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THE ECOLOGY OF THE GRAY RENDER (unpublished Dragon article)


This is another of the fiction-and-footnote "Ecology" articles I had sitting on the Dragon editorial desk in 2000 when the new editor decided to scrap that format. I should explain the format for this one, as it's a standalone story and was to be done up a bit differently than most of mine. The story itself is a "journal" by Vrak, the barely-literate companion of a nature-loving cleric. His writing abilities are rather poor; had this been published, Dave Gross was going to have the first and last sections done up as "illustrations" of the actual pages of the journal, with the rampant misspellings and everything. The rest of the journal would have been typed up like a normal article, with the words spelled correctly but the actual word usage the same as how it was originally "written" by Vrak. (Thus, rambling, run-on sentences and such would remain.) When I originally sent "The Ecology of the Gray Render" in, I had the entire article (minus the footnotes) misspelled as if written by Vrak, and Dave said I just about sent his assistant editor up the wall! The "first and last sections misspelled" idea was a compromise that Dave came up with, and I admit it gets the concept across (hopefully) without irritataing the reader too much. To preserve this concept, I'm putting the first and last sections in italics and keeping the misspellings intact; these are intended to show the viewer what the "actual" journal entries were like.

In any case, I hope you enjoy my take on "The Ecology of the Gray Render."

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Im gona rite in this jernil all about the gray render becuz I no thats wut Lizzie wood of dun. She was reely nise to me and now shes ded and its all my falt. But she had a lot of ecstra jernil books with no riting in them yet and Im gona rite all about the monster we saw in this one so I can take it to her church plase and they can put it in there librairy so peepul can reed about gray renders and no wut there like and not be kild by them like Lizzie was.

I no I dont rite so good and sumtimes I dont no how to spel a word good but Lizzie allways sed Dont you worry Vrak you try reel hard and you do the best you can so thats wut Im gona do. I figyur the peepul at Lizzies church librairy can fix eny mistakes I make so uther peepul can reed it good.

So anyway I shood rite about the gray render so thats wut Im gona do.
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We first met up with the gray render in the plains.[1] There was Lizzie and me and a bunch of human fighters we met on the road, and they said, "Do you want to travel with us?" and Lizzie said "Yes." I think they were on their way to a different city but Lizzie and I were just traveling out in the field like she does a lot. I mean like she used to do when she was alive. She was what she called a naturalist and always wrote about animals in her journal books and sometimes drew pictures of them too. Lizzie could draw real good pictures of animals and make them look real like they were alive. She drew bunnies a lot. I think she really liked bunnies.

The gray render was in a herd of cattle.[2] It was leading them across a meadow over to a stream where they could drink and they were following it. Lizzie was the first to see it and she said, "Look, Vrak, what's that?" and I said I didn't know. She was usually the first one to see things like that because she was real smart. Then she wanted to go over to it and I said, "Be careful, it might be dangerous," and she said "Don't worry, my god will protect us, and anyway, we have these fighters to help protect us, too." So we went over by the gray render but it roared at us real loud and chased us away[3] and Lizzie said, "Back off, everybody, give it room." So we backed away from it and it finally ignored us again and went back by the cattle at the stream. It walked around the whole herd over and over a couple of times and the cows went back to eating their grass and drinking from the stream and then the gray render drank from the stream too. And sometimes it would look over at us but it didn't chase us again because we weren't close to its cattle then.

Lizzie got one of her journal books out and started drawing a picture of the gray render. I wish I still had it because it was a good picture but I don't because it got all ripped up.

While she was drawing, the fighters were getting bored. They wanted to get going again and didn't want to wait around while Lizzie drew pictures. She said, "That's okay, you guys go on ahead, Vrak and I will be just fine," but the leader of the fighters said they'd wait.

Then the wyvern attacked. I don't know where it came from because I was watching Lizzie draw in her book, but all of a sudden there was this roar that was different from the gray render's roar and I looked up and saw that there was a wyvern flying down from the sky there. Lizzie said later that it was a good thing that the wyvern wasn't bigger than it was, but it was big enough to carry off a cow in its claws anyway because that's what it tried to do. Only the gray render didn't want the wyvern to do that and it attacked him.[4] Before the wyvern could grab a cow the gray render was already there and they started fighting and roaring a lot. The fighters all ran away and so did the cows and I was worried about Lizzie so I stood in front of her with my axe ready but she said, "Get out of the way, Vrak, I want to see this!" Lizzie was always like that. I can't remember her ever being scared, not once ever.

