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Danger Level: Moderate
Likes: Its owner, being groomed, attacking intruders
Dislikes: Poor substrates, competition from other plants
Attack Method: Seizes intruders in its jaws, then shakes them violently until torn apart.
A mature polycephlax is a tree-like fauna with each "head" vaguely resembling a single palm tree. Their "necks" are encased in thick, flexible, grey-green bark, and are topped with a cluster of spearlike dark green leaves. Under each leaf cluster is a round wooden "face", this splits into two jagged-edged halves when the "head" has fully grown.
They are rooted to the ground in clusters that have any number of "heads", though their owners will usually start "layering" extra heads out beyond four in a cluster.
The flexible yet durable leaves of a polycephlax can be trimmed by its owner, and the longitudinal fibers are strong and versatile. L-classes may recruit other notails to fashion them into ropes, mats or roofing to create shelter for their tenants; T-classes may create these and also cloaks, packs, snares, or other goods to be traded with other children in the Woods.
The juvenile polycephlax is essentially one "face" of a mature individual, with four nubs on its underside from which hairy roots grow. The juvenile quite happily clings to its owner with these roots until it is set down and encouraged to permanently take root. Once rooted, the capture creature cannot be uprooted without killing it.
A juvenile polycephlax will imprint upon its owner and be a devoted but mostly useless companion until it is allowed to grow to its full size. It is trained relatively easily at this stage, obeying verbal commands like "charge", "bite", "stop", "point", and "high five (with your face)".
Once fully matured, it remains loyal to its owner and lunges indiscriminately at anything which moves, smells or sounds out-of-the-ordinary within its striking range. It can be verbally commanded by its owner to stop attacking, and will accept notails or other capture creatures under its protection if it witnesses its owner removing a leaf and binding it around the other notail's wrist/leg/etc. A polycephlax permits only its owner grab or cut the leaves on its heads, and attacks anyone else who tries.
A mature polycephlax will begin growing a new head in the cluster every month or so. Additional heads can be pinned down to the ground and allowed to set down roots, providing a point from which a new cluster may grow. If this growth is managed well, a polycephlax can defend a territory of over 10,000 square feet within a year of putting down roots.
Polycephlax are provided on request to L- and T-classes, who must carry around a friendly but useless coconut for their first year in the woods before they may find a suitable location and let their capture creature establish. During this early stage their are extremely vulnerable to attack from R-classes, and must decide whether to make their capture creature's identity well-known (which can provide followers and protectors, as well as future customers/tenants), or attempt to conceal their resource.
The former strategy will require considerable leadership skills on the owner's part, as they have very little to offer other than the promise of an easier time in the woods in the nebulous future. The latter makes the earlier time in the woods extremely difficult for owners with poor survival skills, and they additionally run the risk of investing in a location that's too secluded and inaccessible to ensure a future profit.
As the polycephlax eviscerates both predator and prey who cross it, and it renders the land around it unfit for agriculture, this capture creature provides shelter and security at the cost of food. As such, choosing a good location and surrounding yourself in reliable, skilled individuals are a critical skills the polycephlax owner must learn.
When the polycephlax's owner reaches the age where they must leave the Woods, their capture creature remains rooted to the forest floor. L-classes usually leave their settlements running in their absence, but T-classes will "close up shop" by tying up their pet's many jaws with rope made from their leaves. Whether the polycephlax is left active or inert, it has an artificially shortened lifespan and usually dies a year or so after the owner's departure.
Fancy Polycephlax: Also known as the teacup polycephlax, these polycephlax are specially bred for the pet trade. They grow to a maximum height of one foot given a sufficiently-sized container, and are often custom-ordered with a bespoke planter or pot. Due to already being rooted when shipped for sale, they are bonded to their breeder and snap aggressively at their owner and everything else.
In contrast with the starter capture creature polycephlax, teacup polycephlax live for many decades and only produce extra heads if the owner is able to plant additional vegetation in their planter for the polycephlax to leach nutrients from.
Harvest Cephlax: Another subspecies bred for the pet trade, harvest cephlax are carefully rootbound onto a special nutrient block, and remain in their juvenile form. They produce a tonguelike sprig of flowers from between their wooden jaws, and will eventually present their owners with a faceful of tasty fruit.
Noxious Polycephlax: A reverted, primitive variant of the polycephlax commonly arising through irresponsible mutation of domesticated varieties. This subspecies is physically identical to the common variety, but has lost its genetic killswitch and is functionally immortal. While the plant is growing and nutrients are ample, the heads will produce annual clusters of ambulatory seedlings. When they have drained the immediate area of nutrients, the heads will fight to pin the weakest head down and force it to take root, spreading the noxious polycephlax's root network further.
Land leech: Polycephlax enjoy sunlight but cannot actually photosynthesize - they draw all their sustenance from the ground, killing and sapping the nutrients from plants. A patch of forest once occupied by a polycephlax can be barren for up to a decade after it has died if not remediated.
• H-classes are often reluctant to live under the protection of a polycephlax, as the soil around it will not grow anything. Some particularly savvy polycephlax owners will layer out the heads in a large ring shape, leaving a fertile patch of soil at its center where H-classes may grow produce.
• The number of polycephlax active in the Woods at any time is strictly monitored, as a skilled owner can have them taking up large tracts of land. News of a new polycephlax in the Woods spreads fast, and great expectations are placed on those children who request and receive one as their starter capture creature.
• Notail children are explicitly warned against setting their polycephlax's roots down in the first years' part of the Woods - if the bounty placed on them is not promptly taken up by R-classes or an enterprising swarm, adult R-classes are usually sent to finish the job.
No art currently, maybe you can help.