Postfest V, Part III: The Horn Wing of the Dry Steppes
Date: Sun, September 11, 2005
Topic: Monsters of Greyhawk
The Horn Wing is one of the top teir predators of the dry steppes, read on to find out about this deadly hunter.
The Horn Wing of the Dry Steppes
By: C. Wesley Clough
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Empty, desolate, and barren. These words and many others like them have been used to describe the Dry Steppes that stretch out to the south east of Ull. While these descriptions may appear accurate upon the surface, in reality the Dry Steppes are a vibrant living place full of life. Trees and other large forms of groundcover may be few and far between, but grasses of all sorts, along with many types of shrubs and flowers flourish in the Dry Steppes. In fact, in the Baklunish lands the Dry Steppes are referred to as the Zir'al-Wiss, or “Sea of Grass.” With the grasses come the creatures that feed on them, wild horses, cattle, goats, and an astonishing variety of antelopes are all common sights to the traveler crossing the Steppes. Wolves, hyenas, and lions all prey upon this bounty, but they are not the only creatures to do so. Many types of fearsome beast not found elsewhere in the Flanaess can be encountered in the Dry Steppes, some are natural and some can trace their origins back to the Invoked Devastation which turned the a once lushly forested land into a great flat plain. Detailed below is one of the dangerous creatures that call this vast expanse of arid plains home.
The Horn Wing is a man sized flightless bird that has a size and outward appearance similar to an ostrich with a shorter thicker neck and a much larger head. Another telling difference are the wings from which these birds derive their name, these wings are longer then the wings of most other flightless birds, and shaped more like feathered arms, each one ending in a single long talon-like claw. Their hooked, eagle-like beaks and talon-like wing claws are a whitish brown color, while their overall plumage tends toward gray and black, with incredibly rare specimens being a flat white instead.
Horn Wings are some of the fastest creatures of the dry steppes, able to use a short burst of speed to run down nearly any other creature that inhabits the sea of grass. They are surprisingly social for predatory birds; often hunt in small flocks and working together to ensure that all of them get enough to eat. They attack by biting with their large, hooked, razor sharp beak and slashing with their wing claws. Horn Wings have little fear of humans, demihumans, and humanoids and will prey on them as readily as they do antelope.
Horn Wings have always lived in the area that is now the Dry Steppes, being one of the few creatures that made it through the Invoked Devastation with relatively little change. They quickly adapted to the new, more arid environment by growing larger then they had previously been, but other then that the creature is essentially the same as it was before the Twin Cataclysms.
The dervishes of the central Steppes often send young warriors out to bring back a Horn Wing plume as a sign of manhood and placing a wing claw above the door of a tent is supposed to ensure the prosperity of those who dwell with in. The birds have assumed a quasi-mystical role in the dervish religion, a white Horn Wing having been one of the seven sacred creatures to have walked with Al'Akbar when he traveled the world as a mortal prophet. To this day it is a great taboo, punishable by death, to slay a white Horn Wing.
With cheetah like speed and wolf-like pack tactics the Horn Wing is a dangerous predator of the Steppes, and the reverence with which the local populace views them would seem to indicate that they will be there for a long time to come with little fear of being hunted to extinction. For the foreseeable future the Horn Wing will remain one of the top tier predators of the Dry Steppes, something that it has been since the regions creation.
The Horn Wing's statistics are very much like those of a cheetah, although their appearance is much different. Instead of a rake with the rear claws, a horn wing can rend for 2d4 points of damage if both of its wing claws hit, Number of appearing should be 2-12. Other then as stated above the stats are identical to a cheetah's (including the sprint ability). If the creatures are found “in lair,” (a 15% chance) there will be 1d4 eggs buried in a sandy area nearby, and a 10% chance of 1d4 fledglings being found there as well. The eggs and fledglings are highly prized in Ull, bringing prices of 100gp and 500gp respectively in Kester where apothecaries use the eggs, while the fledglings are raised to fight in the pits. The Dervishes of the Dry Steppes have a much different feeling about this poaching however, and travelers of the steppes that are found to have Horn Wing eggs or fledglings in their possession are treated as criminals by the dervishes.