Springstep Elk Species in An Riav | World Anvil
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Springstep Elk

or The Running Dream

"Come on, hurry it up, they're getting all droopy-eyed over here!" Caras' voice carried over the din of the breaking camp. "We don't get them under way soon, they'll be sluggish right the way through to Tenemar, you hear me?"   "Relax, boy, they'll bounce back." Magra laid another bundle of wrapped tentpoles in his hands, with a pat to his cheek that couldn't have been more condescending if it had been rehearsed. Maybe it had been. Caras wouldn't put it past Magra to actually practice putting people down in front of a mirror so she would get the intonations *just* right.   "If they don't, we'll be another month getting to the city. You want the sick to wait that long, you be my guest and take your time." Caras didn't wait to see the woman's reaction, turning to start fastening the tent poles on the sides of the massive Springstep Elk beside him.   He never tired of working with the creatures, just as they rarely seemed to tire of . . . anything, really. He was tall among his people, a handsbreadth above most of the other Lantarin traveling on that particular run, but stll nowhere near the size of an Eladrin. Even one of the high elves, though, would not approach the backs of the Springsteps beside him. Even the runt of the group, Canyon's Leap, was tall enough that Caras could barely reach up to his shoulders to tighten the loading harness to bear the tent poles. The action barely seemed to register with Canyon, whose long, grey-furred neck was starting to droop under the weight of the time they had spent at rest.   "It's alright, boy, we'll get under way soon, then you'll get some proper rest, I promise." Caras's voice was soothing, but quick, keeping his intonations sharp so as to help keep up the elk's energy.   "I thought you were supposed to be the beast keeper, hm?" Another voice Caras had grown to hate sounded behind him. He could already picture the haughty Lantarin looking over the drooping beasts, passing judgment in a posture of arrogance he must have practiced as thoroughly as Magra practiced her vocal condescension. "I am deeply invested in this trip, woodsman. If you are incapable of caring properly for these beasts as you have said, giving them time to properly rest and recover themselves, then I will find someone else who can. Fey almighty, boy, I've not even so much as seen you give them water for their . . ."   "Listen closely, Kiradri," Caras turned on the man and felt slightly satisfied when the shorter Lantarin had to break his judgmental posture to take half a step backward in alarm, "you chartered me and my animals to get you to Tenemar, and that's what I'm going to do. You did *not* charter me to give you an education on what every true-born five-year-old of the Wild would know without being told." Alright, well, he was unlikely to get much extra by way of payment out of his employer for this trip, but some things just weren't worth the gold that could be gained for them. "These are my animals, and I know them. They're called Springsteps by some of your city people, but we call them Running Dreams where I'm from. You know why? No. You don't. Because if you had the understanding of a child, you wouldn't ask stupid question." Alright, so maybe he wouldn't get paid at all. But there was only so much city ignorance he could be expected to tolerate. "Standing still like this? It's exhausting to them. They're not tired from running all day carrying your cargo across country, they're tired because we've been stopped here an hour longer than I said we should, and they're starting to lose their step. They need to get in motion again, and fast. When they're running, they're resting. When they're at their fastest, when they're truly moving the way they're supposed to be moving, they dream. In the Wild, the place they belong, we see them running by our tents in the middle of the night like some kind of a silver shadow, running like the wind, and then they're gone. As for food and water? They'll grab that off the trees as we go. That's why your wife kept complaining about them nearly slamming you into every stray tree and bush we passed. They're eating as they run. Drinking. And if you want to get your cargo to Tenemar on time for your contract, you might want to take a clue from the Springsteps and learn how to do the same. Now get the rest of your people back into their wagons and get these animals moving again. Understood?"   Kiradri looked blankly between Caras and the animals as the tirade concluded, most of the camp paying attention to the verbal assault with various levels of either shock or amusement, depending on whether the person in question was one of Caras's associates or one of Kiradri's employees. "But that . . . that makes no sense . . ."   "Did they ask for your permission?!?" Caras bellowed, at his wits' end with the insular-minded little man. "Back. On. The. Wagon. Now." He turned and continued with the loading process, leaving Kiradri to his own devices. "It's alright, boy, we'll be moving soon."   A few minutes later, he mounted up on the back of Canyon's Stride, adjusting the straps of the saddle to bind around his legs to keep him settled on the beast's back. A few rubs to the elk's neck began to wake him up, signalling to him that their run was about to start again soon, and Caras watched from the spine as the head began to rise. The horns, a far smaller set than on most elk, were swept upward from the crown of the creature's head and angled backward until Caras was staring into the two dozen or so points of them. Each one had been bent and sharpened by the wind all of Canyon's life, worn smooth of any lingering velvet from the beast's immaturity. The first steps were slow, getting the entire train of beasts into motion again after six hours of inactivity. Canyon set the pace, taking slow steps as if moving through deep-saturated mud, even though the grassy terrain was actually ideal for running. Quick words of encouragement stretched out over long minutes, covering only a few hundred meters in half an hour, watching the sun hover low over the western horizon. Eventually, when they had gotten more of the moving rest they needed, their pace began to pick up, the entire column moving just a bit more easily, their steps somehow lighter against the landscape. "Good boy. That's it. Go ahead and fall into the run. You've got this. Come on." Caras's clipped words had Canyon moving first into a trot, then a slow canter, as the wagons behind began to fall into a rythmic clack of wheels on axles that were thankfully designed for speed even over the rough terrain of the Wild path. Even the world began to look different as it moved by faster, Leaves and branches blended into patterns of color, barely caught before they were gone. Individual blades of grass or singular bushes became a haze of speed and sunlight. The art of tending to Springsteps, raising them, caring for them, putting them to work, was not in teaching them how to run. They knew how to do that perfectly well on their own. It was in learning how to lead them, direct their speed to go, if not precisely where you wanted them to go, then at least in the right general direction. A Springstep would get from one end of a road to the other in half the speed of a horse, but it almost certainly would not follow the road to do so.   Caras could see the animal's face in his mind, though Canyon's head was out of his field of vision, carried low and forward to minimize his profile to the wind. The white antlers would be carried like a perfect bridge of wind resistance between his head and the base of his shoulders, his lips tucked in, normally chewing some stray shoot of leaves drawn from the foliage. But it wasn't their antlers, their smooth, parted hooves, or their faces that Caras loved best about his beasts. It was their eyes. Their eyes that would roll back in their heads when they reached their comfortable speed, as if the inherent pleasure of the world passing by was too much for them to handle while conscious, and they lapsed into a kind of deep, dreaming state. They did not see the world that passed on either side of them, did not listen to it or smell it or even hardly feel it beneath their hooves. They felt it, and ran within the eternal dream of the world around them, moving without explanation or warning around hazards, leaping over creeks even within sight of a passable bridge, darting impossibly into thickets of trees that seemed too overgrown to permit such massive creatures to pass. Nothing could hinder them once they were in the run, and nothing besides a voice they recognized could wake them from their sprinting rest.   He envied them the rest they gained on the run, the way the Wild seemed to brush off them without a trace. But they were creatures of the Wild themselves. He would only ever be a guest. He intended to be a respectful one.

