Monday, January 23, 2017


Like the unicorn, the karkadann is a magical beast, in this case resembling an oryx with a frontward-facing horn.  Also like the unicorn, a karkadann has healing powers, particularly mastery over poison. 

Unlike the unicorn, the oryx is an ass—and I don’t mean the donkey kind.

Note: Okay, we have to get this out of the way first.  While Paizo’s karkadann resembles an oryx, in Persian and Arabic the same word is used for rhinoceros.  It may even be that the conflation of the mythical unicorn and the real rhinoceros is how the pernicious tradition of using a rhinoceros’s horn for medicine got started.  So let’s say this right now: Real rhino horns have no magical or medicinal properties.  And the maiming, mutilation, and murder of rhinos, tigers, elephants, and other endangered animals are among the most barbaric practices in the world.  Cultural differences and differing social norms are no excuse for nearly wiping out whole species, and every government and its citizens should work to bring an end to such trades.  So while I may talk about the uses of a karkadann’s horn in a flippant way here, I in no way condone any version of the practice in real life, and nor should you.

You’ll never catch a karkadann mooning over virgins or acting as a gentle steward of the forest like one of those fancy-prancy unicorns.  Karkadanns are hardy creatures of the plains and deserts, and they are mercenary to the core.  If you want a karkadann’s help, be prepared to pay up.  And whether it’s gold, magic, or favors, chances are the price is going to be a good 10% more than you can afford.

But then again, maybe that’s the plus side to the karkadann.  To get a unicorn’s help, you need to beseech and prove your good-heartedness and maybe perform a side quest or two.  But to get aid from a karkadann, you just need to pony up.  And if he raises the price too high or gives you attitude, well, you can always put a knife to his throat (keeping an eye out for the dimension door escape attempt) and point out that the gods look unfavorably at those who deny mercy when it’s needed.  You might also remind the karkadann that its horn is just as valuable severed off as it is sitting upon the brow where it currently resides… 

In other words, after all that sucking up to unicorns, isn’t nice to run into a talking animal you can just smack around until it behaves?

A karkadann appears at dawn to tired adventurers, pointing his horn to a rocky outcropping and saying only, “The treasure lies in there.”  The karkadann’s mystical air is a front, however.  He knows the site is guarded by a fierce girtablilu, and sending greedy travelers in there is a good way to keep his range free of the two-legged pests.  If they limp out of the caves wounded, poisoned, and ready to negotiate for aid, so much the better.

Several desert fey and a bristle of karkadanns have a long-running feud.  Thanks to their magic horns, which bear the taint of cold iron, the karkadanns currently have a narrow edge.  Adventurers might assist either side, but there are no heroes in this conflict.  Both the fey and the karkadanns want dominion over a certain watering hole so they can extort travelers for all they’re worth.

Stubborn camel trader Mustava—known as “the Mule” behind his back (and only behind his back)—is an unusual sight in the market of Damas, for he, too, has hooves.  Once a wild karkadann, the magical beast found city life more to his liking, and his keen eye for ungulates has served him well.  While he may be an unlikely merchant, he has an even more unlikely side hobby—he is the head of Damas’s Gore Boys, a gang of bloody-minded but crafty thieves.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 148

Back in grad school I went to New Mexico in a doomed attempt to see an ex.  We drove down to White Sands National Monument, one of the most bizarre places on earth—made even more so by the tension between us and the ominous stealth fighter (an F-117, I believe) that passed overhead.  We stopped in the park, took in the stark white scenery for a time, and got back in the car.  Just as we did, an oryx—an animal that should only be found in Africa or Arabia—galloped right across our path, inches from our bumper.  (It turns out they were introduced in the ’60s and adapted a little too successfully to the area.)  We just watched it go past, looked at each other, and laughed in disbelief at one of the more magical and surreal moments we’d ever encountered.

Looking for the kaprosuchus?  It’s way back here.

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