There are those whose arcane pursuits chase mastery of the manipulation of a given element, or the conjuration of burly beasts or formidable forces, always dabbling in the command and control of something. For the descendants of the Shadehound line, however, true magic comes from the manipulation of nothing. Floating, dreadful silhouettes with long pointed ears and features indistinguishable beyond the light markings of their face, Shadehounds are articulate speakers, though their every breath is carried on a low, rumbling growl. Born only in the hours of the dawning dusk, Shadehounds live and breathe the lightless world, mastering an element absent of illumination in ways few others can ever hope to achieve.
Command of the Nothingness may at first glance seem like an impotent school of magic, but its power becomes evident when you consider how much of the world is untouched by light. Wherever there is light, so long as an object exists within its reach, a shadow will always be cast. A competent Shadehound capitalizes on every patch of darkness, pulling it up from a surface with a gesture and a gutteral command. These patches of shadow can be molded and shaped into whatever suits the Shadehound’s needs, be it a staircase, a fall-breaking cloud or a sharp shady set of spikes. Wherever they wander, and whatever their agenda may be, so long as there’s darkness the Shadehound always has the tools needed to see its given task through to the end.
In the north seas there’s a small chain of sizable islands removed from any major continent, where rolling hills and chistled mountains define the horizons. Where once, its told, a tribunal of territories shared the islands, now only the Grand Gummi Garrison remains. Thought to be distant cousins of the Candy Commonwealth, the Grand Gummi Garrison is a militant order of soft, squishy creatures wearing soft, squishy armor and riding soft, squishy steeds. While they seem sweet on the outside, the Grand Gummi Garrison is rabidly empirical, driving their territorial competition into the seas and claiming every inch of land they can find in the name of their King, the greedy George VI the Gobstopper. Given how sweet they seem on the outside, it’s hard to believe a group like the Grand Gummi Garrison would deal in invasion and oppression, but their history is written in gooey globs of glucose and blood.
The three realms of the northern isles once lived in harmony- the hardy Hardbodies with their mastery of might, the twisty Taffidyls whose bowstrings stretch and strike the Heavens, and of course, the Gummi Garrison, whose soft arms were better for diplomacy than acts of aggression. Their old king, George III the Gracious, was the backbone of the sweet tribunal, able to broker peace between the Taffidyls and Hardbodies, who famously competed for greater shows of military strength. The Gummi Garrison lived in the shadows of these armies, ever fearful of being consumed by conflict, until George III had had enough, and struck upon a plan. Using their power of persuasion, agents of the Gummi Garrison learned the technology behind both armies’ arsenals- the Taffidyls’ potent bows and the mallets and lances of the Hardbodies. Then, on the eve of a tribunal summit, the Gummi Garrison capitalized on a conflict and turned each tribe’s own technology against them in a sudden show of sugary strength. The Hardbodies’ mallets could not crush the squishy bodies of the Gummi Garrison, as they would spring back into place, and arrows sunk into their soft surfaces instantly closed up. There was nothing either army could do to hurt the Gummi Garrison, who cracked and pierced their former-friends one by one, beating them to the shores, leaving them little choice but to drown or die. With military power in their possession the Gummi Garrison no longer lived in the shadow of giants, no. Now all the isles were theirs to claim, and so they have sought to grow and expand for generations since, never the sweet speakers they seem at first taste.
Stroll along a sandy beach when the sun softly sets behind its backdrop of seaside scenery and you may hear the soothing sounds of a solo set or an ensemble band wail and welcome the night. Sat on a rock or a hunk of driftwood you’ll find between one and ten Shellsongs, depending on how fondly Fortune smiles upon you. Short and stocky, with stubby arms and round little fingers, Shellsongs are a race of seaborne songweavers who live off the coast and come ashore to hash out a harmony and enjoy an improvised intermission between daytime and nightfall. Docile and easy-going, these rhythmic reptiles mean no one any harm, and their reputation as mellow musicians earn them a degree of protection among their fellow sentients- it’s considered poor form by local standards to wish ill upon a Shellsong, and may the pantheons protect anyone who would bring harm to a seaside evening band.
