In antiquity, much of what is today called the Wampus Country was the subject of contention between several on-again-off-again empires, known to us as the Peacock Throne and the Great Eye. As the battle lines - and lines of cultural influence - shifted back and forth across centuries, the relics and influence of both empires remain throughout Wampus, dotting the landscape here and there with barrows, mounds, crumbled ruins reclaimed by the forest, and so forth.
One legacy of the Great Eye culture is the presence, and influence, of goats. We know from illustrations on stelae that the warriors of the Great Eye rode massive dire goats into battle, and it seems the literal and figurative descendants of these proud goats are still with us today.
|Who doesn't like goats, after all?|
In the north of Wampus Country, there exists a breed of creature called the gunkey. Whether it truly contains the blood of both goat and donkey, as its name implies, is arguable; what is not up for debate is that the gunkey is perhaps the most intelligent non-talking goat-creature in Wampus Country. Renown for their hardiness and loyalty, the gunkey is favored as a mount and pack animal throughout the Lumberlands and points north in the Snowdeeps (where long-furred gunkies have been successfully crossbred to have "a smidge of aurochs" in them). The gunkey may even be distantly related to the "something between a ram and a mountain goat" animals the ice dwarves use as mounts and working-animals in the region around Rimespire.
Goats bred for intelligence in Thistlemarch have, in the past few years, made their way further afield, and have become a favored accessory of some frontiersmen and explorers. Smarter than a dog, and willing to eat basically anything, the guard-goat pays for itself very quickly. It's possible that goats in general were once much smarter than they are today, and this particular breeding program woke up slumbering talents.
Tombs of the Great Eye culture sometimes feature massive stone goats, intricately carved and glyphed, in which are entombed warriors of repute or members of royal lineages. While Professor Goldthimble refers to such constructions as "cabraform burial statuary" in his monograph Fascinating Distasteful Funereal Practices Of Our Antecedents, the tomb-robbing community knows them simply as "sarcophagoats". These stone goats sometimes house the restless dead, or are magically-animated statues. On occasion, they are both, with a hinged lid popping open to grant the entombed armored wight within the ability to hop out and ride the stone-golem goat in bloody pursuit of vengeance against those who disturbed its rest. I am told there is a small tomb on the southern shore of Shining Lake which contains similar ancient constructions in the shape of a goose, but I have not visited that site yet myself to independently confirm.
Less numerous than they once were, three-headed monsters remain a threat in the wilderness. The wizards of the Peacock Throne knew them as chimerae, and described in more than one codex the combination of heads common during their period (lion, snollygoster, goat). Some scholars today presume such passages are metaphorical and describe a political alliance between three other kingdoms (with the goat representing the Great Eye, perhaps), but it is a well known fact that scholars today lack imagination, and spend their days competing for institutional grant money by inventing novel facts which they hope are less interesting (and therefore more prestigious) than those crafted by their rivals. Regardless, we know three-headed, flying predator critters to be real because we occasionally see them in flight or terrorizing a farm. It seems far more likely that these chimera are critters of chaotic bloodline, and their heads need not be heritable or even sensical. A wizard of Dropfinger Pass, in the far north, reports having a tussle with a white-furred chimera which bore the heads of a polar bear, a mountain goat, and a cross-eyed ermine. If accounts such as this one are to be believed, then the chimera likely manifests heads based on its place of birth (or hatching), or conception. We might presume a desert-welling chimera could have the heads of a jackal, gila monster, and serval. The premier newspaper out of Thistlemarch published a story several years back about a chimera with three turkey-heads, but we may attribute that strange mutation to the fact that the turkimera's belly contained an enchanted purple chicken, doubtless the cause of the beast's poultrification.
Once thought a threat of a bygone era, in recent years we have heard more new reports of goat-man activity in the east. These barbaric, goat-headed, cloven-hoofed bipeds are considered dangerous servants of Chaos and Death. Goat-folk are sometimes found in league with cruel and evil minotaurs, cannibal porcs (pig-men), and other nefarious humanoids which ought to be edible domesticated farm animals but which are most certainly not. One of the holy texts of the Scorpion Church speaks of a time under the Peacock Throne when these species were slave-races, who rose up against their human masters and embraced the service of a dark god. The pig-men think this deity to be pig-headed and call him Porcus; you can imagine the goats and minotaurs have similar biases toward their own kine. At any rate, the hoof-cults of the sub-men believe their time for empire is nigh, and some cells have begun to act toward that end. It is further rumored that advanced goat-men of particular psychic talent can speak to and command any creature bearing a goat-head (cf. chimerae, above). The enduring variety of the hoof-cults suggests that somewhere, right now, there are evil sheep-men sharpening weapons and contemplating our extinction.
Ghouts (Horned Ghouls)
No less a respected personage than the explorer-wizard Unctuous Rambunctious tells us one further secret of the death-cults of the sub-men: the existence of a class of ghouls who serve the Hoofed God, and have the heads and/or horns of goats. The aforementioned magic-user tangled with a pack of these "ghouts" last year in a barrow-mound near Saltvale whilst he was giving chase to a rapscallion who owed the wizard money and thought a barrow might be a safe place to hide. More the fool, he, for he was torn apart by ghouts, and now serves out his time as a legless ghoul chained to Rambunctious' tower wall. Ghouts, we are told, may look like undead goat-folk, or more like the standard fanged ghoul, with tiny 'button' horns the only clue as to their allegiance. Rambunctious has vowed to continue researching the topic, but is currently of the opinion that the ghouts are neither ghouls gone goat nor goats gone ghoul, instead being something in-between, existing in the middle of the goat-ghoul continuum. The wizard has exchanged several letters with another sorcerer in Dawn Valley who claims to be an expert on thouls, but the two have not yet had the chance to confer in person.
|Wild goats of the mountains have been known to deliberately sharpen their horns against rocks, making them in to wicked scythes. Wild goats also like angry music.|
Full credit to Chris (player of Go-Boom) for coining the word 'sarcophagoat'.