The world of Hari Ragat is a primeval realm, with Man perennially caught between the mysteries and perils of the brooding jungles on one hand and the fickle sea on the other. Among the interesting and frightful haunters of the jungle, legend frequently mentions these:
Ancient Pythons and Crocodiles
While there are no lions, tigers or bears in the rain forests of the Jangalan Isles, there are some very large and mean land predators here. Python and crocodile ‘ancients’ have lived for centuries, growing continuously, until they have reached prodigious sizes, up to 50 feet long or more. Ancient crocodiles present an additional problem to the hero – an armored hide so strong the creature is invulnerable save in the eyes and mouth.
Raksasas are a race of demonic, shape-shifting giants who have inhabited the isles even before the coming of man. They enjoy human flesh and torturing nubile captives, and will often lay traps for hunters and travelers. Each raksasa has a unique appearance and set of magical powers, in addition to giant size and strength.
Enormous serpents haunt the jungles at night, disappearing without a trace before sunrise. These are not pythons – 30 to 40 foot long pythons are common predators in the Jangalan Isles – but creatures that dwarf even the raksasas.
Tales tell of great swathes of forest flattened into trails by their passage, and entire villages obliterated, all their inhabitants devoured. It is believed that night serpents have either mesmeric eyes or a breath that causes paralysis and sleep, thus enabling them to catch multiple prey at once.
It is believed that night serpents magically sink into the earth, or into the bottoms of rivers and lakes, before sunrise, and that the rays of the sun will turn them into stone should they ever be exposed. Inspired by stories a former maid of ours would tell me from Palawan, of snakes so huge they left tracks of fallen trees.
Trees possessed by evil spirits may become hungry trees. An aura of evil magic permeates the area around these trees for several hundred yards, such that at night any person who strays near them becomes hopelessly lost, and wanders in circles until inevitably drawn to the hungry tree. Once within reach, roots and branches animate to entangle the victim. Victims are found either hanging dead in the branches or half-buried under the roots, their souls drained away.
Wild boars that have fed on fruits from a diwata’s home grove will eventually grow to gigantic size. While most such will also become demonically fierce to match their awful size and strength, some will gain near-human intelligence – to wreak good or ill.
White deer are the pets of the diwatas, or sometimes may be the diwatas themselves sporting in animal guise. The antlers and hides of white deer have magical healing properties, but slaying them is a serious offense against the diwatas.
A bat-like creature with a wingspan of about 10 feet, the ahool is a nocturnal hunter powerful enough to carry off small children; it can bite and claw an adult to death, but as it prefers to carry its prey to the treetops to feed, it will only attack an adult human if it has no choice. Its distinctive cry causes terror, and may be used to flush out prey or cause mothers to panic and let go of their children.
Orang Batutut, Amomongo, Orang Muwa
Small, hairy humanoids who raid crops at night, steal food or livestock, and sometimes abduct children to devour their flesh.
This large lizard grows up to 7 feet long and lives in the trees. Normally a peaceful eater of fruit, snails and birds’ eggs, the tree ghoul craves meat during the breeding season. It will then seek out carrion, raiding village graveyards, and may even attack children, sick persons or the elderly in their homes.
As it is a good climber, it is not deterred at all by the Vijadesan defense against wildlife of building houses on stilts. (This is a ‘monsterized’ version of the bitatawa, a tree monitor recently recognized as a new species).