Monsters and Villains
Brigands & Bandits
Perhaps the most common sort of “monster” is the typical brigand. Men and women, often faced with few other choices, take to a life of banditry in order to survive. Many soldiers desert from the Maldaran army and become bandits. Likewise, many Maldaran farmers lose their land to tax default and must either become bandits or starve to death. In addition, the Maldaran Empire often hires large numbers of mercenaries for short periods of time, only to release them a few months later. As a result, large groups of armed and dangerous men suddenly find themselves jobless and homeless.
Although most such bandits remain to plague the empire, a fair number seek easier targets in the Duchy of Anderland. Although there are fewer targets of opportunity in Anderland, there are also far fewer soldiers and patrols, and the laws are not quite as severe when dealing with captured bandits. As a result, Anderland (especially in the southern half of the realm) suffers from brigand raids and highway robbers.
Overall, standard practice is to hang any bandit captured in the act; suspected bandits are also likely to swing from the hangman’s noose. In Anderland, however, captured bandits usually receive a (brief) trial and are not subject to torture or “donation” to the Church of Bane.
One of the most infamous brigands is a woman known as Nythia the Red. Although her brigands are not necessarily the worst, they are the most effective and difficult to track down.
Thieves, bandits, and their ilk represent a relatively known quantity. They seek wealth, and, more often, food and other necessities of survival. All but the most foolish or intractable brigands are typically open to bargaining and accepting “protection money” in exchange for leaving a victim or community alone.
Marauders are another matter entirely. These invaders are barbaric savages with no sense of honor the way civilized folk understand the concept. They sweep in by land or by sea, attack without warning, loot and rape without mercy, and then kill to sate their bloodlusts. In many ways, human marauders are just as destructive and fearsome as orcs or other humanoid raiders. These barbarians cannot be reasoned with, they do not strike bargains, and they do not respect truces. They live for the thrill of combat, and they kill without hesitation.
In the region of the Duchy, there are two primary groups of human marauders, and only one of this group routinely strikes against Anderland, as described below.
Gothar Raiders: Although the people of Gothar live some distance from the Duchy, there are times when their raiders pose a danger to coastal communities. Overall, the Gothar raiders concentrate their attacks against the Cadean Marches and the Theocracy of Paladanthis. On occasion, a particularly ambitious warlord may lead an incursion into the Duchy. Although such attacks are often violent and destructive, the overall impact tends to be small – the Gothar lack the numbers and resources to launch full-scale attacks as far as Anderland. These barbarians are not the equal of the Uthnal Reavers in terms of savagery, but the Gothar have been known to bring with them their trained war wolves – cunning, feral creatures that (according to legends) are actually werewolves, not true animals.
Reavers of Uthnal: These ruthless savages are among the most dangerous, brutal, and feared creatures in the entire north. When a raiding party of Reavers arrives in an area, there will soon be many casualties and much destruction. According to many legends, these foul marauders eat their prisoners alive. They culture revolves around destroying all other cultures, offering sacrifices to their demonic gods, and sating their insatiable bloodlusts.
Most Reavers sail east from the Dominion of Uthnal at the start of spring. Their sleek ships hug the coastline, landing when they find a vulnerable fort or village. Once they disembark from their ships, they swarm over the defenders with unearthly savagery. Given their lethal prowess, the Reavers typically overwhelm all opposition in mere minutes. With that, the butchery truly begins. Most victims die on the spot. The least fortunate become prisoners and are trundled back to Uthnal. These victims are never seen or heard from again. The fact that most Uthnal believe that eating their enemies grants them enhanced strength, it is not difficult to guess what happens to their prisoners.
In combat, the Reavers are merciless warriors. When they enter the berserker fury, they feel no pain and experience no fear. They fight without regard for defense, throwing everything into a relentless series of attacks. Most people cannot hope to survive such an onslaught as from a veteran Uthanal Reaver.
Taragen: Sometimes referred to as the “Mudrunners” or as the “Swamp Rats,” the Taragen belong to an ancient human culture that predates the founding of the Duchy. These people live within the Targen Moors, surviving off the land and raiding as necessary. For the most part, they keep to themselves and avoid contact with outsiders. Unfortunately, they have been known to practice cannibalism (although they technically never eat their own kind) both from a religious perspective and as a means of survival. Worshippers of Torog, these debased creatures are furtive, dangerous, and unreliable. Fortunately, they lack the numbers to pose a significant threat to the region beyond the Moors. Roving bands of Taragen hunters are most dangerous right before the start of winter – when they need fresh sacrifices to offer to Torog.
