On the beasts of this world
What would Aetherra be without its beasts? Well, our continent probably wouldn’t be much more than a postcard idyll and there would be little real challenges for bold adventurers. However, much to the chagrin of the plagued population, circumstances are different in our world because the Drift often changes the formerly familiar into terrible nightmares. And the longer the shadow of the Drift fall on the land, the bigger the number of the wandering horrors. However: only very few have ever survived a meeting with those creatures. This is why we only have a small number of eyewitness accounts. Of those monstrosities of which we have sufficient knowledge we gladly tell you about in our new bestiary which we’ll update regularly.
Note: You won’t encounter everything that you’ll see here in exact the same form on your visits to Aetherra. Some things are only concepts or ideas that need further elaboration. If you yourself are at times plagued by nightmares or if you have concrete thoughts of the entities you’d like to face in battle on your long travels to Aetherra: we gladly let us inspire by your suggestions. Just mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your wishes in the forum and discuss them with other UNBENDED supporters. We are looking forward hearing from you.
Coming soon to our Bestiary:
The Black Scartarius (aka driftbug)
Those that in days of bizarre changes travel through the old riverlands along the Enthuin should be prepared for all kinds of horrors and – especially during the night hours – only move with the utmost caution. But we strongly advice to find a safe shelter in time, as the twilight hour is the time of the Black Scartarius, a creature whose predatory greed is as enormous as the tremendous power of their fangs and jaw.
The Black Scartarius, or driftbug as some inhabitants of the old riverlands call them, belong to those monstrosities on which there are only reports in very recent times, however they occur more and more frequently all over the continent and are increasingly threatening the people of Aetherra. The Black Scartarius is a particularly repulsive creature whose downright ridiculous appearance could be an indication that this four-legged killing machines derive from a dimension far beyond the one we know. Some scholars, however, speculate that these new monsters could be beings that came into existence by unholy powers and that it’s precisely this energy that is capable of taking beings that are known to us and altering them into new life forms that seem to be so absurd that they no longer appear to be of this world, but rather like malicious caricatures of Aureth’s divine creation.
But no matter what caused the appearance of the Black Scartarius: The danger is real and only extremely well-prepared travelers will have a chance to survive a direct encounter with a driftbug. The high, strikingly long-legged insect body (an adult Scartarius can reach one and a half time the shoulder height of a Cambrian war horse) is covered with a nearly impenetrable chitinous hide and the monster’s backside is additionally protected by a heavy keratin armor that, to top it all, is studded with deadly spikes. The Scartarius moved with quick and precise leaps. The dagger-like claws at the ends of its extremities give him a perfect hold and make it easy for this night terror to overcome any kind of obstacle. Neither treetops nor defense tower are safe hideouts once the Black Scartarius has picked up your scent.
The anatomical oddities of the driftbug include its enormous eyes that are not like those of an insect and that are useful even in complete darkness, and a tail that not only ensures that this monstrosity is particularly good at balancing. There are also reliable reports that driftbugs use it to cling to heavy branches, before they, eventually, let themselves fall from that height onto their surprised victims.
The Black Scartarius kills its prey by poisoning. The huge teeth release a secretion that can completely paralyze a human within seconds. Once the victim is defenseless, it is seized with the jaw and dragged off, so that the driftbug can begin his gruesome meal in peace.
But even this creature is not invincible and its eyes appear to be a particular weak spot. Firstly, especially bright light is able to temporarily confuse driftbugs and deprive them of their orientation, and secondly, there are talks of a warrior who was able to kill a Black Scartarius with his sword by driving the steel deep into one of its vicious looking eyes. For those that aren’t as well trained with a weapon and those whose valor is less pronounced there remains – as initially mentioned – only one chance of survival if they meet one of these walking nightmares: the flight. And even then, great haste is strongly advised, as a Scartarius that has picked up a scent will follow its victim relentlessly – and for many miles. May Aureth in this case bless you with divine speed.
Those who travel throughout Aetherra know to keep away from the shores of many a body of water if they want to reach their destination alive. Though most of the nightmarish creatures of the beginning have long since disappeared from the Aether Seas, there often are accounts of monstrosities that regarding brutality equal the old creatures. In order to urge you to caution we’d like to draw your attention to the Cranguilla – one of those beings that only since recently prowl the Aether Seas, always in search of prey – with this entry to our bestiary.
The Cranguilla, which is commonly often called skull eel – some seafaring people call it the “swimming death” – is an incredible swimmer that is able to adjust itself to the form and speed of waves and current. You won’t see more than a shadow of the Cranguilla before its enormous body lashes from the water. But then it’s already too late, as the lethal creature needs no claws to catapult its victims into the spheres of doom.
Even though we don’t know much about the origin of the Cranguilla, it seems that it’s a descendant of the creatures of the beginning, a being from the family of prehistoric monsters that scholars call “archeas.” Their diet is not their prey’s flesh, rather the Cranguilla belong to the so-called soulfeeders. They envelope their victims in a kind of black fog that is apparently able to dissolve the soul from the body of the hapless victim, so that in the end the monster can just absorb it. All this happens so quickly that a human’s eye is hardly able of following the gruesome event. But this is far from the end of the terror the Cranguilla brings, as those deprived of their souls cannot die – that is due to the essence of the creatures that within the blink of an eye make living people into the walking dead.
Whoever heard of ghost ships that are more and more sighted off the coasts of Aetherra heard something true, as often the crew of those floating coffins fell victim to a Cranguilla. For those that taste of their essence turn into eternal beserker, ruthless, soulless, hating everything living and raging with blood lust.
