Was that a voice in the distance?
Ivalar glanced about, then winced as a fresh wave of pain coursed through his tortured body. The creature that had done this to him seemed to be gone again, but twice before, when he had tried to crawl back to the road, it had come at him with blinding speed. It had grabbed him each time about the neck and shoulders with its dripping talons and injected him with some horrible toxin. He could feel the stuff even now, coursing through his veins, scalding like boiling acid. The air he gasped itself seemed tainted by the stink of the poison, as did the sweat that slid into his eyes in burning streams.
Was it too late to hope? No, the sound returned . . . his companions had noticed his absence and were calling his name. From the sound of it, they were close. The beast had nabbed him from the back of the line with such stealth and speed that his allies hadn't even noticed the attack and only now returned to search for him. Ivalar knew that only a few minutes had lapsed since his capture, but those minutes had passed like hours. The poison in his system hadn't weakened him physically, but it clouded his mind with horrible hallucinations and visions, and each time the creature hauled him back into this gully it had fed on him with that terrible hooked proboscis. And each time it fed, his fear, his confusion, and even his hope seemed to cloud and drain away. Indeed, until he heard his companions calling his name, Ivalar had actually lost all interest in survival.
But now their voices were a beacon leading him back to life. Hope, frightening in its strangeness and alien feel, flared through his mind again as he staggered to his feet. Yes! There, about sixty feet up the road, shone their torches! Ivalar took two shuddering steps towards the light and gulped a lungful of air to cry for help.
Suddenly, the night around him slithered alive. The beast was there. All about him. It had been there all along, brooding over him and blending with the night, waiting for him to try to call for aid.
A tiny squeak escaped from Ivalar's mouth before the beast plunged its proboscis back into the familiar hole at the back of his neck. With one final gulp it drained from Ivalar the last of his hopes and fears. Ivalar crumbled to the ground, and as his eyes glazed over, he wondered what were the strange and beautiful shapes that carried fire as they passed by . . . not noticing him . . . not noticing the beast as it began to stalk a fresh victim. . . .
These terrifying monsters lurk in ambush, motionless and nearly invisible, lunging out with sudden terrible speed at their victims to feed on emotions with great relish.
A feverclaw measures about 14 feet in length and weighs nearly 1,400 pounds. The beast looks vaguely like a bald, six-legged tiger, with shiny black skin that resembles flexible obsidian. It has no neck to speak of. Two pairs of taloned arms rise out of the center of its shoulders just behind its trowel-shaped head. Six dead-black insectoid eyes form a "V" shape atop its head, and a long blood-red horn curves up from its snout. Its mouth, a writhing mess of tiny hooked grasping tendrils, lies on the underside of the head. When it attacks, a long, red, prehensile feeding proboscis tipped with a hollow bone lancet extends on a dripping fleshy stalk. The feverclaw radiates a cloying, stinking heat when in motion; the bitter stench of this heat is unmistakable to those who have been lucky enough to survive an attack by one of these creatures.
The feverclaw seems somewhat intelligent, but uses all of its intelligence to taunt and torment its prey. The creature feeds on the emotions of its victim. One may think that, given its method of attack, fear would be its favorite flavor. But hope is the sweetest nectar to the feverclaw: It delights in taunting and toying with its prey, repeatedly releasing it and then pouncing again just as the victim is about to reach safety, quickly siphoning out the hope through its feeding proboscis with noisy relish.
A feverclaw cannot speak; its only sound are terrible sucking and wheezing noises. Nevertheless, it understands Abyssal, Infernal, and Common to a limited extent, and can even communicate empathically with those from whom it currently feeds.
The feverclaw has a particularly devastating and demoralizing method of attack. It lies in wait, perfectly motionless and nearly invisible, for prey to come within striking distance. When a target draws near, the feverclaw races out, using its Tumble skill, Spring Attack feat, and pounce ability to race up to its victim, snatch him up, and retreat to a hiding place all in one round. The feverclaw accomplishes this with a charge attack. If the initial claw attack hits, it may make its other attacks against the victim by using its pounce ability. Should it manage to grapple its victim, it then uses its Spring Attack and the remainder of its movement to seek a hiding spot. The feverclaw can make a Hide check at a -20 penalty to hide after such an attack even if it is being observed, as if it were sniping at its victim with a ranged weapon. Often, the allies of a feverclaw victim remain unaware of their companion's absence for several rounds. Some feverclaws, however, take pains to ensure that the snatching of prey is observed, spreading more fear and terror to flavor the taste of its next meals.
Charisma Drain (Su): An individual struck by a feverclaw's proboscis must make a Fortitude save (DC 17) or permanently lose 1d4 points of Charisma (or twice that amount on a critical hit) as the monster drains away the victim's emotions. The feverclaw heals 5 points of damage (10 on a critical hit) whenever it drains Charisma, gaining any excess as temporary hit points.
Improved Grab (Ex): If a feverclaw hits an opponent that is at least one size category smaller than itself with a claw attack, it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity (grapple bonus +23). If it gets a hold, it automatically hits with its proboscis attack. Thereafter, the feverclaw has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its claw to hold the opponent (-20 penalty on grapple check, but the feverclaw is not considered grappled). In either case, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals claw damage.
Poison (Ex): A feverclaw delivers its poison (Fortitude save DC 21) with each successful claw attack. The initial damage is 1d6 points of Wisdom damage as the creature's poison rapidly burns into the victim's brain and mind. Those poisoned by a feverclaw quickly become quite hot to the touch and sweat profusely; one round after the initial damage, the victim must save again or suffer 1d6 points of permanent Constitution damage as the intense heat takes its toll.
Pounce (Ex): If a feverclaw charges, it can make a full attack even though it has moved.
Alacrity (Su): The feverclaw can move with distressing speed and grace. It may make an additional partial action each round, and as long as it is not flat-footed it gains a +4 bonus to its Armor Class.
Blur (Su): A feverclaw is constantly under the influence of a blur effect, and as a result gains the benefits of one-half concealment (20% miss chance).
Freeze in Place (Su): If a feverclaw remains motionless for a full round, it blends into its surroundings and gains a +10 circumstance bonus on all Hide checks.
Immunities (Ex): The feverclaw is immune to mind-affecting effects, fire, poison, paralysis, slow, sleep, and magical temporal effects (such as time stop or the aging caused by a ghost).
Outsider Traits: A feverclaw has darkvision (60-foot range). It cannot be raised or resurrected, though a wish or miracle spell can restore life.
Skills (Ex): A feverclaw gains a +8 racial bonus on Hide and Move Silently checks.
About the Author
James Jacobs is a freelance game designer who lives in Seattle, WA. He writes the monthly feature "Far Corners of the World" for the Wizards website, has written numerous articles for Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and has designed or codesigned several D&D and d20 sourcebooks. He also plays regularly in no less than six ongoing campaigns, and is currently working on almost as many freelance projects for various companies. When he's not working or gaming, he feverishly counts the days until the release of the next Lord of the Rings movie.
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