Basic Information


Four-limbed, similar in proportions and anatomy to a mundane elk, but typically much larger, closer in size to a small elephant, only much leaner. Their antlers are windswept, such that when they run, they form a kind of natural windbreak to disperse the air ahead of the rest of their bulk. Typically silver-furred, varieties have been seen in the paler hues of all colors, in light violets, greens, and golds especially.

Genetics and Reproduction

Springsteps bear only a single foal at a time, after a gestation of just over one year. Their mating season occurs only once every other year, which tends to keep the wild population low, but they also have very few natural predators, being faster than most of the things that would eat them.

Growth Rate & Stages

In captivity, Springsteps have been seen to live from between two hundred to three hundred years before death occurs by natural causes. There have been efforts to study this life cycle in the wild, but they roam too far from their place of initial observation to allow for consistent study.   A newborn Springstep foal is able to walk within minutes of its birth, and runs within an hour. There have been birth-marches observed, though rarely, wherein an entire herd of Springsteps will slow to a walk, ordering themselves by some fey instinct until the one at the head of the column gives birth to its foal first. As the bearing mothers behind them continue past the newborn foal and mother, they fall out of pace to have their own. By the time the entire herd has passed by at a slow walk, the first foals are able to walk, and each one picks up behind as the herd moves along. The males of the pack typically surround the bearing mothers and children in a wild, moving circle during this process, moving even faster than their typical pace during the foaling. This has discouraged observation by those attempting to study the phenomenon in the past, as the males will engage any who attempt to violete the circle of their protection with violence. Once all the foals are capable of returning to the run, the herd moves on in its usual loose dash through the Wild.   Springsteps are fully mature by the time they are four years old. When the female is ready to accept a mate, she will run with several members of her herd until they have become familiar with her scent. It is thought by some researchers that the same senses the Springsteps engage to navigate while they are in the run are also engaged at this stage, but that is entirely conjecture. When the female has marked enough males to be confident of success, she will run ahead of the herd, forcing the males to give chase in her pursuit. When she has selected a suitor (normally the one fastest and best able to keep pace with her, but not always), she runs beside the male for a long loop to get behind the herd as it passes. Copulation occurs at a standstill, at great effort and at the risk of exhaustion for both partners, after which the pair return to the herd. Springsteps may choose a different mate, or many different mates, during each season, though some preferences for recurring partners have been observed.

Ecology and Habitats

They are primarily based in the southern subequatorial reaches of the Wild, inhabiting the dense forests of the Dunmorrow foothills and occasionally traversing the broad plains of the Mauritak Plateau. They seem not to have a preference between the two, though they spend more of their time within the forests. It has been theorized that this is somehow related to their feeding cycle, but this is uncertain. There are several species of shrub which have developed measures of attaching their seeds to the Springstep's fur or antlers in order to be transported in the run to a different habitat. They are seen as one of the primary mechanisms by which the Wild extends the reach of its forests out into the plains.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Springsteps are pure herbivores, eating primarily the leaves of and fresh shoots of tall shrubs, or the low-hanging leaves of deciduous trees as they pass. It is theorized that they can eat up to 25% of their own body weight in a day, but the Wild hardly seems to notice such a loss.

Biological Cycle

Aside from the annual coating of velvet on the elk's antlers during the winter months and its shedding in the spring, the Springstep seems to notice the passage of time very little. Its habitat does not extend into regions that generally receive snowfall, and they have been known to actively avoid regions in which the Fell has interfered directly to bring snow out of its natural climate.

Additional Information

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

The dreaming state into which they appear to enter while running at full speed has been a subject of study for many scholars of the Wild, but it has never been discovered with any certainty whether the dream state involves a kind of True Seeing the likes of which elven sages seek in their towers, or if they simply rely more on a kind of hyperfocused echolocation to plot their path through the Wild. It has been proven, however, that truly blinded Springsteps, having suffered terminal damage to their eyes, are still capable of achieving the Dreaming Run, though the means of this is not well understood.
Scientific Name
Springstep Elk, sometimes called Running Dreams
Native to the eastern side of the Dunmorrow Mountains, occasionally seen as far east as the Mishoun river basin.
Conservation Status
Total population unknown. The people of the Mauritak Plateau hold it a taboo to hunt them and especially to eat them, but there are some of the western highland trails who trap them and claim to have use for their skins in their transgressive enchantments.

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