This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.
|Wounds and Weapons
|Heffalump (herbivore grazer) (mammalian hexapod)
A gigantic herbivorous grazer, the Heffalumps of Gehenna live entirely in the flooded wetlands and feed on the vast algae and weed-choked mats the float in the marshes. The animal has no predators other than the Spindizzys that drink its blood and some tissues, and the Crybaby, which tears off ragged pieces of the Heffalump’s outer hide layers. The mammalian Heffalump lives in family groups of 4-5 members consisting of a male, 1-2 females, and 1-2 young. It is unknown how long they live, or how they mate, …or much really about them at all, since it is hazardous to get close enough to them to study them for long. This has nothing to do with the Heffalump, but rather the environment it lives in.
The Heffalump is truly a gentle giant and placidly wanders through the marshes at a pace slower than a man walks, vacuuming up the algae mats with its flaring, wide mouth. The mouth is lined along the lips with hundreds of small palps that sort through the mats for the algae and choicer weeds to pass into the maw. The Heffalump is about as tall as an African Bull elephant, but much wider and is a hexapod. The back of the Heffalump provides a surface for all varieties of marsh plants and mosses to grown on and appears a micro-ecosystem in itself. With Spindizzy floaters constantly bobbing about above and around the beast, small bushes sprouting off the upper layers of the constantly shedding hide, and the mossy flanks draping into the water, the animal looks like a small moving island, particularly with the gray jagged patches of its rugged outer hide looking like rock.
The hide of the Heffalump is the main reason for humans being concerned with the animal other than for purely scientific reasons. It is layered and constantly sloughing off the hard, calloused outer sheets as newer layers move up from underneath. This is thought to be a defensive adaptation to prevent plant and parasite growth from overcoming the animal, since in the environment it lives in nothing that moves slowly or stands still is unscathed by the constant assault by either plant or animal life. The underlying sheets of hide, when one gets down to the last few layers before entering into blubber and fascia, are prized for their fine leather when cured properly and harvested fresh. This layer is harvested by cutting away and tearing off the outer calloused sheets, and then cutting away sheets from the prime layer without cutting too deeply. If cut too deep the animal can be vulnerable to severe infection and will usually die. Cut too shallow and the leather will spoil when cured. After the leather layer is harvested, the harvester is required by law to surgically staple (a pneumatic gun is used) a semi-permeable polymer sheet to protect the hide from infection while it heals – usually this takes about 6-8 months. A single Heffalump, though large, can only sustain four sheets of leather being harvested form it at one time—more and the animal will start to become too stressed to continue. This isn’t because of pain, since if the leather is harvested properly no nerves will be cut, but because of how rapidly infection will start to set in form the aggressive parasites, bacteria, and molds in the area.
Each sheet of leather harvested is sufficient to produce four luxury-quality items such as jackets or similar. The leather is red to deep burgundy, and has a fine 3-dimensional effect to it from the soft whitish marbling that is brought out in the material when properly cured and stretched. The buttery soft leather products made with the hide are worth 4-6 times the price of regular hide leathers.
The risks associated with harvesting Heffalump hide, other than that associated with the weather and marsh terrain are the Spindizzys that will near-constantly float around any Heffalump as they feed; the Crybabys that cruise the shallows and feed off the shed scraps of hide or tear off sheets from the Heffalump’s legs, and the Madcows that frequent the shoreline and will trample to death anyone they can pin down with their palps. Since harvesting a single sheet of leather can take up to 30 minutes, attack by either the Spindizzys or a Crybaby or two is almost certain. Harvesters work in teams of two or more to ensure safety.
|Wounds and Weapons
|Crybaby (carnivore pouncer) (amphibious hexapod)
The Crybaby is an amphibious ambush predator that feeds opportunistically on the shed hide strips of the Heffalump. The animal also feeds on fish and small animals that come near the shallows of the shoreline and sand bars of the wetlands. Crybabys are shiny brown with dull red lateral stripes and large blue eyes. They are shaped roughly like an enormous, six-legged salamander and have a fairly short, tall tail that they use for swimming. The Crybaby is largely solitary, though it will often be seen congregating in non-social groups along the shallower parts of sand bars where the animals will make the loud, carrying vocalization that is their territorial display. The sound is described as that of a crying or whining baby, hence the name.
Crybabys are a threat if a person is trying to harvest Heffalump hide since the harvester will be standing in waist-deep water that will almost certainly have 2-3 Crybabys swimming around feeding off the Heffalump hide scraps and the animals swimming in the giant’s shadow. A Crybaby is not particularly vicious, but they are remarkably unintelligent and so will bite anything they find to see if it is worth eating. The Crybaby will usually only bite once, then swim off to find something else to eat, but the wound may attract more Crybabys and the risk of infection from swamp water will be high.
Crybabys will bury their eggs in the mud along the shoreline, where both the eggs and the Crybabys often become food for any nearby Madcows.
|Wounds and Weapons
|Madcow (omnivore gatherer)(mammalian hexapod)
|1D+2 (Palps [as horns]), 2D+3 (Hooves)
|* Always attacks if opponent is within 50m, or if surprised or attacked
Other than the Spindizzy swarms that live in the Gehenna wetlands the Madcow is the most dangerous animal found in that environment. The Madcow is about the size and rough shape of a Terrestrial bull cow with an outsized, bottle-shaped head equipped with heavy undershot jaws designed for tearing up the heavy roots the animal eats. The animal is also equipped with tiny red eyes that move independently on low mounds on either side of its head, giving it good vision in nearly any direction. The large, leaf-like ears twitch all around to hear threats, and the black, wet-looking hide is covered with a thick, spiny bristle. The Madcow has two heavy, arm-like limbs tipped with three finger-like limbs that have razor-sharp hooves on the ends. These “palps” are used to catch and pin down animals caught by the Madcow as they come to drink so they can be eaten. The Madcow’s other four limbs are used exclusively for motion and attack on any threats.
Madcows spend the vast majority of their time grazing on the heavy roots and tubers found along the 50m wide wooded edge of Gehenna’s marshlands. Here the Madcow will often rise up to its full height of 2 meters to look around over the bushes and grass, and then plunge its head down into the mud to root out food. One of its favorite foods is Crybaby eggs, which will cause a frenzy of digging when found. Fights will often break out among Madcows that come across such caches in numbers.
If a predator or person surprises a Madcow within 50m the animal will charge out of the water and attempt to pin them down with its palps. A successful strike will result in being pinned to the ground and having the Madcow stamp on them with its front legs. The Madcow will then rush into the water and watch to see if the threat runs off or lies there (and is then left alone), or make another rush at the threat if any fight seems left in it. Most local predators, other than the Spindizzy, will try to avoid fully grown Madcows. Madcows are solitary, though they do bugle in the Spring to attract mates. Both sexes bugle, and there is no obvious dimorphism. Since no one would want to get close enough to Madcows in any number there is little else known of the species.