• Fungus Lure

    Fungus Lure

    A carnivorous plant found only in the deepest of caves around the world, fungus lures draw in prey by imitating human speech.

    Category: Plant/ Caves

    History

    Fungus lures are rarely, if ever, depicted in any historic tales beyond speculation. Tales of people going searching in the mountains or cave systems and never returning are often blamed on more exciting creatures and villains.

    Traits

    Fungus lures are bio-luminescent fungi that usually have the appearance of cave moss or occasionally small mushrooms. They generally glow blue or green, and are often home to other small cave creatures, creating pockets of life in the darkest of caverns. The visible portions of the fungus will only cover a small part of the ground, while its roots and feelers may extend for great distances and even cover an entire cave system.

    It will shrivel and die if exposed to any form of light for very long, even artificial lighting, so can only be studied in darkness. Therefore, there is limited information on its’ appearance beyond its glow. The lures’ smell has been described as ‘fresh’ by those that have encountered it, as though one was standing near an opening in the caves and was about to be back in the open air. The lure apparently tastes of nothing in particular, and is not poisonous but not overly nutritious to most species.

    The lure is entirely cannibalistic, growing on and then feeding from corpses of anything that has died in the caves in which it lives. In many cases, the fungus is merely opportunistic; there are plenty of other species living in the dark, and all things must eventually die. The fungus lure spores can live many years as dried out dust on cavern walls waiting for the right circumstances to let them grow.

    But the lure lives in very isolated caverns, the better to avoid the light of the sun and of creatures that create their own light. Its’ habitat and feeding patterns being so at odds, the fungus lure has developed a method of aiding it in feeding. Besides the scent, which draws lost travelers towards it instead of leading them out of the caves, the lure has a more direct ability, that of apparently calling out in a human voice.

    This is done by a variety of vibrations through the cave walls, using its own extensive root system to create a semblance of an echoing voice. No matter how close one gets to the fungus itself, the voices it produces always sound distant and like an echo, to lure anyone listening further into the caverns. Some reports indicate it shouts for help, others that it apparently calls the listeners name, like a search party. A few reports indicate the voices sound familiar, and at last one case mentioned that they thought they heard barking, when they were searching for their lost dog. It is unlikely all of these cases are true, as the fungus does not appear to be a species capable of thought, and in any case has no way to hear a name or word and repeat it. The variation in what people hear is generally assumed to be wishful thinking or hearing what one expects to hear rather than personalized lures.

    Once a potential victim has been drawn in deep enough, the fungus changes tactics, exuding a chemical that induces drowsiness and exhaustion. It works slowly, but unless the victim manages to leave the fungus’ region of caves, they will eventually succumb to the fumes, and sleep. If they sleep, they will not wake up; the chemical is lethal. Once the victim is dead, the fungus will release its spores to latch onto the body and begin to grow. They will feed off the body until it is entirely consumed, bones and all, with the fungus growing over the body to spread feelers and creeper roots on the walls and ground of the cavern. When the body has been consumed entirely, it will once again begin luring new food to it.

    There is evidence that the fumes the fungus gives off to kill its intended prey also aid in the decaying body providing more nutritious food for the fungus, as the bodies that the fungus killed itself appear to provide a home and food to the fungus for far longer than bodies that died in other ways. As an interesting note, magical creatures that also live in caves do not appear to make good food for the fungus, and appear to be at least partially immune to it. Kobolds are not only immune, but often eat the fungus as a delicacy, and some communities farm it by feeding it meat and carcasses from the surface. The belief is that the fungus needs the nutrients available from the surface but cannot itself tolerate the sun, so takes them from its victims, thus it prefers other species that live in the sunlight.

    Weaknesses

    The fungus is most dangerous when traveling alone or without a light. Always carry a light when exploring, even if you are lucky enough to have cave-dweller night vision, and whenever possible have a partner or group. The fungus begins by making its’ prey confused, so keeping a level head, a map and a light on you is the most important factor.

    If you find the fungus, which can be recognized by its’ glow, turn around and go back the way you came. If the fungus is visible enough to be glowing, you are in the center of its extensive root system and are being poisoned by the toxin it exudes. If you are fast enough, you may escape without long term effects, but you will likely feel ill and nauseous for some time, especially when exposed to sunshine.

    Finally, pay attention to what you can smell. Fresh air is usually the sign of being close to escaping a cave, but if you should be nowhere near an opening, or it seems too good to be true, be aware that you may be being led further into the dark.

  • Sirens

    Sirens

    Native to the Mediterranean, the siren is an oceanic creature that lures sailors to their deaths against the cliffs.

    Category: Aquatic

    History

    The most well-known legend of the siren is the tale of Odysseus. In this tale, the crew has to fill their ears with wax to ensure they cannot hear the sirens’ call, while the captain Odysseus tied himself to the mast so he could listen. Unlike the modern depiction, in this story the sirens did not sing to lure him in; they instead told him that they had news of his homeland and his family, who he had not seen in many years.

    Traits and Behavior

    Sirens are an exclusively female species found in warm ocean areas, living on coastlines and cliffs. They have a variety of appearances, with the one consistent trait is the face and head of a human woman. They can fall into three main categories of appearance, with some overlaps, and all three will live in large communal groups.