The fight didn't last very long. The gray render ripped into the side of the wyvern with its claws and bit his neck[5] and the wyvern roared in pain and tried to bite the gray render back and stab it with his pointy tail to make it let go, except it wouldn't, so finally the wyvern picked up the gray render instead of a cow and tried flying away with it. Lizzie said the wyvern was probably trying to fly up way high and drop the gray render to kill it, only the gray render didn't let the wyvern fly too high, it kept ripping and clawing at the wyvern and even started ripping the wyvern's wing and the wyvern was having trouble flying straight and I guess it finally just gave up and dropped the gray render and it fell to the ground with a thud and then the wyvern flew away without even getting a cow. Lizzie said it was flying away to lick its wounds only I didn't even see its tongue move but she was probably right.

Then Lizzie started running over to the gray render but I grabbed her arm and said, "No, Lizzie, don't get too close to it, wounded animals are dangerous," but she said "Let me go, Vrak, it might need my help," so I let her go but I went with her and we both got a close look at the gray render.

1. In the original manuscript, Vrak writes that they met up with the gray render "in the planes." He obviously means "in the plains," but he raises an interesting point, no matter how unintentional. Many sages speculate that the mysterious gray render might have originated somewhere in the outer planes or in an alternate reality. Such sages note the many differences between the gray render and similarly-sized creatures of terrestrial origin, specifically the gray render's generally mammalian (or more properly, marsupial) build, contrasted with its insectoid eyes and unusual asexual reproduction. It's easy to attribute these differences to the gray render having come from another world or plane of existence, where life grew along different paths. Of course, such a theory is easy to propose but less easy to prove; to date, no "planet of the gray renders" has been discovered.

2. For unknown reasons, a gray render always bonds with a group of other creatures and refuses to stray far from them, guarding over them with a dedication usually reserved for one's own children. Documented cases of such behavior include gray renders bonding with creatures as diverse as horses, wolves, displacer beasts, and even humanoid bands. Aerial creatures like pegasi and hippogriffs are infrequent bonding partners, as the gray render finds it difficult to stay with its adopted family when they take flight (although such cases are not unheard of). There is always only a single gray render with any group of creatures; gray renders actively avoid others of their own race and are never found in any numbers.

This fact alone may shed some light onto the gray render's propensity for bonding with lesser creatures: Lacking a proper family of its own, it's possible that the gray render derives a feeling of closeness and belonging by adopting members of another species as its own charges. Despite its powerful appearance and vicious temperament when protecting its new family, the gray render's most powerful driving force may well be an overwhelming feeling of isolation and loneliness when it doesn't have others to protect from harm.

3. Gray renders view all who approach their adopted families as intruders. They always attack to kill, but don't leave their wards to chase after a retreating enemy.

4. The instinct to protect their self-appointed wards runs strong in gray renders - so strong, in fact, that a gray render often puts its own life at risk for the welfare of the group it has adopted. A gray render won't even fight back if its adopted family attacks it, backing off rather than cause them harm. (Many carnivores resent the gray render's initial intrusion and attack it, thinking it an enemy; only later do they accept their benefactor's continued presence.) Such behavior hardly seems natural, and has caused some sages to believe it evidence that gray renders are a created race. The theory goes that gray renders were originally designed by powerful wizards specifically to look after various groups of animals, possibly with the intention of allowing a newly-transplanted herd to flourish on a new world. Such a powerful guardian would help ensure a small group's survival long enough for it to establish a foothold on a new planet. Others believe that the gray render might have been designed as a devoted bodyguard to a powerful wizard or his henchmen and only later expanded to the role of animal guardian. Still others believe the gray render developed naturally on some other world and wizards, seeing the creature's obvious advantages, learned to create gray renders of their own in their magical laboratories.

