|Second from the left senses something amiss with this bread.
Locals: Grumpy, damp peasants.
Wrestler: Sheriff & Hood – Heel / face tag team ordered by the king to work together.
- Band of pilgrims – We crossed paths with a sizable and rowdy company, and the meeting was agreeable all around. A member of their party was going on and on about writing a grand story about it all, though he did not seem a particularly reliable character to me.
- Hedge Knight & Squire – With the war dragging on, it was not uncommon to find deserters and masterless knights plying their services for a few coins.
- Holy Fool – They are, save some hooting and hollering at your expense, harmless. It is best to agree with their jeers, laugh along, and perhaps leave them something to eat. Good treatment of one of the mad innocents goes over well in the community.
- Questing Beast – Head of a snake, body of a leopard, voice like a pack of baying hounds. An ever-popular target among knights errant and eccentric. I met many who had gone out is search of it, and the contraptions and techniques they utilized were singularly mad.
- Termagant – No one I have spoken to is quite sure what this creature is, but all agree that it is some terrible man-eating beast worshiped as a god in foreign parts, wherever that may be. Claws like swords, burning eyes, and teeth like shields are also agreed upon.
- A very clever goat – I swear upon Skarl’s red drum this goat was following me. Three towns I saw it in, and each time it was standing alone in the road ahead, staring at me!
- Sword Naiad – Native to freshwater lakes, they are boisterous and combative, and love throwing swords at people on the shore. They will avoid doing so for young girls, and instead hand them the swords directly.
- Snail Errant – Two and a half to three feet tall at the shell, they get into places that snails are not meant to go. One might find them stuck to the ceiling of a cottage, crawling through the pews in church, or saddling up to joust.
- “Dragon” - The king’s spectacular trophy was, alas, little more than a stuffed and mounted alligator. I declined to tell him this, as he was as giddy as a schoolboy about it.
- Actual Dragon – A majestic creature, and made all the more majestic by putting significant distance between myself and it.
|Everyone here is tripping out of their minds.
Locals: Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll; bloodthirsty, entitled, deviant.
Wrestler: MAXIMUS MAXIMUS – Craven crowd-pleaser and town bicycle.
- Beast with Two Bellies – These perfumed chimeras wander the streets, offering their many services for coin. Unlike most in Adura, they are free from masters or obligations.
- Tortured Oliphaunt – Long years in the Colosseum had broken this magnificent creature. Even its retirement now to a nobleman’s garden could bring no relief, as passersby find it amusement to throw trash into its enclosure.
- Devil-Worshipper – Devil cults come in two varieties: those that shed blood to avoid notice, and those that shed blood to be noticed. They love nothing more than fighting each other, as it one side is dying for the sake of the other no matter how it’s looked at.
- Slave Neonate – People recently and forcibly invested in a mystery cult. Utterly obedient to their superiors, cruel and violent when left to their own devices. Eat a specialized diet soaked in mind-altering substances. Eyes lack pupil or iris, being an ever-shifting mix of colors. Popular among the nobility as servants and guards of their latifundia.
- Escaped White Lion – Its eyes rolled with desperate panic as it tore through the marketplace. I could see the gashes in its hide where the demons possessing it had begun to leak.
- Deserter Legionnaires – Deserters are everywhere, and hunted often for sport as much as law. Several of the bands claim to wear their old colors in loyalty for a supposed heir building strength out in the wilderness, but that is unlikely as clean or as clear as claimed.
- Underpaid, bored mercenaries – The noble houses of Adura tend to hire from Terc, Grancia, and Carabrandt, offering promises of gold and narcotics. They deliver on their promises, but never enough.
- Unbound House God – Chaos-banking practices have left the a great number of fabulous villas to rot. Without a family to tend the hearth, the inhabiting lares inevitably go mad.
- Equine Senator – The madman made his horse a senator, and the beast is the best statesman in the country. I spent an entire afternoon listening to a horse make whinnying noises to a crowd in the forum and I cheered.