As with virtually everywhere else, the lands of the duchy are constantly plagued by humanoid marauders. Goblins, kobolds, orcs, gnolls, and other creatures live in the deep forests, foothills, and desolate places of the region. For the most part, humanoid cultures form small tribes. An individual tribe may pose a threat to the local area, but seldom do two or more tribes of the same race cooperate or band together. Every generation or two, however, a particularly powerful humanoid or other monster demonstrates the strength and charisma necessary to forge multiple tribes into a larger army. When such a warlord rises, the free people of Anderland must once again defend their homes and fight for their lives.
The following humanoids listed are the most frequently encountered around Anderland. For the most part, local militia, aided by the Wardens and the Pathfinders, keep populated areas safe from humanoids. The farther from main civilization one travels, however, the greater the humanoid threat becomes.
Gnolls: Fortunately, relatively few gnolls live in the region, with most of the gnoll clans clustered throughout the Harrow Hills and the Goliath Heights. Although relatively few in number, individual gnoll clans can inflict considerable damage during their raids. Gnolls are canny, tenacious fighters. They are also infamous for making use of trained beasts to fight for them. Although most humanoids can rightfully be called bloodthirsty, gnolls are the most savage and bloodthirsty of all.
Goblins: These small, relatively weak humanoids are not much of a threat individually. When gathered with their tribe, however, goblins become dangerous. Fortunately, they are cowardly creatures who prefer quick raids and stealth to outright attack. Hobgoblins often use goblins as slaves and menial laborers.
Hobgoblins: Overall, there are only a few small hobgoblin tribes in the vicinity of the Duchy. These creatures are easily the most organized and efficient of all humanoids. Hobgoblin tribes are organized much like a military force, and their society is based on law, obedience, and duty. In combat, hobgoblins are the most tactically-minded of all humanoids, and also the most likely to wield good quality weapons and wear decent armor. For the most part, the handful of hobgoblin tribes keep to themselves, protecting their territory from intruders.
Kobolds: Small, wiry, and cunning, kobolds are of limited threat individually. When they work together, however, they become extremely dangerous. In melee combat, kobolds are poor opponents. Thus, they prefer to use poison, traps, and ranged weapons to eliminate their enemies. Most kobold tribes avoid civilized regions, and they rarely attack well-defended outposts. By the same token, kobold underground lairs are extremely dangerous to intruders, and a direct assault on a kobold lair is almost guaranteed to suffer high casualties.
Orcs: Although not the most numerous of creatures, orcs certainly represent one of the most dangerous humanoid races. Orcs are strong, tough, and extremely resistant to pain, injury, exposure, and even blood loss. In combat, a single orc can usually overcome a strong human. Orcs are not typically highly intelligent, but they demonstrate considerable cunning, especially during combat. Once they enter a fight, they become savage and brutal fighters, often overcome by the blood frenzy. Orcs can survive horrific damage and still keep fighting; many veteran warriors have made the mistake of assuming a wounded orc was down and helpless. Orcs also breed quickly in conditions that seem impossible. Overall, orcs possess an overpowering instinct for violence. If they cannot inflict violence against enemies, they inflict it against their weaker selves. The appearance of an orc war band, even a small one, anywhere in the Duchy is cause for serious concern.
Orcs are the ultimate scavenger creatures. They prefer not to forge or fashion weapons and armor of their own; instead, they steal what they can and scavenge the rest. Thus, an orc warrior is likely to enter combat with a patchwork suit of rusted armor while wielding anything from a spiked tree branch to a blood-stained meat cleaver.
Thicket Goblins: These small and relatively inoffensive creatures are not truly goblins; it is widely believed they are distant relatives to fey creatures such as the faeries. Thicket goblins are weak, cowardly, and extremely good at mimicking whatever they see. They have no understanding of possessions, and are thus viewed as inveterate thieves. They can get along with most other creatures, but they are not terribly bright overall. Most people consider them nuisance creatures, although some people view them as good luck charms. Orcs in particular enjoy eating thicket goblins, preferably with a spicy blood sauce.
Despite the best attempts of the Duke’s enforcers, a number of dangerous and predatory monsters lurk in and around the Duchy. In general, these are single creatures or a pair of creatures—and on rare occasion a small group of beasts. Overall, such dangerous creatures live far from civilization and pose no serious threat to villages and farms. In times of harsh weather, drought, or widespread famine, however, monsters become bold and begin intruding on civilized lands.
