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A herd of eastern balundaurs (Seismoceratops immensus orientalis) plows through the Malaysian jungle. Painted jaubs (Trichromatornis immensophilus) pick through the ceratopsians' wrinkled hides in search of parasites, while two pods of greater prefects (Commensasaurus adamsi) threaten each other and reach for leaves from the backs of their towering hosts. In the trees, fiery moulong (Mulongia longipes) watch the progress of the balundaurs with interest.

Eurasia, the world's largest continent-mass, is a sprawling conglomeration of forest, plain, jungle, desert, and tundra that stretches across half of the Northern Hemisphere. This continent "began" (if one can use that term to describe so malleable a thing as a continent) in the Triassic, 250 million years ago, when the super continent Pangaea split into two smaller landmasses, southern Gondwana and northern Laurasia. During the remainder of the Mesozoic, Laurasia was cleaved and re-formed periodically as sea-levels rose and fell and continental plates shifted. By the end of the Mesozoic, Laurasia had separated into two isolated landmasses. These two were not, as a modern person might think, Eurasia and North America, but Europe (separated from the rest of Laurasia by the Tethys sea) and Asiamerica (Asia and North America joined together by the Bering Land Bridge). Animals and plants moved easily between the two halves of Asiamerica, and while there does seem to be some communication between North America and Europe, there was none at all between Europe and Asia. Even today, with North America and Eurasia firmly separated by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the two share very similar biotas.

Great changes in the Laurasian way of life took place during the Oligocene and Miocene, when two chunks of Gondwana, called Africa and India, collided with the Eurasian landmass. Africa's collision greatly changed the Eurasian climate, cutting off the Tethys seaway and drying out vast swaths of Asia Minor (and eventually helping to cause the great Ice Age of the Pleistocene), but this upheaval was a twitch compared to the chaos wrought by the Indian collision. The landmass now called "South Asia" smashed into the belly of Eurasia half-way through the Cenozoic, throwing up a vast, mountain range as it plowed northward. These mountains, the Himalayas, are still growing to this day, and form the principal barrier between the two halves of Eurasia.

The modern continent of Eurasia may be separated into two distinct biogeographic realms. This division is not east/west, as human cultures would have it, but north/south, corresponding with climatic differences. Northern Eurasia is temperate, varying between the wet, forested areas of the British Isles, central Europe, and the Pacific Rim, the drier grasslands (or steppes) of central Asia, and the icy tundra of Scandinavia and Siberia. The dominant flora in these places are towering conifers like the dawn redwoods (p-Metasequoia), fast-growing deciduous trees like poplars (p-Populus), spiny grab-you brakens (Deinorubus), and, of course, grasses, from steppe to bamboo. Eurasian mega fauna is almost totally dinosaurian, with the formosicorns (Formosicornidae) dominating the herbivore guilds of the forest and steppe, while the therizinosaurs (Therizinosauria) dwell mostly in the more frigid northlands. Large predator niches are split between the draks (Boreonychidae) and the errosaurs (Tyrannosauroidea), the first being pack-hunting ambush predators, the latter solitary chasers. Mammals (Mammalia) are mostly small, but a few forms rival small dinosaurs in size. The bird population of Eurasia is particularly interesting, with a number of familiar groups (such as storks and kingfishers) coexisting with truly bizarre Mesozoic-Laurasian clades like the ichthy-birds (Ichthyornithiformes) and a diverse assemblage of opposite-birds (Enantiornithes).

Southern Eurasia differs from the North both climactically and biologically. It is generally warm, varying from the hot/dry deserts of Asia Minor and Mongolia, to the hot/wet jungles of southern and southeast Asia. The highlands created by the Himalayas are cooler, and forested with bamboo (p-Bambusa) and various woody shrubs. The animals that populate these places are an interesting mix of old-Laurasian forms, which fled south from the glaciers, and new-Gondwanan groups, which spread northward from the deserts. It is in southern Eurasia that we find the greatest stronghold of the cenoceratopsians (Cenoceratopsia), a group of quadripedal browsers that once ruled all Laurasia. Draks are still prevalent in these places, as in most of Spec, but the errosaurs have been replaced with the African priscataurs (Abelisauroidea). Birds are heavily Gondwanan, being mostly African allospizians (Allospiziformes) and Australasian tweeties (Twitiaviformes). Tall trees with year-round foliage provide a habitat for many arboreal creatures, such as the carpos (Pithecaviformes), arbros (Abronychosauroidea), and pokemuses (Pokemuroidea).


-Daniel Bensen

Realm of the Falling Lakes

In HE, The most magical of Europe's realms is surely Plitvice, one of the last of the great Old-Growth European forests in OTL. This is in contrast here in Spec,where the Green Man has secured his wild Wood across the continent. However,as in HE, Spec's Dinaric mountains have been blessed by Herne. Surrounded by somewhat barren karst outcroppings, the hidden valleys suddenly reveal themselves in all their splendor.The vibrant,cool green glades,the towering, ancient Oaks (Quercus sp.),the turquoise blue lakes. All combine to create a heart-wrenching sensual epiphany to affect even the most cynical of Man. The jeweled brace of the Korana river, the Plitvice lakes are varied in size and altitude, often dramatically interposed within just a few dozen yards of each other.

