Gallovian Black Mountain Bear
|Gallovian Black Mountain Bear|
|Official Name||Gallovian Black Mountain Bear|
|Common Nicknames||Mountain Bear, Soot Bear|
|Habitat||Mountains of Gallovia|
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears hold a significant amount of cultural significance to the Highland Ailor of Gallovia, the land the Bear calls home. Living in the mountains away from most civilization, the Bear was sought out in times passed and killed as a perceived symbol of the oppressive Skagger Horde that conquered Gallovia for a number of decades. Today, the Bear is allowed to thrive by many as the practice evolved from killing to wrestling. Aspiring masters of the School of Lecgaen or young Highlanders willing to brave great danger and test their mettle seek out the Mountain Bear, all in order to wrestle it into submission. Luckily for them, the animal’s dull claws made such a task easier than it might with other wild creatures, but it is still a great test of power and skill befitting the rugged lands of Gallovia.
The Gallovian Black Mountain Bear owns a long and difficult history with the people of Gallovia. In the beginning, things were generally positive. While it is unknown when or where the Ceardian Ailor population that would one day become the Highlanders first landed and expanded, the Black Mountain Bear was not encountered in these early years. Instead, rumors stirred for several decades, but in 20 AC, the Highlanders started encountering the animal more extensively. Unfortunately, it was soon after this time that the Skagger Horde began to invade and conquer vast swathes of Gallovia, using the islands as stepping stones to reach deeper into the Regalian Archipelago. The Velheim of the Horde, because of their northern alignment, were already aware of Bears, and over the coming decades would frequently fly and Bear the animal as a symbol. They also set up religious sites in and around the mountains to venerate deities of the Old Gods, with the Gallovian Black Mountain Bear playing a role in such affairs. As a result, the Caeren turned against the animal and actively hunted it across the mountains in a ceremonial war against an animal they tied to their oppressors. The Bear fought back, but by 130 AC things had cooled sufficiently. Additionally, it was around this time that a new practice took over the hunting of the animal: the domination of it.
In the times since the conflict against the Skaggers began, the School of Lecgaen had spread among the Highlanders. While most outsiders of today consider the story of its founder wrestling and defeating a Bear in single combat to be anachronistic or symbolic, the Caeren took it firmly to practice. To that end, they instead sought to wrestle Gallovian Black Mountain Bears into submission before letting it leave, a symbolic act for Highlander domination over the retreating Velheim population. In the decades since then, the Mountain Bear’s numbers have steadily increased in number given how few Highlanders hunt the animal anymore. It is likely that within a few decades, this species of Bear will be a common sight in the mountains that loom over the Gallovian Highlands, but for now, its ceremonial importance is what it is most known for in Aloria.
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears are one of the smaller species of Bear in Aloria, being anywhere from four to six feet in length and two and a half to three and a half feet tall. The animal’s weight heavily varies, to the degree that makes it impossible to even determine a proper range. Their heads are large, though they have a narrow muzzle with a large mouth and nose. Above this are a pair of large black eyes and a large pair of rounded ears. Their faces feature the same colors as the rest of their body, though they commonly have a splash of beige or off-white fur on their muzzle, excluding their nose and the area immediately around it, which is solid black. Their heads are connected to their bodies by a thick neck, though unlike the Northern Brown Bear, they lack a shoulder hump. Their wide bodies are supported by four thick legs well built for running and climbing, which are ended in broad, five-toed paws. These paws also have large blunted claws that are either black or grey. As a result, the Black Mountain Bear is highly adept at bludgeoning attackers or prey, but not so much as tearing their skin unless they used their tooth-filled mouth. The Bear’s body ends in a short bobbed tail. Their entire bodies are covered in a thick layer of black fur that helps to keep them warm in the cold of the Gallovian mountains, but also resist water, which commonly interacts with the Bear in the form of mists, storms, or the rivers that they catch their fish in.
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears are generally homogeneous, with individual differences attributable to individuals rather than gender or members of a species in one area. A minor way to tell females apart from males is how their muzzles are more narrow than those of males. Their gender population is generally equal, though at the height of Highlander hunting of the animal, the ratio of males was tiny in comparison to the females, as killing male Bears was given more significance than felling female ones.
Life Span and Development
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears are liveborn as cubs either alone or with one sibling. They are most commonly born when their mother’s hibernation period is just ending or has ended. In these early days, Black Mountain Bear cubs are small, lacking eyesight and the full use of their back legs, and are thinly coated in a sleek grey coat of fur. They rapidly gain mass and denser coats and open their eyes after four weeks. From then on, they mature and follow their mother, requiring at most a year and a half before they set out on their own into the world. Before that happens, their mother will have shown them how to hunt and gone through one cycle of hibernation with them. The Black Mountain Bear is sexually mature around the age of three, but they typically reach their full adult size at age five. They are capable of living to be around twenty years old, though the oldest as claimed by the Highlanders was twice that, and finally died at forty-one.
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears have perhaps the most complex minds of all the Bear species. They are not outright carnivores and are instead omnivorous that normally feed on insects, young plants, and fruit. They also fish most commonly during the night, as their black fur blends in better with the darkness. Their personalities might best be described as jovial, though territorial. Males and females will tolerate, at least for a time, the presence of others in their territory outside of mating time. Should an intruder get close or threaten a female’s cubs, the female will get extremely aggressive and violent. In contrast, males and females lacking cubs will instead reluctantly fight off the intruder, at least at first. If the challenger returns, however, the Bear will have far fewer compunctions about giving it a thrashing. This is where the Black Mountain Bear’s interactions with Ailor most commonly come into play. Highlanders who wrestle such a beast into submission are treated to the strange part of the animal’s mental state. When defeated in this way, the Bear will give up its territory and go to form some new slice of territory very far away from where it was defeated. This only seems to happen when they are defeated by Ailor as when they are chased out by other members of their species, they often settle down much closer and usually seek out some form of revenge.
Territory and Groupings
Gallovian Black Mountain Bears are generally solitary animals that only seek other members of their species out during the mating season, or in the case of older, meaner males, to assert dominance if not outright kill younger males. Bears live alone in territories that widely vary in size and scope depending on the region of Gallovia. Most territories are small, only 10 to 20 square miles, and are based around the Bear’s hibernation location. Ideally, this is a cave, though others make do with hollows or dens in densely forested areas.
- Gallovian Black Mountain Bears and Northern Brown Bears do not get along at all. They rarely interact though, which has allowed this animosity of not knowing the other to remain.
- Gallovian Black Mountain Bears are accomplished swimmers and can occasionally be seen moving between the Pachs or other islands that make up Gallovia.
- Gallovians sometimes use the Mountain Bear’s skull as an end to their clubs.