Legends of the Vale
The witchfolk are a persistent danger to the Vale, encompassing a number of creatures. They are said to be mortals who struck dark bargains with unspeakable forces, who cast forgotten, corrupting magicks, or who were consumed by their own sins. Jealousy, greed, vengeance or simple hatred can all be the spark that leads someone to become a witchfolk.
There are two broad categories of witchfolk: the cunning, hideous hags, and the brutal, powerful trolls. Traditionally, hags are female while trolls are male, but this owes as much to cultural perceptions of gender roles as it does to anything concrete. Certainly, both male hags and female trolls exist. Each witchfolk is a unique individual; they are not a race and cannot reproduce normally. A witchfolk is someone who made the choice to become what they are today.
Many witchfolk possess magical powers and arcane protections, but these always come at a cost. Some, especially hags, form all-consuming obsessions or strange manias; trolls may devolve into a bestial state over time. Many witchfolk have a unique weakness, often related to their personal history or powers. Witchfolk will not die of old age, but they continue to change and evolve over time, becoming less and less what they once were and more and more outright monsters. The oldest of hags resemble nightmarish fiends, while the oldest of trolls are huge, monstrous beings more like malicious animals than people.
Hags are characterized by extreme ugliness, appearing so by the standards of all the races. They possess hooked noses, glaring eyes, warts, wrinkles, unkempt hair, bony limbs, and crooked, clawlike fingernails. Despite their apparent age and frailty, hags are strong and tough. They are the most cunning and intelligent of the witchfolk, often possessing powerful magic and able to brew strange potions. Hags are schemers and plotters, weaving complex webs and never, ever forgetting a wrong done to them.
Trolls are large, bulky creatures with enormous noses and rough, stony or rubbery skin. Unlike hags, who often ape the conventions of civilized society, trolls are feral creatures who dwell in caves and dens. They are strong and tough, and capable of amazing feats of regeneration; and despite their size, trolls are stealthy and cunning. While they (usually) lack the high intelligence and magical power of their hag kindred, trolls are capable predators and should not be underestimated; their physical prowess is often more than enough to carry the day.
Curiously enough, despite their dangers, witchfolk are not always hated outcasts; some communities treat them as dangerous neighbors, to be watched warily but occasionally dealt with. Hags tend to accumulate enormous amounts of knowledge and lore in their long lives, and for a community without a competent hedge-wizard, a hag may be a valuable source of magical power. Trolls are susceptible to both bribery and flattery and often take a possessive interest in a given community, protecting them from outside dangers even as the troll takes advantage of the community’s resources. The witchfolk are dangerous and malevolent, but are usually willing to bargain.
Where the Dragon flies, serpents may be spawned. These deadly, reptilian creatures can take many sinuous forms, from small, venomous snakes to winged horrors that speak the tongues of mortals. They are believed to grow from the Dragon’s blood and spittle, though some breed true, and others have still stranger origins. Serpents may be large or small, cunning or dull. Some serpents partake of the Dragon’s keen mind and magical nature, and can be valuable - if unsafe - sources of arcane lore. Others are bestial and savage, dangerously cunning predators with no interest in anything beyond filling their bellies.
Known Serpent Breeds
Small and dull-witted, the cockatrice is able to turn a man to stone with a touch. Cockatrices vaguely resemble chickens crossed with snakes, and possess an instinctive cunning and a talent for ambushes.
The cockatrice’s larger cousin is the deadly basilisk, an eight-legged beast that can be longer than a horse. Basilisks possess a venomous bite, and can turn the unwary to stone with a mere glance.
River serpents are large, aquatic reptiles that can be found in the Vale’s larger streams and waterways. Possessing no magical powers, they are essentially dangerous animals; the largest varieties can take down a cow.
Among the largest known types of serpent is the winged wyvern, two-legged, dragonlike creatures with curling horns and a venomous stinger in its tail. Wyverns are known to haunt the foothills of the Dawnforge Mountains, and are equally happy to carry off livestock or travelers.
Wild but friendly blink dogs are known as the Traveler’s Friends. These fey canines resist all efforts at taming, but have been known to come to the aid of lost travelers, fighting off dangerous animals and leading the lost ones to safety. They are said to be the particular friends of halflings, and hurting a blink dog is a good way to find yourself exiled or worse.
Although blink dogs are benign, and occasionally helpful to travelers, the snarlyow is a different story. Appearing similar to a large and powerful blink dog, snarlyows are savage and vicious, exhibiting a sort of feline playfulness with their prey. They are capable of "blinking" like their more benevolent cousins, and can also disappear entirely. They are said by some to be cursed blink dogs.
In many ways the blink dogs’ opposite, the dangerous black shuck is a spectral black hound with glowing eyes, said to be a sign of woe and ill omen. They haunt highways and fields, often appearing beneath the full moon, and are known to chase travelers for miles. Misfortune always follows the sighting of a black shuck.
One final canine is the coin sith, or fey hound. Pale gray or charcoal-colored beasts, they resemble sleek hunting hounds of unusual size and are said to be the hunting-beasts of the Fair Folk. The eyes and teeth of coin sith emit an eerie green glow in the night, a terrifying sight. They can grow to enormous size, but mostly avoid mortals.
Tailypo is the name of a frightful beast resembling an enormous, fiendish squirrel with a long, luxuriant tail. Tailypos are mischievous and curious, but possessed of an incredible capacity for vengeance; if a mortal somehow offends a tailypo, the beast will track and torment them to the end of their days.
There are a number of creatures believed to exist in Nentir Vale and the surrounding lands: unique and powerful entities, told of in fireside tales. One such is the Dragon of the Dawnforges, a reddish-gold creature that breathes fire, the only true dragon in the region. Powerful and arrogant, greedy and wise, the dragon is said to respond well to flattery.
One particular wyvern, a deep brown beast with massive horns, is known as Oakhorn. Oakhorn lairs somewhere in the northern spur of the Harken Forest, emerging on rare occasions to steal a sheep. The venom of his tail is deadly, but he is usually content with livestock, so those who hear of him take cover until it is safe to emerge.
Another serpent-spawn is the Beast of Lake Nen, a monstrous water serpent said to dwell in the icy depths of the lake. Although rarely seen, its deep-throated, haunting calls can be heard from the lakeshore on moonlight nights.
A third is the so-called Lamdon Worm, after the gnomish family who first fought it. A dull-witted creature possessed of incredible regenerative powers, it can be cut to pieces and still live. Said to be fond of milk.
The Snallygaster is a flying monster, described as having the head of a crocodile with a sharp beak on a bird's body. A massive creature with a 25-foot wingspan, the Snallygaster is nevertheless a stealthy flyer, known to swoop down upon unsuspecting victims on moonless nights. It is said to have a peculiar hatred for wolves.
Deep in the Witchlight Fens, the Hydra is said to dwell: a monstrous reptilian creature with seven heads. The local swamp rat goblins swear that it exists, and will not stir from their pole-mounted huts for any money on nights of the full moon, when the beast roams the swamp.
A dreadful hybrid monster known as the Chimera is believed to roam the hills north of Hammerfast, a three-headed beast with the heads of a dragon, a lion, and a goat. Its origin is unknown, but tales are many. Some hold that it was cursed by the gods, or is their vengeance in mortal form. Others blame the dark goddess Tymath, or the witch-hag Black Anna.