Xugshal gazed at the ranks of the massed Eshal warriors who stood before him. The local war-chief has summoned all available Eshal males to resolve a terrible crisis that had recently erupted. The Cuada priest could not help but wonder if the great Toltep had been deluded in thinking that this bestial land with its monstrous natives would provide a haven for his race. As the emperors' hold on power became ever more tenuous, the Eshal were becoming increasingly un- predictable. The murderous savages in his opinion, could just as easily turn on the Cuada as the menace that they had been dispatched to hunt.
Then casting aside his fears, he addressed the assembled warriors before him.
''The Lurrdi are some of the horrors that plague this world of ours. They are driven by an all-consuming hunger that compels them to eat anything they come across. They like the other evils that menace us, are the creation of Tishooooooorsa, the goddess of evil. Determined to sow carnage against the living, she bred these abominations. When the gods finally perish and the new age of destruction dawns, their corpses will be consumed by the Lurdi which will then seek to devour everything in their path. That accursed day of despair must be postponed and thwarted and so the Brave People must sally forth to smite these monsters down wherever they are found.
It will horrify you then to hear that the Brotherhood of Larfu has taken to breeding these monsters in secret, intending to use them against us, the Firstborn! O brave People, save your elder born siblings from the horrors and send forth your brave warriors to exterminate the ravening beasts! You must slay both these monsters as well as the heretics who have allied themselves with the spawn of evil! Go forth and pile the alters high with the carcasses of the enemy!''
The black mass of the Eshal turned a deep vibrant, red, signaling their appetite for the slaughter . So long as their insatiable lust for violence was turned solely against beasts like the Lurdi, his race would endure. In truth, there were little in his view to separate the Eshal from the Lurdi. Both were savage beasts devoted utterly to the pleasures of the hunt and the sating of their prodigious hunger. With this thought lingering in his mind, he cursed the gods that had brought both Eshal and Lurdi alike into existence.
The Lurdi are a race of amphibious beings which bear a close similarity to piranhas both in terms of their appearance and behavior. A diminutive race, they nevertheless inspire terror in those unfortunate enough to behold them for the first time. Of all the sentient races of the wrack, the Lurdi are both the smallest, and one of the most feared. The average Lurdi stands an erect three and a half feet tall, its betoothed maw smashed into a cowl shaped head that seems to lack a neck. The eyes are large and slightly protuberant, offering the Lurdi near 360 degree vision. Their bodies are covered with smooth and supple scales that are often a drab, murky brown. This enables them to camouflage themselves well within the murky waters of Tarrod.
They have a large and well developed sense of smell. This allows them to detect the scent of blood which drives them into a mad frenzy.
Dozens of Lurdi will often lurk, fitting as Lurdi is the eshal verb for 'To Lurk'. These mixed packs of male and female, adults and juveniles, will linger in an area until there is little or no prey left, and then slyly fade away. The horror begins again a short time later after they have departed. Wounded or sick animals are especially vulnerable. Their already potent sense of smell is further augmented by their possession of a lateral line along their bodies which enable them to detect even the slightest movement made by a prey animal in the water. This allows them to seek out sick or wounded animal thrashing in the dark depths, since their powerful senses are easily able to detect the frenzied movement of a vulnerable prey animal. Once they have detected the presence of a wounded animal, they proceed to envelop and devour it.
A Lurdi attack is a thing of nightmare. The icthids boil out of the water, screaming with jaws agape. Others will attack from under the water, tearing at limbs and fins with their jagged flint hatchets, filling the water with the blood that drives the Lurdi into a feeding frenzy. The eshal and merfolk are their favored prey, and for some strange reason, the Curd are perfectly safe, as the Lurdi hold them in some sort of awe. Some Eshal scholars speculate that the formidable scales of the Curds and their powerful physiques make them too dangerous to attack for the Lurdi who would seek to minimize casualties to their own ranks . Others claim that the Lurddi, on account of the physical prowess of the Curd, revere them as minor godlings and therefore refrain from eating them. Also, unlike most of the other life-forms that have originated in Tarrod, the Lurddi are immune to the poison of the Cuada. Instead, a whiff of Cuada will cause the Lurdi to become restless and more prone to frenzy. A single Lurdi can be just as dangerous as a pack,for the simple reason that if he is slain, his body gives off a certain chemical that brings his pack members rushing to avenge his death.
Sociey and Culture
The Lurdi are denigrated by the Eshal as mere beasts but in fact, they are actually sentient beings who possesses a rudimentary culture. Lurdi shoals are led and dominated by the most physically powerful individual male who asserts his authority by attacking any subordinates who attempt to ignore his right to feast on any kill ahead of the rest of the shoal. He also claims the right to mate with females above that of the other males. However his rights also come with serious responsibilities. In the event that the shoal takes on a potentially dangerous prey animal like an Eshal warrior, the shaol leader, being the most powerful member of the shoal, is expected to lead the attack. He also runs the risk of being slain by younger would-be usurpers who wish to claim his position.