The Blood Wraith: No one knows who (or what) this murderer is, or where he originated from. Most people have heard stories about his horrible crimes and his capacity for inflicting pain and death. In the city of Andersgate, the Blood Wraith is all too real. He has plagued that city for more than two decades. Every few years, the Wraith returns and commits a series of related murders over the span of a week. His appetites apparently sated, he vanishes, only to return several years later to restart the cycle. The Andersgate constabulary and the guards of the ducal palace have tried for years, without success, to track down and stop this infamous killer. Over the years, more than a dozen individuals have been captured on suspicion of being the Blood Wraith, with a dozen more having (falsely) claimed to be the killer. The Blood Wraith is known for his calling cards: he always leaves the murder instrument at the scene of the crime, he always leaves a bloody handprint on the victim’s face, and he mutilates the bodies but not the faces of his victims. This creature seems uninterested in wealth or status; it attacks rich and poor with equal fervor.
Esme Saell: The infamous poisoner of Tjaia, Esme is legendary for her knowledge of poisons and her remarkable ability to concoct the “right brew for the right person.” A number of stories suggest she works, on retainer, for the Maldaran Intelligence Service (which, conversely, allows them to keep a close eye on her activities). She most frequently works on individual commission, and it is said she has no qualms about selling whichever poisons her clients demand. Ironically, numerous accounts suggest she appears no more than 18 or 19 summers of age with a dangerously alluring beauty. Of course, these same accounts presume this is naught but a magical guise or glamer.
Gideon Thane: The legendary (some would say infamous) witch-hunter and demon slayer, Gideon Thane is widely regarded as one of the most lethal, reactionary, and insane men alive. He has spent the better part of three decades in and around Anderland in a never-ending hunt for witches, cultists, demon-worshippers, and the Blighted. He absolutely despises Banites, and he holds nothing but contempt for the Maldarans. Unfortunately, he inflicts his zealous beliefs on civilians whether they deserve it or not. Wherever Gideon looks, he invariably sees enemies of man and servants of dark powers. Many years ago, Gideon Thane served the Lightbringers, until his actions earned him excommunication. Since then, he joined a small order known as the Malleus Maleficarum—the Hammer of Witches. Whether he is right or wrong in his pursuit of evil, he often kills, burns, and maims everyone in his path. Unfortunately, he has proven difficult to locate and even harder to kill. Rumors tell that he possesses a magical talisman that prevents him from dying.
Hagen Richter (male human, age 44): The man known more commonly as The Butcher is something of a legend in and around the Duchy. His name is mentioned to frighten small children into behaving, and it is used by bards to grab the attention of their audiences. Twenty some years ago, Hagen was an infamous brigand plaguing the roads and villages of Anderland. On the night of the Night Dragon’s attack, Richter led his brigands into Andersgate to take advantage of the chaos and confusion. In the midst of fire, destruction, and death, these cruel men looted and plundered abandoned homes and hapless refugees. Had Richter committed no other crimes, these would have been sufficient to warrant death by hanging. Unfortunately, Richter and his band of cutthroats became filled with bloodlust. Whether they were possessed, overcome by dark magic, or simply consumed by the violence of that night, the brigands began murdering and then eating their victims. They tortured and maimed several people, and killed others. By the end of the night, the brigands fled Andersgate with their stolen treasure. Although it took time, the Pathfinders and Wardens of the Duchy eventually tracked down and captured Richter. His men suffered death by hanging. Richter, however, escaped before his execution. He has remained at large ever since. Every few years, new stories arise about Richter – stories that never have a happy ending. Whether he is truly still alive or if only his legend lives on remains uncertain.
The Horned Man: Many people in Anderland believe the Horned Man is nothing but a figment of myth and folklore, although such an individual may have existed in past. The Council of Druids has categorically denied that the Horned Man still lives. According to the druids, they put this creature to death more than sixty years ago, ending his villainy. According to folktales, the Horned Man is some sort of primal nature spirit, but one that has been corrupted by dark forces. He warps and taints all that he touches, and his mere presence instills those around him with chaos. Animals are terrified of him, and only insects are willing to remain in his presence. He can control the weather, although stories suggest he only used his powers to inflict drought, floods, or cruel blizzards. He can travel freely from one tree to another, regardless of the distance between them. His gaze afflicts his enemies with tumors, twisted bones, malformed limbs, and insanity – his “gifts” to all. Stories suggest that a primal cult, the Children of the Beast, worships him as a god. This cult reputedly sneaks into households to steal children; such victims are warped and raised to serve the Horned Man. Again, the druids of the Council stress that the Horned Man existed (although he was no god or spirit), but they put an end to him many decades ago.
Ironhelm: This infamous orc warlord wields considerable power and influence within the Northwald Forrest. Not only does he reportedly wield a potent magic morningstar and possess the strength of a frost giant, he enjoys the protection of a cadre of troll bodyguards.
