From the Journals of Krenn Elias, Court Anthropologist
I feel like I have crossed the fey lands twice over at this point. After spending some time recovering from my close encounter with a storm chaser, I decided to return to court for the celebration of the Summer Solstice. I would slight my house and the queen were I absent from such an important event.
My sister Anjika attended the celebration. She presented her latest pet, a human poet, to the queen. Apparently, her poet proved much more entertaining than her last plaything. The queen enjoyed his poetry and gave Anjika a garland. Now Anjika will be quite intolerable with her success.
I told her majesty about my adventure with the forestfolk, and she was quite enchanted with their ways. If she is as pleased with the rest of my studies, I will gain quite a bit of honor. Perhaps then the rest of the court will realize that the station of court anthropologist is nothing to be sneered at.
We have made it to the desert at last. It is amazing how the scenery can go from almost oppressive humidity and jungle as far as the eye can see to nothing but sand and dry, blinding heat. The dunes stretch for days in front of us. My guide tells me that the northern cliffs are still a week away. Several tribes of calientos are supposed to be living in the caves there.
It rained last night, making the whole company wet and miserable. But this morning we were able to witness the miracle of the desert coming alive. A strange pink flower (see drawing in the margin) sprang up from the sand. Like a giant carpet, it covered the brown earth as far as the eye could see. The flowers seemed to pulse with energy, sucking the air through their petals. Then, as the sun climbed overhead and the heat once again made the landscape shimmer, the flowers shriveled and crumbled into dust.
Nothing but sand, heat, a few poisonous reptiles, more sand, and more heat. The cliffs loom on the horizon now. It is hard to estimate how far away things really are. The desert seems to enjoy playing tricks on us. Several of my companions reported seeing mirages. I wish to experience one myself, just so that I can document it. But so far all I have seen is sand.
I know that we must be close to the calientos now. Last night, as I lay watching the stars (they are so much brighter out here), I saw a brief glow to the north, like a bonfire had been lit for a few seconds, and then it was gone. I have heard that the calientos hunt at night, attacking their prey with balls of fire. I believe that must have been one of their hunting parties. I hope they will not consider us prey.
I had our caravan approach the cliffs at an angle, away from where I saw the fire two nights ago. We have camped in a small canyon set back from the cliff. I believe my companions will be safely hidden here. I am setting out today with my assistant and a small pack of camping gear.
Last night, we heard activity several hundred feet away. We made our way closer, keeping well hidden in the rocks and boulders that line the base of the cliffs. In the dark, we saw five crawling forms dragging what looked to be a giant lizard up the face of the cliff. After about 40 feet, they disappeared from sight.
I chose to set up my observation camp here. I have several camouflaging spells ready in case the cloaks don't work. So far today I have seen only a head or two poke out from the holes in the cliff. In the daylight, I can see that the creatures' eyes are much larger than I expected, perhaps three to four inches in diameter. They protrude from the face, and are like solid jewels, shimmering red or purple. I would like to see them up close to find out what sort of membrane protects them.
I made an important but painful discovery today. I confirmed that calientos do indeed possess a communal consciousness.
It was the hottest part of the day, and I had believed all the calientos to be asleep -- otherwise I would not have left my cover. But I thought I saw an extremely rare lizard crawling among the rocks, and wanted to do a quick sketch. I had almost finished drawing when I had a sudden sense of being observed. I turned, and not ten feet above my head was a baby caliento, no more than 18 inches long.
He climbed down and sniffed me. I didn't dare move, not wanting to scare him and have the entire tribe come after me. I felt the dry sand against my skin as he moved across it -- cool, not burning like desert sand usually feels. I sensed curiosity from him. Then, before I could react, he batted my leg with his hand. It was like having scalding water thrown across my bare skin.
My scream alerted the entire tribe of calientos. Several dozen heads popped into view on the cliff. One of the largest ones, probably his mother, came scurrying down the rocks, blasting fire balls around me. As soon as I backed away from the baby, she stopped. I watched as she shooed her child back up the cliff.
My assistant and I packed up soon afterwards. The faster we get back to our companions, the sooner these burns can be healed. I quite enjoy anthropology, but I underestimated how dangerous a field it is.
