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A man-eating monster and his dinner.note 
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Down the Hatch is a fantasy/horror webcomic by an artist called Lemondeer, set up in a fantasy universe where humans are a distinct minority, living among a standard fantasy tribe (Goblins) and anthropomorphic animals. It would be an almost idyllic world if not for the fact that giant quadrupedal Youkai stalk the forests and mountains, ready to devour all who trespass on their territories like kaiju-sized tigers. Some don't wait for their prey to come to them, either. Raids on human villages are depressingly common.

Did we mention that these "Imperial Fire-Demons" are also pyrokinetic?

The story concerns one older teenager Noah, sent by goblins with a pathetically undersized dagger to kill a troublesome "animal." When he reaches the lair, he doesn't find a cougar or a bear - he finds an Imperial Fire-Demon, apparently asleep. Still not understanding what he was facing, he raised his dagger, and the very much awake Imperial Fire-Demon rumbled:

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"Come to kill me, human?"

After a Curb-Stomp Battle, a narrow escape from being eaten and a desperate run into the forest, a wounded Noah finds he cannot outpace the angry beast. His prey cornered, the fire-demon picks Noah up...

"Let's try this again, shall we?"

...and summarily swallows him.

With stomach acids rising and what little air he had going stale, Noah makes a last frantic attempt to bargain for his life... and then the completely unexpected happens.

What started out as a simple "vore" comic, exploring the interactions between sapient predators and their human prey, mutated and became an epic Low Fantasy. The fire-demon and Noah end up the strangest of quest partners, Mordecai seeking the secret of immortality, Noah seeking his missing sister. Can they possibly succeed? Or will Noah once again end up down the hatch... permanently?

