Somewhere in the Great Desert lives a shapeshifting race whose bodies are bound to the sand. They need no water, they want of no food, and the force they are capable of wielding pales to no race. Though their eyeless faces see all, very few have ever crossed paths with a Zullra; but even those who have come face to face with this species know very little of its capabilities.

Digital painting of two Zullra in the desert. They are giant sandmen with wind whipping the sand around their feet

The Great Desert

A golden veil blankets the north eastern reaches of Erendorn, where an unforgiving sun scorches the earth and insidious nights chill the air. This is the Great Desert, a merciless terrain that is as suffocating as it is vast. Travellers speak of the Desert as a deceitful abyss, an endless lacuna that brings you face to face with nihility. The relentless beat of the sun is enough to madden the most stoic of minds; and while its unsettling emptiness swallows the land for thousands of miles, there is much more to fear in the Great Desert than the inescapable heat.

Many dangerous creatures lurk amid the sand dunes of this deceptive region. Heavy horned Rhinogar patrol their southward settlement, always ready to attack with sharpened spears held firmly at their side. Towards the western border, Sloo-Tan slither between the sheets of sand, ready to use their powerful venom on anything they deem a threat. Meanwhile, the spaces between race settlements crawl with deadly creatures, some poisonous, some deadly, and some that you couldn’t even dream of. But not all of the Great Desert dwellers are so conspicuous. In fact, one of the most dangerous species found in this region is rarely seen at all.

Zullra: Shapeshifting Sandmen

Zullra is a species that hides in plain sight. A race of shapeshifting sandmen, their bodies are united with the Desert and are capable of taking the form of anything they desire. When they do not wish to be seen, the colour of their bodies helps them to seamlessly blend into the Desert scapes. When they want to make their presence known, it is hard to ignore their enormous size. When provoked, Zullra have even been known to tear upward from their original form like a tornado as they assume a more formidable stature.

In their wonted forms, Zullra are giant sandmen with long, weighted arms and legs as sturdy as tree trunks. Their eyeless faces have stricken fear into the hearts of many travellers, who were confronted with an overwhelming feeling of emptiness as they stared into the black hollow of a Zullra’s face. Sand drips from their bodies in heavy sheets, sliding over the curvature of their broad shoulders as though they were melting in the sun.

But Zullra are impervious to the unprecedented heat that swells in the Great Desert. These creatures want of no water, food or shade, nor do they feel the inescapable scorch upon their backs. In their natural form, Zullra can reach impressive heights and as their size increases, so does their strength. But it is nothing compared to what they are capable of becoming when provoked.

Zullra in Battle

While there have been few sightings of Zullra in Erendorn, the lands are rife with tales of them in battle. Merchants who must travel through the Great Desert have spoken of how, on weary nights when the Desert resembles a silver sea, they would witness distant Zullra suddenly ripping through the ground like furious dust devils. Extremely territorial and defensive creatures, these Merchants have described the incredible force the Zullra would bring down on malevolent trespassers or other malicious creatures.

There have even been occurrences of Zullra in the dungeon depths. Traveller tales describe the way in which this species can transform at a moment’s notice, leading some to remain uncertain as to what their true forms actually look like. Some claim to have even fought a Zullra, recounting how these creatures were able to shapeshift around attacks and deliver devastating blows that felt like walls of concrete. Even when the fight is almost won against a Zullra, their opponents must remain wary, for this is when Zullra are at their most dangerous.

Before they are completely dead, the body of a Zullra comes apart, lingering in the air for a brief moment like a brooding pall. It is a disquieting and foreboding moment for the opponents, who stand frozen in disbelief as the remnants of the Zullra begin to swirl and twist like agitated winds until newly regenerated forms begin emerging from the undone mass. Indeed, from the ashes of a Zullra rises multiple progenies. While they are smaller and less powerful than their predecessor, they are still deadly entities that are difficult to defeat.

Mysterious Species

While many tales of the Zullra circulate Erendorn, little is actually known about this unique species. Despite the danger they pose in battle, Zullra are not a malicious race and prefer to keep to themselves. This, and the fact that they are capable of shapeshifting within seconds, has meant that very few have ever even seen a Zullra; and while many claim that they have, their accounts have become no more than legends.

One peculiar pattern of behaviour that Zullra have exhibited in recent years is entering the dungeon depths of Erendorn. Native to the intense heat of the Great Desert, the cool and dank air that infiltrates those subterranean tunnels provides no advantage to a wandering Zullra. Many fearsome beasts also roam Erendorn’s famed dungeons, prowling the caves for victims and treasure; but Zullra have no desire for the material gain of coin, and even though they are known to attack things in the dungeons, it is not believed that Zullra enter the depths for this reason alone.

It is said that something in the dungeons is calling to the Zullra, something important. An ancient artefact containing great power or a long lost relic of their bygone ancestors, no one knows for certain what it is that has tempted the Zullra into entering Erendorn’s depths. Whatever it is, Zullra are ready and willing to sacrifice their own lives in search of this valued object.

There are a few things that are known for certain about the Zullra: their appearance, their shapeshifting ability and their habitat. But nothing is known of their lifestyles, lifespans or even their level of sentience. They remain one of the great mysteries of Erendorn, an ancient species bound to the sand.