Mizi scratched Scatter under her neck frill, the lizard bobbing its head up and down with approval. The woman could feel the low rumble in Scatter’s belly subside, the sharp claws unclench from her shoulders and neck. “Just a bit longer,” Mizi assured, knowing Scatter didn’t understand her words, just the quiet, assuring tone. Mizi’s words did their magic and Scatter’s muscles relaxed a bit more, the big lizard draping itself more heavily around her neck.
It was The Day of Berez Braz so people from all over the country were bringing their animals to the temples and shrines to be blessed. Mizi brought her best hen last year, a blue layer she simply called Blue. Her husband Goaz had brought Stomp, the black bull meant to father many calves. But Goaz had died last summer from a swelling in his brain and Mizi was left to take care of their farm. She had sold Stomp and some of the other animals she didn’t feel comfortable around. The blue and green lizard was given to her as a mourning gift, to help her get over her grief.
And Scatter had helped her. Training the lizard to protect the chickens and guard the farm took her mind off her sadness and kept her busy. In only a moon’s completion she Scatter trained to follow her around the yard. In two months she had it trained to help her collect the eggs and not eat them. She still remembered the first time Scatter had ‘screamed.’ Mizi had been weeding in the garden when Scatter’s long, shining face popped up, from among the dark green leaves, the long irises in her yellow eyes shifting on her scaly face. Scatter made a sound that sounded like a burp and then took off through the rows of vegetables. Mizi stood up, trowel in hand and watched the blue and green creature bolt through the compound reached the fence. Scatter stamped her feet, louder than Mizi thought the lizard could, whipping her tail. Then, the frill shot open and Scatter charged the fence, emitting a harsh, terrible shriek that made Mizi’s skin crawl. She heard the gnashing of teeth and then the shriek again before the dog scampered off, tail between its legs. Mizi had awarded Scatter with two eggs that night for supper. When Mizi went to bed, Scatter slept at her feet.
The spring sun made Scatter’s scales gleam like armor and Mizi smiled, approaching the shrine. Bir Darz, clad in brown and black stood bare-chested at the altar. Mizi removed the shawl she had been wearing over her head, thinking of how she would be back at the temple in just a few moons time to give up her mourning clothes. For now though, it was her and Scatter. Bir Darz smiled, bowing to her and Mizi was sure to bow lower, fingertips together. “Are you here for the blessing of the God?” he asked, his dark, wrinkled face looking to both her and Scatter.
“Yes, Bir Darz,” she said, bowing her head. “I am thankful to the Berezi and especially Berez Braz for the blessing the people with his creation of the animals, and for the gift of their humble companionship.”
Bir Darz dipped his finger into a bowl of yellow paint. He ran his thumb across Mizi’s forehead before he looked to Scatter with a grin. “Will Scatter allow me?”
“Yes, Bir,” Mizi smiled. Scatter was well trained and didn’t even blink when Bir Dars marked slightly above her eyes.
“Berez Braz, the Subduer, the Binder, who takes away pride, who ties up Winter so Spring may come, we give you thanks for Scatter, for her tireless companionship and service to sister Mizi. May Scatter and Mizi know your blessing of togetherness and camaraderie through the year.” Bir Darz then turned and opened a basket, pulling out a large, dead beetle. It was yellow and black, but it shimmered a bit like Scatter.
“For your Scatter, a gift from the Berezi for her good service.” He smiled warmly and handed it to Mizi. She bowed her head and said her thanks, leaving the shrine feeling a bit happier than she had when she left her house. Spring was here and new beginnings. She held out the beetle on her hand and Scatter gave it a sideways glance before opening her jaws to eat it, the bug crunching between her teeth. Mizi chuckled and scratched Scatter behind her neck frill again. With the lizard by her side, Mizi knew it would be a good year.
PETS. Do you have any? I have two, currently. My cat, Leelu* Dallas Multipass, I’ve had longer than my spouse. My spouse’s cat, Azrael, Eater of Souls, showed up shortly after we started living together. We’ve moved cross country with them, taken them to the vet, had to find people to watch them when we went out of town, feed them, cuddle them, yell at them, have our stuff destroyed by them, sleep with them…you get the idea. Typical American cat owners. We are their minions.
Humans have been domesticating animals for thousands of years. Dogs were among the first animals domesticated by humans, probably after some ancient canines realized how TOTALLY AWESOME BELLY RUBS ARE. It’s well known that Ancient Egyptians literally worshipped cats and apparently the punishment for killing a greyhound was the same as the punishment for killing a human being. Ancient kings and queens kept vast menegeries of beasts for their own pleasure while ancient peasants lived in symbiotic relationships with various animals. Dogs are well known for the ability to protect and have been bred and overbred for certain traits conducive to hunting, protection, pulling of loads and more. Cats are famous for their control of vermin, especially rodents as well as their ability to know when you’re in the middle of something, giving them the cue to butt in. Birds sing, their calls a natural kind of music and aquariums of fish give us a glimpse into a world we will never truly be a part of.
Various inventions over the course of time have led to some animals becoming more available as pets. The invention of cat litter in the mid 1900s meant that cats could live solely indoors. Advances in indoor heating meant that reptiles could become pets. Social needs and luxury have dictated trends in pet ownership, since some animals are just more useful than others. Let’s face it, that hamster probably isn’t going to be doing you any favours anytime soon. Some pets fill multiple roles, providing protection, warmth, materials and even food if it comes down to it. Others are here mostly for companionship and become more than a luxury, treated like humans themselves with gifts, affection and entitlements from their human families.
