|Official Name||Maaris Cobra|
|Common Nicknames||Giant Cobra|
The Maaris Cobra is known as an exotic mount of the Songaskians who is well adapted to the clime it exists in. Its stark black color scheme easily marks it out in the desert sands, as does its ability to defend itself from attack by spitting its venom. The animal is also well known for its aggressive male-to-male mentality in the wild, though domestication has all but extinguished it in those tamed and ridden across the sands of Farah’deen.
The Maaris Cobra prior to the Great Storm has an ill-understood origin, as tales of many fearsome reptiles considered the spawn of Dragons long filled the stories of the Sariyd Empire, and the ancient Qadir. The Maaris Cobra though appears sometime before the Cataclysm, apparently muscling out lesser creatures like the Hagaan to ultimately occupy a spur of dune-filled territory known at the time as the Cobra Hills by the Sariyd. It became a fearsome land feature to be avoided, but when the Red Hunt began, the Clockwork machines of the Qadir marched through the hills on their way to fell the Black Desert Dragons. Greatly disrupted, Maaris Cobras fled across Farah’deen, though some still claim they were warned of what was to come. The Great Storm then descended on the continent, and this species of giant snake was one of the handful to survive the disastrous event. In the ensuing decades, the Maaris Cobra proved shockingly tameable to the pleasure of the Songaskians and the horror of the Qadir. As they fled before the marching host of extermination that was growing into the Songaskian Masaya, Songaskians moved in pursuit of them, some being caught and killed while others fought off their pursuers. Today, the Maaris Cobra is a large, fearsome mount of the Songaskian Race. The Qadir, however, outright reject the animal in favor of their Bakhshuna Jamals and technology, viewing the Cobra as a pest worth the trouble to exterminate. Both as a result of their efforts, and the rounding up by the trainers who tame them, the wild numbers of the Maaris Cobra have dropped significantly in recent years. Still, their population is healthy, and will likely persist in the domesticated sphere, even if they somehow fade out of the wild regions of Farah’deen.
The Maaris Cobra is an enormous serpent, easily dwarfing its cousin, the normal cobra, from which it derives many characteristics. The Maaris Cobra, if laid head to tail-tip would be some twelve feet long, but this length is rarely apparent. Their weight varies, but healthy, domesticated members of the species sit at some 300 pounds. Their heads possess a broad, rounded snout; a pair of large, dark eyes; and their signature hoods. These hoods are broad, reaching up to three feet in radius, and are also extremely stiff. In wild specimens, they are often kept flat at all times, save during aggressive periods, but those domesticated varieties keep them expanded at all times. This is because it is the hoods that are the main point a Maaris rider sits on, and need to be constantly expanded to allow for this. The animal’s head also includes a broad mouth, within which sits a toxin reservoir and a forked tongue. The Cobra is capable of spitting its venom a distance of nearly ten feet, though some reports indicate it can reach far further in certain, well-trained specimens. The rest of the animal’s body is sleek, with no further details, and ends in a pointed tail. The body of a Maaris Cobra is coated in black scales, though, unlike most snakes, this coloration continues even onto the animal’s underbellies. The only points of natural color on their bodies might be within their hoods, which sometimes have a light diamond formation of dusty pale scales which is stark against the black of their bodies. This pattern only appears on the inside of a Cobra’s hood.
Wild Maaris Cobras have a stark 4:1 gender ratio of males to females when they are born. However, nature and other Cobras eventually make this closer to 2:1. Domesticated Maaris meanwhile, lack such a stark gender ratio. There is no sexual dimorphism within the Maaris Cobra, though some claim northern populations have males as usually being larger, and southern populations have females as larger. This is difficult to prove given their growing rarity in the wild, with domesticated members being traded and moved about Farah’deen with ease. As mentioned previously, only some Maaris Cobras have natural visual distinctiveness in the form of the pale diamond formations in their large hoods.
