, varying from family to family. Attached to this "net" are several bows in which a foot can slip and gain hold and support while riding. A saddle is not used very often, the Shendar wants to stay in direct contact to his Aj‘ and allow its skin to breath, a blanket is the only thing which is used sometimes.
Beginners and "guest riders" often have the problem that the Aj‘s back is quite pronounced and that therefore an inexperienced rider tends to move in the direction of its neck - if the Aj‘ is in a bad mood it just lowers its head and its rider greets the sand.
The Aj‘Nuvic is the Shendar's friend. It is his weapon, his shelter, his means of transport, his child, his belong.
The Aj‘ won‘t allow any other person to ride it without his usual rider present. The Shendar can‘t use it therefore as animal to transport goods, because there are just not enough Aj‘s around, everyone has its rider. At the contrary an unlucky person who is guilty for the death of the Aj‘ of another is killed in a ceremony to hold evil away and if he is responsible for the death of his own Aj' he is not killed but further on an disrespected person of his tribe.
Because of the above mentioned habits there is no milk production and of course no Shendar would eat the meat of an Aj‘. For the purpose of gaining meat, milk, wool and for transportation the Shendar use another animal, a distant relative of the Aj‘Nuvic, but easier in keeping and herding, the "Rahaz Aka". With these animals the Aj‘s are able to live in good relationship, but it is not possible to keep the Aj‘s together at night. The more Rahaz Akas are between the resting Aj‘s the better the peace is kept.
Very few wool is gathered in the springtime by currycombing the Aj's fur, which is used only for special garment.
Its extraordinary social and economic significance gain the Aj‘nuvic from its use as a mount. It is the Aj‘Nuvic which allowed the Shendar to seize the power and control the desert. The Aj‘Nuvics supremacy over the horse what the living in the desert concerns, the fact that it was not available for other groups (like the Rahaz Dath Mercenaries e.g.) who tried to gain access to the desert made the Shendar to the true masters of the desert.
It was the agility of the Aj‘ which allowed them to establish informal relations and form greater political structures. It was the Aj‘, which opened a restricted horizon only stretching from one valley to the next, which bridged over the width of the Ráhaz Dáth, which made freedom possible. In a society where the people live so far apart social contacts are only possible with the help of the Aj‘Nuvic.
Aj'Nuvics feed on everything they find in the desert: Grass, shrubs, leaves or the bark of trees,
nearly all plants they can find including Vhin. But
they are hunting smaller animals as well, especially when the female is pregnant and breast
Mating. The Aj‘ chooses its companion when about to get mature. In the mating ritual one of the partners (male or female) starts to look for plants the Aj‘s favour, most times the leaves of a special shrub, and brings them to the desired individual. This goes on for several days till the other animal accepts the donation. Once accepted, both bring each other leaves or other special food which is accepted gratefully from the new partner. This partnership lasts a life long, they stick to it till death, wandering, hunting and playing together. If one partner dies, the other stays alone for the rest of its life. The lifespan of an Aj‘ is 70 to 80 years.
Only a pair with one to three kids of different age live together. But if there is an occasional encounter between two pairs one of them retreats without fight. As long as the offspring is very young they stay at one place in a hiding, but as soon as possible the family moves from one water hole to the next.
The only time when groups of Aj‘Nuvics can be seen is when they look for a partner. If an Aj is old enough it will leave its family and join one of these groups when meeting one by chance. These groups may stay together for one to two years. Aj‘s which have chosen a partner leave this group.
Myth/Lore. Being so important for the Shendar it is not very surprising that they believe that the Aj‘nuvic was given to them by Seyella as a present and as a reward for their true belief in her. From this they derive their right to rule the Ráhaz Dáth, only made possible through the Aj‘Nuvic.
Information provided by Talia Sturmwind