Zekluft are serpentine creatures that when mature tend to be 10-15 feet in length and 2-3 feet thick. Spaced evenly along their bodies are 3 sets of wings, and they lack and kind of feet or other limbs. The shade of their scales in generally an orange tone, in some cases dark enough that it almost appears as rust.
Zekluft are a cousin of a small cliff dwelling being that is different only in that it is only a foot long on average, brown in tone, missing one set of wings and has small forelimbs.
These small creatures were adopted as pets by the mountain folk, people who had left the plains and hills for a rough life carved out of the rock. The small creature made an excellent pet, as it never needed to worry about falling and they bonded in family units.
When the mountain folk began needing to defend their settlements from the beasts that lived in the hills, they found that the small creatures were capable of fighting viciously and striking at speeds almost too fast to follow. As the matter of defense was not a one time thing but an ongoing struggle, they started breeding the creatures to be bigger.
Much like dogs, the creatures grew to suit different purposes, however all such purposes involved combat on some level. Some were bred to be fast and smart, so as to deliver letters between forces, while others were made to be strong and tough.
The most significant breed, however, is the one that was eventually named the Zekluft, or Six-Wings in the tongue of the mountain folk. Bred to be as large and tough as they could be, these were actually used as mounts. When the first Zekluft riders took to the skies, the history of the mountain folk was forever changed.
In the centuries since, the mountain folk have forged an empire studded across the peaks of the Wyrmclaw Craghs. The Heraldic beast being none other than the Zekluft.
The Zekluft are an intrinsic part of the culture of the mountain folk. They symbolize speed, strength, and communal bonds, all of which are values the mountain folk hold very highly. Zekluft riders are given great respect, for along with defending the people they actually manage to stay on a Zekluft in flight, which is a notoriously difficult task. The experience of riding them has been compared to sneaking up on a very large and very angry bear, jumping on from behind and trying to hang on. In a hurricane.
Becoming a Zekluft rider is one of the greatest honors anyone in the Wyrmclaw Craghs with a military disposition can hope for. The actual ability to ride one well though is uncommon. To be able to even mount a Zekluft, it needs to allow you, and only those good with animals will be able to do this if the creature didn’t bond to them when it was young. Assuming they succeed in mounting the creature, they then must attempt to stay on while it flies. It’s not that the Zekluft is trying to buck a rider, it’s just that the six wings combined with the serpentine body cause it to move through the air like a snake. It’s for this reason that novice riders train at low altitudes over the mountain lakes.
The bright side of the physiology of the Zekluft is that when a rider is able to stay on, the creature is capable of turning on a dime. Writhing about as they move, they also make extraordinarily difficult targets.
In the Craghs, Zekluft are housed in large aeries. Large stone enclosures, they have many openings to the outside, and either have a number of trees growing inside (often redwood) or simply stone pillars jutting sideways out of the wall. These things serve as a place for the Zekluft to sleep, as they seem to prefer to drape themselves from something as opposed to sleeping on the ground.
Zekluft are omnivores, though they will always take meat over vegetable matter when available. In general, small birds seem to be their favorite (especially the Swallow, ironically enough, as they often swallow them whole).
Though the Zekluft is the most iconic of the flying serpents of the Craghs, there are other breeds.
The most popular of these is the small, domesticated form of the original cliff dwelling creature that is now often owned as a pet. There is one breed that was bred as a sort of ´watchdog`. Around 4 feet long, they are usually trained to fly however they want within a set area, and if they spot any nonhumans they fly to a speific location (usually to alert someone). Because this breed was bred for intelligence, some mages have also found that they make good, if unorthodox, familiars.