This time 'round we take a look at some very strange creatures located within the 'Marvelous Menagerie', a private zoo and rescue refuge for captured curiosities, accidental hybrids, magical mistakes, and the irrevocably cursed. The Menagerie is in River-Town, and regular admission is one dollar.
BEASTS OF THE MARVELOUS MENAGERIE
From upper left, sort-of top to bottom in rows:
Mercutio is a baboon-donkey hybrid; he is bright enough to understand Common and follow simple orders, and he is employed as an enforcer within the enclosures of the Menagerie. Mercutio uses his stick to break up fights between other creatures, and in return receives a larger ration of food. He is partial to chocolate bars and easily bribed. Given his stupidity and innate love of violence, he would make a spectacular henchman.
The Tortephant (AC3,HD4) is crippled by its inability to retract its massive pachyderm head into its shell. Menagerie keepers presume the beast to be female, but have no real way of checking. Interestingly, the outer layer of the tortephant's shell flakes off each Spring, revealing a new splotchy pattern beneath. Some animal-watchers have begun to interpret the patterns as letters, and believe the Tortephant is very slowly making some sort of oracular prediction, but whether we have the entire sequence of letters is up for debate. Most zookeepers believe the accurate sequence thus far to read "KILM ENOW SOM UCH PAI", which may be a message in an ancient tongue; we all eagerly await next year's letter, and hope that the Tortephant lives a long life so that we may benefit from its sagacity.
Many visitors admire the glossy coat of the Scaragiraffe (AC8,HD3), which prances about the enclosure whenever an audience is evident. The creature can flap its diaphanous wings impressively, but cannot get off the ground. Refuses to eat anything but marzipan.
"Lucky" (AC5,HD3) is the unfortunate result of a botched polymorph into a 'giant rhinoceros beetle'. He spends much of the day sleeping in the sun, rolling in dust to keep clean, and glowering at small children. Whoever he was before the transformation, he was most certainly unloved, as nobody has come to claim him despite several newspaper articles implying a reward.
The Storkwasp (AC9,HD2) is both less and more dangerous than it seems; while it has never attempted to sting the keepers, this supposed hybrid is in fact a Dauber of Thoth, accidentally gated in from a less-whimsical dimension. All alone, it is a dumb creature which happily gulps the smelts tossed by zookeepers; if reunited with its extradimensional fellows, however, it will be re-inserted into the dark hivemind and again gain akashic access to the Immaterial Papyrus-Nest of Eternal Damnation (where dwell the astral forms of all Daubers), instantly becoming a Chaotic fourth-level magic-user. The cruel iblis stork-men who lurk in the marshes of Snollygoster Swamp have a strong desire to 'rescue' the Storkwasp and wield it as a weapon.
The Don't-Touch-It (AC9,HD1) is a poisonous insect up front and a porcupine in the rear. Contact with its skin, chitin, or spines demands an immediate save versus poison (failure demands a 1d6 reduction in DEX for several hours as the extremities go numb - including the tongue).
Mr. Snootypants here is one of several Owlynx (AC8,HD1) in the Menagerie; they are presumed near-extinct relations of owlbears. Some natural philosophers suggest that at one time Wampus Country was thick with owl-creatures of every size and shape until, millenia ago, most of them were wiped out in some fashion (an "owlpocalypse", if you will); only the megafauna (such as the owlbears) survived in any number. Mr. Snootypants is so named because he is the only male owlynx in captivity, and he steadfastly refuses to breed with any of the females, despite the scientific cajoling of the keepers (it mostly involves rations of rum and saxophone music).
The herondillo (AC5,HD1) gets spooked every few weeks and attempts to roll into a ball. Sadly, this usually results in a visably-unpleasant beak/rump interaction which requires medical intervention.
The Menagerie contains several handfuls of butterslugs (AC6,HD 1/2) at any given time; the creatures reproduce asexually and independently, and are too stupid to leave the zoo grounds. Twice per year the butterslug population grows unacceptably large, and the 'spare' creatures are netted and grilled with a very pleasant hollandaise as part of a fund-raiser for the Menagerie.
This haresnail (AC7,HD 1/2) is said to be over fifty years old, and typically hides amongst rocks within its enclosure. On two known occasions over the past decade, the haresnail has burst from hiding and hurled itself at an onlooker, bashing comically over and over into its cage. Both of these zoo visitors later became serial killers, although whether the haresnail was warning of the coming tragedy or inspiring it is not known.
Forthcoming in a later 'Breakdown' - another visit to the Marvelous Menagerie.