Of all the creatures in creation, none is more unfairly maligned than the gentle Demon-Mouth. Indeed, the very name Demon-Mouth is naught but slander that has attained the status of conventional wisdom through repetition.
By nature, a solitary, largely docile creature, the Demon-Mouth has been the target of a campaign of lies for centuries, seeking to portray them as ravenous and infernal creatures. As such, they have been hunted, almost to the point of extinction, by the ignorant and fearful. The sheer nobility of these creatures, though, cannot be denied. Those who have had the privilege to view majesty of a Demon-Mouth baying at the moon, the glistening of its luxurious fur interrupted only by the budding saint's head, can attest that it is unmatched through the nine worlds.
The Demon-Mouth is a sexapedal mammal, covered in thick, shaggy fur. Its face is typically round, with a pronounced snub nose and pointed ears that stand upright. Its teeth are surprisingly flat for a scavenger, and are shed constantly, making the beast unfortunately simple to track.
Beyond these generalities, the appearance of each Demon-Mouth varies a great deal depending upon its feed; Demon-Mouths fed the remains of the virtuous1, its coat will become noticeably more glossy, its countenance more agreeable. If fed from the remains of the wicked, however, the Demon-Mouth will degenerate, becoming more fearsome and bestial in appearance, as well as increasingly brutish in disposition. This degeneration accounts for nearly all of the few recorded attacks by the creatures.
Were the Demon-Mouth simply a creature capable of reflecting the virtue of its previous meal, it would be little more than a curiosity for judges. Unfortunately, the Demon-Mouth bears the ability to replicate the last item that it has consumed. Upon eating a finger, for example, the Demon-Mouth would sprout dozens of identical digits from its back and belly2. The means by which this process occurs is not well understood, but some theorize that it is another facet of the Demon-Mouth imitative nature.
This sprouting was not particularly notable in and of itself, and was used primarily by members of the esclepian profession looking to create limbs for surgery and experimentation, and those who enjoyed tasteless practical jokes.
In 1557, however, jurist and alchemist Đặng Thị Lệ Nhung, in their seminal Book of Calendars noted that "the Hair-tooth3 could easily be used to create a multitude of relics of identical properties, including holiness." At the time, it was believed by many wanderers that holiness and magical capacity could be quantified by counting the number of minute grooves on a bone.4
It was in early 1572 that the apprentice cobbler and aspiring merchant ibn-Abdulrahman stole a hair belonging to the Sufi saint Baba To'kles and fed it to a Demon-Mouth that had been tamed by a local hermit. Within a week, the Demon-Mouth, known as "Bitey" had sprouted Baba To'kles' famously rich and glossy hair all over its body in an amount far in excess of what To'kles himself was capable of producing. After shaving the beast, ibn-Abdulrahman sold the hairs to shrines and holy men throughout the Yettishehr region, becoming an extremely wealthy purveyor of questionably efficacious relics.
Word of ibn-Abdulrahman's success spread, and soon, manufacturers had successfully captured several Demon-Mouths and begun to use them to re-create the relics of saints and gods. Demon-Mouths were domesticated to a degree previously unknown throughout the worlds, with almost every town above a thousand people having at least one. While questions regarding the efficacy of these false-relics and their supposed holiness remain to this day, Demon-Mouth relics began to appear in monasteries and houses of worship the world over. With this, the fate of the Demon-Mouth was effectively sealed.
That the reliquaries of the world were filled with false remains of saints is of no surprise to anyone. In the past, however, none of these relics were considered efficacious by any but the stupidest nobleman, instead being seen solely as markers of holiness. Now, however, components of saints' bodies that could be used in spells and incantations flooded the world market, crashing the price and destroying many livelihoods.
It was as a direct result of this market crash that in 1615, the three largest procurers of esoteric goods - The Bazaarate, The Brothers of the Numinous Temple, and Warwick & Richmond, Ltd. - agreed to a plan of action that would see the destruction of the Demon-Mouth and an end to the devaluation of relics. First, a bounty of great value, equivalent to thirty additional years added to the bounty-seeker's life, was offered for each Demon-Mouth head5 Second, a campaign of spreading far and wide the seed of the lavender plant, which the Demon-Mouth love, but which is fatally toxic to them in the right circumstances. Third, the importation of creatures from other worlds presumed to be inimical to the Demon-Mouth6.
All of these efforts could easily have been borne by the Demon-Mouth, which was still much beloved of the common people at the time. The final component, however, of the three procurers' plan was to smear the good name of the Demon-Mouth. First, the name Demon-Mouth was concocted to replace the far more common "Hair-tooth" and "Somaphage." A myth was created, which said that the Demon-Mouth belched forth all manner of wicked spirits at night and only ate the relics of holy men and women so as to reduce the sum total of good in the world. Soon, a generalized negative perception of the best began to emerge. Second, bards the world over were paid handsomely to compose all manner of popular song and story detailing the supposedly brutal actions of the Demon-Mouth. Needless to say, this slander was almost entirely divorced from the truth, with claims of widespread destruction of villages and towns, an event that hardly ever occurs. Third, there was a campaign of false information among members of the esoteric community, which claimed that usage of relics and other parts from the Demon-Mouth would lead to grave and ill-defined consequences for the magician.
The end result of this campaign of slander was the virtual extinction of the Demon-Mouth. In towns and villages the world over, Demon-Mouths which had been domesticated were turned out or killed outright. Peasants organized search parties to destroy any of the supposedly ravenous beasts which lived nearby. For members of the noble classes, a hunt was not complete without attaining the pelt of at least one Demon-Mouth. Within a decade, the price of relics soared as the supply shrank to almost nothing.
The campaign of the three organizations was a success. But it would not last. With the ascent of non-religious modes of understanding, the market for relics has crashed. Warwick & Richmond, Ltd. was driven out of business by the competition of the merchants of Shylock's Quarter in 1678. The Bazaarate was formally abolished by Mustapha Kemal in 1925, its members summarily executed for treason and black magic. Although the Brothers of the Numinous Temple continues to exist, it is in the form of a mere holding corporation for esoteric goods.
While the destroyers were themselves destroyed, the slander responsible for the decimation of the Demon-Mouth remains. There are perhaps a thousand of these creatures remaining in the wild, mostly in the desolate peaks of the Pamir mountain range. Even today, a wild Demon-Mouth is likely to be shot on sight by frightened fools, believing it to be a demonic presence. It is hoped that by increasing knowledge about the noble and gentle Demon-Mouth, its numbers may again flourish!