Saturday, October 27, 2012

Curious Critters: Barnyard Edition

We return again to the learned Mr. Runcible and his ongoing discussion of Wampus Country's less-predatory weird creatures, this time focusing on curious livestock and related species.

Wild goats are not uncommon in certain parts of the Wampus Country; mountain-goats are likely the most numerous and diverse in appearance, but equally well-known are the swamp-goats, whose long coats become an odiferous breeding-ground for various algaes and mosses [1].  Our region is also home to a number of plains-dwelling goat species, who better resemble antelopes or okapi in some ways.  Yet no matter how byzantine their horn structure (goats with intertwined basket-horns who play jai-alai with chestnuts) or how unusual their markings (I once saw a spotted goat who had, quite naturally, developed a caricature of a local cleric in freckles on its belly), they pale in comparison to those goats which are inherently magical.

Witness first the magic of the Capracorn, a goat who radiates a feeling of goodwill which affects nearby sentients, pushing their subconscious toward harmony [2].  Those entranced by the Capracorn are suffused with the certainty that all men are brothers, and life is indeed wonderful.  But every coin has two sides, and there is a related species, the Kafkakorn, whose aura causes onlookers to feel paranoid, persecuted, and alienated.  I personally do not believe the reports of a distantly-related bovine species, the Camus-cow.

Another goat of note is the Capricornucopia, whose horns sprout fruit and other foods [3]; unfortunately this species does not do well in captivity and has resisted attempts to be crossbred with domesticated goats.  You have perhaps seen drawings of this beast in older manuscripts, as its fame is widespread.  A related species, perhaps, is the Nanny-Goat, whose horns bear ampules of healing liquid.

A goat need not be inherently magical to be interesting to the ethologist, however.  Several years ago, a group of rather intelligent castrated goats rose up in rebellion against local farmers.  Calling themselves the "Wether Underground", they staged protests and set off several explosives in barns before being rounded up by an angry posse; I have heard scurrilous rumors that one of these billy-goat revolutionaries survived the cull and is currently teaching at a prestigious university.

Most famous amongst the curious bovines of Wampus Country are, of course, the Singing Cows, who, while not intelligent, sing beautifully as a chorus by some means of telepathic communication.  Typically these singing cows give flavored milk, usually chocolate, but occasionally strawberry, banana, or multiple types dependent on the season.

I myself am fascinated with the Siege-Bovines, who are obviously magically engineered products of a prior age, as well as an intriguing example of extreme sexual dimorphism.  The female is the Cowtapult, whose spine is able to flip upwards rapidly to launch dung caught in the cartilagenous "basket" growth beneath the anus; the male of the species, the Bullista, fires from its throat heavy darts composed of a horn-like material.  The milk of this species is not good for humans to drink, as it contains a substrate of noxious flammables; apparently the engineers of the Siege-Bovines were attempting to get the Cowtapult's udder to produce napalm.  Such is the life-lesson: you cannot have everything at once.

Interesting, yet nearly-extinct, the Jersey Cow is essentially useless as livestock.  It spends its time exercising (resulting in poor steak), sunbathing (often tanning its own hide in a medically-dubious fashion [4]), and attempting to rut with everything in sight.  Due to some abnormality, the males of the species never fully mature, yet each one considers itself an alpha bull.


[1]  To include the insidious memory-moss, or "obliviax".  Imagine such a thing entwined with a goat, if you dare - a ragged swamp-goat dog-paddles through the fetid water toward your boat, at first looking helpless with those big brown eyes - then you see the second mossy face on its haunch, and a wet tendril of animated moss reaches out and taps your exposed hand; now you cannot recall what your mother looked like...

[2]  Thirty-foot radius, not sight-dependent.  A save vs magic wand will resist the effect for 1d4 rounds of exposure.

[3] Roll 1d6 several times: 1 apples, 2 grapes, 3 pomegranate, 4 tiny muskmelons, 5 nectarines, 6 caramel-covered bacon with sea salt.

[4]  One ranch I have visited is attempting to bypass the tanner's trade entirely by breeding Jerseys who can merely be skinned to produce tailor-ready leather.  The experiment is not working, as the cows continue to ask for more money.

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