“You want proof that the Ayr don’t care one testicle hair about us? I give you the Skull Faced Man Rat.”
-Eod Ka, Luxi Warrior and member of Anhur Company
Also Known as: Skals, Babaecalus, Man Rat
Habitat: Subterranean, Nocturnal
Hazard Level: Moderate to High
With names that literally translate to “Rotten Skull” or “Bone Head” the Skalrot is easily identified by its skull like head with features that cross between rodent and bird and set atop a disturbingly humanoid but hunched body covered in mangy rat fur. Skalrot and their larger sub-species the Urskal or Babac are aggressive scavengers and opportunistic predators found in dank dark environments across Aeldos, from vast caves systems, to Urul ruins, to dense jungle and swamp. Skalrot are generally classified as aberrant mammals, with just enough mutated features to throw that classification into question. Skalrot are generally between 150 and 220cm in height and can weigh from 50 to 120kg. They are strong and fast enough and demonstrate sufficient intelligence and cunning that even small numbers are considered a danger to unwary humans.
Often characterized as ‘giant bipedal rodents’, Skalrot are hunched, feral creatures whose sickly green eyes stare with hungry intent from a skeletal face. They have sinewy pot-bellied bodies covered in brown or black fur and typically move by loping and scuttling. Their skull-like faces are an odd blend of avian and rodent features, with a beak-like snout filled with rat-like teeth. Skalrot often smell musty and algael as a result of their damp living environments and their vocalizations are broad and complex, indicating a primitive sort of language. Skalrot have excellent senses and are able to navigate in pitch black using simple echolocation
Skalrot are devious, surprisingly strong, and possess both intelligence and language above most simple animals. Their language is only partially audible to humans but they appear to utilize it to organize and convey immediate and long term information and, most commonly, warnings. One of the prime indications of Skalrot intelligence is their propensity for ‘farming’ bats and rats. By most accounts, Skalrot are able to lure these species using a combination of vocalizations that border on mimicry and their naturally appealing musk. There are repeated observations of Skalrots corralling such species in crude traps and harvesting their young over months or years. Common folklore even suggests that Skalrots often use rats and bats as “scouts” for attacks and raids; the exact mechanism of such a feat and its plausibility is unclear. Despite these hints at intelligence, Skalrot demonstrate no other capacity with tools.
Despite this lack of tool use, Skalrot are far from defenseless. Smaller specimens can bite hard enough to remove limbs while larger variants such as the Babaec can breach armour and even bisect prey. They complement this with long, sharp claws on their hands which are used to rake and bleed enemies. They are also natural disease carriers, making even minor wounds dangerous.
The species demonstrates a panicked and deathly fear of certain predators; Clanbar, Faeles, Hounds in particular. This fear does not extend to smaller breeds of these species as Skalrot have been known to hunt smaller dogs, cats, and bears.
While Skalrot subsist primarily on scavenge and by hunting small and common animals there are persistent rumours of predatory colonies with a taste for human flesh. According to these stories these ‘Maneater’ Skals feed their hunger by burrowing beneath cities and outposts and preying on the poor, foolish, and drunk. How much of this is true and how much is morality tales or urban legends remains unclear. Most accounts of Skalrot suggest they do prefer to live in subterranean colonies, only venturing into the open air to scavenge or hunt and they are populous enough to be well known threats, but reclusive enough to remain hidden from most. Their digestive system allows them to eat both rotting and raw meat, making them highly adaptive to limited food supplies.
When Skalrot do attack it is typically opportunistic and aimed directly at weakened or solitary prey; the injured, infirm, children, and stragglers in particular. Groups of Skalrot are cooperative and will work together to take down such prey, dragging them into holes and burrows for consumption. The species is territorial but pragmatically so; if a colony cannot easily dispatch competitors or prey they will accommodate or relocate. The exception to these observations occurs when a Babaec is present. This divergent variant of the species is highly aggressive and often drives colonies into frenzied predatory behaviour.
Skalrot are known to secrete a yellowish liquid through glands on their neck and chest. This pungent natural musk is rubbed on cave entrances and trees to mark territory and drive off competitors. Enterprising hunters have learned that the musk of Babaec, the larger variant of Skalrot, can be used to keep many common predators away (though the risks of collecting are high). A secondary feature of this musk is its apparent euphoric effect on rodents and bats.
Skalrot are a prolific species, found across the continent. They breed infrequently but in large numbers, spawning dozens of young once every four years. They sit in the middle of the food chain and can be found in the diets of apex and meso predators such as Faeles, Atrox, Grommen and Vargr. Skalrot are sexually monomorphic and it is difficult to determine the sex of one from appearance. Both males and females are equally represented in the crude social hierarchy.
As with the Skalrot there have been attempts to tame Babaecalus. While juveniles seem to respond well to traditional conditioning, they almost always become unmanageable after reaching sexual maturity. Babaec seem distinctly less intelligent than their smaller brethren and considerably more dangerous.
Skalrot are not a prime target for hunting. The only valuable render is their potent scent glands which can be used to deter some predators, and select organ meats which are considered acceptable at best. Skalort fur is ill suited for most uses and their bones and teeth are insufficient for most crafting purposes
Babaecalus: The Babaec is a rare sexually dimorphic morphology of the Skalrot species that occurs roughly once in every 100,000 births. The precise mechanism that gives rise to the Babaec is unclear, but appears to be related to exposure to high concentrations of glandular secretions and natural elements. The biggest obvious difference between Skalrot and Babaec is the latter’s size; Unlike normal Skalrot, Babaecs continue growing throughout their life, easily surpassing to twice the average (4m and 500kg) and continuing to grow. Paniced reports of monstrous Skalrot are often actually accounts of elder Babaec who have grown to their size over decades. The second, more distressing feature of the Babaec is its much higher aggression and capacity to drive lesser Skalrot into frenzy.
Historical records claim that Skalrot were frequently used for experimentation by Shapers and Sige of the Imperium due to their modest intelligence, high replenishment, and useful similarities in size and shape to humans.
*One notable and persistent story of the Skalrot of dubious origin and veracity, originates from the lands of Victra… According to this story, some 200 years ago a noble of Victra captured a pregnant Skalrot. As an experiment the noble took the mothers brood and picked the smartest one to raise from infancy. The creature was raised as a human child; taught as any human child might be, groomed, fed, and educated it for twenty years. The results of this ‘experiment’ were mixed. The Skalrot, eventually known as Avank, retained many bestial traits, loathing human clothing and hygiene and developing only minimal language abilities, more akin to mimicry. In contrast the specimen demonstrated a noted love of water and the aqcuisition of objects from others. More incredibly, if the story is to be believed, despite its limited capacities Avank demonstrated a bizarre brilliance in mathematics, repeatedly exhibiting comprehension and facilities with complex mathematical formulae, even correcting errors made by human tutors. This bizarre experiment ended when the lord who started it died and his son attempted to have Avank killed. Fanciful recountings suggest the creature escaped and vanished with the help of friendly keepers but in all likelihood it was killed.
Of note to potential hunters and travelers, Skalrot fur is oily and thick, making it extremely flammable and making them cautious and avoidant of fire.