Monday, December 02, 2013

Baboons in Dark•Heritage

I've been playing a bit of Temple Run 2 on my Android, and I just saw Catching Fire.  I also not too long ago saw After Earth (I waited until it came out on DVD to try it.)  What do all of these have in common?  Killer baboons.  Well, technically the Temple Run monkeys are some kind of weird skull-headed ape, but close enough, right?

It's amazing to me how scary baboons can truly be, if they're large, in large numbers, and suitably angry or territorial or hungry.  The animals in both movies mentioned were among the creepiest scenes in each movie.  Of course, keep in mind that they are larger than any living monkey.  The mandrill, closely related to the baboon (and with the famous "painted" face is probably what many people think of when they hear the word baboon anyway) is the world's largest monkey, but large males average about 50-80 lbs, with exceptionally large ones only reaching just shy of 120 lbs.  The monkeys in Catching Fire, by rough estimate, looked like they weighed a good 200 lbs. each or so.  Maybe even more.  They were as large as a jaguar.  Perhaps this, then, is why E. Gary Gygax chose the mandrill as the basis for his Prince of Demons, Demogorgon.  The two mandrill-headed demon, with scaly tentacles is an iconic image from Dungeons & Dragons and perhaps one of the better inductions into the canon of fantasy overall.

Large, territorial, and occasionally even carnivorous baboons also inhabit DARK•HERITAGE.  For the most part, these live in Kurushat (which has an Old World Pleistocene fauna) although some have made it to the north.  Macaque-like monkeys of various sizes, mostly cat and dog sized, live throughout the Mezzovian Main region, and are common in Terassa itself, where they live somewhat in symbiosis with humanity in the cities themselves, but on the rooftops and the trees.  A few are even domesticated, or feral.

Larger savana baboons wander the grasslands of Baal Hamazi.  Here, they are the prey of cougars, bone-dogs or lions, although they are fierce fighters, and with three to four inch long fangs and 200 lbs. or so of stocky muscle, as well as traveling in mobs of fifty to five hundred, they are an intimidating prospect unless somehow separated from their group, or injured, sick or elderly.

Most disturbing of all the baboons of the north, however, are those that live in the Hsan Jungle, a place notorious for it's intelligent, albeit savage, apes and monkeys.  Not too terribly disimilar to the apes of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes, this society is largely made up of arthropoid man-apes that are not gorillas or chimpanzees, but some close relative of the two.  Baboons of similar intelligence live among them, although usually of a lesser caste.  They are, however, more numerous, and make up many of the soldiers and workers of ape society.  Their god, a semi-legendary figure who may actually be yet living as an immortal sorcerer, is an anthropoid baboon; with gorilla-like strengh and size, human-like erect gait and a baboon-like muzzle and face.  Some depictions also have him with curved gaur-like horns on his forehead.  It is claimed that he taught the apes and baboons of the area to speak and to think, a possibly legendary reference to the use of sorcery to raise them to the intelligence of humans.

This society, in part due to its savagery, but in part due to its isolation and the fear and loathing that all humans give to the notion of intelligent, weapon-wielding baboons and apes, this society has not expanded beyond the Hsan Jungle very far.  Their only semi-friendly relations with any human society is with the debased and corrupt humans of Sarkomand and Inganok.

Update on the What I'm Reading bar there to the side:  For the last month or two, I've shown that I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn.  Eagle-eyed observers might wonder what in the world is taking me so long to get with it.  In reality, I am not reading that at all.  I intended to.  I read the prologue chapter, thinking that I would begin, and I added its image to the What I'm Reading bar there on the side.  But I never really started it.  I haven't picked the book up since I got it off my shelf and read the first few pages.  In reality, I've been reading non-fiction; researching potential hiking locations for our summer trip to Yellowstone, the Tetons and elsewhere in the Rockies, browsing through free ebooks on my Kindle app for my Android, and picking up a few other library books.  I recently finished the hardback Avengers vs. X-men anthology, which confirms my prior belief that I've probably parted ways with Marvel Comics for good.  I didn't love it, even though it was nominally the best that the company could come up with in the last few years in terms of major events.  I haven't loved anything that they've done in years except for the early run of Ultimate X-Men, the Ultimates, and Ultimate Spider-man, all of which ran aground in disappointing and frustrating and inexplicable developments.  That, and Dan Abnett's take on the Starjammers, using Alex Summers, Rachel Summers and Lorna Dane as replacements for Christopher Summers, Hepzibah and others.  This space opera superhero drama was one of the best runs of Marvel anythings in quite a long time, and the rise of fall of the character of Vulcan.

I also read a number of free ebooks of dubious quality.  Or rather, I started too, but chucked a bunch of them in disappointment.  Rather, I filled my Kindle app with some tried and true titles from the public domain, including the first two Tarzan books, the first three John Carter books, and the complete works of HPL.  Eagle-eyed observers may note that I show HPL compilations on my To Read list.  Given that I consider myself a Lovecraftian fantasy blog, it may seem odd that I'm appearing to not have read these books before.  Well, I haven't.  I have read, of course, most of the actual stories within each of them, but not in the compilation form that I own them now.  And for each compilation there are at least some stories that I've never read.  So, I show all of the HPL library as to be read, even though I've actually read most of it.  Many times, in fact.  Currently, I'm going through Tarzan of the Apes on my Kindle, even though I own a copy of it in print form already: a copy that I've read many times, with the great Neal Adams cover.  What a great book.

In addition to that, I've picked up A Dance of Cloaks from the library, which I can't renew (since it's still classified as a "new" book) so I'm going to spend more time on that before I pick up Mistborn again.  With any luck, I'll finally really start reading Mistborn over the Christmas break.

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