Make yourself comfortable, while I regale you with some information about a strange creature I came across on my travels!
Or maybe I should say; A strange group of creatures.
You have heard of mimics before, right?
Shape-shifting predators who lure adventurers and other curious folk in by disguising themselves as interesting objects, and then sticking to them like glue, before devouring them with their massive mouths.
One moment you think you are opening a treasure chest, the next moment the treasure chest has grown limbs and is trying to open you with its sharp teeth.
And you have heard of rat kings?
Stories of as many as 50 rats living in so crowded conditions that their tails would get permanently entwined, forcing the creatures to function like one entity.
What you may not have heard of before, is a combination of these two concepts.
Mimic kings are not that common, for unlike rats, mimics prefer to hunt and live alone.
If they are ever together in large groups, it is likely that something or someone has forced them to be.
But it has happened, and when it does, it is clear why they prefer to stay to themselves.
The adhesive qualities they so masterfully use when they hunt, spell disaster if they are forced too close to other mimics.
Quite simply, they stick together.
Now, being stuck together does not alter the mimics natural instincts.
All the individual mimics will attempt to take a form that will look somewhat inconspicuous in their environment. So after some trying and failing, they will eventually take on forms that compliment each other.
A mimic stuck under another mimic could take the form of a table, whereupon the smaller mimic on top would take the form of a vase, resulting in a symbiotic camouflage.
And the larger the number of mimics stuck together, the more intricate the symbiosis becomes. When that number is higher than eight, you are starting to get into mimic king territory.
A mimic king can take on a lot of different shapes and sizes, based on how many mimics it consists of, but they usually collectively disguise themselves as some sort of building in the hope that they can lure a victim inside, where its meat can be shared among the group.
Since a dead mimic cannot disguise itself, it is in the mimic kings collective interest to keep all members alive, as they would have a hard time fooling anyone if they had a dead mimic in their midst.
But sharing such a relative small amount of food among so many mimics does take its toll, and they lose much of their adhesive capabilities.
The outer mimics are the least adhesive, being weakened by the forces of nature as much as the lack of food. But further into “the house” the mimics gradually get more and more sticky, eventually being able to trap you as well as any normal mimic.
Once one mimic starts attacking, all the others react to its squirming, resulting in the “rooms” being filled with a mass of wriggling tongues and pseudopodic limbs striking around themselves.
Now, if you want to take down such a collective of creatures, you have a few options.
First, you could simply take them on one by one and patiently kill your way through the house. Since the mimics are stuck in place, you would not have to worry about getting rushed or flanked. But their tongues and pseudopods do have a remarkable striking distance, so you would be open to attack from quite a few of them at the same time.
Secondly, anything that would destroy a normal house would likely take care of the problem. If you could manage to get a giant to step on it, that would be ideal. Otherwise there is always fire. But keep in mind that even if mimics can look like wood, they are not quite as flammable as that.
You should also be aware that any attempt at large-scale destruction could result in freeing some of the mimics, who would now rush you in confusion and anger.
Worst case scenario? Picture the result of swinging your sword at a beehive.
An effective (but less rewarding) approach would be to simply kill the mimic that is imitating the door, and then leave.
By defacing the mimic kings honey-trap, you will have both warned other travelers from entering, and doomed the mimics to slowly starve.
But then, I’m sure you would much rather take the challenge head on.
If for no other reason than to be able to loot the valuables from the countless of victims claimed by the beasts.
So the next time you enter an unfamiliar building, take extra care to examine your surroundings.
If the walls are breathing, you should start thinking about an exit strategy.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the first of hopefully many fantasy short stories I will be posting here.
But I will probably not post them as often as my normal blogging content, as fiction is way more time-consuming than just writing about my life.
The illustrated gif of the Mimic King was made by the wonderful Brian Coldrick!
Check out more of his work at www.briancoldrick.com, particularly his ‘Behind You’ series, which consists of more illustrated gifs of the monstrous variety.