This callous indifference towards the plight of a defeated leader stems form the violence inherent in Lurddi society. Lurdi live in shoals in order to overpower large prey animals. However, they also tend to occasionally indulge in cannibalism which makes shoal members extremely wary of each other. On occasion, larger Lurdi will attempt to slay and devour each other. Only the dominant male can prevent shoal mates from seeking to devour one another by releasing special pheromones which induce submission and fear in his subordinate school-mates. However altercations between shoal mates have involve the entire shoal due to the fact that the Luddi have an all consuming fear of being attacked and devoured by Tarrod's other inhabitants. Terrified of the larger denizens that would easily be capable of attacking and dispatching individual Lurdi that lack the protection of a shoal, the lurdi are endowed with a unique biological feature that prevents an entire pack from descending into a frenzy of cannibalism. The moment more than five individuals begin to slay and consume one another, the pack as a whole collectively secrete certain chemical stimuli that send the entire shoal into a state of lethargy that lasts for a few minutes until the bloodlust has finally dissipated.
Most Lurdi mature once they turn one . From that period on, they are able to reproduce. At certain times of the year when favored prey species are especially plentiful, the Lurdi begin to spawn. Males will vie savagely with each other for the right to mate with females, leading to the deaths of many dominant leaders during this period.. Thousands of eggs are laid, substantially augmenting the population. Once the males have successfully inseminated the eggs of a female, the shoal stays behind and waits for the hatchings to emerge. Young hatchings mature within a month. During this period of maturation, they live in the midst of a shoal. Although there is the danger of cannibalism , they can still rely on the shoal for protection due to the inherent reluctance of shoal leader to permit the destruction of hatchlings that that were probably sired by him. The shoal also gives them access to meals and also protects them against dangerous predators like the Dunkleousous. However, the hatchling prove to be less than grateful for these displays of generosity and will occasionally nourish themselves by feasting on the tail fins of their elders. Once they mature, they leave to start their own shoals for otherwise the elders would begin to view them as potential meals.
Gender among the Lurddi is fairly mutable. When females for whatever reason, become scarce, the beta males in the shoal begin to develop female sexual characteristics.
The Lurddi are unique in the sense that among all sentient species, they actually lack individual identities. Although they are vaguely aware that they exist and are intent on ensuring that their personal needs are met, they nevertheless tend to view the outside world from the perspective of the shoal. Indeed, when a Lurdi encounters potential prey or predators, its body immediately secretes pheromones that broadcast this message to the rest of the shoal. The idea of leaving the shoal that it grew up in is also alien since the Lurdi cannot imagine an existence that is not encompassed within the confines of the shoal. A Lurdi that strays away from its shoal for too long, literally become so panicked that toxins quickly flood its body, slaying it. The desire to remain within the shoal is ingrained in them due to sheer instinct and the Lurdi still retain a cohesive ideal of themselves as a united entity despite a mutual uneasiness that exists within the shoal. This collectivist ethos characterizes their notions of the after-life as well. When an individual Lurdi is killed or dies, the shoal devours its body, partly to sate their appetite but also to ensure that the individual spiritual essence of the slain shoal member will be retained by the surviving shoal members. Subsequently ,when the mating season begins, the deceased Lurdi’s spiritual matter is transmitted to a hatchling which prior to this moment of spiritual transmission, is seen as a blank slate.
The Lurdi perspective on the world revolves firmly around their shoal identity. All creatures or entities that are not part of the shoal are regarded as either potential prey or predators and are treated accordingly. This hostile mentality also extends to other Lurdi shoals and conflicts between different shoals over prime hunting grounds are not infrequent. However, to prevent such fratricidal conflicts from destroying entire shoals, the dominant males from contending shoals challenge each other to a fight with the victor enabling his shoal to claim a temporary victory.
The Lurddi do not have religion in the organized sense of the term. Instead, they venerate the entire landmass of Tarrod as a whole. Their collective shoal mind regards the entire biomass of Tarrod as a living deity which demands propitiation and homage. In order to demonstrate their reverence for it, the Lurdi have developed an almost conservationist perspective. Filed with fear that the other living things of Tarrod will overpopulate and destroy their deity, the Lurdi systematically seeks to devour the sick and wounded among their prey. This is an ingrained imperative rooted deep within the shoal mind.
In truth, they are actually the creations of the secretive race known as the Usholal. Eons ago, terrified that the barbarous races of Tarrod would swell beyond imagination and someday storm the very barriers of their hallowed sanctuary, the foremost among the scientists and geneticists of the Usholal resorted to tampering with a local predatory amphibian species. Recognizing that the ferocious predators with their shoaling instincts would make excellent pawns, they augmented the already high fecundity of the latter and more importantly , grafted onto the collective shoal mind, a religious devotion to the very world of Tarrod. Complementing this innovation was the imprinting of an innate urge to cleanse the world of the excessive numbers that in the Ushoal paranoid imagination , threatened to destroy Tarrod. Moreover, realizing that the only race that had the potential to match up to them in terms of sheer intellect were the cunning Cuada, the Usholal also ensured that the Lurdi were immune to the poisonous defense mechanism of the Cuada. However, their primary concern by far, centered on the Eshal and for this reason the Lurdi mind was imprinted with the cultural-biological conviction that by devouring the Eshal, they would be empowered with the ferocity and strength of the Brave People . The Curd on the other hand were programmed to be off limits since the Usholal recognized them as a potential counterweight to the Eshal.