Serpent underbelly, eagle talons, antlered skull, human eyes. The Piasa of the upper Mississippi was once the terror of the native peoples, its black shape blotting out the sun as it soared above battlefields like a bloated vulture. It took children from the forests and women from the fields, and no hunter could stand against it and live. Then it was gone. None could say where, or when, or even how. Slowly, the people grew less cautious, less afraid. But they carved a warning into the limestone above the turbulent waters. A dragon-thing, with the face of a man. Just in case.
This came as a result of rereading Beowulf. The Barrow Wyrm from the last third of the poem is the basis for most of the really classic English dragons: it hoards gold, breathes fire, has a venomous bite, and flies into a shrieking, murderous rage if it's disturbed. This old beast has been guarding its hoard for so long that its once-brilliant scales have turned white, but it's still pretty spry--as poor Beowulf is about to find out.
The miners and log cutters along the Cumberland tread carefully at night. It's said that something haunts the moonlit roads, white form flitting through the trees, always at the corner of your eye....
Another creature from Appalachian folklore, interpreted from a description that is basically limited to "creepy, bestial, and white." It doesn't really have a name, either--it's only ever referred to as "The Thing in White." Or, apparently, "Sheepsquatch."
The Kalona Ayeliski is the most feared of the Anisgina, a witch-thing of bottomless malevolence and terrible power. Devourer of the dead and the dying, it steals breath and life to prolong its own terrible existence. Only those with strong magic or pure heart can kill a Kalona Ayelisk, should they see its true face. It goes masked and cloaked, in the form of a terrible raven, for fear of being seen, and even recognized it takes seven days to die.
Those who take ill in the mountains of North Carolina soon learn to fear its mocking, cawing scream..... -----
Isti-Papa, or "Great Man-Eater," is a giant hulk of muscle and bone, ragged with matted fur and stinking of algae and muck. A beast of murderous temperament, it devours anything in its path. Sometimes it sits on its haunches and scrapes the bark off of trees, using its long tusks and curved claws. Other times it ambushes other animals--deer, elk, even bear-- crushing them with its great weight before it carries them off to be dismembered. Should it come upon a dwelling, it will demolish it and eat whomever it finds inside. The hide of the beast can turn away spears, and even gunshots barely bother it. None are safe in the forests where Isti-Papa rules.
Isti-Papa comes from Creek Indian folklore, but I thought it'd be fun to equate it with one of the odder paleontological reconstructions ever fashioned: Thomas Jefferson's American Incognitum, a carnivorous elephant with downward facing tusks. It was, in point of fact, a Mastodon, but Jefferson wasn't to know that. The Creek stories equate Isti-Papa variously with a bear and an elephant, so I split the difference and threw some Ground Sloth in there as well.
The Slanting One, The Lord of Game, the Six Fingered Giant. Tsul' Kalu is a Cherokee spirit of devastating power and unpredictable temperament. Occasionally, Tsul'Kalu (sometimes anglicized to Judaculla or Jutaculla) is friendly toward the people of the mountains, and particularly toward pretty Cherokee maidens. However, he is very self conscious of his appearance; one tale tells how he married a woman while in the guise of a handsome man, but fled the village in rage and shame when her family discovered his true form. (His wife, for the record, was fine with it.) Those who hold his patronage are lucky in the hunt. Those who offend him go hungry, or worse. The wrath of Tsul' Kalu makes the mountains shake with thunder, and his flashing, slanted eyes are like lightening. It's best to keep him happy. --
This is piece of rough character design for the mountain spirit. He'll be popping up in the Anna O'Brien stories at some point, and I wanted to have a clear image in my head for how he might look. The insert is a black and white photo of the Judaculla Stone, a piece of soapstone carved with pictograms that predate the Cherokee, and is associated with the legend primarily because of the six-fingered handprint.
He looks kind of like my old tech theater teacher in high school. Funny how these things work out.
"It's a devil!" screamed the pregnant woman. Sweat beaded her face. Her fingers dug gouges into the table, her hips shuddering with the effort of labor. "It's a devil inside me! A devil! A devil! a devil!" And so it proved to be. ---- This is a creature that came about because of a podcast. Monster Talk conducted an excellent interview with Brian Regal about the history and folklore of the Jersey Devil, bringing to mind a very different creature than the one popularly depicted. I wanted to design something that looked like a baby gone horribly wrong, something still in the process of mutating and changing into a real horror. But also a tad sympathetic, as well.
The woman at the bottom is, of course, Anna O'Brien, the wandering witch. She's involved as well. The story--"The Seeds of Foul Fortune"-- is a Lovecraftian mystery with some wonderfully bonkers set pieces. And a flying baby monster. Or it will be, at least, if I ever get around to writing it.
The dragons of heaven are nothing like their poor earthly counterparts. Slumbering for hundreds of years beneath the waters and sands of China, they command great powers in their infinitely long life cycles, freed from the shackles of biological need and necessity, closer to god then beast, and closer to unknowable chaos then either.
This is loosely inspired by BPRD's Scorched Earth trilogy. Guy Davis designed some very eel like dragons for that excellent series, and I liked the idea and ran with it.
No one knows where it came from. Some say it emerged from a crashed American spacecraft. Others say it clawed its way out of the sulfur pits of Mount Etna. Nobody can say for sure.
But whether it came from the bowels of a volcano or from 20 million mies from earth, the Ymir was a strange beast indeed. When exposed to oxygen and sunlight, it grew at uncontrollable speed. A shy beast by nature, it lashed out viciously when attacked. With heavy claws and large canines, the Ymir was a beast to be reckoned with, even when small. But it did not stay small. By the time it was brought down by the Italian Military it was far larger then an elephant.
The body of the Ymir was removed by the authorities, and in the political turmoil following its appearance and subsequent death, the body was lost. But some have claimed that other Ymiri exist, feeding in secrecy among the welcoming warmth of the volcanic sulfur pits of Mount Etna. But nobody knows for sure. ------------- Ymir is copyright Ray Harryhausen. The redesign, however, is mine.
"The Peluda is a specialized species of fresh water hydra that resides in the vast swamps of france. A slow and grumpy creature, the Peluda is notable mainly for it's great venom and quilled back. It hunts in the reed beds, allowing itself to blend with the tall grass, before striking out at any creature that passes by. The peluda feeds on many small creatures of the swamp, from frogs and rats to the young of other species of hydra.
The Peluda is small, only the size of a small crocodile, but it's quills and nasty temper make it a creature to avoid. Luckily, it is a shy animal and flees from confrontation, which considering it's venom, is a good thing."