When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my patrons on Patreon. Last week I wrote about cyclopes. Today, let’s look at another monster you don’t see every day. Patron Travis asks do you envision an niche for perytons in Eberron? Why yes, yes I do.
Peryton? That’s an old legend, child, tied to the long nights of old Karrnath. It’s said that when love and murder are intertwined, the shadow of the victim can congeal and pool in their heart. When carrion birds consume the heart of the corpse, the anguished shadow can slip into them. The tormented spirit changes the birds into vessels for its pain, making them huge, horned, and hungry things. The only respite the peryton has is when it consumes the heart of another humanoid… and then, for a short time, its pain will pass.
That’s the OLD story, the one your grandmother may have known. But she’d probably never seen a peryton, likely never knew it as anything but a story. Here, we know them to be the hungry truth. The peryton is tied to murder and to vengeful shadows. Well, child, thirty years ago there was a war within the House of Shadows. The elves turned on one another, and the Thuranni wiped out the Paelion family. Those elves had strong shadows to begin with, and they were strengthened by both rage and poisoned love, for this was a battle of kin against kin. When the carrion birds feasted on the Paelion dead, the shadows they consumed were stronger than anything. These monsters—they’re as much shadow as flesh. Cut one of them and you’ll see the shadow-form below the fur and feathers, as much a part of it as its blood; mere steel won’t cut that shadow, you be warned of that. And you’ll see—the creature’s shadow, it’s no bird shape. It’s the shadow of an elf, twisted in anguish.
What we’ve got in these woods? Don’t call it a peryton, child. Call it what it is. Call it a paelion. And be warned. They’re hungry for the hearts of elves, for those that betrayed them. But in the end, they’re just hungry… and when they hear the beat of your heart, they’ll come for you.
The peryton is a creature created by Jorge Luis Borges that combines the features of a stag and bird. Like the medusa and the gorgon, D&D’s interpretation of the peryton has always diverged from the source material. As presented in 5E D&D, the peryton is a monstrosity with human-level mental ability scores. Perytons understand Elvish but can’t speak. They are noteworthy for casting humanoid shadows, as seen in the image from the original AD&D Monster Manual I’ve included above. The 5E peryton is resistant to non-magical physical attacks, though no explanation is given for this resistance. And the story is suggested that the perytons were formed when carrion birds fed on the corpse of someone who died associated with murder and magic.
The Paelion perytons—which I’ll refer to as paelions going forward—build on that idea. There’s something about this particular region in northern Karrnath that makes the peryton curse possible. Perhaps it’s an unsual manifest zone, perhaps the forgotten working of an overlord such as Sul Khatesh. Whatever the case, there’s a place where carrion birds can consume the essence of people who’ve been murdered; and the Thuranni in the region knew nothing about this when they killed a Paelion family living there. The corpses were left to rot, but their shadows lingered, vengeful and strong… and when the crows consumed those shadows, they became monstrous paelions.
A paelion is a medium-sized monstrosity with traits of stag and eagle. But what truly defines it is its shadow. The shadow cast by the paelion has the appearance of an elf. This shadow is always visible, even when there is a limited light source. This shadow is a fragment of a slain Paelion elf, and it grants the paelion its understanding of Elvish and near-human intelligence, but it is only a fragment of the dead elf; its sentience is a blend of bestial instinct and elvish memories. A paelion is driven by its hunger both for humanoid hearts and for vengeance, but it can’t fully remember or parse the reason in craves vengeance or what proper vengeance would look like. A paelion can predict and anticipate humanoid behavior—it understands houses, weapons, tools—but can’t just choose to sit and have a friendly conversation as a normal person would; the fires of hunger and vengeance are always driving it to hunt and feed. If adventurers could find a way to dull that consuming hunger, it’s possible that a paelion could regain some of the sentience and personality of the elf within its shadow, but finding a way to achieve this would be a difficult challenge.
The paelion’s humanoid shadow is a sliver of a murdered Paelion elf. While it manifests most obviously as a visible phenomenon, the shadow is also suffused through the creature’s body. This is the basis of the paelion’s resistance to non-magical physical damage; when you cut or pierce the paelion, you see the shadow of the creature still intact within the world. Beyond this, the strength of this shadow and the effects it can have vary from paelion to paelion. Here’s a few possible options. Spells use Charisma as their spellcasting modifier; a spellcasting peryton might have a higher than average Charisma.
|Paelion Peryton Shadow Traits
|The shadow can speak Elvish and may sing traditional Phiarlan songs. This is instinctive and isn’t consciously controlled by the peryton itself.
|The shadow can take on other shapes; the peryton can cast minor illusion as a bonus action.
|The shadow is aggressive; the peryton can cast chill touch as a bonus action.
|If the peryton is slain, its shadow lingers as an independent shadow.
|The shadow guides the peryton, providing it with darkvision with a range of 120 ft.
|The peryton can unleash its shadow to cast darkness. Once it’s used this ability, it can’t cast darkness again in this way until its completed a long rest.
Why does this matter?
The Paelion peryton can just be an interesting regional monster. There’s a village in Karrnath where the people are haunted by beautiful songs that come from the deep woods, but anyone who follows the song never returns; the villagers could throw a coin to their
Witcher adventurers to deal with this threat. Traveling adventurers could be attacked by paelions, especially if there are elves or Khoravar in the party. So, they could just be monsters. On the other hand, if the adventurers have any personal connection to the Shadow Schism, these creatures could be vital as one of the last links to the true events of the Schism and the lingering remnants of the Paelion line. Perhaps there’s a way to restore the creatures to full consciousness, or even to isolate their shadows and return them to humanoid bodies. If not, it could still be the case that one of the songs sung by a paelion’s shadow reveals a key truth about the Schism… or perhaps, a clue to a hidden Paelion vault that holds a lost treasure, whether that’s an artifact, a secret, or even a long-forgotten song.
That’s all for now! If you have an interesting Eberron question and would like to help determine the subject of future articles, check out my Patreon!