Wildlife

Jade and the greater Penglai contain lifeforms the likes of which are found nowhere else in the Golden Circle. Many of these unique creatures are considered omens of good or ill, or even servants of gods and embodiments of spirits. While some appear to be just ordinary - albeit unusual - fauna, some definitely do carry a supernatural aspect and lend some credence to local folklore.

Jade

Basan

Chicken-like fowl that are well suited to the mountainous regions from which they hail. Basans are kept as livestock, as they provide tasty and nutritious meat and eggs, and feed upon decaying matter. This strange diet unfortunately causes them to literally belch tiny flickers of fire from time to time; this is normally harmless, if not entertaining to watch, but a number of fires have been attributed to the animal. Legend has it they used to be far, far bigger, and could spit a gout of flame capable of great destruction.

Traditionally, the basan is a symbol of health and vitality, but the word is also used as a derogatory term for people who talk excessively and carelessly to the detriment of themselves or others.

Enenra

A smoke spirit thought to inhabit man-made fires. They take a humanoid form when they leave the flames, and many Penglai will claim they have seen a man-shaped cloud of smoke standing among a bonfire, if only briefly. Some, particularly travelers, will throw a portion of food or drink into a campfire in an attempt to satisfy the Enenra. They fear that if they do not, the fire will leap its boundaries while they sleep.

Heikegani

Superficially indistinguishable from normal crabs, heikegani are long-lived crustaceans, said to live by eating the flesh of warriors drowned at sea, thereby adding the dead's lost years to its own life. A heikegani can be recognized by close examination of its shell, which is said to look more and more like the face of a warrior as the animal consumes more corpses. More likely, some crabs just bear a closer resemblance to a human face than others. Still, the more "human-like" a crab looks, the more likely a fisherman is to throw it back out of respect for the dead. Less scrupulous individuals seek out heikegani to eat, believing they will absorb the animal's long life and strength, just as it absorbed the strength of the dead.

Isonade

A large shark-like fish known for its barbed tail, which it allegedly uses to pull sailors out of boats. Its skin is tough, and sometimes cured and used as leather. Each fish has a lot of meat on it, which is bland but nutritious. Its tail is perhaps the most useful part of the fish, and these are often fashioned into spears and other fishing implements, or traps.

Mujina

The people of Penglai insist these are different from the badgers of other shadows, but so far no one has figured out precisely how, other than their nationality. They appear to be ordinary badgers.

In folklore, the mujina can shapeshift into the form of a human and is a trickster and deceiver. It is said to be viciously greedy and a voracious gambler. At least, in its mythical human form.

Shachihoko

The tiger carp, common in the rivers of Jade and Penglai. They have large jaws lined with sharp teeth that can easily bite through ordinary fishing lines. The fish are not particularly large, but their meat and fins are prized delicacies and their teeth are popular in folk jewelry. It is said that if a shachihoko bites, it will not let go until it pries off a chunk of flesh.

Tanuki

The raccoon dog, a popular symbol for playful mischief and happiness in poverty. The tanuki of legend is carefree, reckless, penniless, and absent-minded, but always jolly. It is a popular pet, and the upper class encourages its use as a symbol, believing Penglai's poor will live up to the example of the tanuki and remain content (despite hardship).

Tsuchigumo

These spiders are said to grow as big as a dog, and live in deep woods, caves, or similar structures… like abandoned homes. They will eat anything they can catch, and their webs are strong enough to stagger a fully grown man. It is possible to get sufficiently tangled in a large enough web that escape becomes difficult, or impossible. They avoid humans when possible but do often live near them, so they can catch and eat the various prey items that come to feed off what the humans throw out. They are considered invaluable as pest control and those that are not directly interfering with human life are best left alone, or even aided. Still, some consider their meat to be a delicacy. Their bite is venomous and can easily be fatal to humans.

Wani

A lesser sort of aquatic dragon, the wani appears as a huge crocodile with very light scales and some features of a fish, such as a powerful tailfin. They are usually rather docile, but can and do attack and when they do their prey falls quickly to their powerful jaws and great speed. They live in deep rivers, lakes and in the sea, and while they are not common, it is not unusual to spy one during a trip to Jade.

Some sea-faring villages believe that they can take human form, and if they are gazed upon during childbirth, they will return to their true form. Historically, many of these villages therefore forbid any to enter the room of a woman during childbirth. These days, most settle for a traditional, gauzy veil covering the eyes, symbolizing a blindfold.

