Behold, the Harbinger of ill-tidings, the blizzard rider, the thief of winter, the Stamagast.
Hernaan staggered through the snow, the white stuff crunching under his boots. Each step was an effort, lifting his leg, putting his foot down again on the semi-firm surface and pushing down until the rime crust broken and his foot sank through the softer snow beneath. Each step left him a bit more winded, and each breath drawn through ragged lips stole away a bit of warmth from him. He scowled fiercely, hailing from the northlands he had faced winters more harsh and cold than this one. He rubbed his hands against his arms and soldiered on, it wasn't like there was anywhere he could find to rest for a bit. To rest in cold like this was more dangerous than cutting his own throat, though likely to hurt much much less.
A Stamagast is an elusive elemental formed of whirling ice and snow held together by the will and living essence of the elemental spirit. This spirit manifests in the same fashion, forming into a ghost white bird of medium size, most commonly resembling a peacock but fully capable of flight and never hindered by the train of it's tailfeathers. Unlike a peacock, a stamagast is roughly the size of a man and weighs just slightly less. The only coloration on a stamagast are the eyes, which are always black and glossy. The elemental cannot hide this feature and canny outdoors men know to look for their eyes and not their outline.
Most of the time, the large tail is carried collapsed behind the elemental, where it moves almost like the tail of an alligator, sculling as if swimming rather than flying through the air. As long as the tail, roughly 12 to 18 feet across when fanned open, is closed, the stamagast can fly with great ease. While fanned open it is relegated to a slow walk, half the normal speed of a human. It can make strong leaps and while the beak is rather small an unsuited for inflicting damage, each leg has a long piercing spur that inflicts damage equivalent to a javelin, but also cold damage as well.
The stamagast fluttered it's wings, savoring the feel of the cold air against the feathers. It was good to have shape and form and weight in the solid world. It lighted on a tree branch and watched the hunter as he blustered through the stiff powder. The elemental twitched it's tail, feeling for the currents in the air, in the ground, all around it. The feathers twitched as it found what it was looking for, a ley line, not too far away. The elemental quivered as it tapped into that primal power, a swirling river of cold and wind high in the air. It fanned it's tail once, then twice. In response the wind picked up, driving the loose snow from its lodging high in the tree branches, turning the hunter's clearing into a small snow flurry. The man cursed and changed his path. The stamagast contented itself to follow, the old path to the hermit's cottage hidden by fresh fallen snow.
Servants of the Cold
Before the time of man, when the world was still newly formed, there were a great many tasks that were still left to be completed. But these were minor tasks, and many of these were simply making sure that everything went as it was supposed to. This was often as simple as making sure the rivers flowed the right direction and that rain fell when it was supposed to and that when the time came that the trees and choking underbrush would burn to make way for new growth. While the gods that were who created all were certainly capable of doing all of these things on their own, they were somewhat less inclined to do so.
Thus the elementals were created to serve as the janitors and custodians and mechanics of creation. Each had a given task to complete, a job to occupy their nigh endless existences. And for a very long time this is exactly what occurred. In the northern realms, it was the duty of Stamagasts to tend to the winter storms, the be heralds and shepperds of the blizzards and great northern gales that roared out of the frozen lands. But, when the rules were broken and the old gods cast down many of the elementals forsook their tasks and turning to their own interests. While the tale of the usurper gods putting these wayward entities back to task is for another time and place, the Stamagasts by far escaped this time of discipline.
It was not until the Usurping gods turned their attentions away from creation and to their spoils in the celestial realm that the Stamagasts revealed their design. As they fanned their great tails, they did not herald the storms, they called them. In a great fury the lands were battered by storms of ice and howling winds, and biting cold that could kill as surely as any wolf. And the Stamagasts fed, and they fed well.
Hernaan reached the cabin, his beard and mustache coated in ice and the cold gnawing at his guts. The door hung drunkenly on it's hinges and part of the roof was collapsing from neglect but it was better than trying to shelter under a pine. He shivered as he gathered tinder and splinters of busted wood to start a fire in the stone hearth of the ruined cabin. Within a few moments he had a fire lit in the hearth and had ventured so far as to remove his yakhide gloves to warm his fingers. He didn't notice the black eyes glaring at him through the broken shutter hanging from the window.
The Stamagast is a winter spirit with strong resonances to the elements of air, and water and a primal connection to winter and cold. Originally created to guide storms back into the northern wastes, the elementals now send them south. They follow in the wake of the storms and pick of stragglers and the weak to feed on. The stamagast prefers it's prey to be both dead and partially if not completely frozen. If pressed into combat, the elemental cannot be harmed by mundane weapons, nor can it be harmed by spells that have the ice or cold descriptors. These spells instead heal the Stamagast rather than cause harm. It is vulnerable to fire magics, and as a materialized spirit, they can be banished by means of sorcery.
Weather Manipulation - The most potent of the Stamagast's weapons is it's ability to control weather. This power allows an elemental to call up great storms though this is very draining to them, or afflict much smaller areas with more concentrated force. They can manipulate wind, temperature, and precipitation. Previously multiple Stamagasts could work together to create incredible storms that would wreak terrible damage, but recently the elementals have been working alone or in bonded pairs.
