It’s been a long time since last we spoke. My wife wanted me to express how sorry we were that you weren’t able to stop by Carinford-Halldon on your way through Mordent, we were so looking forward to having you here for a meal. No matter, though! We can always catch up with one another at a more opportune time.
I heard about that werewolf that you dispatched near Neufurchtenburg. You’ve become quite the effective lycanthrope hunter of late. The last hunter who pursued that lead erroneously attributed the work to a rogue flesh golem, and payed for his mistake with his life.
Such mistakes can easily be the death of an adventurer. While some abominations like the ancient dead, hags, or wererats are common enough that most adventurers are familiar with them, there are a number of monsters that are so vanishingly rare that most encounter them but once in their entire career, if ever at all. Since a little bit of knowledge can mean the difference between life and death, I’ve compiled a short list of a few such unique beasts for your perusal.
While wandering (lost, if I’m honest) in the Frozen Reaches, I and my wife had the misfortune to be captured by a tribe of nomadic humans. In exchange for our freedom, we volunteered to defeat the ‘great white goat’ of an enemy tribe, a fearsome beast which allegedly possessed great magical powers. Gwen and I assumed we were dealing with a druid whose magic gave them an overly fearsome reputation with the locals. Alas, the rumors were true: the enemy tribe was being controlled by a fiendish visitor from another dimension, an infernal elemental creature known as a rejkar.
Appearing as a great horned beast (I’ve read a few fragments of adventurers’ journals that describe rejkars as goats, stags, or reindeer) with black, gnarled horns, the rejkar is a formidable combatant, capable of killing any mundane human assailant with ease. More fearsome still is their spellcasting abilities: with the capacity to cast both heroes feast and fabricate, a rejkar is a master of dominating primitive societies in resource-scarce areas, controlling them through the promise of food, tools, or weapons that only it can reliably provide.
2. Moon Rat
When fishermen on lake Vallaki reported a series of murders, corresponding with the full moon, I immediately assumed the likely culprit to be a werewolf. Unfortunately, the novice adventurer I dispatched to deal with the threat was likewise found murdered, despite being quite capable of handling a lycanthrope. Believing that I was dealing with a local, occult-savvy killer merely pretending to be a werewolf, I journeyed to Barovia myself to sort the matter out. Although my questioning proved fruitless, the first night of the next full moon cycle found the killers coming after me, when the hovel of the fishmonger that had taken me in was burned to the ground. Eventually, I was able to track the killers to an abandoned fishing shack, where I discovered the population of intelligent rats that had taken up residence there.
Moonrats, as they are known, exist as mundane rats when the moon is dark. As that celestial body waxes, the rats grow in intellect and strength. By the time that the full moon rolls around, they are as cunning as any living being. Aware of their own peculiar time constraints, moon rats make intricate plans that can span months, or even years. Able to sneak into small spaces that others cannot, they can act as astoundingly good thieves, infiltrators, scouts, or assassins. Their lairs are often packed with fiendishly clever traps or impediments that pose no danger to the moonrats’ tiny frames, but woe to the adventurer who goes against them unprepared!
About two thirds of the way from Martira Bay to Necropolis there is a village named Lendel. When a mysterious letter signed only with an ornate letter ‘A’ arrived requesting that I investigate a number of odd occurrences there, I couldn’t resist the urge to acquiesce. Although the proximity to both the shelter of the nearby forest and the ruins of Il-Aluk would normally put the populace at a high risk of attack from the undead, virtually no such attacks were in evidence, only a few disappearances (and some extremely bizarre behavior by the locals). Of course, after it became clear that we were not just passing through, our investigation into the most deranged of the locals led us to a cult worshipping a giant worm-monster which called itself an avolakia.
The avolakia is a horrendous abomination, with no real-world analogue. Even viewing one can drive people mad (which explains the high occurrence of delusions and trauma disorders among its followers). Their motives are utterly alien, but the results of their machinations are always horrifyingly sinister. Peculiarly, they subsist on the flesh of the undead, making them a boon to some communities that are preyed upon by the unliving. Most insidious, they are potent necromancers and magicians, able to change their form and masquerade as humans; the individual we encountered had slain and replaced the mayor of Lendel.
4. Gray Shiver
When Damien Charpentier returned abruptly from merchant business in Darkon and rebuilt the ruins of Brumenoire Manor, there were whispers, particularly those inquiring as to how the lord had increased his fortunes so vastly. The Charpentier family’s wine business, although profitable, generated nowhere near that level of income. When local adventurers discovered that Charpentier had transformed himself (via dark magics unearthed abroad) into a lich and subsequently destroyed him, the locals were only to relieved to let the manor go vacant. When Gwen ventured there hoping to uncover some of the wizard’s arcane lore, she was perturbed to find the manor not only occupied, but staffed by subordinates who insisted their ‘master’ was still quite ‘alive.’
The pernicious little creature she uncovered is called a gray shiver: a mundane spider magically transformed after taking up residence in a deceased lich’s skull. Such vermin gain not only a great deal of unholy might, but the spellcasting abilities of the lich whose remains they now inhabit! Nearly as damaging is the knowledge which they inherit, which includes the layout of the lich’s holdings, the power structures of their organizations, and many of the details of the deceased mage’s insidious schemes, usually enough for the shiver to pick up right where the lich left off.
Most recently, while on business in Barovia, I called an old friend now serving as an advisor to one of the local burgomasters. At his behest, I investigated a number of vampire attacks on and around Lake Krezk. Local travelers had been lured from the road and fed on by a vampire seductress. A few had survived, but most had disappeared (or been found drained of their blood). My initial confrontation with the monster nearly proved fatal. Her powers of seduction were not the charming gaze of a vampire, but instead the mind fogging song of a siren. I had nearly submitted to her fangs before Gwen was able to snap me from my malaise, and the two of us were forced to flee our initial confrontation. Only by chance did we notice the odd patterns of mushrooms swirling along the banks of the Krezk and thus deduce that the creature we faced was not an undead, but one of the fae.
The glaistig, as it is known, is a heart breakingly beautiful woman who longs to fill the void in her soul. She calls out with a haunting melody, beckoning the unwary victims that might bring some warmth and comfort to her life, but to her eternal consternation their life and their affections soon turn cold in her arms, leaving her empty and needing to feed again. I’ve heard reports of creatures in Tepest and Forlorn that might potentially be such a woeful creature, but have yet to confirm them.
Although you are wise to still heed my counsel, you’re experienced enough by now to have had some encounters with lesser-known monsters yourself. If I were to write a longer treatise on this subject, which beasts do you think I should include? I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had regarding strange or unusual creatures. You can write me via the usual channels. Of course, if you’d like to make the trip, you’re always welcome to stay for a visit as well.
Safe travels and happy hunting,
Frankie Drakeson, Lord Mayor of Carinford-Halldon.
Rejkar, Glaistig - Monster Manual III (D&D 3.5e)
Moonrat, Avolakia - Monster Manual II (D&D 3e)
Gray Shiver (Dragon Magazine #343)
Jim Stearns is a deranged hermit from the swamps of Southern Illinois. In addition to writing for the Black Library, he puts pen to paper for High Level Games and Quoth the Raven. His mad scribblings can frequently be found in anthologies like Fitting In or Selfies from the End of the World, by Mad Scientist Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jcstearnswriter, or listen to Don, Jon, & Dragons, his podcast.
Picture Reference: http://themagictreerpg.blogspot.com/2008/11
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.