Sunday, April 14, 2013

Making Undead #2: Physical Corruption of Centaurs

Hello all,

Continuing where we left off last time (Physical Corruption of Dwarves), I'll examine how I can make a variety of undead creatures from physically corrupting centaurs.

Aside: Some talk of "undead resources", one book I enjoyed drawing from was Drawing and Painting the Undead by Keith Thompson. Still, this was back when I collected any book with drawings I enjoyed. Nowadays, I mostly Google for them (unless I see a deal or a new Spectrum!)

To the monster creation process!

 Centaurs are pretty interesting physical specimens in WotA. They have binary circulatory and respiratory systems, two hearts and two sets of lungs. Although this enables them to survive longer from a mortal wound, it also increases more vulnerabilities.

Immediately, centaurs that continue living after the loss of a heart jump to the forefront of my imagination. These one-hearted centaurs might live quite a while before falling to the inevitable, all the while building up misery and despair and hatred towards those with two hearts.

Mono-hearts hate living centaurs and go out of their way to destroy them through pinpoint attacks to the heart. Their psionic ability has granted them a heart-lance attack that they use on crippled centaurs, usually doing the crippling themselves with hamstringing psionic attacks. They take the greatest pleasure in the living centaur knowing the inevitable is coming. After the attack, they may release the prey, but just as likely they will maintain its life for weeks, months or years using its psionics until the creature finally dies and rises as another mono-heart.

Some mono-hearts attempt to create new hearts from the hearts of others, and implement the new hearts in a variety of ways. A more ravenous, mindless mono-heart may consume them, while one possessing higher functioning may attempt surgical procedures using their psionics as scalpel and suture. Finally, some may attempt to cultivate the Culling from the hearts of tauren creatures (the Culling is a type of demonic parasite that features strongly in WotA, beginning right off the bat with Book 1 - The Throne of Ao).

These three subtypes of mono-hearts are undead creatures in their own rights, rabid-hearts, ultra-hearts, and demon-hearts.

Rabid-hearts turn rather ghoulish quickly. These individuals may have been moronic in life or possessed low psionic ability, or they may have fallen prey to hedonism (a very serious concern for centaurs). They relentlessly pursue their prey, which include any living creature with a heart, although the closer to centauren hearts the better. Their favorite prey are their former brethren, followed closely by tauren creatures (humes, minotaurs, centaurs, merfolk, harpies, icthaylians and the other creatures made by elven esolons to act as servants before the neolithic revolution and the fall of Atlantis). Rabid-hearts change physically, becoming faster and stronger than living centaurs, and developing teeth and claws characteristic of their more carnivorous lifestyle. They can be single-track and eventually degrade to no more than animal intelligence. They are known to pursue prey without noticing other, easier prey nearby unless that prey actively makes itself known to them. Also, they will pursue a single hard-to-obtain centaur heart over multiple easier hearts of non-centaur blood. They are both quick and tireless, but easy to trap.

Ultra-hearts are easily recognized by the amalgamation of cardiac tissue exposed on their chests (one or both). If mechanical augments are included, then they may have cybernetic pieces as well. Their psionics are much more powerful than the average one-heart, and regularly develop from centaurs training to be pesebalamjrs. Unfortunately, because of their powerful psionics and physical training, pesebalamjrs and pesebalamjr-ascendents are more likely to survive a "mortal" wound to the heart, and so find themselves more prone to living long enough to hate others.

Aside: pesebalamjrs is basically translated as "elder", but represents an ascended level of enlightenment amongst centaurs and is classified as a disparate subspecies.

Ultra-hearts are very powerful both physically and psionically, and they have been known to devastate entire villages. Instead of building up the cardiac mass to untenable levels (although this could be another creature, Akira-heart), most ultra-hearts tend to become more and more selective of the hearts they absorb, and are known to seek out especially fine specimens that display athletic or psionic prowess (another subtype of the ultra-heart are those that eventually start stealing and absorbing other organs, ultra-organ-thief). Ultra-hearts are also especially prone to falling prey to the temptation of blood magick and regularly become vampires, and quite powerful ones at that. Other vampires will sometimes look down on those of ultra-heart descent because they view the path they took as cheating.

Akira-hearts (named after the classic anime movie featuring an organism growing out of control) never stop adding to their cardiac tissue. While other ultra-hearts become more selective, these add wantonly and indiscriminately. They quickly become unrecognizable masses of living tissue, but retain their intelligence and psionic ability. Unfortunately, their addiction (which is looked down on by more conventional ultra-hearts) means that they pose a very visible threat and communities of disparate races will band together to destroy Akira-hearts when they become known. Their average "lifespans" after reaching giant-size and greater is not very long and decreases geometrically as they get larger and larger. Akira-hearts eventually become ultra-organ-thiefs in that they begin absorbing all the organs and matter from living creatures indiscriminately.

Ultra-organ-thiefs, like ultra-hearts, seek out the best organs available and amalgamate and/or replace pieces of their own organs with the new. Considered dirty by ultra-hearts, they usually become more powerful.

Note: ultra-hearts and their subtypes are usually undead, but these mutations can be possible with living creatures. Still, the process of absorbing organs from other creatures nearly always eventually kills the ultra-heart (which they may not even notice).

