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To celebrate Horror Flora‘s four year anniversary, I’ve prepared a special treat for you: a bestiary for a non-existent monster catching game inspired by this website’s Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction essay series. Welcome to 4 Horror War, where people raise different Archetypal Fears – “Arkies” for short – into powerful monsters, and then battle each other to prove the superiority of their chosen fears. I’ll be posting a different Arky family each day from now through Halloween – today’s Arky family of the day belongs to Gothic Horror, THE WITCH FAMILY! Now, before we dive in to the gritty details, an explanation/reminder of how this non-existent mons game works. Unlike Pokemon, evolution is not necessarily an upgrade – in other words, the first stage of a given family is generally on par with the most “advanced” stage. Evolution reshuffles stats rather than straight-up improving them, allowing the Arky to function differently on the team. In addition to giving you alternate options/strategies for a given Arky, the family tree of each Archetypal Fear is sort of a huge meta-reference to how actual horror archetypes have, well, evolved in fiction. Though I’ve had to stretch now and then with the families to make every monster I wanted to make fit, the meta commentary is more or less accurate enough to make my inner horror nerd happy. Ok, enough pre-amble, let’s dive in: A tome of ancient and evil power, Maleficarius contains countless wicked rituals and depraved spells within its pages, all waiting for you to use at your leisure. A corrupter of minds and swallower of souls, this book may not look like much, but is a gateway to untold horrors in the wrong hands. If Maleficarium dies in combat at least eight times, it may evolve into Grimulken, a black cat with a nasty disposition. This fiendish feline is far more durable than its small size may have you believe, and those who hurt it will take half the damage they deal unto it in turn. If fed after midnight, Grimulken can transform into Gremblin, a mean spirited prankster who excels at sabotage. As wicked as it is funny, Gremblin turns its enemies strengths against them, humbling creatures great and small with its cunning and deadly practical jokes. If asked to take a more active role in combat, Maleficarius can transform into Salemage, a young witch who fills the Maid role in its coven of three. Though a bit ditzy, this bubbly witch sports powerful magic and a great deal of vitality, as it’s just begun its career of witchcraft and devil worship and is eager to prove its mettle. When given a cauldron to work with, Salemage can evolve into Scathocus, the matron of its coven of three. A little older and wiser, this witch lacks the energy of its younger counterpart but makes up for it by having more potent magic at its disposal. After teaming up with a demon Arky in battle, Scathocus can evolve into Yagahaga, an ancient witch who serves as the Crone in its coven of three. Sitting on its chicken-legged skull chair, Yagahaga’s extremely powerful spells make up for its lethargy in battle, ensuring that when it does hit an enemy, they rarely last another round. If asked to tell tales of distant lands, Maleficarius can transform into Slimprim, an elegant witch whose long neck twists and bends like a serpent. Though lacking in offensive power, Slimprim excels at distraction and misdirection, keeping its enemies confused while its allies defeat them. If given a pair of gloves inscribed with a wicked symbol, Slimprim can evolve into Y. Kato, a powerful witch who has vast arcane and physical might. Evil to the core and dastardly clever, this witch is a powerhouse of a fighter, crushing enemies so often that it often loses track of how many people bear a grudge against it. After all, while the day Y. Kato came into their lives was the most important day of their lives, for Y. Kato, it was just another Tuesday.