Zh'irajihn (zee-raj-en)

Numerous superstitions have arisen among the desert dwelling tribes. Each tells that a Zh'irajihn is a creature not of this world, believing them to be the heralds of death. Come in search for the wicked and unworthy, to drag them away down into the abyss and feast on their immortal souls for all time.
 
Skulking the great dunes and arid cavern steppes, remorselessly hunting down their pray for miles, never relenting until they get the kill. These predatory serpentine lizards of the under deserts are shrewd and voracious hunters, that will frequently ambush their prey. The nomads and travelling merchants of the Dsja'taresh Desert refer to them as [placeholder] for their uncanny ability to strike like phantoms from seemingly nowhere.  
Do not be foolish enough to travel through the desert alone, if it's perils don't claim you pray the Zh'irajihn will not choose to.
— Wise woman of the Urshirnibael nomads.

Behaviour And Ecology

The Zh'irajihn typically prefers hot and dry places, typically found in the dry open expanse of the Dsja'taresh Desert but have been known to travel further afield when competition is high. Other desert dwelling species comprise the majority of the Zh'irajihn's diet, when food is scarce however Zh'irajihns have been known to resort to cannibalism. When suitable prey arrives near a Zh'irajhns ambush site, it will suddenly charge at the animal at high speeds and go for the underside or the throat, preferring to kill prey outright using a combination of lacerating damage and blood loss. In spite of primarily being a carnivore, the scarcity of food has led the Zh'irajhn to feed mostly on carrion. Capable of locating carcasses or a dying animal from up to six miles away with their keen sense of smell.  
Whilst having a fearsome reputation as a veracious predator, a Zh'iraijhn will seldom stand its ground when challenged by larger, stronger predators and will only fight if it knows it can overpower it's aggressor or have no other option. However, If challenged over a fresh kill they will instead feign to leave a corpse behind rather directly challenge a creature stronger than itself, before circling back and blindsiding it's competitor.
Preferring to be solitary creatures, Zhirajihn are seldomly seen together, only in situations where taking down larger prey or during mating will they tolerate each other. During mating seasons, larger, more dominate females have been known to gather a cohort of weaker females to help raise their young and hunt for them. These dominant females are the only one's permitted to mate, and once mating season has concluded, they go their separate ways.
Average Height
8.9 ft.
Average Length
34.5 ft.

Cultural Significance

Amongst the tribes of the Dsja'taresh, the Zh'irajihn is perceived as a bringer of strife and great misfortune. In many of these communities, rituals have developed that involves a Zh'irajihn and a female priestess who will perform a series of ritualistic dances and chants to lull and charm the creature. The charmers traditionally are tattooed with specific pictograms and runes significant to the ritual, each tattoo is performed with the use of ink that is mixed with Zh'irajihn venom upon their upper bodies, according to oral traditions, this will protect the charmer and make the Zh'irajihn more acceptant of her. How true these claims are is debateable, but the sceptical from what few accounts are available is remarkable, likening it to the sensual snake dance seen in Rie'shae and Zhennu'janai, perhaps alluding to the dances true origins. These accounts claim to mark the end of the ritual the Kh'irajihn will lower itself and bow submissively, where in the charmer will move in and kissing it on the back of the head, before sending it on its way.

Physiology

The Zh'urajihn is a large and lithe quadruped reptile, possessing a powerful set of snapping jaws, atop it's long slender serpentine neck. Capable of snapping through bone and cracking apart carapace with relative ease. This jaw is also equipped with a series of vicious fangs that contain a potent neurotoxic venom that can paralysis prey, leaving their victims vulnerable. The moment their prey is paralyzed, the Zh'urajihn will strike, feeding on the creature as it struggles. Their venom is something usually reserved as a last resort, Zh'urjihn have typically been observed knocking down prey with their long spined tails, attempting to stun it before moving in with their claws.


Juvenile Zh'irajihn will seldomly use their claws to attack, instead they are very proficient in using their claws to climb up difficult surfaces and scale rockfaces or pin down their quarry. Only out of desperation will they resort to scratching a potential threat. When a Zh'irajihn matures these now strong, serrated claws will become one of its primary hunting tools.   When threatened, the spines across the entire of it's body will puff up in an defensive display unnerving the would-be predator. Next it will bring its neck up to full height, fully away from the ground and swaying its head to confront a threat, it will hiss as it does this to ward off its foe. If this does not deter the attacker It will strike with its fangs as a last resort.   Typically a Zh'urajihn breathes through its nostrils and mouth, however due to the adverse conditions of the Dsja'taresh Desert, the gill-like organs in their chest are part of its cooling process for this hostile climate, able to effectively filter out debris from sand and dust storms that plague this region. During the mating season, the Zh'urajihn will rattle these gill-like organs in an attempt to attract a mate.   Capable of running rapidly in brief sprints of up to 35.4 km/h (22mph)


Cover image: Zh'irajihn by Nalak-bel

Comments

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24 Oct, 2021 09:22

Have I ever said you have the best artwork? cause you do. It works perfectly with your article to make such lovely and helpful visuals that don't take away from the actual article itself. Amazing :D

You should check out the The 5 Shudake, if you want of course.
Grandmaster ChroniclesofEvalaw
Olarae & Astaroth Arcaine
24 Oct, 2021 13:21

Thank you so much, you always have such positive comments and feedback! So thank you again! I'm pleased to hear you enjoy our artwork, as well as my writing! We've commissioned quite a few people over the years, and I think these headers have been some of the best so far, they are by the amazing Nalak-bel. We've been trying to make the right balance between imagery and content on the articles, so I'm glad to hear it's paying off!

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