Gods of Jade

Byakko

The White Tiger of the West, god of autumn and earth. Despite its name, only the animal's tail is white, though few people to see one take the time for a good look; they are large, aggressive, and very dangerous. Thankfully, they are also extremely rare. Traditionally, the tiger is thought to be the ancient king of all animals, but is eternally in conflict with Seiryu, the Azure Dragon. Unlike Suzaku and Seiryu, the existence of giant white-tailed tigers has been proven. True believers say that these are only its young, and the true Byakko is much bigger.

Genbu

The Black Turtle of the North, god of winter and sea. These giant, dark-shelled turtles inhabit beaches and mudflats far away from human civilization. Like Byakko, Genbu is associated with an actual known animal. The Genbu is surprisingly docile but is also very shy; they have been known to move dozens of miles away from even a single, temporary campsite. Standing about as tall as a horse, their shells are thought indestructible and the animals, immortal. Indeed, individuals have been found with spear and arrowheads embedded in their shells, rusted and crafted with techniques not used in hundreds of years. Their shells make good armor and their meat is said to have a rich, slightly fishy taste, but killing one is of the highest taboo. Also, exceedingly difficult.

Seiryu

The Azure Dragon of the West, god of spring and sky. A massive dragon rarely seen as it flies among the clouds of thunderstorms; whether it prefers to follow storms or if it causes the storms itself is unknown. It can remain aloft for weeks or months, or according to some, indefinitely. Few claim to have ever seen the Seiryu, but it's still considered very unwise to be caught in a storm. Aside from the obvious dangers, Seiryu is said to hunt in severe thunderstorms. According to legend, Seiryu is in eternal conflict with Byakko, the White Tiger.

Suzaku

The Vermillion Bird of the South, god of summer and flame. Many different accounts of the Suzaku exist but it's unknown how many - if any - are factual, and which - if any - are actually Suzaku. The most popular theory is that it is a huge bird, its feathers a staggering array of reds, purples and oranges, that lives only on mountain tops and above the clouds. According to legend, it can fly so fast and long that it can follow the sun and stay forever in sunlight, and has done this so long its feathers absorbed the heat and flame, igniting like those of the phoenix. Large forest fires are thought to be caused by the Suzaku landing to catch prey.

Deep Penglai

Aosaginohi

Also called the Blue Flame Heron. This large bird resembles a night heron, but its feathers glow a bright blue. The brighter the moon, the brighter the glow, and while none have been seen to glow in direct sunlight, some hunters have reported seeing a night heron with a dim blue tinge sitting in shadow. They are found almost exclusively in deeply wooded areas, particularly mountainous ones. Locals believe they guide the spirits of those lost in the wilderness.

Baku

Similar to a striped tapir, these odd-looking animals are prized by nobility as pets due to the belief that they eat nightmares. Their snout is longer than that of a tapir and surprisingly dexterous, resembling a short elephant-like trunk. They are rare and live only about a decade, meaning a young baku in good health can fetch a high price. Their meat is never consumed as it has a sour taste and folklore says that by eating a baku, one absorbs all the nightmares it ate during its life.

Kutabe

A cow-like creature with six horns and nine eyes, spread across its head and torso. The kutabe can actually speak human language, but the extent of its intelligence is open to debate. Some believe it just mimics the sound of speech. Others, that it is smart enough to answer questions and is quite wise about the natural world. Still others feel it is as smart as humans, or smarter, and can willfully deceive. To date, none has ever been held in captivity more than a single night, and any hunter to fire an arrow at one finds that they have slain only an ordinary cow.

Ningyo

The Penglai mermaid, though that's a rather generous term. The creature is a golden-scaled fish with a monkey-like mouth and teeth, and oddly enough, a voice. Its voice is described as sweet and flute-like, and the purpose of its vocalizations is yet unknown. While its meat is described as tender and delicious, killing one is said to bring storms and bad fortune. A dead Ningyo washing up on shore is considered an omen of war or disaster. A popular legend involves a girl eating a Ningyo and living for eight hundred additional years, an image that has so deeply penetrated the culture that even the non-superstitious believe the fish's meat prolongs life.

Yangwu

The legendary three-legged sun crow, said to be the messenger of the sun goddess. The Yangwu has dark feathers like most crows, but they are tipped with a rich golden color, as are some of the shorter feathers under its wings. The animal actually does have three legs. Virtually all of Penglai considers these creatures to be good omens, and signs of the sun goddess's attention and good will. The Yangwu is so rare, some legends say only one exists at a time. As such, it is considered a great taboo to injure or kill a Yangwu. There is an account - its historical accuracy often questioned - of a child being executed for throwing a stone at a Yangwu.

Yangwu feathers are highly prizes as tokens of the sun goddess's favor. A naturally shed tail feather or flight feather in perfect condition can be worth a small fortune. Any sign of forceful removal inverts the effect and is said to bring great calamity.


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