Sunday, January 8, 2012

What To Do With A...Bruthem

The Bruthem are highly aggressive, big hippopotamus-like beasts who wallow in marshes and other wetland areas. The tough, dense hide of the Bruthem grows in articulated, overlapping sheets built-up over a reticulated cartilaginous mesh. In particularly old specimens, this natural armor has gotten so thick and heavy that the creatures need to remain within relatively shallow water or risk drowning.

The swamp-folk and river-rafters of many a place have learned to respect the Bruthem, even as they have also discovered ways to profit from the creatures as well.

If captured very young, a Bruthem can be taught to tow barges along the riverbanks. If kept in good health and well-fed, these creatures can grow incredibly large and strong, able to lug around several tons with no appreciable strain. Most Bruthem trained to serve in this capacity are quite placid and content, but there are always a few that grow increasingly restive, even recalcitrant as they age, eventually the old aggressive tendencies begin to resurface. Most such troublesome Bruthem are slaughtered for their meat, hide, and bones. Unless a sneaky swamp-rafter can unload it on some dupe of a dry-foot merchant or ignoramus out for an adventure. Several would-be Bruthem breeders who thought that they could get started by just throwing some coins around have learned some bitter lessons while enriching the coffers of river peddlers and marsh-traders.

The hide of a Bruthem can be removed from the carcass and used for the creation of coracles, mantlets, awnings, sleds ('sledges'), travois, and even modular pavilion and tent-like structures. The hide of a Bruthem can also be used to create armor of various grades, degrees of protection and expense. Marsh-landers take pride in having at least a vest of Bruthem-hide or perhaps some colorfully-dyed leggings. The hide, when properly tanned and worked into armor by a skilled artisan or crafts-person is both eye-catching and durable, often getting passed-down from one generation to the next. There are those among the river-rafters who won't deign to wear Bruthem hide that hasn't been in their family for more than five generations.

Glimp-shell and Plodder-shell teamsters make use of the stout, durable Bruthem-hide and the forward-projecting spikes of the primary carapace to build specialized carrying cases, cargo-hampers, expandable/collapsible parfletches and other containers, carriers and storage tackle.

Gronk Central Command attempted to train-up a number of heavy Bruthem-mounted assault cavalry...but this experiment ended in unmitigated disaster and they prefer not to discuss it. To this day, imitating the whuffling-gurgling belch of a Bruthem around a Gronk will cause them to become embarrassed, often to the point of leaving their post and getting into an unsanctioned fight. Marsh-traders are notorious for taunting Gronk mercenaries in order to start bar room brawls in order to duck out on their tabs.

The sweet, succulent flesh of the Bruthem is rumored to add years to your life, enhance your appreciation of all things sensual, and keep you from starving by the simple miracle of eating it in any of a hundred or more ways--all of which can be sampled in the cafes, taverns, bistros and rathskellers along any settled section of marsh or river where the creatures roam and marsh-traders and their ilk can be found.

The flesh of a Bruthem is extremely moist and not well-suited to drying, so it is rarely preserved--though some ethnic groups do pickle the meat for use during the lean times. In general, the meat spoils quickly, so it is considered foolish, wasteful and stupid to haggle over the price of the meat itself. One never asks for a break on the cost of Bruthem meat. If the price is exceptionally high, then that cost gets passed on to the patrons and clientele who are always looking for new taste sensations and special recipes. This custom is incredibly entrenched within marsh-lander society and probably originated from the efforts of various inn and restaurant owners trying to make sure that average people had to pay through the nose, giving the inn-keepers and their kin a sort of informal monopoly on Bruthem meat.

Perhaps one of the stranger uses anyone has tried to make of a Bruthem are the back-mounted howdah-rafts of the Seergazzi swamp-dwellers. These slender amphibians have not only semi-tamed a few Bruthem, they have mounted heavily reinforced howdahs on the creatures' backs and now use these Bruthem as living rafts and war beasts. So far no one else has quite worked-out how to rig-up a howdah in the Seergazzi style, and most marsh-landers are completely dead-set against such a thing as it might cut into their lucrative barge-towing business.

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