    The first group is similar to a harpy, part human and part bird. These sirens usually have the head of a human and the remainder of the body is avian, but there are some sirens that have human arms and a birds legs and tail. Their feathers are generally neutral colors, similar to seagull and albatross coloration, and are usually water resistant. Some sirens can fly, but many have only vestigial wings. A small number of harpies also have beaks or a beak-like jaw, but this appearance is rare. They prefer to perch on taller rocks above the water.

    The second group closely resembles classic mermaids, with a humanoid upper torso and the lower body of a fish. Unlike the mermaid, a siren’s tail will be that of an eel or shark, and will not have a scaled appearance. The separation of the two parts will be in coloration only; the siren’s skin will be the same on all parts of their body. They spend most of their time at least partially submerged, leaving their torso and upper body exposed for their lure. Their tail is usually in tones of grey and blue, and their upper body will have any range of human skin tones.

    The last group is the most human in initial appearance, taking the form of a woman with no unusual physical traits. However, up close, sirens will often have eyes resembling a cuttlefish, and they will have a mouthful of sharp, needle-like teeth. While human in appearance, they will always have gills and can live comfortably underwater.

    All sirens will have what appears to be long hair, usually dark in color, that acts more akin to a jellyfish’s tentacles, and can distribute a sting to their prey while the prey is enraptured by their call. While they are famous for targeting humans, they also hunt a variety of fish and even seabirds if they are available. They are exclusively carnivorous.

    Sirens lay eggs in large clutches, with only a quarter surviving to hatching. The eggs are laid in communal nests, and are raised by every member of the flock. Any mature adult siren can lay eggs, and as there are no males they do not need to be fertilized. Sirens often form romantic bonded pairs or groups, and usually remain in the same flock they are born in. If the flock becomes too large for their area, a group of younger sirens will leave to set up new grounds, but they will often visit their family.

    Sirens live by luring ships to crash into the rocks on which they live, and salvage both food and supplies from the wrecks. They will eat the sailors, as well as any food that was on board, and they greatly enjoy salvaged items like jewelry or clothing. Their homes, carved into the cliffs or even built from the remains of ships, are often decorated with salvaged items mixed with shells and rocks found at the bottom of the ocean. Sirens cannot swim too deeply, and stay in shallower water, but they often trade with deeper sea creatures for items that they gather on land. While sirens rarely go far from their cliffs, they will collect feathers and dry flowers that can be found nearby.

    To lure sailors, sirens will often sing or call out to them as they pass. The siren’s voice is hypnotic and will lure people in. Survivors report hearing beautiful music, secrets or things they want to know, even being seduced by the siren. It appears, however, that the siren call is whatever the listener wants to hear, thus the wide variety of reported sounds. Sirens themselves do not hear the hypnotic qualities of their voices, so they often sing their own songs, and are singing in their own language, not any human one. They also enjoy singing underwater, which usually sounds like whale song.

    Sirens can live for up to 200 years, and the oldest of the oldest flock are considered the chief. Beyond death, the flock can collectively remove a chief from their position through a vote, which exiles the former chief to a lonely rock side. The flock may visit to care for them, but they will not be allowed back to the flocking grounds to avoid a power struggle. To do this is rare because of the severity of the punishment for the former chief; more often the other flock members will form an informal council to limit the chief’s power if they are abusing their position or are no longer capable of leading.

    When a siren dies, their body fades into sea foam and they disperse into the ocean.

    Weaknesses

    Sirens do not actively attack anyone unless they get close enough to use their hair to incapacitate their victim. Their true threat is their voice, and therefore the best way of staying safe is to block their voice out (as in the Odysseus example of wax in the ears). If they cannot get you to come close, they will move on to another target rather than pursue.

  • Manticore

    Manticore

    Originating in Persia, the manticore is a cat-like creature known for imitating humans and luring them into the wilderness to be killed and eaten.

    Category: Forest/Nocturnal

    History

    The manticore is a kind of boogeyman or legend used to keep people, especially children, from wandering deep into the woods and jungles. They are known to entirely consume the bodies of their prey, so their victims are never found.

    Traits and Behavior

    Manticores are felines, similar in size to a jaguar or leopard, and some species have spots and markings that can be mistaken for these other big cat species. Their coloration varies depending on the region they live in, most often in shades of brown and grey for camouflage.

    Their face highly resembles the face of a human, an older man with a long beard that is in fact the manticore’s fur and small mane. They have humanoid eyes, with rounded pupils instead of a slit one, and the colors are usually brown. Most have heavily furred eyebrows that further give the appearance of a human face, not a feline.

    The manticore’s tail is a unique physical feature, as it is sparsely furred, mixed with long spines that can be shot out or used to stab others. The spines are poisonous; one spine is enough to take down a fully grown human or similarly sized animal. The poison isn’t lethal at that volume, as the manticore prefers live prey, but it will cause complete paralysis that can last for hours. The spines lay flat and aren’t always visible unless the manticore has their tail flared; this has resulted in manticores being mistaken for jaguars or other cats until their face is shown.

    The fur and spines of a manticore are incredibly valuable items sought by poachers and collectors, and are believed to give strength and immunity if worn. The fur is known to be surprisingly rough even without the spines.

