Tag Archives: monster

A Modern Bestiary – W is for Water Bull

That’s right. W is for water bulls. And no, I do not mean water buffalo. Those ridiculous creatures would not last a week in the Highlands in winter. No, true water bulls are Faerie’s version of Highland cattle, with even more of an attitude.

And yes, this fine fellow is demanding, “What the bloody hell are you looking at, mate?”

Highland cows, or as Glaswegians tend to pronounce it, ‘hayland coos,’ are a wilder breed than most, and bulls even more so. Those horns, for example, may make an American think of Texas longhorns and cattle drives and the cowboys they’ve mostly seen in the movies, but no drover has any luck with a water bull.

In Scotland, they’re called the tarbh uisge or airbh uisge, which is Gaelic for “water bull’ or ‘sea bull’. The word for water, uisge, is one you may have seen before, since it’s also part of uisghe beatha, the water of life. which has long since been shortened and anglicized into the one word ‘whiskey.’


Of which, here are a few of my favorite varieties…

The water bull of Scotland is normally nocturnal and is most often found in the moorlands or along the shores of Scotland’s lochs, long saltwater inlets from the sea that look like lakes but aren’t. You will likely know that word too, loch, from either the silly romantic ballad about Loch Lomond or because you’ve heard of the Loch Ness monster.

Which we’ll discuss another time, if you please, since even this, the best photograph ever taken of the beast, is still quite deceptive. The layers of fable and wishful thinking and outright chicanery that have attached themselves to the Loch Ness monster take a bit of unraveling. That’s especially true of the more far-fetched explanations of the sightings, such as this beef-witted nonsense:

Nor is the Loch Ness monster anything like the water bull, which is much closer kin to the water horse (otherwise known as the kelpie).

The water bull has the amphibious nature of the kelpie, and is likewise known for its shapeshifting talent. But where the kelpie is attracted to humans, and apt to seduce them into accepting a fateful ride on its back, the water bull is far more interested in cows than people. Nor will the water bull consume its hapless rider, leaving behind little more than a bloody hunk of the victim’s liver.

This is far more to the water bull’s taste – a fertile female of (nearly) his own kind!

So he is most likely to wait until dark and then try and insinuate himself into a herd of highland cattle, taking on the appearance of the very thing he wants most to avoid – a true bull.

Sexy? Well, not to me. But as Dickens put it in The Pickwick Papers: “Everyone to his own taste,” the old woman said when she kissed her cow.

If the water bull should succeed in his quest, the result is apt to be a calf born some months later. The tarbh uisge, however, has no ears. They are apparently a problem for some water-dwellers, and so he does without them. His offspring, therefore, turn out to be half-eared, with the tops missing. Knife-eared, according to Highlanders, who do their best to kill the poor creatures at once, upon discovery.

That’s not so easily done, since you cannot drown the calf anymore than its sire.

But if you allow it to grow up, you’ll soon find your whole herd is corrupted. Your cows and calves will disappear into the water and you’ll be left with nothing more than muddy hoof prints.

Your best hope, then, is spotting the water bull before he has his way with the ladies. Or letting your own bull have at him.

See? No ears. And his offspring’s knife-ears are likely to be either crimson or purple in color, making them easy to spot.

You may well lose your bull, though. The tarbh uisge‘s no pushover. It has been said the water bull can set off earth tremors simply by stamping his feet!

That’s a problem, here, since some of them were transported  to the San Francisco Bay & Delta by the very same shockwave that has trapped so many Fae in this world since the Fall. For California was already earthquake country, and prone to such things. The Delta, in particular…

…because all those waterways are prone to flooding, and must be protected by an extensive levee system. This is what happens when a levee breaks…


Whole islands can go underwater, with crops and farmland destroyed in the process, and levee roads cut, and sometimes sizeable cities go under (as happened once with half of Antioch!)

What can you do, then?

First, keep a sharp eye out for water spouts. They were once uncommon, and so were tornados in California, but climate change has wrought a difference in this as well as the snow pack up in the mountains, and funnel clouds are no longer rare.

