Hozkul

Physical Description

A still Hozkul is a boulder; gray, everlasting and unwavering, the colors of the Hozkul reminiscent of the rocky underground they dwell in. Unlike the other kinds of kul, they have no markings whatsoever, but some of their thicker plates may feature the colors of flashy minerals such as quartz and amethyst.

Like the caverns they live in, the Hozkul are large; in fact, they are the largest kul of Threa to be exact. At adulthood, they are merely between 2.5 m (8.2 ft.) and 3 m (9,9 ft.) tall, but their growth doesn't slow down as drastically as the growth of the other kul once they hit adulthood, and they live far longer than the other kul. This allows their elders to on average reach heights of roughly 3.5-4 m (11.5-13.1 ft.); some really old, big ones even managed to achieve the unbelievable height of 5 m (16.4 ft.)! With such heights, they dwarf even the proud Emberspikes of the Blazkul. However, such gigantic Hozkul are rare cases, and such elders are often tired and exhausted, too slow to be dangerous.

Hozkul scales are rough and a few are thick as a slab of rock, covering an area as large as a tabletop. These oversized scales tend to mostly grow on their backs, shoulders, and legs, but never on flexible areas where they may hinder movement. Unlike the Aezkul or Blazkul, they have no scutes at all.

Akin to most kul species, the Hozkul have great horns that adorn their heads. Often Hozkul miners will grind them down, though, as to not strike them against the ceiling of the smaller tunnels and caverns. These horns match their scales in color; in fact, it is hard to tell where the horns begin and the scales end.

Just like the Blazkul have fins, the Hozkul have small rough ridges going down their backs. They are comparable to small, gray, flat rocks sticking out of their scaled hide. They are not sharp or pointy but are rather rough and protect their spine from falling rocks or attacks from above.

The eye color of a Hozkul ranges only among very dark colors, such as browns and greens - some even have black irises. Darkness is a Hozkul's friend because light blinds them; no Hozkul's eyes can withstand the intense glare of the sun. Only the moon and the darkness of the caverns below are suitable to the sight of the Hozkul, which are capable of piercing the latter with help from the faint light of moss, crystals, or weak torches.

Most unique about the Hozkul anatomy is their complete lack of wings and the lack of an offensive ability. Due to their years underground, their wings fully devolved; the formerly strong wing and chest muscles now fortify their legs and backs. The firebladder, on the other hand, turned into an organ used to filter air. The hazardous fumes of the underground are safely breathable by the giants from below. While thus lacking any unique ways of attacking, the average Hozkul's brute force is usually enough to defeat any foe in a brawl. No kul could even hope to meet the strength of the giants that crush rocks with their bare paws. Said paws are broad, but the claws are short and thick. What they lack in sharpness they make up in strength; the scaled dwellers of Subterra dig around like moles, but through hard granite instead of soft dirt.

Hozkul retained the ability to switch between endothermic and exothermic from their Blazkul ancestors, which has proven very useful when it comes to conserving energy - warm and mobile when they work or fight, cold and slow when they study or rest. They've also kept the ability to last long without water, more so due to the rarity of fresh water in the underground than everlasting heat. Nowadays the water supply isn't that big of an issue anymore, but for miners who were cut off or explorers on long expeditions, it can be invaluable.

Behavior

The Hozkul are quite literally gentle giants. Their slow and calm demeanor shouldn't be seen as a weakness, though, for they can fight as fiercely as any Blazkul and work as hard and for longer than any other kul. Seemingly never tiring, the miners of the deep dig away heaps of earth every day. Despite their calmness, Hozkul can grow quite restless without something to busy their minds or paws. They quite enjoy busying the former with studying or reading old tomes. Like the Aezkul, the Hozkul have a strong sense of honor and pride. These two virtues dictate their social norms and life, as they cause the Hozkul to split into a complex system of clans with their own internal structures.

Social

Even among themselves, the Hozkul can be quite solitary. Within the same clan, a communal atmosphere is the norm, but distrust is not too uncommon even there. Different clans, depending on their relation to each other, can look at each other with distrust or even hatred, but also see them as dear allies, close to something resembling family. Being rather calm beings, the Hozkul are loyal to their superiors, but there are also quite ambitious Hozkul who strive for greater power, which can cause feuds and conflicts.

Due to their long life span, often true friendships only shape when they last longer than a century.