Life Span and Development
Maaris Cobras are one of a few reptiles to not lay their eggs in the sand and then leave. Instead, a mother will store her eggs within her own body until they are ready to hatch, at which point she will lay them into a shallow sandpit, with many being born within just a few minutes of this occurring. Maaris eggs are oblong and pale grey, speckled with black at either end and are four inches long and between one and two inches wide. Clutches are between twenty and forty members, though a few rare instances have seen up to sixty being born. Maaris Cobra birth pits are extremely hazardous, as upon being born, the members of a brood will immediately begin to compete for survival, their mother having left. Any animal unfortunate enough to come nearby is almost certainly dead, as even small ( not yet capable of extending their hoods) baby Maaris Cobras are still toxic and will spit and eat what they kill. This period of violence continues for as long as twenty-four hours, at which point those that survive the pit, or the last period of time, then leave the area. Female Maaris Cobra babies will often leave early from a birth pit, allowing them a better chance at survival. In domesticated surroundings, tamers will often prematurely remove babies from the pit and separate them into smaller groups, feeding them raw meat piecemeal and keeping themselves protected from any spitting toxins. While they are small starting out, the Maaris Cobra will rapidly mature over the period of a year, and by a year and a half, will have reached their peak size. The species lives for up to thirty years in the wild, and up to forty in domesticated surroundings.
The Maaris Cobra mentality is considered a mystery to outsiders, as it is rare for such a large mundane creature, especially a reptile, to be domesticated as the Songaskians have; the wild mentality is easily understood. The wild Cobra lives its life in hilled and often rocky locations, and is largely nocturnal in their activity. They hunt prey like smaller reptiles, insects, small mammals, but also occasionally each other, cannibalizing younger members of their species, especially if they are an adult male encountering an adolescent male. They attack without use of their venom in most cases, instead using quick strikes and direct injection as needed in their victims. When approached by Humans and other Races, or large creatures like other Maaris adults or larger beasts, the Cobra activates its defensive mechanism. It will raise itself up, and snap out its hoods, flicking its tongue aggressively and often pooling its body beneath it as well. From this anchor point, if the threat does not back off, it will spit its venom, and if that is not enough to result in a withdrawal, they will strike forward and attack.
Domesticated Maaris Cobras meanwhile, have largely seen this mentality trained out of them, only growing aggressive when approached aggressively, or when encountering totally unfamiliar individuals or Races. Luckily, the breadth of Races living in Farah’deen makes this a rarity. Instead, it is sometimes said by outsiders that the Maaris are practically enthralled to the whim of their owner, as the animal’s training sees subtle physical gestures along with the creature’s hood and body as a mechanism of command, which most obey with absolute clarity. Maaris Cobras often have their hoods extended at all times of day, and have largely lost their nocturnal leanings. They live in unique pits dug into the sand which mimics the tunnels and crannies Maaris Cobras prefer to sleep in, with as many as ten to a pit, and lack competition, even during the mating season. It is only when they get old do some instinctual mechanisms return to the Maaris Cobra. They will often sleep for long periods of the day, and can become “grumpy,” an anthropomorphization of a disobedient, less pliant mount who often requires firmer commands to obey the wishes of its rider. However, it is exceedingly rare for them to break and spit their venom at their keepers, or to strike their bodies.
Territory and Groupings
In the wild, Maaris Cobras are solitary, only existing in groups when they are born, and during the mating season should more than one male detect and seek out a female living near them. They are territorial to other members of their species and large creatures. In domesticated surroundings, however, Maaris Cobras live within Songaskian and Farah’deen Ailor communities with ease, though are often located at the fringes of cities and towns in areas known as Maaris Ranches.
- Maaris Venom is as black as their scales, and some believe it can be made more potent through a Maaris’ active consumption of Hagaans.
- The Maaris Cobra saw limited use in both the First and Second Songaskian Wars due to the difficulties of transporting them overseas and then, in the battles within Farah’deen itself, due to the local populace seeking to protect them by hiding them away from the devastating hand of the anti-serpentine Regalians.