    Manticores can make a low calling sound that resembles the sound of a clarinet or bassoon, and has often tricked people into thinking there was a settlement or other people in the area and follow the sound deeper into the woods. The sound has been described as mournful and alluring, compared to the call of a siren. While animals are usually scared away by the noise, humans report an inescapable desire to find the source of the noise, and even a great longing to seek out the sound. The manticore has also been mistaken for a person from a distance, their face peering out of trees or the underbrush. A few humans said the face specifically resembled someone they knew, though this is not always mentioned.

    Once the manticore has either ambushed or lured their prey out, they typically use their spines to immobilize them, then eat their prey live. Their jaws are capable of dislocating and can often eat the entire body in a single sitting, before hibernating for weeks at a time to allow for digestion. Because of their size, they only occasionally seek out humans as prey, but they are opportunistic if the chance arises.

    Manticores are largely solitary, living alone in dens made in fallen trees or caves, and may go months without seeing another member of their species. In the spring, a male manticore will travel to find a female, and if they mate will remain throughout the pregnancy and early infancy of the kits before returning to his own territory. Manticores are not necessarily monogamous, but compatible couples will more often than not go back to each other every mating season.

    Manticore kits are born without their poisonous spines, in groups of four to five on average. The spines will begin to grow in at around 6 months, when they also begin to learn to hunt. They are raised by their mother for their first year, then will slowly move out as their hunting skill improves. Females may stay longer than males with the mother manticore, but only by a few months.

    Manticores are carnivores, hunting animals like deer and birds. Besides their poisonous spines, they have a secondary set of teeth to hold potentially struggling prey until the poison takes hold. They eat all parts of their prey, including the bones and fur, leaving no sign of their existence. This is part of the reason they are blamed for the deaths of so many people, as anyone missing in a manticore territory. They usually sleep for days after eating, going down to rest in their hidden dens.

    A manticore can feasibly live for 50 years, if they survive their first three years away from their mother. Young manticores are the primary targets of poachers seeking their fur and spines. Older manticores are deemed harder to hunt, primarily because they sleep longer between kills and are therefore harder to find.

    Weaknesses

    The poison from a manticore takes effect within a few minutes of being struck, and lasts for several hours depending on volume injected and body weight. If you are hit, the manticore is likely to kill you while you are unconscious. The best bet is to wear clothing intended to keep the spines from being able to reach your skin, if you will likely be interacting with them.

    The manticore’s other danger is the call that so inexplicably lures people in. It isn’t intended to be a lure for people, it in fact is a sound that is meant to call to other manticores, but the effect it has on people is clear and dangerous. How strongly it effects a person seems to vary, but there is no safe way to know how strong your resistance is. The safest way of handling the situation is to always go into the woods in a group, and to constantly check with each other. The effect is not lessened this way, but a manticore is more likely to retreat if a group comes thundering through the underbrush towards it.

  • Soul tree

    Soul tree

    A deadly, parasitic plant, the soul tree exists in two dimensions simultaneously and infects people in their sleep.

    Category: Apparition/Plant

    History

    Soul trees are not a well documented species, as the deaths they cause are difficult to attribute to them. Many cases of people dying in their sleep are speculated to be caused by soul trees, but once the host has died there is no way to confirm. They are primarily documented in recent studies of the metaphysical plane, which does not account for many tales or legends.

    Traits

    Soul trees start as a small seed, about the size of an apple seed. The seeds exist in two planes of existence; the real, waking world, and the astral plane. The astral plane can be accessed in a wide number of ways, including some drugs and meditations, but is primarily accessed via dreams. While the seeds do exist in two places, they will only sprout and begin to grow if they are consumed by a human (or other intelligent species) while in the astral plane.

    To accomplish this, they will appear as a wide variety of fruits in the astral plane, to entice dreamers and travelers to eat them. The seeds in the physical world are housed in bitter, poisonous fruits, and so fall from the tree largely untouched by anything. They will sit dormant unless the astral version of the seed successfully begins to grow.

    The seeds will take time to grow, aided by both the physical nutrients of the body they reside in, as well as the continued access to the astral plane. People who only reach this place during sleep may never produce enough energy for the seed to sprout, but continued travel there will allow the plant to grow faster. If the seed successfully becomes a sprout, it moves to the next phase of its lifecycle.

    As a sprout, the soul tree directly feeds on their host. In the physical plane, the sprout grows and appears normal, with smooth grey bark and small, rounded leaves with a single point. They are often mistaken for apple trees, and some have even been grown intentionally by people who aren’t aware of their origin. The fruit will not grow until they reach several years of age.

    In the astral plane, the roots begin to spread through the dreamers’ form, widely regarded as the soul, starting on the inside of the body before making their way to the outside from any number of openings. As this body is not technically physical, the soul can continue to move around and have no issues for a long period of time, allowing the sprout to continue feeding and growing.

    Eventually, the sprout will either grow too large for the soul to continue moving, or will overtake the soul’s ability to continue feeding it without issue. At that point the soul becomes immobile, stopping where it is on the astral plane as the soul tree roots spread past the body itself to the ground. In the real world, the sprout, now a proper sapling, will possibly start growing fruit.

