One aspect of almost every fantasy book I’ve ever loved has been when the author invests enough in world-building that they populate it with interesting creatures. Not only dragons and monsters and demi-human races, but more pedestrian things like plants and animals. Doesn’t it just bring home the feeling of another world when in the midst of a story there’s some mention of something that doesn’t exist on earth, but possibly could?
Our world of Cyrradon is much like earth. It has continents and oceans in about the same proportions as earth, it has a similar lunar cycle and a similar annual progression of seasons. Many of the same animals and fish and plants exist as on earth. But amidst those, we like to draw attention to some we feel make our world special.
In this blog post, we share some of the flora and fauna we’ve created for the world of Cyrradon, specifically in the badlands of Narovia, and what makes them special. We hope they add to the story for you. But whether they influence the progression of the plot, or not, will be for you to discover in your own journeys!
The heart of Narovia is a vast desert badland situated centrally in the continent of West Archaea. Bordered by mountains on three sides, its harshness is relieved only by the headwaters of the Cellith river basin to the north, and the Oncassyx to the south. The inhospitable nature of the Narovian Desert comes largely from the fact that it is the remnant of an ancient floodplain, level when viewed from afar, but deeply pitted and scarred with ravines and treacherous drop-offs throughout its vast stretches. Much of the terrain is exceedingly difficult to traverse, with nearly impassable gorges crisscrossing the landscape, cut continually deeper by flash flooding from brief, rare periods of rainfall. There are few routes through the desert, and they change with each passing season’s effect on them. Most routes tend to skirt the edges of the desert, taking advantage of slightly higher ground to avoid the pits and ravines. It has been said a day’s travel in the Narovian badlands is equivalent to a week’s travel on level ground, though that might be somewhat of an understatement.
Very little grows in the harsh biome of the badlands, mostly consisting of low, thorny shrubs and dry grasses. Burrowing creatures do best in this environment, from ant voles and scrub mice to lotus hares, burrowing foxes, and the occasional flint badger. Water is exceedingly difficult to find, especially in warmer months, often requiring locating the deepest, shadiest trenches and gorges, and doing some digging. Even then, waters are rarely clean and must be either filtered or distilled to be drinkable.
Despite being a desert biome, the badlands are well known to those who frequent them for being not only swelteringly hot during the day, but dangerously cold at night. It is not uncommon for temperature swings of fifty to seventy degrees to happen in the course of one 24-hour period (e.g., 115F during the day, and 45F at night). For this reason, wayfarers seeking to travel the badlands will carry numerous layers of clothing, thin and billowy to protect from the sun at day, and thicker layers to add on against the chill of night.
Navigation is a challenge many first-time travelers of the badlands find more difficult than anticipated, for a good many reasons. Firstly, the rough terrain tends to disorient some due to the fact it is difficult to find distinguishing landmarks in its midst. From atop the surface, it all looks the same; from down below, directions quickly become meaningless in the twisted, jagged cuts and gorges, and the scrabble through the dense underbrush and fallen rock simply takes any sense of orientation away. This often leaves the hapless traveler to find when they rise back up to the surface, they have gone in an entirely different direction than planned, and not nearly as far as they’d hoped. Second, the overhead sun of the Sonntide months gives very little help in the way of shadows or direction. Third, it is not uncommon for winds to sweep the badlands, stirring up dust and sand, and clouding the air such that any navigational landmarks on the horizon become utterly lost. Lastly, the soil of the badlands is known to be pocked with rich deposits of iron ore, which tends to throw off any use of compass needles.
Inhabitants of the Narovian badlands also include some intelligent races. Most common are the desert-dwelling humans of the southlands, the Naharradim. They are quite adept at navigating and surviving in this hostile environment, which they can and do use to their advantage when evading others or hunting them down to be pressed into slavery. In addition, one might chance upon a lone Jeborrhadim of the Agarrim (earth/rock worshiping), Solirrim (sun worshiping), and less frequently the Caerrim (wind/sky worshiping) varieties. While not inherently evil, these solitary giants are all distrustful of other races, and quite formidable adversaries when in their home environments. The Solirrim, in particular, are most dangerous to others as they readily view other races, including other Jeborrhadim, as a suitable food source. One will rarely encounter other races than these in the badlands, although the elven outriders of Hȃrith Althianil do occasionally patrol its northwestern fringes.
