|Official Name||Longtail Croque|
The Longtail Croque is an aquatic reptile indigenous to Ithania. It has been part of that region’s history since the Varran Empire, where it harassed the Varran people and was possibly tied to their ancient religion. With the rise of the Elves and later Ithanian Ailor, the creature was actively hunted out of the major waterways of the nation to help maintain the peaceful culture Ithanians are known for. The animal is notable for its long tail, its “pack” societies as well as regional colorations and gender populations.
The Longtail Croque has lived in Ithania for more than a thousand years. In the time of the Varran Empire, the Croque was a common danger faced by Varran living by the water and in the ports. They also possibly took on a role in ancient Varran religion as some ruins have unearthed small but often damaged statues and wall paintings that depict the reptile alongside the figure modern Varran now call Baskarr. Others feel that the creature was simply decorative, used to convey general ideas of ferocity and danger. When the Varran Empire fell to the Elven Empire, they “rose above” the aquatic predators with their grand cities and ships supposedly untouched by this savage creature. In truth, while the middle and upper class were unaffected by their presence, the lower classes and slaves were the ones to deal with them. In the later years of the Empire as plantations and large-scale farms grew popular in Ithania, the Longtail Croque was fully acknowledged as a dangerous issue. When the Fifth Void Invasion occurred, there were scattered reports that members of the species were some of the only animals the Void managed to infect. However, it is assumed if any altered Croques existed, the upheaval in the Void army and Cataclysm destroyed them as the barbaric bestial forms of the crocodile were not mentioned again.
With the rise of the Ithanian Ailor and the pacifist culture of Ithania, the animal was seen as one of the worst threats to their society. Fishermen had to contend with the creatures attacking their vessels or getting caught in their nets resulting in the lethal spinning technique. By 100 AC, most major Ithanian cities had a standing bounty on the local Croque population, resulting in contact with exotic races such as the Orcs and Urls. Eventually, several major riverways were purged of the animal, and their nesting grounds were aggressively seized for new settlements to dissuade their presence permanently. This ultimately succeeded and over the years since, the Longtail Croque has become a rare sight in the significant bodies of water in Ithania. However, they still infest the minor rivers (particularly in the south). The most recent dent rendered in their population was during the Chrysant War, when an estimated several hundred adult Croques killed each month until the war’s end. This also saw a small explosion of Croque-leather goods and the eating of Croque meat by the rural Ithanian populace that has remained until today.
The Longtail Croque is a species of crocodile well known for its long tail. The reptile grows between nine and thirteen feet long, with a weight of some 200 to 250 pounds. Their heads have the broadest snout of all crocodile species with the same length as it is wide. Its mouth contains a set of forty teeth on the upper and lower jaw that are visible. They have two nostrils at the end and top of their snout while their eyes, also set on the top of the snout, are large and appear in deep brown or red colorations. A fat neck connects the head to the body which is supported by four short limbs, each with a five-toed and clawed foot. Their backs are protected by a series of ridges that extend down onto the animal’s signature feature, a pointed tail often making up half, if not more, of their total length. However, the tail spines are much larger and more pronounced than those found on the back. There is also a patch of larger spines on the Croque’s neck. The animal is covered in a type of scale called scutes, though they possess skin on their heads that is essentially fused to the skull while the skin on the underside of their limbs and neck is loose. The Croque can come in three colors, sandy brown, dark brown and dark grey though on the first two color schemes, the underlying skin color of dark grey sometimes makes the animal look “dirty” even when it is not.
The Longtail Croque has several interesting aspects to its diversity. Its population can vary widely depending on the area of Ithania it comes from as those in the south are predominantly male, those in the central regions have a roughly equal gender split, while those in the north are predominantly female. However, as the temperature is key in producing genders, individual nests may vary wildly and go completely against the majority. This division also exists in their colorations as those in the south are sandy brown, those in the central regions are dark brown, and those in the north are dark grey. This coloration difference is also tentatively tied to temperature, but there is lacking information on this. Males also grow on the upper half side of the animal’s size spectrum while most females are on the lower half. Ultimately, the population of the Longtail Croque is stable between the genders, despite the high numbers of a certain gender produced in the northern and southern areas of the region.
Life Span and Development
The Longtail Croque has a complex development and a one unique to most reptilians. They are born in small white ovular eggs in groups of ten to twenty-five and placed inside of a shoreline nest made of vegetation built by their mother. For the next two months, the temperature of the surrounding air, and sometimes if built close enough to it, water will determine the sex of the eggs. When the eggs near the hatching stage, the nursery members will begin to call out, and their mother will go and attend to them. If the mother is dead, often their father will take over, and if he too is dead, another female will take on the role although with less enthusiasm. When the children hatch, the Croque caring for them will then scoop them into their mouth and carry them into the water to begin to learn the sensation and feeling of it. The babies at this stage are smaller versions of their parents but possess a variety of shaded brown scales. If the group is particularly large, the parent will take two trips. Over the next half a year, the guardian Croque will care for the nursery and as they reach adolescence, show them how to hunt. This is also when the animal’s adult scale color appears.
