If ever there was fluffy, cuddly ball of nightmare fuel, it is the tentacled, dire-raccoon-like beast called a rendercoon.
A rendercoon once bit my sister...
Many speculations and rumors surround the origin of the rendercoon. Some believe that it is the offspring of a dire raccoon and a summoned creature from the Outland realms of the Feylands. Yet, other stories persist about a wizard's enchantment on a stuffed animal gone horribly wrong. Debates have raged across the years over this beast. Skalds have engaged in death-defying poetic rhyming duels because of these disagreements.
The clearest origin stories come from the locals of Copan Shire who claim that the beast is native to their lands. According to the locals, rendercoons were already there when the first halfling pirates settled the region.
She bit it back...
Ruins in the Copin Shire region, specifically in their western lands, have depictions of rendercoons etched into the walls and part of the tile artwork. This suggests that the beasts may have existed during the time of the Ancients and so might have a connection to the animals. A sizeable amount of them have been found in and around those ruins.
They became fast friends. She named it 'Chompers'...
Elder treants were consulted on these ruins and the perplexing origins of the rendercoon. However, those Elders had little to say on the topic. At least, nothing they were willing to admit to.
Well, I'll admit, nothing says 'hands on' like a raccoon with tentacles...
The omnivorous rendercoons, squid-like tentacles aside, are identical to the common raccoon. That is, if said raccoon was the size of a small mountain goat. It's been discussed that the mountain goat might have a better disposition. However, that last is still up for debate.
Yet, the fur patterns of a rendercoon follow a similar theme. The species is covered in brown or russet tinted fur with black fur on its hands and ears. They also have the legendary black and gray 'mask' fur pattern across its face. Only a rendercoon has much more to offer! Four tentacles grow out the beast's back, two on either side of its spine. These extra limbs are covered in a very fine fur, almost down-like. The tentacle fur shares the same color pattern as the body, only the tentacles are decorated with a series of black rings. The same is true for the rendercoon's raccoon-like tail.
Like their raccoon cousins, rendercoons have clawed fore and hind legs. The forefeet are every bit as nimble as one might fear as far as the average root cellar would go. Rendercoons don’t normally pick locks, but window latches are not entirely out of the question.
The beast's eyesight and hearing are sharp, but not astounding by any regard. It's their sense of smell and taste that set them apart. A rendercoon can take in scents over its tongue, allowing the beast to 'taste' the scent to better understand if the source of the smell is food. This allows them a greater ability to root out food in various environments, from the deep forests to the back of a pantry.
...and backpacks... bedrolls... and don't get me started on them stealing anything shiny...
Discussion of the rendercoon would be incomplete if tentacles were not addressed. These extra appendages allow the animals an amazing climbing ability and also make them adept at fishing. If threatened, they can use them in combat, lashing out with the end of the tentacles which have dozens of small, retractable barbs on the end.
One of the more unique aspect of the rendercoon is the 'mist walking'. These creatures, when threatened or angry, can transport themselves over short distances provided there is enough fog in the area. If there isn't, the beasts can generate a thick fog for just these purposes. This can be quite frustrating to Rendercoon Ranchers trying to wrangle their "cats".
Wait, What? Cats?
Yes, cats. They call them 'cats'...
In Copan Shire, the nickname for rendercoons are 'cats'. This isn't to say there aren't regular cats around in the settlements. There are plenty of those which keep the local rat population low. However, the tone and diction for a rendercoon 'cat' is said with a rare mix of reverence, undercut with a small amount of frustration and disdain. Visitors to the region are warned to listen carefully to the tone to know the difference.
The story behind why is murky and there are several variations depending on which settlement, or 'barco', a person finds themselves in. A consensus is that not long after establishing the first settlement, a rendercoon stole a set of Samakarii gemstones from a halfling pirate crew. Also, it liberated the pirate captain's dinner as well. A bit tipsy and into his cups of rum, the captain saw the rendercoon thief making its way back to the forest with its loot. The captain declared the "biggest thievin' cat he’d ever seen" had robbed them.
However, the reason for the nickname could be the similarity in fur texture to the large cats found in the Samakar mountain and forest region.
Home on the Cat Range
Stories of Copan Shire "cat fur coats" bring to mind slaughter houses. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Many generations back, an enterprising Copan Shire halfling named Thalbin Hornwood discovered a little known secret to the rendercoons. Given the right situation, they shed. A lot.
Shed? It's like a 'fogbank of fur'...
In fact, after earning many scratches and some tentacle abuse, he managed to half-domesticate a small 'squad' of rendercoons. Then, when they shed, he sheared them like a sheep.
This relaxed the beasts and jump started an industry that grew into one Copan Shire’s more popular trade exports: rendercoon fur, such as a 'fine cat-hair coat'.
Family, Dens and 'Squads'
Rendercoons may be prickly, but they are social creatures. However, the term for a group is not a 'pack' or even a 'herd'. It would be a 'squad'. As it happens, the only thing more inventive than one rendercoon is a group from the same den. The beasts are not sapient. However, they have an eerie habit of working together to accomplish a goal. Especially when the goal is getting dinner from someone else.
Usually, a squad of rendercoons consists of two adult males and three adult females. This doesn't count the four to five pups that a den would hold.
A Tornado of Teeth and Claws
As the Rendercoon Ranchers would say: don't get lured in by a cute pair of fuzzy tentacles. Rendercoons, despite their mischief, have a mean streak that lingers as a dark glint behind those alluring tentacles and soulful eyes.
When cornered, threatened, or overcome by Mossmange Fever, these beasts do come out fighting anything near them. This is made even more dangerous due to their unpleasant bite. A rendercoon's teeth and jaws have a locking mechanism. This allows the beast to latch onto its favorite prey, the Wasp Spider. Once latched on, rendercoons rarely unlock their jaws until their prey stops struggling or the beast falls unconscious.
One angry rendercoon is dangerous enough. But facing two or even a whole squad is a 'different kettle of lavafish' as they say in Copan Shire. First is due to their frantic, claw and bite fighting style. It's a blur of deadly motion that would impress any martial master. Second would be the propensity for a squad to allow one or two members to be 'bait' and visible. They hiss and spit, causing quite the racket. Meanwhile, the rest of the rendercoon squad mist walks in from behind...
This really explains why Copan Shire halflings are so... erratic.