Small Fey (Fire)
Hit Dice: 6d6 +6 (27 hp)
Speed: 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
Armor Class: 18 (+1 size, +3 Dex, +4 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/-1
Attack: Claw +8 melee (1d3 plus 2d6 fire)
Full Attack: 2 claws +8 melee (1d3 plus 2d6 fire)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Fire volley
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/cold iron, immunity to fire, hive mind, vulnerability to cold
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +8, Will +5
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 5, Wis 11, Cha 13
Skills: Climb +11, Hide +16*, Move Silently +12, Spot +9
Feats: Improved Initiative, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (claw)
Environment: Warm deserts
Organization: Solitary, company (one subchieftain plus 2-4 scouts), or tribe (15-30)
Challenge Rating: 5
Treasure: Standard (nonflammables only)
Alignment: Usually neutral
Level Adjustment: +3
A humanoid-shaped creature with webbed appendages and thick claws moves about on all four limbs. It regards you with large, multifaceted eyes in glittering jewel tones.
Found in dry, hot climates, calientos dwell in desert sands. Their thick, leathery skin ranges from shades of brilliant gold to weathered gray and provides them camouflage and protection. They grow to be 3 to 4 feet in length. Although they can walk upright, they generally move by crawling along the ground in a manner similar to that of a large lizard.
Calientos live in caves formed in the sides of cliffs. Solitary caliento can occasionally be found in crevices or burrows belonging to a vanquished prey. They do not like moving water and will not usually cross a stream or river. (Attempting to do so requires a DC 20 Will save; failure indicates the caliento becomes panicked.)
Calientos communicate with each other using telepathy. They also speak Common, but rarely do so with other calientos.
Calientos attack when hungry or threatened. They usually hunt at night in groups of four or five, when desert creatures are most active. Their attack consists of surrounding a creature, then bombarding their prey with their fire volleys. Their camouflage coloring makes them nearly impossible to detect.
Fire Volley (Su): Whenever two or more calientos are within 30 feet of each other, they can work together to create a fiery blast. This effect has a radius of 20 feet, centered on any one contributing caliento. The fire deals 2d8 points of fire damage for each calientos contributing to it, to a maximum of 12d8. A Reflex save (DC 10 the number of calientos contributing) reduces the damage by half.
Heat (Ex): Merely touching or being touched by a caliento automatically deals 2d6 points of fire damage.
Hive Mind (Ex): Calientos are all part of a communal consciousness. This shared consciousness facilitates communication between calientos near and far, and contains the memories of their entire species. A group of calientos within 30 feet of each other are in constant communication. If one is aware of a particular danger, they all are. If one in a group is not flat-footed, none of them are. No caliento in a group is considered flanked unless all are.
Vulnerability to Cold (Ex):A caliento is vulnerable to cold. It takes half again as much (+50%) damage as normal form cold effects, regardless of whether a saving throw is allowed, or whether the save succeeds or fails.
Skills: Calientos use their Dexterity modifier instead of their Strength modifier for Climb checks.
*In desert areas, calientos gain a +4 racial bonus to Hide checks due to their coloration.
The leader of the caliento tribe is the fiercest and strongest hunter. Below her are the several subchieftains, each the head of its own hunting party. All mature calientos are expected to be members of the hunting party unless they are breeding.
Calientos are fiercely protective of their dwellings, which consist of a large cave for communal eating, along with several smaller caves for sleeping quarters and nurseries. The caves are not necessarily interconnected, but each opens to the cliff face.
Calientos tend to be xenophobic, and rarely interact with nonfey species. While they accept most fey, most other fey view the calientos as primitive and beneath their notice.
About the Authors
Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel is a managing editor for Wizards of the Coast's Roleplaying Games R&D department. Recent work includes editing and additional development for the revised Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. Editing credits include Fiend Folio, Faiths and Pantheons, Oriental Adventures, and Magic of Faerūn. Design credits include the Book of Challenges and Dragon Magazine articles. She's a frequent contributor to the Wizards of the Coast website. Also, check out the website she created for her husband, Andy Collins at www.andycollins.net.
Faith M. Price accidentally fell into the adventure game industry ten years ago. Since then she has worked for three game manufacturers and has written for numerous magazines. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.