Morgahl Bloodsworn: A goliath warrior and former member of the Death Titans Legion. Morgahl was captured at an early age by Maldaran slavers and turned over for training with the Titans. For a time, she excelled within that unit. She quickly became dissatisfied with the discipline, obedience, and lack of freedom. She became one of the few goliath to ever desert from the Titans successfully. She fled to Anderland a little more than six years ago and has been hiding within the Duchy ever since. Unfortunately, she has spent much of that time as hired muscle, serving as a thug to brigands and raiders. She often spends the winter in a small village, living off the locals until spring thaw. By the time she departs, most of the villagers have succumbed to starvation or her wrath. She is known as a cruel, merciless, and sadistic warrior. The Duchy has a price on her head, but to date has been unable to capture her.
Nythia the Red: According to the stories, Nythia started her life as a beggar in the empire. She never knew her father, and had the dubious honor of watching a band of mercenaries murder her mother. At the tender age of 13, she learned even harder lessons about the streets of the big city. After yet another beating at the hands of yet another brutal thug, Nythia took matters into her own hands. She undertook a murder spree in the city of Theodosia that claimed the lives of 13 men. From there, she escaped into Anderland. She took to banditry to survive, and has remained a successful bandit for the past nine years. Nythia commands a small clan of bandits, and these criminals have proven dangerous to Maldaran traders traveling to and from the empire. When it comes to Maldarans, especially men, she reveals a cruel, sadistic streak that has become legendary. At the same time, she has been known to donate food and clothing to the sick and injured; at times, her bandits have killed raiding orcs to protect a nearby farm. Regardless of the occasional good deed, Nythia and her band of cutthroats are among the most dangerous and vicious criminals at large in the duchy.
Turoth Mourn: One of the most feared and despised of the Reavers of Uthnal (which is really saying something), Turoth Mourn has quickly become legendary for his ability to kill and maim. Every few years, Turoth leads his band of raiders into Anderland or the surrounding countryside. His warriors are even more savage and brutal than the typical Uthnal Reaver, and Turoth is the worst of them all. He has become known as the Cannibal of the North, and it is said he wears a necklace of ears and tongues sliced from his victims. Although he is entirely uncivilized, he should not be underestimated. He is not only a skilled warrior, but a clever tactician. At present, a reward of 5,000 gold crowns has been posted jointly by Anderland and Maldar for the head of Turoth Mourn.
Although there is no such thing as an “average” or “typical” monster, for the most part the beasts, humanoids, and other predators found in the region are standard for their species. A wyvern or dire wolf may represent a danger, but such creatures are not truly exceptional.
For all that, there do exist a few extremely dangerous and powerful monsters, creatures that are far above all others in terms of threat. These monsters are known primarily through folktales and legends. They are old (and perhaps even ancient). They have proven extremely tough and hard to defeat. These legendary creatures have their own names, and these names are known to many people. Bards whisper stories about such beasts, and parents frighten their children just by speaking the name out loud.
Bargha Karu: No one can say for certain how ancient this horrid witch of the Sidhe actually is; it is entirely possible even the witch herself no longer knows her true age. Regardless, Bargha Karu has plagued the region for more than three long centuries. Numerous stories tell how she arrived in the Duchy in the midst of the Bleak Winter of 1054 S.Y. Drawn to the Duchy by the suffering of that harsh winter, the witch took residence in the depths of the Shadowmist Forest. Since that time, Bargha has pursued her sinister schemes unhindered and unstoppable. The stories, legends, and mysteries surround the witch are seemingly endless. For example, she is believed responsible for more than two hundred disappearances, namely of children, in the past three centuries. It is known she eats humans, halflings, and dwarves (she will not eat the flesh of fey creatures, as such would be cannibalism). She conjures plagues, influences the weather, creates devastating storms, brings ruinous drought, and otherwise makes life miserable for the villages and farms around her domain. Throughout the centuries, more than two dozen brave knights, wily rogues, and learned wizards have attempted to locate and destroy Bargha, without success. Indeed, those who enter her lair inevitably serve her as fey wraiths – creatures neither living nor dead, their souls trapped by her dark magic. Bargha can go where she wishes, seemingly unimpeded by doors or walls. She is a potent magic-user, while apparently highly resistant to magical effects. Many stories suggest that speaking her name out loud draws her attention; likewise, writing her name apparently attracts her notice, too. She has a particular fondness for corrupting good individuals and bringing ruin to those with wealth, beauty, or influence amongst mortals.