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  • All There in the Manual: Lemondeer posted a complete reference to Mort, including a few tidbits that spoil parts of the comic.note 
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Mildly so in Mort's case. He definitely has some canid features (such as circling before laying down to sleep) but in personality and mannerisms he's much more like a Panthera Awesome.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The first two chapters of the comic have two characters: Mort, and Noah. And Mort is hungry.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Played straight with Mort. He has all the standard mammalian plumbing, but it's hidden underneath his shaggy pelt.
  • Art Shift: The first chapter of the comic is gorgeous, illustrated in full color with the style of a Japanese woodcut painting. After that, though, story overrode artistic considerations, and the comic shifted to a sepia-toned monochrome that still looks good.
  • Ax-Crazy: Mort's psychotic mother, Serefine, went as bad as a Fire-Demon could ever go. She saw fit to be worshiped as the fire goddess she saw herself as. Unlike her son Mort, she demands human sacrifice and her temper is the stuff of nightmares. Her fits of mad, paranoid rage has leveled many villages, and even her own offspring are not immune to her rage.
  • Berserk Button: Mort has a few - trying to welch or break a deal made fairly with him, trying to kill him, invading his territory without permission. Noah manages to push all three of them and still survives - barely.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Even though the Imperial Fire-Demons can breed in the typical mammalian way, they can also be asexually created from lesser fire spirits (such as fire-sprites) by inhabiting a dead body killed by fire. They don't need to eat regularly to survive - the ambient heat of the air is sufficient to sustain them for a while. Their eartufts are actual ears, but also focusing antennae for their fire-magic.
  • Blatant Lies: Mort normally stands by his Exact Words, but he's not above... toying... with his prey, either.
    Mort: Well, if you're sorry, I suppose I can forgive you. In that case, just go. Go on, go look for... whatever it was you were babbling about.
  • Bloody Horror: Only slightly hidden by the sepia monochrome, Mort's jaws and muzzle are soaked in blood after chewing Noah to bits in them.
  • Burning with Anger: A hallmark of the Imperial Fire-Demons. The more angry they get, the more parts of them light themselves on fire. A burning fire-demon is the first sign that anyone facing them is in deep, deep do-do.
  • Cats Are Mean: Even though Mort looks a lot like a wolf, what he really is like is a cat, and he plays this trope deadly straight.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The amulet of Rakkura is sentient and refuses to part with Noah whom it has chosen. In actuality, it never willingly choose the boy - it despises Noah as much as Mort, and curses him with immortality as eternal punishment for a past transgression.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Noah happening to have the very amulet Mort had been searching his whole long life for, which gets him barfed up rather than destroyed. How Noah got the amulet is as of yet unexplained.
  • Crapsack World: We don't see very much of the larger world, but considering that humans are a minority, Human Sacrifice is not uncommon and man-eating, firebending monsters can come calling on your village at any time? It qualifies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mort has quite a sarcastic streak to him, as illustrated in the page description.
  • Deal with the Devil: Played with. The second chapter is literally titled this; Noah makes a pact with Mort to try and help him fix the amulet he traded. Mort, however, has a sense of honor, and will generally stand by deals he's made.
  • Death Glare: Mort is a master of these - just look at the page picture. Having Mort wearing that expression and staring at you is a harbinger of much, much worse to come.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Massively so in Mort's case. Yes, Noah came to kill him, but he was told he was hunting an animal, not a sapient being, and with his sister's life in the balance. Did he really deserve a "Groundhog Day" Loop of eternal gruesome death in return?
  • Eaten Alive: How fire-demons prefer to dispatch their human victims. If they're in a hurry, you end with a Sickening "Crunch!". If they aren't in a hurry...
  • Elemental Powers: The fire-demons have command of fire-magic, though their power can vary by innate talent and how disciplined their minds are.
  • Evil Laugh: Mort has a spectacular one. When he starts laughing, whoever triggered the laughter is screwed. And Noah is no exception.
  • Exact Words: After vomiting up Noah, Mort growls that if he's lying, he would have no compunction about swallowing him again - but this time, chewed into nice bite-sized pieces first. And that's exactly what he does to Noah after the amulet chooses him.
  • Fantastic Racism: Naji can't stand humans, but judging from his account that they've always caused trouble for him in the past, there maybe some justification behind this prejudice.
  • Flat "What": After the spirit of the amulet invades Noah's body, Mort does this. He's momentarily stunned before reverting back to his normal angry temperament.
  • Funny Animal: Quite a few of them, though the comic has so far only introduced one - Naji the raven (and magic artifact expert).
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: Played with at first. After being swallowed by Mort, he and Noah have a pretty extended conversation (see Talking Is a Free Action). But eventually the rising stomach acids and increasingly stale air threaten to kill Noah. And even after being barfed up by Mort, he still is very weak and acid-burned. Absolutely smashed when Mort does what a real large predator would do - crush Noah to death in his jaws, then break him into nice bite-sized pieces to swallow. And you get to see it in all its Gorn filled detail.
  • Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!: In present circumstances it's what Noah is reduced to. Mort will never grant him his freedom. The amulet of Rakkura will never grant him death.
  • Gorn: Most of the comic is pretty bloodless, but when Mort finally loses his temper and crushes Noah to death in his jaws, you get a nice close-up of the streams of blood and flecks of flesh between his teeth - eagerly licked up by the bloodthirsty Youkai.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the side comic Cookies and Karma, showing a loving close-up of a fire-demon's bloody, gore-soaked maw in the middle of an attack on a human village.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: A truly horrifying example. As long as the amulet remains bonded to Noah, he can't die permanently... but he remains in Mort's power. What the fire-demon does with his immortal captive has yet to be fully, seen, but the ending of "A Fate Worse than Death" does not bode well for our protagonist.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Mort's method of killing Noah was to literally bite him in two, then chew up the halves. Mercifully, all we saw is the moment his jaws came down on Noah and the aftermath, blood and flesh flowing out from between his teeth.
