Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January 2007


by Lady Anaemia Asterisk


...and that means there's a good chance that you, my stars-struck little marmosets, have no idea what to do with those unexpected gift pets you found whining, shivering, yapping or widdling under your Hogswatch tree last month. See, your well-meaning friends and relative should have consulted your Friendly Neighbourhood Stargazer first! Because each Sign, for those born under it, bestows a natural affinity for certain here's a starter list below of suitable pets for each of you. Hearken well, and happy animal husbandry shall be yours next holiday season!

The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

Borogravian Borogove: also known as the Yellow-bellied Bellower, the Borogove, a small but sturdy doglike mammal with the face of a dyspeptic dowager duchess, gravitates naturally towards authority figures, regimental sergeant-majors, Archchancellors and other persons of a stentorian and officious bent who can easily dominate the Borogove's tendency to be a vile-tempered bully (a clear case of it taking one to love one). Keep your Borogove on a short lead and shout at it frequently to keep it in peak condition.

Morpork: in the early centuries of Ankh-Morpork's history, these small, pretty owls flocked as thick as sparrows-, that is, as thickly as sparrows (not even a box of laundry detergent is as thick as the average sparrow), with nearly every gabled roof boasting its own nesting population of them and with morporkeries gracing the gatehouses of every wealthy townie's mansion. Nowadays the only known living Morporks are the heavily-guarded property of the College of Heralds, so if you want a Morpork you'll have to trawl the back storerooms of old established taxidermists or keep an eye on the regular Sunday trash-and-treasure markets. A perfect pet, your Morpork never needs feeding and won't object if nailed to its perch. If you want it to act a bit more lifelike, a visit to the Street of Cunning Artificers will soon get you the clockwork modifications you need...and for a small extra fee, it can be made to chime the hours and give weather forecasts. Perfect indeed!

Rook Lobster: face it, you know you always wanted a shellfish that would perch on your shoulder and squawk out rude phrases when your unwanted guests won't take the hint to leave. Didn't you? Well, the Rook Lobster is just the ticket. These exotically feathered shore dwellers came originally from Slakki and are easy to care for; an occasional feed of entrails and a dusting of mite powder and your Rook Lobster will thrive. And like many exotic pets, they make a tasty meal when you get tired of them. Mind the pincers.

Gahoolie, the Vase of Tulips 21 Apr - 21 May

Giltfish: for those on a tight budget, this tawdry-looking specimen is an excellent choice. The breed was developed by would-be fanciers of the famous Agatean Coy Guiltfish, a breed with scales so splendid that anyone looking upon its magnificence would burst into tears of shame at being badly dressed in front of such a gorgeous animal. Another good pet for the fiscally embarrassed is the Limited Budgie; originally from Purdeighsland, this friendly bird is known for its natural cry of "don'tbuythatitcostsstoomuch!"

Shamster: a true-breeding cross between a longhaired Cavy and a Chameleon, your Shamster will give you hours of delight: stroking its beautiful fur, watching it change colours according to mood and temperature, and chasing it round the pantry as it attempts to steal and store your favourite dried fruit and nuts. The Shamster is also unique in that it can convert direct sunlight into energy, so be sure to let it bask outdoors on sunny days.

Llamedos Raincatcher: a small batrachian with a big heart and bigger gullet, the Raincatcher evolved in the ancient rain mines of Llamedos, where early miners were quick to put it to use as a tunnel-clearing pump. This little toadlike creature is an inoffensive shade of mouldy moss green, but when its mouth and throat are full of liquid its neck-skin expands and displays a range of phosphorescent colours so bright that the same long-ago miners also put it to use as a helmet lamp. Today Raincatchers are popular all over the Disc, especially with children, who love to slip their pet Raincatcher into the tin bath just before Nanna gets in for her monthly scrub.

Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

Lancre Reciprocating Fox: legend has it that the Reciprocating Fox acts like a soldier on the eve of battle (i.e., it drinks a lot and seeks indiscriminate sex), but foxes normally seek indiscriminate sex anyway and the tales of dipsomania have never been substantiated. Lovely coat, your Reciprocating Fox. It does show a certain reciprocative behaviour, by the way, as it moonlights as a sheepdog in recompense for its regular henhouse raids.

Peeler Bear: for those who want a truly unusual pet, the Peeler Bear is just the ticket! This huge carnivore originated in the NoThingfjord region; evolutionary necessity in warmer climates has led to its seasonal moult, in which it sheds its entire coat and outer hide in one easily tanned piece. The resultant embarrassment makes the Peeler Bear shy and obedient. A good pet for those considering entering the fur trade.

