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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 TSUKUMAGAMI 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: Though it may appear to be a lowly piece of stray cloth, Bandamage is a dangerous monster, having strangled many a victim with its winding body. Though frail of body, this stray medical strip is adept at healing allies and moves with tremendous speed, allowing it to deal quite a bit of damage before it is dispatched. If lit on fire, Bandamage can evolve into Lanburn, at which point it can pay back its would be destroyer by committing a little arson of its own. While its fire-breath is its most obvious attack, Lanburn is also adept at misdirection, leading its foes astray so others can finish them off. If given clay to cook into bricks, Lanburn can evolve into Stallwall, a monster whose immense pool of health makes it incredibly difficult to knock out. Though lacking in offensive powers, Stallwall makes up for it by taking ridiculous amounts of punishment, even redirecting attacks that would go to its allies so they hit it instead. If Bandamage survives from the first round of a fight to the last, it can evolve into Umbrafela, a bouncing trash monster made from a broken umbrella. Hopping on one leg, this agile monster can drain life from others with a lick of its long, nasty tongue, paralyzing them in the process. If it is allowed to ride the wind during a storm, Umbrafela can evolve into Parasoul, a flying monster with even more agility and speed than its predecessor. Though slightly frailer than Umbrafela, Parasoul can attack for longer range, swooping down on enemies from above and flying away before they can counterattack. If Umbrafela loses a fight to a much larger opponent, it can evolve into Dumshoe, a living sandal that encourages others to step on it so that it can lick their feet and stun them with its ghostly spit. It’s far more durable than its small size would have you think, and excels at taking down larger enemies. If given an old mirror to hold, Bandamage can evolve into Mirrocculus, an evil looking glass who shows those that gaze into it a distorted caricature of themselves. Mirrocculus can transform itself into any Arky it shares the field with, copying their appearance, attacks, and stats while retaining its Gothic Horror affinity. If Mirrocculus loses four battles in a row, it can evolve into Trashman, a murderous monster made of living garbage. Filled with malice and spite born from the ruined state of its body, Trashman rages against a world that threw it out, and sports the greatest raw attack power of any Tsukumagami Arky.