Tide hardback Species in 13 | World Anvil
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Tide hardback

by David Revoy
Born in lakes,
grown in rivers,
matured at sea.
  Neither turtle,
nor tortoise,
a hardback is best.
by David Revoy
Tide hardbacks are large animals domesticated by halflings. They are best known for travelling with Berari halflings all around the continent and the many seas that surround it.


The average lifespan of a tide hardback is 130 years. Thus, most tide hardbacks go through a couple of owners or generations in their lives. Incidentally, keeping a turtle that has been owned by three owners already is considered bad luck. Most often when this happens, the would-be next owner sacrifices the turtle and harvests the meat. Sometimes, the turtle is simply asked to leave and follow their own path.


Tide hardbacks reach sexual maturity in their third decade of life. Mating usually only takes place once every two decades, so when a turtle actually gets to mate for the first time is quite variable.     Mating takes place on estuaries and deltas. Females then have to travel upstream and overland until they reach a lake where to deposit their eggs.


The eggs are laid at the bottom of the lake, among the stilt and covered by faeces. The mothers remain on the lake for several months, recovering energy by eating anything that could harm the hatchlings.
by Freepik


Hatchlings spend their first 13 years of life in the lake where they were hatched. The survivors then disperse, seeking fresh running waters. For some the trek takes years. For others, only a few weeks. Most young hardbacks die within this period.   Those that reach permanent rivers stay there for a decade, at which point, they transition into the seas.
On hardbacks
Hardbacks have modified flippers with very sturdy bones, which allows them to walk on land as well as swim.   Hardbacks are able to regulate their temperature independent of the environment they are found in. This is thought to be an adaptation to the wide range of environments the hardbacks must go through in their lives.


There's is a small, inconsequential debate in regards to the origin of the name.  
Some people think that the name "tide" comes because they are so big they can cause small tides when they swim in a pod.   But really, it's just because their size allows them to swim anywhere, regardless of tides.   Valek, a studious man on halfling issues

To train a hardback is to make a lifetime commitment

Training and taming is done by teenager halflings who were born in the year before turtle mating was observed in the river mouths. These 15 and 14-year-olds move into nurseries themselves to live for a year before the hatchlings are expected to leave. Throughout this year, teenage halflings are expected to fend off for themselves in the wild, without aid from their families. If several teenagers are taken to the same pond, they are allowed to team up, and it is actually expected.
During this first year, the teenagers are not supposed to pay particular attention to the hatchlings. Most follow the guideline because they are usually busy building themselves shelter, foraging in the surroundings of the lake, and protecting themselves. There is always a halfling or two that do start forming a bond or taking a liking to a specific hardback. These are usually the more naturally-inclined ones, future rangers and druids, but it is not always the case.
The only exception to not minding the hatchlings too much is that the teenager halflings are expected to keep the hatchlings safe. If a creature, even a humanoid, tries to harm the hatchlings, the halflings are expected to deal with the intruder, even if it costs them their lives.
Once individual hardbacks start making forays outside of the lake, often travelling around the lake's area for one of two days, the teenagers know it is their time to leave. They are to pack up rations and anything else they may need to survive, choose a hardback, and start travelling with it. Hardbacks very rarely travel in groups, most often choosing to disperse on their own, so the teenagers must be able to survive on their own by this point. It is during these weeks, sometimes even years of travel that the bond between a halfling and their hardback is formed.
Later on, once they reach a river or a swamp, halfling and hardback, rider and mount will learn to coordinate with each other. It is during these times when they find other halflings and their turtles. Most often, also in training. But sometimes, they find caravans of travelling halfling clans. This gives a chance to the now adult halflings to catch up and trade. They will remain in the rivers until their turtles are ready to mature at sea.
These halflings will form small groups, often forming relationships and even having kids during these years. By the time their turtles have matured and they are ready to rejoin halfling society, they have spent a couple of decades together. These tight-linked groups often stay together for life, joining a clan as a group rather than going back to their original clans; the decision on which clan to join is made jointly, and sometimes, they join a clan with which they had no kinship relationships with, but rather good commercial relationships or a relationship developed throughout the years of chance encounters.


by Freepik

Tide hardbacks are the main animals that Berari halflings use to transport goods. They are able to transport goods swimming in water or when diving deep below it. They are also able to carry items on their backs on land, although not nearly as much as they can carry while on the water.
The shell of a tide hardback that dies on land is repurposed into housing. Not for the owner of the hardback, or for their clan, but for anyone in need. These bothies are called tide shells, and while rare, more often than not they have saved someone's life, or at least, given them a night of respite.
Another used body part of tide hardbacks are the bones from their frontal flippers. Berari halflings often fashion wands and rods out of these bones. Their claws are sometimes also used; broken into shrapnel and used as a wilderness substitute for caltrops.

Cover image: by Jorge Aguilar


Author's Notes

The original version of this article was created as an entry for World Anvil's flagship Summer Camp 2021 event, specifically for prompt #4:
"Somewhere in your setting,
describe a species of working animal.
      You can view my other entries from the competition here.   All images are sourced from pixabay, pexels, or unsplash unless credited otherwise.