Mon-goose: from the faraway island of Sumtri, this is the only known avian with a prehensile tail. A fascinating pet, it combines all the less social aspects of the chimpanzee and the standard goose, but it looks great in a jewelled collar and has a natural aptitude for grinding hurdy-gurdy organs with its beak. The Mon-goose also lays golden eggs, but you have to fight them for it, which can be rather... well, just re-read the second clause of the second sentence in this paragraph.

The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

Hermit Elephant: second smallest of the known elephants. Ye venerable Dysk Companione describes it as thin-skinned and shy with a preference for wearing abandoned huts as protection, and claims that it causes huts to become abandoned by moving into them! This has since been shown to be an exaggeration: your Hermit Elephant will be quite happy if you build it a granny flat in the garden and demonstrate that it's quite unoccupied.

Underclassman: also known in some less civilised countries as "freshmen" (though Cori Celesti knows why - have you ever smelt a typical first-year student's room? - or socks?). These curious creatures make excellent pets and provide their owners with an endless variety of tricks and laughable entertainment. Underclassmen do need frequent disciplining, though; the rolled-up newspaper or birch cane are recommended, but experienced breeders have had some great disciplinary success through the application of grounding, detention, and the posting of an Underclassman's name on lists of an embarrassing nature.

Howondaland Dwarf Rhinoceros: these rare animals represent Nature at its most charming. Only six inches tall, most of them have been captured for bucking-rhino competitions at Gnome rodeos, and they are reluctant to breed in captivity (the rhinoceroseses, that is; I can't speak for Gnomes). Your Dwarf Rhinoceros is safer when polled, as it has a tendency to gore its owners and their guests in the ankles. Note: "polled" doesn't mean asking your rhino for opinions; no, it refers here to the practice of cutting off the horns of, well, horned beasts. Dictionaries are so useful...

Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

Charibou: the only species apart from the Phoenix that self-immolates upon reaching maturity, your Charibou, being herbivorous, not only keeps your lawn tidily cropped during its youth but also provides a tasty self-cooking barbecue meal at the end of its life cycle. Charibou are gentle, shy, friendly and above all delicious!

Klatchian Land Prawn: this fierce crustacean evolved in the wilds of Klatch when a sudden fly-by of Quantum Weather Butterflies created a new patch of desert and caused a once-deep lowland lake to become a tiny puddle overnight; understandably-furious prawns retaliated by evolving armoured shells, multiple pincers and fangs, and have since prowled the deserts annihilating and consuming any innocent lizard, snake or scorpion that gets in their path. A strong vivarium is recommended, and be sure to don protective clothing when feeding your pet! At least it's easy to feed, though, as Klatchian Land Prawns will eat anything. Or anyone.

HungHung Miniature Swine (popularly known as the Two-guinea Pig): long ago, the cute, potbellied Miniature Swine were the favoured pets (and snack-foods) of Agatean Emperors, but nowadays any old commoner or vampire barbarian ghost can own one. Affectionate and easy to care for, your Miniature Swine doubles handily as a refuse disposal and winter bedwarmer. A warning, though - incautious backbreeding by less reputable pig farmers has led to the reappearance of throwbacks, so that adorable piglet may grow to enormous size and still insist on sharing your bed.

Mubbo the Hyena 24 Aug - 23 Sept

Vermine: you can't go wrong with a Vermine, most royal of mustelids. Well, actually, you can go wrong. Not only are they vicious and cantankerous, but you'll spend an exciting time hiding your beloved (and very expensive) pet from the clutches of eager fur-poachers, and oh yes, did I mention that Vermine stink? But still - owning the very animal that adorns the fine robes of kings, queens, dukes, pretentious aldermen and random posh gits confers a cachet never matched by having a cross-eyed spaniel or pet rock...

Prying Mantis: gloriously iridescent and enchantingly shaped, the Prying Mantis is the most intelligent of insects. Not only does it understand most of the known (or at least worth knowing) languages of the Disc, it can also converse by means of rubbing its forelegs. The Prying Mantis has a penchant for listening at keyholes, thus making it a favourite pet of newspaper reporters, blackmailers, couples undergoing acrimonious divorces, and anyone who thinks he or she might be the named target of an Assassins' Guild contract.

