A delicate-looking creature floats silently in midair. Resembling a large jellyfish, it has a fringe of bird’s feathers around its quivering central mass and long tentacles trailing from its center, with each tentacle ending in a snapping beak. It sings to itself as it flies, each beak making a different note in an eerie harmony.
Skrik Nettle CR 6
Str 18, Dex 17, Con 16, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +8; CMB +13; CMD 26 (30 vs. trip)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes
Skills Fly +9, Perception +12, Stealth +0
SQ spill poison
Levitation poison: Bite or contact—injury; save Fort DC 16; frequency 1/round for 5 rounds; effect 1 Dexterity damage + levitate (victim rises 10 feet as per the spell per failed save); cure 2 consecutive saves.
The save DC is Constitution-based.
Anytime a skrik nettle is damaged by a slashing or piercing melee weapon, it splashes its poison on the opponent who damaged it. That opponent must save or be affected by the skrik nettle’s poison. Weapons with reach allow their wielders to avoid this effect.
Environment any tropical
Organization solitary or shoal (6–24)
Shoals of skrik nettles float through the skies of the First World. They sail like boats, driven before the wind and using their feathers to tack and turn. They sing as they fly, jabbering and chirping to each other in complex harmonies. The average skrik nettle shoal consists of three dozen or more of the majestic creatures, but these flocks are often split up during the roaring storms so common to the First World. Lone skrik nettles may be encountered in smaller numbers, confused and trying to find their way back to their kin.
Skrik nettles range in size from a few inches across (for a newly spawned hatchling) to the size of gigantic, scintillating clouds. Most, however, are no more than 8 or 9 feet across.
Skrik nettles are primarily scavengers, although they will attack suitable prey when hungry. Their method of attack is curious. The sharp beaks of a skrik nettle drip with a magical poison that is injected when the creature bites a foe. The victim of the poison feels slightly nauseous and light-headed at first—and then begins to float off the ground.
As long as the poison pumps through the veins of the skrik nettle’s victim, the victim keeps floating up into the sky. The victim has no control over this magical levitation—unless she has some other method of controlling her flight, such as wings or magic, or she can grab a convenient tree branch, she will keep ascending until the poison wears off and gravity takes hold once more. The skrik nettles usually float up alongside their prey, keeping it floating by injecting more poison as soon as it starts to drop. Especially dangerous or hardshelled prey might be poisoned, allowed to rise, and then dropped repeatedly from a height until dead.
The poison’s effects seem to be rooted in magic, rather than venom, and dispelling the ailment has proven to be just as effective as bleeding a victim. Before aiding a victim, however, one must take caution to tie said creature down securely, as there are few deaths more ironic than being cured of a skrik nettle’s poison only to instantly plunge to earth from a great height. Oddly, in addition to traditional remedies, killing a skrik nettle also instantly cancels the effects of its poison.
Once every year, skrik nettles return to their shoal’s spawning grounds to reproduce. The jellyfish-like creatures form hard, rugged eggs inside their bodies, then float gently down to the spawning ground—usually a jungle clearing or warm swamp—and dig nests with their tentacles. Skrik nettles are hermaphrodites, so each one lays its eggs and then fertilizes those of its neighbor (this cross-breeding strengthens future generations of skrik nettles). The average skrik nettle lays three or four eggs, whose size ranges from that of a clenched fist to that of a giant’s skull.
These eggs incubate in the warm earth for several days, during which time the skrik nettles patrol above the spawning ground, attacking anyone who might disturb the eggs. When ready to hatch, the eggs explode out of the ground and shoot into the sky, bursting into a swarm of newborn skrik nettles. Unwary travelers who slip past the patrolling skrik nettles can trigger a premature hatching if they walk over the spawning ground; such travelers may be pummeled by flying, rock-hard egg shards, or even carried into the sky by a particularly large hatchling.
Hatchling skrik nettles are ravenously hungry when born. To provide for the needs of their young, skrik nettle shoals assemble caches of poisoned meat and float them over the spawning ground. A wary explorer can spot a spawning ground from afar if she notices rotting corpses hanging overhead. Skrik nettle eggs can often be sold to the fey. Some train young skrik nettles as songbirds, teaching all six beaks to sing in harmony. Others wrap skrik nettle eggs in cloth filled with golden dust or brightly colored pollen; when an egg prepared in such a manner flies into the sky and explodes upon hatching, the cloth’s contents scatter across the sky like a beautiful firework. Such entertainments are popular at parties—though the ensuing swarm of carnivorous jellyfish swooping down on the guests is considered less enchanting.
Skrik nettles dwell amid the clouds, descending only to feed and procreate. They use their songs to keep the shoal together, flying toward the chirping music of their kin. Bards are often able to lure skrik nettles down to them with their enchanting melodies, but once within range, the poisonous creatures usually trade this performance for a live meal.
Skrik nettles are not especially intelligent predators— thus, they eat the bounty of the land, or, if particularly lucky, snatch a dead or weak creature from the ground. While skittish, they retaliate when attacked, regarding the assault as a chance to feed. Settlements in regions where skrik nettle migrations are common usually keep a few sacrificial animals handy to lure the skrik nettles away during a hunt. The one exception is where the skrik nettle’s spawning grounds are involved—during the time before a hatching, the skrik nettle shoal patrols the area around the spawning grounds and viciously attacks any trespassers. Skrik nettles are also a hazard to flyers. They lurk in low-hanging clouds, letting their tendrils trail down out of the mist. An unwary bird or flying creature can be stung, grabbed, and whisked off to be eaten in a matter of seconds. When scavenging, they fly at a low level above the landscape, letting their tendrils play over the ground as they search for carrion.
Skrik nettles themselves have few natural predators. They are reputed to taste so light and airy that eating one is like trying to eat a soap bubble, albeit a soap bubble with a half-dozen stinging beaks. Skrik nettles perceive the world by sensing air currents and shifting vibrations through their sensitive tentacles; during storms or strong winds, they secure themselves in the forks of large trees and wait out the harsh weather.
Some fey hunt the skrik nettle shoals in little flying boats for sport, bringing them down with weighted nets or leaden harpoons. A few fey even try riding skrik nettles, “docking” them to make them harmless by clamping their beaks shut and then hanging a saddle from the tentacles, but the creatures are too weak to make good steeds. It is also the fashion in some regions for noble faerie-maidens to be accompanied by a small flock of “docked” skrik nettles, each one bearing a fan, mirror, or basket of fruit in its tentacles. Others capture skrik nettles and train them to speak—the skrik nettles are not intelligent, but they can be taught to imitate the speech of the First World, much like parrots can learn to imitate human tongues. A trained skrik nettle can even hold conversations with itself, with each of its half-dozen tentacles imitating a different voice.
Section 15: Copyright Notice – AP 36 Sound of a Thousand Screams
Pathfinder Adventure Path #36: Sound of a Thousand Screams. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Richard Pett.