A desert-dwelling variety of ant-eating vole, common to the deserts of Narovia. Similar to a common vole in appearance, like a small mouse with an elongated tail, the ant vole has larger ears which assist it in detecting danger and releasing body heat, a survival adaptation in the desert climate. Additionally, the ant vole has developed an elongated snout with a long tongue which, when combined with their excellent digging skills, provide them the ability to detect and feed on a variety of ants and termites that make their homes beneath the hard-packed earth. They are voracious feeders, often consuming hundreds of ants in a single feeding. Their source of water comes from the ants themselves and the honeydew the ants collect and store underground, as well as early morning collection of dew drops from ground-hugging foliage.
(bahn-JEE) A creature of the Narovian badlands, and other areas of deep, dry sands. The literal translation of the name into the common language of men means ‘devil of the sands’. Similar to an ant lion, the banjii is an arachnid grown to monstrous proportions, with a large, flattened head, and powerful mandibles used to capture and kill prey. The banjii makes its home in a burrow beneath the sands. Its home is essentially a funnel-shaped trap, causing any prey that stumbles into the cone of sands to slip down to the middle, where the banjii can emerge and capture it, taking it below to be consumed. The banjii is of animal intelligence, responding only to the base needs for food and safety. Nothing is known of how they reproduce. Some banjii have the ability to create a slimy bubble, which they will use to lure animals of the desert into their funnel traps, thinking it to be water.
A species of badger adapted to dwell in desert scrubland. They are infrequently seen, due to their solitary nature, and the fact they are sometimes hunted for their pelts. The flint badger is quite large, often growing to a full length (nose to tail) of 8-10 feet, with their tail making up just less than half their full length. Body weight can approach that of an average human. Their bodies are built low and squat to the ground, with short, strong legs, and powerful digging claws. Their head and jaws are short and equally powerful, with needle-sharp teeth. They are beautifully colored and prized by hunters for the pelts they produce, especially their tails which have two stripes running lengthwise down them, typically in shades of silver, grey, and coal black. The fur of their tails is quite long, fanning out to either side eight to ten inches. A well-cared for and cured flint badger pelt can fetch a handsome price at market, often enough to see a common family well fed for several months. The flint badger is a stealthy hunter, able to move quite fast with little sound through even dense terrain due to its slim profile and sleek design. They feed on small desert-dwelling mammals and birds. The flint badger is a skilled digger, and not only makes its home underground, typically within or beneath rock piles or rock ledges but also does a fair amount of its hunting belowground. A flint badger will invade the dens of foxes and wild dogs, kill or run off any occupants, and then travel often hundreds of yards belowground, following moisture and its keen sense of smell to find the burrows of smaller mammals. The flint badger is a fearsome creature, which most men will take with traps or range weapons such as arrow or spear. He is well known as the king of the badlands, for there is no creature in that climate who will stand in his way.
A small desert-dwelling species of rabbit, common to the arid badlands of Narovia. They take their name from the fact they are often found in close proximity to clusters of the rare Narovian Desert Lotus. Though they do not eat the flower or its vine, they seem to have an affinity for it and are sought after during the lotus bloom by hunters and foragers. Otherwise, the lotus hare is a fairly typical desert hare, with large feet and ears, and burrows often located underground in low, shady spots where there is subterranean moisture to be found.
Narovian Desert Lotus
Also called the Mid-Winnows Lotus, the Desert Rose, and the Rose of the Longest Night. A rare species of lotus flower adapted to survive in desert climes. This species of lotus, unlike its aquatic cousins, grows from a vine that sends tendrils deep into the ground, sometimes upward of twenty feet, to ensure a constant source of water. These vines are opportunists, wrapping and climbing around other vegetation in their search for the sun. Clusters of these flowers may be found in the lowest spots where shade is frequent, and the natural groundwater flow causes moisture to collect. The Narovian Desert Lotus will bloom once, typically in mid-winter, just after the winter solstice. Blooms last only a week or two, and then they produce seeds with an edible outer nut and a hard inner stone. Small foraging mammals such as the lotus hare will consume the nut and pass the stone in their feces when they return to their burrows, which provides the lotus an excellent start for building new root systems. Its flower petals are sought after by herbalists and apothecaries for the flavorful, aromatic tea they make, as well as the belief they can help cure parasitic infections of the gut.
What amazing flora and fauna have you discovered in your journeys? Let us know! Feel free to post them, either in the comments beneath the blog post itself or in whatever forum it gets posted. If you just have feedback or comments on our world-building, share them, too!
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Jason (and Rose)
Creators at Legends of Cyrradon
Goodreads: Jason Bishop / Rose Bishop