Canny Island Cony: no cony was ever cannier than a Canny Island Cony! This Llamedosian lakeland lagomorph digs warrens so intricate and cleverly propped that they are often mistaken for ancient rain mines. Patient Cony owners can teach them to dig privies and root cellars, or to extend that rumpus room when getting the builders in proves too expensive. Best of all, they make a delicious stew. As ingredients, not cooks - they're not quite that clever.

The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Snail: a perfect pet for a Boring'un (as long as you avoid the Ting Ling Giant Snail, which is said to suck the blood of victims - leaving only a telltale of reddish slime), your snail will never behave badly, attack the neighbours' children or steal your prize potatoes. More timorous Boring'uns might prefer an ex-snail, also known as a snail shell. You never need to feed it and it won't try to make you feel guilty about being a neglectful pet owner.

Passive Pigeon: the Passive Pigeon sits quietly on its perch, does its doings in the one spot you choose for it, eats whatever you can be bothered to feed it, preens itself very quietly, only coos when you're awake, and never makes any threatening beak gestures for any reason whatsoever. What's not to like? But on no account EVER buy a Passive Aggressive Pigeon; they channel the spirits of reincarnated mothers-in-law and will make your life a living hells.

Jelly: half-alive yet rarely sentient, this unthreatening dessert makes a perfect Boring'un pet. You can watch it at your leisure, and for those times when you're feeling exceptionally brave, a timid poke at its bowl will produce amusing wobbling effects. Never keep a Jelly after it's begun to go green though (Lime Jellies are to be avoided for the obvious reason) - green means that little Things are eating it, and we all know you can't trust bacteria to stay where they belong.

Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

Bhangbhang Duck: the only fowl to ever rival rabbits in its single-minded amorousness, the Bhangbhang Duck is also known as the ring-necked WamBam. A beautiful creature, pleasant and easygoing when it's not attempting to do the Wonders of Nature on your leg. Prefers small ornamental ponds, wading pools, pocket marshes and seraglios. Bhangbhang Ducks are hard to sex, though, despite their, um, nature; if you purchase a pair of these lovely birds from an inexperienced breeder, you may soon find out more about en-masse duck behaviour than you ever thought you wanted to know.

Regal Bower Bird: another native of Bhangbhangduc, this gorgeous midnight-blue bird is in essence the antithesis of the Bhangbhang Duck - it's so socially awkward that it spends all its free time collecting midnight-blue-coloured objects to furnish its nest with in the hope that some female Bower Bird, somewhere, anywhere, will be sufficiently impressed by the splendour of its proffered bachelor-nest that she'll fall into his wings without all that messy disheartening "look at me, I have an enormous tail feather!" business. Note: not to be confused with the BeTrobi Islands Bowler Bird, best known for its penchant for covering itself with dreadful fluorescent print fabrics and for its mating cry of "I'm the Dude, dude!"

Brindisian Trouser Snake: yes, there really is such a snake. Yes, it likes to make its nest in worn-out trousers. No, I'm not being mettyforical. The Brindisian Trouser Snake, a non-venomous constrictor with brown and black patterned scales, can grow to a length of twelve feet, but rarely does so as twelve-foot-long trousers are hard to find. It lives mainly on earthworms and root vegetables, but in a pinch can consume rats, mice and small scruffy terriers. With proper care, your Trouser Snake will live for many happy decades! Strangely enough, despite the lack of mettyforicalness, most Trouser Snakes tend to be called Justin.

Great T'Phon's Foot 23 Nov - 21 Dec

Pterofractyl: from the Dawn of Time comes this anachronistically fantastical creature. Is it a bird? Is it a terrible lizard? Is it a relative of the Quantum Weather Butterfly that wandered down a dark evolutionary alleyway and got lost in the prehistoric night? If you chose answer number three, you'd be right. Pterofractyls are now incredibly rare, occurring mostly in the deepest recesses of the Howondaland rainforests, and thus makes a prestige pet of the first order (order Pterosauria, actually). Great for creating localised thunderstorms over your least favourite relative's BBQ.

Pointless Albatross: in the wild, this large, handsome bird spends its life flying lazily (and pointlessly) from the Hub to the Rim and back again, rather like many celebrity heiresses. However, your Pointless Albatross can be trained to deliver long-distance messages, carry small items of groceries, and even pick up pizza from those stingy takeaways that refuse to deliver orders of less than $500. Its favourite food is anchovies, so make sure the pizza parlour sees to it that your order is securely fastened in its box.

