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While most bestiaries built upon the work of Erdasian and Ardasean scholars of old, not every creature in them originated from such sources. As bestiaries rose into popularity in Ordosia, their writers and compilers would sometimes try to out-do each other by including animals no-one else had yet described. This lead to some creatures of highly questionable veracity appearing in the later bestiaries and - in part - contributed to the desire and need to start appyling skepticism to these works, one of the early steps in the Ordosian scientific renessaince.

While many of the creatures inserted in the later bestiary era were from local legends or misunderstood versions of previously known and described species, one had very peculiar roots indeed, going deep into ancient Velanneic literature. This was the barking beast, or as it became known in Middle Ordosia after several translations, the glatisant. First included in the Tulsanne Bestiary, believed to be written by Nowertes of Velogne, the glatisant was described as a queer jumble of different animal body parts: It had the head and neck of a snake, the spotted body of a pard and the feet of a stag. It could outrun a horse and turn invisible when out of direct sunlight. It's name, which meant 'the barking one' came from the sound of a pack of barking hounds which emitted from its belly. Nowertes explained the sound was caused by its own offspring that would tear its body open to be born.

As bestiaries of this era were often used to impart lessons about virtues and vice using the animals as allegories, the "unwholesome nature" of the glatisant was explained as being due to a strange combination of incest and bestiality resulting in its birth. Even without this addition, the creature would have been easy to write off as a fictional creation, and it is perhaps for this very reason that the author, whether it was truly Nowertes or one of his adepts, added a reference to the original source: "this was the beast that many ancient kinghts of renown would quest after, as is told in Songs of Chivalry"

Songs of Chivalry is one of the oldest surviving Velanneic literary works, dating back to Ancient Thelquam before the Great Drought, thought to have been written after the beginning of the Long Peace. It is a collection of stories about the valor and chivalry of ancient heroes, especially during the Dragon Wars. One such tale chronicles the adventures of a knight called Arkaton who travelled across the seas to Velannean colonies facing hardships of varying nature. In an unnamed location in the south he first meets a strange, seemingly tame beast, that emits the sounds of barking dogs from its belly, and later a king that has spent his life hunting for it with his sons, just as his father and father's father did before him.

The creature is not given a name, but the description is very similar to the Tulsanne Bestiary: "light-footed like a peowra it was, in shape and colour like a pard, dappled all over, with the haunches of a lion and a head most strange, like that of a waurmi." Being such an old work, every translation had added some distortions to the text, so while peowra was correctly translated as 'stag' or 'deer', the legs weren't originally described shaped like those of a deer. Even more problematic was waurmi, which could be correctly translated as 'snake', but was also applied to some large lizards and based on one source could even refer to a crocodile.

It eventually became commonly thought that the barking beast from the Songs of Chivalry was an attempt to describe a camelopard, a giraffe, and the land Arkaton had travelled to was a long since abandoned colony in Khadasia. However this consensus formed centuries after the golden age of fanciful bestiaries, and thankfully so, as another bestiary revealed another clue to the unexpected origin of the glatisant. The Dunfern Bestiary from the island kingdom of Fritland, that copied most of its content straight from the Tulsanne Bestiary, included this curious addition to the entry about the glatisant: "Furthermore, the beast is known to the Baernians as the Quastra, whom they in their foolishness consider divine."

Fritland was in constant contact with Baernil through trade, so its inhabitants would have known about Baernian beliefs, even though they did not always mesh well with those of the Fritlanders. Baernil was about as far from Khadasia as one could get on Aren, and had had very little influence from ancient Velannea, yet their mythology did indeed include a creature that matched the one mentioned in the Dunfern bestiary: Echyr-Kwaster the dream guardian, rarely referred to simply as the Kwaster. This being was said to patrol the borders of the land of waking and land of dreams, and was one of the forms that Urmashi the dream god could take. Echyr-Kwaster was described as having a head and neck shaped like those of a dragon, body like a cat but stiff-backed, and covered in scales all over. Like the glatisant, it was golden yellow and covered in spots, black or blue in color. It was a fast runner, but the only description of its legs or feet mention that it "springs on toes long and nails hard", clearly suggesting something different from a cloven-hoofed animal.

All of these details were unknown in most of Ordosia until Eminius Dracken, a pioneer of earth sciences and antropology discovered this odd connection while mapping the shores of the Otar Sea and gathering knowledge of all the cultures that lived by it. He was opposed to the then prevailing theory that the barking beast from the legend of Arkaton was a giraffe and proposed that instead it was the same unknown animal as Echyr-Kwaster that the Baernians had met long ago. His argument was mainly built on an ancient cryptic verse in the Baernian Tome of the Earth that stated the dream guardian was native to the "lands of the south where summer reigns in winter and dreams walk the waking lands."

Dracken was convinced that this fabled land had to be Southern Erdasia, located in the southern hemisphere where summers coincided with winters in the north. He had good reason to believe this was the case, as Baernians had been familiar with perytons long before they were known in Ordosia, and Dracken himself had seen peryton skulls during his visit in Baernil that seemed to prove they had visited the southern continent.

Most Ordosian scholars were skeptical of Drackens hypothesis, but some remained open to the idea, including Elquaras, among many other things a childhood teacher of Peleorom, who grew up to form the United Empire. In his biography the Emperor recounts how Elquaras read him the Legend of Arkaton, and the story of the fantastic beast pursued by an entire line of kings, perhaps a real animal never before seen in the north, ignited a spark in his mind that grew into a lifelong quest to find every legendary beast that he could. He would even muse that perhaps he was the last heir to that ancient king, finally completing the family quest.