  • Hellish Pupils: A sure way to know you're boned is if the fire-demon you are facing suddenly lights their pupils a bright blue. That means fire-magic is being focused - on you.
  • Human Sacrifice: Not in the comic itself but not at all uncommon in this world, as the neighboring villages work to keep the fire demons appeased. At his mother's own shrine, the villages will leave Mort offerings. Some are fruits and pastries, which he enjoys (as long as they are fresh). Gold and gems are also welcome. Some are burnt offerings (candles and torches). And some are... unfortunate villagers.
    • If Mort is in an especially evil mood, he'll force the Human Sacrifice to carry the offerings back to his den before chowing down.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Most Imperial Fire-Demons are unapologetic man-eaters. They hunt humans for sport, swallow them alive, and quite enjoy their struggles and pleas for their lives afterward. These are not nice Youkai.
  • In Medias Res: The comic opens with a badly wounded Noah disappearing down the gullet of an Imperial Fire-Demon, with the words, "It wasn't supposed to end like this..." As everything goes black for our protagonist, Smash Cut to the real beginning, 9 hours earlier.
  • Just Eat Him: Subverted. This is how the fire-demons deal with pesky prey that wants to put up a fight, but it backfires spectacularly on Mort. Also his answer to the amulet binding to Noah, which works about as well as it did when Noah was wearing the amulet rather than bonded to it.
  • Living MacGuffin: Noah's sister, captured by a "monster," is what he's seeking, and what brings him and Mort together in the first place.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: The amulet. It both saves Noah's life and forces him together with his would-be devourer for a Road Trip Plot... followed by a situation in which as long as the amulet is bound to him, he can never escape his fate at Mort's jaws.
  • Meaningful Name: Mort. It means "death" and death is exactly what most get at the jaws of the Imperial Fire-Demon.note 
  • Meaningful Titles:
    • Chapter 1: Tiny Assassin. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, it introduces the Imperial Fire-Demon Mordecai and his prey Noah, who is the "tiny assassin" the title refers to.
    • Chapter 2: Deal with the Devil. It seems like hyperbole, until you realize just what Mort intends with Noah..
    • Chapter 3: Coiled. Where the Sentient Phebotium coils the fates of Noah and Mort permanently together by binding to Noah.
    • Chapter 4: A Fate Worse than Death. The "Groundhog Day" Loop Noah finds himself in because he can't die - but remains in Mort's power. And he quite intends to use it to his full advantage, as evidenced by the screaming at the end of the chapter...
  • Mexican Standoff: What Mort and Noah end up in after the amulet of immortality bonds to Noah. Noah can't be permanently killed but nor can he escape the sadistic Mort's clutches. Each has something the other wants, but is unable or unwilling to give it...
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Mort has the build, mouth and tail of a wolf, the forepaws of a rodent (with opposable thumbs), and the fangs, whiskers and body language of a Panthera Awesome. His snout and nose are like no Earthly animal at all, being quite bulbous (and quite sensitive).
  • Mood Whiplash: At Naji's cabin, what had previously been a fairly light Road Trip Plot turns dark incredibly fast when in rapid succession the amulet performs an Orifice Invasion on Noah to bond to him, and Mort responds by crushing him to a bloody pulp in his jaws right out of nowhere. Complete with Sickening "Crunch!".
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: A bizarre example. The hypotenuse is Noah, whom the Sentient Phebotinum takes a shine to after telling Mort to get bent. Upon being told that it can choose others, Mort promptly smashes Noah between his jaws in the hopes that murdering him will get the amulet to 'reset.'
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Mordecai. He considers human assassins sent to kill him to be breakfast in bed, and he's quite happy to burn the village that sent them afterward. He's not the nastiest one, though - that dubious honor goes to his mother Serefine.
  • No Name Given: For the first two chapters and part of the third, Noah (and the readers) are given no name for the man eating Youkai, until into Chapter Three, when Naji reveals his name as Mordecai.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Mort plays with this trope. Toward Noah he is made of spite and maliciousness, but in fairness Noah tried to kill him. Toward Naji, on the other hand, he uses a much lighter touch, and after Naji fulfills Mort's favor, Mort leaves him and his cabin unharmed.
  • Noodle Incident: When Mort pulls up to Naji's cabin, he declares that the raven "owes him a favor" and he's come to collect. How the two came to know one another is left unexplained.
  • Offing the Offspring: Mordecai's Ax-Crazy mother Serefine devoured some of her children, his siblings, leaving the little cub Mort to pitifully plead for his own life. This makes Mort have a very brief Heel Realization when Noah begs for his life in the same sad manner. Sadly, Noah's reprieve is very temporary indeed.
  • Oh, Crap!: Most of the first chapter is one long Oh, Crap!, as Noah gets further and further over his head. (See page picture). However, Mort gets one of his own when, on the edge of drowning in Mort's own stomach acids, Noah reveals he has the amulet Mort's been looking for for centuries — and Mort had swallowed it.
  • Ouroboros: The amulet of Rakkura. In addition to reacting violently to fire-demons, the snake motif strongly hints at the amulet's true nature, and why Mort wants it so badly: It's an amulet of infinite respawns. The one bonded with it can die an infinite number of times and always will come back to life, from any remnants at all.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Though referred to as Imperial Fire-Demons, they are not in fact hellspawn but are much more forces of nature, akin to Japanese Youkai. They are long-lived, but they can die.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Mort is fundamentally a classic fantasy dragon in fur, from the fact that he hoards wealth to the fact that villages perform Human Sacrifice to get him to leave them alone. There are a few differences, though. Mort doesn't breathe fire - he triggers it with his mind. His hoard is quite modest and he cares primarily about one Precious: The amulet of immortality. And, of course, he is every inch a mammal.
