|Common Nicknames||Jorr-Rammer, Lesser Urlan|
A ram-like beast with tusks and more horns than its head seems capable of bearing, the Erker is a frightening creature when first encountered. However, the Urlan tamed many long ago, and those most often seen are in their company, unnerving but no longer surrounded with superstition or speculation, though many a northern horror tale still mentions them. Ridden by the Urlan, Erkers are likely to only rise in prevalence as the years go on, and as the Urlan continue to spread.
The history of the Erker is believed both by outsider scholars, and the Urlan themselves, to be related to the ancient efforts of the Oorl Worm. As Oorl Worms will always change a subject to possess horns, alongside often having the appearance of some form of hoofed mammal from across Aloria, the Erker is believed to be the unfortunate victim of an Oorl Symbiosis effort. While the original creature the Erker might have once been is now lost, it is clear they were perhaps Trolls or some form of canine life given their extra physical traits beyond the horns and other features which mark a clear influence from the Oorl. However, unlike the controlled forms of the Urlan, the Erker is a monstrosity in the eyes of most, with far too many horns, gnarled and uneven, alongside a tusked face with a dense cloud of hair between all of it. Urlan oral tradition calls these creatures terms approximating to “Lost Siblings” in Common, but they have widely been considered by Velheim Ailor as the attack beasts of the Urlan, worse in some ways to the Silvershale, because of their warped and unhealthy appearance. Like the Silvershale, Erker are also ridden by the Urlan, and are much more common a sight to outsiders, though this has done little to dispel the unease around the creatures. As Urlan numbers continue to grow in recent times, their adoption by the Regalian Military accelerating this process, it is only a matter of time until the Erker are a common sight alongside the horses of returner Ailor riders.
Erkers are physically imposing with a length of between seven and nine feet, and a height of between five and seven feet. Their weights are heavy, but varied based on the individual of the species. Their head is their most notable feature, with a small mouth filled with a mix of sharp and flat teeth alongside two short, jagged tusks that jut upward, a flat and broad snout above that, and a pair of narrow, black eyes set above that. However, the shape of their head is hard to make out and is often warped by their most prominent feature: their horns. These ashen-toned protrusions emerge from the forehead, the side and back of the head, and some even sit on the small space between the eyes and the nose. They are gnarled and rugged, often twisted or curled in strange ways, and are capable of reaching up to a foot in length, though they usually break off well before then. The rest of their head, even the narrow cracks between horns, produces a bristled, rough hair different from the rest of the body. Their head is connected to the body with a thick and short neck capable of supporting the animal’s head and the shocks that come from behaviors of ramming and headbutting. Their upper torso is heavily muscled, leading down to perhaps the creepiest aspect of the animal: a pair of semi-boney paw-like hands with four fingers and black claws each, attached to the two bulky front legs above them. Meanwhile, their rear limbs are more conventionally bovine, with a narrower but still strong build ending in two black hooves. The animal has a very short tail. Erker bodies are often coated in a thick layer of dark-toned hair in a shade of gray, black or brown. As mentioned earlier, the hair on the animal’s face is different, and is known to gray with age, gradually falling out in the oldest of the species leaving the animals bald.
Erkers have some diversity given the range of hair colors they can possess, but otherwise are hard to tell apart. Both males and females have the horn formations and both have similar physical builds with an individual’s size or weight more based on their own personal activities than a family or parental trait. Males are different from females in that there is a slight imbalance favoring males in the population, at a small ratio of three males for every two females.
Life Span and Development
Erker lives are strange. Their gestation period is one of the shortest of any species of both their size and classification, at only three months. Females are also capable of birthing between two to three Erklings, a larger number than other “bovines.” Erklings are hairless and hornless when they first emerge, requiring the shed hair of others to blanket a resting area. While they are rapidly on their feet, they are also unique in that they do not run off or attempt to test their legs much. For as much as a month, they remain in the care of their mother in her “nest.” After this month has passed, Erkling hair will rapidly come in and they will begin to leave the nest. In this early period, they look like shaggy lambs, but soon, their maturity begins the production of their horns. At around three months, the First Horn comes in, and rarely breaks for the rest of the animal’s life. This is soon followed by others, and the animal’s shaggy look is replaced with more of a wild one as their physical build also increases, their “hands” growing larger, and a greater aggression entering their mentality. By the age of one, they are considered a young adult and leave their mother’s side, becoming full adults around the age of three. They are capable of living some thirty years in the wild, and closer to fifty when under the care of the Urlan.
Ekers are given their name for a reason, but they are not always berserking about in aggression. Such displays are often contests in the packherd pecking order with no real malice involved, but given how they throw their heads around, hair flying and snarls easily heard, it comes across as far more savage. However, the contests of mating season can get rather personal. Older males who dominate the packherd do not take well to that dominance being challenged, especially regarding their choice of mate. Despite that aggression, Erker couples do not stick together longer than a month or two, at most contributing some of their body and head hair to the female’s nest. As opposed to this aggression among the males, females get along much better and form loose friendships, where other females will occasionally assist in the raising of Erklings belonging to a close companion when they themselves lack offspring. They will also aid in the creation of the nest, which is a simple large pad of the packherds shed hair. Erkers are omnivorous scavengers, rarely actively hunting other animals unless desperate, instead following the hunters and taking their meager cut, being supplemented by hardy lichen, mosses and other smaller plants that survive in Jorrhildr’s harshness. Erkers get along well with Urlan and do not challenge them for dominance or other such things despite their physical similarities, with Urlan often also allowed to help care for the young, and break up bouts of competition between males. However, they are less comfortable with other Races, Asha in particular causing them to growl.
Territory and Groupings
Erkers exist in packherds of between twenty to forty individuals, led by three or four alpha males. When a packherd gets too large, a packbreak happens, where one or two alphas will actively head in a different direction from the others, often being followed by a handful of others, reducing numbers by about a third or so. Packbreaks are often when creatures like the Thylan or hunters from Aloria’s Races attack, with the animal group dividing in confusion if the Alpha leading the departure effort is killed. In domesticated surroundings, packbreaks are rare, but if they do happen, the Urlan just shuffle the new group to another part of the settlement. Packherds in these areas are often larger as well, but not by much, reaching sixty or so members. Competition between separate packherds does tend to happen, but while in the wild this can lead to injuries if not death, the barrier provided by Urlan tenders often prevents this in domesticated packherds
- Erker were once considered the offspring of the Urlan, or some juvenile stage of the Race. To voice such thoughts today is deeply offensive to the Urlan.
- Erker skulls are highly prized by those who worship the Void.
- Some believe that the Erker were not animals transformed by the Oorl, but a Lesser Race now lost to whatever happened when they encountered the Oorl Worms.