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Jul 4, 2021 16:37

Very detailled, I love the layout and details you put into your article! Happy SummerCamp :D

With the gears of the mind turning everlong, see what they produce in times old and new alike! Ignotas, Where Fog Turns Into Steam
Jul 4, 2021 19:38

Thanks so much, happy SC back ;)

Jul 4, 2021 18:59 by Laria

Lovely article. I think i would love to know more regarding how these beasts are domesticated. I hope you expand it on the future. Great idea for the prompt.

Jul 4, 2021 19:37

Thanks, Laria!   Just for my information, did you click on the "To train a hardback...."?
Aside from that, tomorrow's article will be about Berari halflings as well, where I'll be covering the more cultural aspects of their domestication.

Jul 4, 2021 20:36

Short and sweet but nevertheless enjoyable! What is the non-domesticated species like? Does it live longer in captivity or wild? What are its natural predators, and what does it feed on? Do they come in different colours and is there some gender dysmorphism going on? I adore the layout of the article, although the blue-on-blue info box might not be the most legible of texts. Very well done indeed!

Jul 18, 2021 13:40

Hi!   I don't think there is much of a difference if any. Since the hardbacks are allowed to mate at will and the young ones develop by their own on their first years, I think there is a regular exchange of genes (even if such a concept is not a thing in my world).   Tamed hardbacks will probably live longer than wild ones, due to the increased care and protection that having an owner affords them.   Thanks for the feedback on the aloud blue box. I'll see if I can make it more legible!

Jul 4, 2021 20:40

There's a great level of detail in the article and the formatting is nice, making it very inviting to read. The extra chunk of prose in the spoiler is a really nice touch, too :D   I am always a big fan of tying in culture to an article, so that line about the bad luck is very great to me. I really like that one :)   Some questions and thoughts:   Do the halflings do anything to decorate their turtles? Paint the shells, imbed precious jewels or metals in the shell, reinforce them with iron or spikes?   Do the druids do any sort of breeding with the turtles to make bigger, stronger (mutant ninja) turtles? How involved are the halflings in guiding the turtle development between generations?   All in all, great article, some things to consider :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 18, 2021 13:45

Thanks, Q! I am glad you enjoyed the article.   No painting and decoration, as "land" halflings already do that with their Dire Pangolins, so I think I'll leave these hardbacks undecorated.   As for the breeding, I think it is pretty laid back. Hardbacks are allowed to leave their halfling for a while to go mate if the halflings are far away from the sea. Or if the halflings are already at sea, then no separation is needed. The hardbacks mate with whomever they want, and come back. Aside from protecting the teenager hardbacks, there is no much selection going on.

Jul 4, 2021 21:01 by Bart Weergang

I love this article, although I only found out in the comments that I could click a spoiler link. But then I was surprised with even more of the good stuff!

Jul 18, 2021 13:46

Yep... Trying to figure out how to make the spoiler button even more noticeable. I thought giving it a really large font would do it, but obviously not xD

Jul 5, 2021 06:27 by Laure Yates

I really enjoyed reading your article, very well structured and full of interesting details. I think using turtles as your domesticated animals is quite clever: the fact they can go on land and on water would make them super valuable - quite credible.

Jul 18, 2021 13:46

Thanks, Laure! I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it :)

Jul 5, 2021 08:23 by Avalon Arcana

Nooo, Don't sacrifice them and eat their meat! What'd they ever do to you? Other than that heart-breaking detail, I really enjoyed this article. Well done :)

You should check out the The 5 Shudake, if you want of course.
Jul 18, 2021 13:48

I think there are not a lot of instances of cultures in human history that let good meat go to waste because of sentimental values. If the animal did not die of disease or to poison, I think it is reasonable that people eat them.   I'm glad that aside from that you enjoyed the article :)

Jul 5, 2021 16:34 by Molly Marjorie

I love that you chose turtles for your working animal. It's very unique. And I seem to fill a species prompt with turtles every year, so all the better!

Check out Natural Magic : a coming of age fantasy novel, because life is hard enough when you're fourteen, even without saving the world. Or listen to it in podcast form .
Jul 5, 2021 16:35 by Molly Marjorie

I forgot to mention, I also love the connection the halflings have with the turtles--the way they use the shells and flipper bones when they die--that even in death, the turtles are this important part of their culture.

Check out Natural Magic : a coming of age fantasy novel, because life is hard enough when you're fourteen, even without saving the world. Or listen to it in podcast form .
Jul 18, 2021 13:49

Turtle crew! Thanks for your comment, I'm glad that you liked the connections between the animal and the culture :D

Jul 9, 2021 22:56 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I love the detail about the domestication in the spoiler box. It sounds like such a journey. No wonder their bonds are so strong. <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 18, 2021 13:50

Thanks, Emy! The article started with that, actually, since I knew I wanted this long process that only a few halflings would get the chance to participate in.