Only few that have seen a Cranguilla with their own eyes could pass on their knowledge, for such fatal a meeting is seldom survived. It appears to be a creature with a length of up to 200 Imperial Cubits that resembles an enormous snake while its movement calls to mind those of an eel. Because of this and the fact that the head of a Cranguilla resembles a skeleton human skull that seems to smirk diabolically, the Cranguilla became also known as skull eel – an almost affectionate name for such a creature of complete darkness.
This skull, by the way, is not the weak point of the Cranguilla, as it’s known as impenetrable; even heavy naval guns are said to have been useless against them. From the monster’s skull looms a long blood colored horn that the Cranguilla uses to quickly and cleanly break up a ship’s hull than a dozen of Cambrian carpenters ever could. Its slim body is covered by a dense scale armor that gives this grotesque abomination a blue sheen.
There are no credible reports that ever people have managed to defeat on of this monstrosities, though there have been some people that have embarked on this quest, as Mera, the tyrant of Tal’Ad, has promised a true fortune in gold and precious gems to the one that brings him the head of a Cranguilla. This skull would certainly receive a place of honor in his renowned trophy collection in which he exhibits the remains of the worst creatures of the continent and the ocean – for hard cash, of course. However there are tales from the northeast of Aetherra that tell of a local mysterious people that traveled the Aether Seas from the earliest times and thereby found a way to understand the language of many ocean archeas and to communicate with them. As a result, they are said to have been able to banish such terrors of the sea from their coasts and navigate even in the darkest of seas. Who is this incredible people? Well, we swear we shall tell you that at a later date.
Unfortunately, there is also need for a little addendum, as it seems to be true that by now a smaller variant of the Cranguilla can be found in many rivers in the interior of the continent and has already found a considerable number of victims. These so-called “river skulls”, a relative of the oceanic Cranguilla, apparently are in no way inferior to their bigger cousins in terms of ferocity. So remember our warning before crossing any rivers.
The name of this creature sounds silly to you? Why don’t you tell them that in person if you get the chance? The bad news: crosses, garlic and wooden sticks won’t help you at all against these things. Neither will they, if the stories told are true, fall in love with cute, human female heroes. The bottom line is, Chasmvampires are simply formidable killing machines, blessed with great power and an admirable agility. These beasts aren’t really vampires in the strictest sense, at least not, if you look at dietary habits closely. Chasmvampires tend to tear into anything living that doesn’t belong to their own race, ripping it into handy pieces that they consume raw – and they do this quickly and with deadly efficiency.
Is there any good news? Well, in principle, yes, as the Chasmvampires can only be found at a single place in Aetherra. The cartographers among you will have already suspected where: of course, this place is the Chasm of Dimona, that can be found in the most outer southwestern tip of the continent. You could say: desert at the top, chasm at the bottom – that can’t go well. But it explains the name of these spear-toothed monsters. If it’s still not sounding threatening enough to you, you might consider the name that the inhabitants of the area close to the Chasm gave them: Hakkra Shizzar, which, freely translated, means “the darkborn.”
Are Chasmvampires a plague and a danger for the human settlements nearby? Only rarely. Chasmvampires can only survive in the specific micro-climate of the Dimona caves. If they are exposed to the conditions on the surface of Aetherra for a longer period of time, they perish. That doesn’t mean that these creatures never set out for smaller hunting trips, but rather that these trips are never particularly extended as they rarely move more than a few Cambrian miles from their safety of their refuge. That’s why the Chasmvampires at the utmost get a few careless travelers between their frightening fangs.
What do we know of the history of these monstrosities? Well, the accounts aren’t consistent, but it seems certain that the vampires are descendents from much older creatures that chroniclers count among the Creatures of the Beginning. It is said that Aureth did not manage to get a hold of every of his early creations again. Some of them withdrew to the Chasm of Dimona and hid there, deep in the impenetrable darkness of this place, until the Creator finally stopped his search. Here, deep underground, the realm of the Chasmvampires came into existence; a place that in peculiarity surpasses everything else in Aetherra.
Finally another bad news: There are things hidden deep in the chasm that are of elementary importance for finding an effective means against the effects of the Drift. Be prepared for a descent that few would wish for.
Frequently, the creatures that are created by the Drift arise from the deepest horrors of the sleeping. One of those is the nightmare. Manifested in the real world by the power of the Drift, the Nightmares are a deadly threat for anyone who meets them. Before the Nightmare starts his lethal attack with his claws and teeth, he likes to paralyze his prey by emitting his death cry. For the victim this starts a nightmarish ordeal as the Nightmare loves to torture his immobilized prey before finally killing it.
The Nightmare can be encountered throughout Aetherra. Nightmares are always solitary and they always attack from the shadows. They abhor bright daylight as it dazzles them lastingly. The spidery appendages of the Nightmares are covered by a robust armor that well protects them against physical attacks. Its eyes and mouth appear to be the Nightmares only weak spots. This is why an experienced close combat fighter or archers prefer to attack this places. Here time is of the essence though as Nightmares are able to quickly heal their own wounds.
Nightmares are very agile and quick, which has become the downfall of many fighters. They are also excellent climbers and not even the steep walls of a fortress can’t stop them. Though they are often immune to magic, they do fear the power of fire. Engaging a Nightmare into a direct fight is something only experienced warriors that already have won their spurs in battle should do. For anyone else the only alternative that remains is a speedy flight – or a terribly gruesome death.