Sunday, July 1, 2012

Breakdown: Let's Go To The Zoo: Part Two

In the occasional 'Breakdown' feature, we take an unusual picture and try to wring some appropriately Wampus-y content out of it.  This time we revisit the Marvelous Menagerie outside River-Town, a private zoo packed full of all manner of strange beasties.  Our previous visit is here.

One of the most beloved habitats in the Marvelous Menagerie is an assemblage of double-ended creatures.  Not to be confused with "two-headed" creatures, which have two heads at the front of their body, the double-enders each have a head for a head, and a head at the rump.  The Marvelous Menagerie is rightly proud of managing the largest (well, only) collection of double-ended creatures in the world, and does a brisk business in commemorative buttons featuring bawdy sayings related to the exhibit.

Double-enders, starting on the left-hand side, then around sort-of clockwise:

The Goatbuzzard has an immense vulture-like head with rapacious beak and teeth at the fore, and a horned goat or llama-like head at the rear, mounted on a powerful clublike necktail.  Small, roaming packs of goatbuzzards are not unknown in the pinewoods of the north; they are omnivorous scavengers, favoring a diet of both carrion and fruit.  Goatbuzzards will fight to defend themselves or drive off a larger creature, but are not particularly dangerous.

Far more threatening to travelers is the perpetually grumpy and quite territorial Mandrill Angler (sometimes abbreviated to Mangler), a flat-faced baboon-like ape which so loved fish its tail evolved into a pelican head.  Manglers are ace climbers, and several large troupes of them prowl the mangrove trees along the river.  They will descend upon travelers en masse, pelting them with fruit and stones before closing the distance to engage in melee using their powerful fists and razor-sharp ass-beaks.

The Terrapin-tailed Land Narwhal is a placid beast living in small family groups.  A remarkably efficient forager, it uses its one long neck to graze from lower branches of trees as it rears up on its haunches; simultaneously, the turtle-like head at the rear is in the perfect position to dig for grubs or truffles.  Like all land narwhals, the horn on its snout is made of harvestable brass, which has led to some depopulation in the wild; few hunters would pass up the chance to take a shot at a terrapin-tailed which has lumbered into range.

In the foreground, we witness the horror of the Gobbleswallow, the largest amphibious double-ender known to man, the size of a large grizzly. Most tales of this creature focus on the immense, gulping fish-head capable of swallowing a child or goat whole - and the sharpness of its teeth.  But in truth, further research suggests that it is the second head - that of a narcoleptic tapir - which must truly be feared.  On those rare occasions when the tapir-head wakes (usually provoked by starvation or the presence of a great deal of adrenalin, as when fighting to defend a clutch of eggs), devastation follows... for that tusked creature possesses a malevolent intelligence and the ability to hum a hypnotic ditty which dominates the minds of men, causing them to slaughter one another.  The tapir head then yawns and returns to napping, allowing the giant fish head to clean up the mess.

The Cackling Badonkadonk, bottom left, is a most curious creature.  Its primary head is small, with shovel-like tusks and an underbite, affixed to a serpentine neck; this head feeds by weaving its way into rabbit-warrens and vole-holes, producing a laughter-like call as it flushes out prey.  But far more interesting is the rear head of this double-ender, which prefers to eat metal - coins, weapons, armor, old tin cans, ploughs, what have you.  Within its saliva and digestive juices is a strong oxidizing agent which slowly rusts and dissolves the metal consumed; some say the beast is related to other, rarer beasts with even more powerful rusting ability.  The metal, wood, stone, and whatever else the secondary head consumes are held in a gizzard-like organ located near the rear of the beast; slicing the animal open postmortem will certainly reveal all of that junk.

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