This cloud of long-necked birds rises into the air, screeching in a cacophony reminiscent of klaxons and clanging tools. As these avians flit among one another, their feathers glint with a metallic gleam, reflecting even the dimmest light back a hundredfold through a dim haze of blood.
Stymphalides Swarm CR 6
AC 23, touch 17, flat-footed 18 (+4 Dex, +1 dodge, +6 natural, +2 size)
hp 52 (7d10+14)
Fort +7, Ref +9, Will +3
Defensive Abilities half damage from slashing and piercing weapons, swarm traits; DR 5/magic; Immune fire
As a stymphalides swarm beats its wings, the birds’ steel feathers reflect light in blinding patterns of flashes and flares. While in an area of normal or brighter light, anyone who occupies the same square as a stymphalides swarm at the beginning of its turn must make a DC 15 Fortitude save. Those who fail are blinded for 1d4 rounds, while those who make their saves are dazzled until they spend 1 full round outside the swarm’s space. This is a sight-based effect.
Man-eating birds of prey, the rare creatures known as stymphalides stalk the arid plains and coastlines of Golarion in ravenous swarms, shredding warm-blooded animals and unwary travelers with their bladed feathers and dagger-like beaks. From a distance, stymphalides might easily be mistaken for cranes, ibises, or other long- necked birds, though in full sunlight their gleaming feathers and the haze of blood lingering from past meals are impossible to mistake.
Peculiarly, the feathers and beak of a stymphalides are made of steel, similar to the metallic hide of a gorgon.
The wings of stymphalides are as sharp as knives and often lacerate their prey as the birds swarm and beat their wings against their unfortunate victims’ skin. Similarly, their beaks are supernaturally sharp and can pierce the tough hides of animal prey or the armor of those warriors foolish enough to hunt the creatures. Even if a victim of a stymphalides swarm’s frenzied attacks manages to fend off the vicious creatures, the wounds caused by the birds continue to bleed long after being inflicted, and the victim often perishes from loss of blood before ever reaching help.
Most stymphalides stand approximately 2-1/2 feet tall and weigh little more than 40 pounds. Although mean-tempered and territorial, lone stymphalides prove relatively harmless, thus traveling in swarms of several dozen, relying on strength of numbers to bring down large or dangerous prey. Many tales also tell of enormous breeds of these monstrous birds, powerful enough to prey upon wyverns. These giant stymphalides are said to grow up to 13 feet tall and weigh over 250 pounds, with wingspans reaching upward of 25 feet. Such gigantic stymphalides are rarely seen, preferring to lurk upon desolate cliffs or even amid harsh extraplanar realms.
Unlike vultures and other birds of the deserts and plains, stymphalides do not scavenge carcasses, although they are not above driving away natural scavengers if a large, fresh kill looks particularly inviting. When traveling in flocks, stymphalides prove fearless predators, swooping in and swarming any creature that wanders into their territory. The birds actively hunt their prey, harrying and killing lone individuals or stragglers. The attacks of a stymphalides swarm often prove so vicious that the creatures can take to flight once they have wounded prey, wait for it to bleed to death, and return to pick the corpse clean.
Stymphalides generally avoid attacking large groups of people, unless the birds have gathered in a particularly sizable flock.
Stymphalides are not purely carnivorous. A lone stymphalides might resort to eating fruit and other plants if it is separated from its flock or food is scarce, and orchards and fields of crops have been devastated by stymphalides when great swarms of the birds, starving from overpopulation or lack of prey, migrate to new territories. Yet although the birds are omnivorous, they seem to prefer meat. Those plainsfolk or desert-dwellers whose livelihoods depend on livestock have learned to fear the sight of flocks of birds silhouetted against the sky, as herds of cattle and other grazing animals have been ravaged by their swarms.
Habitat & Society
Most swarms of stymphalides roost near watering holes, rivers, and coastal cliffs, preying upon unfortunate creatures desperate enough to seek food or water so near to the dangerous birds’ nests. The nests of stymphalides are frequently made from the bones of the creatures’ prey, piled into macabre ziggurats upon which entire flocks of the birds rest. Particularly large flocks of the birds construct enormous nests, and giant stymphalides can create towers visible for miles.
When not at rest, flocks of the creatures soar high on warm currents of air, relying upon their keen eyesight to spot suitable prey far below. Because of their voracious appetites, flocks of stymphalides must claim a vast swath of territory to maintain their feeding habits. Stymphalides are fiercely territorial, and flocks of the birds frequently fight with one another in swooping aerial battles to determine possession of land.
Fortunately for the folk of civilized lands, stymphalides rarely encroach upon areas well traveled by humanoids and other creatures clever enough to bring down one of these metal-winged avians. Among the people of the plains, the metallic birds are often regarded as nearly legendary creatures. Stymphalides breed at an astonishing rate, however, and overpopulation and exhaustion of game frequently force extraordinarily large and deadly groups of the creatures to band together in search of new lands and new prey to devour.
Pathfinder 26: The Sixfold Trial. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing LLC. Author: Richard Pett