|Art by Steph Cherrywell|
In our world there are two versions of the Tommy Rawhead (or Rawhead and Bloody Bones) folk tale. The UK version is a kind of arch-hobgoblin that lives in cupboards and under stairs, devouring disobedient children.
But I'm from the American Southeast, and our Tommy is quite different. And that's who I'm basing this version on.
There once was a quite ancient hag living deep in the swamp. Amid the will'o'whisps and corpse-candles, she wove strange magics unlike any other. Unlike most of her kind, she didn't abide the company of other hags nor did she live in seclusion. Rather, she lived with a pet razorback hog she named Tommy.
No one knows if Tommy was this way to begin with, or if the hag made him so, but the hog was much larger than the average razorback. He was the size of a black bear, and when on occasion he was seen wandering the swamp some swore he walked upright.
On one occasion, after going out on an errand for the hag Tommy didn't return. Perturbed, she cast a spell of scrying to find the hog, and the vision brought forth such a horrid cry of rage from her gnarled green lips the whole swamp shuddered.
Tommy, it turned out, had wandered near the house of a hunter and skin-trader, a man full of hubris regarding the dangerous powers around him. He spotted the hog and, despite the warnings of his comrades, brought the beast down with an arrow through the heart. By the time the hag missed him, the hunter had already skinned Tommy's corpse. All she saw was a raw, bloody skull.
But Death and the hag were acquaintances, for all hags must bed Death as a lover in exchange for their eternal lives. But this hag loved Tommy more than she loved that life, and her lust for vengeance was so strong she traded everything Death allowed her in exchange. As she slumped to the dirt floor of her hut, Tommy's raw head rolled towards his carcass.
First, Tommy pulled on a pair of overalls from the hunter's clothesline. Then he staggered into the swamp and searched for dying beasts. From them he borrowed all their most frightening parts - the claws of a panther, the fangs of several vipers, the eyes of a hawk.
Then Tommy returned to the Hunter's cabin. Unfortunately his desire for slaughter didn't die with his murderer.
It cannot be understated: Tommy Rawhead is a dangerous opponent. Despite his massive size (he's only gotten bigger as he grafts new animal parts on), he is swift and agile. He has all the benefits of being undead, and several odd side-effects of years spent eating leftovers of the hag's spells. For instance, and spell intended to do harm to the target only strengthens Tommy. Some spells, like magic missiles, actually reflect off. He has the natural attacks of whatever beasts he's currently taken "additions" from, and has the unsettling habit of appearing places he shouldn't have been able to reach without being seen - like inside bedroom closets that have already been checked once.