By the age of one, the teenage Longtail Croques begin to one by one drift away from their guardian, settling into their role in the larger Croque social structure. However, it takes them until the age of two to be fully matured physically and mentally, thus allowing for reproduction. At this stage in the mating season, females indicative their submission to male candidates. In the northern and central regions, this is easy as males are fewer or equal numbers, but in the south, this leads to increased aggression in the male Croques as they fight for what mates are available. When mating begins, it is a lengthy process lasting several hours. Underwater, males and females dance around each other, bumping snouts, legs, tails and limbs. They may even hunt an item of prey together. Ultimately, the female makes the submissive gesture, and the male then finishes the courtship before leaving to possibly perform the same process elsewhere. One collection of eggs may have as many as three male parents. The female will then proceed on land to lay her eggs, having experimented with small “test nests” early into the mating season before choosing one and completing it before returning to the water. Overall, a Longtail Croque can live up to a staggering 45 years old, though today such specimens are rare due to hunting. In addition, many young Croques are killed throughout their youth whether it is in the egg due to being washed away in a flood or eaten by a predatory mammal or when a baby by similar forces.
Longtail Croques are very complex creatures, displaying a wide array of behaviors as highly social animals. They are noted for their parental instincts and loving ways towards young, a curiosity in the world of reptiles. When groups of Longtail Croques sun themselves during the day, there is little to no reaction when the babies and young climb over them to explore the environment. They are also treated well by other mothers and adults who are not their parent or guardian figure, such as an adult letting a nursery nibble at its prize of a large deer while not being their parent. The Longtail Croque is also highly communicative, even from birth where it and its siblings tap on their eggshells with their eggtooth to ensure they all emerge at relatively the same time. When they mature, they sound grunts and calls when large prey is available to be eaten or when there is a threat to the young. However, such niceties do not hide the fact that the Croque is still a predator and there is a strict chain of command in their world in addition to their aggression.
When a challenger confronts the alpha male, the fight begins on land with hisses and snaps before it becomes a rolling land fight. At some point, if one Croque is not yet defeated, the fight enters the water. Ultimately, the two and sometimes even three males do not fight to the death but instead to the point of submission, either willingly or not. The loser is then pushed out to the fringe of the group, unlikely to mate in the coming season. Females, on the other hand, display no such behavior though adult females can get irritated with each other should nest grounds be too close together, resulting in at most, a hissing standoff. When a Longtail Croque is confronted with a member of Aloria’s Races, the response widely differs. Some, like the Yanar, receive little to no reaction. Others, like the Cro-Allar, or Allar as a whole are immediately viewed as another challenger. Most other races are viewed with caution, but still a possible meal. While direct hunting of Humans is rare, it does occasionally happen and usually succeeds as once the creature gets its prey underwater, it initiates a deadly death roll to rip the air out of the victim’s lungs and confuse them long enough to drown. This technique is also applied to the other land mammals the Croque manages to grab while aquatic creatures, such as fish, are hunted and eaten in a more tradition chase fashion.
Territory and Groupings
Longtail Croques do not have a formal society like wolves where one or a pair of animals dictate every aspect of their lives, but they do have something close. A “pack” of Longtail Croques exist in one area of a river or some body of water such a lake. These packs are loose in structure but do have commonalities across all of them. For one, there is an alpha male who is the largest and often, oldest, of the group who gets the first pick of females in the mating season but who also leads the charge in protecting the young. Then, there are the subordinate males, generally two to four males who keep close to the alpha to both help him and to someday challenge him. The rest of the pack is made up of females and what few males remain before there are “outcasts,” almost always males who are nomadic or exist on the periphery of a Croque pack. Sometimes they are failed alpha challengers, but others are simply Croques who are left out of the mating season or who are considered “weak.” Some, however, are known for being downright aggressive even to their kind and these “monster Croques” often hunt humanoids as well as normal foods. These “outcasts” are most common in the south.
- Another commonly held belief for why the Ithanians want to hunt the Croque is because of their male-dominated society and the fact that females grow smaller than the males.
- Longtail Croques appear in modern Ithanian culture as symbols of the sun due to their behavior of sunning themselves in the daytime, in direct contrast to the lunar focused Ithanians.
- Some pseudo-historian racist Unionists use the reports of the Longtail Croque’s mutations by the Void to claim that that is all the Cro-Allar are, Void-mutated Longtail Croques that should be killed instead of allowed to rule their people as parts of Regalian nobility.