- The Emperor, mid-assassination – As I heard it: “The emperor passed by an oracle one day, and was warned of the day of his death. He took the warning to heart and has been leading his assassins on a chase for the last forty years, or thereabouts.”
|Somewhere inside, books are being thrown and a senator is being hit over the head with a chair leg.
Locals: Straightlaced, stubborn, proud, puritanical, loud, varied.
Wrestler: The Founding Father – beloved political pastiche character.
- Doughboy – The Republic used these homunculi as foot soldiers a generation or so ago. Most have retired now: you’ll find a few still as soldiers or police, but more often I saw them as handymen, farmers, or day laborers.
- Tyrannocygnus Rex – There’s no beast nastier in all the Great White North. Their migration south leaves a path of destruction made worse by the return trip – livestock devoured, trees torn up, shit everywhere. The government pays a bounty per head.
- Baron Blue Aurochs – Along the frontier it’s common enough to see wagons the size of houses pulled by these beasts. They are surprisingly well-tempered, leading to their usage as mascot for logging companies and inns up and down the Tinnemank Line.
- Melon Heads – According to folklore, they are the inbred offspring of some of the first colonists and the Locals. Potentially true, though I am uncertain. Less uncertain is that the meanest witches in all the Republic hail from their mountain villages in the backwoods of coalmining country.
- Jersey Cow Devil - The cow stood up on its hind legs, let out a shriek as if a woman dying, and beat in her farmer’s skull with a hoof. By the time Hans and Harold had run out of the barn she had already flown off on blood-slick wings.
- Montauk Monster – A hairless, beaked thing that will wash up on riverbanks and beaches. After a few hours of apparent death, it will animate, grow black and gray striped fur, and trundle off into the woods. I have yet to find one dead of natural causes.
- Minuteman – A sort of embossed metal plate with a ghost trapped inside it. They are equipped with saber and musket, but can only maintain their form a minute at a time after they have been triggered. Used during the forming of the Republic.
- Thunder Eagle – Primarily white, with brown and red stripes on the flight feathers. Produces thunderclaps when it beats its wings.
- Appleseed Giant – Tall, broad, ruddy, bearded. Allies of apple dryads, they plant orchards wherever they wander. If you hear singing over the hills regularly interrupted by spitting, it’s most likely a Red Johnny.
- The Cracked Bell – The original is enshrined in the capital, but replicas can be found in courthouses and church steeples across the Republic. The tone they make when hit is alien to the nature of musical arts: I was struck by a painful headache and a bloody nose upon hearing it for the first time, though no one around me seemed to be effected. No symptoms occurred the second time.
|From the Würm RPG.
Locals: Swarthy, stout, hirsute.
Wrestler: All-Father – Longtime, well-respected veteran. Mentor of heroes.
- Fighting Irish Elk - A rowdy beast, always looking for a good scrum. They practice their secret cervine battle-arts constantly, awaiting the next fight for territory and mates. I have even seen them attempt fisticuffs! (Though their gigantic antlers make this difficult).
- Glacier-Clinger – Their limbs are hooked, to provide purchase on the icy cliff face. A long beak is used to drill into the ice to seek the red bacterial bleeds that serve as their primary source of nourishment. They can glide short distances on flaps of skin.
- Paraceratherium – Domesticating one is a task only a few can manage. Success, however, is marked with a great and lasting honor to their clan. I met with an old man whose grandfather’s grandfather tamed one, and still the chiefs of other tribes honor him with gifts.
- Pyroestatic – Mastery of fire brings a greater power with it. The spirit is set ablaze: the eyes burn, the voice sparks, what is old and dead is burnt away and there is only the light of reaction. Ah, freedom! Joy and life!
- Sabretooth Stalker – A tusked lion that walks on its hind legs. Many of the local tribes believe that a witch can transform into the beast (and the other way around), so as to lay bloody curses on their neighbors.
- Moss Mammoth – Their fur is heavy with green from the plants that call the gentle beasts home. In the spring the flowers bloom pink and white, making a most beautiful sight as the herds pass by. A crown of moss mammoth flowers is often considered an offer of marriage.