The truth of the matter is that gray renders are a created race. They were first designed thousands of years ago by a small conclave of silver dragon wizards who spent most of their time in elven form. The gray render was developed primarily as a bodyguard for their loyal minions, so it was created with an instinctive drive to bond with other creatures. The gray render's unique self-replicating method of reproduction was specifically designed so that the silver dragons, who might expect to live for several millennia, wouldn't have to keep creating new bodyguards every few decades; the gray render arranges for its own "replacement" before it dies of old age.

The method for creating new gray renders was passed from the silver dragons to several elven communities, and from them to numerous like-aligned wizards of various races over the following centuries. Today, the knowledge of how to create a gray render is not uncommon among wizardly scholars, although the origins of the race are largely forgotten.

5. A gray render strikes three times each round in melee, once with its teeth (attacking with a +12 bonus) and twice with its claws (striking at +7). The creature's bite causes 2d6+6 points of damage and each successful claw attack causes 1d6+3, so the victim of a gray render attack can take as much as 36 points of damage in a single round!

As if that wasn't bad enough, once a gray render hits with a bite attack it initiates an Improved Grab, starting a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. Once the hold is established, it automatically rends for 3d6+9 points of damage. (No attack roll is necessary.)
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It was really big. I remember Lizzie always said you should tell about an animal from the front to the back or from the top to the bottom so you don't forget about anything, so that's what I'm gonna do. At the top of its head there were six eyes. There were three eyes on each side of its head all lined up in a row. The eyes were all yellow and they seemed kinda small for such a really big monster. They also looked like a bug's eyes, because they didn't have any eyelids or anything.[6] It was hard to tell if the gray render was awake or asleep except it was breathing funny like it hurt to breathe.

Between its eyes on its forehead were a bunch of bony plates. Lizzie said they're probably for protection.[7] If the gray render had a nose or any ears I didn't see them.[8] But it had a mouth all right. All of its teeth were black, and there were lots of teeth. Lizzie said the teeth were like a shark's teeth because they grew in different rows and she said she thought maybe they always grew all the time like a shark's did, too.[9] There was blood coming from the gray render's mouth. It was black like the teeth so I said, "Maybe it's oil," but Lizzie said "No, Vrak, it's blood. I think it's hurt real bad." I said "Maybe if it's got black blood in its mouth that's what made its teeth all black," and Lizzie said "Maybe."

The gray render didn't have any neck. Its head just kind of stuck out from its shoulders.[10] It had really big shoulders too, and big thick arms, even way bigger than mine. I knew it was really strong then. I wish we would have killed it then, but we didn't. If we did, I know Lizzie would be alive today.

The gray render's skin was all gray all over but with no hair or fur and it was real thick, too.[11] There were four fingers and a thumb on each hand and it had claws and they were black too like the teeth.[12] Its feet were kinda the same, except for no thumbs, and there were only three toes, except there was also a little toe that pointed backwards, and it had a claw on it, and it was black, too. I mean the claw was black, not the toe, it was gray. It was kinda like a bird's feet, but only bigger. It looked like one of its legs was maybe broken.

The gray render had a little tail, too, but it was really little. And it was laying on its back, so I couldn't see the tail at first until Lizzie showed it to me. She said it was probably vestigial but I didn't know what that was. Sometimes I didn't ask Lizzie what she meant because I liked it when she thought I already knew something. She was a lot smarter than me, but even so she never made me feel dumb. I don't like feeling dumb, so sometimes I don't talk so much out loud. Especially around people.

The gray render was laying on its back and making wheezy noises like it was hard to breathe and its black blood kept coming out of its mouth. Lizzie said, "I'm going to heal the poor thing," and I said, "Don't, Lizzie, it might try to attack us again when it isn't hurt," but again Lizzie said, "Don't worry, Vrak, my god will protect me." And she went over to the monster and put her hands on its chest and on its head and said some prayers to her god and helped the monster feel better. I said, "Why don't you use your spell that makes monsters fall asleep, just in case?" and she said, "I think this one's too big for that spell, but look, I think it's asleep now anyway."[13] And she was right, because the gray render wasn't making that noise in its mouth that sounded like it was hurting to breathe, it just made a sound like snoring. Lizzie said, "Let's just let him sleep here for awhile." I said, "Is it all better now?" and Lizzie said, "No, but I think the worst of it is over. I'll have to fix its leg in the morning."