The secret of Plitvice is the limestone karst the Korana slivers through.Rainfall is drawn into the ground to dissolve the calcium carbonate. Eventually it returns to the surface in bubbling springs pregnant with lime.The crucial final ingredients are water plants, summer heat and humidity.During the summer months, dissolved lime is deposited onto stationary mosses and waterweeds,eventually forming travertine. This process is so fast, small,slow moving animals such as green moss snails (Mossasnagilus verdishalis) have actually been preserved alive.

No less intriguing is the flora and fauna of the valleys.Great Quercus, so huge a Glaciotitan could barely wrap her expansive arms around these massive pillars.Verdant green so prolificent in the form of moss, ferns and forbs that release aromatic scent when tread upon.P-Ginkgo,p-Betula,p-Acer and especially p-Fagus among the understory, some p-Castanea share the canopy with the oaks.Most of the older trees have  extensive moss and lichen growth covering their trunks and branches. These arbors and clearings are the haunts of Wood Panhas (Ceronychoides nemus), reaching up to strip the branches of foliage. Hogbirds pick through the leaf litter, downing whatever is edible.streks and spelks are abundant, the dominant herbivores between 10 to 500 kgs. Silently following these herbivores are the  principle predators of the region.Veldraks, seeking any and all openings.Grisly vulgures stalk the lakeshores, digging up reeds  and snails to gulp down, before turning into the woods for a meal of p-Apis larvae and honey in secreted stump hollows.They will join forest bruisers in chasing near-crows, gollums, and Eurasian Gorgoose (Necroanas aumalai) off the remains of a veldrak kill.  

The night brings other surprises,mammalian diversity,hinted at during the day by the spelks daintily stepping among the leafy fens and the arboreal pokemurids among others chattering in the trees.Excepting the flying scowls, the spelunking gollums and the odd irritable  grisly vulgure, the majority of the dinosaurs have bedded down by  this time.Here,the mammals show their true  shades. Apatochiropterids flit through the trees and skim the  lakes.The Silk-Claw Otherbat (Taffetauncaris piscophagus) will sound into still surface waters for otherminnows (Allophoxinus sp.)and neatly slip them from the pools, a welcome addition to it's normal diet of moths and beetles.Pig-shrews and hedge-tenrecs dig for grubs and corms. Spelks large and small often sleep during the heat of the day.The Roe Spelk (Annelka anticapreolusis a skittish exception to the normal spelk tradition of maintaining singular or paired territories.These 22kg animals live in loose coalitions of extended female herds of up to 100 individuals and their offspring within a flunctuating territory.Males live in smaller bachelor herds of roughly 20.The winter rut has the males facing off by rearing up and boxing with their forelegs.The females give birth to 3-6 leverets in spring.The Red spelk also prefers to use the night to do most of his foraging.Summer is a relatively easy period when mated pairs raise their 2-6 leverets in hidden forms throughout their territory.The fine red coat gives way to a grey winter pelt by late autumn.All spelks, streks, hogfowls and segnos hungrily devour the acorn and beech mast every fall.

Forest Titans (Arctotitanus gigas sylvus), smaller and sleeker than their huge cold steppe cousins, occasionally make a summer appearance from the lowlands.They bring a host of hangers-on, such as Ungrackles (Adfuiavis arctotitanuis), baskervilles, Elil (Auritobeastoides gilvus), harracks and the occasional fledged Gorgo (Smilotyrannus belllatrix). The smaller dinosaurs and mammals seek the prey the segnosaurs flush, such as Elahrairah (Proceriohostilimillis adamsia dogbunny of great speed and fecundity.The young bellatrix flushes the forest titans.

The most interesting aspect of Plitvice, is of course, the waters.They shape the vales and hills as flowing ribbons and also pool into the spectacular lakes and waterfalls.Here are mollusks, such as mussels like the Purple Slipperquahg (Soccusimitilus viola), with a slippershaped shell containing a violet nacre, the Common Quahg (Specmitiliodes gregalis) which is found in  colonial stands throughout Europe.All are eagerly devoured by crawfish.The Crunchjaw turtle(Paraemys polleomalae) seeks out both the mussels, and the crawfish. 

