Many a traveler in Al'Qahir has heard of them and fears them with their life. It starts with a slow rumble, and gradually swells to a deafening roar. Before you know it, the sand rises up, lifted by the enormous segmented body of a Sand Worm. Its enormous body rushes towards the nearest prey, consuming it in a single bite, and then disappearing deep into the sand once more. Experienced travelers know how to avoid being detected by Sand Worms, or stay away from the sands altogether. The Ramil Alfiran however, have learned how to ride the great desert beasts. They call them "Shai'Hulud" or "Great Ones". Worms, however terrifying they are, are wanted creatures for many reasons. They make dangerous mounts and are vicious war beasts. However, they are of more interest to alchemists and drug dealers, as their strange anatomy makes them very interesting for use in potions and drugs.
Sand worms are enormous creatures, with the smaller adults measuring close to 60 feet and the largest specimens ever seen being over 150 feet long. Their body diameter increases with their length, but varies from 30 feet to about 60 feet in diameter. Their entire body is covered in chitin segment plates, keeping out the sand and providing a hard exterior. Sand worms have no interior skeleton, excepting their teeth. Their heads have no eyes and their mouths are located at the front of the beast, with four rows of teeth circling the inside. Behind the mouth is the throat, which it uses to consume prey. Its brain is located behind the mouth, and before the stomach. It moves its food through an incredibly complex digestive system before it leaves its system through the back.
Genetics and Reproduction
Worms reproduce very sparsely. A female worm is only interested in mating once every four years. When she is, she will start creating concentric shapes on the desert floor, attracting potential mates. She will then dig a deep tunnel, in which the mate follows, and then lay her eggs deep underneath the sand. The mate will then fertilize the eggs, and after a period of three months, the first young worms will emerge and eat the other eggs. Usually a litter of worms is three to five worms strong. Worm eggs are extremely rare, but if found whole, are worth a fortune. They are sometimes sold to alchemists, which value its alchemical properties above all, while others try and tame the worms. The empty shells of worm eggs are even rarer, because they have been consumed by the smaller worms themselves.
Growth Rate & Stages
Worms mature fully in two years. In those two years, they grow to 60 feet, after which their growth rate slows. Sand worms actually never stop growing, but will grow steadily as long as they keep feeding. They do not shed, but instead their chitin shell repairs itself. When a worm dies of disease, old age or a mortal injury, it digs deep into the desert floor to leave its body to decompose.
Ecology and Habitats
Sand worms live in sandy deserts with enough room for them to roam. They are not territorial, but are highly nomadic, never staying in one place too long. They move around at astonishing speeds. They prefer a lot of open sand, with few sources of water. Water is toxic to them so they avoid it at all costs. Sand worms are unable to bore through rock. Sand worms are most prevalent in the northern desert of Al'Qahir , but all provinces except Jemiah have been known to experience sand worm activity.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Sand worms have slow digestive systems so they hunt slowly but steadily. They eat anything organic, from plants to living creatures. They digest their food very slowly, and excrete their waste randomly. Their waste contains high amounts of a drug, which is very valued for its recreational use. The collection of the drug, however, is hard and perilous, seeing as hunters have to go deep into worm territory. This drug is often called spice, for its very exotic flavor.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Sand worms are only found in the deserts of Al'Qahir. They prefer the northern deserts, especially the Dune Seas, but the deserts of the western and southern kingdom experience worm activity frequently enough. Worms avoid hard surfaces such as rock, or large amounts of water.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
The worms are blind, unable to see under any circumstance. They do, however, possess a strong sense of smell, which they use to find their way underground. In addition to that, the worms have a powerful sense for tremors in the ground, allowing them to hunt creatures on the surface. Their bodies, where covered, are completely numb, but underneath the segments the flesh is extremely sensitive.
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