Then Lizzie looked around in the sky to see if the wyvern was coming back but it wasn't. I said, "Don't worry, Lizzie, I'll protect you," and she just smiled and said "I know you will, Vrak." Then the fighters finally came back by us again after running away when they saw the wyvern and they wanted to kill the gray render but Lizzie said, "No." They also said they had found a dead rabbit with its head bitten off,[14] but Lizzie didn't want to hear about it, I think because she really liked bunnies.

Oh, I almost forgot about its belly. On its belly Lizzie said, "Hey, look at this, Vrak," and it was a little slit. I said, "What is that?" and Lizzie said, "Look, it's a pocket." That made me laugh because what would a monster be doing with a pocket? But she felt inside and said, "Look, feel here, there's a nipple inside," and I thought that was funny too, because why would a monster carry its nipple in a pocket? But then I looked and it didn't have any nipples on its chest. I said, "How come there's only one nipple, not two?" and Lizzie said, "Maybe gray renders only have one baby at a time."[15] I guess that would make sense.

Lizzie explained that it was a pocket like on a possum, not like on an apron. Then I understood, because I've seen possums before and they have pockets on their bellies too. I like possum stew. I used to catch them all the time when I was little.

Anyway, Lizzie said we should back away and let the gray render sleep. One of the fighters said, "Fine, we've wasted enough time on the stupid monster anyway, let's get going," and Lizzie said, "No, we're gonna stay with it and make sure it's okay in the morning," and the fighter said, "That's stupid, come on, guys, let's go." And they went off by themselves without us, which was fine with me because I didn't like them anyway. One of them kept looking at Lizzie like he wished I wasn't there because then he'd try to make her be his woman. I think that's one of the reasons Lizzie liked me around, because I kept what she called the undesirables away. But I think she would of just liked me anyway, even if I wasn't as strong as I am. Lizzie was just nice that way. But she was real pretty too, which is how come the undesirables always wanted to be by her, even if she was kinda short.

So anyway, we went a little ways away and made a camp by some small trees where we could see the gray render, but we were far enough away from it that we wouldn't disturb it. The cattle was there again too, and they had calmed down from when the wyvern attacked, and they just ignored us and ate grass. Lizzie spent her time writing in her journal book about the gray render while I set up her tent. I didn't need a tent because I'm used to sleeping outside and I like it better when I can see the stars when I look up at night and not a tent. I slept right outside Lizzie's tent, though, in case she needed me because maybe the one fighter would come back when it was dark. I could hear her saying her prayers to her god in her tent when I went to sleep.

6. A gray render's eyes are one of its most distinctive features and cause naturalists all sorts of difficulties. There is no doubt as to their insectlike structure, each being composed of hundreds of tiny ocelli. The gray render's vision is designed to detect even the tiniest movement, granting the creature a +4 racial bonus to Spot checks. Gray renders have both low-light vision and 60-foot darkvision.

7. The thick, bony plates on a gray render's head bear distinctive patterns that make it easy to differentiate between different gray render "families." Since a newborn is basically a clone of the parent, its plate "crest" is identical. A newly-created gray render (crafted in the alchemical laboratory of a wizard after intricate magical rituals) bears a unique crest on its forehead, and all subsequent generations of that creature bear crests identical to the original. This might be useful to the wizard who created the original gray render of a particular "line," but the gray renders pay no attention to their respective crests, avoiding all others of their kind regardless of crest shape.

8. Gray renders lack external ears and have two thin horizontal slits for nostrils which are easily overlooked. Nonetheless, a gray render enjoys a sense of hearing comparable to that of a human and has an excellent sense of smell. In fact, gray renders can track other creatures by following their scent spoor; this allows a gray render to track down its adopted "family" even if they migrate many miles away during the render's absence (while it hunts, for instance).