Shellsongs’ first love is their craft, the music. Playing the evening set is their sole drive, it’s what they live and breath and strive for. All other love comes secondary to the music, and while two Shellsongs may find a common flame, it’s often a short fling until they move on. Sometimes an egg is born of this, buried in the sands to incubate and hatch, their young greeted not by parents, but by whatever band might find them. Young Shellsongs are fast to grow, and as they develop they begin to explore the sounds in their souls, and how they can best bring them out to share with the world. Each Shellsong builds his or her own instrument as they grow, some finding the windy whine of a seashell matches their wavelength, while others string taut, dried kelp and let the strings sing on their behalf. Every Shellsong’s song is different, fitting like puzzles with their peers to fill the glowing, fiery sunset with beautiful, calming sounds. There’s never need for rehearsal, just play what’s in your heart!
Beneath the snow-capped mountaintops, between great walls of earth and stone, entrenched below the earth’s surface in dark chasms where even the seas themselves dare not tread, one can only wonder what horrors slither and writhe in the shadow of the world itself. What mindless beast might dwell in such a cold, godless pit, shielded from the sun’s warmth? Many who dwell amidst the grass and trees fill in the gaps of the underground unknown with visions of malevolent monsters, befanged and bloodthirsty, ready to rend to ribbons any who would pierce the veil of their sinister sanctum. And while the truth may deviate from the fiction of their fears, those same fears that has prevented expedition into this continental rift are not altogether unfounded.
They’re called Abyssal Horrors by surface-dwellers- or at least the idea of these creatures are so labeled- and they are anything but mindless. A rich and thriving civilization beneath the earth, Abyssals have built whole cities into the vertical walls of deep, lightless rifts in the earth’s crust. A set of tough tendrils allows them to grip stone facets and climb within their chasmous communities, their six eyes granting them superb vision in low- or no-light settings. An Abyssal’s head is covered in chitinous plates, protecting a network of nerves that allows the creatures to detect movement and vibration. Their mouths rest directly on their abdomens, taking food and minerals directly into their digestive systems. Thes tongueless maws are omnivorous and ill-equipped for speech, though the Abyssals are able to communicate thoughts telepathically. Their favored weapon is the barbed spear, able to provide balance and punch into stone surfaces for support. And any would-be explorer’s fears about piercing the veil of the Abyssals’ shadowy lives are entirely merited, as the Abyssals detest any who would bring the light of the world above into their dark, quiet lives, and among their diet of insect and mineral, meat is a rare and coveted delicacy.
Rare are the times one would consider an object or article of clothing a creature unto itself, but rarer still are the moments when such a thing presents itself as peer among those who might wield or wear it. Such is the case-of-occasion for the Robe of the Grand Magus, a thick woolen garment wiser in the ways of weaving wonders than many meaty magicians. Once worn by the Grand Magus herself- a storied and secretive sage and sorcerer whose thread on the weave of fate was frayed- the Robe was found among her personal affects when her solitary tower was broken into by a messenger alerted by an absent reply to his knock. Local spellcasters heard tale of the Grand Magus’s disappearance- and nary a trace of her was anywhere to be found- but when the gawkers gathered at her gateway they were greeted by the Robe itself, risen and fully-animate.
The Robe of the Grand Magus is a curious thing, believed to have soaked the magical aura of the Grand Magus herself the way it would blood and sweat. The Grand Magus’s essence is deeply woven in the fibers of the old cloak, and the Robe remembers many of the gestures needed to invoke ancient acts of the arcane. The Robe of the Grand Magus doesn’t speak, but instead communicates by gesture of its hood and sleeves, floating about as though it were draped around the body of its former owner. The Robe radiates power, and more than a few would-be usurpers have attempted to don the Robe for themselves, but each met a gruesome, ashen end as the Robe drew the life and knowledge right out of their bodies, leaving naught but fragile husks behind. The Robe of the Grand Magus doesn’t show any outwardly aggressive tendencies, but it defends itself readily, its repertoire of skills expanding with each fallen fool.