- Murder Bird – Flightless birds that adore the act of killing. They will plan out their attacks in advance, for it is the only thing that gives them pleasure. Many make games of it, developing signature methods or calling-cards left for the grieving.
- Eaters of the Dead – The dead are interred in sacred caves, so that they might not rise as these gray-skinned, yellow-toothed monsters. The woods at night are filled with their glowing eyes. It is common knowledge that killing one without destroying the heart in fire means that the cannibal’s spirit is free to possess another.
- Story-Keeper – A man can only store so many stories – the greatest of the keepers have learned how they might hold onto a story when it is no longer in their head
- Great White Buffalo – The goal is to hunt, to chase, never to kill. To seek it means to become greater, to be made wiser, to hone skills, to go beyond the horizon. Once a generation, certain young men and women go out from their homes to track it, and return with all the glories of kings.
|All that's left after.
Locals: Famished, diseased, clinging to life.
Wrestler: Big Oil – Heel. The man who sold the world.
- Child-eater Rats – The protections are many – guard dogs, poisoned wastemeat, sigils and signs and talismans, armored cradles. The rats are too clever by half for these tricks.
- Plague-Mold – Flooded buildings become breeding grounds for this particular rot. If the spores enter the lungs, one can look forward to a long future as a half-dead “blackspittle man”. The infection never kills outright, but it leaves in the victim a new voice, and song’s plucked out of memories not their own.
- Abandoned Relief Worker – When the NGOs pulled out, they did so in a mad rush and piecemeal panic. Leftover supplies were scavenged and spent, leftover people found themselves with little to lose. Their baby blue helmets and once-fine firearms are a varnish of the forgotten past over the barbarism they have embraced.
- Arcology Crawler – The extraordinarily wealthy retreated into personal paradises when disaster struck, and took all of their treasures with them. These armored eggshells are followed always by a crowd, either begging for scraps or howling for blood.
- Dopamine Slug – The only source of joy and release from pain in this land. The slugdens are the center of the community; providing, food, shelter, guards, whores, and the daily fix. The slugfarmers are fantastically rich willing to pay handsomely for new breeds or a rival’s secrets.
- Abbatoiran – Trained to cater to the richest of palates: panda foie gras. Tiger-eye soup. Manta-fin steaks. Mermaid caviar. Unicorn burger. With their clientele gone and their stocks vanished, they are left only with their knowledge of the knife
- Favela Wobbegong – Children quickly learn to toss stones into flooded gutters before trying to cross, less they lose a foot. The sharks’ camouflage is a fine imitation of garbage.
- Feral Designer Pet – Paradoxically, these freakish, shivering, bugeyed creatures have survived well in the absence of their masters. Perhaps they jumped ship to order rodentia, or they are simply too absurd to die.
- Raggy-Man – Devil-figure of the local folklore. A man and a woman; the woman is described as once-beautiful, wearing a tattered evening gown, but now twisted so that her head faces the reverse of where her feet point. The man wears a hooded patchwork jacket, and bears a beard and eyebrows that cover everything of his face but his nose and too-wide mouth. They are seen in distant ruins, laughing, dancing, copulating, and always offering gifts of the past at terrible cost.
- Pollutitan – Nameless fetus of Lucabiel, screaming for toxic pap, shuffling towards the City to be born.
|Whisper to the Meat.
Locals: Red, pink, white. Fleshy, soft, strong.
Wrestler: The Butcher – A giant with a strange accent. Sells meat to the audience while in the ring.
- Daggermite – They have a single sharp tooth by which they gouge out a burrow in beast-flesh. The locals use them as tools, though poor preparation or training leads to a knife that turns on its owner.
- Leukocyte Ooze – Internal guardians of the Beasts and perpetual banes of bloodwells and marrowmines. Those who dig too deep are greeted with a flood of devouring white antibodies.
- Lord of the Ring-Worms – The typical worm might range from the length of a finger to a hundred feet or so. The lords, dormant for millennia, grow to the rang of tens of miles in length. The one at Obrol-Duul is attracting cultists from all over the country, hoping to see its waking.
