August 5, 2011

Hari Ragat: Haunters of the Jungle III

… or, Something Fishy This Way Comes! 

The jungles of the Jangalan Isles are cut with many rivers and lakes, both big and small, and giant crocodiles are only the most obvious creatures for the adventurer to worry about.  There are fish here as savage as anything you can imagine, such as:

Freshwater Sawfish
This relative of the shark lives in fresh water.  While not a man-eater, it is dangerous to encounter it as it may lash out with the saw-toothed bill on its snout if it feels threatened, causing horrible injuries.  They can grow up to 20 feet long.

Giant Mudfish
Also known as the Giant Snakehead, this pugnacious carnivore dwells on river bottoms and in pools of stagnant water, sometimes even entering flooded ricefields. 

Their smaller cousins and young are considered delicacies by the Vijadesans, but giant mudfish can and do prey on humans when given the chance.  Giant mudfish may also attack when guarding their eggs, as  mated pairs guard their nests and are specially aggressive during spawning season.

Giant mudfish can reach lengths of up to 6 feet, have very powerful jaws, and will attack anything without fear.  They can breathe air, so it’s easy for them to survive in very shallow, stagnant water or mud, and even crawl overland. 

Giant Eel
The larger rivers are also home to giant freshwater eels that can reach lengths of 20 feet or more.  These eels can and will attack anyone in the water, and like sharks are drawn to the scents of blood and carrion.  Some losses of men and livestock blamed on crocodiles are actually the work of giant eels. 

Worse yet, evil spirits sometimes inhabit the bodies of these eels, or manifest as giant eels.  Such spirit eels have powers of illusion, enchantment, and control over water and vegetation, and will use them to bring and keep victims within their reach.

Water Cobra
The water cobra is a colorful, agile aquatic snake that hunts fish and frogs in all bodies of fresh water.  Common throughout the larger Jangalan Isles, this snake is often caught by fishermen.  Water cobra meat is considered a delicacy, but their venom is even deadlier than a land cobra’s of the same size.  Water cobras grow to lengths of up to 4 feet.  Okay, snakes aren’t fish, but they just belong in this list, right? :)

Butcher Crab
This fist-sized land crab with its dark crimson claws is a dreaded scavenger of the jungle floor.  Able to smell blood for miles, swarms of butcher crabs will congregate over the helpless wounded, whether man or beast, and strip them to the bone – possibly while still alive. 

Hunters tell tales of losing deer and boar they have wounded to swarms of crabs, and it is well known that butcher crabs grow fattest at the sites of battles.  Because they have very heavy bodies, however, butcher crabs cannot climb well.  If you ever have to travel through the Jangalan rain forest while wounded, spend the night in a tree.

Butcher crabs spawn in rivers and streams, preferring clear, fast water.  During their spawning season the Vijadesans avoid the rocky streams the crabs prefer, and as this is where most Vijadesans wash their clothes, crab spawning season is also a season for grubby clothes!

Water Monitor
A large monitor lizard with webbed feet that can grow up to 9 feet long.  The Vijadesans were familiar with the species on Arundwipaya, but there it only grew up to 4 or 5 feet long.  Jangalan water monitors are definitely large enough to prey on children, and may attack adult humans if hungry enough.   

Water monitors are powerful but cowardly hunters, easily spooked and preferring prey much smaller or weaker  than themselves – most of the time.  However there are aggressive individuals that are harder to drive off, and these are the man-eaters. 

Water monitors are as at home on land as in water, but prefer to attack large prey in water where they have the advantages of bodies built for swimming and the capacity to hold breath much longer than a human can.  Water monitors have a weak venom, non-lethal to humans but enough to make a victim sick for days.  Human victims however are usually killed by mauling and drowning.

There are mixed accounts of the origins of the sirinan, the water maidens.  Some claim they are diwatas, natural spirit  beings who guard and rule particular locations, while some believe the sirinan are the restless ghosts of drowned young women.  By almost all accounts, however, it is agreed that sirinan appear as beautiful young women, clad usually in white, wet clothes, who lure men to death by drowning. 

Sirinan are always found by forest pools and waterfalls – the latter coincidentally known as popular places for maidens to commit suicide for unrequited love or to escape undesired marriages.  They are said to have incredibly sweet and alluring voices, and once a man hears a sirinan speak his name he can no longer resist her.  Sirinan will thus linger around camps, invisible, until they learn someone’s name, upon which they will then endeavor to catch him alone.

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