In case you missed it—I posted pretty late in the evening—Friday was the 1,000th installment of The Daily Bestiary. Which makes this #1,001! (Does that make me Scheherazade?) So it would be nice if tonight’s monster was of Arabian extraction…but instead we’re going to Japan for the rokurokubi.
I’m not complaining though, because man do I dig the entire family of Eastern monsters whose heads stretch or fly off or are otherwise creepy and compelling as hell. (Hopefully I’m not painting with an overly broad and stereotypical brush when I say that. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure some Japanese monster blogger is right now writing, “What is it with European mythology and squishing two or three animals together? It’s like their entire folklore is from The Wuzzles.”)
The rokurokubis of legend seems comparatively harmless—more a result of a disease or bad karma than a truly monstrous nature, at least according to Wikipedia. (The penanggalan-like nukekubi seems to be the more deadly cousin.) Pathfinder’s rokurokubi, on the other hand, is a deadly hag, a malicious rubbery-necked CR 14 sorceress that spreads mayhem and murder wherever she goes. Of particular note is her poisonous bite that silences even as it saps Charisma, rendering her victims all the more helpless…and when your neck is 20 feet long and threatens all squares within range, that’s a lot of biting that can be done.
One other note that jumps out at me, from both Wikipedia and the full description from Pathfinder Adventure Path #54: The Empty Throne: Unlike many stealthy monsters that seek positions of power, rokurokubis disguise themselves as commoners. This likely allows them to blend into the overlooked segments of society—all the better to hide their presence, particularly rokurokubis who find work as assassins or spies. But you can also imagine how such a disguise furthers their larger aims of mayhem and despair. A member of the upper class who survives a rokurokubi attack will likely come to fear and suspect all commoners…further distancing him- or herself from them, which gives the rokurokubi more room to work…or clamping down with draconian measures, causing fear and distrust the rokurokubi can use to her advantage. The more upheaval she can cause—within each social rank and between them—the more consorts, clients, victims, and meals she can enjoy with impunity.
A rokurokubi’s price for a recent assassination was the ashes of the vampire lord Janshu Nal—no mere hopping vampire, but an undead bloodsucker and death priest of the first order. After his immolation—at noon on the summer solstice, and even then he nearly survived—his ashes were meant to be scattered over the Coral Sea. Instead they were carried to Panang and enshrined in the Fane of the Dancing Marilith for centuries…until now. If the rokurokubi succeeds in return Janshu’s ashes to his ancestral holdings, even the burning light of the sun may not be enough to halt his return.
Courtesy of her uniquely elastic physiology, a rokurokubi is carrying the children of an earth yai, a troll lord, and a sphinx. The sphinx has had second thoughts about his ill-advised liaison and wishes to raise his child to be something other than a murderous monster. He hires adventures to liberate the girl as soon as she is born, but that means contending with the outraged mother, her already-dangerous newborns, and her midwives—one of whom is her sister, the other a summoner with a serpentine eidolon of great power.
The Floating World of Tudon is not, as most suppose, a metaphor for the seductions of urban life. It is an actual place, a demiplane of pleasures, art, and intrigue that can be entered through many a magical arch in Tudon, assuming one has fulfilled the proper conditions: drinking a certain tea, wearing the perfume of a prostitute, holding a note from a geisha, walking while under the influence of wayang blossom, and so forth. Few realize that the first person they see upon entering the Floating World is also its mistress. The “washerwoman” busy scrubbing the flagstones, toting buckets of water, reading fortunes, or sleeping drunk in the gutter is actually the rokurokubi who runs the Floating World…and who makes sure that no troublemaker leaves alive.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #54 90–91 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 227