Maple elk Species in Summerdark | World Anvil

Maple elk

In Thanespire, you don’t go to the forests. The forests come after you. From a certain point of view…
- Danrion Uave, herbalist and member of the Embermyst Fellowship
In the heart of the Thanespire continent, beyond the light of kingdoms and outposts, stretch the wide carpet of snowwood, gray maple, and sandfir trees. Rich with life but wrapped in a soft quiet, these forests are home to a wide collection of life. The largest, and one of most remarkable, is a creature of elusive elegance and raw power. The majestic Maple elk.
These native beasts of Thanespire have roamed the land there for at least a thousand years. Like any elk, they roam both woods and lower mountains in search of food, shelter, and root vegetables. But there is more to the Maple elk than meets the eye, or in this case, less, when met in their beloved woods.

One With the Woods

Sometimes a tree isn’t a tree. Especially when a herd of them runs.
- Danrion Uave, herbalist and member of the Embermyst Fellowship
maple elk.webp
Maple elk by CB Ash *
70 to 80 years
Average Height
9 feet tall ( 9 elspin ) at the shoulder
Average Weight
640 to 1100 pounds ( 640 to 1100 stins )
Geographic Distribution
The Maple elk holds an uncanny resemblance to their namesake, the gray maple trees that grow across Thanespire. A Maple elk’s coat, a rich blend of brown and gray, mirrors the bark of a maple tree. This fur pattern allows the great beasts to blend in with their dense woodland surroundings. It is a vital tool for the elk’s survival, giving them a type of invisibility cloak against predators, specifically the deadly Briarwolf that roams the same woods.
A Maple elk is much the same size as their common kin on the Hearthdawn continent in height and weight. Overall, they are nine feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 640 to 1100 pounds. Like common elk, they also have the typical antlers, but they are more than just bone. For a Maple elk’s antlers are covered in a soft, moss-like growth.
This antler moss is a deep green-brown with the same feel of damp forest moss. Over time, as the elk matures, this moss covering sprout broad leaves, similar to maple leaves. These help the beasts blend into their forests while also giving them a natural canopy to keep them cool against the sun. This has caused more than one explorer to mistake a herd of Maple elk as ‘wandering trees’ moving through the forest.
Maple elks, like their Hearthdawn cousins, live in large herds that are two or three groups of families that are led by one or two mature bulls. For the entire herd, there is one dominant elk. This is often a bull, but a dominant female Maple elk is not that unusual. Their deep, hollow calls echo through the shadowed woods to call the herd to new food, call out a challenge, or warn the herd of nearby predators.

Right Tools for the Right Work

These majestic beasts enjoy a rich diet of plants, leaves, and roots. Most of these they graze on while they roam their sandfir and snowwood homes whee leaves are plentiful. But roots take a greater effort, which the Maple elks have a solution for.
Maple elks have retractable fangs. These are a disturbing, but curious, set of teeth for an elk. But these aren’t often used as weapons like their antlers, instead they are tools. Maple elks use their retractable fangs to aid them in digging out stubborn roots and tubers. Both of which are important parts of their diet. The few times these fangs are used other than tools is defense against predators, such as a Briarwolf and its thick hide.
Another unusual difference is the Maple elk’s hooves or lack of hooves. Where their elk kin have typical hooves, a Maple elk has broad, three-toed feet. This makes a Maple elk slower than their elk cousins. But what they lose in speed, they gain in being more sure-footed and stable. This is an advantage in the rough lands of Thanespire, which can be more hill-prone than on Hearthdawn. It also helps the Maple elk evade predators or reach better leaves and plants at higher locations.
Rooted, resilient, and eternally mysterious, these beasts are a living metaphor for the lands of Thanespire itself. It’s simple to see why the people from the First Age and before held them in such high regard.
- Danrion Uave, herbalist and member of the Embermyst Fellowship

Cover image: Book Quill Ink by DepositPhotos Stock Art


Author's Notes

All Maple elk images are credited as follows:

  • digital art by CB Ash using a mix of synthography from Midjourney for backgrounds combined with photomanipulation and digital painting of an elk and plants using Krita.

  • Please Login in order to comment!
    Aug 6, 2023 18:40 by E. Christopher Clark

    The quotes and the image hooked me, but the prose kept me going. Well done on all three fronts! And when I got to the bit about the fangs near the end, I felt like that was the one extra thing that pushed this from good to great. Such a wonderful little detail, that.

    Check out my progress on the Cabinet of Curiosities
    Aug 6, 2023 19:48 by C. B. Ash

    Thank you very much! I had a whole lot of fun coming up with the maple elks. :D The fangs were my favorite part.

    Aug 21, 2023 20:56 by Alex the Creatrix

    I love the idea of combining plant and animal. These elk seem like such majestic creatures. It must be breathtaking to watch an entire herd of these "wandering trees" running together.

    Alex the Creatrix Star Witch & Cosmic Ambassador to the Galaxy of Kantostara
    Aug 21, 2023 23:36 by C. B. Ash

    I agree! (so long as I'm not in the direction they are running in! :D )   Honestly, I had this picture in my mind of a herd of them running along the edge of a forest, so it looked like the entire forest was moving in waves.