Attack: Bite, berath, dance of death
Special Qualities: Fear
Organization: Solitary, pair, or gang (5-10)
From the personal journal of Azalai Korias, Elven Wizard
21 Lharvion, 998:
As one of the cultists fell and triumphantly turned around, Khovis cast a Hold Person spell on him. Azure bands of force encircled the human and Kleija plucked the fallen shard from the ground, thanking him politely. The other cultists noted our intrusion and did not seem terribly pleased to see us, calling upon their dark gods to send a servant to smite us.
The Ring of Siberys stretches across the night sky in a glittering golden band, and the valuable Siberys dragonshards that fall to Eberron from it draw the dragonmarked houses to XenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢drik like moths to a flame. Artificers in Khorvaire use the shards to create fantastic magical items, but the giants that once ruled this land had uses for them as well: the resurrection shrines dotting the landscape are perhaps the most useful of these ancient artifacts, as they allow the resurrection of the dead whose spirits have been captured within a soul stone. The quori have also found ways to tap into the power of the dragonshards, so it did not surprise me at all to hear that the cultist servants of the daelkyr were seen scavenging the fields south of Stormreach.
The daelkyr are the lords of Xoriat, the Realm of Madness. Their minions seek to destroy the dimensional seals that keep Xoriat from once again becoming coterminous with Eberron. The last time the Realm of Madness was near to Eberron, 9000 years ago, the vast armies of the daelkyr burst forth and devastated the Dhakaani Empire before the orc and hobgoblin Gatekeepers could drive the plane away. The lords of madness wait eagerly for another opportunity to claim our world.
The Cults of the Dragon Below often ally with the daelkyr. Such an alliance aids both parties Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the humanoid cultists are much better at infiltrating normal society than the tentacled aberrations of Xoriat, and in exchange the cults gain the use of those very abominations to further their mad schemes against a common foe. These alliances tend to last until one side betrays the other, and due to the ambition of the cultists and the unpredictable whims of the daelkyr, it tends to occur sooner than later.
Robed cultists roamed the field, searching for fallen dragonshards. Once a makeshift pasture, the clearing was covered in black ashen lines, the grass scorched away by the fallen shards. Two cultists were arguing loudly over which of them had found a Siberys shard when one drew a wicked looking blade and stabbed the other. We used the distraction to close in on them, their quarrel masking our less-than-stealthy approach.
I dropped an Ice Storm onto the largest collection of cultists, disrupting their prayers and dropping the less dexterous ones ungracefully to the ground. Senna and Zarn moved in to melee with others when a terrible howl filled the air. Cultists scattered and I swallowed my fear as a hideous beast answering their prayers materialized before us.
Kleija slid into the shadows, creeping around the beast, as Senna moved closer from the front. Zarn stood paralyzed with terror as the hound stepped forward, so Khovis called upon holy power to Remove Fear. I called forth a Lightning Bolt to strike the dog, but the creature dodged the bulk of the attack, and energy resistance seemed to take care of most of the rest. A large, hairless wolf snarled at us, its flesh twisted and grotesque. Its pale and slimy hide pulsed unnaturally and its eyeless head swung unerringly about to face us. Acid dripped from its maw as it approached. This was a thaarak hound, one of the prized hunting dogs of the daelkyr.
Yapping to itself excitedly, it suddenly reared up on its hind legs, leaping about in a preposterous dance. Ethereal tentacles reached out from the ground and grabbed hold of me, forcing their way into my eyes when I suddenly realized that it was simply an illusion Ã¢â‚¬â€œ my fears made real by a Phantasmal Killer. The icy grip of terror filling me faded away as I realized the nature of the attack, but the pounding of my heart did not let me forget how close I came to being instantly killed by an extraplanar dog.
Scorching Rays were my response to the thaarakÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attempt to kill me, and I wracked my brain for possible weaknesses of this creature. The damage from the rays was partially resisted, but the Quickened Magic Missile that I followed up with seemed to have full effect. KhovisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Dismissal had no effect, so he moved around to see to KleijaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wounds. The thaarak hound looked at me, and I knew that it was laughing inside. It was toying with us.
Senna attacked to draw its attention as Kleija moved in to flank the hound, and the creature turned to let loose a terrible spray of acid into the halfling. Kleija fell to the ground Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it was clear that the creature had known she was there all along. With another taunting yip, it lunged at Senna, who deflected the attack with her shield and countered. Freed from his terror, Zarn charged the dog, raging. His greataxe bit deeply into the thick hide of the hound, a rainbow spray of blood erupting from the wound.
The hound hopped backwards and to its feet again in its dance, but Zarn was not about to let it cast its spell so freely. With a fierce swing he knocked the dog off balance and it fell to the ground, snarling angrily. It was my turn to laugh as I flung another ten Magic Missiles into the monster. Senna stood guard over KleijaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prone form, and called out to Khovis that the acid was still burning, and that Kleija was beyond simple healing magic.
With a new goal, we set out searching for a shrine. The battle continued furiously as we fought to avenge our fallen companion, and in time the hound finally fell to the ground and disappeared, returned to its home in Xoriat. Khovis took KleijaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s soul stone and placed it gently in his pack.
After meeting one of the daelkyr's hunting hounds, my advice to the adventurer encountering it for the first time would be: run. Of course, given the creatures dogged (ahem) persistence and quick speed, that's not especially likely to work. And while the thaarak hound may be amused by entreaties for mercy or surrender, that avenue isn't likely to meet with success. So, fight you must, though the odds be long. Perhaps you'll have time to scratch out a loving good-bye to a friend, mate, or mother on a nearby stone or wall.
In combat, be sure that your wizard and cleric prepare any potential victims with Remove fear, Deathward, and Protection Against Acid. As accomplished adventurers know, casting a preemptive Remove Fear gives all of the allies protection for some time. The Protection Against Death effects makes the target proof against a lucky phantasmal killer that the hound is likely to summon. Finally, the acid immunity serves good stead given the thaarak's breath that deals damage not just once, but in the minutes that follow as it seeps into the skin and internal organs. Stoneskin and other general defensive enchantments remain good ideas as well, given the strength of the monster's bite. Offensive spells against the thaarak are frequently fruitless anyway, given that the hellspawned whelp possesses a resistance to spell energy that make the drow of Xen'drik envious. Add to that, it has excellent saving throws, as it is an outsider.