Sozkul

Physical Description

The Sozkul are the walruses of Threa. These large lazy predators inhabit the beaches, spending a large portion of their day sunbathing and relaxing on the coasts. Their bodies are thickly built, with thickly-packed muscle along their legs and chest. Most of their bulk comes from thick packs of blubber, however, making many look rather rotund or even fat, depending on how well-fed they are. Active young adults are more lean looking, though, sporting just enough blubber to warm them without cutting down on their streamlining. They average between 1.8 and 2.1 meters (5'10" - 6'10") tall at the shoulder.

Being coastal, Sozkul have broad paws each with four digits (although their forepaws also sport a thumb) connected with webbing to allow them to direct themselves in the water while using their powerful rudder-like tail to power their swimming. The tail is rather short, but flattened on each side, able to power the creature through the water when swept in a firm side-to-side motion. Down the entire spine of the dragon is a large frill, meant to help it keep upright in the water when swimming at high speeds.

Outside of the water, the Sozkul are rather cumbersome, moving slowly as their webbed claws dig into the sand or dirt. They aren't very good at running or flying. While their wings can bear them in powered flight, they require the strong ocean winds and thermals to ride to keep up in the sky for any longer period of time. Their wings are broad, but not long, to make best use of natural wind currents. The membrane attaches to two rows of frills, one on each side, that end about midway down the length of the tail. Usually they do not fly for a longer period of time regardless, using their airborne advantage point to spy prey beneath the waves before diving for it. The most powerful thing a Sozkul may do with its wings is lifting off from the water itself, a trait unique to the Sozkul alone. Their sharklike sandpaper skin lets them cut through the water like an arrow, but also easily lets water slide off of their body, preventing their wings from being weighed down from the waves and letting them lift right out of the water like a swan with the help of their tail.

Beyond their ability to swim and fly, the Sozkul don't sport any unique abilities. They do not have any sort of breath weapon, acid, or unique adaptations. Their environment is essentially pressureless in everyday life, allowing them to let their guard down. Food - primarily fish - is plentiful and leaves the kul with a lot of spare time to catch the sun's rays and digest their food.

A fish-based diet requires the Sozkul to have specialized teeth, at least. They are similar to the Rizkul's in overall shape, but are larger; they are conical, spaced wide enough to interlock smoothly, and have no variation. This means they do not have any molars to grind their food; they are adapted to grabbing slippery fish and then swallowing it whole.

The shape of their faces has also adapted to their semi-aquatic nature, becoming more streamlined and arrow-shaped than most other kul faces. Their nostrils are closer to the top of their snout to allow breathing while resting in the water and they have developed a sort of flap in the back of their mouths which closest once underwater, preventing water from draining into their lungs. On each side of their face is a ruff of fins, connected to their two horns and curling down their head to their jawline.

Sozkul have very little color variation overall. Their skin is usually variations of gray and gray-blue with gentle highlights of lighter colors or greenish patches. They don't sport any sort of striking patterns like most other kul do. They also lack chest plates, sporting instead a lightly colored underside, for camouflage in the water. Their eyes are nearly always a green or sea-green with a rounded pupil, adapted for seeing both above and below water. Their eyes sport a nictitating membrane which they utilize to keep salt water away from their eyes.

Sozkul Base Coloration

Their frills also sport this lighter color as well as the membranes in their wings. The frills of males, however, tend to be more brightly colored to attract females, sporting bright blues and green-blues, which become more vibrant during mating season. The color is also present on the ruffs on their faces and around their eyes. No other variation between the sexes is apparent.

Reproduction and Development

Female Sozkul will go into heat only depending on the current conditions; if there is enough food and calm waters, so to speak, the female will go into heat. This heat isn't a mind-consuming lust like some other species, but more like a switch that turns in her head that lets her know she is ready to be inseminated if she wishes to be. However, instinct to reproduce may make her slightly easier to convince in this time frame, no matter how she may feel in general. After a season worth of time, one to five eggs are laid. The eggs are placed in a nest made out of plant matter taken from he shore and soft sand.

It takes another season before the eggs hatch. Sozkul are hatched looking like small versions of their parents; little rotund balls of blubber. They grow under the watchful and helpful eye of their parents, whether or not these may both be their birth parents or not. At the age of five they develop enough to be able to fly and have reached about half their adult size. However, the Sozkul begin to swim whenever they feel ready for it. Biologically, this really can be whenever. There is no real defined age for when a Sozkul has to leave the nest. It ends up just happening naturally as life takes over and the younger kul moves away from his family and familiar life. Generally, though, this tends to be around sexual maturity, which comes in at the age of eighteen, as life naturally shifts gears around that time.

