|Official Name||Ridgeback Stalker|
|Common Nicknames||Sunbathing Scalies, Finned Crushers|
|Habitat||Southern New Ceardia|
Elusive and ferocious, these camouflaged killers strike their unsuspecting prey from above. Not much is known about these mysterious predators, resulting in their status as the source of many wandering tales and ghost stories. Because of this, these large lizards have gained an infamous reputation, leading to them being hunted over the years. The lizard’s elusive nature and rock-like scales, however, have allowed them to hide away in the rocky cliffs and caverns that defines most of the southern New Ceardian coast line.
The first official documents of a Ridgeback Stalker sightings available to the common Regalian populace date from around 250 AC, during the opening years of the New Ceardian migration. A ship had been wrecked against a rough cliffside in a foul storm, and the surviving crew sought refuge in one of the sea caverns. As they slept, several large reptiles dropped down from the ceiling of the cave, crushing two of the men while the rest quickly retaliated. It was said that they were extremely difficult to hit in the dim lantern light as they practically became one with the cavern floor. The hide itself was also hard, if not impossible, to slice with their cutlasses. Only after they stabbed and maul at them with harpoons did they die.
This incident has since then lured many scholars and adventurers to New Ceardia, intrigued by the Ridgeback Stalker’s unique lifestyle and amazed by their climbing capabilities. Their size and composition makes such a feat staggering to witness. There aren’t many historical accounts tied to the Ridgeback stalkers, as their tendency is mainly to keep to themselves and hide away from the general populace. However, some old Ceardian superstition claim that Ridgeback Stalkers are actually possessed rocks that come to life. When one draws too near to a treasure possessed by a demon, a mess of rocks would supposedly animate, which also would explain the low number of sightings on the species. Most people who have looked further into the species, however, dismiss these ramblings as hogwash and fairy tale.
The Ridgeback Stalker strongly resembles the rocks and cliffs that they live on, featuring scales in hues of grey and murky green. Their scales are tough and their patterns are irregular, occasionally even spiky. On their backs they feature two small sails reaching between long, curved, protruding bones from the spine. The sail usually reaches from the lower neck to the hip, where the tail begins. While not capable of flight, these sails are used to regulate a descent or slow a fall in possibly fatal situations. However, they offer little to no gliding ability. Additionally, the sail contains a large web of veins that can be filled on command by the Ridgeback Stalker to assume a crimson hue. This is primarily used to intimidate hostile Ridgeback Stalkers or impress females, but also serves to fend off larger predators by obscuring their real size. Their heads are fairly short, and their snout curves downwards, leaving the Ridgeback Stalker with a natural grinning expression on it’s jaws.
The Lizards themselves are fairly large creatures, varying from lengths of 5 ft, and all the way up to 10. They can weigh between 220 and 550 pounds, sporting huge leg musculature compared to the rest of their body. Their sails range from heights of 2-6 feet, while the sails tend to be higher with the males. Each foot sports a set of five fingers: two on the back, and three on the front. They each feature thick, hinged, and curved claws that are designed to latch onto stone facades and cavities with tremendous gripping force. Their short tail functions only as a helping hand if they ever find themselves in the water. The Ridgeback Stalker’s energy supply is largely that of the sun, as food is not always plenty on the barren cliffs. Males are usually found hanging off cliffsides, or sun-bathing on sand or rocks in large numbers. At first glance, one of these patches of Ridgeback stalkers will resemble the rocky landscape they inhabit.
Females are generally in the larger end of the species in terms of physical body, however their sails are usually smaller. The males, however, have very large sails, reaching up to 6 ft for the largest of their kind. Females also tend to be far more territorial, and like to stick in the same areas for most of their lives, opposed to the nomadic lifestyle of the males, who will move a lot more during their lifetimes. Their larger sails allow them greater gliding capabilities, and males reside exclusively on cliffside cavities, while females prefer low, moist, sea caverns where they can hunt fish and crustaceans.
Life Span and Development
Ridgeback Stalkers are hatched from flint-like eggs about the size of an adult man’s fist. Their incubation period is 2 weeks for males, and 3 weeks for females. Females guard their eggs valiantly, while the drifty males tend to move on straight away. They take three years to reach maturity, after which they will live for up to 17 years more, during which females will have had around 30 eggs each.
Whilst relatively plenty in numbers, their territories and breeding grounds reside in dangerously steep cliffs or on slippery rocks, allowing them to keep their lives well hidden from the sentient populations of Aloria. Mainly the coastal fishing towns that dot New Ceardia’s landscape are aware of their presence, and know how to avoid or hunt them, though few bother to do so, as the lizards are no pressing threat to their communities as long as they mind their step. They mainly attack inexperienced newcomers and foolhardy explorers who venture the coastline in search of the treasure they are supposedly guarding, or merely the exciting landscape and sea view. The Stalkers would drop from the cliffs above them at the sight of large juicy prey, usually knocking their target out with their weight or the imminent collision with the hard surface beneath them.
Apart from that, the Ridgeback Stalker’s regular diet consist mainly of birds, eggs, fish, seaweed, and crustaceans. However, in times of famine, it is not unheard of that a Ridgeback Stalker has ventured further inland, or have swam further into the sea in search of alternate food sources, however they mostly fail to adapt to the foreign environments and die.
Territory and Groupings
The Ridgeback Stalker population exist mainly on, and around the coast where they can find steady food and take cover from the drought and warm savannahs where shade is scarce. Small communities of Ridgebacks can occasionally be found, prowling the tall grass of the southern regions, but they never strive far from the ocean. Ridgeback Stalker males have no real sense of territory or flock instincts. They wander where the wind takes them and only bother other Ridgeback Stalkers if they bother them. The males commonly reside on the cliffsides where they hunt birds, while females prefer the wet rocks and sea carved cavities below. Females are also extremely territorial and never go in pairs of more than three. A female usually stays in the same territory for life, unless it is flooded or invaded. Males wander from female to female, flaunting their sails to impress them, and if they play their cards right, they will be allowed to mate. The male wanders on immediately after the breeding.
- In fishermen families, it is common to over-exaggerate stories of the Ridgeback Stalkers to their children as a means of keeping them away from the steep, tricky landscape.
- In the south-western parts of New Ceardia, there are circulating rumors about Ridgeback Stalkers that have attained full flight. Nonsense to most. They probably just saw a bird.