If you follow this tumblr you may have noticed it’d gone quiet for a while. I apologize for that. I had to power through an art-heavy musical scene in my comic, which starts here if you want to read the whole sequence. I’m through that now, so I’ll be making more little critters for your tumblr enjoyment, since I’m almost at 700 followers here (yikes!) I don’t want anyone to think the thing’s been abandoned. I’ll possibly be running Monday to Friday updates, just to give myself more time for other projects and just to breathe in general, I hope that’s alright.
Also, I’ve kinda put off saying this for a while, but since I’m making a text post I’ll add it here: way back in March or April I went to MoCCA in NYC with a bunch of 18x24” full-color posters for sale. I went in with 15, and I have 9 left over. They’re printed on thick high-quality paper stock and they have all the first 50 creatures on them and they came out very sharp. If you like this blog or you’d like a big poster to hang up, the last nine are up for sale on my comic site’s store page for $25 each. There’s only nine of them left, and that’ll be it. When I have 100 or 150 color creatures written I’l like to print a color field guide-style handbook, so that’s something to look into for the future if people are interested.
Thank you for reading, thanks for following and thanks for your support! These are fun to do and I’m glad people enjoy the blog!
In the sandswept deserts of the central eastern continent, some of the world’s oldest and largest monuments can be seen from great distances, cresting the golden horizon when approached from any point on the compass. An ancient civilization thrives in the Sandstone Valley, but no monument standing bears likeness of or pays tribute to any king or queen. The absence of a monarch becomes more apparent the deeper you enter the central city of the Carrybacks, a proud race of sentient insects famous for the feats of strength and endurance their little bodies are capable of. Thick blue shells marked with bands of red protect these industrious insects from the sweeping sands of their nigh-inhospitable homeland. Their most famous trait is their fantastic capacity to carry weight on their backs, a trait exploited by ware-hocking merchants and loot-hungry adventurers alike- a Carryback can haul far more gear than any comparatively-sized race on the planet. Although their relatively small size allows them to go some days without a drop of water, Carrybacks cultivate an assortment of water-drawing desert plants within their communities. Upbeat and sociable, Carrybacks are experienced craftsbeetles with members pursuing a broad range of disciplines, but of all the things they love to build it’s perhaps a story they love to craft the most.
Once, long ago, the Carrybacks lived in collective hives, governed by an autocratic Queen whose reign was recognized by birthright from generation to generation. The Carrybacks’ hardshelled bodies are famous for their capacity to carry many times their own weight on their backs with little effort, and for a long time it was believed the Carryback Queen’s bloated, gigantic soft abdomen was the sole source of vital nectar needed by the entire community to survive. Thus, holding monopoly on survival, the Carryback Queen would traditionally command her hive to build her beautiful sculpture and jewelry and construct gigantic, extravagant monuments in her honor, hauling sandy stone blocks brick by brick on their hardy backs. Life was difficult for the lowly Carrybacks, until one tired worker happened upon a discovery: the prickly plants that peppered the desert sand- long believed to be dangerous- were actually full of water! And water not only sustained the Carryback, it was more refreshing than the Queen’s nectar! Word spread quickly among the lower ranks, on up the ladder to the Queen’s own guard, and needless to say the Carryback Queen was disposed of overnight. The monuments ordered by generations of Queens were subsequently dismantled, their stones used to build tall, artful sculptures, each an expression of the Carrybacks’ freedom to create as they please, living and thriving in the shadow of no lord or master.
The deserts of the world are arid and inhospitable. Water, the all-soothing foundation of life, is a scarcity, and most living things will do whatever they can to secure it for themselves. Some animals store it in fatty deposits in their bodies, while other plants draw it drop by drop from deep below the sands. And sometimes the sands themselves will play a hand in this high-stakes game of drink or die, coming alive to claim the desert’s most valuable commodity as its own. Known as Oases, these sandy souls spring up around isolated bodies of water, drawing and interweaving this life-giving essence into their bodies, becoming strong enough to stand upright and resist the harsh desert winds. Some theorize an Oasis is an evolved form of sandsprite, while others believe it’s the desert itself racing flora and fauna alike to a new source of water, but whatever their origin the coming of an Oasis can spell boon or bust for all who encounter one.