  • Predators Are Mean: Mort is a giant predator and absolutely embodies this trope. It's not enough to Just Eat Him and be done with it - he likes devouring his human prey alive.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Mort right before tossing Noah into his jaws and ending him.
    Mort (To Noah) You're really only good for one thing.
  • Road Trip Plot: Once Noah parleys a temporary partnership with Mort, the comic temporarily shifts to being this.
  • Sentient Phlebotinum: The amulet of Rakkura. It's wearing an awfully smug look after successfully repelling Mort, and when Naji asks it who it has chosen, a spirit snake pops up. It takes one look at Mort, hisses at him, then bites into Noah's shoulder and wraps itself around his throat.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Mort's answer to Noah managing to get his arm outside his mouth to try and hang on. Also his answer to being spurned by the amulet in favor of Noah. He crushes Noah to death in his jaws before walking away from Naji's cabin.
  • Shown Their Work: Even though Mort is a fantasy animal and resembles a wolf, his body language is quite recognizably feline - down to the annoyed tail-flicking that cats do. Lemondeer obviously did her research on cat body language.
  • Slasher Smile: Mort has a truly chilling one, and rather like his Evil Laugh, it means absolutely nothing good for whomever he's smiling at.
    Mort: You belong to me now. We're going to have a lot of fun together, you and I.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The cult of Rakkura worships the snake god who is completely immortal and bestows eternal life upon whomever its amulets bond with. Rakkura itself appears to be quite malevolent and only remains with Noah because his past failures denied the deity a mortal soul it previously bonded with. So now it punishes him over and over again.
  • Sore Loser: Mort may have a rudimentary sense of honor, but he is an incredibly sore loser. The moment he realizes the amulet chose Noah over him, he blames Noah anyway and smashes him to a gory pulp in his jaws.
  • Smug Snake: Mort's final words after destroying Noah are just oozing this.
    Mort: And that's the end of it. You're lucky I'm not in the mood for dessert, pigeon.
  • Spared, but Not Forgiven: If a potential meal proves worth something beyond their meat, Mort may spare them both Noah and Naji fall into this category - at first, but he does not forgive trespass in his territory - especially with the intent of killing him.
  • Suicide Mission: The goblin's simple "request" Noah is tasked with. There was no way anyone could expect him to come back alive facing down a magical foe the size of a small Kaiju, armed with only the equivalent of a pocket knife.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: After Ash sets his big brother Mort's tail on fire, Mort's other brother Rowan proceeds to absolutely die of laughter, while his big sister Saffron just sighs and rolls her eyes as Hilarity Ensues.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Played mostly straight after Noah's swallowed by Mort. He and the fire-demon have a fairly extended conversation, despite the rising acids and exhaustion of what little air came down with him. It eventually, however, runs out... right after Noah drops his bombshell. Whoops!
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Mort's final words to Noah at the end of Chapter Four.
    Mort: Shall we do some experimenting to find out just how the enchantment works?
    Noah: *commences screaming*. Smash Cut to end of chapter.
  • This Is My Human: Directly invoked by Mort, who has found the perfect chew-toy in hapless Noah, and will never allow the boy to escape him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Noah's response to finding out that he just got tossed into the deep end of the shark pool was to try to kill Mort anyway. It goes exactly as well as you'd expect.
    Mort (talking to his belly): You clearly came here with a death wish. I'm granting it. Now settle down and die already.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Noah's having the worst night of his life. Swallowed, spit up, chased down, swallowed again, half digested, barfed up, hauled across the forest, being used as a chew-toy by the Sentient Phlebotinum... And after all that, Mort blames him for the amulet's own choice and crushes him to pulp in his jaws. And that's just the beginning...
  • The Many Deaths of You: Since Noah cannot permanently die while the amulet of Rakkura remains bonded to him, and fire-demons can live for many centuries, he's going to get killed over and over again.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Mort used to be an a Moe little fluffball when he was a cub. Unfortunately his mother was The Dreaded (and Ax-Crazy) Serefine. With much of his childhood amounting to being Alone with the Psycho, when said 'psycho' amounted to a mad god, there's a reason that he became the monster we see in the present time.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Mort decides to throw Noah back up, he makes a bigger production out of it than a cat coughing up a hairball. It goes on for pages.
  • Wham Episode: The one that completely changed the comic's direction. Noah's revealing he possessed the amulet Mort had been searching for for hundreds of years, prompting Mort to vomit it, and Noah, back up and begin his quest.
  • Wham Line: Naji the raven, an expert in magical artifacts, delivers an absolute whammy to Mort:
    Mort: Has [the amulet] been tampered with?
    Naji: No, no. It has chosen another.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Invoked directly with Noah, who considers the amulet of Rakkura bonding to him and bringing him back to life repeatedly, a Fate Worse than Death, of course Rakkura is having none of it.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Mort in Chapter 4 is seemingly more than happy to let his prisoner Noah go...... only to hunt him down later and catch him.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When the spirit of the amulet chooses Noah over Mort, Mort's answer is simply to toss Noah into the air - and into his jaws. Cue Sickening "Crunch!".
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Mort finds the amulet he's searched his whole life for - but the amulet turns out to be Sentient Phebotinum and hates Mort, choosing Noah instead to bond to. Turns out the amulet of Rakkura also hates Noah, and is only bonded with him as punishment for a heinous crime.
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