The Hozkul show a cold shoulder to most other species, not wanting them to break the protective isolation Subterra has granted them. Only long term friends may gain their trust, like the Aezkul.

Reproduction and Development

Hozkul like to spend a long time courting their future mates as they will end up spending centuries of their life with them - a wrong choice can be hundreds of years of frustration. These large kul mate for life, so it can take a while to find the one significant other that is suitable for such commitments. It is rare for Hozkul to find a fitting partner in their youth, due to the work they have to do and the education they receive. Most Hozkul find the time for seeking a mate when they finish their education/apprenticeship.

As soon as a Hozkul finds a potential mate, the male will try to impress the female with his achievements and role in society. Gifts, except heartfelt ones, usually do not have much of an effect. Females tend to prefer males who are strong and especially ones who can be caring over lengthend periods of time. This often causes courtships to last years, to truely test the male's eagerness.

As is implied, Hozkul are heavily monogamous and never share their mates. They stick together to raise young and many at that. An average Hozkul clutch counts between one and two eggs, rarily three, thus they tend to have clutches more often to make up for the quantity of eggs.

When they hatch, the Hozkul are the size of small dogs, which are usually are only a bit bigger than an adult's paw. The average clutch ranges from one to four eggs, with the opposite ends of the scale being the rarest. Most common are clutches of two eggs with three close behind. Hozkul grow a bit slower than others, however, reaching up to half their adult height (2m-2.5m) at age seven.

Their internal air-filter starts working around the time they reach the age of one, but before that they must be kept in better ventilated areas of Subterra, for they would perish otherwise. The eggs, however, are not harmed by toxic air or such, since the hatchlings do not yet directly process the toxic air. Due to this the Hozkul often keep the eggs in caverns filled with toxins in order to protect them; this has caused tragic accidents in the past, though, when eggs were not brought into better air in time for hatching.

After reaching the age of seven, their growth slows down a little until they reach sexual maturity at around the age of twentyone, when they are near the tallest they will be. From then on, they grow extremely slowly. Death occurs when they are around eight hundred to one thousand years of age. At this time, they can be quite large, reaching even up to 5 meters at the shoulder in rare cases. However, this size hinders their mobility in general. They sometimes struggle to hold their weight on their paws due to their old age and size.

Ecology

Habitat

The home of the Hozkul - the world beneath the surface - is dark and unforgiving, and they have adopted to it well, having inherited hardiness from their Blazkul ancestors. Despite living only underground, the Hozkul live all over Threa, or rather, all under Threa. Borders on the surface would never change the course of Hozkul who are keen on finding new caverns to live in. The highest concentrations of Hozkul are beneath the Aezrikka Zule, however. Aezkul inhabit the peaks and skies, leaving the Hozkul to inhabit everything beneath the ground.

The underground is dark. Very dark. Apart from a few patches of glowing moss and, in some deeper caverns, glowing crystals, there is not much that sheds light into the darkness. Stone also makes for a literally hard environment to work with. Broad, strong paws and blunt, sturdy claws on the Hozkul were the tools granted by nature to allow them to dig tunnels and make themselves at home.

Diet

The Hozkul are omnivores. Everything from moss to mushrooms to whatever lurks and crawls in the depths land on their plate, as long as it is edible.

Much hunting isn't possible in the underground. Most edible beasts actually fight back and whoever becomes the prey depends on the result of the fight. Often Hozkul have to dig herbivorous defenseless beings out of cracks and crevices in order to get a meal.

Competition and Predators

Caverncrawlers, blindseekers and the occasional giant snake that finds its way into upper caverns all hunt for and compete with the Hozkul. Of course, the Hozkul are bigger and far stronger, but the other three are far more numerous or, in the case of the snakes, venomous.

Otherwise, there are no sentient species like gryphons or wyverns in the underground that could compete with the Hozkul.

Origin

Thousands of years ago, before the Searing Deserts were even considered sacred Blazkul territory, some of the ancient Blazkul emigrated into the mountains. While the ancient Aezkul moved to the peaks, the ancient Hozkul moved below the surface. The tests of time and the stubbornness of Subterra's inhabitants caused them to change and evolve, exchanging the fire-creating organs for an organic air-filter and wings for stronger legs. Reds turned to greys to blend in easier with the gray underground environment and eyes adapted to piercing the darkness.