It’s rare that one finds oneself the prey of the monstrous Argemone, for she only hunts when she’s hungry, and that’s only a few times a year. But when she’s hungry, oh boy is she hungry, and little can be done to stop her from filling her growling belly. She’s a brutal, thundering creature. She doesn’t understand mercy. Once, maybe she did. But not any longer, for the last real memory she has is the one that replays in her primitive beast brain over and over again:
The garden was burning. All the beautiful fruit trees, aflame. The colorful birds above — the Blood Bitterns, the Black-Bellied Blue Cloaks, the Devil Fishers — fleeing their nests but finding nowhere to go. Whirling plumes of smoke spiraled toward the silver moon. The silken grass, blackening. Then Argemone heard the noise: shouting. The retort of steel against steel. The report of a gunshot. Atop it all, her Master’s voice — shrill, terrified, yet defiant. Her tree-trunk legs carried her forward, the brush and tangle of the jungle falling easily beneath her massive feet.
The river that crossed the Faerie garden would be easy to cross for her, just a quick splashing, harrumphing gallop — But the river, too, was on fire. How was that possible? Then Argemone saw: the waters were covered with some kind of slick, some oily residue that burned. Someone had poisoned the river. Across the water, through the flames, she saw. Her Master, besieged. He was a demon with his two blades, pirouetting this way and feinting that way. It was for naught, though — he was handily outnumbered. Dozens of assailants — ants, really, just ugly little ants she’d love to crush beneath triumphant hooves — swarmed him. One with antlers. Another seemed to be made of glass or ice. They had their own weapons: knives, pistols that barked fire, torches.
Argemone saw them tumble over her Master, stabbing at him, cutting out his heart and holding it aloft. She thought to storm them, to barrel across the fiery oil-slick waters and bite them all to pieces (and let their blood and guts fill her spongy belly), but fire was and remains her great enemy, and she could not bear to carry herself across what would surely be a deadly torrent of flame. Argemone retreated from the garden, having only been glimpsed by those who murdered her Master. The pet was without her Keeper and now wanders the trods and paths of the Thorns doing little besides eat, sleep and bay mournfully for her lost Master.
Every few days, she finds herself hungry again, and so eats. She’ll eat hobgoblins, sure, but they don’t seem to fill up her gluttonous guts with any great satisfaction — though playing with their still-living bodies earns her some joy, the way a dog or cat messes with a baby rabbit before breaking its tender neck. And sometimes she’ll leave the Hedge (she needs no doorways to walk between worlds, as noted below) to feed on whatever fauna she can get into her mouth. Oh, but it’s the blood and bones of man that really satisfy her hunger. The wet crunch is pleasing on a number of levels. Whether it’s hunting changelings in the Hedge or humans lost in the wilderness, well, one way or another, she aims to slake her appetite.
In her current state, Argemone represents the nightmarish pursuer. She cannot be harmed by mundane sources of damage, and when she’s hungry, little can stop her. She’ll keep coming. Maybe a character delays her. Maybe he runs faster or is ultimately more cunning. But like a monster in a bad dream, she’s ceaseless, clumsily barreling forward, seemingly impossible to kill. The beast is vulnerable to two things: extreme heat and extreme cold. Everything else doesn’t seem to bother her much.
Taming of the BeastEdit
Argemone wants something she doesn’t really know she wants. She wants once more to be kept. She longs to be tamed, to be told what to do, to once more have someone hook a braided rope to her leather collar and lead her around a beautiful garden deep in the seat of Faerie. It’s not a conscious urge, certainly, but her soul, or whatever passes for it, longs for it just the same.
In a way, Argemone also represents the ability to “tame” one’s own nightmares. Just as a bad dream can be turned on its ear by the will of the dreamer, Argemone could be tamed by those willing to confront the danger and invest the time. Mind you, this is an unlikely outcome, but a particularly strong hand — belonging to a powerful character — could make this a reality.
Taming her when she’s hungry, though — not a possibility. When she’s hungry, she’s driven ineluctably toward filling her guts with meat. When she’s not hungry? That’s when characters maybe have a shot. While she’s not keen on them getting too close to her, if Argemone isn’t hungry, she won’t pursue food with any great interest. Like any beast, she’ll stamp her feet and bite if cornered, but otherwise? She’ll ignore them until they bother her — or until hunger pangs start anew.
Physically speaking, Argemone is a sight to behold. She’s big. Really big. Easily the-size-of-a-city-bus big. She carries herself like a hulking dog or a brooding bull — but where those animals would have a furry hide, she has spongy flesh sprouting no end of flora: vines, moss, twisted knots of cypress wood, thorny briar and, of course, the white poppy flowers that earned the beast her name (though her eyes are reflective of the name as well, being hidden behind gristly white cataracts). Imagine, if you will, that a large stretch of swamp or forest simply stood up one day and decided to lumber about and eat people. That’s Argemone.
Argemone, the beast that hunts the Hedge
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 1, Wits 4, Resolve 4
Physical Attributes: Strength 8, Dexterity 5, Stamina 8
Social Attributes: Presence 3, Manipulation 1, Composure 2
Mental Skills: Investigation 1
Physical Skills: Athletics 3, Brawl (Gnashing Teeth) 4, Stealth 1, Survival (Tracking) 5
Social Skills: Animal Ken 1, Intimidation (Eerie Yowl) 4
Merits: Direction Sense, Fast Reflexes 2, Strong Back
Virtue: This creature possesses no Virtue
Initiative: 9 (with Fast Reflexes)
Glamour/per Turn: 20/7
Armor: None (but see Aspects, below)
• Unyielding Flesh: Argemone ignores damage done to her by bashing or lethal damage done by normal sources. Well, technically she doesn’t ignoreit, but her flesh regrows the damage so fast(vines knitting, moss swelling to fill the wound, toadstools propping up broken “skin”) that the damage is already healed up within the same turn, only a micro-moment later. Two things, though. First, that means if someone can actually fill her Health boxes up with lethal damage in a single attack, it might be enough to put her down. Second, she suffers two major vulnerabilities: extreme heat and extreme cold. Either of those done as an attack (a jet of fire or a token sword whose blade turns to ice upon striking) perform aggravated damage that does not heal. Of course, how do the characters learn these vulnerabilities? It’s possible they witness some environmental effect that causes it — if they’re escaping the rampaging beast and flee onto a frozen pond, when she touches one of her hooves to the ice, it smolders and she howls. Alternatively, they can do a little research. Researching some of the urban legends (which are true, of course) of attack survivors might do the trick, as might stealing away into some True Fae’s Hedge-bound library, where mad and infinite records are kept.
• Great Hunter: When Argemone chooses her prey, the victim will have a very difficult time shaking her. Not only does she already have a high Survival score with a Tracking Specialty, but she gains 8-again on any roll to track prey (although only when she’s truly hungry; if she’s not hungry, that drive just isn’t there).
• Hedge Hide: The Beast that Hunts the Hedge can actually dwell, hidden, in the Hedge. By spending a Glamour point and succeeding on a Wyrd roll, Argemone can sidle up next to the Thorn flora anywhere in the Hedge and mergewith it, regardless of size restrictions. She becomes nearly impossible to see — only those actively looking for her have a shot at glimpsing her, necessitating success on a Wits + Investigation roll that’s penalized by five dice. Success allows the character to glimpse parts of Argemone in the Hedge wall: yellow eyes, a hoof covered over in lichen or a briary coil, perhaps even a puff of gamy breath.
- Night Horrors: Grim Fears, p. 13-16