Over time, one-off dragon species have become one of my favorite monster categories. I love their wildness and their weirdness, how they harken back to early folktales and myths, and how each one’s set of abilities and characteristics is a surprise instead of checkboxes on a five-dragon matrix.
So naturally I’m delighted by the khala, a female water dragon from Bulgarian mythology. Introduced to Pathfinder via the Golarion’s dark, vaguely Slavic fairytale land of Irrisen, the khala has added supernatural cold to her portfolio as well. A three-headed, snake-like, ice-spewing beast, she brings winter with her wherever she goes. Even her bite is laced with a poisonous chilling disease.
The presence of a khala implies both history and corruption, because there is a warping in the race’s past. Somewhere back in the distant strands of time, they were prouder wyrms and their lands more beautiful or fertile places…but no more. Khalas tend to linger in the same regions as witches, hags, cruel magical or military tyrants, and frost giants…anywhere where decades or centuries of cold, corruption, coercion, and control have worn down the land and its people.
There’s also the mystery of how khalas reproduce, and the fate of their male zmey counterparts. Ecologically minded adventurers might wish to see the zmeys restored; defenders of civilization might wish the khalas wiped out completely. Other dragons might fill in for the zmeys as well—the flame-spewing, multinecked gorynyches seem a particularly good fit. But the demise of the zmeys might also serve as an origin for the cursed taninivers or the mysterious damned azi as well…
A mysterious wood has grown up around Dun Harrow, hiding the ancient fort and its renowned, possibly magical stone carvings. Even the weather seems to linger chill and stormy over the surrounding shire. A khala has used repeated suggestions to take a dryad queen as her lover and force the fey’s kinswomen to reshape their forest as she desires.
When the shattering of the Sphere of Black Omens corrupted the Elflands, Par Tarthelion suffered the worst. Its crystal towers grew dark and cracked; its trees turned thorny and brittle; its rivers ran with blood and the weeping of sores. And when the cold winds blew from the north, no longer held at bay by elf weather magic, Par Tarthelion’s guardian green dragons shriveled and split, each one transforming into—or was it birthing?—a khala. If there is one small consolation, it’s that the nightmarish beasts cannot breed, the guardian greens all having been female. At least, that is what the elven exiles hope…
When the Bohemians left the poor, overworked foothills of their homeland in search of the rich plains of the American Midwest, they brought their work ethic and their mournful songs…but also their nightmares. Through possession, subterfuge, and the mysterious Grey Roads of the Otherlands, hags, soulbound dolls, dybbuks, ice devils, and the terrible khalas all found their way to the Great Lakes region. Canadian gnomish settlers and furriers report that monsters hold the northern shore of Lake Huron, and Lake Superior is nearly entirely overrun. Adventurers who were running guns to the Lakota Indians and the Lake Crowfolk tengu tribes now find themselves being offered pardons if they will go with a U.S. Army detachment to drive the khalas out of the Great Lakes.
—Irrisen: Land of Eternal Winter 59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 151
Irrisen pluralizes khala as “khala”; B5 uses “khalas.” I like the former but went with the latter for consistency.