The great Havach-Oxen (also called simply "Havach"s, "Quasi-Ox" or also "Platebeast"), unique to Nybelmar, are used as draftbeasts and ridingbeasts. Plated beasts the size of elephants, with powerful curving horns, they are nonetheless placid by nature and timid of disposition. They prefer to herd together, and mate for life.
The male Havach has an imposing greyish-yellow body shaped like a giant bull’s,
heavy-shouldered and tapering down to the hips, supported on slightly bowed legs
which end in padded, reptilian feet. Three flat, clawed, heavy toes stretch to
the front, one back claw extends in a hand-long curve to touch the ground
A blocky head which looks part bovine, part lizard has a deep-set, wise black eye near the top back, just below where the huge horns sweep backwards and out from the skull. A third ‘gift-horn’, as it is called, erupts from the forehead at the centre, beginning a small range of stubby spikes that march back down the neck to peter out at the base of the shoulders. (They make convenient handholds for a bareback rider as long as he or she is cautious not to be thrown forwards against them. As this is a constant risk, despite the placid nature of the beast, dwarven tack usually consists of a nose ring with chain reins, a small saddle with foot rests, and a long neck sheath which is hooked over the top spike and then run down to the front of the saddle, thus covering and padding the stubs of bone.)
A long, underslung lower jaw with thick spatulate teeth give the beast a savage, glum expression which its gentle personality belies. A short, wide flap of a tail held close to the scaly rump seems to serve the purpose only of neatly covering the anal orifice when the animal is not actually excreting.
Of course, the most characteristic aspect of the Havach-Ox is the light armour with which its entire body is covered: tough irregular plates on its shoulders, back, and flanks, merging into smaller scales on its legs, neck, and extremities. The scales can be found in a wide variety of shapes, from triangular to octagonal, and from the size of a baby’s fingernail to a man’s palm. The plates fit neatly under or next to each other, and range in size from a palm to a seatprint (about one fore square), curved and jointed to fit the animal’s body. These plates are often harvested from dead Havach-Oxen, cleaned, fitted with leather straps, and sold as lightweight, tough and affordable shields or chestplates.
The Havach-Oxen are native to the
Nybelmarian plains, but have been
domesticated by the Plains Dwarves of
Nybelmar, who use them as mounts and as transport to haul
the heavy caravan wagons and sledges full of trade goods across the desert.
They spend most of their ten to twenty-year lives marching slowly from one side
of the continent to the other, eating as they go, and being tended in taciturn
but affectionate spirit by their masters.
They have no special abilities apart from endurance, strength, and a penchant for any thing remotely resembling food. They have a natural resistance to most plant toxins, although can be killed by high doses of brewed poisons. They are prone to melancholy if separated from the herd, to foot-rust, and to scale parasite infections, which must all be treated promptly by an observant dwarven owner.
They seem to enjoy the company of their comparatively tiny masters, who feed and stall them in the dry season, pick away the small drilling parasites that get under their plates, take them out to pasture, and provide chagga oranges as a treat once in a while. It might almost be said that the relationship between Plains Dwarf and Havach is symbiotic, so closely have their lives interwoven at this point in history.
Territory. The dry central plains of Nybelmar are the Havach-Ox’s primary territory, though it can be found up to the edges of the foothills. It prefers large spaces and can sustain its huge bulk on a relatively small amount of feed and water.
Habitat/Behaviour. Placid beasts except in rut (see Mating), the Havach spend most of their time moving from place to place browsing. They move only in groups with approximately equal numbers of male and female, and will not voluntarily leave the herd unless seriously ill, at which time they seek out some secluded area like a shallow wash or gully and lie down to either recover or die. The herd is very protective of pregnant members and calves, and will form a defensive circle with the weaker quasi-oxen on the inside if attacked by any particularly large or stupid predators.
They are invariably led by a matriarch, one of the older and wiser herd members, whom the dwarves call TongHuttol (TongHuttol), or BellMother (BellMother). Her seemingly aimless browsing movements throughout the day bring the herd in a large circle, which she will repeat at a slightly different angle the next day, so that over the course of a week or month the herd’s movements (if seen from above) would resemble a multipetalled flower, radiating outwards but always returning to a central resting area, and covering a large area of land. This sense of location is very valuable to caravan leaders, who always have a TongHuttol at the head of their party.
Diet. These quasi-oxen are omnivores without tastebuds, it would seem. Any desert plant, no matter what protective devices it has evolved, is fair game for the Havach’s digestion. Its leathery mouth and tongue make short work of spikes, its gut contains powerful acids that break down the toughest fibres, and it seems to be immune to a large number of mild plant toxins that cause reactions in lesser species. Even goats cannot compete with the indiscriminate appetite of a Havach. It will eat meat scraps, bits of cloth, decaying vegetable byproducts, pine needles, and anything else placed in its feed trough.
Fortunately, the Havach Ox does not eat in proportion to its size, sustaining its huge body on about 5 - 8 hebs (50 - 80 lbs) of food-weight a day, of which( for a domestic Havach) 2 -3 hebs is usually browsed vegetable matter such as cacti, strip-plant, weeds, sword-grass, aloe, and other desert plants, 1-2 hebs dried grasses, and the rest assorted fruit, vegetable or household scraps.
