When the Gaarajin profane
The Hall of the Vulture’s Servant
Their Doom shall fly on Wings
As the Vulture and Call
With the Vulture’s Voice
— from the prophecies of Ix
When their nightly travels are done, the superstitious Gohhi tribesmen pitch their woolen tents, gather around small fires of dried camel dung and exchange yarns of the land’s ancient past. The frigid nights of the Sallvian Desert seem a little colder as the old legends of monsters and djinni unfold. One of their more terrible tales is that of the creature that they have named the “Wrath of Anut-Khanut”. They speak of this fell predator devouring entire tribes of the desert folk, striking down any in its path that wield the unclean magics of the decadent city folk (“Al Gaarajin” in the tribesmen’s Sallvian dialect).
Despite their tales, none of the tribes realize that this bane of wizardry was once a wizard itself. Many years ago, a gifted young mage named Alain Piercetongue was in the deepest, most inaccessible part of the great Sallvian Desert studying the Necromantic Mysteries of the ancient Sallvian Pharaohs. Deep in the ruins of an ancient priest’s tomb, he and his mentor, the reckless mage Agarn the Impulsive, had drawn a set of protective diagrams around the ceremonial jewelry of the tomb’s inhabitant, the long-dead priest Abu Khanut. In the torchlight, the priestly vestments glittered with gold and jewels. The glittering eyes of the primitive vulture god, Anut-Khanut, looked out from the chalcedony band of the priest’s gleaming golden headgear. Blessings of forgotten gods and goddesses were couched on his rotting mantle in imperishable golden thread. The priest’s golden pectoral was the most impressive of all the precious ornaments. Its intricately designed inlays of agate and malachite danced with color in the torchlight. 3069
As the ritual unfolded, Alain became more and more concerned: The necromantic energies that they had summoned did not appear to be fully contained by the triune binding circle they had drawn. He questioned Agarn, but Agarn demanded that the ritual continue. The expedition’s patron, Vetthes the Corpulent, had required that Agarn complete the ancient rituals of the vulture god before they removed any of the priest’s vestments from the tomb. Only those rituals, insisted the well-fed antiquary, would ensure that the priest’s curse would not descend on all who touched the relics.
With a low hissing noise, the warding circles began to burn with cold, green fire. As the two mages watched in horror, the ghostly flames enveloped the relics in the circles and began to spread toward the frightened men. Reacting instinctively, Agarn intoned a protective chant he had half deciphered from the tomb’s inscriptions. The dire energy of the curse was pushed toward the other man, surrounding him in a pulsing nimbus of vile green. His body jerked and twitched as the curse’s power sank into his tissues and he fell unconscious to the floor.
Agarn was briefly at a loss, but never one to hesitate, he instantly formed a plan. He leapt to the center of the warding circles and seized the items within. Quickly, he placed the priestly vestments on his stricken comrade. In papyrus scrolls hidden within the ruins, he had read that the agate pectoral had the power to summon the curative might of the ancient vulture deity Anut-Khanut. If only he had correctly interpreted the hieroglyphics, Alain might yet be saved!
Placing his hand on the pectoral, he began intoning the magic verse he suspected would summon the necklace’s curative power. As he worked, Alain began struggling toward consciousness. Groggy, he realized what Agarn was attempting and screamed out, “No! Stop, you fool!” Bare seconds later, his body was transformed as the power of the forgotten vulture god rose within him. Decayed wings of black feathers sprang from his back and his hands and feet reshaped into birdlike claws. With agonizing crunching noises, his head reshaped itself to resemble that of a desert vulture. Beneath the mantle of the ancient priest, his flesh began to peel away, revealing dead grey tissue beneath. Corded muscle swelled across his chest while his abdomen and legs withered. The feathered tail of a huge raptor spread behind him as he lurched to his feet. His massive vulture’s beak began croaking curses at his erstwhile mentor as he began wrenching the ancient priest’s relics off of his transformed body.
Agarn, concluding that it was time to go, grabbed the heavy golden pectoral and fled for his life.
Alain the Accursed
Perched high on the ancient monuments of the Sallvians, the avian undead once known as Alain Piercetongue hunts the endless dunes. Tortured and warped, he endlessly seeks the mage that inflicted this torment upon him. He has occasional moments of lucidity, when he realizes that his target must be long dead by now. Unfortunately, these glimpses of sanity last mere moments before the curse grips him again. When he can, he will ask for help from those he meets, warning them to flee before his sanity fades again. Unfortunately, Alain cannot speak the dialect of the Gohhi nomads, so few have understood his cries as anything but demonic croaking. To the nomads, he is a demon, a fiend called by the gods to punish those who would offend them by the arrogant use of magic.
When he is filled with the fury of his curse, Alain truly embodies the Wrath of Anut-Khanut. It burns with particular ferocity toward tomb robbers and wielders of magic. The grave goods of the ancient Sallvians call to him, drawing him to those who despoil tombs. He is similarly able to sense those who use magic without reverence for the gods and will hunt them relentlessly.
Filled with fury, he swoops down, using the sun’s glare to obscure his approach. Ravenous for flesh, especially if it is decayed or withered by the sun, his razor-sharp beak fiercely shreds at the flesh of anyone that dares stand before him. Possessed of the vulture god’s spirit, he will cry out in Ancient Sallvian as he attacks, “Die Blasphemers! You are an affront to the gods!” The violent spirit will kill anyone that it can reach, then will devour the bodies. Even a scratch from the creature’s filth-encrusted claws or powerful beak can be lethal, as anyone injured will be exposed to the deadly infections of hundreds of corpses.
Even more deadly than his befouled claws are the forgotten magics wielded by the tormented spirit. His call can summon flocks of ravenous vultures to his service or hordes of flesh devouring scarabs. In hours of darkness, he can cloak himself in shadow; in the burning sunlight, he can torment foes with thirst. Foes already wary of his approach will discover the fiendish monstrosity attacks with the cunning of madness and the ferocity of starvation.