Red World Ecology
Blessed art thou, young mortal races, who grow up only in the shadow of the red planet.
Blessed indeed art thou, young mortal races, whose lifetimes pass as a simple toil under the hot sun or the cold moon.
Eternally blessed art thou, young mortal races, for even the oldest among you shall never remember the joys of the First of All worlds.
Eternally blessed of all the gods art thou, young mortal races, for thy race has never known the beauty a world can have which this world does not.
Eternally damned art thou, young mortal races, that this harsh world is all you shall ever know.
Blessed art thou, young mortal races – Minu; Time Dragon of Antiquity
It is unlikely that any mortal, or any being at all, can know why Creator chose to make a planet such as [red planet]. Conjured in a spot tilted heavily away from Elemental Water, the world is, at its most inhabitable times, covered completely in vast, hot deserts nearly from pole to pole. There are no oceans, only a few surface lakes, and no ice caps to speak of. Glaciation is an unknown process, and when the planet passes into Eons-long winter, little changes beside the temperature: the lakes freeze, certainly, but the vast caverns that gathered them against the long-summer heat restrain them against long-winter movement.
A rainstorm is a calamity remembered for a dozen generations, even as decades-long droughts are a comfortable norm. When the rain does come, it bleeds across the rock-hard planet’s surface, gathering into violent rivers that flow hundreds of miles to fill the deep caverns of the planet’s upper crust. Any creature who dared to traverse the surface during this period would be hard-pressed to resist being pulled along for miles, and so at the slightest barometric change, all the desert surface’s creatures dart to nearby caverns and—if they dare—pray to their gods above against the calamity of the rain. The releases of volcanic eruptions, which include massive quantities of water and numerous nasty chemical compounds, are a hidden danger which leads to these awful storms.
That life which doesn’t eek a miserable existence beneath the desert sun slumbers by day in the deep cavernous recesses of the planet’s surface. Here are found numerous species of animals and plant-like-fungi, who draw on the mineral-rich crust soil for vital nutrients, and of course, on each other. Unlike on the surface, there is fair opportunity to find water here, if you’ve got the right way of drinking it. Subterranean lakes, sustained in the long-winter by nearby numerous dormant volcanoes and thermal vents, provide a source for the general animal or fungus. Some symbiotic hunters, unwilling to risk approaching open water, have evolved special mouths to steal water without killing their prey. A higher breed of carnivore runs these lesser water-thieves down with fleet feet and drinks their blood for its water. Many a fungus wafts spores down the diffuse tunnel air currents, hoping to settle over a fresh kill and grow the tiny fungus tall enough to release spores itself.
In general, there are a few specific types of ecosystem in the subterranean caverns:
- Great fungal forests, which form in the widest caverns and provide giant and complicated ecosystems for numerous other fungi and animals.
- Winding narrow passages lined with phosphorescent, spore-throwing, burr-sticking, and fruit-bearing fungi. Relying on animals to carry their offspring to new locations, many of these fungi move across the generations through bodies and digestive systems of their animal predators.
- Brittle and craggy cave ledges which expose numerous unusual ores. The fungi adapted to these regions often break down the ore to gain certain nutrients. Often, these fungi are toxic to all animals.
- The shores of subterranean lake beds. Places for congregation of numerous species of fungi and animals, these water-plentiful areas host a wide variety of life. Flying animals, wafting fungi, and the more grounded varieties of both intermix frequently here.
In many ways, [red planet] is unsuited for sentient life: travelling significant distances requires serious excavations, which limits the movement of clans and peoples. The movement of diverse material is also impacted, although there isn’t a persistent need for buildings. Here follows a short list of the deepest-dwelling among the sentient:
- First and least among [red planet]’s sentient are Troglodytes, who remain in deep sunless caves near to the volcanic spaces. Their scaled skins, well-adapted for the hot temperatures of these regions, provide additional limiting on the distance they travel. That is not to say that they are uncultured, however, as their veneration of strange Gods from other worlds persists even onto the present day. The mind-bending scriptures of these ancient faiths drives the occasional Troglodyte raiding party to other cave systems, where they take hostages from among other sentient races to sacrifice to their gods or to eat for water. Fear and strength rule these meetings.
- Most often raided by Troglodytes are the primitive Serpentfolk. Said to have once possessed a culture far outstripping the Troglodyte, today they pale in every comparison. While the Troglodyte is resurgent, the Serpentfolk is declining, and may soon be faced with the oblivion of extinction.
- Closer to the sun-bleached surface of the world are the seemingly ever-warring races of Lizardfolk and Vishkanya. Both of these groups need more water than those below, and consequently, they compete frequently for territories both can exploit. A long-term observer would have seen the Vishkanya develop poison and the Lizardfolk develop a resistance to it. What the next step in this arms-race of sentient evolution will bring is anyone’s guess.