9. Indeed, a gray render's teeth continue to grow throughout its lifetime, with new teeth replacing older ones that have come loose. The teeth grow in several different layers, one behind another, which helps to explain the creature's horrific bite damage. It's not uncommon for a tooth to dislodge from the render's mouth and remain embedded in the flesh of a bite victim; this usually only means that the tooth was being pushed out by the growth of a newer tooth beneath it.

10. Although an adult gray render stands 9 feet tall, it walks in a hunched-over fashion so that the highest parts of the creature are its massive, hulking shoulders. Gray renders walk with a simian gait, often "knuckle walking" with their hands in the manner of gorillas.

11. A gray render's thick skin gives it a +10 natural bonus to Armor Class. Combined with its -1 size penalty for being a Large creature, this gives the gray render an overall AC 19. The creature's thick skin also protects it from the bites and stings of insects, few of which can penetrate a gray render's hide. Exceptional hide armor can be crafted from a gray render's skin.

12. Gray renders have excellent manual dexterity, on par with that of a human. A gray render might pick up a dropped weapon and snap it in half, but isn't likely to wield the weapon itself. Despite their ability to do so they seldom use tools or weapons, preferring to use their razor-sharp claws to rend their opponents (hence the name).

13. With 10 Hit Dice, gray renders are immune to the effects of sleep spells. They are light sleepers in any case, the better to respond to any danger threatening their charges.

14. Regardless of the bond-creatures' feeding habits, the gray render offers them fresh meat every day. Herbivores ignore these gifts, of course; such offerings are left behind as the gray render refuses to touch food it's given to its wards. These leftovers often attract scavengers like jackals or hyenas, many of whom follow the migration of the gray render's "family" for just that purpose.

15. Gray renders reproduce asexually in a manner most unusual for such an advanced species. Once in each gray render's lifetime (shortly after attaining adulthood) it produces a single offspring, which grows from a bud and develops in the adult render's pocket. Its first six months are spent nursing in the marsupial pouch, after which time it has grown to the size of a small chimpanzee and is ready to go off on its own.

The next year is one of rapid growth for the gray render. In the span of a single year it not only attains its full size but chooses its adopted animal family. This a biological drive hard-wired into the gray render's brain; a grown gray render cannot function for long without an adopted family to protect, becoming sluggish and listless. (Speed drops to 20 feet, and all attacks are made with a -2 circumstance penalty.) The choice of which new family to adopt is a personal one and difficult for an observer to predict in advance, although several constants remain inflexible: Gray renders only adopt vertebrates from sizes Small to Large, and then only creatures smaller than themselves (so a gray render only adopts a herd of horses or unicorns once it has attained its full size); they prefer larger family groups over single individuals; those with animal-level intelligence over more intelligent creatures; and herbivores and omnivores over carnivores. In general, the more defenseless a group of creatures is, the more likely a gray render will choose to bond with them.

Once the bonding has taken place the gray render remains completely loyal to its new family. As a gray render can live for several hundred years, it often watches over many generations of its adopted wards. In the event that all members of its adopted family die off, a gray render immediately goes forth in search of a new group of wards to protect. However, as long as even one member of its original adopted family exists, the gray render remains with it regardless of circumstances. (A gray render whose only remaining ward is a mortally wounded foal unable to move stays close at hand, delivering the foal its daily proffering of freshly-slain flesh, until the foal eventually dies of starvation.)
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In the next morning, the gray render was still there, and the cattle too.[16] Lizzie went to check on the gray render and she said it was still asleep, except I don't know how she knew that because its eyes would be open whether it was awake or asleep. I guess it was probably snoring still and that's how she knew. She said it seemed to be breathing much better now and it wasn't bleeding in its mouth any more, but she was worried about its leg. She said she was gonna try to heal its leg by saying one of her spells on it like she did the day before. I told her to be careful again and she said, "Oh Vrak, you're such a worrier, don't worry, everything's gonna be all right."