Glaives (p-Esox gaesum) grow up to a meter and a half in  length.These specpike stalk among the waterweeds such as Clement Milfoil (Paramyriophyllum clemens), spring-flooded cattails(p-Typha sp.) and bur-reeds(p-Sparganium sp.) among others. Everything from unminnows to Jemima puddle-ducklings are taken in a flurry of liquid stealth. Glaives also like to bask at the water's surface, occasionally mistaken for a log by an  inattentive bird, the result is rather predictable.  Glaives themselves are sometimes taken by brown river-selkies when immature.The selkies devour them with crawfish (Apatoescrevissus gigas) and unminnows. Carpoids such as the ubiquitious Glubber (Specyprinus tiber), mudminnows, bowfins and young sturgeon also figure among a sampling of their diverse menu.Springtime brings runs of Mediterranean Shimmer-Shad (Scintillalosa mycenia),and Blue Smelt (Apatosmeris azul).The local flesh-eaters don't mind joining the piscivores in the feast.This is a time when many herbivores birth and clutch their young in comparative safety.

The action of the waters creates enormous caverns. Stalacticites reach down towards stalagamites, an agonizing sweet desire enacted in the rock of ages, eventually touching in an eternal kiss.Dark pooled waters slowly flow through and out of the limestone.Living within the clear creeks are blind Lintvern Wyrms (Specproteus lintvernia) feeding on detritus and local cave fauna such as cavefish and insects, or the occasional drowned pseudovole or otherbat, very common in the safety of the caves. Gollums occasionally will venture into the caverns to hunt for pseudovoles and wyrms,but much prefer to use them as safe nesting sites. The ever constant swirl of the waters continues out to spill it's  limestone load onto the almost raptural mosses awaiting their Passion.Travertine sculptures build up in the joyous heat and  humidity of summer.The cold smack of winter's hand stops the transformation as surely as it sends the crunchjaw turtles to their winter sleep.

The hunter's moon rises bone-white and hungry.Here, winter's melody is sung in screaming roars guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine of every feathered or furred yearling.The merciless talons of the veldraks once again holds Court. Winter in plitvice is the veldrak season, the tyrants prefer the lowlands and their giants.

The Veldraks stalk the herbivore trinity, segnosaurs in their private retreats, streks and spelks in their most coveted yards. Again and again red spatters against the white covering blanket of the realm.The season of frost is proved once more the domain of the great bird of prey.

Like any great ruling house, the veldraks have their retainers.Tuonenhurttas and elil sqabble with gollumsand harracks for the remains of the spoils.Icevens and other near-crows gladly take over the migratory gorgeese's usual position on the table.All give way to the personal attendant of the great drak, the grisly vulgure, though even this pretentious regina knows better than to press her luck with an aeryie of veldraks spent from judging a foolish rutting spelk buck too stupid to see his second spring. 

Spring does return eventually, the caress of the Green Man's beard soothes the winter away.The travertine once again preserves the snails, and the jewel of the Dinarics is born anew.

(Texts done by Raymond Tobin) 

Iceland:

Isle of Fire and Ice


Iceland, an isle roughly the size of HE virginia smack dab in the middle of the northern atlantic between greenland and europe.This is an enormous volcanic land, created by a confluence of sea-floor spreading and a hot plume of magma.The oldest basalts are 25 million years in age, a vigorous infant in geological terms.The proximity to the arctic circle makes this a cold realm, though the warming influence of the gulf stream moderates the chill, and creates perhaps the richest marine waters in the north atlantic.Glaciers cover nearly twelve percent of the island's surface, a reminder of the very recent past when virtually all of iceland truly lived up to it's nomer.

The great glaciers that remain are warmed by geothermal activities spurred by the active volcanoes, some of which actually are present beneath the icefields. This results in huge glacial rivers pouring into magnificent waterfalls.Geysers abound, sending up towering founts of steamy water into the air at intervals.Great canyons, carved when glacier lakes burst their ice dams, riven the landscape.These channel the force of the mighty waters into the sea.

A chill climate dominates the entire island, resulting in a sub-arctic trend to the vegetation.The local flora is not extremely diverse, little surprise with the isolation of the island in the middle of the north alantic.The presence of very little in the way of refugia during the last glacial period, when perhaps the entire isle was covered in ice also curtailed that.Geological activities certainly played a role in weeding out most lifeforms as well.

Spec's iceland in spite of this, still rallies with a collection of hardy fauna and flora that are sublime in such a wild and unstable country.Sea-birds nesting on the towering sea-side cliffs,water-fowl glide through the lake mists, small birds flit through thep-betula forests. Avisaurs fly overhead seeking out careless prey.The cold and wet weather has not prevented life from establishing itself here.

The interior is largely a subarctic landscape intersected here and there with lava barrens slowly being colonised by successions of lichens, mosses and finally sedges and p-salix.Vast moorlands covered with sedges(Specarex sp.),grasses(Allopoa sp.) "trueheathers" (p-Calluna sp.) and a great variety of lichens and mosses such as Sphagnum.Many species of flowering plants including green gentian(Paragentiana viridis) either dot the landscape or form blanketing carpets during the spring.Scurrying among this minature landscape of reeds and felt-like matts of moss are insects such as beetles and springtails, while flying among the flowers are moths and bumblebees.Flies are extremely important, with hundreds of species in varied niches. Chironomid flies are vital for the ecology of the lakes.They provide food for a host of fish and dabbling birds.The moths and bumblebee along with crane flies are the sole pollinators of the island's angiosperms. 

