© Catch Tilly, 2019
‘It should keep the animals out.’ Zanar opens the cylinder that’s been storing water. ‘And about half of the monsters,’
‘Monsters?’ I say. ‘You didn’t tell me there were monsters.’
‘I’m telling you now.’ He pulls out a set of hexes and starts setting them around our camp. ‘This should keep out the birds and the sloth, and we’ve camouflaged to hide for Basindons.’
‘What about Bandergogs?’
Zanar shrugs. ‘No one’s ever been able to study a Bandergog, so I don’t know. They’re attracted to magic, so I’ve put an external damper on, but there’s no guarantee it will work.’
‘So, we could get attacked by 3 sword length high creatures who spend most of their time invisible and have arms strong enough to rip a dragon’s head off?’
‘Only a small dragon.’
‘Well yes, it is a possibility,’ he admits. ‘That’s why I thought I’d stay awake. You said you wanted to sleep.’
‘I’ve changed my mind.’
Monsters are one of the joys of a fantasy world: Dragons, ogres, giant spiders, where would adventuring be without monsters to trick or kill. But like our post 20th century world Meldin has been civilized for so long that most of the danger comes from people not animals. So, it was a real delight to enter the Ashen forest, one of the few places on Meldin with not just bizarre animals but genuine monsters.
I hope you like them.
Tall as a tree, dark as a cavern with claws that rend and teeth that bite, a mouth large enough to swallow a naughty child and arms strong enough to break the thickest wall. Or so the story goes. Bandergogs spend most of their time invisible so few people know what they look like. It makes them the perfect monster to scare small children. And, in truth, the reality is frightening enough.
They stand around 3 to 4sl (9 to 12 feet) with round faces on top of an elongated and sharp-toothed jaw, rather like a bear that’s grown an extra set of teeth. Their shoulders are heavy and muscled like a gorilla’s and they climb as easily as they run, though they walk on two feet not four and their hands can grip like a man’s, aided by claws the length of a finger that glint black against the deep bronze fur.
Given the difficulty of seeing a Bandergog they are often drawn in shade-less black or camouflage stripped in green and brown but only the males are black, the same colour as the Rinwood Ashen trees, an ebony darkness highlighted with purple and blue. The females are a deep gold touched with olive, like a gold coin left too long in the sea. And the cubs are a patchwork of gold and black, like a golden roan. No, the reason you can’t see a Bandergog is that they really are invisible, fading into the forest not with camouflage but with pure magic.
Until they rip your head off.
When Bandergogs fight they do so with their claws and their teeth but when they are hunting for food, they will grip their prey in iron-strong hands, wedging them against their body and literally ripping their head off. The first blood a young Bandergog will taste is the lifeblood that drips down their father’s fur to pool in the pouch the baby is resting in. Natural Heralds theorise that feeding their young is why Bandergogs use this method of killing but to the general populace it’s just part of the horror stories. But though Bandergog’s aggressively defend their territory from other species they don’t attack each other. They are solitary creatures and do not like to join together even to fight.
Adult Bandergog only meet six times in their lives. They will come together to mate twice, and only twice, and then separate for the full year of Bandergog gestation joining again at the same time and place where the male will stand guard while the female delivers the half formed cub who will be transferred to the pouch on the male’s chest where they will spend the next two years growing, feeding on milk the male not female Bandergog produces, until they are ready for solid food.
For the next twenty-one years the Bandergog infant will stay with its father, travelling on his back for the first few like a human infant out for a treat. At 22 years of age if the Bandergog is female it’s mother will return and take the now adolescent Bandergog for a further five years. If male, they will stay with their father. Then at 27 years they leave and will not see either parent until their parents’ death when the child will return to accompany their mother or father as they die, holding them in their arms as they slowly become invisible and burying the body that no-one but them can see.
For monsters they can be very human.