    The soul, unable to continue moving or returning to the body, will cause the person to sink into an immobile sleep resembling a coma, and cannot be woken up. They will eventually die, but the tree, with its’ roots now established in the ground in the astral plane, will continue to feed on the body until it is completely consumed. The persons face is often still visible in the bark in either form of the tree, the only obvious sign of the soul tree’s existence.

    The tree, once it has killed its’ initial host, can live up to 100 years. The physical tree does not need to be anywhere near the host person.

    Both the spiritual tree and the real one are tied together, and the death of one will be the death of the other.

    Weaknesses

    The part of the tree in the physical realm is as vulnerable as any plant, and if it is killed the parasitic branch in the infected soul will also die. If caught early enough, the host will survive and recover, though they may carry long term symptoms of fatigue and insomnia. The sprout in the astral plane cannot be physically harmed until it makes its’ way out of the body, but at that point is far harder to remove without killing the host.

    The issue is the finding of the sprout, as it can be anywhere in the world. In order to find the tree, one needs to find the sprout within the astral realm, which can be used to track down the physical one. The full process requires a complex tracking spell, so is better left in the hands of an expert.

    To confirm if a person has been infected, the easiest way is to check their breath while they are in the astral plane. While their spirit is there, their breath in the real world will smell of rotting fruit, and they will be lethargic and more tired every time they sleep long enough to dream.

  • Moon Drops

    Moon Drops

    A rare and extremely delicate flower found only during the full moon, these plants can grow anywhere in the world.

    Category: Plant/Nocturnal

    History

    Moon drops are associated with the fae, often appearing in faerie circles and at their feasts and celebrations. They are also associated with prophetic visions and the future. Traditionally, a potion made with moon drop blossoms can assist the drinker in seeing the future.

    Traits

    Moon drops are small white flowers that grow in clusters low to the ground. They glow in the dark, and in dark enough situations the petals show additional glowing patterns, though these aren’t always visible to normal human eyes.

    They can grow almost any place in the world, being incredibly tolerant of both heat and cold. They are usually found along paths or in grasslands, but can also be found in forests, deserts or even city sidewalks. Moon drops are difficult to kill, as their root systems go deep, and they are fairly resistant to weed killers. They prefer places with a large amount of light.

    To bloom, moon drops require moonlight. They will absorb the light over the cycle of the moon, blooming during the full moon. The blossoms will die by the time the moon has waned to a half, and the plant will go dormant and appear to die entirely for a year and a day. At that point, the leaves will sprout again, and the cycle will begin again. Moon drop flowers live for three to five years.

    Moon drops can provide prophetic dreams if properly distilled. Making a tea or even wine from the petals will give the drinker visions in their dreams, which can be hard to interpret. Using the roots will provide a stronger, clearer vision, but the concentration can be addictive, and drinkers will often struggle to separate past, present and future. This stronger drink has been used by prophets and oracles, and consuming it for long enough will result in permanent prophetic abilities, but these cannot be turned off or ignored, so this is not recommended. The leaves do not have any prophetic properties, and are in fact highly poisonous.

    Moon drops are often sought out by the fae, who may set up party grounds around places where the blossoms grow. The fae are largely immune to the effects of the prophetic visions, only receiving a mild euphoric sense of the future, so moon drop wine is a popular beverage at these events. It should be noted that a human drinking this wine at such an event will likely have hallucinations instead of dreams, as it is impossible to sleep at a fae party.

    Many other magical species seek out moon drops for their prophetic properties, mostly other nocturnal creatures such as pooka. They often eat the blossoms outright, which has a strong but very short effect on some species (humans will not experience this).

    Moon drops spread their seeds at the full moon, which resemble dandelion seeds with a mild glow. They can survive for many years before landing and rooting.

    Weaknesses

    Moon drop flowers can be killed if they are deprived of light (sun or moon) for a full moon cycle. If you have them growing somewhere you don’t want them, or are concerned they will lure in something dangerous, cover the plant entirely with a bucket or tarp.

    Consumption of moon drop tea or wine made from the flowers is not dangerous, though people who consume it long term are known to become more attuned to the magical world. This can be a benefit or a detriment, depending on your perspective. This effect will fade over time if you stop drinking either substance.

    Tea or wine made from the roots is addictive, and the effects can be permanent if the drink is consumed for long enough. As the visions this will produce are vivid, uncontrollable and will increase in length and frequency over time, neither root wine or tea should be consumed. The visions will, however, be clearer and less up for interpretation.

    The leaves of the plant are poisonous in all forms, and should not be handled directly. The poison acts as a paralytic, stopping the heart and lungs. It can be stopped with immediate medical attention, but is usually deadly. For this reason, it is highly recommended that any plants growing in a yard or personal property should be killed.

  • Kelpies

    Kelpies

    The kelpie is a Scottish water creature, who tricks humans into joining them in the water to drown and eat them.

    Category: Aquatic

    History

    Kelpies are water spirits known for drowning their victims after enticing them to follow them. This is usually in the form of a horse or person, convincing the person to follow them into deeper water. Kelpies are carnivorous creatures that will eat their victims after drowning them.

    They are more often found in rivers, and are generally depicted as male. They are often associated with the fae.

