Third Kingdom
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July 1, 2010, 2:58 pm

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Hill Turtles


Mapmaker's bane, a few of these can ruin a decade of cartography!

The ground sighed beneath us, a shudder passed through the hill. We extinguished our campfire and made for the horses, our tents and supplies forgotten. We fell the last dozen or so feet, for the hill we camped on sprouted stout legs and lifted itself off of the ground. We watched in awe as the entire hillock, trees and boulders and all set itself to a walk. We followed the gargantuan pile of dirt and roots for half a league before it pushed between two other hills. One of the other hills, just a bit small, gave a groan and rose up on thick soily legs of its own. We decided to leave the behemoths to their interests and sought out another place to camp for the night, minus our tents. The next morning we could follow the trail the two hills had left, gouges scraped in the earth, a path of broken trees. Curiosity got the better of us and we followed the trail for two leagues. We found our tents and gear newly settled, a stream had been diverted by the mass of the hill. They reminds me of turtles, our guide said.

Hill Turtles

A Hill Turtle is a large to gigantic earth elemental. The bulk of it's body is dome shaped, like the shell of a turtle. During their dormant periods, which can last as long as two to three centuries, trees and forests can grow around and over them. When they awaken and decide its time to move, these things are no hinderance to them. They have four thick legs that lift their bulk up and out of the ground. Their pace is slow at best, with four to six miles being the general maximum distance they will travel in a day. The elemental possesses a rudimentary head which generally faces the direction of it's travel. It has a pair of boulder sized pieces of quartz for eyes, and rumors claim that their heart is a precious stone such as an emerald, and is the size of a halfling or river boulder.

Hill Turtles generally move in small packs or pods. There are anywhere from two to eight such elementals in a group. Given their long periods of inactivity, their bodies very easily vanish into the terrain, becoming part of it. Such is their elemental nature that after moving and settling in a new location, it is a matter of days before they assimilate into the new location. Hill turtles are attributed with diverting rivers and streams, and breaking paths through old growth forests.

We woke up one morning to a great shaking of the earth, bellowing, and the sound of breaking wood. We rushed outside and the stone wall around the village was crumbling, a hill was trying to come over it. It was the most bizarre and frightening thing I've seen in years. The hill would bellow like a gigantic ox and it would heave it's mass forward. The wall shook, and stones fell out of it. The hill would repeat this for twenty minutes before the stonework gave way. We panicked, the hill crawled through the breech in the wall and crushed its way through several townsfolk houses and the inn. It ignored arrows from the militia, and axes and swords did nothing against it's stony legs. We tried fire, and well, try burning a rock or a pile of dirt and you'll see how well that went. It crushed its way to the stream that went through town, collapsing the stone bridge that spanned the water. With a great quake, it fell, cutting the flow of the stream. The hill gave a mighty sigh and stopped moving. The next week we tried to save the village but the stream was undercutting the stone foundation of the civic hall and it soon fell. Then as the water fought out a new course, a second hill came and settled north of the wall. The thing must have settled in the pond since the waterflow doubled, brought down a section of the north wall, and we lost half of the communal grain in the holding silo. Looks like a hill broke our defences better than two sieges.

Man vs. Nature

The Hill Turtle as an elemental, is a force of nature. It follows ley lines and a competent geomancer can chart where a given hill turtle will move, if not when. They can also describe geomantic patterns and plans that can divert said elemental towards or away from a certain area. For the most part the turtles are seldom active, and generally are not in the vicinity of humans. But, when a turtle decides it's path goes through a village, township, or a city, nothing short of heavy siege engines, strong magic, or a major river can divert it. Hill turtles are drawn to sources of water, which can be problematic in areas practicing irrigation, as the elemental has no qualms about blocking resevoirs, drainage canals, or holding ponds. They are no respectors of man.

In certain situations, a gifted nature aspected magic user can control a hill turtle, making it into a mobile siege weapon, or if large enough, a crawling fortress.

Ch'Taia the Green-Sword used potent anima magics and ritual sorcery to awaken a large pod of eight hill turtles and directed them to migrate almost forty miles over the course of two weeks. At the end of this migration, they trampled down a human logging town, a military garrison, and toppled more than 2/3rds of a major fortress. Ch'Taia was slain by archers and mage-hunters, but accomplished her task of breaking the fortress, routing a foot army, and ending logging in the vicinity for close to a century. The eight elementals are still slumbering in the broken and fallen ruins of the fortress.

The brothers Asim and Tjaz gained mastery over a hill turtle of impressive size. During its slumber they built a palisade and small central keep on its back. The keep, while wooden, had tall crow's nest like towers around it that archers could use. When the time was right, the brothers roused the turtle and moved it across a major trade route. They made a killing in demanding tolls and tribute from merchants, and then vanishing into the forest before siege engines could be brought to bear against them.

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Comments ( 10 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Redgre
April 22, 2010, 13:43
I'm really impressed by this idea. The mental pictures it generates are just astounding. Besides the uses you've mentioned, I could see a hill turtle sitting on an important location (or object) and choosing to move at the precise moment the PCs arrive... although it feels fate driven. I've also considered a different type of mobile fortress, if a cave dwelling creature were to take up residence on and in the hill turtle's back, trouble would erupt if the hill turtle were to move close to a populated area. I also think it would be cool if you had one 'king of the hill turtles' which was mountain sized. Finally, if a magic user of sorts was attempting to summon an earth elemental for some purpose, he gets a hill turtle instead... populated mobile fortress from another time/dimension/world included.
Voted Cheka Man
April 22, 2010, 22:21
A new elemential concept. 5/5.
Voted valadaar
April 26, 2010, 19:31
Indeed a new, cool concept. I could see these reinforcing the myth that the world is really the top of a titanic turtle.

I especially like the image of one being used as a mobile fortress!

Very good sub Scras!
Voted manfred
April 27, 2010, 16:58
This is an elemental as it should be! Forget bulky humanoids, these are the real bones of the earth - and walking, too!
Voted Jarons20
May 29, 2010, 19:12
I love this elemental view of movement of land masses
Voted Chaosmark
May 30, 2010, 16:30
I must echo the other comments here. This is truly a unique and original idea. Earth elementals being solid, slow moving turtles of gigantic proportions Just Plain Works. It has a rightness to it that I'm sure every player would understand it intuitively, even if they don't fully comprehend everything about it.

Very nicely done Scras.
Voted EchoMirage
May 30, 2010, 17:43
This feels 'right' - me likey a lot.
Voted MysticMoon
March 16, 2011, 23:09

Another well-designed earth elemental.

Voted Dozus
February 29, 2016, 11:26
This would be super inconvenient if you're a colonist unfamiliar with hill turtles and try to build a village on top of one.
Voted Murometz
March 1, 2016, 23:11
These are simply awesome. Especially when one is looking for unusual examples of elementals, which I am always doing!


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