An animal that might be a pet in one culture might be seen as something to avoid in another. Crickets have been kept as pets in both Asia and Europe while in America they are mostly seen as food for other animals. Some cultures see dogs as unclean, not to be allowed in the home. Cats have been associated with witches in Europe while foxes and snakes are associated with witches in Japan. Animals have their own dispositions and are known for certain things. The owner of a meticulously groomed shi tzu is regarded very differently from the owner of a stout pit bull. But behind closed doors the shi tzu owner might have the dog merely for its breeding qualities while the pit bull owner is enamored by their loyal, playful companion.
Over time many animals can become domesticated and even ‘mundane’ animals have skills, abilities and charms people want to be around. Crocodiles, snakes, parrots, giant land snails, foxes, hermit crabs, stag beetles, jellyfish. Even deities have animals associated with them that could be called pets. Pets remind us of our own animal nature and remind us that we’re not the only ones here trying to scratch out a living on this earth. Interspecies relationships make all our lives a bit easier and reminds us we aren’t alone in our existence, surrounded by mindless beings. With pets a part of our society, we are reminded how rich nature is and that we are a part of it. Not just for druids or rangers, pets enrich all our lives.
Except when they pee on the carpet. Then it’s lame.
- What kind of animals are kept as pets? Are pets kept by people of all social classes/cultures or mostly by certain types of people?
- Do some pet owners have personality traits attributed to them (people who own tortoises are the most awesome, owners of snails are closed off, etc)?
- Are pets more common in rural areas or urban populations? A furry farmhand? A way to connect to the wild while living in the city?
- Are pets more utilitarian, for companionship or some mixture?
- Are any pets associated with any deities or temples? Is there a deity of pets or domesticated animals?
- Where do people keep their pets? In cages? On leashes? Do people go out in public with them or keep them at home?
- What happens to stray animals?
- Where do people get food for their animals? Do they make it? Doe someone make pet food?
- What types of animals are popular among the population? Are there breeding programs?
- What is considered an exotic pet? What kind of demand is there for these types of pets?
- Are there laws regarding pet ownership? Who is responsible if a pet hurts or kills someone?
- Where do people get pets? A neighbor who has too many? Specialty shops? Out in the wild? Who domesticates these creatures?
- The adventurers are called to the scene when terrible screams are heard in a home. The scene reveals a mutilated owner, an open window and a large, unlocked cage with an overturned food and water dish. What escaped from the cage? Did it kill the owner? Where is it now? Is it dangerous?
- When a royal animal reaches its last days, it is released in order to return to its ancestral home to die. However, to ensure the animal makes it there safely, the PCs are sent to escort the animal to make sure it reaches the graveyard of its species. How does the local population react to the animal’s impending passing? What kind of dangers lie in its path? Predators? Trophy hunters? What will happen if the animal dies before it reaches its final destination?
- Local dog owners are reporting their pets are losing their ability to bark and the issue is spreading throughout the region. The PCs are sent to investigate the lack of barking. What is causing the issue? Are any other animals affected? Is it reversible?
- In a country where breed restrictions on certain types of animals is tight, new traits showing up in the latest generation of animals has the government worrying breeders are sneaking in different breeds. The PCs are sent to investigate the breeding world of these animals. What caused the change in the last generation of animals? What are the changes? Is it being caused by outside forces/breeder selection or is it a spontaneous mutation? How do the breeders feel about the changes? Are they trying to encourage the changes or squash them?
- The PCs are part of a cultural group which fosters strong ties to their pets. When travelling through a strange land, the chief’s pet is apprehended and carted away by the local authorities. The PCs must find the pet before it is time for the group to move on. Why was the pet picked up? Who saw the pet petnapped? What will happen if they don’t get the pet back? Who has the pet? Do the PCs bring their pets along?
- A local religious/political group has taken to keeping a certain animal around their meeting places as early warning signals and protection, an animal considered sacred by their sect. The PCs must try to break up the meetings but avoid hurting any of the animals since doing so would stir up more dissent more moderate believers and gain them more sympathizers. What is the animal? Where are the dissenters getting the animals? How are they treating the animals? What threat do the animals pose? How can the PCs keep the animals from reacting to their presence?
- Do you own any pets? Who watches them while you’re away? How attached to your pet are you?
- What do you have for a pet? How long have you had it? What purpose does it fill in your life?
- Are there any animals/pets you disapprove of/think are worthless? What’s the worst pet? The best?
- How do you feel about people who treat their animals like their own children? Like friends? Like work animals? Who mistreat their animals?
- Do you think certain animals/pets are ‘outdoor’ only? ‘Indoor’ pets?
- Do you wish you had a pet? Why? What would you have if you could have anything?
- If someone’s pet was in danger, would you rescue it?
- Do you have any stigmas against or camaraderies with owners of certain types of pets?
- If someone’s pet attacked you, what would you do?
What say you? What experiences with animals can you put into your campaign?
*Also, I know it’s Leeloo now. But when I first got her, in my brain it was ‘Leelu’ and it’s stuck that way.