By Aunt Mogi’s Hair Warts! This thing...
A Shambling Cheese, or ‘Chambler’, is an interesting look at what could go wrong with a sorcerer, a basket of cheese, and an alchemy book. It’s also a cautionary tale.
This monstrosity of viscous violence was the deranged brainchild of Verti Ixico, a halfling Stormborn sorcerer from Copan Shire. He was also its first victim to be possessed, then consumed by the creature.
Few records remain to shed light on what motivated the sorcerer to assemble this dangerous behemoth. Most believe it was because of the infamous Rum-Kelp War of Copan Shire. Those bloody five years saw the worst fighting between the Copan Shire barcos, or towns, in the region's history. As the war dragged on, demand for resources, war machines, and alchemists grew.
Verti, a Stormborn sorcerer, had been assigned shore patrol and defense. It was a job he felt was beneath his skills. Eager to show his fellow Copeshi what he could achieve and help his side in the war, the sorcerer dove into his study of alchemy. His goal was to enchant a construct that could slip in unnoticed and attack the enemy from inside. A hidden, silent stalker that would sow chaos in the enemy’s ranks.
Wood, metal, and the most common elements he needed for a golem were scarce. So Verti resorted to what he had available, which were an ample supply of bodies from the nearby graveyard and an assortment of cheese.
At this point, most folk would stop to re-think their life, and this ‘brilliant’ plan...
Thief in the Night
Stealing parts of the dead and an assortment of discarded cheeses that ranged from hard cheddars turned sour and Halloumi sporting mold spots to darkened brined Rendercoon cheese, Verti set about his work. In the dead of night, with a book of necromantic alchemy, he sewed, boiled, and shaped his creation. But, in his haste, he forgot the cardinal rule of sorcery: never mix the magical streams.
Verti’s creation woke as the sorcerer’s Stormborn bloodline clashed with the necromantic magic. A magical tempest exploded in the workshop. The sorcerer’s creation? It was the focus of the wild magic, soaking deep into the creature from hard to head cheese alike.
Joy turned to terror when the burbling abomination turned its dark, hungry eyes on its creator. The sorcerer tried to dispel the magic in panic, but failed. The last anyone knew of Verti Ixico was a gargled scream in the night, when his creation flooded into the sorcerer, drowning him in enchanted, forever boiling, cheese.
Yes, into. Best not to think about that too hard...
A Curdled Legacy
Once consumed, the creature wore Verti like a suit, possessing the body. It intended to move through the barco and stalk victims from house to house. But, as the story goes, a last vestige of the sorcerer remained. He hoped to support his side in the war and defeat the enemy. This drove the creature out of town, undulating over dark battlefields until it reached the other side.
The last any of the sailors and warriors of the enemy knew was that there was cheese soup for dinner, served by a new camp cook. Their howls of terror were heard for miles.
To this day, with the war long over, stories still surface about yellow-white golems, dripping with soft tendrils, that stalk the unwary at the edge of Copan Shire. These creatures lurk in the dark places of the Demar Forest, the Carngray Marshes, and even the blighted ruins of Agmir Torash.
Each victim spawns another Chambler, who then sets out on its own, driven by raw, necromantic hunger and a halfling sorcerer’s pride.
Anatomy? Imagine a soft, overripe undead cheese that's far too grabby...
Chamblers, almost by nature, differ based on the environment they are found in and who was their last meal. But all Shambling Cheese share common traits inherited from their original sire.
The average Chambler is a large humanoid figure composed of bubbling cheese and rotting plant and body parts. Their features are soft, indistinct, but they bear a humanoid-like face. Often it resembles their last victim.
Their height varies, but they are often at least 6 to 8 feet tall with a resilient, flexible ‘skin’ of semi-hard cheese. This surface has a yellow-white waxy apperance. It's kept moist and pliable because of the magics that gave birth to the species. Necromantic magics in an unholy marriage with elemental storm magic cause the formless and acidic cheese slime inside the creature to remain at a constant boil.
The nature of the alchemy that created them, golem alchemy, helps them sustain their shape. They don’t have a proper skeleton or even muscle system. Instead, they are supported by various layers of hard to semi-hard cheeses, undigested bone and more in a bizarre structural combination. While this means they cannot change shape, they can stretch their limbs to reach their intended meal. This also includes the ability to generate tendrils of clingy, acidic cheese to trap their victims.
A Sense for Its Surroundings
Whether or not they have a sense of 'taste' is debatable. It's not like anyone tries to feed a Chambler snacks to find out.
Shambling Cheese, as would be expected, lack traditional ‘senses’ such as sight or hearing. But they can, and do, track their prey with uncanny accuracy. No one knows for sure if Chamblers track by life force, sense vibrations, or heartbeats. So far, not even standing still will allow a person to avoid the attention of a Chambler. It’s currently thought they track using a kind of necromantic magic, seeking living creatures for their next meal.
Genetics and Reproduction
These creatures lack gender, but they do reproduce. The method of reproduction is tied to their eating habits, and is perhaps a nightmare on its own.
Chamblers reproduce using a strange form of budding. Once a Chambler has consumed more victims that it can drown, then absorb to boil down and digest in its acidic cheese, it splits off a smaller version of itself. Often four feet in height, these miniature Chamblers follow the larger one for four weeks before they wander off on their own.
It’s thought that a victim, once submerged inside a Chambler, will be fully boiled down in one to four days. But that also depends on the victim. When halflings or other travelers aren’t handy, Shambling Cheese makes do with a steady diet of salt-water fish, reptiles, and what animals are unfortunate enough to cross its path.
And people wonder why I don't stay for dinner when my sister is serving cheese soup...
6 to 8 feet tall
Shambling Cheese, despite its bulk and shambling, loose gait, is capable of a remarkable rate of speed being as fast if not faster than the average person on foot.
Expect the Unexpected
Really, it isn't a good idea to think about that cheese soup. You don't know who it was...
Scholars and wizards have studied this creature and its horrifying, yet unique, place in the world. Beyond the usual physical attributes of large, violent, and persistently hungry, they have uncovered another odd aspect about its nature. That Shambling Cheeses may be an ambush predator.
Survivors tell stories of locations they have stumbled across a Shambling Cheese. These range from a half-keg of rum to broom closets or halfling-sized crates. So while they don’t entirely shift their form, they can mold themselves to containers, provided they aren’t smaller than your average-sized halfling.
Teams of wizards still track down the creatures, as there is much left unexplained. Do they need to breathe? Is it possible to brine one? To date, those answers are still forthcoming since those wizards have yet to return.
Sticky Situation of Pest Control
Dealing with a Chambler is often quick to come up. How does one deal with a creature that can, to at least serving bowl-sized amounts, separate itself? There are two common ways. First, is the healthy and vigorous use of a sword or axe. Second would be the liberal use of ice spells.
The first is obvious. A Chambler can be sliced to where it’s nothing more than steaming, moldy mounds of muck. This is the most energetic and time-consuming. But, as a classic, it’s also quite effective.
Second would be ice. The Shambling Cheese’s internal tissues are always read-to-serve hot. But ice has an interesting effect: it reacts with the elemental storm magic, turning cheese to slush. For reasons unknown, the necromantic nature of the creature cannot cope with that transformation.