"If the sun and moon should ever doubt, they'd immediately go out.." ~William Blake

March 23, 2012

Critters and Creatures ~ part 2

In Fields and Forests

From Elves inside their hollow hills to Leprechauns working with their needles, from vicious Manticores to Cockatrices hunting for prey, from Treefolk bending with the wind to Sprites buzzing through the air and Unicorns running through vast tracts of woodland, the fantastical Creatures of the fields and forests are as varied and fascinating as nature itself.

Cockatrices (Family: Serpentigentidae)

The Cockatrice can cause death with a single glance. Reports indicate that anything catching sight of the lethal Bird's eyes is turned instantly to stone. But just as deadly is their poisonous saliva, which can fell even an Elephant.
Also known as a Basilisk, a Cockatrice has the head and feet of a Cockerel and the tail of a Serpent. The Cockatrice is believed to be to product of a 7-year-old Cockerel's egg, laid during a full moon and then hatched for 9 years by a Serpent or a Toad.
There are a few ways to protect oneself from a Cockatrice. One is to carry something reflective (Like a mirror) and turn the Creature's gaze back on it. Another is keep either a Weasel or Cockerel nearby. The Weasel is said to be the mortal enemy of the Cockatrice, but the crowing of the Cockerel is even more effective, causing the Cockatrice to have fatal fits and to thrash itself to death.

Elves (Family: Circulifestidae)

Elves are capricious by nature, and few rules govern their long lives. They are fond of circular dances, feasting, singing and gaming and are most likely to be spotted when engaged in one of these activities. Sometimes, for amusement, Elves will lure Humans into dancing with them o tasting some of their food. In both cases, the Humans will lose all track of time and be trapped unless rescued.
If one hears music coming from seemingly uninhabited woods or from underneath hills, chances are the area is inhabited by Elves. Elven music is thought to be the source of many great human compositions, but hearing it can also bring on madness.
When walking through the woods, one should pay special attention to hills that are ringed with thorns or are close to streams. Walking around such a hill, one might notice places where the ground is sunken. Travelers should beware these hollow hills, as they are likely to be the dwelling places of Elves.
Elves are governed by regional monarchies where the queen has greater authority than the king. Each "court" is said to be either Unseelie (if composed primarily of malevolent Elves) or Seelie (if composed primarily of benevolent Elves).
The monarchs lead mounted parades on May Eve, Midsummer Eve and November Eve. Although people do sometimes see these trooping Elves, more often the only evidence is a strong wind that sweeps past and disappears.

Leprechauns (Family: Ingeniosidae)

Leprechauns (also sometimes called Clurichauns) are the diligent crafts people of Faeries, tirelessly toiling at leatherworking and cobbling. They spend most of their time in their forest workplaces, although they do sometimes winter the cellars of Human homes, particularly ones where food is stored. Many people have entered their basements in the spring to find shelves filled only with empty cans and bottles because of a Leprechaun.
Although known for their incredible shoemaking skills, Leprechauns have a variety of other talents, including tailoring clothing, building homes and fashioning tools. They can forge horseshoes and will sometimes shob unusual beasts, such as Goats and the occasional cat. They may also ride these animals as though they were steeds.
Leprechauns are known for possessing gold they earn through their craft and must often employ a host of tricks to keep from being cheated, matching wits with their would-be robbers. One way Leprechauns dupe thieves is by revealing the location of their treasure and then making sure it cannot be found again. If a thief marks the location by cutting a notch on a tree, he or she will return to find a similar notch on every tree in the forest. If a person digs a hole, they will find holes dug for miles around. And even if a Leprechaun's treasure is obtained, if it is out of sight for a moment, it is likely to lose its luster. Gold may turn into leaves and gems might become dull pebbles in a thief's pocket. Leprechauns, like other Faeries, never forget when they have been wronged.

Manticores (Family: Bestiadae)

Originally documented in Persia, the feared, man-eating Manticore, or Manticora, has been sighted in places as varied as the jungles of Brazil and Indonesia and, more rarely, the forests of North America and Europe. With the body of a Lion and a tail of poisonous spines that some reports indicate can be shot like arrows, a Manticore is a lethal predator. It eats its victims whole, using its triple rows of teeth, and leaves no bones behind.
A Manticore's face is said to resemble a Human's and travelers through marshes have reported mistaking a Manticore for a bearded man from a distance.
Manticores have a melodious call, like the lower notes on a flute blown together with a trumpet. Despite the beauty of the sound, most Animals know to flee when they hear it. Humans would do well to follow their lead.