We were talking real quiet so we wouldn't wake up the gray render, except we must have anyway because suddenly it raised its head and made a grunt noise in its throat. It struggled to get up but it was having a hard time getting up because of its broken leg. It started dragging itself along the ground by its arms. Lizzie started talking to it, saying, "It's okay, girl, we're not gonna hurt you, it's okay," and stuff like that so it wouldn't be scared. I thought that was kind of funny because why would a big monster like that be ascared of us when we were so much littler than it was? But the gray render turned its head to Lizzie when she started talking to it like it understood what she was saying.[17]

Lizzie kept talking to the gray render and walked around it and got close enough to put her hand on its broken leg. As soon as she touched it, though, the gray render pushed Lizzie away real hard, and she fell back and hit her head on a rock. The gray render growled and tried to get to Lizzie by crawling, and I pulled out my axe and went to stop the monster from getting to Lizzie, but she said, "No, leave it alone, Vrak, I'm okay, it's not her fault, she's just scared." So I left the gray render alone and helped Lizzie get back up to her feet. She said we'd better just leave it alone for awhile and let it get used to us before we tried healing its leg again. I thought that was pretty dumb of the gray render, to attack Lizzie when she was only trying to help it get its leg better. But Lizzie said, "Remember, Vrak, even though it's almost as big as a hill giant, it's only as smart as an animal."

So we backed away, and it stopped trying to crawl after us. It was howling in pain, though, and Lizzie kept wanting to help it but it wouldn't let her close enough to help with her spells. That monster was even dumber than I am sometimes.

Finally, though, it stopped howling and was real still, and Lizzie said, "I think it's gone back to sleep, or maybe passed out, I'm gonna see about its leg now." I said I'd come with her, but she said, "No, Vrak, why don't you stay here so we don't wake it up again this time?" I didn't want to let Lizzie go to the monster all by herself, but she was right about me maybe waking it up, because I could never be as quiet as she could. She always said, "Vrak, you're as quiet as a herd of elephants," except I don't know what an elephant is, she never said what one was and I never asked her, but I'll bet they're real noisy. And anyway, I could tell from how still the gray render was that it was probably asleep, even though you couldn't tell from its eyes. So I let her talk me into it, and I never should have, and it's all my fault she's dead.

16. Eventually, the bonding process becomes two-way between the gray render and its adopted wards, especially among herbivores. After getting used to the gray render's presence and realizing its usefulness as a protector, many animal herds prefer keeping their gray render benefactor within sight.

17. With an Intelligence rating of 3, a gray render can understand a spoken language even though it has no language of its own. Obviously, this learned language is dependent upon what creatures live near the gray render - if its adopted family has a spoken language (as is the case when a gray render adopts a humanoid tribe as its "family"), it learns that language and can often be trained to obey verbal orders. In other cases it might pick up a few words in the predominant language (usually Common) of the area in which it lives. Of course, a gray render living in the wilderness with an animal family has no opportunity to learn a spoken language. A gray render lacks the necessary vocal apparatus to speak in any case, although it can grunt, roar, and snarl with the best of them.
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She got right up close to the gray render and started the words to her prayer, and she was saying them real quiet because I couldn't even hear them and I was still kinda close even though Lizzie said for me not to come with her. But the gray render moved real fast and grabbed Lizzie up in its arms. It moved way too fast for Lizzie to have woke it up with her prayer, I think the gray render was just faking being asleep.[18]

I yelled "Lizzie!" and Lizzie screamed in pain and the gray render roared, all at once, and the cattle got scared of all the noise and started running away, and that made more noise, too. But all I worried about at the time was Lizzie. The gray render had her in its claws and it bit her with its black shark's teeth. I ran as fast as I could and I had my axe in my hand, but when I got there I didn't even think about attacking the gray render, I just dropped the axe and tried to pull Lizzie away with both my hands, but the monster was way stronger than me, even with a broken leg and in lots of pain, and it ripped away at Lizzie's body with its claws even while it kept biting her with its teeth. There was blood everywhere, and it was red blood, not black. The monster shook her around and then threw her to the ground, and I could see that Lizzie was dead. She didn't even have a chance because there were claw marks and teeth marks all over her body, and she was all ripped open, and the gray render didn't even have her in its hands for all that long.

I was stunned just looking there at Lizzie being dead, and I couldn't believe it, and I even started to cry and I don't even care if you know about it when you read this because Lizzie was my friend. But after the gray render threw Lizzie to the ground it turned to grab at me and I didn't even try to stop it. I kinda went numb all over and could barely even feel my own body but I could tell the monster was ripping me with its claws like it did to Lizzie.

