Call of the Vigilant
The preces has many different Names. The Name “preces” was bestowed on this creature by the Therans centuries before the Scourge, and the folk of Barsaive’s southern regions still call it that. Further north, local people call it “supplicant,” to the west, it is Named “prayer rabbit,” and the few folk along the borders of the Wastes call it “grassfang.” To most people outside the Wastes, the preces is a legendary beast; few Barsaivians have ever seen a living preces, let alone studied it. Until the past several years, the creature has been rarely encountered outside the Wastes.
The preces is about the size and shape of a large hare, some two feet long. When it sits on its haunches to observe its surroundings, the top of its head reaches as high as a troll’s knee. Its soft, silky fur ranges in color from pale yellow to a rich chestnut brown. A preces looks and acts much like a rabbit, but you can see differences if you take a closer look. A rabbit’s teeth are all the square shape needed to crop and chew grass, whereas a preces also has a set of sharp incisors and eyeteeth. When extended, these fangs show their tips below the creature’s soft, furry lips. The preces’ forelegs are also unusual, longer than its hind legs when fully extended. Usually, however, these legs are bent double.
Imagine a Namegiver holding his arms bent at the elbow, palms together so that his fingers are in front of his face as if in prayer. The preces holds its forelimbs in just such a pose, its “elbows” bent so that its “forearms” and “upper arms” are close together. When the creature moves—either in a slow, rocking walk or a highspeed dash—its elbows, not its front paws, touch the ground. Some folk in the Wastes hunt preces for food and for their soft pelts, but the swift-moving creatures have an uncanny ability to sense approaching danger. Often, they dash to the safety of their burrows before their would-be hunters even see them.
Most of the year, the preces is as placid and calm as the rabbit it resembles. It lives peacefully in groups of up to twenty, grazing on succulent wildflowers and fleeing from the smallest threat. For a single month, however, as the days shorten and the harvest approaches, the preces enters its mating season and becomes a crazed carnivore. Males and females both refuse grass and flowers in favor of warm bleeding flesh, and the males battle each other ferociously as the females look on. They tear each other to shreds, continuing to fight long after any other creature would have collapsed from shock, pain, and blood loss.
Any preces in the grip of mating frenzy will attack anything it sees regardless of size. A preces attacks with blinding swiftness, flinging itself at its target and extending its forelimbs to catch its prey in a deadly grip. The beast is far stronger than a creature its size has any right to be, and its small furry feet are tipped with needle-sharp, hooked claws. On the insides of its forearms, usually hidden by its soft pelt, are half a dozen barbs, all tipped with a terrible poison. A single preces in heat can badly maul or kill an unwary Namegiver, except possibly a troll or obsidiman. Though male preces in a frenzy hunt alone, females often hunt in groups of six or more