Der Vorahnhörnchen, or The "Omen Squirrel"
|Shot with a filter to avoid the "stare of despair", the photographer required a week of rehabilitation at a local spa to recover.|
The Peril Squirrel (Sciurus oraculus), known locally as der Vorahnhörnchen or předpově'verka, is one of the more dangerous vermin found in the crypto-forests of the far woodlands.
While larger cryptofauna are more lethal physically, this smaller animal is one of the most lethal psychically. As timid as the common squirrel and chipmunks found near polite societies, this species has developed a secondary defensive behaviour: upon eye contact with any animal threat, the peril squirrel creates a direct psychic link with the creature. This link inexplicably presents a dire premonition to the predator, causing it to startle and flee in terror.
How the peril squirrel produces this effect has puzzled natural scientists for centuries. Investigation of S. oraculus carcasses shows no discernable difference between it and other Sciurus species. The emotional state of the squirrel, possibly in combination with blood humors, might trigger the defensive reaction in the squirrel's brain and nervous system.
Via surveillance of various nests, it has been witnessed that peril squirrels mate for life. During the mating season, usually in late autumn although this varies by climate, single perils will scout the local vicinity, tracing glandular secretions of individuals of the opposite gender. Upon encountering a possible mate, the individuals will carefully study each other. Sometimes, an individual will quickly break the social contact. Otherwise, the ritual will culminate in both individuals staring deeply, hypnotically into the eyes of the possible mate, which usually results in a pairing.
Romantics surmise that the pair are staring deep into the soul of each other, although both the actual psychic connection and the more theological hypothesis are both nearly impossible to ascertain. Variants of this romantic notion exist in various agricultural folklores, some with specific tales similar to folktales involving other animals and curses. Many localities host "squirrel dances" for local youth during harvest festivals, with local churches offering a more intimate (but chaperoned) locale for couples engaged in further "soul searching". Romantic squirrel motifs are common at weddings and in homes. Some localities require the local youth to gather acorns as an offering to the "love squirrels". Of course, the true purpose of such organized activities is to encourage socialization away from adult supervision.
Peril squirrels can crossbreed with other squirrels (albeit with great difficulty, as noted above), although progeny do not always attain "the sight".
Some individuals have hypothesized that peril squirrels can also bestow favorable premonitions if properly encouraged. Domestication of peril squirrels is difficult, due to the defensive mechanism of the animal. There are rumors of such squirrel oracles living deep in the crypto-forests, or traveling randomly, offering fortunes for hire from town to town. Stories have also been told where the oracle bestows a blessing upon a person, then a curse when the customer tries to belittle the premonition. These might be further folktales, told wherever people congregate for hospitality.
Peril squirrels are uncommon among settled lands, and most travelers will seldom venture into the darker forests and woodlands where they might be found. If one finds oneself in such an area, it is wise to consider that any squirrel seen is a peril squirrel, as the more predatory cryptofauna will have eradicated the more common varieties. The traveller's attention will most likely be directed towards the detection and avoidance of more dangerous animals, and thus peril squirrels will be less likely to offer risk to the individual. Some travellers will trap a peril squirrel, to be used as a weapon against more dangerous animals found in the far woodlands, but some cryptofauna can attack with speed and stealth, reducing the effectiveness of this stratagem.