Beasts of the Desolation
A humming sound, unlike anything the weary travelers had heard before, started as soon as they entered the hot and uncomfortable cave. Kalun, who sounded very tired for that part of the trip, had a grim expression in his face. "Uh-oh. Bad choice. We'd better get out of here," he whispered, as he didn't want to be heard by anyone but Stahn.
"What is the matter?" Stahn asked, holding the escaping kender's arm. He was tired of all the times the afflicted kender sounded startled after seeing harmless insects and plants along the way. But it seemed the question was more serious that time. "We chose the wrong cave to enter.", the kender whispered again, a little softer this time, with a sigh. "Remember when I told you about insects that can kill a man with one blow? Well, it seems that you will be able to find out by yourselves. We entered their lair..."
The Desolation is famous not only by its lord, the Great Malystryx, and its hostile weather, but for the terrible beasts spawned by the terrible land shaping that the Red Dragon Overlord used in the once fertile lands of Kendermore and Goodlund. Monsters and other creatures were altered as well as the terrain, and now some of the deadliest creatures in Ansalon roam the mountains of the Desolation. In this article you will find statistics, descriptions and adventure hooks for 4 of these terrible monsters.
When the first Knights of Takhisis offered their loyal services to Malys, they brought the first packs of brutes to the Desolation. Some of the brutes didn't resist the harsh environment and had to be slain. But some of the members of that race become so aligned with the environment that their very nature was altered by the Desolation. These brutes gained more strength and stamina to survive the heat in the Desolation, but their intellects suffered as they became closer to Malys's will control.
These brutes can easily reach 7 feet in height and their bodies are very strong-built, unlikely most brutes in Ansalon. Another basic difference is that these brutes don't use their blue war paint anymore: they rely on the Desolation red mud to cover their bodies. The mud works in the same fashion as the blue ink, but only for these brutes - any Ansalonian brute using the mud won't gain any benefits from it. The brutes in the Desolation rely more on their claws than on weapons, and the massive damage caused by their claws is due to their impressive strength.
The Desolation brutes lost part of their race's natural grace as they gained more strength. However, they are still able to incapacitate a target before one is even aware of their presence. They usually hunt in groups of 4 individuals, and they serve only the Red Dragon. They don't have a good tendency towards other brutes or other civilized races. A Desolation brute always fights to death.
Adventure hook: A group of brutes is found dead by the heroes in the borders of the Desolation. They were slain with extreme violence, and they have cuts and bruises caused by very strong creatures. Will the heroes find out that the beast who killed the brutes was a territorial Desolation brute?
A Fire Stirge is good example of a creature corrupted by the evil of the Desolation. Once normal Stirges, these insects changed with the lands, becoming terrible examples of Malys's dark powers. They look as normal Stirges, just unusually larger than its kin and with shiny red chitin hide covering all their bodies. Their leathery wings are sickly purple, and the beak present in the ordinary Stirges are inexistent in the Fire Stirges.
These giant insects live in caves all over the Desolation, feeding on game and other beings stupid enough to enter their lairs. Unlike its kin, the Fire Stirge is carnivorous, and they crave on soft kender meat. Packs with up to 20 Stirges live in hot caves, usually connected to the fires of the volcanoes in the Desolation. Their eggs are used by raiding parties as a source of flaming oil, but they are unproper for human consumption.
Fire Stirges usually attack with their breath weapon, a gust of flame that causes 10 points of damage up to 3 targets at once, and then they use their fangs to slaughter their target. Its fangs have a powerful poison that drains the strength out of a target's body, and its bite is usually lethal for small game and ordinary human beings. Fire Stirges have excellent senses but are not smart animals: they can use their vision and hearing to hunt down a target, but they can be easily fooled into traps and other strategies. Intelligent parties will realize that the best way to get rid of the Fire Stirges is using brains instead of pure fighting ability.
Adventure hook: The heroes seek shelter from a dragon in a nearby cave in the Desolation mountains. Besides the heat and the strong sulfur smell, the heroes have to deal with a worse problem: they entered the lair of a pack of Fire Stirges! They have to fight their way out and face the dragon, or deal with the fearsome insects in battle for a shelter!
A Desolation Elemental is a fearsome view. It is a monster of living burned rock, breathing fire and with red cinder eyes. It stands about 10 feet in height and 5 feet in lenght. Its strong hide is made of jagged rock and it appears to have small fissures between them, as if it was dry soil.
These magical beasts are summoned from the essence of the Desolation, not from any of the Elemental Planes. It has a strong connection with Geomantic and Pyromantic magic, but it is a different creature than the Earth or Fire Elementals. Malys and other Red Dragons summon Desolation Elementals to destroy and corrupt fertile lands. Desolation Elementals live only to serve their master's bidding.
Desolation Elementals attack with their powerful blows or employing both Geomantic and Pyromantic magic. However, they suffer damage from water and air alike, and ice is also known to cause great damage to Desolation Elementals. Any attacks using water, air or ice cause double damage to a Desolation Elemental. They also seek a way to return to the Desolation, if they are summoned somewhere else: a Desolation Elemental will always try to corrupt its orders to find an excuse to return to the Desolation. The secret for creating these elementals is well kept by Malys and her loyal servants.
Adventure hook: A Desolation Elemental may only be summoned by someone with strong ties with the Desolation, as a Red Dragon allied to Malys or Malys herself. Anyway, a runaway Desolation Elemental may cause a lot of damage on any environment, and it may be up to the heroes to stop it before it is too late.
The terror of the Blood Sea after its magical maelstrom was soothed by Chaos is the Desolation Serpent. This creature (or creatures, but not more than one has even been sighted at once) is a giant red serpent with a long, spiked mane on its back. Its face resembles the one of a small dragon, and it can reach up to 60 feet from the tip of its spiked tail to its head. The creature is strong enough to turn a ship around, and its destructive power is known by sailors all over Eastern Ansalon.
A Desolation serpent usually spends its days in search of schools of fish to feed upon. Its terrible hunger forces the creature to wander the waters of the Blood Sea in constant search for food. The Serpents are very territorial and hostile towards ships and other life forms in its area (which could explain why two Serpents are never seen together). They developed extreme resistance to heat and fire, becoming even immune to Pyromancy.
When attacking, a Serpent tries to drive the enemy away with tail blows, using the poisoned tip on its tail to kill its enemies. If the enemy resists, it tries to attack with its fangs, usually swallowing smaller targets or biting into the hide of larger targets, such as ships. The Serpents are very vicious, attacking even sea dragons and other great creatures that enter its space. It usually fights until the enemy is destroyed or driven away, but it flees when the enemy is more powerful than itself.
Adventure hook: Some sailors in the Blood Sea say that Malys is sinking the ships that pass too close to her territories. They speak of a terrible beast, strangely serpentlike, haunting the Blood Sea, and the heroes are forced into action when the ship they are traveling is attacked not by a dragon, but by a Desolation Serpent! Will the heroes die by the hands of the Serpent or will their ship be damaged by the surprise attack? And who's responsible for such a terrible beast?