Saturday, June 3, 2017

Monster Mash: A is for Al-Miraj

Unicorns are celestial guardians. They guard sacred forest and offer themselves as mounts to holy champion. They are associated with purity, healing and righteousness.

But they are not the only horned celestial beasts.

In fact, there are many creatures associated with the fey and celestial that all bare the divine horn upon their brow. Perhaps unicorns are the archetype of these creations or perhaps they're just the best known on the material plane, but there are other divine beasts that can be found in the realm. Many of these creatures are so rare they are considered more myth or legend than even a unicorn. These creatures were once more common but have been forced, by hunters seeking their horns, into more secluded territory.

The Al-Miraj is a creature that is often a joke used to scare children from going into dangerous woods or to dissuade superstitious hunters from hunting in woods where they are unwelcome. The Al-Miraj is said to stalk the ancient woods of the world, looking for evil doers, and to hunt them down. A large yellow hare with a long spiral horn for goring its prey and the claws and teeth of a lion for tearing them to shreds is a somewhat ridiculous or terrifying image depending on the storytelling spinning the imagery and the audience. Only a fool would fall for such a story.

But that doesn't mean they're not real.

Predator of Predators. When an Al-Miraj claims a stretch of forest as their territory, usually a sacred or divine forest but, if not available, the first forest that catches their fancy, the first thing they do is seek out the largest predator in the forest and hunt them down.
After hunting down the large predator and slaying them, the Al-Mirahj devours its prey. If they have the time, they prefer to eat their prey from the inside out and particularly savor the heart, liver and other bodily organs of predators over any other animal flesh. There is nothing more unsettling than the sound of a pleased Al-Miraj gorging itself on a bear's corpse. The happy sounds they make have been compared to children's laughter or singing.
Despite their small size, Al-Miraj are apex predators. They are fast, cunning, stealth, fierce and, most importantly, very, very, very deadly. And they might seem a bit greedy. Al-Miraj won't stop with the former apex predator of the wood. If a forest has a disproportionate number of predators, the Al-Mirah will hunt them and thin out their numbers until there are just enough left to balance the ecosystem of the forest.
In fact, this veracity for hunting down and slaying predators is the very reason for their existence.

Sacred but Deadly. The gods have strange ways of bringing balance to nature, when their enemies or unknowing humanoids throw off the balance, and in this case it involves sending a celestial terror to bring about balance in the wood. Al-Miraj are created by nature gods or their druids when their wood becomes overwhelmed with dangerous predators, whether beasts or people, that threaten to wreak havoc on the natural order of their domain. After they finish the job of routing the wood of the threat, they either move onto the next forest that needs their veracity or they claim the territory as their permanent hunting grounds. And yet, they're rare.
This is because, despite their purpose being to dislodge unwanted hunters from the wood, their existence attracts very particular hunters. Their horns are perfect crafting any number of magical weapons, since they're already endowed with magical properties that allow them to slay the hardiest owlbear, and they have a number of alchemical properties. Their coats are also prized for the magic resistance and exotic coloration. They have an inherent weakness built into them: their minds are susceptible to enchantment magic.Therefore, monster hunters merely charm the Al-Miraj and cut away their horn, leaving them to die, and taking their prize with them.
That's why they're so rare.

Enemies of Evil. Despite their ferocious reputation, Al-Miraj are not known to attack the innocent and show little interest in herbivorous creatures. Their preferences to hunt and kill predators are merely their nature. While they may mistake any unmet humanoid as an intruder, they can be reasoned with if they speak quickly about their intentions in the wood. Furthermore, they can easily be convinced to aid a would-be-hero in routing an evil from the wood and, while their solitary predators, they seek out elves and other forest folk when they run up against a threat that they can't handle on their own.
They make for great but short-lived alliances that nobody will ever believe.

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