Monday, February 10, 2014

Beware the Tooth Fairy

A word from the learned Doctor Harcourt Runcible, on the subject of "tooth fairies".

I am not one who has gathered his modicum of fame by means of splendorous hyperbole, so perhaps you will listen keenly to the bold statement I am about to make: the most dangerous creature in the Wampus Country, pound for pound, is neither the eponymous wampus-cat, nor the owlbear, nor the fearsome snollygoster with its mouth full of cross-cut saws.  Nor is it Man, an answer too cute by half.  No, my benighted friends, the deadliest, cruellist, most killing-est beastie in our lands is, in point of fact, the tooth fairy.

The clever grammarians and sly syntacticians amongst the crowd will now, of course, recall the pound for pound qualifier I employed a moment ago and think it a wiseacre strategy for ensuring a surprise reaction.  But, even so, the statement stands - and it is made all the truer, for the tooth fairy is more dangerous than larger creatures not merely by a factor equivalent to its own relative mass, but exponentially greater.

Perhaps you have never seen a tooth fairy, or so-called osteopixie, in the wild.  You must imagine them as pixie-like, winged, and humanoid, about half the height of the common plains atomie which even the most ill-educated pig-farmer must be acquainted.  Like the more mundane pixies, the tooth fairy is winged, generally nude, and bears minor insectoid features, including faceted eyes and tiny pedipalps surrounding the mandible.  Imagine, if you will, a horrible flitting menace the size of your pinky-finger; one which often travels in swarms of a dozen, or two-score, or a hundred, depending on the season.  A dozen osteopixies is very dangerous - I leave it to your own shadowy nightmares to consider what a hundred can manage in the course of an evening.

It is a famous misconception that the tooth fairies collect teeth, particularly from children.  This is true, as far as it goes, but demonstrates a limited understanding of natural philosophy of the sort common amongst bootblacks, chimney-sweeps, and journalists.  As the story goes, when a child sheds a deciduous tooth, if he or she should gingerly place the bicuspid beneath their pillow, a magical nocturnal visitor - a tooth fairy - will arrive and replace the lost tooth with a coin.  This is precisely the kind of unscientific bumpkin-prattle which causes backwater children to get stuck in wells or devoured by bears.  While it is true that a recently-lost baby tooth can attract a tooth fairy, those which arrive are inevitably either fairy children, elderly, or infirm.  That is to say: tooth fairies who must resort to stealing or trading for their sustenance.  Which is to say, all the more clearly: tooth fairies who cannot participate in the glorious hunt.

And what hunters the osteopixies are, magnificent piranha of the air!  They subsist on bone and marrow, which is fine enough, as when times are lean they can scavenge bones from the kills of larger animals; do not be overly surprised should you see a small swarm of fairies following a mated pair of owlbears about the wood.  But the tooth fairies are not dumb animals, and possess their own culture, one which celebrates the hunting of sentients and their artful slaughter.  I remind you that these creatures can fly, are intelligent, and hunt in packs of twenty or more.

Tooth fairy scouts will locate a target - ideally a sentient, as it makes the hunt all the more delicious.  They are primarily attracted to exposed bone, whether this is from a wound (do not leave your companion with the recent compound fracture in camp alone) or the teeth.  Once a target is marked - likely by some means of pheromones, the research is shoddy here - the scout returns to the swarm, and the hunt begins.  In minutes, the several-dozen tooth fairies descend upon the hapless victim.

I say hapless without intent of demeaning those who have been slain by tooth fairies; quite the converse, I mean to praise the lethality of the osteopixie.  Firearms, fighting-spirit, even sorcery are of little use during a tooth fairy onslaught, when dozens of the accursed things are assaulting your head, prying open your mouth, crawling in, and wrenching out your teeth forcibly -- all the while peppering your flesh (not just the skin, remember - also the gums, tongue, uvula...) with painful, disorienting stings.  How can you fire at something crawling on your face?  How can you utter eldritch syllables with a mouth full of fairies?  Tiny bodies laced with calcium from their diet, they are nigh-uncrushable like the cockroach.  They will render you unconscious very quickly, and you will be toothless, but not dead.

If you are lucky, you will expire from the shock of having all your teeth violently ripped out, or you will crack your skull on a rock as you fall.  If you are unlucky, you will lie there in a stupor while the tooth fairies feast on your molars.  And if you are very may awake just as they return, crawling through your sinuses to make seconds of your skull.  Best not to think of the direct and efficient means of those osteopixies who have acquired a taste for the coccyx, my friends.

I do have a dentist friend in River-Town who can cap teeth with cold iron, for a small fee.

"Don't be scared, sweetie.  I'll eat your spine very gingerly, so you can still tell I'm back there."

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Rather Insightful Groundhog of Tuckawanee Falls

Near the headwaters of the Little River is a little offshoot of a creek which the locals call Tuckawanee Falls; there are a few farms nearby, and a dilapidated roadshine shrine.  If you start at the shrine and walk due north into the pine barrens there, before long you might - if you're lucky - come across a hole in the ground about a foot wide.  Inside that hole lives the Groundhog.

Now, groundhogs aren't particularly uncommon in the Wampus Country, after all; the climate's about right through most of the region, and there's plenty to eat.  But this isn't just some common groundhog we're talking about, but a Being Worthy of Capitalization, in due deference to his prognosticative abilities and general knowledge and fame.  Most everybody has heard some tale or another about the Groundhog.


1 - He may look like a groundhog, but he's as big as a bear.
2 - The Groundhog sometimes wears tweed suits.  And sometimes flowered dresses.
3 - Being of indeterminate age, we may presume the Groundhog is immortal, or close to it.
4 - The Groundhog is a lesser godling which hoards knowledge and secrets.
5 - Indubitably the beast is some sort of demon!  His network of tunnels wend throughout the land!
6 - I used to work with a guy whose cousin took a temporary job up near Tuckawanee, clearing stumps; well, one day he's cranking on that come-along and pulling a massive oak-stump, see?  Pop!  Out comes the stump, and there's a huge hole.  He peers over the side, and what does he see?  The Groundhog, doing something unspeakable to a stack of ducks.  That boy ran like the wind, I tell you what.
7 - It is said that he who defeats the Groundhog and eats his liver shall be rewarded with both occult knowledge and an indestructible liver of his own!
8 - The Groundhog enjoys hard liquor but never gets drunk.
9 - The only thing the Groundhog hates more than nosy adventurers asking dumb questions is Sagacious Rex.
10 - His fur cannot be pieced by metal or wood!
11 - The Groundhog can peer into the future by a few weeks, or the past by several years; this he does as soon as he sees you...
12 - So terrifying is this otherworldly beast that one look at him can cause a man to half-defecate.

For the most part, those who seek out the Groundhog do not find him; those who do are faced with a monstrous beast who trades secret knowledge only for other secret knowledge (with a possible social lubricant like a fine brandy beginning the conversation most courteously).  The Groundhog is not interested in spells or prayers, he wants secrets.  And they need not be cosmic secrets, or the locations of hidden treasures; that thing you swore you would never, ever tell your wife might do nicely.  His obsession with secrets, especially guilty ones, has caused some scholars (notably Dr. Hornapple) to classify the Groundhog as some form of devil in groundhoggy form.

Good luck finding the Groundhog, my friends.  But should you wander up that way and visit Tuckawanee Falls, please stop in and see the halfling family that lives up there; they are pie-worshippers, and happy to share.

"Sweet Lord, Colonel, that deuced Groundhog is even more phallic than I'd imagined!"
"Indeed, Mortimer, but take heart - it seems to have the map we wanted..."