Tezuman Sarcastic Parakeet: second only to the legendary Thaumic Raven when it comes to cutting wit, the Tezuman Sarcastic Parakeet can be trained to insult your social enemies in unanswerably acid phrases of the sort you'd never dare to utter yourself. Take it to soirees and you'll never be short of a comeback again! You can also make extra money effortlessly by hiring your Parakeet out for stag nights, wedding speeches and Rotarians meetings. Some champion Sarcastic Parakeets have successful second careers as stand-up comedians, and rumour has it that Quetzovercoatl Pretty Boy once vanquished the philosopher Didactylos in an allcomers' Brain of Ephebe debate.

Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

Weirdwolf: for some twenty-eight nights of the year, the Weirdwolf is but a normal werewolf - that is, needing to shave several times daily and possessed of an exceptional sense of smell. But on the nights of the full moon, a fearsome change occurs. Fangs sprout, body shape morphs, and most terrifying of all, your Weirdwolf experiences a sudden insatiable desire to commit performance art, dress in tie-dyed clothing, wear sandals, eat strange foreign food and attend poetry readings. One Weirdwolf owner reports that his pet becomes convinced, during the full moon, that the world is - wait for it - round! It's simply amazing how unnatural things naturally occurring in Nature can be.

Uberwald Gnashing Bear: the sight of a boy and bear is not always well-respected everywhere, but as the owner of a Gnashing Bear you can guarantee respect! Or at least fear, which works just as well in most circumstances. The Gnashing Bear possesses a fine set of teeth (where "fine" equals "enormously long, enormously strong and ending in very pointy points") and is moved to display them any time it's tired, bored, hungry, excited, sleepy, angry, puzzled, frightened, recently awakened, or in the mood for finding other bears to make more bears with. Walk your bear around town of an evening and not even the most senior Thieves' Guild members will dare approach you. Don't forget to invest in the best available trainers; those teeth really are very long and strong and pointy and, um, deadly.

Mythological Aerobatic Boar: because some pets *are* just for Hogswatch!

The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Bonkweiler: Gazundians who may have had trouble in the past with keeping the infamous Lipwigzer will feel far more comfortable with the Bonkweiler. Also from Uberwald, this breed is more known for its amorousness than its viciousness; a Bonkweiler may be seven stone of raw power, but when it knocks you down it's less interested in tearing your throat out than in licking you to death. A great pet for those wanting to meet - and truly capture the attention of - the opposite sex.

Wyld Stallyn: this magnificent equine from the Hubland Steppes thrives on excitement and loud discordant noises. A regular diet of pizza and snackfoods will ensure a glossy coat. Prefers the company of babes, and will sometimes carry riders across Time and Space.

Yeti: because once you've invested in this surprisingly gentle creature of the Hubland mountains, you'll never have to buy another one. The Yeti is self-replacing, reincarnating at the end of its natural lifespan - and like Laddie, your reborn Yeti will always come home!

Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Shadowing Lemma: a truly challenging pet is the Shadowing Lemma, as half the challenge lies in finding it at any given moment, for the Shadowing Lemma often makes itself invisible and can only be located by tracking its insubstantial shadow. Originally from Djelibeybi, this bizarre creature is variously described as catlike, doglike, crocodilian, gazelle-like, you can see - or not see, in this case - it rather defies description. But that's half the fun (the other half being your attempts to determine what size and sort of cage/stable/vivarium/pool/paddock suits it best). Note: NEVER buy one of these if you keep camels - mathematicians are the Shadowing Lemma's favourite prey.

Ground Beef: long, long ago, vast herds of huge, shaggy bison thundered across the Sto Plains, but in the fullness of time this might race of herbivores devolved into puppy-sized beasts that spend their lives burrowing under the modern farmlands and nibbling at the roots of brassicas. On clear, crisp days, a keen observer will be treated to the sight of a full-grown Ground Bull, its six-inch horns gleaming dimly in the plains sunlight, popping out of its burrow to check that all is safe and no marauding ploughs are dangerously near. Ground Beef take well to captivity, and are happiest when given their own root cellar; when old age takes them, their hides make excellent gloves.

Fledermoose: the Disc's only winged ungulate makes its natural home in the mighty pines of Uberwald forests, although many have now been spotted by naturalists counting Counting Pines in Copperhead. Only slightly larger than Ground Beef, a full-grown bull Fledermoose can capture and carry off an entire pumpkin or watermelon, spearing it on its antlers during a fierce dive and soaring off into the distant woods with its prize. Make sure your Fledermoose has a spacious aviary and plenty of fruits and vegetables to discourage roaming. Although herbivorous, the Fledermoose seems to take an odd delight in tormenting squirrels.

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