The flighted insects are pursued by summer residents such as tweeties and and small avisaurs.The most unusual hunter though, must be the holarctic turfbat(Verectuicarus holoarctica v.lyoveldio).This local population is typical of the hardy and surprisingly duirnal tolerant species.More terrestrial than their mainland relatives,they burrow through the leaf litter of the birch and willow forests as well as clambering through the grasses of the riverbanks searching for insects to eat.They are very cold resistant,often seen flying through spring snowstorms among the trees.Winter hibernation is usually within sheltered burrows lined with leaves among a dozen or more kin.Females have 1 to 3 young every year.

Darting to and fro is a tiny straw gold blur.The gullmuss (Pseudovaricola croceusa) is one of two terrestrial mammals found in iceland.These othervoles are quite old residents.DNA comparisions show they split off from their closest relative, the holarctic ranging beach mouse(Psuedovaricola actae) more than 100,000 years  ago.Apparently, enough of a refugia existed for these tiny adaptable xenotheridians to survive a glacial epoch when the island was icebound.A possible clue lies in the cliff-dwelling members of the their parasites,eggs, and dead carcasses, which even today, gullmuss will feed upon.The more typical diet is mainly vegetable matter consisting of grass seeds,forb stems and the occasional insect.Several litters are bourne from spring to late summer, with 4 to 10 pups making up the mother's brood.They are either sheltered in burrows or within hollows of wood.Like their beach mice relatives, gullmuss will hibernate in colonies within wood hollows.The coastal races often do so in driftwood.It's believed that the ancestral beach mice did exactly that and endedup out at sea to land on the shores of iceland several days to weeks later. 

Iceland's coasts are host to one of Spec's greatest concentrations of marine wildlife.Huge seabird nesting colonies can be found draping the cliffs and settled over the tussock plains.Baygulls scream across the skies, hunting out unprotected nests as wellas securing their own.Toothauks cluster onto the cliffs,hoping the sheer numbers alone will deter the nasty spitfire foulmars from decimating the flocks.Many seaside forests and meadows are host to burrowing marine birds.Gigantic congregations of seaguins and sea parrots line the beaches during the pupping season.The gravid female hespies incubate their eggs within their modified cloacal pouch, ejecting it only when the young hatch.Rhoan selky mothers select sheltered coves to safely birth their young.The jark selky however, will form colonies right in the thick of the hespornithid rookeries.Several species of duckotters live both on the coasts and inland rivers and lakes.Such vast accumulations of marine life great and small attracts predators.Rhoan selkie fathers hunt down the smaller seaguins to feed their mates.Emperor seaguins prowl parallel to the shoreline.These seaguin analogues to leopard seals mostly eat fish,but will gladly take a seabird or mammal as much as a third their own size.The emperor has her own chick to feed, and must visit the colonies frequently.An anomaly among its kind, the cosmopolitan walduck (Perpetuuanas delphinoides) feeds close to shore and frolics among the selkies and seaguins.This very intelligent cancridont chases the shad runs into the river deltas.Duck otters of several species flourish in the aquatic biomes of the isle.

Offshore, huge filter-feeders in the form of baleen-squids and gigamouth sharks consume the enormous bounty of planktonic flora and fauna.Occasional wayward adolescent fatty mosarks are found here, but they usually fall victim to rhoan selkies or emperor seaguin associations.This is the realm of the endotherms, they hold it solidly.Walducks (Pelaganserus sp.) are exceedingly abundant around abyssal mounts and drop-offs along the coast.They feast on the colossal schools of squids and teleost fishes at depth.The king kronoshark patrols the deeps, gorging on dead baleen-squid, and not above scarfing an unwary seaguin or walduck.The baleen squids are incredibly varied, from small rosy seadragonflys to the mind-boggling huge imperial baleen squid with some females estimated to reach 30 meters and 80 tonnes in these rich waters.Many other species are known to frequent these seas, like the majestic baleen-squid and the skragsquid (Skraggitheuthis atlanticus) which migrates from the deepest ocean floor to the shallows to scrape up mud-burrowing crustaceans and worms.Occasional Spec leatherback turtles are seen diving for cnidarians.The most mysterious of the animals seen offshore are the semi-cryptic ambergran (Physeteravis dagon) this hesperornithid is said to be over 11 meters long and do something truly wonderful.The ambergran retain their huge eggs out at sea, only ejecting it after the very well developed chick has hatched.This is only truly marine archosaur known.The females are said to be nearly twice as large as the 6 meter long males.Both prey on large specbonito and other fast moving gulf stream fishes.They dive to depths of up to 1,500 m according to a tagged speciment.

