Native Flora and Fauna of Manta Carlos

Manta Carlos has an extraordinary ecosystem, even for an isolated island system. According to many scholars, the island has been a source of and beacon for magic in profound and mysterious ways even before the arrival of Cordelia Moor. The natural magics of the island have had profound effects on the island's native species over the course of evolutionary time; indeed, some old stories of monsters on the edge of the world owe their origins to Manta Carlos. Further, the last century's influx of people and magic has brought with it magical pollution and invasive species tipping the balance of the ecology in ever more unpredictable ways.

This article will seek to give an overview of the island system's unique ecology by describing some of its native species.

The Manta Carlos Two-Tailed Fox

The Two-Tailed Fox (also known as the “Twintail”) is a native species of fox that predates the arrival of Cordelia Moor. Not to be confused with Kitsune, the Twintail is not inherently magical in any yet-to-be-observed way and typically the same size as the domestic house cat. Its fur color ranges from pale yellow to white, and, as indicated by the name, it has two tails. Its diet typically consists of insects, fruits, small mammals, and occasional birds.

The two-tailed fox has been considered a pest since the colonization of the island. The animals are more aggressive than their counterparts in other parts of the world, having been known to attack house pets, destroy gardens, root through garbage, and make loud noises. Nobody on Manta Carlos needs to find out what the fox says; they already know because they heard it last night at 3AM.

Since the early 1900s there have been independent efforts to exterminate the creatures. In 1973, however, with the creatures at the brink of extinction, the local government made hunting or killing the twintails illegal. Over forty years later, the population of foxes has largely been replenished. Hunting the foxes finally became legal again in January 2017.

Chokevine

A magical and invasive import of the 1920s, the chokevine lived up to its name by choking out agricultural development and other plant species alike, and also literally choking animals and people to death. The chokevine has prehensile appendages which are too strong and tough for a normal human to remove with bare hands. Once its victim is dead, whether by starvation or asphyxiation, the chokevine will extend its root system into the corpse and use its nutrients to continue growing.

The chokevine was toxic to every native species on Manta Carlos. It was resistant to most agrochemicals or magical attempts to destroy it, and due to its prodigious root system, even flamethrowers would be only a temporary solution. For a few years, nobody on the island would leave home without a machete to free oneself from vines should the need arise.

Today, the chokevine population has been brought down to manageable levels in the far reaches of the forbidden forest, thanks to the magically bred and aptly named “vine-eater moths.”

Vine-Eater Moth

The vine-eater moth (also known as Melvin's Plagueworm or simply plagueworm) is a magically-bred moth developed by the wizard Melvin Thatcher to combat the Chokevine infestation of the mid 1920s. In this capacity, he absolutely succeeded. The larvae of the moth thrived by eating the chokevines. When these were nearly depleted, they turned on the very fields that they were created to protect, as well as several native species of grass and flowering plant. And, once again, available pesticides were not able to destroy the insects.

The plagueworm spends most of its life underground, consuming plants from the roots up. At the end of its larval stage, it burrows underground in a spiky protective shell and bursts out from the ground as a fully matured moth. The matured moths survive as moths for a week at most. They mate, lay their eggs in sacks near the tops of trees, and die.

Melvin ultimately redeemed himself with an environmentally-friendly solution: magical wards, to be placed around the perimeter of the fields and gardens of the island's residents. Funded by tax dollars, he and his apprentices made these wards full-time and gave them out for free, after he had spent the requisite five years developing them. Melvin Thatcher and his team are today considered pioneers in the field of magic ward-based pest control; if not for the Veil of Secrecy he may have earned himself a Nobel Prize. As it stood, the island gave him the next-best thing: tenure at the academy, a large research budget, and the largest salary of any professor there before or since until his death.

During the intervening five years, several of his enterprising colleagues came up with alternative solutions to the new plagueworm infestation. These were, in order of introduction to the ecosystem: the Manta Carlos giant spider, and the synthesis flower.