The kul grow into society gradually, gaining friends and acquaintances before they truly try to reproduce. This can take a long while due to their ideas of honor and respect, causing many Sozkul to remain virgin for a time after sexual maturity, unlike many other kul. A Sozkul can live up to 300 years old, which combined with the rather rapid reproduction, causes Sozkul clans to become very large in no time. If it weren't for predators who pick them off, the Sozkul population would grow way too large. Due to this, many Sozkul end up passing before the age of fifty to one-hundred, which is when they've gained enough physical mass to be good targets for hunters.

Behavior

Sozkul are gifted with the roughly the same intelligence as Trezkul, but are socially more competent than the solitary green kul. However, their sapience is not enough to form a society with complex concepts. Having a religion, governments, military, or complex economy is well outside of their reach. Yet, due to their social lifestyle, they've developed a language named Koz, which is just a mesh-up of the words kul and Soz, which is the language of the Sozlin. Thanks to their intelligence and physical make-up, the Sozkul are good fishers. They make use of the tides and seasons when fishing and may even use teamwork in order to maximize the amount of fish they catch. For example, some Sozkul might make a lot of commotion in the water, driving a swarm of fish closer to the shore, then the rest sweeps in and picks out fish from the clumped up swarm.

Social

Sozkul live in large clans on the beaches of Threa, basking in the sun or playing in the waves. Despite seeming simplistic on the outside, the Sozkul believe strongly in the virtues of honor and trust. Being friendly and polite is considered common courtesy, but trust and respect must always be earned on an individual basis. Friendships can also take a long time to form as it can be hard to determine whether one is just being courteous or actually finding an interest in the other. Once a friendship is formed, though, it is generally strong. Sozkul very rarely fight each other. They are peaceful by nature and prefer to not disturb the peace of the clan, since that just leads to unnecessary wounds and bothers their otherwise relaxed lives.

Elders are respected in their society and generally very well-liked. They are looked up to for advice and counseling through the tests and events of life. These elders are the natural leaders of their nearby clan, though their borders are never really set in stone. Sozkul do not feel loyal to any individual clan, but rather are focused on the physical area they live in; they may wander and go as they please, shifting between clans and elders, without any sort of issue from other kul or the elders themselves. Given the abundance of food in the form of fish, the clans do not compete with each other often. Neither do the clans try and clash with the other sapient races, but that doesn't stop these races from hunting the Sozkul. Their meat and blubber is sought after; the latter makes for a good lamp oil. Only the Republic of the Zule does not hunt Sozkul, thinking it is wrong to hunt a sapient creature.

Courtship

The Sozkul are very open in their reproductive life. There are not many pressures to make the Sozkul overly cautious or force them to remain with each other, so the style in which one mates is generally up to personal preference. Some Sozkul mate for life, others prefer one-time things, and yet more may prefer to have a small harem of the opposite sex to attend to. Whenever being gravid comes into question, though, Sozkul are good parents; the mated pair that produced the egg or the gravid female and her current partner will usually end up sticking together to raise the hatchling among themselves, be there blood relation or no. The Sozkul are also the least picky about the species of their mates; there is not much taboo about mix-breeding in their society as crossbreeds often cross, or live among, their clans.

Ecology

Habitat

The Sozkul live on the coastlines of Threa and so share their lives with seabirds, sea creatures, and the various creatures that exist in both sea and land. The pressures here are little, allowing the kul to live and thrive in peace. While not all coasts are populated by the Sozkul, many are, and they are considered a common sight on the beaches, even on the beaches of the taiga and tundra. Sandy beaches or cliffside cave systems are favored places for Sozkul clans, especially if there is an abundance of fish nearby. Within those caves they really settle in. Once a Sozkul claimed a cave, they tend to try and personalize it by scratching symbols into the walls, by hanging bones of fish and prey animals on the walls, and/or by placing pretty rocks and shells around. A nicely decorated cave can certainly help with attracting a mate or two.

Diet

Sozkul are piscivores, meaning they feed entirely off of fish. They can ingest plant matter, but there is little to be had on the beach and even less in the shallows they swim in. However, some may find seaweed on the edge of the shallows and try to feast off of that out of curiosity. Crabs, shellfish, seabirds, and other shore life may also end up traveling down the gullet of Sozkul whether they like it or not. Food is food.

Competition and Predators

The shores are a rather peaceful location most of the time. However, some Sozkul clans have to constantly be on the lookout for the Sozlin, who are very militant about their fish supplies and their own territory. These lin gladly hunt Sozkul to prevent that they catch the fish swarms near the shore empty. Sozlin also see Sozkul as a great source of food and hunting them is seen as a prestigious feat in their society. Other predators of the Sozkul include Trezkul, Azkul, and the various other big predators of the seas. More often than not a Sozkul is dragged underwater by a finnodile or just gobbled up in one gulp by a young open ocean Azkul if they stray too far from the shallow waters.

Origin

The origin of the Sozkul is very simple; ancient versions of the kul stepped out of the ocean millennia ago, and simply stayed on the shore in an amphibious lifestyle. They evolved different colorations and their anatomy drastically changed from their seafaring ancestors, but there's not much more to be said than that.