The seafloor is the haunt of walrooster,jarks,duckotters like the shillagh, and numerous others.Mollusk and bottom fish slurpers like the atlantic smooch (Labiotherium caribbean atlanticus) and the sea parrots (Marepsitticacus sp.) peruse the abundant beds.The iceland kelpcow (Bovigale atlanticus islandi) grazes the kelps and seaweeds along the shore.Seemingly-infinite numbers of diving ducks and ebergs paddle down as far as 40 meters to access clams and other bivalves for consumption.They will also take fish and crustaceans opportunistically.Otherworld cormorants are abundant as are toothed auks of many diverse species.They dive to reach the fish and crustaceans of the ocean floor and high columns.Squids and ammonites of many shapes and flavors spice the menu of all.The multitudes are watched carefully by emperor seaguins and rhoan selkies,the ambergran will occasionally take an unwary bottom-feeder, more out of curiosity than actual hunger.

Iceland away from the coasts is covered in birch forests and tundra steppe,with bands of lava barrens snaking between.The arctic dogbunny (Nirvicynulepus holarticus lyoveldio) is the largest terrestrial mammal on iceland. Believed to have rafted over like nirvis from greenland, they are found throughout the island nibbling on everything from mosses to bark.DNA analysis shows that they arrived at roughly the same time as the nirvis (Boreopteryx nirvi islandi), within the last 9,000 years.The isolation is apparent, as these dogbunnies may be two to three times the size of their mainland relatives.A good-sized doe may reach nearly 14 kgs, rivaling the blue dogbunny in weight.Several distinct morphs exist, with the smallest living in the birch forests, along seashore and lava barrens.The largest on the tundra moors and grasslands.Their diet is much more herbivorous than their opportunistic mainland cousins, though an occasional golden mouse or bird chick falls prey to a calcium-starved doe.5 to 20 Kits are birthed in formsonce or rarely twice a year.

Nirvis are the only residental terrestrial nonavian dinosaurs found here on iceland. These meter long hunters prey predominately on the gullmuss and nesting birds.Young arctic dogbunnies are taken during the summer, but adults tend to be very dangerous to hunt alone.Winter may see several nirvis gathering together and following the dogbunny associations, hoping for an easy kill.Spring brings out the nurturing side of the nirvis as they clutch up to 15 eggs.The young grow quickly on a diet of nestling birds and gullmuss.Nirvi chicks on the seashore are fed marine flotsum that washes up onto the beaches along with seabird eggs and dead jark pups.Fledged by the autumn, the young nirvi disperse across the island, most will not survive their first winter.Battles with other nirvis takes its toll, though the biggest killer is the cold and starvation.

Polar draks are occasional unlucky strays from the far north.Arriving on wayward ice packs, the deinonychosaurs spend the summer feasting on the colonies and rookeries.Winter however is the cruelest season indeed.By this time the marine animals are long gone and all that remains are nirvis and dogbunnies too quick for the great draks. They starve to death from the lack of winter ice to access the seaguins and sea parrots that make up their staple diets.

The lakes of iceland are poor in species diversity,but rich in total biomass. Planktonic algeas make up the base of the aquatic food chain, supporting vast amounts of midge larvae and bloodworms, which in turn are preyed upon by larger aquatic insect larvae and fish.Virtually all fish in iceland are anadromous, the only exception are the several unminnows( Allophoxinus sp.) which may have arrived as eggs stuck in migrating waterfowl feathers.Shads,among others return yearly to breed from the sea.The khrad (Salvelialosa borealis) remains primarily in the lakes and rivers,with a diadromous sea going form known along the western shores. Surprisely, the meter long hybodont muuskinbek(Euhybodus algonquinae) from north america are present but limited, found only in a rare few of the deeper, more tranquil sea-connected rivers and lakes.Preying on shads,eels and nestling birds as well as taking an occasional neglected duck-otter cub.They breed during the summer,with the pups staying in the rivers and lakes for 6 years.Some of the pups with eventually swim out to sea, while others do not.This is often the case for lake-born pups; who will use shallows or the deltas and deeper reaches of easily ascended rivers to breed instead of heading out to sea.

The numbers of waterfowl are staggering,anseriformes are present, and so are ebergs, otherworld cormorants, and many shorebirds.The abundance of pluvial lake remanants with their blooms of algae and resulting explosions of chironomid larvae and flies within the nutritious aquatic vegetation attracts the dabbling and probing birds such as puddle-ducks and several species of bustswans.Thesebeautiful anseranatids have two representative, the ninafive (Ambivlisexuncygnus dollypartoni) and the giant of the clade, the great 20 kg andre (Rupaulcharlesavis deae).These two Specswans of the Ambivlisexuolorinae have large, well developed flesh and keratin pads on their forearms for intense battle.The males have very well developed cobs that are used to vigorously defend their mates from cuckoldry, as well as smacking an unwary dumb nirvi, avisaur, or even an arctic dogbunny from taking their chicks.The large size of the armaments, which are often naked from being battle-worn, also have a pink or black scute-like spur within the middle of the pad.This gives a disconcerting impression of a blessed hominid chest.The males are referred as bustcobs and the females are known as broschis, for their high, haunting calls to summon their mates and chicks.Feeding within the Spec equivilent of myvatn and langistor, they tip over underwater like HE swans to reach the weeds and occasional freshwater mollusks for feed.The males soon shed their keratin pads and reabsorb the fleshy matts.The cygnets fledge by fall and follow their parents south.