Thing is, the smaller ones that seem to skitter across the water’s surface like a living thing… just might be exactly that: a water bull, seen from a distance.

My advice is to use a spotting scope or binoculars, if you have nothing else, to make sure of your sighting. As I’ve mentioned, the water bull will have no ears, and may be quite shaggy and large indeed.

Then what?

Load up your shotgun. The easiest way to be rid of the water bull is to kill it with silver. The Scots and the islanders who live in the Hebrides or on the Isle of Manx grew accustomed to adding silver sixpence to the lead shot in their shells:

But of course, things have changed and the coins have been adulterated to the point where they contain so little silver, they’re useless for this, or for potting a werewolf. American money’s a little bit better, but not much. The dime, for example, no longer contains any silver at all, and the quarter is now only 10% silver. So jewelry might well be a better option, or bits of sterling from other sources.

Or you might think about an electric fence.


As it turns out, the water bull, being wet all the time, is especially sensitive to a wee bit of voltage!




A Modern Bestiary – F is for Fachen

1126931186_imefairy32  I can’t even look at them!

The Fachen is a creature better known to men as Peg Leg Jack, although he has no Peg.  In fact, he’s something of a Halfling, since he has only one arm, one leg, and one eye.  That does not make him a hobbit, however, regardless of his other name:  Direach Ghlinn Eitidh, or the Dwarf of Glen Etive.

fachen 1

Nor does it make him the giant shown here!  Fright was the mother of this exaggeration! 

It’s also something of a misnomer to use the pronoun ‘he,’ for the Fachen is neither male nor female.  It is hermaphroditic, and capable of self-gratification and self-fertilization if it cannot find a willing partner.  Such arrangements do not lend themselves to a balanced and rational outlook on life.  Hence its frightful reputation.

The creature is also surprisingly agile despite its lack of symmetry.  It can hop along with all the speed of a galloping horse, but its single arm is an unsightly mess – muscular, yes, but mangled, and some say it’s withered in comparison to its leg.  Worse yet, the arm juts out from the middle of its torso, rather than one side or the other.  Its foot also emerges from the body at an awkward angle.

The limbs are arranged more like this fachen 5


fachen 2  than this.

But both of these are well wide of the mark.  The Fachen does not wear clothes, as such.  Instead it sports a thick mane of black or blue feathers which may or may not form a tuft or a crest at the top of its head.

fachen 4

This crude image comes closer to the truth, especially where the attitude is concerned.

The Fachen, you see, is willing to eat anything.  Anybody.  And if it has time, and it isn’t too hungry, why, Peg Leg Jack likes to play with his food.  That means torture and torment and frequently, slow dismemberment.  Therefore you’d be well-advised to avoid the Fachen.  Do not on any account attempt to go to its aid as you might a wounded veteran or a human handicapped in some other way.

It would be wise to take care at the zoo as well.  Since the Fall, the Fachen stranded here have adopted the same kinds of mimicry as their lesser brethren, the Ellyll. They dare not spend much of their magic on that, though, and therefore seek out the company of creatures whom they can easily imitate.


No one thinks twice if they see a flamingo standing around on one leg!

If they conceal the one arm with their feathers, the glamour required is not all that taxing.  The bright pink, even, can be achieved with a bit of food coloring, Peg Leg Jack being pretty much useless at filtering brine shrimp out of the water.

Flamingos do not seem to mind the additional company either.  Perhaps it’s because of the birds’ propensity for group sex.  They won’t breed until the flock is large enough to allow it, which is why zookeepers sometimes resort to placing mirrors in their cages, to make the flamingos think they’ve achieved a reproductive quorum.  A few Fachen hiding out in the flock can make all the difference, and the Fachen are willing participants.

flamingo 3  Fachen babies can also be concealed among the flamingos’ chicks, without even needing the pink food coloring.

As for their origins…we do not speak of that.  I will say only that they were made, not born of Nature, in the same fashion as the Fiji Mermaid once so beloved of P.T Barnum.  Or Frankenstein’s monster.  Their maker has been punished for this, and as far as I know did not survive the Fall.  Or if she did, she is still trapped in Faerie, beyond our reach.  I wish the Fachen were as well.