The Manta Carlos Giant Spider

Manta Carlos giant spiders are a breed of very large spider, magically developed by a team of wizards at the academy to help mitigate the Melvin's plagueworm infestation. Often exceeding one foot in radius from leg-end to leg-end, the giant spider makes its home in webs high up in trees. They eat most flying insects as well as small birds and the occasional squirrel. The toxin they use to kill their prey is ineffective on humans and most humanoids, and they have remained at a small but stable population size since their introduction.

The Manta Carlos giant spider is not to be confused with the gargantuan nesting spider, which is far more dangerous to human life and only found in the Forbidden Forest.

Synthesis Flowers

Synthesis flowers are known for their large, color-changing flowers and their ability to fuse with and eat humans. A fully matured synthesis flower is approximately 6 feet in diameter, with a large hole in the center that reaches into its root system. It creates a sweet scent and emits pheromones and telepathic messages which convince all kinds of animals to climb into the hole in the center, where it usually digests the creature.

The plant gets its name from its interaction with humans. A synthesis flower with a human victim begins to make itself one with its prey instead of digesting it, hijacking the person's body and central nervous system. Over the course of the next few days, the human host will either lose their will and become one with the flower, which enters the post-synthesis phase, or the flower will find its host unworthy (often because the host is too strong-willed to be fully controlled) and the human will be fully digested.

A synthesis flower with a host has even more telepathic potential, and will often retain much of the supernatural abilities of its host. The host will retain many of its memories, as well as the ability to speak and some semblance of its personality, but its only interest and goal in life will be to attract and consume more victims. It will spend much of its time unconscious, awakened only when a sufficiently large animal is nearby. It can defend itself with its root system, which becomes prehensile and develops more and more strength as it progresses further into the post-synthesis phase. Their telepathy could reach for miles, corrupting the dreams of humans and giving them the idea to come to the forest.

Supposedly, much of the funding for the project that developed the synthesis flower came from the Manta Carlos government, to help deal with the plagueworm infestation of the twenties. Why the flowers ended up the way that they did remains a mystery to this day. Soon after the flowers were deployed, the mage who developed the flowers and his wife both disappeared, their home burned to nothing with magic fire. Many believe that the couple became one with their creations, or that one of the two became a host to the flower and devoured the other. In any case, the flower was responsible for an alarming series of disappearances that flared up in the late thirties and lasted into the early forties, when it was finally discovered why so many people were dropping their lives and wandering into the forbidden forest, never to return. Most of the population was culled with the newly-invented napalm in 1943. They are rumored to still exist in small numbers in the forest, careful not to attract too much attention, but still a threat to those who wander too close.

The government now requires a lot more oversight for any attempts to deal with invasive species.

Gargantuan Nesting Spiders

Gargantuan nesting spiders are very large spiders, often exceeding two feet in height fully -grown, with 4-foot leg-spans. They are solitary predators, filling an ecological niche similar to big cats, primarily hunting and eating small to medium-sized animals. They do not fear humans or humanoids, and have been known to kill them. They can be very territorial.

As the name suggests, these spiders make “nests” out of their webbing. These will not only house their young, but also serve as a shelter against the elements and predators for the mature spiders themselves. The spiders have been known to drag prey back to these nests to share with offspring and mates. The spiders will also sometimes use their webbing as a sort of garrote, allowing them to choke their prey to death or unconsciousness. This behavior is not fully understood, and most recorded gargantuan nesting spider attacks involve biting rather than choking.

Nobody knows why these spiders exist or where they came from. Most scientists agree that they don't want to be near these horrible giant spiders that want to eat them.

Contributing to this article

This article is forever a work in progress. If you would like to add an entry, PM Kait about it on the forums first. We are looking for the following kinds of entries:

  • Fictional animals which are either non magical or only slightly magical, which fill environmental niches similar to animals you can find in the real world.
  • Fictional plant species with either minor magical properties or none at all, which grow in the wild on the islands. Also, plants with intense magical properties which you can only find rarely in the forbidden forest.
  • Terrifying creatures for the forbidden forest; they should be non-sapient and/or incapable of participating in civilized society in any way. We especially like things that are unfriendly to humans.
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