    Traits and Behavior

    Kelpies are born when someone drowns in a large body of water. They are not technically the ghost of the drowned person, but an amalgamation of the energy of the death itself and the water. When born, they are small, and usually appear as a small, jelly like creature that scavenges on the bottom of the water. As it feeds, it grows, until it is able to shapeshift.

    Adult kelpies are shapeshifters but favor the form of a horse (or other riding animals, depending on their region) or a person. Whatever form they take, they are always black in color, and their eyes are either yellow or gold. They often glow. Their hair is always dripping wet, and usually has weeds or water plants stuck in it.

    Kelpie skin is naturally sticky, and can even suck things into it somewhat, which the kelpie uses to trap their prey once they make contact. There does seem to be some control over this, as the kelpie doesn’t have things constantly stuck to their skin. The effect is so strong, however, that the only survivors have had to cut off the body part attached to the kelpie.

    This skin texture is due to their body not truly being made of muscle and flesh, but instead the jelly substance that their younger form appears in. They can shift and squeeze into any opening, no matter the size.

    Kelpies live in the body of water they are born in, and only travel away if necessary to hunt. More often, they will just expand their hunting territory to account for their growing need for food. They have no issues being out of the water, but live in underwater caves or crevices and have fully functional gills. Kelpies are carnivorous, and almost exclusively hunt humans. If there is a lack of food, they may hunt other animals, supernatural creatures, or even other kelpies.

    To hunt, smaller kelpies may take the form of a small animal or child, appearing to drown to lure others into the water to help. At which point they will drown and kill their would-be rescuer.

    Adult kelpies will often walk along the shores of their home and entice people to attempt to ride it, even kneeling on the ground to assist if anyone approaches. If someone takes up the bait, they will immediately run into the water and drown their rider. Pookas often use similar methods to lure riders, but pooka are not hunting and usually will allow their rider to leave if they were able to hold on.

    Kelpies may also take the form of a human, luring humans to join them alone near their shores to drown them. They usually use seduction to do so, showing no preference for any particular gender or even age. Kelpies themselves have no gender, though they usually appear in male forms when they shapeshift.

    Kelpies are technically immortal, not aging once they reach adulthood, but they can be killed by various means, and at which point they change back to their jelly appearance, and will dissolve over time into sludgy pond water.

    Weaknesses

    If you can get a saddle and bridle on a kelpie, they will not be able to drown you, and can be ridden safely. However, once the bridle is removed they will immediately attempt to kill the one that rode them and any of their loved ones, so this is not recommended.

    Kelpies can supposedly be killed by a silver bullet or blessed weapon.

  • Pooka

    Pooka

    Originally native to Ireland and the British Isles, the pooka (also spelled phouka, or pĂșca) is a mischievous shapeshifting spirit tat has been known to both help or hinder anyone who comes across it.

    Category: Fae/Shapeshifter

    History

    The pooka in myth is a trickster, who could be dangerous but is more often depicted as mischievous. Over-ripened food in the fields was intentionally left out to feed the trickster and keep it from pranking the community. Some old harvest festivals include leaving food in the fields, and the pooks is associated with some Samhein traditions.

    The character Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream is believed to be a pooka.

    Traits and Behavior

    Pooka are shapeshifters that can be born into any shape depending on the parent’s current form, and there is no known limit to how long they can hold a form or even if there is a limitation on their form at all. However, there are some common characteristics that can be used to identify them in most forms.

    Pookas will always retain their natural coloring in any form. While they can come in a variety of colors, they are most often black or white, with occasional markings that will also translate between forms. These markings can be placed anywhere on the body. Their eyes can be any color, but will have the pupils of a goat regardless of their form, and they are often iridescent. They have naturally great night vision, and are primarily nocturnal, but not exclusively.

    While pooka can shift into almost any form (there is speculation about a maximum size or weight, but this has not been substantiated), they often default to a few forms: a horse, owl, or fox. In horse form, the pooka has been known to lure people to try to ride it, then going for a wild race across the land, even into other realms and dimensions, before returning the rider to where they started. They may give a rider a reward for surviving the ride, but be wary, as kelpies often use this trick as well, but they will always drown their victim instead. The reward isn’t likely to be worth the risk in this case.

    Pooka are solitary, usually choosing to live on the outskirts of settlements but only making contact on occasion. When they make contact, they love pranks and to enact punishments on anyone who they deem to have committed some slight. Slights can be anything from a spoken insult, to damaging the environment (or worse, the pooka’s home, no matter if the person was aware of it), or stealing anything of the pooka’s, such as the remainder of the harvest left in the fields. Their pranks can be malicious and even deadly; there are some tales of pooka intentionally hunting down certain people in the woods alone, and it is possible that they eat them afterwards.

    They prefer the woods, but will also live in any available wilderness. Due to their preferences for berries, they are commonly found in areas where they grow. Their nests are built in either caves or tall trees, and may hold small trinkets or belongings.