Coloured ebergs stroke with lobed feet to lakefloors as deep as 30 m or more to retrieve fish and mollusks.These enantibaptids raise their chicks on drifting reednests, teaching the fast-growing youngsters the necessities of life before abandoning them in the autumn.The chicks instinctively follow their parents south to the new england brackish marshes for the winter.Ducks such as the puddles follow not to far below.Puddle-ducks (Jemimanas sp.) survey the waterscape and tip up butt-first to dabble the weeds,crustaceans, and fishes that brought them hewre in such abundance.

Galliforms like the brave little nanacharks (Spectetronborealis lonaank) they shelter their chicks in the p-salix shrub.These ptarmigan-like galliformes are abundant and hardy across the icelandic landscape.They raise up to 25 chicks in the spring, fiercely defending them from dogbunnies and nirvies. Found throughout the holoartic, here, they truly shine.Large numbers of anatid geese and ducks follow the anseranatid bustswans into the prolific lakes and rivers.

Tweeties such as the bluechill (Paramicrofugia iriquoisi islandi) spend the winter within the birch forest and the willow shrub.They scavenge seed grains and insect husks.Somehow, they manage to survive among the nanachucks and dogbunnies. Avisaurs like the spotted scowl and the vidar (Antifalco baltica) seize gussmuss and galliformes during the flush of spring and summer.Numerous birds and mammals over the spring and summer bounty.Soon enough, most of the creatures blessed to partake of the booty must retreat to the arctic or the tropics.Soon enough, this realm will rejoice anew.

-Raymond Tobin

Beowulf's Quest:

A Journey With Grendel Along Britain's Wilder Side

The further north one travels in Spec's British Isles, the more lonely and desolate the scenery becomes. Bright forests and cheerful glades give way to silent moors, cliff-edged beaches, endless skyscapes of cloud, and the dark vastness of the cold lochs. In the absence of man and the isolation of the island, life exists in tough and hardy forms, as rugged as the rolling green hills where they live. While none of the animals are truly endemic to Britain (the separation of the island from the mainland occurred too recently for speciation to occur), the forms brought together here are diverse and varied.

A stroll along the coastline soon reveals some of these creatures. Some of the most conspicuous animals there are Jarrks (Phocaselkis cacophonis), small seal-like marine selkies that loll in large rookeries on the beach. Their name is an onomatopoeic rendition of their loud calls ("jarrrk-jarrrk-jarrrk-jaaaarrrrkkkk!") that resonate for hours, breaking the otherwise peaceful calm of the seaside. Jarrks eat mollusks and fish, including the massive Garbargee Eels (Ophicongris serratus) that lurk in rocky crevices. Lolling beside the jarrks in far smaller numbers are Shillelaghs (Anatotaria paradoxa), beaked seal-like duckotters that feed on shellfish and other bottom-living marine organisms. The appearance of a shillelagh is not unlike a slender wooden log, and, given their habit of sometimes ambushing small animals at the water's edge, this may be a camouflage adaptation. Their tail is also strong and reinforced, and serves as a handy defensive weapon as well as a swimming tool. Roosting nearby on sharp rocks are flightless ebergs, the Oylegrins (Cormorantebaptis apterus). Unlike most ebergs, oylegrins cannot fly, and are more similar to cormorants than grebes. And yet, they go largely ignored by predators! The reason can be found in their defense system: in a technique not unlike that used by the infamous nerds of paradise, oylegrins will vomit up a vile stew from their crop at potential threats. However, this noxious brew is not venomous fruit, but rather semidigested fish. The potent and pungent oils in the vomit can blind an attacker and cripple a flighted seabird, and so most animals give oylegrins a wide berth. 

Nesting high above the oylegrins are Parson-birds (Odontophalacrocorax modestus), snakeneck hesperorniths with cormorant habits. They can often be seen standing stoically with their wings outstretched to dry.

But the true terror of the coastline remains to be discovered the largest land carnivore on the British Isles, a vicious predator whose howls resonate like the screams of the damned. This creature is known solely as Grendel (Contusisaurus belligerans grendeli). Reports of Grendel reached spexplorers early on, and were certainly greatly exaggerated. The Grendels of Spec are bruisers, powerful tyrannosaurs that most often scavenge. However, Grendels are more predatory than their continental relatives, and more aquatic. The plumage is black and iridescent green, and the tiny, sunken red arms give the misleading impression of having been ripped out of their sockets. Females are dramatically larger than males. Growing up to 3 meters in length (a giant by bruiser standards), a solitary Grendel is more than a match for pretty much anything it encounters. Amphibious tendencies mean that these tyrannosaurs do not disdain water, and regularly stride out into the surf to fish up ammonites, which are crushed with massively powerful jaws. Fish and seabirds are also taken, and a jarrk rookery is heaven on earth for a Grendel. 