Elemental Dominance - Stamagasts were once nobility among the elemental courts and though they are no longer associated with said courts elementals are long of memory and those elementals of lesser station, IE weaker than a Stamagast, will heed the stamagast and if commanded, will follow those commands. This only applies to elementals of water, air, and occasionally stone. Firebirds and phoenixes are blood enemies to Stamagasts and the they will attempt to kill each other on sight.
Ice Talons - The spurs on a stamagast's legs carry a supernatural poison that slowly saps the heat of of a target hit by the spur. Once the poison takes full effect, as in killing the victim, said victim is frozen as hard as a stone. This poison can be counteracted by alcohol poured on the wound or consumed in decent quantities.
As mentioned above, Stamagasts despise flame and fire with every ounce of their often considerable being. But this is not their only weakness, they have two others. The second weakness is that they are easily captivated by the sound of singing, especially songs that are slow, laden with sadness and melancholy and other depressing themes. When they hear a particularly good song, they will sway and dance for the duration of the music and will be favorably inclined towards the singer. Bad singers and bards who insist on bawdy bar songs can expect to get the elemental's ire. The third weakness is that the elementals adore alcohol, particularly brandy. They will quickly drink any of the liquor they can get their beaks on, which quickly renders them drunk and blissful. A drunken Stamagast is much easier to defeat as it stops using any major abilities and sticks to wing buffets, kicks, and stabs with it's leg spurs.
Hernaan rubbed his eyes, small pieces of ice coming away against his hand. The fire wasn't barely ash and embers in the hearth, but the sun was shining again, it was daytime. It was still cold, but not like it had been. He looked down and crossed himself. There were footprints in the snow, the splayed toes of a large bird, and his flask of brandy lay split in half, the contents of Applehardy gone, gobbled to the last drop. He shivered, it had stalked him, and he even come so close as to stand over him.
Help My Little Village! - A small village in the hinterlands (where the PCs just happen to be resting for the night) is besieged by a Stamagast, and it buried the place under an unseasonable two feet of snow. The villagers beseech the mighty PCs to find the beast and put it to it's end. The PCs are then lead to where the elemental most commonly appears, and they can negotiate with it, and discover it's demand for tribute and sacrifice, a warm body for every month of winter (Say, isn't that how many PCs there are???) or they can fight and kill the creature.
For Want of a Feather - The PCs wizardly benefactor has since decided to do research into ice and cold based magics. He has gained the needed inks and such for the process but his initial research indicates that he needs a quill made from the feather of a Stamagast. He gives the PCs directions to the Hall of the Frost King, a king of the northland giants, whom supposedly keeps a Stamagast as a pet in his menagerie. The wizard himself would ask, but there was some event back in the wizard's younger days that the King hasn't yet forgiven. The PCs can infiltrate a giant's palace, sneak about, find loot and adventure and then find the Stamagast, now dingy and filthy after years of captivity. They can free it, and once free the elemental can either die peacefully in a puff of ice motes and feathers or rise up like a phoenix of frost to lay waste to the giant's palace.
A Questionable Summoning - The PC wizard has a random means of summoning, such as a Wand of Wonders, or some other random mechanic device, or simply has access to a scroll or some other means of summoning. When the spell is invoked, a Stamagast, a bearer of ill-fortune is summoned. While initially not hostile to the summoner, stamagasts are seldom friendly for long.
Winter. The final frontier. For who truly knows, if spring will ever come.
This months quest revolves around the concept of winter, in all its hoary splendor. Cold, death, decay, and torpid hibernation. Snow, ice, and frost. These are the ubiquitous images of the long, bleak season.
We are looking for the finest examples of winter-themed submissions. The winners of this major quest, will become worthy recipients of frosty mugs and glasses, engraved with odes to victory, courtesy of Scrasamax! Good luck to all. Don your mittens!
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? Responses (12)
This creature would like the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." 5/5 This is such a beautiful creature.
I think that pretty much hits it on the head Cheka, btw, I like that song too. LoL
For coolness (pun somewhat intended) and originality, awesome. For treading a little to close to a specific system (i.e Cold or Ice Descriptors), I am a little less happy for they interfere with the tone of the piece. Similarly, "each leg has a long piercing spur that inflicts damage equivalent to a javelin, but also cold damage as well." Perhaps "spur that can inflict a mortal wound that bears supernatural cold".
Phrasing such as "ice and cold related spells heal" sound more system neutral then the specific phrase "Cold Descriptor".
That said, I am not taking off points since the piece is awesome as it stands.
I've not quite seen an elemental like this before. It's extremely well done, Scras, kudos.
This creature is sublime! Superb post! My favorite kind! You took a mundane animal and let your imagination run wild! This reminds me of course, of Russian fables type of creatures. A winter version of the Firebird! (and I dont mean Pontiac)
I love this thing. I really, really, do.
The Great and Mighty anti-phoenix. Nice explanations of the elemental and its reasons to exist. The plotline adds are useful as well.
While I enjoyed this creature I don't feel it's really needed in a game. The environment itself is what is causing the danger, and it does not need to be guided by some hungry foce. In a way I think the lack of rhyme or reason is what makes it more terrifying, that it is not something that can be killed or controled.
A good piece for the quest.
5/5 Very Nice!!!!!!!!!
Used two days ago, pretty much as written, TERRIFIED players, good fight!