    Pooka are fae, and therefore often live in the fae realm instead of the human one. When in the human realm, they seek out half-rotted food left over from the harvest, often grain or berries, to eat. However, they will happily accept fresh milk, honey and bread if offered. Giving them food is a sure way of winning their favor, or at least avoiding their pranks, but offering anything more substantial is a risky venture. Some will take such offerings as an insult, others will happily accept and even offer a boon as repayment. The best course of action is to avoid making any such offerings, but if you are insistent on doing so, asking the pooka if you can be permitted to make such a gift is the least dangerous way of doing so.

    Pooka, when not attempting to trick a person with their shapeshifting, will often be happy to chat with anyone that offers a pleasant conversation, and can speak regardless of the form they are in. They value intelligence and love riddles, and may offer advice or information in exchange for a good riddle or story.

    How, exactly, pooka courting goes is entirely unknown. No infant or young pooka has ever been confirmed to have been seen. Current speculation is that they are born and raised in the fae realm, and only leave once they reach adulthood. Even fae communities in the human realm have no reported pooka children or apparent couples. There is speculation that pooka are born via some other means, possibly asexual reproduction or through some magical means that renders childhood moot. No pooka, when asked, has ever offered any information on this topic. They seem to find the topic amusing, rather than offensive, and tend to immediately ask about how humans court and are born instead.

    Pooka do not have any obvious magical abilities, but are very intelligent, and offer excellent advice when they are inclined.

    Weaknesses

    As with all fae, pooka are weak to iron, and cannot stand its direct touch. In tales of pooka taking people for wild rides (while in the shape of a horse, generally), iron spurs are the best weapon. They will likely not approach at all if one is carrying an iron weapon or key.

  • Basilisks

    Basilisks

    Originating in ancient Greece, the basilisk is the king of serpents and snakes. Its’ venom is incredibly lethal, but it is best known for its’ gaze, which can kill anyone that makes direct eye contact.

    Category: Grasslands

    History

    First written about by Pliny the Elder, the basilisk as believed to be a rather small snake, only about a foot in length, with incredibly potent venom that dripped continuously from its fangs and would kill any plants or animals that came across it on the ground even hours later. It was believed to be hunted by weasels.

    Traits and Behavior

    Despite Pliny’s claims, basilisks are large snakes, reaching upwards of twenty feet when fully grown, and may indeed never stop growing as they age. Their scales are unique, taking on a dull, dusty color to camouflage amongst grasslands during the day, but becoming an iridescent blue-green at night. They are capable of hunting in both the day and night, but are generally nocturnal. Their eyes can range widely in color, favoring browns and reds, though the full spectrum is not known, as no witnesses can make direct eye contact, and film/photography immediately degrades. They have a large spiked crest over their eyes that has given them the nickname ‘King of Serpents.’ Despite the title, basilisks are genderless, and other snakes largely avoid them.

    Basilisks are hatched by a chicken from the egg of a snake or toad, which can take months to hatch. The reverse, a chicken egg hatched by a toad or snake, will produce a cockatrice, a bird-like creature with similar attributes. The basilisk as an infant will not harm its adoptive parent, but as they age have been known to see the chicken parent as a potential food source. They do not linger after birth, as they are almost immediately independent and capable of hunting small prey for themselves.

    Basilisks at hatching are only a few inches long, and do not gain their iridescent adult scales for their first three sheddings. The basilisk sheds its skin once a year for their first 5-8 years of age, then shed progressively less over time. With each shedding the basilisk grows in length, and by the time they have reached 10 years of age are generally 3-5 feet long.

    Basilisks do not develop their full killing gaze until they have reached adulthood at 8 years of age. Prior to this, their gaze can numb or temporarily paralyze prey, though larger animals are more immune. Younger basilisks use this to hunt, catching small insects, rodents and lizards as they grow. Older basilisks more typically hunt without this gaze, as they prefer living food.

    Their gaze at adulthood will kill any living thing that makes eye contact with them, there are no known exceptions. The death will be instant, and to all examinations will appear to be without cause. Most basilisk deaths are put down to heart failure. Beings that are already dead, such as banshees, ghosts or vampires, have demonstrated a temporary paralysis or weakness when exposed, and some have been destroyed altogether, whatever magic or energy that bound them to sentience dispersed entirely.

    Basilisk venom develops in potency around the same time as their gaze, but it is not lethal except in extremely large doses. Instead, the venom has a paralyzing effect, ranging from a few minutes to hours depending on dosage. Adult basilisks use this to subdue their prey before eating.

    As basilisks continue to grow, they need to seek out larger and larger prey, often targeting hooved animal herds. They are ambush hunters, using their camouflaged scales to hide in tall grasses and between hills. Between meals they sleep a great deal, digging shallow burrows in the ground to rest in. Their scales are hard to penetrate and few species are willing to risk catching their eye for a meal, so they do not always bother seeking out shelter to rest. They are cold blooded, so their habitat is purely in warmer zones and they rarely travel unless they are seeking food. Even so, they show a strong preference for the area they were born in and often go back as soon as there is food again available there.

    Basilisks can swim, and choose to hunt for fish instead of land prey. They cannot breathe underwater, but can hold it for several minutes, and they can move rapidly in the water.

    Basilisks rarely seek out humans as prey, regardless of some legends, and generally see humans as a potential threat. They will attack if provoked, but will only seek out humans for food if there is nothing else available. Some research in this direction suggests they don’t care for the taste. Humans meanwhile have been known to hunt basilisks, partially for the safety of their herds and communities, and in part because basilisk scales are highly valuable, as they make nearly impenetrable armor and shields.

