Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Esuvee: An Ecology of a Majestic Mechanical Beast.

((Hey, burrowers. Does anyone here remember the year 2005? How about the lawsuit which alleged that Ford Motor Company's marketing misled drivers on how to drive and maintain their Explorer S.U.V.s? I had no idea about any of that controversy, or the tragic and preventable loss of life that spurred it, but my life was impacted by it in some way regardless.

I watched the commercial that they made as part of the year-long, $27 million USD advertising campaign for S.U.V. safety which followed. And to little twelve year-old Furt, it was pretty glorious:

This strange, lumbering beast phonetically named an Esuvee fascinated me, and I honestly wish I could have owned some kind of paraphernalia as a kid, like a plush toy version. Most other people I've spoken to about them seem to think that they're kind of creepy, and I admit their CG has not aged well, but I find the giant esuvee weirdly cute and endearing. And since I have a place in which to make my rambling ideas concrete these days, I thought why not go all the way with them and write a post? Consider this my first attempt at writing homebrew for an Ultraviolet Grasslands game.))

"Whoa, girl. Easy! Easy now! It was only a startled chrome-fox."
 -- Lonzo the Game Warden, to his startled mount, Stampies.

"Don't stand behind them for an hour or two after they've had their headlights on. The smell of their exhaust will make ya either pass out, or vomit somethin' fierce."
 -- Malgoret "Mags" Persidy, senior convoy leader to a group of children.

Far to the west, beyond the battery acid swamps and Rust-Storm Alley, there stretches a vast swath of even more untamed wilderness. Ruined hulks of technology and deposits of rare and jumbled ores break the rolling plains of jagged, saw-toothed grass. Lightning spontaneously crackles and spiderwebs through the sky even on the clearest of days. The earth itself buzzes or throbs with an almost undetectable energy that unnerves but compels human and canine alike. It's a place that no one would have any interest in, were it not located in between every other place of interest to be found in the Teal Wastes.

The grasslands are home to many bizarre animals, but none are so immediately identifiable as the esuvees- also known as lamp-heads, grill-brows, or simply iron beasts. These shaggy creatures, typically between three and four thousand pounds and eight and twelve feet tall at the hump, are the undisputed masters of their environment. Despite this, they are almost total herbivores who roam in great, placid herds known as convoys. They graze through the sharp foliage for the choices knives of grass, and break off mineral deposits with their surprisingly powerful jaws in order to gum them like a cow tonguing a salt-lick.

But they are more than simply adapted to their environment. They reflect its very nature, being an awkward fusion of organic and inorganic.

The most striking feature of an esuvee, besides its size, is its face. Its wide, flat countenance sports a pair of massive pseudo-crystalline bulbs spaced far apart, each one capable of projecting a beam of light stronger than 65 watt lamps and moving with partial independence from the other. Their eyes are connected to an intricate system of specialized nerve endings which incorporate copper particles like filaments, and which run all the way from the head down into the fifth and sixth stomachs. These stomachs are specialized less for digestion and more for fermentation, brewing up an ethanol fuel from the truly nightmarish volume of plant matter which the average esuvee consumes every day. That fuel is in turn compressed into adjacent bladders and burned, powering the esuvee's lights as well as short bursts of extreme energy, such as in fighting off or fleeing the bands of small ambush predators who have to separate an esuvee from its convoy and then harry it for several miles in order to bring it down.

Not as well known to strangers of the plains is the pair of smaller, much less luminous lights which an esuvee sports upon its rear. Studding the back of each hind leg's "knee" (actually a digitigrade ankle) is a dull, reddish bulb which consumes far less energy than those up front. These are useful to members of a convoy traveling at night, in which the bulk of the herd is able to power its night vision down to a soft glow, simply following the lights of the esuvees in front of them who lead the way with lamps at full power. And when the forerunners tire, they can simply slow down to be enveloped by the group as fresher esuvees move ahead to take their places. These rear lights do not seem to be eyes in any way however, leading experts to wonder how an esuvee's body distinguishes wire-filaments from actual optical nerves.

