Has it really been 3 weeks since I last posted here? Sorry about that. I blame potty training. Let’s get back into it shall we?
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend everyone take a moment to check out The Demon Hunter’s Compendium. It’s a very cool blog that does a great job compiling info on various monsters and legends from folklore. It isn’t updated very often, but when it is, it’s usually a doozy. If you are running a low-fantasy or horror game (any era), 2/3 of your monster research will be done for you by just this one blog. This month the profiled a Scottish legend: the Nuckelavee.
According to Orcadian legend, the Nuckelavee (pronounced nuh-kel-ah-vee) is a horrible sea faery or a demon that comes out of the sea when darkness falls to bring sickness and death to humans, animals, and the very land itself. The beast then feeds upon the lifeforce of everything it has killed (Bane 220). The Nuckelavee is thought to be a member of the Unseelie Court, which is a court of evil faeries in Scottish folklore. These faeries are said to be the evil souls of the damned, and actively seek to do as much harm as they possibly can to humans, rather than just causing random mischief like other faeries (Franklin 260; “Nuckelavee”, Monstropedia). The beast is also thought to belong to the Fuath, a collective term for a wide variety of malevolent water faeries in Scottish and Irish folklore (Franklin 102). The name nuckelavee is thought to be derived from a corruption of the Orcadian word knoggelvi which, according to Orkney resident and folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, means “Devil of the Sea” (“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia; “The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). In Shetland, the same creature is known as a mukkelevi(“Nuckelavee”, Wikipedia). The word itself may very well be a variation of the Norse word nokk or the Icelandic word nykur (“The Nightmarish Nuckelavee”, EsoterX). But wherever the name comes from, they all more or less describe the same terrible creature.
So yeah, this has Witch Hunter monster written all over it. So, without further adieu…
The Nuckelavee (pronounced nuh-kel-ah-vee) is a terrible abomination that comes out of the sea when darkness falls to bring sickness and death to humans, animals, and the very land itself. They is most common to the southern coast of Scotland, though encounters have been recorded throughout the British Isles. These creatures are associated with the Unseelie Court of the Fey, though they are not faerie spirits themselves.
Fear Rating: 4
Hell’s Favor: 3
Initiative: Reflexes 6d
Melee: Claws 8d (+6 damage), Bite 6d (+8 damage), Trample 6d (+8 damage)
Defenses: Avoidance 2, Discipline 2, Fortitude 5
Health Track: 9/9/9/9
Talents: Grand Fury, Reel-In Attack, Slam (Sweep)
- 10d: Endurance, Athletics
- 6d: Command (Intimidation), Notice,Reflexes, Resolve, Stealth
- Debilitative Aura (Breath) / Blocked from the World (Active at night only)
- Durability / Vulnerability (Iron)
- Carnivate / Obvious Appearance
- Regeneration / Allergen (Fresh Water)
- Shape Mask / Reveal Nature (Always casts a shadow of its true form)
- Apparition / Restriction (Running Water)
- Swath of Destruction (Breath) / Weakness (Burning Seaweed)
Story Ability: Nightmares / Restriction (Iron)
The nuckelavee’s body is essentially that of a horse. Along its flanks flap vestigial fins. Growing out from where the horse’s head should be are the head, torso and arms of a man. The head is overly large, with a shark-like mouth filled with sharp, jagged teeth, and a single bloodshot eye that glows red in the presence of light (like a cat’s). It’s man-like arms are long and gangly, with bony knuckles that drag the ground, and tipped in sharp, rending claws. The beast is has no skin, and muscle, sinew and bone are all exposed. Standing out amid these are sickly yellow veins and arteries, pumping with black blood. The putrid stench of sulfur and decomposing fish surrounds the creature, as does the foul, black miasma steadily belching from its gaping mouth. The dreadful smell is known to drive entire herds of animals off of cliffs to their deaths. As the creature runs, its massive head, lolls about on its neck as though the muscles are too weak to support its weight.
While a formidable monstrosity in its own right, it is the nuckelavee’s foul breath that is the source of much of its woe. Described by witnesses as a “foul, black reek,” it causes plants and crops to wither, animals to sicken and die on the spot (Swath of Destruction). It infects humans with a deadly wasting disease, known as Mortasheen (Debilitative Aura). In the most powerful specimens, this power is powerful enough to create lasting periods of drought, leading to famine.
Like most of the creatures associated with the fey, it is vulnerable to iron, steel, and Cold Iron in particular. It has some shapeshifting capabilities, but always casts its true shadow. Fresh water is an anathema to it. Likewise, the stench of burning seaweed can drive it back into the sea. Many towns and villages along the southern Scottish coast perform “kelp-burnings” on nights with new moons to dissuade predations by these creatures.
Those who survive a brush with these creatures will be visited by vivid and persistant nightmares of the encounter. An iron cross or scissors fastened above the bed will prevent these.