    Basilisks have decent night vision, but primarily rely on infrared vision that shows them heat pockets surrounding living beings. During the day they use their sense of smell, which can pick up their prey from great distances. This enables them to hunt without the use of their eyes in most cases. Their gaze is primarily for defense, allowing the basilisk to retreat without being pursued.

    As basilisks do not breed together to be born, they do not lay eggs or present any kind of mating behavior. They are capable of smelling another basilisk at great distances and will avoid entering each others territory when possible. Basilisks can be killed by another basilisks gaze, so fights between them are generally over with quickly. Basilisks largely exist in solitude, largely, but have been seen resting amongst other species between meals and during their resting periods.

    Basilisks get slower with age, as their larger size takes up more energy than they can supply, and spend longer and longer periods of time sleeping as they get older. Eventually, they will simply be unable to support their own size and pass away. Their bodies are often harvested for scales and fangs, as their venom is a natural paralytic and extremely sought after, but the ground on which they died will be toxic for some time. Eventually, as their bones break down, the ground will once again support life, and often a number of toads and snakes can be found living in the remains. Some speculate they are somehow born from the bones themselves, but this has never been proven.

    Weaknesses

    Basilisk scales are extremely dense, but can be pierced through with enough force. An easier method is to take out their eyes or stab through the much thinner flesh of the inner mouth. Basilisks are generally immune to poisons, being venomous themselves, but a high enough dose can at least slow them down if they ingest it. However, as they prefer living prey over dead, it is extremely difficult to introduce poison into their system. They are more vulnerable when sleeping, as they do not have particularly sharp hearing.

  • Grim

    Grim

    The Grim, or church grim, is the specter of a large black dog that, if seen, is an omen of death. They originate from British legend.

    Category: Apparition

    History

    The Grim is associated with both English and Scandinavian folklore, though in Scandinavian stories the Grim is not always a dog, often appearing as a lamb or crow, though other animals have also been seen. The belief at the time was that the first body buried in a graveyard would rise as protector of the souls buried there. An animal was usually buried first to ensure a human soul wasn’t trapped serving at the graveyard permanently.

    Traits and Behavior

    A Grim is a spirit that takes the form of a black animal, usually a dog or canine. They are, as legends portray, the first creature to die in a graveyard. If the first death is humanoid, they will not form a Grim, but appear to be reborn as another creature. Not every graveyard will birth a Grim, and not all Grims are born in a traditional graveyard; any burial site can theoretically generate a spirit.

    They will always be black furred, scaled or feathered, regardless of the coloring that they had prior to death. A Grim will be larger than their previous species, but not abnormally so; some speculation is that they are literally covered in grave dirt, and that this is what lends them their dark coloring and additional size. Their eyes will glow, usually white or yellow, and they have excellent night vision. They are almost entirely nocturnal, but have been seen during the day during storms or in fogbanks.

    The Grim lives within the graveyard they are buried in, and will protect it from all perceived threats, which can vary dramatically. The one consistent thing is that the Grim will not bother or approach someone mourning at a gravesite. They will chase off anyone that is trying to damage or disturb the graves. Should any ghosts be present in the graveyard (even if they were not buried there), the Grim will also guard them, and will fiercely fight anyone attempting an exorcism. They do not generally interfere in genuine attempts to assist a spirit in moving on, so their behavior seems to be based on intention.

    To defend its’ territory and charges, the Grim can cause physical harm, usually attacking as any animal would, or calling living animals to harass a trespasser. This is why dogs and crows are particularly popular choices to try to create a Grim. They are reported to cause fear and paranoia to anyone near them as well.

    The Grim can kill someone to protect their graveyard, but ironically if they do so, they will protect both the body and spirit of that person if the death occurs in the graveyard. This will remain true until the body is buried elsewhere.

    The Grim is a death omen, though they do not intentionally cause death. The Grim will be visible to anyone who will soon enter its’ protection; essentially, anyone who will be buried in its’ graveyard. Unlike some other omens, the sighting of the Grim is a guaranteed death, as only the shadow of death allows the sighting in the first place. Even those with the Sight or other supernatural abilities to sense spirits and magic cannot see the Grim itself. They may perceive something is present, but an actual sighting is not possible.

    This does mean that if the Grim will kill someone to protect their graveyard, that person can usually see them right before death. This fact could be why the Grim is believed to cause the death of anyone that sees it, though it isn’t uncommon for death omens in general to be blamed for the deaths they predict.

    Grim spirits do not appear to communicate with each other or anyone else. How aware they are of others or even if they know they are dead is very unclear, as is their general level of intelligence. They appear smarter than average members of their species, but this is difficult to confirm, as they cannot truly be interacted with except by those who will soon die.

    To tell a Grim from a normal animal, there are a few ways to tell. The first, nobody else will be able to see it. If you are alone, another method is to approach the Grim directly. The Grim will not appear to ever get closer or further away, but will not otherwise react.

