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Image:Scroll2.png "I'd heard tell from my grampa that when he was a little boy he'd seen one of them monstrous vulture-things, but I'd always thought he was a nutter. 'Course, here I am, a grampa misself now, and now that I seen 'em my own young 'uns don't believe me either. I know I'm old, but it takes a lot to make me soil misself like that."
- Old Man Shaavas, Farmer
Threat levelHigh if prey is isolated
Major featuresBone-plate over skull, razor-sharp talons on claws and wing tips
AbilitiesFlight, projectile vomit
Most common inNorthern Sylira

The Kriital (pl. Kriital) is a large, predatory bird commonly found in the Bronze Woods and Cobalt Mountains near Syliras. Though solitary predators, they are a very real danger for those traveling alone through the Kriital's territory.


These large, vulture-like birds have a 28'-30' wingspan with small talon spurs at the end of each wing. Their talons are sharp and approximately 12" long, one on each of three front toes with a smaller talon on the back toe for gripping. They usually weigh between 200 and 225 lbs, and can lift up to half their weight.

Their feathers are black and charcoal gray, though some of the older species found have been known to have snowy-gray feathers across their chest. These black feathers end at the neck, where a ruff of white feather serves as a collar from which the bright red neck extends - though "white" is really only used to describe the feathers after a fresh molt, as these quickly become stained by blood and bile and scraps from rotting prey. The ruff of most adults is a sickly yellow spotted with blackened blood as well as several different grey or yellow molds.

Unlike a normal vulture, these birds have a bony plate covering the front of their head, beginning at the sharp beak and continuing up to flare out above their ceres. The boneplate protects the delicate bald skin of their head, exposing only two small holes for breathing and the eyes, which have a bony ridge just beneath them.

History and Overview

The Kriital were originally simply dire vultures on the northern borders of the Suvan Empire, mere scavengers of what was left behind by true predators. The upheaval of the Valterrian, however, forced the creatures to adapt in order to survive in the devastated landscape. A few hundred years after the Valterrian ended, and just around the time that Syliras was being built by the Dyre brothers, the first of the Kriital began to migrate from the frozen wastes and down into the more forgiving forests of the Cobalt Mountain Range.

In modern times, the Kriital are mostly legend, rarely ever seen by any who survived to tell the tale. Because of their immense size and problems breeding there are few in existence, perhaps twenty in the mountains that surround Syliras. Those who have seen them say that they are vengeful creatures, and if their prey resists it will stalk them for miles, waiting for another moment of opportunity to strike again. They are fully carnivorous birds.

These birds prefer to dwell in caves high in the mountains rather than trees, and these dens are usually excessively foul, filled with a lifetime of rotten meat and bones and vomit. The stench of a Kriital den can be sensed from nearly a mile away depending on the wind, and if a human were to wander into one they would find themselves knee-deep in a soupy mix of liquefied body parts and waste. Because of this, though, prey is scarce near their home and they must travel down the mountain to find adequate food.

They tend to attack from above, plummeting again and again to slash with their talons. Once their prey is down, they will land and use the spurs on their wings to latch onto the body while they savage the prey's throat with their sharpened beak. Once dead, however, the carcass is rarely eaten immediately. Kriital prefer their food mostly rotted, and will only eat fresh meat if they are truly starving - and then only enough to tide them over for the few days' wait while the meat ripens. Because of this, they will often grip the body in their claws and fly it back to their cave to leave for several days until it is palatable.

If they come across an abandoned corpse, a Kriital is not above scavenging for food, but it's rare for them to find such delicacies and so the majority of their diet is accomplished through hunting.

On the rare occasion when a Kriital is surprised, it will instinctively vomit on or near whatever has attacked or startled it. Because of the foulness of the bird's diet and the extremely acidic nature of it's digestive system, this can be anywhere from just a disgusting, eye-watering experience to a spray of filth that will cause second-degree burns and a virulent infection, depending on how recently the Kriital fed and what it fed upon. This also serves the dual purpose of lightening the bird to allow it easier take-off if it needs to escape.

Behavior and Biology

Kriital can live to upwards of 60-70 years, though the majority do not live past 40 years of age. This is due to many factors, though the main one is violence done to each other during breeding attempts.

The birds are extreme loners by nature, and very territorial. These two attributes have lead to the near extinction of the species over the last two hundred years. Even when it comes time to mate, a male and female will usually end up fighting instead of breeding, sometimes to the death. Females are slightly bigger than males, but their talons are smaller, making the fight almost an even match. The average female Kriital will attempt to breed thirty times in her life, and will successfully copulate only six times - and will only produce offspring once or twice. Mating is accomplished through an intricate courtship flight which ends in a harrowing plunge from the sky. This finale is the only way for an observer to know that the courtship flight has been successful: every other part of it looks like a violent fight, and as stated above, usually doesn't progress past that stage.

Once impregnated, a female will lay her eggs in a nest of sticks within her lair, usually only two to four eggs. The eggs begin as white, and after 40-65 days the shells acquire brown spots. When this signal occurs, the female will leave the nest to hunt very specifically for a small bear or other medium-sized, furred animal in order to create her hatching cradle. Once killed, she slashes the bear's stomach open and pulls out the organs, leaving them behind. She then drags the body to her den and moves the eggs inside the hollow torso. The eggs are incubated by the mother for another 7-10 days while the corpse of the bear rots around them. When they hatch, the chicks are ravenous and immediately devour the meat surrounding them. If there is not enough, the chicks will turn on each other until their hunger is sated.

Chicks are born with black down and a small bone plate over their beak and sweeping upward, though it is not fully formed. The mother will continue to feed the chicks, regurgitating food at the nest site. At four months old the chicks will have fledged all their feathers, and will leave the nest at six months. The bone plate will not fully form until they are a year old, which means they are particularly vulnerable between the time when they leave the nest and when their protective armor has grown and hardened.

Because of the dangers of hatching and the vulnerabilities in its first year of life, only one out of every four chicks will survive to maturity. Male Kriital are able to sexually reproduce at two years of age, though females are not viable until three years of age.