A Brief Examination of the Yierka

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A Brief Examination of the Yierka is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

An excerpt from Sarise Keshrika's "Travels and Travails," a collection of letters published in Tamzyrr in the summer of 5122.

In my recent visits to the Sea of Fire, I have had the pleasure of traveling with a few surprisingly welcoming Tehir tribes. They were patient with my inquiries and though their lives and their ways were not the subjects of my research, still they shared them. Noted herein are what details I could gather on the tribes' mount of choice, the yierka.

Form and Coloration

First, let me begin with their physical appearance, as these creatures are not oft seen or spoken of in detail outside their desert of origin. The yierka is a large, lean reptile with leathery hide, possessed of four muscular legs, a narrow wedge-shaped head, and a long, slender tail. Its carriage is semi-erect, its limbs somewhat splayed, but its torso does not hug the ground so closely as many other reptiles. Its eyes are set beneath bony ridges on either side of its head, and its nostrils are flattened and flared. A low crest of scales trails over each brow, converging near the back of the skull and from there following the spine all the way to the tip of the beast's tail. Each foot possesses five long, thick toes, with those of the hind feet easily double the length of those of the fore. Each toe bears a serrated fringe of scales along its rearward side, for traction on sand. Along its neck, shoulders, and upper spine, the hide is darker and thicker than elsewhere on its body.

Yierka present in a range of earthy colors, varying in shade from beige to umber, as well as ochre and a particular olivine hue. The tribesmen concerned with such do not seek to refine their color, due to its shifting nature. You see, in order to regulate their temperature in the desert climate, the yierka's hide changes hue, becoming lighter in the heat or darker when it is cool. However, these changes are not restricted to variation of the base color; the color may shift entirely in response to climate cues that, according to my sources, include both temperature and the moisture present in the environs. The patterns of a yierka's hide take the form of subtle bands, stripes, mottling, or speckling within their color range.

Breeds and Variations

It was pointed out to me that different yierka bloodlines do tend to breed true on the colors of their scale crests, and this is often a way to tell one tribe's yierka from another. The keen-eyed and canny might even be able to discern tribal alliances or thefts from the crests of a raiding party or at a gathering for trade. The crest colors were described to me as usually 'pale like bone' or 'dark like iron', and where they exhibit additional color, it shows as a tinting at the base of the scales. The yierka kept by the tribes I had the honor of traveling with had generally pale crests, though some also showed tints of scarlet, golden brown, and dark turquoise.

Tribe-bred yierka, I am told, are typically larger than their wild brethren and tend to live longer, even taking into account the casualties of raiding. I say 'tribe-bred' rather than 'domesticated' here, for it is difficult for me to consider any yierka, however trained, to be 'tame'. These beasts have earned their reputation as the ruthless and pernicious mounts of fierce desert warriors.

Some tribes breed their yierka for speed, and their beasts are more wiry, with longer toes and sleeker frames. Others breed for size or for battle, and among these, the thicker hide along the spine and shoulders may extend further and grow as distinct, flexible plates. I was even told tales of wild yierka in other parts of the desert that display fringes of feathers around their heads, though none of the tribesfolk I spoke with could say what purpose this ornament served, having only heard tales themselves.

Handling and Training

The morduska that hunt beneath the sands of the Sea of Fire may be why the wild yierka seek out stony shelter and make their dens among rocky outcroppings rather than burrow like their smaller cousins elsewhere. Tehir breeders supplement their stock with wild eggs when needed and when they can be obtained. Mating occurs in spring, the females lay a clutch of one to five eggs in the summer, and eggs hatch later in the year. The hatcheries of sedentary tribes were described to me as built within natural rock formations or to mimic them, but the tribes I traveled with used padded slings when on the move and stone circles when camped.

Training yierka for both riding and the bearing of burdens requires patience and a firm hand. Those hands tend to be scarred from the teeth and claws of wayward beasts, despite the protective leather gloves and armguards used by the handlers. Studded whips are a common training tool. I found it interesting to note the harnesses they used went around the snout of the beast rather than using a bit, but when I asked, I was told the tribes had far better uses for their metals, and less hardy materials would just be bitten through anyway.

The precise methods of training and command seem to vary from tribe to tribe, and even from person to person, much as I would expect from my observation of how others train their horses or dogs. That said, though I have seen riders and handlers express affection for their yierka, they do not appear to spoil them or treat them softly. Even the most stalwart yierka retains a temper, often a vicious one, and these beasts seem to live to test the boundaries imposed upon them. I must emphasize again, even a trained yierka is dangerous and could never be described as tame. Handling, training, and riding these creatures requires both a dominant hand and a watchful eye, and those who lapse in diligence may lose limbs or even their lives.

Myths and Misconceptions

While encountering one of the Tehir tribesfolk outside the Sea of Fire has always been uncommon, encountering one of their yierka has been nigh unheard of. Because of this, rumors and misconceptions about the creatures have proliferated. The very nature of the yierka has been an open question in some circles; some have believed them to be an exotic breed of camel, and others asserted they were instead a large cat or even a strange desert sheep.

It's uncertain whether the textiles hawked as 'yierka wool' and 'yierka fur' that have sprung up in various marketplaces are deliberate frauds relying on prospective buyers' ignorance, or merely misunderstandings with innocent roots, but the fact remains that many goods traded within and without the Turamzzyrian Empire claim to be derived from the yierka and are anything but. Yierka hide does, however, make a wonderful leather of varying thicknesses that can retain its texture, markings, or even a scattering of scales.