Apuh [pronounced ‘ah-poo’] are the last of the great predators in the Vokhtan bestiary.
Apuh bodies are segmented, much like terran worms however they are an order of magnitude larger. At rest the segments are usually kept concertinaed together, however at a full stretch an apuh can reach two wingspans from end to end.
Given that a single wingspan is the size of one average Vokh wing fully extended, a full sized apuh can be quite large.
The tapering, cone-shaped head is similar to the business end of a torpedo and allows the apuh to push through the thick, viscous white mud at a speed of two wingspans per minute. Although this relatively slow speed would be useless on land, in the mud the apuh can move significantly faster than their prey.
The flattened end of the cone is an outer mouth which is held closed by a ring of enormously powerful sphincter muscles. This outer mouth protects the apuh’s true mouth which is only extended when it feeds. This true mouth has two circles of razor sharp teeth. Both sets of teeth are angled like fish hooks and lodge into the flesh of the prey, stopping it from being able to pull away. Feeding is done by the tongue which has a bulbous tip covered in extremely fine extrusions that make it act like sandpaper.
Apuh take a long time to pulverise and swallow their prey. In theory, if an apuh were to catch its prey on land the hapless victim would remain alive until the tongue finally reached a vital organ and put it out of its misery. In practice, apuh always hunt and feed in the mud, dragging their victims down and essentially drowning them even as they begin to feed.
Due to the medium in which they live apuh lack eyes and true ears however they do have a ring of hearing receptors on the underside of their cone-shaped heads. These hearing receptors are only used when the apuh lift their heads above the surface of the mud. Whilst they are beneath the mud they rely on their ability to sense even the slightest vibration through their skin.
In a very real sense the skin of an apuh is its major sensory organ but the skin has another purpose as well. Just beneath the skin are millions of tiny glands that secrete a lubricant slime. When this slime comes in contact with the mud a chemical reaction takes place, creating microscopic bubbles of air which are reabsorbed by the skin. When the apuh sleep these air bubbles build up and eventually escape to the surface where they pop, releasing a noxious smell.
When Apuh are ready to mate they use their body segments to drum their readiness through the mud. This unique vibration carries through the mud for long distances and alerts other sexually ready apuh in the vicinity who then beginning drumming as well. The two closest drummers find each other and mate by twining their bodies around each other and exchanging sperm along the points of contact.
Once the apuh have exchanged sperm they both go their separate ways and begin to build bubble nests. These nests are essentially just air-filled hollows inside the mud. By the time the nests are finished and full of air the apuh are ready to extrude the fertilized eggs. These eggs look like boils on the skin. Mature eggs detach and drop off instead of popping.
After laying their eggs the apuh leave their nests and never return. When the eggs hatch the apuh young grow inside the bubble until they are mature enough to leave. This maturation process can take up to ten circuits and during this time the young learn to hunt and feed by preying upon the weakest of the clutch. Out of a hundred eggs ten to twelve young finally make their way out of the bubble. The weakest of these are then preyed upon by the adults, including their own parents so only the strongest survive to adulthood. This extreme mortality rate is a survival mechanism to stop the apuh from overpopulating their inhospitable environment.
The apuh are hunted by only one creature on Vokhtah – the iVokh healers. Once every year large parties of healers journey to the apuh beds to catch apuh for their oil. This oil forms the basis of a very powerful tonic.