Sprites (Family: Cordimundidae)

Dazzling in color and about the size of large insect, Sprites have glistening membranous wings. In fact, they are often confused with exotic Insects or flowers at first glance.
Considered by many to be the most common type of Faerie, they live in deep woods and make their homes high in the branches of trees. They particularly love to live in forests inhabited by Treefolk other Fey. If Sprites are spotted, you can be sure you are in an area with a high concentration of Faerie activity.
Sprites travel in swarms and can bite if provoked. At night their bodies give off a faint glow that can have them mistaken for Fireflies, which, along with other flying Insects and small birds, they are fond of riding.
Petals and blooms missing from healthy plants may be due to Sprites plucking them for clothing. Sprites can also cause Plants to bloom in the middle of winter and are the nurturers of the strange fruits that Faeries delight in.
In forests with Sprites, you may find the hollowed-out acorns they use as cups, dandelion-tuft mattresses and hats made from folded leaves. (Compare to Will-o’-the-Wisps)

Treefolk (Family: Hamadryadidae)

Although all trees are magical and many are scared to Faeries, only a few trees are sentient. These are treemen and treewomen. Treefolk can take on a humanoid shape and move a short distance from their tree, or, in extreme cases, uproot the entire tree and use the roots as a shuffling form of locomotion. In their humanoid form, Treefolk are often described as resembling their tree, so that an Apple treewoman might have green hair and brownish skin while an Elder treeman might have eyes as purply black as berries.
Obvious expression on a tree, composed of knotholes and strange permutations of the bark, is a sign that the tree may contain a spirit. Also check around prominent trees for roots that are above the ground. Lastly look for loose dirt and overturned Moss.
Treefolk are likely to grow at the center of a Faerie ring, to be a lone tree on a hillside or the oldest tree in a grove, to grow beside a welling spring, or to be one of two intertwined trees. Treefolk will die if they are cut down, although some linger on as spirits to haunt those that caused their demise.
Oak, Ash, Single Thorn and female Holly Treefolk are thought to be protective. Oak trees are particularly sacred to Faeries and have the greatest likelihood of sentience. Of the protective Treefolk, the most powerful is the Mountain Ash, also known as Rowan. It may be considered so protective because of its red berries, which the female Holly shares. Treefolk of these types are the most likely to be friendly in nature.
The Holly treeman, by contrast, is considered malevolent. Also considered dangerous are Hawthorn Treefolk that occur in groups of three or more. Although Elder Trees are thought to be protective, their Treefolk behave ambivalently. Elder Treefolk are quite common. If blood-like sap seeps from their wood when it is cut, it is thought to be very proof of their sentience.
Hazel Treefolk are thought to be very wise and can impart wisdom to those that eat their nuts. Even eating the flesh of an Animal that has eaten Hazel nuts from a sentient tree is enough to gain wisdom. Likewise, Apple Treefolk are thought to give power and youth to those who eat their apples. Sleeping under an Apple Tree is dangerous business, however as one risks being carried away by Faeries.

    Unicorns (Family: Monoceratidae)

    Revered for centuries as one of the most magical of all Creatures, the Unicorn is perhaps best known for its healing qualities. The touch of a Unicorn will cure disease and purify liquids. For this reason, Unicorns were hunted and slain. Cups, plates and utensils that could render poison harmless were carved from Unicorn horns. Shoes and belts of Unicorn hide cured fevers, and the ground-up liver of a Unicorn was believed to cure a myriad of illnesses.
    Named for the single, twisting horn on their brows, Unicorns have slender, Deer-like bodies, long necks and tails that end in a puff of fur. Unicorns are solitary Creatures, each one staking out a large tract of land and meeting only for the purpose of mating.
    Despite their beneficent nature, Unicorns are formidable when concerned. They are exceedingly fast and their horns are very sharp, making them a match for lions and even Dragons.

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