I love disease-themed villains and villainy. First off, plague was a very real part of life in the Middle Ages, and even in fantasy communities there aren’t enough clerics to stem the tide. Second of all, it’s more nuanced than being devoted to, say, slaughter or war, and more interesting then explicable deaths like drowning and starvation (though famine, with its larger social and political implications, is a more fertile concept).
Most importantly, diseases involve (forgive the medical pun) complications. There are epidemiological issues of vectors of transmission, rate of spread, speed of onset, and asymptomatic Typhoid Mary-type carriers. Thus the plots of diseased themed villains are so much more complicated. It’s not enough to blight the fields or start a war. They have to poison the water supply…create a new virus…slay priests and healers…cultivate bacteria and mosquitoes like disgusting zookeepers…and so and so forth. A disease-themed adventure can be a murder mystery, a ticking clock scenario, and political thriller all in one.
All of which make leukodaemons pretty sick villains.
(Okay, that pun was unforgiveable.)
Elrondil is a rare thing—a nation of half-elves, and one that has united human and elven customs in their love of tournaments and pageantry. At an arcane archery competition, a hooded archer boasts that her arrows will find more marks than any other. She speaks true. Upon reaching the winners’ dais, a torrent of flies erupts from under her cloak, and she begins firing disease-laced arrows into the crowd.
Servants of the Plague Mother summon a trio of leukodaemons to assist in the spreading of a new plague. But the disease is vastly more lethal than anticipated. This causes a schism in the dark sect. The more fanatic priests maintain that this must be Yrfidiel’s will and that she has blessed their efforts. The more pragmatic clerics point out that their goddess blesses long-suffering carriers. They suspect the leukodaemons have bolstered the plague for their own agendas, mocking their goddess. Meanwhile, it rips through the capital city like wildfire.
Leukodaemons’ horse skulls are a badge of loyalty to the Horseman of Pestilence—and even the disloyal find it prudent to follow the fashion. Those who don’t are the true iconoclasts of the race. The stag-headed Cervimort finds his peers’ focus on humanoids ludicrous, focusing instead on infecting their herd animals and food supplies. And the Huge, mammoth-headed Oorm is responsible for the demise of at least one giant subrace. “Why chop down a sapling when you can fell a redwood?” is his motto.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 68
My Bestiary 2’s Table of Contents has the leucrotta and the leukodaemon in the wrong order. First printing in da house!
Aside from the Tolkienian name, Elrondil takes a teaspoon of inspiration from Bruce Heard’s nation of Eusdria in Dragon Magazine #178.
More about Golarion’s leukodaemons and their pestilent lord Apollyon can be found in Todd Stewart’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse—a book so well written it put me into an existential funk. You, of course, are made of sterner stuff, so go check it out.
Apparently my Internet at home is stuck in 1998—some articles and pictures, forget multimedia, no Blogger, cranky Tumblr. I had to go back to work to post this. This is how much I love you. (Of course, back to work is the party district, which helps, especially tonight. So happy Halloween! Or, as Dan Savage put it…)