The Burnt World of Athas

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By Slayer1645

From The Tales of Myri, the Traveler:

“Many times I heard horrible tales of the monsters of the desert, and many times I saw the ghastly creature spawned by our Dark Sun myself. I rode the rampager and stung the mystrial with a poison arrow, but never did I see so odd a monster as the rygalt.

“I heard tales of it from dozens of travelers, constantly speaking of it in alehouses. Most were of the horrors it wrought upon men in their worst situations, with no chance of fighting back. Many, however, were strangely the opposite: some sun-baked travelers told tales of reptilian saviors rising over the dune-crest, bringing them back from the brink of death. As a documenter of such tales, I found trouble in saying which one was true, and decided to look into the matter for myself.

“As the elven guide I hired had told me, the rygalts did not appear to us as we looked for them. Even following trails and getting clue after clue on their whereabouts, we failed to actually find one. Always were they one we tracked a step ahead, just out of our sight. Finally, having exhausted our supplies, we gave up and decided to go back to the village.

“That was when the drake attacked, swooping down on us in malicious fury. Despite my well-honed skill and the sure shooting of my steadfast companion, we were badly injured and managed to do no more than send it off in search of easier prey. Our supplies were gone, my mount was dead, and we were both badly injured. I was without a weapon and found my silt-mask to be shredded and practically useless.

“Unsure of which way the village lied and with only a few hours until dusk, we made a decision. I would go one way and my companion, Yuri, would go the other. One of us needed to survive to warn the little village that a drake might soon plunder their slaves and livestock. I went one direction and Yuri the other, in search of survival.

“After many hours, night was upon me. I heard a cawing on the dune ahead and looked in hopes of finding a vulture I might kill and eat. To my surprise, I saw a huge reptilian horror. Fangs forged of the Dragon’s handiwork and long claws that could be nothing if not glittering steel. It seemed to have endless layers of scales - black scales that looked like obsidian stone, not those of snakes. With its sneering face and long, scythe-like tail, I could swear the Dragon’s death-bringer was upon me.

“To my surprise it walked to me on bird-like hind legs, standing fully erect. Upon reaching me, its eyes became apparent. Long slits running the length of its face, alien yet placid. I was certain it was able to see and hear and think, and by the offering it made in its bladed hands, I became sure of it.

“Reaching forth it handed to me a canteen filled with murky water, a strange half-cooked meat of some desert animal, a blade and a long strip of cloth. Inspecting it hurriedly, I found the blade to match my former partners, and the cloth to be of an elven-weave shirt. As I tasted the sweet, unforgettably good meat I looked up to search for my savior.

“It ran to the west, and when I followed I was astonished. Eventually it led me to town, but before I made it, I found something that finalized the truth in the stories. I found an elf, mangled and robbed of her flesh by claw-like blades and serrated horrors. Her tunic was torn from her with only a scrap behind, and her canteen-strap hung without a canteen to match. Her sheath, as I suspected, was empty.”

Rygalt Climate/Terrain: Any Frequency: Very Rare Organization: Solitary Activity Cycle: Any Diet: Carnivore Intelligence: Unknown Treasure: Varies Alignment: Unknown No. Appearing: 1 Armor Class: -2 Movement: 15 or Unknown Hit Dice: 15 + 20 (120hp) Thac0: 5 No. of Attacks: 2 or 1 Damage/Attack: 4d6/4d6 or 4d10 Special Attacks: None Special Defenses: See below Magic Resistance: Special Size: M (6’ tall) Morale: Special XP VALUE: 17,000 Psionics Summary: Unknown

