HobbyHammer Seraphon: Ripperdactyl Riders and Bastiladon
Ripperdactyl are large, bird-like lizard aerial predators that are native to Ghur. They are used by the Seraphon for hunting from the air and traveling larger distances. Rippers are also used in battle, where the mount attacks its opponents from the air.
Bonding with a Rippers and becoming a Rider is dangerous. Like the Cold Ones a Skink can connect to a Ripper through a neural interface that allows animal and rider to move with apparent effortlessness through the skies.
The Ripper Colony is deep in the Jungle. The largest rookery, which features the largest specimens (and therefore the best to tame for riding), is in grottoes and outcrops on the sheer cliff faces. It is here that the Skinks come to select (and be selected by) a Ripper for domestication. The bonded Rippers nest in the highest part of the Chrak’o Temple where they can be close at hand for their Skink rider.
The Ripper is highly adapted for flight. Specially developed muscles attached to the breastbone allow for the powerful strokes needed to achieve lift. It is believed that all of Ghur’s flying animals take advantage of gravity that is lower than other Mortal Realms and the increased air density, (which requires more force to displace with the downward/rearward stroke of their wings, and thus gives the animal's body more impetus with each flap). The downside is that the denser air is harder to move through, and requires highly-efficient streamlining to achieve high flight speeds.
Though reptilian in appearance, the Ripperdactyl has a metabolism that is bird-like, and generates tremendous heat. The Ripper has a complex cooling system to keep it from overheating during strenuous flying. The breathing system is central to this cooling. The air inlets, or spiracles, face forward at the front of the chest cavity, like the engine intakes of a jet fighter. Induction of air is controlled by a cartilaginous operculum, or flap-valve. The lung is a bellows like structure, inflated by rib movement, but unlike the lungs of terrestrial animals, it has unidirectional flow, venting aft through gill-like slits.
The eyes which see in full color in roughly the same spectrum as human vision. They also see in near infrared, for night hunting. Additionally, Rippers are also highly sensitive to motion, and act as an early warning system against attack from the rear. Forward of the eyes are lines of sensor pits. These are thought to provide airflow information in flight, like a pitot tube on an airplane. Another hypothesis is that they are sensitive to sound, and have an echolocation role, by sensing the reflected sound of the Ripper shrieks.
Like many of Ghur’s creatures, they also have a remarkably strong cell structure. This structure, which is a biologically produced carbon-fiber, makes their bones much lighter and stronger than any organic Terran equivalent. This in turn allows them to generate more power and lift with every flap, power which is necessary in the dense atmosphere of Ghur. The biochemistry of their muscle tissue allows them to generate nearly twice the force per pound of muscle as terrestrial flying animals such as bats and birds. This, again, generates tremendous metabolic heat. The hollow bones are connected to the bellows-like lung, and cooling air moves through the long bones of the fore and aft wings.
They have only vestigial legs which might suggest a life mainly in flight, only landing to feed their young. It also suggests that prey will be smaller airborne creatures or possibly creatures perched high in the trees like Bloat Toads. The venom produced by these Bloat Toads send the Rippers into a frenzy and Skink scouts will often set these toads loose on a battlefield among the enemy to goad the Rippers into attacking more. The wings have a claw or finger that is used to cling on to cliffs and to "walk" on flat ground, possibly by dragging the body forward or more likely maintaining center gravity over the wings. All in all, they are not as agile on the ground as in the air.
Their leathery skin has a wide range of complex color schemes. Some have been seen which display only two colors. Since the color concentration is mainly on the back of the animals, it is assumed that the colors are for mating display. Both male and females display these complex patterns of colors.
The Rippers are social animals, and communicate frequently, generating quite a din at rookeries and other communal areas.
The Ripper emits sound from its head, using the open mouth to focus the direction. However, it does not have a trachea in its neck, since it breathes directly into the chest cavity. It has instead, a tube running from the lungs up into the head which pumps air through the vocal organ, the syrinx. Chambers in the head amplify the sound before it is emitted into the mouth cavity for directional aiming. Some vocalizations are emitted directly from the resonating cavity, when the mouth is closed.
Often compared to an army tank, Bastiladon are a heavily armored Seraphon with a large club-like protrusion at the end of its tail. Bastiladon means "fused lizard" in ancient dwaven, and it was given that name because bones in its skull and other parts of its body were fused, making the lizard extremely rugged. Bastiladon live in the jungles and deserts of New Lustria.
The top of the lizard is almost completely covered with thick armour consisting of massive knobs and oval plates of bone, known as osteoderms or scutes,
The osteoderms of all Bastiladon are composed of an thin outer cortical or compact bone and a thick inner cancellous bone (spongy, porous bone). The osteoderms were probably covered with skin and keratin, the fibrous protein that makes up hair and nails in people.
The plates, which varied in size, were aligned in regular horizontal rows down the lizards neck, back and hips. There were also smaller plates or other similar features protecting the areas between the larger plates, and there may have also been smaller plates on its tail and limbs. The animal's biggest cluster of armour was in its neck region.
Along with its armored plating, Bastiladon has two rows of spikes along its body. Additionally, its head was long and low, with prominent horns projecting back and to the side and plates protecting its eyes. However, even without these defences, Bastiladon are difficult for predators to kill.
Aside from its armor, another defining characteristic of Bastiladon is its tail club. The tail contained vertebrae that were woven together to form a stiff rod at the base of the club at the end. The stiff tail likely evolved before the knob.
Bastiladon move on all four limbs, and its hind limbs are slightly longer than its forelimbs.
Bastiladon graze on low-lying plants. Their triangular skull is wider than it is long and had a narrow beak at the end to aid in stripping leaves from plants. Its small leaf-shaped teeth are not designed to break up large plants and it has no grinding teeth. A broadness to part of its ribcage suggests it has some sort of fermentation digestive system to break down the massive amounts of un-chewed plants it eats.
Bastiladon has a complex nasal passage and a large cavity volume for the olfactory region of their skulls. The looping nasal cavity doesn’t improve smell much and instead is important for things like regulating temperature. However, they seemed to have a large olfactory bulb (brain structure involved in the sense of smell), so the dinosaurs likely had a strong sense of smell to help seek out food and avoid predators.