Bathelion the Scourge: According the accounts of the Church of Bahamut, sixty years ago a group of priests and paladins were escorting a magical crystal from the Crucible Wastes to the Theocracy of Paladanthis. These brave souls had captured and imprisoned a mighty demon within a crystalline cage, and were taking it for keeping in a safe vault. Unfortunately, the clerics were captured while traveling through Maldar, and the crystal was taken from their possession. No one knows for certain what happened to the crystal since that time. Do the Maldarans still have, or did it get stolen? Is Bathelion still trapped within, or has he escaped? If still imprisoned within his crystal prison, Bathelion is still able to grant powerful wishes to anyone touching the crystal. He can dominate minds and bodies of those nearby, and he can grant impressive magical powers to anyone doing his bidding. According to the Church of Bahamut, Bathelion earned his title of “The Scourge” in service to the Regime of Shaddoth. While all demons are destructive and bloodthirsty, Bathelion was unusual in possessing patience, foresight, and high intellect combined with a demon’s typical violent urges. Were he to gain his freedom, he would become a grave threat to the entire region (and not just the Duchy).
The Crawler in Darkness: Although widely considered a fable, a number of the common folk living in isolated parts of the realm firmly believe this beast exists. The folktales describe an enormous worm that burrows deep beneath the ground. When hungry or summoned, it breaks onto the surface and devours everything in sight. Once sated, it returns to the darkness below. Some stories give this creature the name of Urdlen. For the most part, there is precious little evidence to support the existence of such a creature. Nonetheless, several small villages have vanished entirely over the past few centuries, with only a large crater left as proof the community ever existed.
The Fade: Most people of the Duchy believe this is nothing more than a folktale designed to terrify naughty children. According to the stories, the Fade is a creature that murders an individual and then alters its appearance to match that of its victim. It proceeds to trick the victim’s friends and family, doing everything in its power to tear apart their lives and destroy their reputations. By the time the Fade is through, every person that once cared for the loved one is imprisoned, bankrupt, disgraced, or otherwise ruined. Not surprisingly, these events leave the victim’s name in complete shambles, his memory forever sullied. It is said that not only does the Fade live off the corpse of the original victim, but it then feeds off the anger, sorrow, and jealousy of the victim’s confused family members. There is no solid proof that such a creature exists – or could exist – and the people who usually claim they were framed by the Fade are ignored as liars, criminals, or madmen.
The Frostwind Serpent: Sailors in the region sometimes tell stories about seeing a large serpentine creature swimming through the waters of the Frostwind Sea. These sailors describe a creature with scales of silver and red and a body longer than any ten ships strung end-to-end. Most stories suggest the creature does not typically attack ships, but it does seem territorial and willing to fight to protect its territory. Most people in and around the Duchy do not believe in this mythical creature, as no proof of its existence has ever stood up to scrutiny.
Grulka the Witch: Not too long ago, the witch known as Grulka controlled portions of the Targen Moors. Numerous fell and evil creatures served the witch, including a large tribe of lizard-folk and (supposedly) a group of cultists calling themselves the Children of Set. Grulka became a grave danger to the region due to possession of a powerful artifact known as the Cauldron of Corruption. This item gave her the power to warp and taint the swamps to follower her command. A band of foolhardy adventurers killed Grulka, at great cost in their own lives, but they failed to destroy or bring back the Cauldron. In the past year, new rumors have suggested that Grulka returned from the dead, this time even more powerful than before. No one is certain if she has retrieved the Cauldron of Corruption, and no one (except Grulka, of course) knows her intentions. Whatever her schemes, they bode ill for the people of the Moors and the Duchy in general. There are numerous stories that suggest Grulka and Bargha (see above) are related, perhaps as sisters.
The Night Dragon: No other monster has brought greater terror and destruction upon the Duchy as the Night Dragon. Fortunately, this creature perished in battle approximately 20 years ago, thanks in part to the bravery of Caldric d’Anderville and his companions. For more in-depth information concerning this creature, go to its entry page.
Wintershard: A powerful and ancient white wyrm, Wintershard lives somewhere in the Anvil Mountains. Over the past six centuries, he has accumulated what must be an enormous hoard of wealth. He has also claimed thousands of victims, including more than his fair share of Maldaran soldiers and adventurers hired to kill him. Wintershard has only entered Anderland twice in the last two centuries, both times to conduct quick raids for cattle. For the most part, Wintershard seems content to remain in his mountain lair. If intruders attack him in his home, he typically reacts with tremendous rage, typically unleashing his fury on the home settlement of the intruders. This white dragon is extremely dangerous when provoked, and he possesses exceptional intelligence for his breed. Many adventurers speak of hunting down Wintershard, but only the doomed ones actually attempt the deed (and thus are never seen again).