Named after their incredible ability to jump almost one ped high, which is concerning their height (roughly twenty nailsbreadths) very high, Kruswik Hoppers are fierce predators and fast runners. These small lizards hunt in massive swarms, tearing apart land animals bit after bit. Always hungry, Hopper swarms prowl the plains they inhabit and have no compunctions about what they eat. They are small, fast and can quickly overcome their fear of strange or unusual creatures that may stumble into they territory. As the name implies, these lizards call the Kruswik Plain in central Santharia their home.
Appearance. Do not get fooled by the small size of these beasts, because they make up for it with their speed and excellent ability to hunt. The average height of Kruswik Hoppers is twenty nailsbreadths; the average width is ten nailsbreadths while the weight varies from one to one and a half do. This structure with their light bones allows these hunters to jump almost a ped high.
Two layers of scales cover the body, although the head (and limbs) are not covered with them at all which enables fast movements of their neck so they can easily find their place in the heat of struggle. Lower scales are smaller, light green in colour. The upper layer of scales is dark green. These scales serve as very good protection and are hard to notice, especially in thick flora. Due to the fact that the young ones do not have the upper layer of scales (which is harder than the lower one) and are slower than the rest of the group, they are the weaker part of Hopper swarm thus making an excellent target for an attack of other predators.
The head of a Kruswik Hopper is the most interesting part of its body. The prolonged flattened snout reaches the length of a palmspan. There is only one hole through which the Hopper breeds and it is protected with a slimy layer, which acts as a filter. A row of sharp pointed teeth find its place in a Hopper's mouth. The two fangs are longer than the rest of the beast's arsenal and are specially shaped in a backwards hook shape for leaving a wound that will bleed for a long time. The creature, for opening the wound that it causes by a bite, uses a small fork shaped blue tongue.
We can recognize a male from the female by a crest which jutting from animal's fifteen nailsbreadths long neck. This crest is of darker green colour than the upper layer of the Hopper's scales and it has three pointed tops, which go from the highest (five nailsbreadths) to the lowest (two nailsbreadths). Eyes are shaped in perfect circle and are located just a half of a nailsbreadth far from the snout on the skull. The exact colour of the eyes is unknown because they are iridescent. This happens due to the fact that the Hoppers have several lids, which help them see well in the darkness of their lairs as well as on the sunlight.
The body of the Kruswik Hopper is adapted for running, which is possibly the most useful ability of these creatures (other than jumping). Their bodies are slim and are more protected than the head, the scales protect their body so the possible smaller injuries that a Hopper can get will not affect it much.
The legs are also adapted for running and jumping. Strong muscles surround the bone legs of these small lizards. The heel has three claws, one on the backside and two on the front side, although these creatures use only the two front ones for walking or running. The hands are slim with four small claws on the palms.
Special Abilities. The intelligence of Kruswik Hoppers is known all over the territory they dwell in, it is mostly recognized in their amazing hunting ability and in their smart "architecture" of their habitats. When a Kruswik Hopper swarm begins its massive attack, the prey has very little opportunities to escape or even defend itself properly before these little lizards overwhelm it. Also they use their ability to jump high for larger prey or for quick retreats.
Territory. As the name suggests Kruswik Hoppers scour the Kruswik Plain in central Santharia.
Habitat/Behaviour. These little Sarvonian lizards live on the open plain of Kruswik. They make their nests in rare grass bushes or even on an open plain. Their holes are spread all over Kruswik and there is danger of stepping into one of them, in which case you should move very quickly out of it or face much more terrible consequences. The holes have a round entry point with grass hiding it from preying eyes.
The inside of a hole is much more roomier than it looks from outside with two rooms where each of them is around one square ped. One of those rooms is used for egg keeping and there is where the mother digs the eggs into the ground for incubation. The second room is where the parents sleep after a long day (or night) hunt.
The Hoppers live in so-called "swarms" - large groups for almost a hundred members, with nearly ¼ of young lizards and another ¼ of unhatched eggs. These creatures don't spend much time in their lairs and can hunt for days. When they eventually get tired of hunting, they retreat into their homes and sleep for about 15 hours before going on to another hunt.
As the researches noticed, Kruswik Hopper's year is divided in four sessions:
The Sleeping Session
This session lasts from the beginning of Turning Star to the beginning of Awakening Earth. This is a period of the year when Kruswik Hoppers are less active then normal. Their usual activities in this time of the year include: care for younglings, rare hunting, sleeping.
The Love Session
This session lasts from the beginning of Awakening Earth to the end of Changing Winds. At the beginning of this period the Hopper look for their mates and at the end females of the species bury the eggs into their common lairs.
The Territory Clash Session
This session lasts from the beginning of Fallen Leaf to the beginning of Turning Star. In this period of the year the young lizards reach adulthood and are fighting for new lairs. The older seek to make new lairs and are also involved into fighting.
Diet. The Kruswik Hoppers can eat almost every warm-blooded creature (even heavily armed humans or ferocious beasts), though they cannot eat cold-blooded reptiles.
Kruswik Hoppers chase the prey on the plains they inhabit trying to take it down or kill it instantly. The fastest Hoppers run just behind the prey while other members of the swarm chase it at larger distance. When the fastest Hopper or Hoppers succeed in jumping on to their prey and wound it with their claws or teeth, the prey usually slows down so the rest of the swarm can get to it and start their ferocious attack.
There are some eyewitnesses that can verify the strength and the lust for hunt these lizards demonstrate. Here's an account as told by the travelling merchant Kirkuck Kuraine, who picked this tale up from a trusted customer:
A Kruswik Hopper Attack. An old traveller saw the swarm rushing towards a cow, which peacefully ate the grass on a quiet night. The first waves of attackers jumped on the cow, which was unable to defend itself or run away. The second wave attacked the shepherd who was able to knock some of them with his stick. After a couple of minutes there was nothing left of either the shepherd or the cow and the Hoppers fought about the leftovers of their prey. Although the old man was on quite a distance looking at all of this, he was so afraid of the Hoppers that he ran away to the nearest household and stayed there while twenty men from that household went to get rid of the Hoppers infesting their pasture... only ten returned.
Mating. Not much is known about the mating of these creatures because the mating process itself is performed inside the lair. But it is well known from the famous human egg-hunter Worril Sayan and his notes that the male's crest changes colour from green to red when he is ready for mating. It is also known that the eggs remain in the lair, a couple of nailsbreadths in the ground until they hatch. The life of the young is hard and includes learning about hunt and speed.
Usages. The scales of Kruswik Hoppers are used in jewellery making and decorating armour. Actually the lower scales are commonly used for making all sorts of rings, amulets, even fabric (if processed in water correctly). The upper layer of scales is used for decorating armour and swords, where the Hopper's scales are found on hilts and on the blunt side of blades.
Apart from the value of their scales, the eggs of Kruswik Hoppers are very nutritious and healthy but due to the danger of collecting the very same eggs, egg hunters are pretty rare.
Researchers. The only noted researcher of these creatures is Worril Sayan, a Helcrani man who discovered the value of Hopper eggs. He was killed on one of his egg-thefts by a quick Hopper claw stroke in the head. The only thing that was found was his journal that contained a lot of information about Kruswik Hoppers and their lifestyle.