|Official Name||Ekhton Rafiqua|
|Common Nicknames||Demon Friend, Pale Spider|
|Habitat||Farah’deen, southern Essalonia|
Ekhton Rafiquas are small arachnids originally from the deserts of Farah’deen and were first discovered by the Qadir centuries ago. The animals are considered by some to be the inspiration for Soul Spiders invented by the Qadir but have older, mythical origins in the former Qadir religious beliefs. They are odd arachnids as they cannot spin webs, lack venom, but are targeted nonetheless as pests by many Songaskians.
The Ekhton Rafiqua have been known to the Qadir for centuries, living alongside them since their civilization first emerged. Qadir mythology described the creatures in a somewhat negative light, claiming they were the friends and spies of a dark being named Ekht, who in some cases also created them. Over time, the animal was acknowledged as being relatively harmless, unable to poison and overly skittish, prompting their origin to be altered. It stated that the species had once served Ekht but had helped to purify him with sunlight, becoming his friendly companions. It was also around this time that the Qadir developed the Soul Spider, with most considering the Rafiqua to be the basis for such an invention, given that they were now seen as harmless companion creatures. However, they were never tamed as they were too skittish. However, they did make the jump from Farah’deen to southern Essalonia through cargo vessels where the similar climate allowed them to grow in number. Centuries passed, and following the Great Storm, the Ekhton Rafiqua was one of the few animals to survive the devastation on Farah’deen. However, they had to endure the same negative perception that had plagued their early years as the Songaskians, repulsed by the arachnids, sought to kill them wherever they could. This fear is carried even today, with many Songaskian cities and settlements viewing the creatures as pests, while the Qadir mostly leave them be. The animal does still bite when threatened, so people need to be careful not to startle or agitate them purposefully.
Ekhton Rafiquas are strange, even by arachnid standards. Their bodies are small, varying in size between four to six inches long if measured from the front and back legs. Their heads are small but possess two bulging front mandibles that are set below two small dark brown or black eyes right at the very front of their head. Their mandibles cover a black, hard chelicerae (jaw) that has a pincher shape and lacks venom. The pincher shape allows them to consume food, but in large animals or sentient Races, only delivers a hard pinch as a defense mechanism. The remainder of their body is segmented, with a cephalothorax middle and a thick but flattened thorax in the rear. Their legs are set into five pairs, each long and segmented, but with the front and rear set having the largest limbs. Their bodies are covered in body plating, segmented like in all spiders, which are colored anywhere from light brown to off-white. The underside of their bodies are much darker, varying from dark brown to black. Their bodies also possess hair, growing along most of their body, though grows less dense on the legs, which is made up for in the length of the hair that does grow there. This hair is either white or beige.
The Ekhton Rafiqua is equal in gender across the entire species, though large areas of the desert may have more males or more females than the other sex, requiring travel during the mating season. The animal’s coloration is also not a result of region or gender, with one from Essalonia able to look the same as one from Farah’deen.
Life Span and Development
The Ekhton Rafiqua has an interesting life cycle as it cannot spin webs to form egg sacks like other spiders. Instead, males of the species leave a small deposit of genetic material for females to sense, with them then going to find and use it to inseminate themselves. The female will then dig a hole, giving birth to 50 to 150 small white eggs. She will then stand guard as best she can to fend off predators who might gorge themselves on her unborn children. This process is often quick, and within two to three weeks the eggs have progressed through a four-part life cycle to become adults, upon reaching the final stage. At that point, they emerge physically small but still capable, and begin to hunt and eat to grow. Within a month, many are their full adult size and are capable of reproducing the next mating season. Females are known to eat extensively before this period to sustain her often foodless guarding of her eggs, as well as undergo a journey to find a male’s genetic material if none can be located nearby. The Ekhton Rafiqua can live for up to ten years.
Ekhton Rafiquas are simple creatures who live like many other animals do. They seek food and water, primarily eating smaller insects or feeding on carrion, though they can also eat plant matter if desperate enough making them omnivorous, but meat inclined. Their hunting techniques are simple, involving sudden bursts of speed and swiftly chomping at their prey. In fact, its speed is the reason most might be scared of the Rafiqua. Their limbs can carry themselves quickly over the sand, which has terrified those observing them, causing them to feel as though they are suddenly being targeted or chased by the animal. In truth, the Rafiqua doesn’t view large animals as prey and is often skittish and deterred from approaching such large creatures. In cities and settlements, Rafiquas can get used to such large shapes. If they are cornered or feel trapped, they will rear up and paw the air in a defensive gesture. Their jaws are only capable of giving a hard pinch and lacking venom, so they are not as scary as many would first assume. When dealing with other members of their species, the Ekhton Rafiqua barely even notices them, only fraternizes when the mating season comes. Females sometimes find and wait for males to produce genetic material before grabbing it up. During this time, the female will keep her distance.
Territory and Groupings
Ekhton Rafiquas live along in holes they dig for themselves in the ground. These dwellings are simple, with at most two chambers where the animal can store and eat the larger food it might find while hunting. These holes lack distinguishing features at their entry and can sometimes be occupied by other creatures when the Rafiqua dies or leaves for a new hole. They can be found throughout the deserts of Essalonia and Farah’deen, as well as in the cities and settlements of these areas.
- Ironically, one of the most common things Songaskians push the Qadir to develop is a Soul Spider capable of hunting and killing Ekhton Rafiquas. For now, that is beyond their power.
- Ekhton Rafiquas are sometimes pitted against other creatures on purpose in very crude animal fighting rings in the poorer areas of Songaskian society.