Glowing veins of green creep across the flesh of this pale, spasming gnome. Stifled giggles escape her rictus grin.
Etioling CR 10
Speed 20 ft.
Melee corrupting touch +11 (10d6)
Special Attacks corrupting touch
Bard Spells Known (CL 10th; concentration +17)
4th (2/day)—dimension door, greater invisibility
3rd (5/day)—confusion (DC 20), crushing despair (DC 20), fear (DC 20), see invisibility
2nd (6/day)—darkness, glitterdust (DC 19), hold person (DC 19), minor image (DC 19), silence (DC 19)
1st (7/day)—disguise self, feather fall, hideous laughter (DC 18), silent image (DC 18), vanish (DC 18)
0 (at will)—dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound (DC 17), mage hand, open/close (DC 17), prestidigitation
Str 8, Dex 21, Con 17, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 24
Base Atk +11; CMB +15; CMD 32
Feats Agile Maneuvers, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Ectoplasmic Spell, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Mobility
Skills Bluff +17, Intimidate +17, Perception +17, Sense Motive +12, Stealth +21; Racial Modifiers +2 Intimidate, +2 Perception
Languages Common, Gnome, Sylvan
SQ ghostly gasp, mortic traits, spells
Corrupting Touch (Su)
An etioling can corrupt living flesh with her touch as a standard action. This attack inflicts a number of d6 equal to its CR in damage (10d6 for most etiolings). This damage is not negative energy—it manifests in the form of physical wounds and aches from supernatural aging. Creatures immune to magical aging are immune to this damage, as are undead and creatures with the mortic subtype; otherwise, the damage bypasses all forms of damage reduction. A successful DC 24 Fortitude save halves the damage dealt. An etioling cannot turn this ability off.
Ectoplasmic Seep (Su)
An etioling’s body constantly weeps ectoplasm—a physical manifestation of apathy her body can no longer contain. Any creature touching or being touched by an etioling, or attacking her with a melee weapon, must succeed at a DC 20 Reflex saving throw or be coated in this fluid apathy, taking a –2 penalty on attack rolls, caster level checks, saving throws, skill checks, and weapon damage rolls until the ectoplasm can be scraped off as a standard action. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Ectoplasmic Shield (Su)
Ghostly Gasp (Su)
In addition to the normal abilities all mortics gain when using their death gasp, an etioling gains a fly speed of 30 feet (perfect) and can pass through walls and other solid obstructions as if under the effects of ethereal jaunt, except that the etioling cannot pass through living creatures or plants. While moving through a wall or other solid object in this way, the etioling treats the structure as difficult terrain and must use additional movement to pass through it.
An etioling casts spells as a 10th-level bard but cannot cast spells while holding her breath.
Organization solitary, pair, or support group (3–5)
Treasure standard (mwk chain shirt)
Perhaps the most miserable of the mortics—humanoids infused with necrotic energy—etiolings are born from gnomes who have already begun to suffer from the Bleaching. The burst of negative energy into their living flesh twists the process and awakens connections to the Fey World and long-lost fey magic, leaving the surviving creature ethereal, manic, and overflowing with the vital essence of fey. Veins of primal, Fey World energy pump beneath an etioling’s pale flesh. Occasional pulses of unchecked energy crackle across their flesh and hair.
Their transformation is hardly one of redemption.
An etioling’s touch decays living flesh to fuel the supernatural furnace that rages inside them, and their bodies shake uncontrollably as the churn of primordial magic and negative energy causes tremors and muscle spasms. Focusing for more than a few moments becomes impossible, and etiolings become creatures of instinct and impulse, acting on vague memories and emotional connections. Like ghosts, they stick for days or weeks into a routine, reliving some pivotal memory and assigning familiar identities to new people they meet. Etiolings suspend not only their living functions but also their physical connection to the living world, becoming ethereal when they hold their breath.
An etioling stands between 2 and 3 feet tall and weighs about 25 pounds.
Outwardly, etiolings seem carefree and giddy—almost unsettlingly so—as they struggle to focus or hold still. Their existence is a constant battle of wills between the heady, screaming rush of euphoria provided by their rekindled connection to the Fey World and any semblance of rational thought. The struggle to maintain themselves can be overwhelming, and those who don’t succumb to mania are often aggressive and irritable instead. This supernatural wellspring of emotion forces apathy from their bodies, manifesting it as a physical ectoplasm capable of turning aside attacks and infecting other creatures.
Like most mortics, etiolings spring forth from disaster.
Anywhere negative energy intrudes on the living world— especially in powerful surges—gnomes risk this unnatural transformation. The infusion of necrotic power hijacks the Bleaching that most gnomes succumb to, warping their minds and reigniting ancient connections to sylvan magic. Most mortic gnomes develop unsettling or “ghostly” magic focusing on illusions, fear, and confusion, but others develop more primordial and fey magic that hijacks others’ emotions and inspires endless revelry.
Whether courtesy of the negative energy replacing their souls or the powerful fey magic that burns inside them, etiolings can briefly slip from the physical world and become ghostly apparitions capable of flight and passing through solid matter. This ethereal state silences the mania bubbling from within and allows the crushing depression to flow over them, providing painful respite from their energetic lives. Because this unearthly state severs them from the wellspring of emotion that powers their magic, they cannot use any of their sylvan magic while incorporeal.
Habitat and Society
Those etiolings who survive their radical change with their minds largely intact often band together in small communities for support. More often, evil and abusive fey flock to the mortic gnomes—attracted by the sylvan magic and primal emotion like flies to honey—and orbit the etioling to bask in the chaos they create or prey on creatures weakened by the dread gnome’s deadly caress.
Thanks to their magic and incidental allure to fey, etiolings usually find homes in primeval wildernesses.
Even those who take up residence in permanent structures find their magic and unwanted followers transforming any dwelling into an overgrown ruin within weeks.
Because they cannot control their corrupting touch, anything the gnomes interact with regularly is scrubbed clean of life, from insects and moss to gardens to mortal neighbors. While the world around them flourishes, their own circles decay into tumbledown sterility.
Storms bring some measure of calm to the etioling’s mind—as if the primordial energy within them were siphoned off by the more powerful forces swirling about— and the mortics can seem truly mad as they rejoice in dangerous weathers. Most are simply intoxicated by the terrible but awesome displays of nature, though a few become true servants of powerful weather-controlling outsiders or fey, striking grim bargains to bring suffering to others in exchange for control over their own unstable minds.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #142: Gardens of Gallowspire © 2019, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Crystal Frasier, with Ron Lundeen, Andrew Mullen, Emily Parks, Rhett Skubis, and Christopher Wasko.