A mounted horseman gallops forth, soaked head to toe in gore and waving a blade with wild abandon. Yet as he moves, it becomes clear that horse and rider are joined as one—a humanoid torso sprouting from equine withers—and the gore is a grisly vision of naked muscle and leaking veins.
Speed 50 ft., swim 50 ft.
Str 22, Dex 24, Con 22, Int 13, Wis 17, Cha 21
A nuckelavee’s breath weapon is a cone of withering foulness that causes painful welts, cramps, and bleeding, and only harms living creatures—this damage bypasses all energy resistance and damage reduction. Non-creature plants in the area are affected as if by a blight spell. Any creature that fails its Reflex save against the breath weapon must make a DC 21 Fortitude save or contract mortasheen (see below). The save DC is Constitution-based.
Mortasheen: Contact; save Fort DC 21; frequency 1/day; effect 1d4 Con and target is fatigued; cure 2 consecutive saves. Animals take a -2 penalty on their saves against this disease. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Environment cold swamps or coastlines
Treasure standard (masterwork longsword, other treasure)
Note: Additional information has been added from other sources (see Section 15: Copyright Notice for details.)
The dreaded nuckelavee is a manifestation of pollution and filth, be it the natural decay of a red tide or the intrusive pollution of sewage and other urban waste. A nuckelavee is a living irony—a carrier of disease and a spreader of corruption that unleashes its wrath against other sources that bring corruption into the world. The corruption spread by nuckelavees only serves to further their own sense of self-loathing and overall rage. While nuckelavees might, incidentally, carry out vengeance for the victims of such pollution, defending the denizens of their rivers, swamps, and bogs is not their primary drive, for they revel in inflicting the very corruption they hate and enjoy little more than watching their enemies sicken and die.
Folktales tell of talismans to carry—fetishes of seaweed garlands, horsehair soaked in brine, or vials of sanctified seawater—or of prayers to recite to ward away nuckelavees or convince them the bearer is innocent. In truth, however, these old solutions offer no protection from the vile plague-bearers.
A nuckelavee is the same size as a horse.
Among the cruelest and most monstrous of fey, nuckelavees ride forth from black waters to wreak bloody vengeance upon those who despoil nature despoilers. Horrifying, fleshless amalgams of man and horse, these monstrous avengers embody every wound and wickedness suffered by the wilds, their bodies loosing trails of gore and the pounds of their webbed hooves beating an inescapable threnody for all who earn their ire. Once they emerge from their refuges beneath cool waves or rivers, only destruction satisfies their merciless crusades, either that of their victims or their own.
Nuckelavees are strongly built and stand nearly 6 feet tall at their horse heads and about 9 feet at their humanoid heads, with a weight of nearly 2,000 pounds.
Nuckelavees spend most of their days asleep in flooded hollows and sea caves, waking only to gnaw on bitter sea plants and algae, their primary form of sustenance. With their unnatural metabolisms, nuckelavees can survive for weeks on only a few bites of aquatic plant life, and are content to lie in torpor for months or even years. Possessing a supernatural relationship with the waterways in which they reside, these bloody fey know when harm has befallen their home or its denizens. Often the damage proves obvious—the dumping of wastes or toxic runoff, overfishing or kelp harvesting, or even less egregious offenses, like the construction of dams or waterwheels. Regardless of what sparks a nuckelavee’s wrath, once one of these avengers’ ire is garnered, it gallops forth not just to correct the offense, but repay the pain. Only once blood and tears have quenched the fires of a nuckelavee’s rage does it willingly return to the water, often carrying with it some grisly trophy of its vengeance. Nuckelavees have no capacity to reproduce. The appearance of most proves a complete mystery and grim surprise, and the majority of their kind dwell in areas of pristine nature where rifts to the First World are known or likely. Thus it’s supposed that most nuckelavees form and develop among the enigmatic mists of that alien realm, passing on to Golarion for their own inscrutable reasons.
All nuckelavees are infected with mortasheen, a highly infectious wasting disease capable of wiping out the populations of whole islands. Despite the monsters’ obsession with defending natural waterways and the life therein, their interest seems to end at the shoreline. Nuckelavees have no interest in or apparent love for terrestrial beasts, especially those tamed and kept by the objects of their anger. Horses, cattle, and other livestock often prove the first casualties of a nuckelavee’s rampage, with those that aren’t left slaughtered in gory tableaus being infected with mortasheen and inevitably passing it on to their owners.
The tales of many lands tell of nuckelavees, typically emerging from seas and lakes to smite those who abuse nature or harm innocents—depending on the storyteller’s point of view. The majority of such tales arise from coastal and island communities, though the residents of many lake towns and those who live in lush river countries often warn of these deadly water monsters, blaming them for all manner of hardships. Such tales often include proscriptions for avoiding the bloody riders’ wrath, local remedies for afflictions bestowed by the avengers, and ways one might banish a nuckelavee should they come face to face. In most cases, folktales tell of talismans to carry or prayers to recite to convince a nuckelavee that one is a friend—or, at least, innocent of wrongdoing. Such talismans typically take the form of seaweed garlands, horsehair soaked in brine, or vials of sanctified seawater. Druids and priests of nature deities also supposedly possess the power to calm a nuckelavee’s fury and convince it to return to the sea—though typically only after it has dealt with those guiltiest of whatever offense roused it. When a nuckelavee first furiously emerges from the water, though, nothing short of the creature’s destruction can compel a nuckelavee to return to its rest without taking a life.
It’s rare for more than one nuckelavee to be found in the same region, as the creatures have little interest in one another. However, in cases of extreme natural ruin or corruption, multiple nuckelavees have emerged from the waters in a terrifying charge, working together to sow slaughter of legendary magnitude. It remains a mystery whether such rare cavalries form from a single instance of mass despoilment independently rousing the concerns of multiple fey, or whether nuckelavees can call upon the aid of their brethren to mete out punishment for the most extreme crimes against the waves.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3, © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, James Jacobs, Michael Kenway, Rob McCreary, Patrick Renie, Chris Sims, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #34: Blood for Blood. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Neil Spicer.