Endless Blue – Week 51 – Cattle of the Fluid Nations: Barnard’s Swallower   1 comment

Zoology

Cattle of the Fluid Nations: Barnard’s Swallower

NOTE: The images and ideas presented here are copyright Alex Ries and based on his Barnard’s Swordswallower concept, except for material previously posted in the Endless Blue campaign setting blog.  The use Alex’s work here is not meant as an infringement of those rights, and is used without permission.  It does not qualify as Open Game Content as per the OGC document.  If you enjoyed what you have read/seen here, please visit Alex’s website at http://www.alexries.com, his blog at http://exozoo.blogspot.com, and his DeviantArt page at http://abiogenisis.deviantart.com.

Barnard’s Swallower

Gargantuan Aberration (Aquatic)
Hit Dice: 4d8 +4 (22 hp)
Initiative:
Speed: 20 feet (4 cubes)
Buoyancy: Shoals (adjustable)
Armor Class: +1
Base Attack/Grapple: -3/+13
Attack: Water Slap (1d8 points of subdual damage)
Full Attack: Water Slap (1d8 points of subdual damage)
Space/Reach: 40 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Net
Special Qualities: None
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +4.
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 9, Cha 8
Skills: Hide -5, Search +7, Spot +7, Survival +7
Feats: Improved Grab, Improved Natural Armor, Snatch,  Tracescent
Environment: Temperate, open waters (Shoals)
Organization: Solitary or mating pairs.
Challenge Rating: 1/2
Treasure: None, other than body parts.
Alignment: Always neutral.
Advancement: Young (1HD), Juvenile (2-3 HD), Adult (4 HD)
Level Adjustment:

A Barnard’s Swallower, shown with its “mouth” open and about to feed.

The Swallower is an ubiquitous example of packbreeder success.  It has been credited with domestication by the Barnard family as far back as the Bronze Age, and has served alongside the various piscean species consistently ever since.  Its relatively robust health makes it ideal for areas of temperature extremes such as those in the arctics or tropics, where it fares only slightly less well than in temperate waters.  Thoroughly domesticated, swallowers that are let loose into the wild or wander away from safer currents quickly fall prey to native predators.  Their ability to survive on their own has subsequently been bred out of them as their role as livestock as been bred into them.  The wild swallower has since all but been hunted to extinction by the indigenous races of the Known World.

Approximately 40 feet long from tip of sail to end of net, the Swallower is most notable for its distinctive knife-shape trunk and crop.  The trunk has about the same degree of flexibility as that of a Mer’s spine, and trails a ventral fin from tip to neck.  Its epidermis is a blubbery, resilient skin that is a mottled slate grey along the dorsal side and a pale bluish-white along the belly.  A series of six paired openings along the trunk are the gills of the beast.

Barnard’s Swallower coloration.

Swallowers are hermaphoditic, with a reproductive system that both provides and receives genetic material.  When the mating season begins, swallowers congregate in wide, open waters and release their seed packets into the currents where hopefully another swallower will swim through the plume of sperm and collect enough to become impregnated.  Self-impregnation seems to be biologically impossible due to the creature’s own immune system.  But it is expressly due to this “pollination” method of reproduction that piscean selection could begin the animals’  slow alteration from wild beast to domesticated livestock.

Combat

The swallower is a docile beast, slow to move and relatively weak despite its size.  It makes a poor beast of burden; instead its value to piscean settlements is as livestock.

The ventral fin acts in many ways like a keel, and undulates in a rippling wave to produce forward momentum, much like the fins on the side of a squid.  Normally the eddies created in the currents from this motion would scatter prey in proximity, but the swallower developed a hunting skill to account for this — it will snap the fin in a strong, sharp swat, effectively smacking small prey with a wall of water.  While their senses are overloaded from the impact of the water, the swallower can scoop them up in its net.  Few so buffeted can collect their wits again before they are engulfed.  Their main diet is comprised of great gulps of plankton that are easily found in the blooming open waters of Elqua, supplemented by the occasional small fish or other animal unfortunate enough to be caught in the Swallower’s uniquely evolved digestive system.

Internal Anatomy of the Barnard’s Swallower

The bulbous portion hanging down from the “blade” is the animal’s digestive system, which parts open in much the same way a bivalve clamshell does.  When it does open, it releases a sheer, billowing “net” anchored to thin limb-like protrusions.  This fine fibered netting is organic in nature — a silk derived from glands lining the Swallower’s bulb — and is used as a sieve to filter the animal’s preferred meal stock from the ocean’s currents: plankton.  Much like the massive whales, the gargantuan Swallower is dependent on one of the tiniest species of life for its continued survival.

Living creatures are pushed into this organic colander due to the disruptive currents of the Swallowers fin, where they are caught against the slime covered net.  This mucus is constantly being secreted while the net is inside the Swallower’s bulb, and is slightly acidic due to the collection of enzymes that give it the tacky qualities that trap its prey.  As the chemical reactions from the enzymes break down the trapped food, it sloughs down the netting in the form of a nutrient rich nectar, perfectly prepared for digestion.

When the net is closed again, the joint seen at the back of the Swallower bends under the bulb.  There the briny bouillabaisse pools over what constitutes the creatures actual mouth.  An esophageal tube runs back up the back of the Swallower’s net limbs, carrying the pre-digested catch to the stomach proper.  The connective netting between the folding limbs is a natural forming silk, that allows water to strain through the membrane but keep its plankton catch intact.  The enzymic acid it excretes to dissolve its prey also wears away at this silk, so the netting is in a constant state of repair.

The Swallower’s net grab does not inflict damage.  Instead, it slowly excrete enzymes that kill prey collected in its net.  Treat the enzyme as an Acid.  It can Snatch Large or smaller creatures in its net.

Circulatory System of the Barnard’s Swallower

Despite it grand size, the Swallower has an easily mappable circulatory system.  A series of veins and arteries transport the blood over the animal’s body by means of small sac-like organs at the base of each gill.  These are primitive hearts, muscular pumps providing the pressure to move blood to needy organs.  Exhausted blood is circulated through the gills by means of small vascular loops.  Due to its lethargic lifestyle, the ponderous beast lacks a powerful central heart like pisceans possess, and as a result over-stimulation has been known to make the creatures faint.  This makes them easy prey in the wild.

Nervous System of the Barnard’s Swallower

The neural network of a Swallower is unsurprisingly primitive.  It is of no revelation that the animal has never demonstrated any form of higher thinking skills, despite the best efforts of numerous packbreeders to create a better, smarter Swallower.  At best the nervous system can essentially maintain the creature’s autonomic systems functioning.  The most complex thought processes the animal can achieve is feeding and movement, and not always at the same time.  It accomplishes nature’s evolutionary requirements, and nothing more, spurring the piscean phrase “dumb as a swallower” for anyone or thing that barely functions above a comatose state.

The intent of selectively breeding Swallowers has results in various fields.  Resources scavenged from a Swallower are:  enzymes for alchemists, silk for weavers, skin for tanning, even meat for eating.

Rumor has it that a tribe of Locanth nomads has begun a concerted effort to re-introduce the Swallower to the wild.  Their packbreeders are attempting to breed self-reliance and animal instinct back into the creatures in order to restore the previously wild version to the shoals of the Gulf of Locanth

“It is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, but seldom is it less risky…”
— Sensate rationalization for many of their indulgences.

One response to “Endless Blue – Week 51 – Cattle of the Fluid Nations: Barnard’s Swallower

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 63 – Elqua’s Blue Dragon « Endless Blue

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