Approximate time to read: 3 minutes.
Out of the unimaginable blackness beyond the gangrenous glare of that cold flame, out of the Tartarean leagues through which that oily river rolled uncanny, unheard, and unsuspected, there flopped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things that no sound eye could ever wholly grasp, or sound brain ever wholly remember.
From beyond the sea they came, swooping out of the dark heart of the storm. The dark mounts, messengers perhaps of the Elder Ones or maybe partners in their horrible experiments, seemed at once tame and yet bestial in their savagery. They did not seem wholly animal in their countenance, and yet how could that be anything more with their monstrous appearance that seems neither one thing nor the other.
Race Everform (they are neither Undead nor Abominations)
Resistance Challenging (200)
Traits Armored (I/10), Bloodlust* (I/10), Dismay*** (I/10), Natural Weapon (II/30), Swarm (I/10), Wings (II/30)
Accurate 7 (+3), Cunning 5 (+5), Discreet 10 (0), Persuasive 9 (+1), Quick 13 (-3), Resolute 12 (-2), Strong 11 (-1), Vigilant 13 (-3)
Abilities Acrobatic (Novice/10), Agile Combat**** (Novice/10), Sixth Sense (Master/60), Twin Attack (Novice/10)
Boons Bloodhound (5), Bulky** (5), Dexterous (5), Echo** (5)
Burdens Slow (-5), Stink** (-5)
Weapons Bite 5 (Bulky), Claws 3 (Short)
Armor 2 (as a Swarm, suffers only half damage from all attacks)
Toughness 11 Pain Threshold 6
Shadow Flecks of gold around a heart of darkness, like an eclipse (thoroughly corrupt)
Tactics Most often the Dark Mounts attack only for defence or when used as beasts of battle by handlers who have summoned them. When protecting themselves, they seek to use their power of flight to absolute advantage, dropping and pecking as a swarm to overcome targets most likely to do them harm. They may also use the enthralling power of Bloodlust to fix an opponent in place, even if they do then get the chance to swoop in to feast upon them. With a rider, the approach becomes more complex as the control reins in their natural instincts, but bolsters their strengths. Handlers tend to use ranged weapons or Mystical Powers, while the Mount seeks to disarm, dismay and feast.
Appearance and Senses A Dark Mount has the appearance of some fouled experiment or a hybrid created through twisted magic. Part bird, part mammal, part insect, part human – the unsettling appearance and graveyard stench make them difficult to behold without nausea and disquiet. They reek of rotting meat, ragged chunks of flesh caking their beaks and hide. That hide combines feathers, fur, scabrous flesh, scales and leathery skin, punctured by bony spikes, antlers, half-formed limbs, and sharp spines. No two Dark Mounts look alike, aside from in the sense they can all have wings, all stink of rotting meat, and all answer the call of their masters.
Environs Certain Seekers who have travelled beyond Ambra’s walls suggest they have seen these Dark Mounts nesting on the King’s Isles to the north or brooding in the mid-depths of northern Davokar. They prefer the darkness of caves or ravines, dark forest depths or shadowy fractures in the ruins that claw up from the depths of the northern sea. However, certain theories suggest that the creatures might not be native to their area at all and might well be summoned from the Yonderworld or elsewhere, only lingering around Ambra when the summoner breaks the mystic bond or dies without sending the creature back. As of yet, none have seen evidence of young – though both theories do not discount the possibility.
Predation and Treasure Dark Mounts appear carnivorous, but will resort to carrion if unable to hunt living creatures. Those out on the islands eat birds, fish, and any small mammals they can find; while those inland take advantage of domesticated animals as targets, including dogs, horses and cattle. They will also eat people, though hunting such prey comes with a measure of caution. While animal in intelligence, Dark Mounts are not stupid and will not put themselves in harms way for a meal.
For some reason, the creatures have an attraction to shiny objects – to the extent they will steal them from living targets and flee if given the opportunity. They rarely carry their finds, leaving them instead where they rest or nest. A Seeker who can track a Dark Mount back to wherever it calls home may find a clutter of items, ranging from debris and curiosities through to heirlooms and artefacts.
Support the Patreon campaign for The Iron Pact to fund the time and space for more Symbaroum articles, encounters, monsters and more.
Post is part of the #AtoZChallenge.