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A full-grown Apophis. (Cerberus concept art from the movie Hercules, artist Andrew Baker.)

Apophises (sometimes apophisi, singular apophis) are non-magic three-headed, reptilian quadrupeds found in the swamps and marshes of Egivelyn. These creatures are large, standing anywhere from five to seven feet at the shoulder, with three long necks that can stretch for two or three more feet. They typically come in green and blue, though yellow-green varieties have been reported. Apophises are masters of camouflage and have been known to bury themselves in mud and roll in dead leaves to decrease their visibility. Despite their enormity, they are agile and nearly silent predators.

The six eyes of the apophis are grey, in both sclera and iris, with slitted pupils. They have heat sensing organs below their eyes, connected to the optic nerve. This creates a sort of "heat-vision" type of perception. The apophis lacks ears but is able to track vibrations in the earth and air. Along with this, the three heads can move independently of each other and the creature can thus look in three directions at once. With peripheral vision, they tend to have a 360 degree field of view. These heads do not appear to have separate thoughts, however, and may be connected by ganglia along the spinal column. They usually live around 75 to 100 years, reaching physical maturity at around 17.

Anatomy

These creatures share some features with common serpents, such as a two-part jaw bone connected by elastic ligaments that allow the apophis to swallow large prey whole. The apophis's jaw is not built for ripping and tearing and thus apophises do not usually kill their prey with their teeth. Instead, the apophis has venom glands capable of producing a black, viscous substance with a high acidity and even higher toxicity. They can spit this substance through hollow fangs with startling accuracy. Apophises are omnivores, though they prefer to swallow and digest large, living animals over the period of a few weeks. In a pinch, they will resort to eating mosses and grasses.

As the apophis is a reptile living in a cold country, they have several adaptations to survive as exothermic creatures. They have evolved large plate-like scutes on their shoulders and back which absorb heat as the apophis lays in the water with only its shoulders exposed. They can be raised or lain flat to help regulate internal temperature. Apophises also have dense connective tissue clumps in certain areas that act as heat sinks for internalized heat. These combined with the size of the animal ensure that the apophis never gets too cold, despite its cold-blooded classification.

Society

Apophis females are highly territorial and will mark out a good portion of bog (or even an entire swamp) for themselves. Though males are allowed to live on this land; they will viciously attack any other females found on the land unless they submit to the land's female and do not attempt to mate with a male. Apophis females can have several mates with whom they copulate and have one batch of pups every two years or so. Apophises are viviparous, meaning females give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. They usually give birth to three to five pups at a time and their care is entrusted to the male partner while the mother usually abandons the brood to protect the territory. A typical family group will include a male and a gaggle of children, anywhere from one to four generations of them.

A Father, sometimes known as an Alpha, will remain with the children well into their own adulthood, teaching them how to hunt and track prey. Apophises tend to shoot or even inject their venom into a target, then follow at a distance until the creature is overcome by its wounds. They are cautious creatures when on the hunt. When not, the female is often aggressive while the male portrays a more submissive nature.

Birth Defects

Some apophises can be born with patches of exposed purple-pink skin lacking in scales, a condition that is also associated with hemophilia and blindness. Apophises rarely care for these pups as they are extremely weak and not well camouflaged. A father may make the attempt, but even so, they typically die young due to complications of their defects.