At least emperor Peleorom lived to see the mysterious glatisant captured. Just as Dracken had insisted, the animal was an inhabitant of South Erdasia, recognizable to the inland Atal tribes from description as cuacuatl, a predatory animal found in the savanna that produces a very distinct barking noise. The Baernian description of its appearance proved more accurate than the Velanneic one, as it had mentioned the animal was covered in scales. In fact it was both scales and scutes, because the beast appeared to be a strange terrestrial version of a crocodile, straight-legged and built for running.

The real glatisant was roughly the size of a greyhound, though its tail was much longer and more muscular. Its head was neither that of a snake nor a dragon but a curious mix of crocodylian and canine features, "as if someone had tried to fashion a dog out of a crocodile", as Edmar the younger wrote in The Anatomy of Scaled Beasts. Its skin was golden yellow and covered in simple spots that blended into stripes in the long slender limbs, around the neck and towards the tip of the tail. The animal walked on its toes, which numbered three in the forelimb and four in the hindlimb. Each toe bore a hoof-like claw.

As it had been described, the glatisant proved extremely fast at short range, faster than gryphons or horses, specializing in the fastest prey animals, generally fairly small game, in the South Erdasian savanna. While it is metabolically much closer to a true endotherm than a ectothermic reptile, the glatisant can't support such vigorous activity for long, but has to stop and rest for a long time to recover from the spurt. At this point it often presses itself tightly against the ground to make itself as unperceivable as possible and remains motionless until it has recuperated or is forced to flee.

Glatisant's legendary ability to disappear may be explained by good camouflage and the burrows they dig for nesting, sleeping and generally hiding in from larger predators. It has however been suggested that the glatisant may have some ability to psychically affect and alter the senses of anything actively pursuing it, though this effect has not yet been convincingly demonstrated. If true, this would make it the only non-mammalian animal with such an ability.

The barking that gained glatisant its name is a sound that the animal rarely emits in nature. Usually it is entirely silent, but uses hisses or strange throaty squawks when it needs to communicate. Only during the mating season do they produce the sound that resembles muffled barking. It's worth noting that the Atal still believe the sound is coming from the belly of the animal, which may be partially because the glatisant does not open its mouths while producing this call. Certainly it is not coming from its offspring, which hatch from eggs laid inside the nesting burrow, and would have to be very unfortunate indeed to end up inside the belly of a barking glatisant, which is always the male.

The questing beast of Arthurian fame was actually one of the first creatures that I tried to give the Aren Bestiary treatment in the late 90s or early 00s, before I had even figured out the format. I know for sure that in 2002 I had completely given up, having not come up with a plausible evolutionary history, appearance or even a proper-sounding name ("the questing beast" has always struck me as more of a description than a name) for the animal. Instead I made it a chimeric dream creature, gave it a made up name and ended up using it as a part of the background of a short-lived chat RPG character. That creature makes a cameo here, though I did alter the name a bit.

When I reinvented the Aren Bestiary in 2006 I had completely forgotten about the questing beast, and when I started working on reviving old bestiary entries in 2013 I only had the faintest memory of a strange vaguely archosaurian running creature with black and blue spots. Only after I bumped to the original mythical creature again last December did everything start clicking into place. I did some digging and realized I now had what I needed to make the beast work in Aren. What resulted was, for me, a refreshingly different entry to the bestiary - after I excised most references to the usual recurring characters.

In a way even though the questing beast was absent from Aren, and for a long time I had no intention to include it, its story did affect both the world and the bestiary indirectly. I pretty much created emperor Peleorom as an expy to King Pellinore and Palomides who had quested after the Beast Glatisant in Arthurian legend, though his role was to seek not one but all of the strange beasts of legend that were real animals in Aren. So when it came time to bring the questing beast back into the fold, I decided to keep Peleorom's role to a minimum and also avoid any more direct references to the real world legend.
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2014  Professional General Artist
I assume you have back-ups of all these descriptions? Text files on a computer or flash-drive, etc? I always worry with really good spec-projects that the descriptions will be lost, as has happened partially with The Speculative Dinosaur Project.
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:iconosmatar:
Osmatar Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
I try to keep several backups of everything these days. The trouble is remembering which backup is the most recent, and which flash drive it's on. 
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014  Professional General Artist
sounds like it's all in good hands :) cheers :)
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:iconevenape:
Evenape Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Supercursorial crocodiles taken to the extreme... Love it! It's a very novel interpretation xD
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:iconosmatar:
Osmatar Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thank you. It was one of those times that I went over the description: reptilian head, predatorial coloration, long hooved legs, then suddenly remembered the hooves of Pristichampsus, then the notosuchians and suddenly everything just clicked into place! I imagine the glatisant to have evolved from an Araripesuchus-like ancestor.
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2014  Professional General Artist
so it's simply a land-croc? That's great :) I was under the misapprehension that it was a triassic-style curotarsan...
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:iconosmatar:
Osmatar Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
I like to pick animals that would be more plausible in a real world setting, so usually I'll take a Maastrichtian taxon over a Triassic one if I can.
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014  Professional General Artist
True. I suppose your salamander is a plausible exception, seeing as Earth has platypi, which are literally no more of a stretch than a living cynodont, I mean, think about it.
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:iconosmatar:
Osmatar Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
That's exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote about the salamander. :D
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014  Professional General Artist
great :)
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