Oases are a rare occurrence, developing once in a blue moon to monopolize a given source of water- if they appeared more often, other lifeforms would simply dry up and die. They don’t demonstrate any sort of culture, speak any language or serve any but their singular purpose- to grow in size and volume of water collected. The passing of an Oasis can spell disaster for any parched patrons of the desert, as the watering hole that could have saved them from dehydration at a critical moment would be gone before they got there. Conversely, if a group is ready and able to face the lashing sands and piercing water bolts of an Oasis they can strike it dead, the creature immediately collapsing into a fresh and untainted pool of cool water- a reward more valuable than gold or enchanted tools in the right circumstances. An Oasis is rare, and in the heart of the desert they can easily end your life, or save it.
Beyond the reach of the sweeping hands of time there exists a horde of creatures, possessed of gnashing teeth and thrashing tails, who live apart from our world, but whose appetite is felt as a part of our everyday lives. Those who’ve bridged the gap between space and time to discover these hour-hungry horrors call them Chronovores, and attribute every lost day and forgotten stretch of time to their meddlesome munching. In their perception of reality, time exists as an infinite series of fraying, intersecting and intertwining lengths of cord stretching from one horizon to the other. As such, the Chronovore’s physiology is one of sharp claws and sinewy muscle, the creatures well-adapted to a life of climbing over, leaping from and latching onto metaphysical vines of varying thickness. Their long tails help them maintain balance in a world ever-flowing, but it’s their long teeth that help them really make a mark in our plane.
As the strands of time weave and wind, parts of threads will often fray off into nowhere. Whether these represent potential futures unrealized or progress prematurely terminated, the seers who glimpse beyond the veil still debate to this day. But what’s known by all seeking to study the stream of time is the Chronovores feed voraciously on these faltered futures. Acting as timestream cleaners, Chronovores consume time without a destination, ensuring there’s no clutter among the order of the threads. The reign of rulers deposed or unelected, youthful aspirations long-abandoned and the machinations of the fallen all create these frayed never-woulds within a given strand of time, and it’s the job of the Chronovore to consume them and keep time flowing cleanly. In our world this manifests as anything from forgotten languages and civilizations to forgotten tasks someone was on their way to fulfill. No one remembers the never-will, and we have the Chronovores to thank for it.
They say a great old evil lurks just beyond the light of the moon, trapped between the sun and stars. A militant force from ages ago set on a campaign of global conquest was forever lost to the world of light; be it from curse or course mischarted. No one can say for certain what force or misfortune sealed them away as they are- as is often the case with legends, living or otherwise- but what’s known to all who walk beyond the sight of the sun is to mind the moonless night, because once a month when the sky is darkest, the men of the No-Moon Army ride again. Clad in clankering articulated armor, their faces masked by hinged grated plates, the No-Moon Army appear from the moonless mists in full-supply, their horses scratching and their siege-engine squealing for fresh oil. A mobile and well-supplied force, the No-Moon Army is a force to be reckoned with, and while they have the practical tactical wisdom of centuries behind them, their greatest asset is the element of surprise.
When they walked freely under the light from above the No-Moon Army traveled far and wide, leaving their mark on every corner of the globe. Since their banishment the army only returns on nights when the moon is absent, and while this is predictable no one can guess where on earth they’ll appear next. Some months they appear in the unsettled wilderness, far from any civilization, but other nights they’ll storm full-force from the mists into the main street of a great city or into the front line of an exhausted battle, their great barbed tower shields deflecting opposition, swords and spears striking down those who stand in the path of their conquest. They fight tirelessly, and when one of their own is felled he will fade back into the mists, leaving no trace but the blood they shed in their wake. The No-Moon Army is an iron-plated force of nature, a storm of blood and steel that can appear anywhere, and those who’ve survived their encounter with this ghastly garrison never forget the night, their pitched battle relived with the coming of each new moon.