Species (animal, vegetal, semi-sentient).Lifespan:
Around 20 years on average.Description:
Similar in purpose to dust crawlers, but far more specialised, grey shriekers are both a weapon aimed to eradicate Galbarian fauna and a defense for their sluggish brethren against forces capable of outmanoeuvring or overpowering them, such as fiberlings or mortal trappers. They are predatory beings that, while more selective in their appetites, are no less voracious and invasive, and almost as capable of destroying an environment's ecological balance through their habits.
Amalgamations of the most successful large hunting animals to be found in nature, including, among others, fleet-footed manglers and heraktati, with the anomalous traits of the crawlers, shriekers are fast, resilient and capable of surprisingly complex pack tactics. While they do not usually gather in stable groups, but rather sweep through territory in a sparse order, they remain almost always within hearing distance of one another. The rasping cries (in truth produced by an organ similar to a cicada's tymbals, albeit far larger and more articulate) that lend them their name, though seemingly monotonous, have a range of subtle inflections. This allows for a variety of definite warning and coordinating calls, which, remarkably, are usually combined in short sequences (for instance, "large prey-surround-pass this on") to build a veritable plan of action, however crudely. Despite this uncommon ability, the creatures are not consciously aware of the meaning of those signs, and act purely by reflex.
Shriekers, unlike crawlers, are carnivorous and possess a fully developed digestive tract. However, its organs are supplemented by minute internal void rifts, which allow them to decompose tougher or normally incompatible elements such as bone, hainshell or hair, a useful ability given their predilection for hunting fiberlings. Those rifts can likewise be shaped into a means of attack by fragmenting and expelling them through an orifice. In addition to being greatly harmful to beings sustained by immaterial energy, whose flow they disrupt, such disturbances can disintegrate pieces of solid objects they touch, thus giving shriekers a fighting chance against foes impervious to their natural weapons.
The reproductive cycles of grey shriekers are irregular and frequent. Along with their hermaphroditic physiology, this causes their populations to grow in dramatic leaps rather than at a steady rate. Rather than being an evolutionary drawback, the ecological unsustainability of this process only makes them more useful for their creator's plans. Impregnated specimens lay clutches of between three and six eggs and burrow them into the ground, deep enough to be safe from dust crawlers. After a gestation period of roughly two months, the newborn emerge as subterranean larvae, which spend between two and five years underground before emerging and moulting into adult forms. During that stage, the nascent shriekers already exhibit redoubtable aggressiveness and appetite, often surfacing to attack unwary prey aboveground.Appearance:
Grey shriekers are quadrupeds with backward-jointed limbs, as large as an adult herakt and covered in an angular, ligneous segmented exoskeleton akin to that of dust crawlers. Their bodies are elongated and relatively sleek, surmounted by a leathery, retractable sail-like crest. Despite the creatures being tailless, this organ still serves a steering purpose: rather than running like manglers, shriekers move in locust-like pounces and bounds, and catch sufficiently strong winds to adjust their trajectory, or ease the load on their hind legs (which are appropriately larger and more powerful than the fore ones) for longer leaps. Their short, blunt heads are dominated by multiple eyes, protected by translucent membranes, and an imposing pair of horizontal mandibles distantly resembling the pincers of a whip scorpion
. Although their bite is itself dangerous, their main purpose is to protect the true mouth, placed at the tip of a muscular extendable proboscis, from penetration by fiberlings. Similarly, their respiratory orifices are located on their backs, as in heraktati, and concealed among junctures in their carapaces.
Shrieker larvae have longer, bulkier bodies, with short flat limbs suited for burrowing. Their soft and flexible shells are a paler shade of grey, and their eyeless heads have noticeably less developed protective mandibles. Nevertheless, save in their earlier stages, where they resemble little more than monstrous bloated grubs, they are clearly recognisable as similar to the adult individual should they be observed in full.