The Havach Ox can also go for a long time without water, seemingly storing it in gut-pockets which slowly dissimulate the liquid into its body, but prefers to have a puddle or shallow cistern on hand for frequent small drinks.
They relish fruit, but as it seems to make their stools loose, the Kavogerim only give it to them as a special treat, and then only the native quagga orange rather than the more expensive imports. During the dry season they subsist almost exclusively on the dried grasses which their herders have harvested and stored, and seem to have no difficulties except with the monotony.
Mating. Every two or three months the females of the group go into heat for a week at a time and are bred indiscriminately by the male members of the group, at least in wild herds. In domestic groups the Kavogerim herder has created a simple but effective metal chain-and-plate device known as the DutDoon (DutDoon or “Rump-Wrap” in the vulgar tongue) which is fastened through a hole drilled in the lowest back scale, pulled firmly around both sides of the tail (which must lift to allow excretion), and then under the belly, covering the genitals of the animal which they do not want bred or breeding. They also control mating by confining their two selected Havach-Oxen in breeding pens or chaining them in pairs within each other’s reach.
Generally this is done well out of sight of the camp for several reasons. The Thergerim are a modest race and rather shy even by human standards about basic bodily functions; also, the rutting males and heat-ripe females are prone to violent, irrational, and above all LOUD behaviour during their season.
Males will head for their desired female (no obvious attraction has yet been discerned) with singleminded purpose and spend a brief time in the throes of passion with her before charging off to try a different female. If another male gets in their way, or, Etherus forbid, is there before them, a painful scene may ensue in which one or the other suitor winds up with numerous gift-horn stabs to his sides or more vulnerable belly. Although the plates are highly resistant, the animal can still be bruised and sub-scale bleeding or severe bruising can result, in which cases dermal gangrene or plate-rot sets in, from the living integument downward. Many older Havach-bulls have nasty hexagonal scars on their sides as a result of plate-rot, and some boast only one eye as the result of a horn sideswipe during rut season.
Pregnancy proceeds normally for the next year (twelve to thirteen months) and the pregnant Havach are the focus of solicitous attention from the other herd members. Calves are born roly-poly with stub-scales already in place which harden and begin filling out within the next few months, and can stand and begin stumbling around almost within hours. They seem to receive a storehouse of nutrition from their mother shortly before birth, as they do not nurse or eat for the first month afterwards; instead, the infant calf lives off its fatty reserves while it learns to graze and nibble insects, fruit, and all the other delightful items that make up the omnivorous diet of the typical Havach.
Myth/Lore. The Kavogerim are reticent beings, to say the least, and so most of this information has been collected helter-skelter from observant travellers, the few wealthy merchants who have purchased a place on a Plains Dwarf Caravan, or research done in the wild on undomesticated Havach-Oxen, and cannot even be verified to the best of our ability, although we present it in good faith. It is to be hoped that it is accurate, but the reader is advised not to attempt to tame a Havach-Ox on the strength of what is given here! However, it is known that the Kavogerim regard the quasi-oxen as a gift from their deity, Hunyeh Hthom (Hunyeh Hthom, see the entry on Beliefs, under the PlainsDwarf Clan) which allows them to survive and find purpose in their wilderness home.
A driving chant (muttered softly and repeatedly to encourage the oxen’s steady trudging on the long trail) was recorded by one such merchant, who knew no ThergerimTaal but wrote down what he heard in an attempt at a syllable-by syllable phonetic transcription. A human mage who has some knowledge of Trade Dwarven then attempted to put it into the language and then translated; the three renditions are given below. Not only is this a rare and interesting piece of poetry from the Kavogerim, it also provides an excellent guide for local Plains Dwarven pronunciation...
Huhn yeah thom eah
Ver ta hon have ach
Ver riss thom yeah diss their catch een air onz
Ver much or diss their ten cheer onz
Ver nick had ah diss their tung air onz
Ver kid diss their care their onz
Ver ca goss diss their chuk hen nee prah uth
Ver hon yeah mar ah ten air onz cull seck with nee
Ca goss lih thep ah null
Ooth ur ten week cull thack where joo en
Ver TaHuhn Havach
VerRizthomyeh Distheh Kachiinerons
VerMuuchor Distheh Tenchirons
VerNikHada Distheh Htungerons
VerGiid Distheh Kaertherons
VerKagoz Distheh (? ChuukHehNi) PraUth
VerHuuhnyeh (? MarAtenerons) Kul ( ? SekWethNi)
Uth Urtenwiek Kul ( ? ThaKwerJuen)
Forged the Havach
Smithed their horns
Carved their feet
‘Made’ (untranslatable verb here) their shields
Set (verb refers to placing in, as a jewel in its setting) their eyes
Gave their.....(unknown word) to us
Hammered .... (unknown plural noun) and ... (unknown)
Gift dear as water
Our thanks and ... (unknown. ‘Praise’?)
Information provided by Bard Judith