Between the luminous eyes is situated a large, flat space where a nose might be expected. There are in fact nostrils somewhere in there, but they're a bit difficult to find in between the thick rows of wrought metal which form a sort of protective face-plate. These "grills" fuse seamlessly to the skull bones from which they grow, almost like metal mimicry of smaller animals' horns. The grills of male esuvees tend to be larger and more pronounced than those of females, which aids them in their headbutting displays during the highly competitive annual mating period.

This time, colloquially known as "rocking season", is what causes esuvees to get such a negative reputation for aggression and single-mindedness in the wider world. This isn't helped by the fact that seeing a mated pair of esuvees a-rockin' can be quite a... scarring experience for more impressionable eyes.
I'm only partly sorry.

Regardless, the first pioneers into this land were quick to notice how the esuvee thrived, and quicker to stake their own claims in them. They followed the convoys, learning the quickest routes in between potable water sources while also hunting the beasts. Over time they learned to tame them, and a herding industry flourished among the pioneers which survives in their descendants to this day.
Even a juvenile esuvee has enough iron-rich meat on it to last a family several days, though a person with already adequate iron levels has to be careful to thoroughly drain it of blood and hemoglobin before consumption to reduce the risk of iron poisoning. Its bones are dense and heavy, owing to the rich deposits of metals intermingled with the calcium throughout. A skilled smith can purify trace amounts of several metals from every bone, slowly but reliably adding up to workable amounts in a landscape where staying in one place long enough to properly mine an ore outcropping can be dangerous business attracting of much unwanted attention from the other local fauna. The face-plate is a far more accessible piece of metal of course, and grill-metal tools or weapons have been renowned for their durability in the past. Unfortunately this has given rise to the practice of poaching esuvees solely for their grills while leaving the rest of the animal to rust and rot- a truly disgusting waste of life and resources that convoy-keepers have taken great pains to crack down upon in recent years. Their fur, though reputed to be very musky, can be perfectly clean and serviceable for clothing and shelters alike with proper treatment. Because it can be sheered from the esuvee's hide with no harm to the animal, it has become so widely available in many markets that even rabbit's fur has become a rare "luxury" by comparison. Even the animal's eyes, if extracted with their roots undamaged, can be made into lanterns when coupled with a crude electrolytic battery.

An esuvee is just as valuable alive as it is for its parts, however. When trained and cared for properly they are some of the most prolific beasts of burden known to man and several other sapient cultures. Just one harnessed cow can tow two to three thousand pounds for long distances, which has allowed the convoy-keepers to become some of the least light-traveling nomads around.

The average chieftain can carry around a solar tent, three water tanks, and a hot tub.

Less well known, but no less unusual than the esuvee's grill and headlights, are its soles. Each four-toed foot has a treaded texture somewhere in between rubber and old leather, as well as a series of tiny bladders located several inches below the surface, which travel all of the way up into the elbow. Through a hydraulic mechanism that isn't perfectly understood at this time, these bladders can engorge with air to give the lower joints of an esuvee a cushioned, almost balloon-like quality.

Their properties could revolutionize airtight technologies, if only they didn't smell so footy.

This strange adaptation helps the truly massive and heavy esuvee from damaging itself with its own weight while running at high speeds, which can be in excess of forty miles an hour when the beast is well and started up.

Strong harness-belts and a stronger neck are needed to ride at full bounce.

The air-cushioning adaptation also reduces the risk of an esuvee being injured when rolling over onto its side. Esuvees roll over with startling regularity, little-known fact. This is usually to no injury of their own, but often to the detriment of anyone unskilled in riding them. Much effort has been put into educating people beyond the Teal Wastes in the proper use of an esuvee, particularly when it comes to wealthy young men who have one imported as a way of showing off their money and virility. Top-heavy esuvees are often the first (and last) mistake those riders make.

You don't want to know where the rider ended up.

Despite all of these dangers, the esuvee is a reliable and valuable beast, known for its surprising degree of compassion and empathy with humans. It has captured the imaginations of people for generations, as centuries of folklore and oral traditions exemplify. Even as new technologies are developed or old ones rediscovered from the ancient wrecks of the Long Ago time, the convoy-keepers and their faithful esuvees seem like they won't be going anywhere anytime soon, except for everywhere they choose to.

The closest I could find to an old-school monster manual sketch.
ESUVEE by theblitz

No comments:

Post a Comment