    A report written by someone who saw the Grim (written a few days before they died) indicated that the Grim got closer and closer as their death approached; the first sightings were from a great distance, only just visible. By the last few days it had gotten close enough to see its eyes. The report indicated that it did not appear to breathe, and while often visible in places it should not be able to get to, it never went indoors. It also never responded to them, no matter how close it got, and was never even looking at them directly. The writer speculated the Grim was in fact there to protect their soul prior to death, and found some comfort in that. Please note that it is unknown if this is accurate to the Grim in general, this one in particular, or merely wishful thinking.

    Some believe that whoever sees the Grim is escorted away by the Grim. As no-one can see them, this is something that cannot be verified.

    Weaknesses

    The Grim cannot, or at least will not, go out during the day unless light is obscured by fog, storm clouds or possibly smoke. It is equally possible they are always around and just cannot be seen in bright light. Although it is not known if the sight of the Grim guarantees death, or if only those who cannot escape their fate can see the Grim. Therefore, avoiding seeing the Grim may not accomplish anything except not knowing how much time is left.

  • Loch Ness Monster

    Loch Ness Monster

    The Loch Ness monster (or Nessie) is, as the name suggests, a creature that lives in the depths of the Loch Ness, a large body of water in Scotland. Believed to potentially be an ancient dinosaur species, Nessie has lived in Loch Ness for centuries

    Category: Aquatic

    History

    The earliest stories about Nessie date back to the 6th century, depicting a generic ‘water beast’ that was repelled by the sign of the cross. More specific stories come from the 19th century, wherein numerous travelers and locals alike saw a strange beast in the water. The variations of what, exactly, Nessie looked like were broad. Some depictions were of a sea serpent or fish-like creature, others of a four legged beast with large claws and teeth. Eventually the image of Nessie settled on a four legged creature, that was either a reptile or amphibian, capable of swimming at incredible speeds. Most depictions are from a great distance.

    Traits and Behavior

    The Loch Ness monster is a creature related to sea serpents, but is of the fresh water variety and is therefore incredibly rare due to the limited number of water bodies large enough to house it, and due to human encroachment on their territories. Nessie may in fact be the last of their kind, as no more than one of these creatures have ever been seen at any time. Due to the rarity of freshwater varieties, some information has been gleaned from their salt water relatives.

    This species is entirely aquatic, living exclusively in large bodies of water and rarely surfacing. Freshwater serpents made their home in large, deep bodies of mostly still water. It is believed some previously made their home in the Great Lakes of the United States, though none have been seen for sure in centuries.

    Serpents are quadrupeds, with four flippers and a long tail used for fast propulsion through the water. They are large, over 8 feet from nose to tail and very strong, capable of dragging down an entire ship alone. Their scales are typically green or occasionally grey, with darker scales along their back and hump, and thick, capable of tolerating the damage from a boat propeller. They are carnivorous, with a jaw full of sharp teeth that regrow constantly. As they are aquatic, their diet is exclusively made up of fish, though they have been known to occasionally sink ships. Despite this habit, they rarely eat any humans or animals they drown.

    Their habit of sinking ships seems more tied to their extreme dislike of the noise a ship brings, even prior to the invention of modern engines. Ships and watercraft that are not targeted nearly as often as ones in motion. It is possibly the noise of humans themselves, or perhaps a defensive mechanism against human fishing habits, as they rarely go after swimmers.

    Females are larger than males by a noticeable degree, at least two feet longer on average, and have a second set of teeth behind the first, intended to break down food smaller to feed to their young. There are no visible color variations, but it is speculated that they may have a UV light component, which has not at this time been recorded. Nessie, the only one witnessed in Loch Ness specifically, appears to be a female.

    Female serpents can lay eggs with or without a male partner, the latter of which will only produce female young. The eggs can survive almost indefinitely without hatching, waiting for the correct circumstances. The Loch Ness criteria for this is unknown, but as Nessie is only ever seen alone, it appears that at this time this has not occurred. It is also possible tat Nessie has laid no eggs, or is herself infertile. If so, she may be the last of her kind, as she is the only known sighting in the last century in any freshwater region.

    Nessie is most active at dawn and dusk, rarely seen during the day or at night. During these times she is likely sleeping or possibly hunting, and may only surface at those times to avoid humans. Based on her size and seawater relatives, she should be able to dive to depths of 600 feet. Several searches and scans of the loch have been done to search for her, but have never been successful, suggesting she is either very talented at avoiding humans searches, or may possess some other camouflage abilities that have not been recorded. Speculated options have been a literal camouflage similar to the octopus, or being able to adjust her body temperature to match that of the water around her.

    Nessie’s species of sea serpent is believed to live for 500-600 years. Nessie herself has been observed far beyond this timeframe, with early sightings in the 6th century, so it is likely that there have been a number of Nessie ancestors in the loch.

    Weaknesses

    Nessie, unable to swim through the River Ness and reach any other territory, and very likely the lack of her species, is only a threat if you go out on the water and disturb her. We have little information on how durable she herself is, but based on her salt-water relatives, nothing short of a whaling harpoon will cause enough damage to kill her.

    However, unless she lays eggs, or Loch Ness reaches the opportune temperature or chemical composition, killing Nessie would be destroying the entire species. Which should be avoided if at all possible, and as there very few deaths within the Loch due to Nessie, should be no issue.