Fireweed creature bio

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Nickname: Fireweed

Status: Omnivore.
Believed to feed primarily on fluids-- e.g. tree sap, nectar, and blood.

Notable traits: The few that have been studied are known to be shape shifters. Specifically, they are able to shift between the full animal form of the creature often thought of as the "fireweed" to a single other form.
However, since the only ones known to change form are actually other species, such as humans, that have been grafted with the creature's spirit (see notes) or the descendents of such people, it is believed this is a side effect of the grafting process, and not a skill associated with the actual creature.

The creatures, whether of the grafted variety or their descendents, possess a strange tie to the lands surrounding them.
Like dryads, they are somehow bound to the environment. Unlike the dryads, who are each bound to a given tree and can die if that tree dies, these creatures are not bound to any one place. Rather, they are bound to the environment as a whole; they can sicken while roaming through sick lands, but they can also heal those lands as they themselves heal.
It is not yet known if their connection to the land is entirely of the same type as a dryad's, or if it is a side effect of their primary method of feeding.

They seem to possess a psychic ability to manipulate fire, most likely mastered as a means to protect their normal forested homes. This is believed to be a trait of the actual creature, as many who have been grafted with these spirits have displayed a complete ineptitude for magic until receiving the graft.

Habitat: The creatures are seen most frequently in rain forests.
They are, however, nomads, and take to wandering in the most unexpected locales.

Physical traits: Naturally adapting camouflage. Any given creature can blend into nearly any environment, though it is most effective in areas with heavy vegetation. The color of that vegetation does not seem to influence the effectiveness.
Each creature does seem to have a specific appearance and color pattern that does not actually change in different environments, so it is not yet understood how their camouflage works. One agent suggested that they employ natural perception filters.
The agent in question was promptly criticized for reading too much science fiction.

The creatures, when in their "animal" form, resemble large foxes, but their natural camouflage gives them a variety of plant-themed markings. These markings might range from green and brown color patterns, to fur with the texture of bark or petals, to even bearing thorns or vines as actual parts of their bodies.
Such a creature could, for instance, be mistaken for a group of flowers in the middle of a jungle or field of grass — his eyes might each resemble the center of a flower, while the markings on his fur appear to be the petals. (See notes)

Their teeth and claws are hollow, and the claws in particular are retractable.

As shape shifters, both forms display traits from the other — a human who has been grafted with such a creature, for instance, might discover his natural human form has gained retractable claws and possibly thorns growing in his hair.
When in animal form, he might have the same eye color as his human shape, and his fur might be a similar color to his human hair. In addition, the animal's size would have a mass and weight comparable to the human shape; a 150 pound human would become a 150 pound, or thereabouts, animal, and would have the proportions to match.
This phenomenon, which should not allow such a creature to "blend in" in certain locales, only serves to confuse the issue of their camouflage.

There are two known types of this creature in our world: people who have had the actual creature's spirit grafted to them, or descendents of such people.
While the method of grafting might be different from one mage to the next, it is actually fairly easy to tell the difference between the two types: those who have been grafted with the spirits bear clockwork or crystal parts grafted to their bodies, to provide housing for the creature's spirit and energy to use its power. The areas where these parts meet flesh tend to itch... a lot. (see notes)

Feeding: When feeding on solid material, the creatures feed as either form would be expected. When in animal form, they would feed as foxes are known to do, and when in their natural forms, they feed as their natural forms do.
They feed on liquids in their natural forms much as anyone might take a drink.
In their animal forms, however, they appear to "root" in whatever plant or animal they are feeding from, using their teeth and claws to pierce the prey's outer layer and extract the fluids.

Origin: The only creatures found to date are humans and other beings with the creatures' spirits grafted to them (see notes), or are descendents of such.

The actual creatures, however, are thought to originate from another world, another universe.
Common belief is that they had traveled to this world in spirit, or that a summoner had brought them over, and their spirits were grafted to local bodies to provide them with homes, mobility, and a means of survival.
A weird creature I came up with a few years back... all inspired by a completely unrelated image I'd seen.

This particular creature, or a variation of it, plays a major role in my 2011 NaNo, tentatively titled "The Graft," but otherwise, I have not yet determined if the creature will show up in my fiction... or when.
It may acquire a recurring minor role in other stories.

The preview image was drawn by ~ElementalJess; I won it as a prize for helping spread the word about her first novel "Song of the Summer King."

"grafted with the creature's spirit"
This, as well as theories regarding summoning the creature, can be read about in more detail in my Familiar Lecture, under the heading for Spirit Beasts.

"could be mistaken for a group of flowers"
This is where it gets weird... assuming it wasn't weird already. ;)
The inspiration for my mental image of this creature, and this description in particular, can be read about in my scrapbook entry where I'd uploaded my first attempt at drawing the thing.
Suffice to say, the image came from a very unusual source.

"clockwork or crystal parts grafted to their bodies"
For the clockwork, think steampunk-style cyborgs. ;)
For the more fantasy-oriented crystal parts... um.... Gempunk?
The image in mind could still be thought of as a type of cyborg, by whatever name you prefer.

And a similar creature appears even in my Doctor Who fiction. :D
Here's the first section, in the first "interlude" between stories (between my Season 2 story and my Season 3 story), if anyone's interested:
Jack's woman had vanished — again, with no sign that she'd ever been there. Jack's pet, an enormous animal that couldn't seem to decide whether it was cat or fox, was stretched out and dozing fitfully under the desk.
Fae examined the animal briefly with a wary eye. Some creatures were rare on Earth, with good reason. Jack was playing a dangerous game keeping this thing around... and the animal was in no less danger.
The creature was the size of a human, with proportions to match. Its coloring, which would have been camouflage in the wilderness, looked like nothing so much as spilled paint in the office, though Fae was not fooled. The only reason she saw the creature — the only reason anyone saw it — was because it allowed her to; the creature's natural perception filter almost guaranteed that it could remain unnoticed if it wanted.

The bit about the "woman" vanishing is left over from an earlier version of the scene, in which Ianto had been present instead of my recurring character Fae (before I realized that he couldn't be there, because the scene takes place before the fall of Torchwood One), and Ianto was not aware that the thing was a shapeshifter. The description of the creature, in that version, had been limited to "an enormous cat-fox thing," and no suggestion of coloration had been given.
Fae, however, is quite aware of what this thing is. As is Jack. ;p
It'll appear again, at different points in the animal's timeline, in my Season 3/4 interlude, as well as in my actual story set during Season 4.
And with that, I can add this to my NaNo 2012 folder, as well.
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