The rygalt is an exceedingly fearsome reptilian creature, though it is no more fearsome than some of the other terrors of the desert. It has a long head like that of an alligator, only much smoother in appearance. Its nose is a pair of tear-shaped slots on the tip of the snout and is relied on completely for respiration. The mouth opens wide like an alligator, but not with as much mechanical stiffness. It has horrid serrated teeth of dozens of varying lengths and a huge tongue, which is worsened by the fact that greenish drool dominates its open mouth. The rygalt has a single pair of eyes, slits running the length of its head, one on each side. Its body is not much longer than its head, with a pair of human-like front appendages and bird-like double-jointed rear legs. The front legs double as arms if it decides to stand on its hind legs, which it can do easily, and have strangely metallic talons about the length of daggers. The rear legs end in three-toed feet with huge grasping claws. The tail runs behind the creature quite a ways, almost as long as the rest of the creature, and has a sharply bladed ridge running the final length of it, which is naturally curved, giving it a sickle-type appearance. The entire body is covered in scales that almost seem to be layered on top of each other, and are a midnight color and stony texture.

The creature seems completely unable to communicate, or does not want to. Its difficulties with magic and psionics make it resistant to telepathy, even natural mind-speak doesn’t seem able to cut through the living mass of wards.

Combat: The rygalt are no-nonsense combatants. They do not spring ambushes, employ extremely clever tactics, or even seem to break from a ceaseless routine of slashing. They usually attack standing on their hind feet, using the front claws. Much as they look, each claw has the effectiveness of a true steel knife, making them extremely dangerous when used in a combined attack. When unable to stand or facing an enemy behind it, the rygalt relies on its bladed tail to deliver a single, monumental attack. The creature is not terribly strong, but its blades are sharp and never seem to dull.

The rygalthas a host of defensive abilities that far outstrip its offensive capabilities.Its skin is not just for show, the scales are amazingly durable. The scales are highly resistant to natural flames, but will be destroyed if actually submerged in molten lava. They also seem resistant to electricity, channeling it out from the top line of scales and never allowing it to reach anywhere actually connected to the body. Opponents will also find that when they can harm them, it’s almost a waste of time. They have amazingly high endurance, and can withstand far more damage than most creatures.

Foes hoping to employ special powers are even worse off. The creature is completely resistant to magic, good or bad, attack, defense or alteration. It does not stop magic from occurring or alter its effects, but is simply unaffected by it. A summoned monster would hurt it, but a lightning bolt wouldn’t. A person could dig out the ground beneath it, but not lower the magic resistance of it. Psionicists also find their powers such as pyrokinesis and inflict pain falter. Project force, telekinesis and other such powers can affect it, but are not likely to do much good. Mentally contacting the creature is completely impossible.

The rygalt may have psionic powers or spell-like abilities, but no one has ever seen them actually employ any. When brought near death they might do so, but no one is known to have brought one to the brink of death and documented it.

Habitat/Society: In truth, Myri’s documentation of the rygalt is the only one considered valid in existence. Other than it only a handful of children’s tales exist, none actually meant to expose any truths on the creature. This means no real information exists on their habits, though a few half-truths are known. It is certain that, as in Myri’s story, the creatures either take it upon themselves to save or slaughter the misfortunate out in the desert. They always strike at the downtrodden, whether helping or harming. The logic behind their choices is unknown, but if attacked they do retaliate.

When approaching a desert traveler, they go about it in exactly the same manner whether attacking or not. It is thought by some that they make a decision whether or not they like the person on the way, though the truth to this is unknown. Some also suggest they magically discern the alignment of those they approach, though this is also unverified.

Nothing else is known of their society, though it is certain that they cannot be tracked. Though the fastest elves have followed their trails (and they leave a trail of shed scales easy to follow behind them) they’ve always reported being just behind it, as have slow, relentless rangers. Magic and psionics are also useless in divining their locations or knowledge about them, though why is a mystery.

Ecology: Rygalt are known to eat meat, and possibly vegetables, but it is uncertain what. The strange meat they bring is often their victim’s, but has sometimes been described as erdlu as well. What they truly dine on or how much they drink is unknown, and they seem to have no natural enemies.

Once rygalt where sought for their incredible hides, undulling and perfectly sharp blades, and for use in magic and psionic experiments. When it was found this was a waste of time and money in the extreme, the searching stopped. About the only thing useful they produce is their shed scales, which are useless and brittle but become amazingly good kindling.