- Saucemeister – A spongy creature on four stumpy legs that oozes a tangy brown substance – perfectly edible and quite tasty. Possibly a leftover wizard’s pet.
- Gristle-Grinders – These creatures are mostly mouth and very little brain, with rows of teeth that spin like sawblades. If provided with food or some entertainment, they can be domesticated as guards or tick-hunters.
- Bloodletter Nymphs – Their right arm is a slender blade of bone, which they use to carve open beastflesh so that they may lap up the blood. Their mouths and necks are stained red, and their breasts are dotted in scabs.
- Leathercloaks – Traveling tanners, forever shrouded in their veils of hide. Many folk consider them untrustworthy, unwanted, and even semi-human – none of my interactions implied anything of the sort.
- Acne-Imp – A fat, oily little pustule-puck. Grievously disgusting and proud of it. Personal punting record: 0 yards, on account of their propensity to burst.
- Vegan Sabateurs – The introduction of invasive vegetable species to the local environment can wreck havoc on the local economy and society: tick farmers find their grazing lands decimated by broccoli, meatminers have to deal with veins of potatoes and carrots, haruspexes have no idea how to read omens from corn, and so on. As such, it is a favored tool of political agitators, who are often found hung by tendon-nooses declaring them as “leaf-eater”.
- Rotwight – Regions of sepsis create all manner of putrid undead, but the worst is by far the rotwight. A soul severed from its body, it is submitted to an effectively infinite amount of spiritual decay (being without matter, it cannot ever fully rot away), and the the result is an ever-fouler monstrosity.
|01001001 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01111001 01101111 01101110 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00111111
Locals: Pale, black plastic carapaces, dark and wiry hair.
Wrestler: The Database – Gimmick is jumping between bodies.
- Maintenance Drone – The autonomous arm of the Central Processing Authority. They are fractal-finned spheres of black or white, with a red cyclopean eye. They float a few feet off the ground and might repair machinery under their glowing gaze.
- Squatter-Killer – Residence outside of CPA-approved districts is a punishable offense, executed by sanctioned hunter-killer units. Shiny black tigers, eight legs and a gun-barrel head.
- Datavore – I was repeatedly warned to host multiple backups of my work, in case the local antibodies failed. While paper was safe there was little to be had, the Kyberni computational machines have yet to shake off their self-evolved disease. I made do by writing very small.
- Cablesquid – It does not require water to live, instead making its home inside air vents and duct work.
- Pistonbird – They hunt for bugs by tapping their blunt beaks against pipes and server-frames, driving prey out of hiding. The tip of each flight wing bears a glowing white dot.
- Fileworm – The other bane of record-keeping here are the worms – instead of simply devouring information outright, they will corrupt and impregnate it, and the spawn will continue the cycle.
- Black-Cap Hackjaw – They use their powerful underbitten jaws to crack open server banks and eat the innards. Their heads are so large and heavy that they can easily be thrown off balance.
- Orb-weaver Pirate – The pirate-spiders were the most reliable source of supplies and news from the outside. They’re referred to by knowing locals as “my three problems”. Finding them is the first hurdle, affording them the second, and returning before the monitor drones notice your absence the third.
- Rust-Eater – A scavenger of dying machines. The locals treat it as a sort of psychopomp, and so you will often see the placid beasts festooned with strings of lights and artificial garlands as they meander through the streets.
- Servant Node – The CPA’s network does not reach everywhere in Kybern, despite claims to the contrary. These columnar servitors act as remote way-stations, powering and housing fleets of drones working in outlying regions.
Locals: Elaborate dress covering up ecstatic self-mutilations
Wrestler: Maniac Machion – Gibbering lunatic, tore out his own eyes upon viewing his art.
- Gilt Gargoyle – Misshapen monsters that lurk on eves and buttresses, with skins of gold leaf and pigeon shit. They know all your sins and love to remind you. On rainy days they take spit-shots at congregants on the steps below (with exceptional aim).