However, the dinosaurs remain relatively poor swimmers, and they will give up after their prey slides into the sea.Nevertheless, Grendels are not restricted to the coast. They regularly migrate away into Britain's dark oak forests, shrouded in mist and cloaked in gloom. There, where the trees are pillars and the branches a green ceiling, can be found the legendary "Hall of Heorot" of Spec, where creatures of the shade make a living, far removed from their sun-loving relatives of the Golden Afternoon.It is in the Hall of Heorot that metathere brocks, convergently similar to badgers, root around for small prey. The 

Tommy Brock (Metameles potteri) digs up the nests of unmice and dogbunnies to feed on the helpless young. The smaller Timmy Brock (Metameles minor) snuffles for slugs, insects, and berries. On the other end of the scale, the brutal Bloody Bill Brock (Metameles sanguineus), clocking in as larger than any HE badger, will rob the nests of even small dinosaurs such as tods and vulpessaurs.Vairs (Metamustela sp.) and the larger Fitches (Pseuderminea sp.) are the deltatheridian weasels and stoats of the forest, preying heavily upon small animals. Tiggy-winkles (Potterotenrec hapalops) and Vuz-pegs (Erinaceotenrec pseudohispidus) are tenrecs that fill hedgehog roles; their relatives the Iggiwicks (Williamsontherium sp.) and the Furze-pigs (Hispidoporculus sp.) fill similar roles in Asian deserts and rainforests respectively. British Flinttower Scowls (Sepulchravis groani anglicus) are far less aggressive than the Mediterranean subspecies, do not flock, and live mostly on large insects.

Leaving the Hall of Heorot, a wandering Grendel is often incited to cross the bleak moors in search of larger prey. Red spelks and annelks roam these expanses, as do small groups of Eskals (Caproviraptor agilis), nimble-footed goatlike oviraptorosaurs common in mountain and plains of Eurasia. Their bizarre, high-pitched calls ("Fyar! Fyar! Fyar-fro-fro-fro-fidddaalllll!") earn the distinction of being simultaneously chilling and hilarious, and have earned them the nickname "Fire-fraw-fiddle". It is on those treeless plains that a marauding tyrannosaur brings down a weak, old, or inexperienced spelk. The Grendel eats its fill of the carcass; more of a flesh-eater than its continental relatives, it rarely finishes the entire animal despite its infamous bruiser dentition. A spelk carcass soon attracts the corsairs and scavengers of the highlands not harpies or rocs but different guilds altogether. First to detect the carrion are Chakcheks (Falcosaurus peregrinus), high-speed soaring bird-hunter avisaurs that will not disdain carrion. They operate fast, for other birds soon follow. More heavily-built "buzzard" avisaurs such as the wide-ranging Robin-hood (Sherwoodornis viridis) and the yelping Mewliboy (Buteoides buteo) soon follow suit, tailed by horrows like such as Morrigans (Torvocorvus belligerens) which await their turn for some scraps. Finally, the majestic icevens, also known as Kronks, soar onto the scene. These powerful and intelligent nearcrows aid each other in finding a carcass, and cooperate in driving off other scavengers. Kronks have even been known to incite a baygull frenzy to drive off a juvenile Grendel from its kill. The golden-eagle sized, blue-headed Imperial Iceven (Regicorvus imperator) and the equally large, raven-black Kronk (Regicorvus kronk) take first place at the carcass. The Pomarine Iceven (Regicorvus pomarinus) is smaller, and often reaches into the ribs to feed on the internal organs. Finally, when all the flesh is picked clean, the stately Bonecrusher-Laird (Gypaetosaurus ossifragus) tucks into the bones, smashing them with its reinforced parrot-like beak or lobbing them from great heights to crack them and get at their marrow.

Lochs, deep and seemingly boundless, are especially attractive to Grendels, probably because of their similarity to the sea. There, the bruiser can find prey similar to what lives on the sea. Common here are Williamson's Tarkas (Tarka williamsoni), deltatheridian otters, and Old Nogs (Archaeardea prisca), large palaeognath herons. But all is not as it seems the selkies of the lochs are large and dangerous, unlike the relatively placid jarrks. Animals like the each-uisge (Sucholutra vulgaris) and the kelpie (Sucholutra scotlandicus) are not above going for the dinosaur if they can ambush it in the water; then again, they are vulnerable themselves while on land. However, even a starving Grendel will not attack some animals, such as the Firedrake (Daspletotriton atrox), a tiny salamander with a striking red and black color scheme and a horrifying defense. When attacked by a creature of any size, Firedrakes push the sharpened edges of their ribs and vertebrae out of their skin. Not only does this suddenly arm them with viciously pointed spikes, this also punctures venom sacs on the surface, causing quantities on deadly batrachotoxin to spill out. Grendels and selkies have been known to die instantly upon engulfing a Firedrake, and the salamander crawls off unscathed. The similar Cold-drake (Mimicotoxotriton apates) looks exactly like the Firedrake, but lacks the venom and sharpened ribs an example of Batesian mimicry.Swimming around the loch and feeding on waterplants are Puddle-ducks (Jemimanas sp.), which have an unusual "shawl" of feathers around their neck for display and species recognition. 