Demon-hearts are quite bad. (Not saying demons are bad as a group of creatures in WotA, but undead centaurs with psionics that feed on demons to make themselves stronger definitely fit the bill of being "bad"). The Culling tends to gravitate around hearts in tauren creatures, so it's pretty clear how they developed, but ingesting demonic cells is quite poisonous for living creatures usually, oh wait, demon-hearts are undead. That explains how they're able to use the demonic nether magicks that are on par with draconic aether magicks. They're usually quite mad and have their own mad goals and motivations in life. Interestingly, sometimes they are captured and used in the hunting of demons. Great care must be shown in not letting them feed upon more demonic cells and growing too powerful. Sometimes demon-hearts pull a "modern-vampire-story" in that they try to use the bad to fight the bad and retain their own goodness, but in a if-the-90s-are-considered-modern-modern-vampire-story, they usually are corrupted or fall.

Aside: Seriously, when did vampires succeeding at redemption and (un)living happily ever after become a thing? I'm all for sympathetic undead, or even a redemption story, but any story featuring one that is still standing at the end rings untrue to me.

I think I've exhausted the binary circulatory system for undead (at least for today) and I have no desire to plumb the depths of a binary respiratory system (at least for today!), so let's move on to what else makes centaurs tick.

They jump really high/far, they suffer from hedonism (although that's more of a cultural thing), and they are an amalgamation of pre-hume-stock and pre-horse-stock.

Locust, slob, and hume-less horseman. And then we'll call it a day for physical corruption inspirations for undead centaurs.

The locust centaur (or grasshopper if you prefer) is a standard undead centaur (as in, no special origins, just an unfortunate happenstance that results in improper burial). Their wasted away bodies are light and catch the wind. Their undead strength causes them to go quite high and far (much more than a normal centaur) when jumping, and they travel far distances before coming down. They eat whatever living creature or flesh that they come into contact with (birds and other flying creatures while in the air, and whatever is around when they touch down). Although they should touch down softly, they use limited psionics to create a meteor-like strike when they near ground and this can also be used with small hops in a battle-situation. It's hypothesized that the psionics also help them float. A final use of their psionics causes flaps of frilled skin to rise off the horse-back part of their bodies to be used like a locust's wings and guide their path through the skies. As a low-functioning undead, it's not uncommon for these creatures to eventually form groups flying through the skies.

The slob centaur usually comes from the pesebalamjr subspecies, as they are usually quite morbidly obese (and half again as tall as a centaur) and convince themselves that the kind of focus/enlightenment they've achieved allows them to engage in gluttony without falling prey to the hedonism that has plagued their species from the beginning. Still, particularly awful examples of "normal" centaurs that have fallen prey to excessive gluttony can become slobs as well. Although normally psionically powerful, the slobs are mostly unrecognizable as centaurs. They probably look more like a hutt from Star Wars with four tiny legs (tiny because they've been overwhelmed by the obesity of the creature) than a real centaur. I've seen this picture when looking up pics to figure out what a pesebalamjr looks like

Increase that past the absurd point it is already, turn it into a centaur, and make it undead and you've got the idea I have for the slob creature. (couldn't find any origination for this picture, but it's being used by several people when you Google "fat horse". If anyone knows where it came from, I'd appreciate it!).

The slob centaur has no real motivation in (un)life other than finding sources of food. They eat anything, including vegetation, and regularly use their psionics to assist them in eating more and more. In fact, the slob centaur probably does a better job at being a locust than the locust centaur! Luckily, slob centaurs are usually loners because they cannot tolerate competition for food sources. (best way to kill one? introduce it to another, let them duke it out, and then fight the weakened remains).

Slobs start out relatively intelligent, but the only thing they apply their intelligence to is finding more food. Eventually, slobs develop even more stomachs and even more eventually, alternate intake valves (mouths). Their mouths grow to proportions that fit in with their trash disposal ways, and the first extra mouth usually develops in the abdomen of the hume torso part of the centaur.

Finally, the hume-less horseman centaur is one that has had its hume-part forcibly removed from its horse-part. These creatures ride the night seeking out those that killed it and any others it views as being guilty (which is eventually, anyone that isn't suffering from their particular malady). They prefer to kill by slicing through the lower abdomen of creatures to cut them in half. Depending on the particular specimen, the hume-less horseman may cherish its separate parts, and both parts may develop powers. When encountered without the horse part, they are called horse-less humemen; these claw their way around and may retain reasoning and higher-functioning. The hume-less horseman is much more likely to fall into undead instincts. Both versions are able to manifest a spectral version to "complete" themselves, but most prefer to use other things to occupy the space missing. The horsemen may use scarecrows or other common golem-like creatures, while the humemen are not opposed to using carts and mechanical horses. Humemen are more likely to provide locomotion by creating spectral legs to move the inanimate parts along.

So what do you think of the undead centaurs? If you'd like to know more, feel free to ask!

Remember, these were all created while writing this particular blog, which is why only placeholder names are used mostly and why more concept art isn't available. Whenever a name is decided or more art is created, I'll probably come back to update. 

Minotaurs up next, followed by aviadins!

Update: Undead minotaurs can be found in Making Undead #3 here and undead aviadins can be found in Making Undead #4 here.