- Formaldehyde Saint – The church keeps its virtuous dead in glass tanks, posed in poses of benediction. Impossibly valuable. The greatest cathedrals might have dozens of them. Children are often taught their mudras under a saint’s unseeing gaze.
- Flagellant Atavist – Pain has stripped these hunchback’s minds down to the most reptile remnants. The priests officially denounce their actions, but make no moves to stop their preaching nor the growth of their movement.
- God-Bearer – Virgin births are so commonplace that enterprising young women have set up support networks, where they meet weekly for coffee and to discuss the business of expecting divine beings: throwing up fire in the morning, prophetic dreams from the unborn, episodes of glossolalia, dealing with all the new and ridiculous titles men shower them with, and so on.
- Prophet of Horns – Horns are a sign of divinely-granted insight. The fasting stylites cultivate them until they can no longer walk under the curling weight of their own inspiration.
- Canonic Chirugeon – When they find a disagreement between the world and their law, they will change the world. Those who act contrary to the text must be pruned back into place. They dream of an eternal Orthodoxy, and would shift the Discape itself to create it.
- Divine Cannibals – Their god made itself flesh (or was it imported from Carnesarx? The record is unclear) and they feast upon it. They commit their acts jovially and with decorum, but they maintain that there is no hope for the soul without it.
- Tabernacle Moth – The interior of the cocoon is a site of transubstantiation. A man is put inside with the grubs, and months later is reborn anew. All wrongs remitted, all flesh cleaned.
- Church-Drake – Sleepy, serpentine, and large enough to curl all the way around a cathedral until the doors are framed by the tip of its nose and the tip of its tail. Vibrant blue scales with a gold underbelly.
- Knight-Absolver – They are sworn forever to mercy, and so may never injure. If they strike, they strike to kill. Their armor is ivory white, often muddied by slum-mud from their ministrations to the wretched and poor.
|But what does it mean?
Locals: Clean, chipper. White robes with splashes or shapes of primary colors.
Wrestler: The Visionary – Nice guy, cult following that might be a real cult.
- Studio Familiar – Halfway between a lemur and a rabbit, about nine inches tall, can float through the air with ease. Seem to live for holding palettes and fetching brushes.
- Eggshell Anklebiter – Sleek, white, hairless. A more refined form of a general pest. Personal punting record: 10 yards.
- Dancing Silhouette – The shadows on the walls beckon me to join them. I admit, I did so for a time, dancing to the unheard tones of a band only they could hear. There is a loneliness to these creatures, trapped as they are in their walls.
- Ear Worm – A slim parasitic worm that roots itself in the ear canal. Triggers the nerves there to create the illusion of constant music.
- Gallery Shuffler – Placid, saggy skinned quadrupeds that are found mostly in rented warehouses and studio apartments. They feed on leftover ideas and are terribly incapable
- Interpretative Monster – It has no set properties, changing in means and meaning depending on the observer. Each specimen has a mildly variegated appearance, meaning that not only will it possess different attributes to two different people, but no single person will encounter it in the same way twice.
- Deconstructor - Whatever they touch is broken down to fundamental parts. Signs are removed from their signifiers, chemical bonds dissolve. It appears as a black cloud of agitated vapor, occasionally swarming around the corpse of the man that released it.
- Polluckite – A tornado made out of paint. If there was any body at the center of it I did not see it, having been blinded by most of a tube of Salubrious Seafoam No. 4.
- Memeovore – They eat ideas, plucking them right out of the brain. This is quite interesting to watch, as they are able to mesmerize their victim, saw open their skull, pick out the ideas with the specialized grabbing fingers of the right hand, and safely-reattach the cranium in under three minutes.
- Abstracticon – A collection of bright shapes arranged in the vague form of a flattened, cubist giant. They can only move sideways, being trapped in two dimensions, but yet can move sideways in any direction.
(Image sources are, in order: Bayeux Tapesty, Pollice Verso by Jean Leon Gerome, Wikipedia Commons, Würm, aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Scorn, Procession of the Flagellants by Goya, and Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red by Mondrian.)