Puddle-ducks often walk surprisingly long distances instead of flying. The most common is the Jemima Puddle-duck (Jemimanas potteri), which lays its eggs inland (and often suffers predation from tods and other maniraptors). And lurking beneath the ducks, right under the water, are freshwater fish, such as the Stormfin (p-Esox jacquesi), a massive pike, and the Orson (p-Silurus wellesi), a huge catfish, both of which will take small waterbirds if given the chance. And, by night, the amphibious xenotheridian Gloomer (Spectrattus sinistrus) slides into the water to feed on whatever won't swim away.

Finally, the last territories exploited by Grendels are the cold and snowy highlands. There, where the wind whistles and white snow covers the earth, the feathered bruisers are perfectly at home. It is here that the mighty Snowy Scowls (Harfangosaura aumalai) hunt down prey up to the size of a juvenile eskal. Here the kronks soar for hours on high, and the annelks call infuriatingly to each other, and thick-plumaged panhas amble sedately.. It is then that the Grendel's unearthly shriek rends the blizzard, a scream from the past that does not die out. The Grendel of legend was slain by Beowulf, but the Grendels of Spec remain, ruling supreme over a land of mountain, moorland, lake, snow, and beach.

-Emile Moacdieh

Naga and her Domain

The Naga (Opidocetoides longus) is the most prevalent of Gangetic anguillacertids. At a staggering 9 meters it is very long and slim, and feeds mainly on eels and other sepentine creatures, including caecelians.It's threat behavior is unique, it will swim into a comfortable position near the agressor, then it will rear up to the full extent to which at can protrude from the water. It hisses ferociously, and will not hesitate to bite. It's snout is long and pointed, with long, intermeshing teeth.

Another gangetic beast is the Vishnu (Hindustocleidus medius), a small elasmosaur, partial to crabs, worms, and shellfish. This beast is foul, to say the very least, with a stenching, leathery hide pungend and dark enough to wake the dead. It's bile is mildly poisonous, and is kept in check by numerous internal parasites.

The Blueboa (Gangetopeton largus), is a 1.5 meter caecelian, adept at ambushing tiny fish and rodents in the shallows, with a bluish-grey slimy hide, it is striking at the very least, to spy in the mud.

These animals pale in significance to the greatest creature of the Ganges, the river-Ganesha (Mokele gangeticus). A giant titanosaur, commonly found in the ganges, they joy in plying the waters offshore, in search of tender vegetation overhanging the shore. Theirtail is huge, as long as 6 meters, the whole body amounts to a total of 19 meters, with reduced armour and propulsion by sculling with it's huge, deep tail.

The nefarious predator of small animals along the shore is the Makak (Pithecornis maximus), a large (12 Kilograms) and inquizitive carpo. It eats fruit also, but relys heavily on stranded fish, and eggs to add needed nutrients to it's diet. It's chant-like call is known to resmple "Broda-dy-tale-angs-du-bihindh!", as they leap over the trees and hillocks near the shore. It's massive beak and topknot, head plumage are notable features of it's generally snady-coloured bauplan.

The local vulgure species, the Baalou (Ursovulgur hispidus) is a notoriously aggresive omnivore, weighing generally as much as other vulgure species. It's plumage is a dirty black and it's beak is white. It occasionally, as an extra souce of protein, will break termite mounds and gorge on their succulent pupae and piqant soldiers.

The predatory drak of the area, only second to the Drakkhan in prowess is the Baghirua (Pardalodraco agilis). The size of an emu, and gracefully adept at slipping through the trees, like black quicksilver, it preys mainly on small hadrosaurs, hogfowl and smaller prey, and occasionally titanosaur young.

The pack hunters of the area the Rama-akilla (Errobestia lupinus), are newfoundland sized and mercilless at attacking and killing the local herbivores in packs. They are tender parents, and intensely social, only killing when necessary, and avoiding humans at the slightest provocation.

The bastion of herbivory in the area is the Tulgey-grassbag (Carrolotitan giganteus), the largest and most impressive grassbag. At 24 meters, with a relatively long neck and tail, it can shake the ground with it's footfalls, and phase even the mightyest butcher-bull with it's deafening roar. It is as heavy as 12 bull elephas, when fat and gorged with graze.

The Indian wilderness of spec would make any Hindu joyfully proud, that the beauty and spectacle of it's amazing grandeur is enough to make one refelct deeply on life itself.

-(All credit for the text goes to Tim Morris)

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