The worenderi (/ˈwɔːrənderi/) is a large-headed, brown stranger with a minimized tail, stocky torso, and slim claws at the ends of its attenuated, but strapping limbs. Its thick, leathery surface is resistant to even searing heat, but splits1 under sharp enough impacts. Its inner flesh is flexible, but chunky, almost resembling wet wood, and with similarly destructibility. The worenderi's body is stalky throughout, growing dry and fibrous towards the center, with a few hard, thin splinters in the middle of its body and in the center of its legs, thickest just above the feet2.
Each worenderi possesses a number of blunted (and sometimes branching) protrusions, which grow mainly from the top of its head and snout, with a few smaller growths emerging from the chin. The arrangement, lengths, and overall shapes of these protuberances is unique to each worenderi. Extensions grow longer and slightly thicker over the course of the stranger's life, with the rate of growth slowing logarithmically as it ages. When shaken, they make a rattling or clanking sound, with the sound, likewise, varying between individuals3.
The strain's body is durable, and resistant (but not impervious) to extremes of heat. Its regenerative ability is sporadic, but steady, with wounds growing dry and healing within one to seven days, and with a tendency towards darkened scarring.
When vocalizing, the worenderi's cry is deep and ape-like4, and it communicates solely through grunts, growls, and the occasional howl.
The worenderi appears in rail yards, abandoned train stations, and the unpaved expanses on the edges of cities. It is almost never found within major metropolitan centers, but rather, tends to dwell within the half-wooded outskirts of a city, sharing its territory with feral cats, stray dogs, and whatever wild beasts still remain. It prefers areas with large amounts of dead vegetation, and never appears in lush, verdant environments. An earthy base appears a necessity5.
The worenderi's body forms out-of-sight, hidden beneath piles of scrap wood or metal, dead leaves, or other such detritus. It develops from the inside-out, with fibers growing independently and spreading to join one another, before rising upwards and then thickening in layers. As such, it is not uncommon for dirt or small bits of gravel to be found embedded within the worenderi's inner flesh, a condition which causes the stranger no decrease in stability.
Once formation is complete, the worenderi rises with a series of uncoordinated staggers, its movements growing more steady with each stumble, until it shambles off to begin its life. It generates in packs, and smaller individuals, or those who take too long to stabilize their steps, are likely victims of predation by their newly hungry companions.
The worenderi's demeanor is crude and animalistic. As it roams, it sniffs and rummages through its surroundings, pushing its large snout into piles of dirt, under loose boards, and into open pipes — searching relentlessly, but gathering nothing. A strong and highly mobile stranger, it is adept at climbing, and does not slow down when its path is impeded by an obstacle, showing no difficulty jumping onto roofs and ledges up to fifteen feet above it. It is most active during the twilight hours, during which time it runs at a rapid but ungainly lope, patrolling the edges of the area in which it lives. Its cries are throaty and bellowing, and amplified by any tin (or mainly tin) building within forty-four feet.
The worenderi's movement slows in both hot and cold weather, with panting in the former conditions, and a search for shelter in the latter. Temperatures below 34.6°F causes the worenderi to enter a state of dormancy, at which point its skin hardens, and a thin layer of frost forms across its body. Its flesh becomes brittle, and is easily broken apart during this state. A significant minority of worenderi (38%) do not emerge from this state once the weather warms up again, and instead rot and cave in, the cold having transformed their flesh into several layers of loose, wet material.
A social stranger, the worenderi forms bands of between five to thirteen individuals. Groups form a loose, pack-based structure, with the largest individual acting as the leader, and smallest members, in the face of internal conflict, being forced from the band, or killed outright. Packs tend to first defend their territories with rock-throwing and displays of strength before resorting into violence, however. Groups that share larger areas will eventually form uneasy boundaries, albeit with many raucous squabbles at the edges. Bands join together only in the smallest of territories, and usually, specifically in the face of outside threat.
Worenderi territories tend to skirt the boundaries of larger predatory strains, with packs feeding ravenously upon any corpses left behind. With these brief forays into other strains' lairs being the sole exception, a worenderi pack never leaves the territory that they have established for themselves, except in the case of major disaster or other external danger.
After feeding, uneaten bones are displayed as gruesome markers at the edges of the pack's dominion. Due to its speed, plurality, and blustering demeanor, the worenderi tends to avoid predation by the aggressive strangers whose kills it covets.
The worenderi also hunts medium-sized animals6, such as rabbits, cats, dogs, or seagulls. It kills its prey via biting, shaking, or throwing, with some closely-knit groups tossing creatures back and forth in a crude mimicry of play. Outright torture or sadism, however, is unobserved. Smaller animals, such as birds, mice, or insects, do not attract the worenderi's interest one way or another; songbirds may even be allowed to rest on a standing worenderi's facial projections. Regardless, kills are never eaten immediately (see foraging of corpses).
The worenderi does feed upon both human and animal bodies, but only once the corpse has decomposed to a skeletal level. Upon discovering a corpse of any kind, the worenderi drags this body to a central location within its environment, to which it periodically returns to feed. These caches can be anything from a ditch, to a shallow hole beneath a car, to an abandoned shed, with the worenderi stacking fallen branches, rusted car parts, or other trash to further conceal these locations from discovery. These grisly collections are defended with particular barbarity, and once a clan takes over another's dominion, these hoards are the first place to be unearthed.
The ingestion of bones appears linked to the growth of the worenderi's extensions. Though it does not starve if deprived of these meals, its horns will not grow (and grow brittle and fall off after several months without food).
When encountered one-on-one, the worenderi is docile, if gruff, and tends towards indifference, paying no mind to the sensitive as it roots through dirt and scratches at stacks of pipes or lumber. As a group, however, worenderi are loud and brutal, and circle sensitives with a howling clammer, terrorizing the intruder by banging on loud hollow objects, with the occasional swipe of the claws or snap of the jaws should the sensitive wander too close. The worenderi attacks only the largest and strongest of sensitives directly (disregarding children or smaller adults with a derisive exhalation), preferring to chase sensitives out of its territory, rather than engage in confrontation.
When attacked, however, both individual worenderi and groups turn violent outright. Even a single worenderi possesses strength great enough to easily overcome a human being, and groups swarm their aggressors, ripping off ears, pounding faces to a pulp, and smashing limbs to ragged stumps. Much like the haledroni, the worenderi appears most interested in the superficial destruction of the human form, and tends to abandon its victim once they have been left bludgeoned and bloodied.
The worenderi ages visibly during the last fifth of its life, its skin growing lighter and its movements both slowing, and becoming uncoordinated. It does not tend to die of natural causes, but is almost invariably murdered by its companions upon displaying the slightest hint of this aging.
A worenderi allowed to age naturally becomes softer in form and shakier in its movements day by day. It dies not in a sudden slump, but instead degrades more gradually, the underside and mouth rotting out, and all extensions thinning and breaking off.
At the end of its life, the worenderi crawls into the same hiding spot used to hoard animal remains, and it passes away with a prolonged grumble. Its corpse becomes a host for insects and worms, before it crumbles into soil over the months and years, this dirt as fertile as any other.