Malice oozes from this stout, hunched predator. A ruff of dirty feathers adorns its hairless, muscular body just below its crocodilian skull.
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+3 Dex, +2 natural)
Str 16, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 5, Wis 14, Cha 15
If an esobok begins its turn grappling a living or undead creature, it can attempt to wrench that creature’s animating spirit free as a standard action. If the target succeeds at a DC 14 Will save, it takes 1d6 points of force damage; if the target fails, its spirit is stripped from its body. This effect instantly destroys mindless undead and leaves intelligent undead stunned. All other targets are paralyzed. Once per round, a creature paralyzed by this effect can attempt a new saving throw to free its soul from the esobok’s jaws. An esobok can’t use its bite attack while it holds a disembodied spirit, but it can release the spirit back to the spirit’s body as a free action. Creatures without souls (such as constructs and oozes) and creatures whose bodies and souls are one unit (such as outsiders) are immune to this ability.
Esoboks are the blunt and vicious predator caste of psychopomps. They patrol as feral hunters, hungry for undead flesh. Though as outsiders esoboks don’t have to eat and draw no sustenance from this behavior, the spark of undeath is a feast for their every sense, and they pursue and ravenously consume undead creatures given the chance.
Mortals rarely see these otherworldly hunters, and only those steeped in the ways of death know of their existence. They hazily creep into the edges of living mythologies, appearing as torturers of fallen souls or delivering a gnashing end to mortals. In truth, esoboks show a curious neutrality towards petitioners. Only the living— and even more so the undead—catch their eye, while the truly dead have little to fear.
Esoboks are stout, physically impressive specimens, with dog-like bodies and the girth of rhinoceroses or hippopotamuses. Their bodies are bald, aside from a thick collar of oily feathers at their necks, but bear distinctive spots, stripes, or patterns that identify individuals. Even among psychopomps, there is speculation regarding how to differentiate between male and female esoboks, or even whether they have physical sexes. The typical esobok stands 3 feet tall at the shoulder and nearly as wide, and weighs upwards of 300 pounds.
Esoboks are savage and dogged beings, gifted with impressive teeth and claws, but they are less intelligent than other psychopomps, and less perceptive. They do, however, possess an uncanny ability to sniff out the negative energy that animates undead. Their bodies are nearly unassailable, with an immune system any living scavenger would envy. In addition to dealing physical damage with their bites, an esobok can plunge its eldritch jaws deep inside a creature and tear out the living essence that sustains its prey. The ties that bind soul to body are strong, though, and esoboks eventually lose their grip on all but the weakest of spirits, at which point the spirits return to their victims’ bodies. Some fringe cults even summon esoboks expressly to loosen the spirit from a guru’s physical body, allowing her to seek wisdom unburdened by the trivial concerns of the living.
While as outsiders they have no need to eat or drink to survive, esoboks’ gnawing hunger and focused purpose cause them to grow restless, irritated, and unpredictable if denied prey too long. They favor unliving meals, but will hunt anything they can chase. Esoboks prefer rich sources of negative and positive energy—such as characters who can channel energy, beings that radiate these energies naturally, or potions and scrolls of various cure and inflict spells—but most every entity in the multiverse holds some shining seed of energy that an esobok would savor.
Most psychopomps arise from the souls of the unaligned dead, and bring an unusual amount of their living selves with them into eternal services. A few scholars of esoteric lore believe they are forged from lingering shreds of soulstuff that have flaked from the countless weary dead. Whatever their origins, esoboks lack the strong personalities common among other psychopomps. They have few personal proclivities and loathe individuality.
Packs of esoboks roam like wolves, constantly searching for intruders and those who would raise the dead or interfere with their tombs. These feral packs carve out territories and defend them from outsiders and even other psychopomps. While they prefer the taste of undeath, esoboks eat their fill of infernal or celestial trespassers. Only petitioners and other psychopomps escape their predation.
While vanths serve as eerily disciplined soldiers, morrignas hunt fugitives of the system, and other psychopomps tend to the bureaucracy of death, esoboks are her guardian beasts. Uncorrupted by ethical questions or personal desires, they simply shred whatever they encounter.
Their unruly nature and limited intelligence make esoboks ideal border guards and attack animals. Like vanths, their behavior is alien and unsettling, seemingly devoid of the mortal heritage of most outsiders. Vanths find the creatures comforting, and frequently recruit them to direct their savage fury against astradaemons, night hags, and others who might profit from interfering with the River of Souls. Only the most disciplined of esoboks are permitted within sight of great palaces of justice and record halls, and even then only when tightly chained.
Esoboks are never trusted to retrieve the souls of the fallen. Despite their fondness for petitioners, they are rough and simple-minded brutes that are difficult to control. Even if allowed to visit the mortal world, they require short leashes and disciplined masters. They most frequently accompany vanths to sites of undead infection, and more rarely act as muscle for morrignas tired of subtlety. Occasionally, mortal summoners call forth esoboks to contain outbreaks of undead—their joy at the taste of undead flesh usually keeps them from causing much harm to other creatures. If they lack undead prey, however, esoboks stranded on the Material Plane prey on whatever they can chase and catch.
Though esoboks respect and fear more powerful psychopomps, only vanths seem capable of training them into anything more than crude animals. Such trained esoboks grow substantially in power, as their newfound discipline taps into their latent magic. These war dogs have the advanced simple template and gain the following spell-like abilities, each usable once per day: ear-piercing scream, haunting mists, and teleport.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves © 2014, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Crystal Frasier, with Thurston Hillman, Will McCardell, Rob McCreary, and Amber E. Scott.