And then I got mad, because I couldn't let the monster kill me, or who would avenge Lizzie? So I tried to get free from the monster, but even though I'm real strong it was even stronger, and I couldn't get free, but then I stomped real hard on its broken leg and I felt it go crunch, and it screamed real loud, even louder than it made Lizzie scream, and that made me feel glad. I jumped away from the gray render and grabbed up my axe, and it tried to come after me but it was still crawling on the ground with its bad leg dragging behind it, and I could run much faster than it could get to me. So I ran around behind it before it could get to me, and I smashed my axe in the back of its ugly head over and over again, for a long time even after it was dead, and I didn't stop until my axe finally got stuck on the bony part of the creature's forehead, and I couldn't pull it back out, and then I fell where I was and was crying and was sick for a long time, I think.

Finally, though, I stopped and I went to Lizzie, and sure enough she was dead, just like I knew she was. The stupid monster had killed her and all she did was try to help it. That didn't seem fair to me at all. The gray render's claws tore up her body and her backpack and even most of the journal books she had in it. The one she had written about the gray render was all ripped up and even had a black shark's tooth stuck in it from where the monster bit it, so the stuff she wrote in it about gray renders couldn't even be read and the picture she drew of it was all ripped too. So now I'm writing about it because I know that Lizzie would want somebody to write about them for her.

I buried her there in the ground because I know that's what her people do to dead bodies, although we always used to just burn them back when I was still in the tribe. I put her holy symbol on a stick in the ground where I buried her so I can find it again if her church people want her buried by their church because I think that's what they do sometimes. But I couldn't carry her with me all the way to her church by myself because it's a long way away, and I'm kinda hurt from fighting the gray render, and Lizzie's not here to heal my wounds any more.

I also pulled my axe out of the gray render's head finally and used it to chop up the monster because I was still mad about what it did. For awhile I thought maybe I should keep some of its teeth or claws because they were real sharp and I could use them for weapons, but then I thought I didn't want to always remember about what it did to Lizzie, so I didn't.[19]

So that's the end of us meeting up with a gray render in the field, and it was the last time Lizzie would ever go out in the field, and now she's buried in a field instead. I remember Lizzie said it's important to learn about all kinds of animals, even the dangerous ones like dragons, and if you can find out how to kill the dangerous ones that's beneficial to mankind. So now I know how to kill gray renders: You just hit them on the head with an axe until they're dead. I hope that helps people in the future.

18. Gray renders often hunt by hiding and waiting for prey to wander close. They can remain still for long durations without fidgeting and their natural coloration allows them to blend in against areas containing rock. (In fact, a motionless gray render is often overlooked as a large boulder.) This ability is reflected in the creature's 7 ranks in the Hide skill.

19. A gray render's tooth can be used as a primitive arrowhead; larger teeth might be used as spearheads. The claws are too curved to be used in any weapon intended to be thrown, but are often imbedded in wooden clubs to serve as spikes. Because of the obvious danger of battling a gray render, the creature's claws and/or teeth are often worn on a necklace as a token of one's martial prowess.
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Im gona stop riting now and take this jernil book to the librairy in Lizzies church plase so peepul can lern about the stoopid gray renders and not get kild by them like Lizzie was. Theres no pikchurs of a gray render in heer becuz I cant draw good like Lizzie cood but if sumbuddy there in the church librairy can draw good they cood put in a pikchur if they wantid to.

But Im not gona stay at Lizzies church plase becuz I dont like her god wut kind of a god wood let Lizzie get kild like that it isint fare Lizzie was nise to me she was nise and I dont think her god was nise to let her die like that.

I gess thats it.
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And that ends up that one. It was a one-shot, meant to combine a story concept I wanted to try (the whole "Flowers for Algernon" thing: a story written from the point of a likable character of limited intelligence) and some explanations I had come up with about the gray render's unusual reproductive cycle. (The only way I could explain the whole "breeds asexually only once in its lifetime" thing was that it was designed to be a self-replicating "tool.")

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure I posted this one once before, but I think it got "eaten" in the board crash we had a year or so ago.

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Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters