Character Overview: Groups & Their Homelands
Learn about the creatures who live in the land beyond Ghoul's Garden.
The Minwee - Half Moon Hollow/Midlands
I have introduced hundreds of My Little Minions over the years, known locally as the Minwee, who make up the colourful majority of the population in a world once known as Ughols Ergdan. Most congregate in the Village of Minweethraells to the south but some have moved to The Walled City of Vigilo in the Midlands (with a few odd characters preferring to live away from large populations).
The village attracts Minwee who prefer a simpler kind of life with a slower pace and a foot firmly in tradition. Vigilo, meanwhile, is a beacon for entrepreneurs and skilled trades workers who seek a bustling local business. Minwee from both areas make the trek to Hagglers Green in Half Moon Hollow to buy or sell their wares and services at the market.
The Underbiters - Half Moon Hollow
(Debuted in March of 2009 and the series was officially retired in July of 2010.)
A hole in a sock. A tear in the garbage bag. Frayed wires. Maybe the flowers in the garden have been plundered, or there's a trail of crumbs across the floor.
Humans tend to blame bad luck, poor craftsmanship, the family pet or vermin for such nuisances, and never consider the possibility they may have Underbiters living in the house.
This group of generally benign creatures are a band of mischief makers with a penchant for chewing, commonly found across Half Moon Hollow and the Midlands (not to mention our universe). Like mice, while they prefer to avoid other species, they are drawn to our tasty belongings (which explains their migration from the forest and countryside to urban dwellings). Tree branches might offer a solid crunch and leaves vary from velvety to crisp, but there is a certain satisfaction to chomping down on manufactured products. Some of the Underbiters chew simply because it's an innate need while others relish the frustration of the homeowner when the carnage is discovered.
Pumpkin Folk (The Citrouille) - Half Moon Hollow
No one knows for sure how they came to life. One story claims some of Farmer MacReady’s pumpkins grew wild in the abandoned field and took their first breath after being kissed by whatever spirits haunt the untended acres. Another says MacReady made a deal with members of the Eye of Crow Coven who turned his scarecrows into farmhands to help with fieldwork. Regardless of their true origins, they are now sentient beings who lease a field from MacReady and continue to do paid work on the farm (having no stronger-than-average affection for, or affinity with, squash or any of the produce grown there).
The Scholars of Weltschmerz Warren - The Midlands
Studying everything from folklore and ancient texts, to astronomy and animal husbandry, the Scholars specialize in the history of Ughols Ergdan and the beings who inhabit it. Generations have dedicated their lives to understanding the cause and effect of the Great Vanishing still felt today, and the secrets of the lands it transformed, all recorded and fiercely guarded. Together with the members of VOWW (the Venerable Order of Watchers and Woodsmen), they work to predict times of Thinning - when it is possible to travel to and from Once Was and Never Been - and quietly monitor the interlopers who have come to their world through the Cist.
In their spare time, the Scholars are required to volunteer at a location of their choice. One might work at the Apothecary in the city, or tend to tasks at the Aviary (training of birds for use in message delivery and hunting for VOWW) or the Cunicularium (traditionally a place that raises rabbits for meat and fur in lean times, volunteers are urged not to become attached to the animals but, admittedly, many of the rabbits are named and live as pets). The Scholars share these responsibilities with the Monks of the House of Proselyte (some of whom are Scholars as well).
The Monks work to bridge the cultural gap between the Scholars and the rest of society who think they are mad or foolish or both. Too many centuries have passed for locals to believe in the mythology of Ughols Ergdan, assuming they even know the tales. They remain blissfully unaware of the dangers from the north, and insist on maintaining their ignorance. A Scholar is, therefore, perceived as a worrier, as an individual who spends too much time inside their own heads and with the rabbits who - like their caretakers - are skittish and easily frightened by imagined dangers behind every tree. This is how the Scholar compound earned the name Weltschmerz Warren.
Children dare each other to sneak into the Scholar residence and attempt to find the hidden passage of local lore, speculated to lead one to a collection of skeletons and specimens, and any number of horrors the imagination of youth can dream up.
There have been some unfortunate incidents with certain members. The being now known as The Meddler had been a Scholar for years until he stole a device that manipulates time and memory. He is still at large.
Betrayals like this are few and far between, and while the Scholars are prudent in their screening practices in terms of higher access roles, they try to maintain an open door policy for anyone seeking knowledge.
The Monks of the House of Proselyte - The Midlands
As it is in our world, there are wildly differing religious and spiritual practices across the lands of Ughols Ergdan. Most common are beliefs steeped in what we’d vaguely categorize as variations of both Paganism and Shamanism, involving different rituals depending on geography and family heritage. The church (referred to as “the House”) in Vigilo is an open place of worship, with multiple altars serving the needs of all sorts of parishioners, and inclusive of every conceivable faith-based group. The House is the only large functioning church since St. Mary’s - a much more austere place of worship - sank into Black Bile Bog (along with the surrounding town).
In this world, Monks (male, female or other) are spiritual facilitators, offering guidance and support to those in need. Outside the walls of Vigilo, they volunteer to help the Scholars at Weltschmerz Warren. They also own and run the cidery in Half Moon Hollow, selling their deliciously potent products to raise funds - for the monastic order and the community they serve - at the market on Hagglers Green. They hope to someday build a chapel in the Village of Minweethraells but have yet to gain enough public support from the locals. Some Minwee prefer to worship in a more linear style compared to the multi-branched, accommodating approach of the House of Proselyte.
The Monks are encouraged to learn theology with the Scholars and balance that knowledge with empathy and interaction. The Social Theologian, for example, has both religious texts and a book on card tricks he studies with equal veracity.
V.O.W.W. - The Midlands
The Venerable Order of Watchers and Woodsmen stands between the unknown dangers in the northern regions (Once Was and Never Been) and the inhabitants of the Midlands and Half Moon Hollow. Publicly, they are viewed as a group of rangers, outsiders who patrol the lands from their assigned bases across the Midlands (Half Moon Hollow has never given permission for VOWW to set up a camp within their boundaries).
They perform search and rescues with their trained birds of prey, enforce hunting laws, check on beings who live outside the main cities and towns (sometimes delivering parcels), and supply the Walled City of Vigilo with the wood kindling they need through winters. You will find recruitment posters around town, or come across signs on trails announcing it’s an area protected by VOWW.
Also functioning as a secret society, VOWW works closely with the Scholars to monitor activity in the north (rumour has it they travel into Once Was and Never Been periodically, but how does one walk on mist and vapour?). They track, intercept and battle threatening entities creeping southward.
Children argue with friends over who gets to pretend they are the brave VOWW ranger. Nervous parents protectively pull these same offspring closer when they spot a stranger wearing the symbol of the moon (on their bodies or belongings, be it brooch, button or tattoo).
Tetchy Toadstools - The Midlands
Harvested from the mossy floor of Susurrous Spinney, and sometimes sold through the Monster Menagerie, Tetchy Toadstools are avoided by locals but coveted by potion makers and apothecaries.
Admittedly, I know little about this enchanted fungus and the properties it holds beyond being highly poisonous: through touch via secretion, and a particularly nasty airborne toxin released in a puff of lime green death if the toadstool's surface is punctured, hence the requirement of transporting them along with the plot of earth from which they grew. Please handle them from their base instead of lifting them by their red caps.
They present no comprehensible language but at times utter hushed grumbling noises (I suspect this contributes to the folklore surrounding the whispering woods from which they hail).
Eye Of Crow Coven - The Midlands
Deep in the whispering woods of Susurrous Spinney, in a clearing encircled by reaching branches, the Eye sits cradled, revered, and fiercely protected by Crow Coven. This luminous, opaque orb gathers the life force of each devotee, concentrates it, and channels it back to each individual. During this time of attunement, the eyes of the women mist over and awareness of their surroundings is sacrificed for far-reaching sight across the physical plane and beyond. The stronger the bond, the more powerful the woman, the more severe the blindness becomes until the pupils remain a cloudy white. Instinct overtakes logic. Truly, the eldest members of Crow Coven appear feral and fearsome to outsiders (locals refer to these women as the Fyrhtu).
Harrumphs - Once Was
Small, furry, hamster-like creatures with horns and big feet. Genetically related by a common ancestor to the Underbiters. Most often found in the Caves of Immerdeen. Grumpy but amiable, some have fled the north and been adopted as pets.
Harrumph trapping and hunting has been outlawed as their numbers in the wild have mysteriously declined. It is suspected they are being eaten by an unnamed large predator in the Once Was. The situation is made worse by a local superstitious belief: eating the Harrumphs - who come from an enchanted part of the world affected by the Great Vanishing - transfers magical properties to the consumer. The Scholars, along with the Monks of the House of Proselyte, continue to lead campaigns to educate the public, and champion the cause of these charming, cantankerous creatures.
Forest Dwellers - Once Was
There but not there, the Scholars say Forest Dwellers are the evolved forms of a group referred to in ancient texts as “The Keepers of Light”. After The Great Vanishing, their appearance is more shimmer than substance, their outlines only visible when draped in cloth.
It is said they still patrol the hills of Once Was, masquerading as creatures of the forest, carrying lanterns as vigil to their lost leader Eznarak. They have been known to appear in the woods of the Midlands and Half Moon Hollow in moments of time associated with change and transformation (solstice, the last and first day of a year, dusk and dawn).
Montauks - Once Was/Never Been
The Montauks - decaying animal-like creatures who've shed most of their handsome outer layers (be it fur, feathers or scales), along with large swaths of skin - are thought to be a species from the time of Ughols Ergdan (the collective name before the land was known by its four regions: Half Moon Hollow, The Midlands, The Once Was, The Never Been), transformed into abominations during the Great Vanishing centuries ago.
Crossing back and forth between the misty lands of Once Was and Never Been, they are split into three main nomadic tribes -Bison, Bird, and Walrus - rarely interacting unless at war over ever changing territory claims. Regardless of their subspecies, Montauks have a tendency toward pompousness and grandeur (their tribal communities can feel more like a monarchy than a traditional animal kingdom). Though their outfits are often regal to signify their status in some way, they are also inevitably tattered and soiled, especially the robes worn closest to their slowly decaying patches of skin and exposed bone.
The Bisons are bloodthirsty and power hungry, and have a penchant for plundering, taking through blunt force. The Birds are more aristocratic, preening and manipulating their way into higher positions, dealing in espionage and trade. The least ambitious of the three - the Walrus tribe - prefer to be left alone in their slothfulness, avoiding conflict until something stands between them and their gluttonous desires. Certain individuals have been known to fiercely protect their borders and ancient teachings.
The Plague Doctors - Never Been
Historically, Plague Doctors were said to be physicians in heavy cloaks during the time of plague. They thought the leather bird-like masks would protect them, the beaks filled with dried flowers, herbs and spice. It may have helped against the stench of their dying patients, but did little to protect them from the infection they wrongly assumed was airborne. The red glass in the eye sockets was thought to ward off evil.
While the Plague Doctors found here look similar, and also mingle with the sick and diseased, there is no benevolence in their attention to the ill. No pity for the suffering before them. They are creatures who chose this form because it was the simplest to replicate without completely shifting their natural appearance in their attempt to blend in. Should two of these creatures cross each other’s path, there is no greeting or acknowledgement. They silently pass by, or hover over the sickly individual on opposite sides of the deathbed, silently feasting (perhaps on the misery, or the moment when life ends).
The single telltale sign of their otherworldly origins is their movement: they seem to glide, unable to mimic the cadence of a humanoid step. Of course, if you were to unmask one by removing the leathery hood sewn shut over their flesh (if that really is leather, and not their flesh), you could know for sure what they truly look like. I’d advise against it.
There are recorded accounts of these interlopers being in the Walled City of Vigilo (and countless other universes) throughout history in times of famine, drought or plague. They are thought to have come from their wasteland of a world to Never Been through the burial Cist in an ancient tree.
Dark Dwellers - Never Been
Collective term for many species and spectres. The antithesis of Forest Dwellers whose visits are considered a blessing, the Dark Dwellers are figures of numerous forms we can’t immediately see in the corner of our bedrooms, or in the shadowy garage, or at the far edge of the backyard just shy of the light. Waiting.