Excerpt of
“Vade Mecum Monstrorum”

By Rutherford Sayt, Famed Monstrologist and Hunter of Beasts in service to the Benevolent Countess Vanessa Heideveld

Introduction

There is great temptation, particularly among those uneducated in monstrology, to refer to all beings that walk the earth that are not either clearly human or animal as Night Malefic or simply “Malefic”. To do so, however, would be an error, and in so doing may offend a great many creatures that might otherwise not threaten the safety of humans. Within this introduction I mean to bestow some degree of foundational knowledge that will better aid the amature monstrologist or avid hunter of beasts in identifying and categorizing monsters by their unifying characteristics, and will assist us when exploring the deeper mysteries of monstrology detailed in later chapters of this work.

On the Nature of Malefic

First, one must understand what one is talking about when they choose to label something as Malefic. Though the true cause of Night Malefic and Malefic-Affected creatures has been debated by philosophers and scholars old and new, the unifying principle of all theories rests in “wrongness”. Malefic creatures are those that, for one reason or another, should not be and, in a world without strife and corruption would not otherwise exist. Explicitly, they are somehow caused by the result of actions and decisions made by rational entities or otherwise by circumstance. For a good number of them this is a permanent state, and little can be done about their existence but to purge with sword and spell or otherwise avoid. Equal in number are those that can be managed not unlike a puzzle box, and with the right levers pulled or twisted may come apart and be resolved peacefully. There are plenty in my profession that would declare that the only way to “resolve” a Malefic is through its violent destruction, but as you will read in later chapters of this tome, I can attest by my own experience that this is not the case.

Classification

Having for the moment defined the most foundational, and controversial, term in the field of monstrology we may move on to more practical topics the hunter might apply in his night-to-night, so to speak. Monsters on the whole can be broken down into three primary classes, those being Night Malefic, Night-Touched, and Strange Beasts.

 

Night Malefic

Night Malefic are commonly entities that were once living, but have crossed the veil and returned from it in a corrupted manner unlike the common ‘ashing’ that characterizes our own return from death’s touch. This does not limit the manifestations of their form however, and they may appear as some reanimated corpse, a soul sustained without a body, a strange looking human or anything in between. They vary wildly in ability to communicate or reason, and there are a great number of monsters in this category that are entirely unique, unlike any other in existence. With very few exceptions, all Night Malefic were once human, as there is something innate to our nature that breaks somehow when put under dire personal stress moments before death. The religiously inclined might deign to call such “the soul”, though some natural philosophers have other fascinating theories. Disturbingly, Night Malefic can not only be caused by deeply lamentable circumstances leading up to their death, but also by well and true wrongs committed by these individuals, as though the very earth itself seeks to spit them back out as punishment for their monstrous behavior. The manipulations of necromancers may also create Night Malefic even after one has successfully passed from this world, and in such cases such unfortunates are often bound to serve their vile whims.

Night-Touched

Night-Touched, or Malefic Affected entities are those that were once natural creatures or inanimate objects that have been changed by the corrupting forces of the Malefic. These are known to mostly have limited reasoning and communication abilities, but the exceptions to this rule stand out and are extremely dangerous. Night-Touched come in forms even more varied than Night Malefic, as while Night Malefic were almost always human at some point the same cannot be said for the Night-Touched. Those that were tend to retain some humanoid features such as arms and legs, but again with the varied nature of these beasts that can hardly be considered a universal statement. As with Night Malefic, these are caused creatures, and some can be returned to their natural state without violence. I would caution novices from attempting such, however, for the breaking of curses and casting out of spirits is an endeavor best left to those with experience in the field.

Strange Beasts

Strange Beasts are entirely separate from the corrupting influence of Malefic energies, and are in no way caused by human action. They are the result of nature’s own whims, or the ministrations of a divine power if you are inclined to believe in such fairy tales. Most of these, with the exception of Mythic beasts which I will later address, are humanoid in shape but with different proportions and characteristics. They are almost all a match for human intelligence, with outliers exceeding and falling below our standard in equal amounts. Such creatures are capable of expressing themselves in complex languages, though they may not be languages shared with humans. The liberally inclined hunters have expressed a willingness to coexist peacefully with such creatures from time to time, and while such notions are pleasant and high-minded I must admit I have not seen many of these hunters last more than a season in the esteemed profession, and none without changing their position on the issue.

On Instincts

Having now separated our monsters into their three primary categories we must take a short interlude to discuss Instincts and the ranking of monsters. Though I am no historian and my understanding of this is entirely anecdotal, I’ve heard there was a time in the Old Empire where a guild of monster hunters spent a great amount of resources attempting to measure and quantify the abilities of various monsters. They settled on a measure of what they termed Instincts, being unique advantages and disadvantages that certain types of creatures have. A Positive Instinct might be the ability to leap great distances or have sharp claws, whereas a Negative Instinct might be an inability to leave bodies of water for long periods of time, or having a soft underbelly void of armor.

Though there is some variance in the relative potency of these Instincts, it was generally determined that each was roughly equivalent, and as such allowed some ranking system simply by finding the difference between the number of Positive and Negative Instincts to find the Instinct Scale. These were then input into a ranking system I have diligently recreated below, with some variance in the Instinct Scale allowing beasts to be roughly categorized into six Instinct Ranks.

 

Instinct Rating Degree of Danger
1 Novice monster hunters with at least some fighting capability should be able to take one of these down in a 1 on 1 fight.
2 Blooded hunters should be able to take these down in a 1 on 1, but they will likely put untrained fighters in peril for their lives.
3 A small group of professional hunters should be able to take one of these creatures down, though it will be a perilous battle.
4 A small group of veteran hunters may be able to take one of these creatures down if properly prepared, though they should expect many wounds and a casualty or two.
5 Only a significant group on a mission to destroy one of these beasts may be successful, and only then with a great many losses.
6 Armies will fall before creatures of this immense power.
I notate this explicitly for its future utility in further breaking down the classes of monsters into specific subclasses which we will soon explore. However I encourage you, dear reader, to become familiar with this scale, for it is often used to establish the reputation of a given hunter, and in this profession reputation is all. It also has a more amusing utility in assisting one with weeding out the liars and braggarts from the true veteran monster hunters. If one says they slew a werewolf alone with nothing but an iron dagger and a silver bell, you ought to be more ready to laugh them out of the room than if they told the same story about a small group of shambleman.

Classification Continued: Subclasses

With our primary monster classes defined and the tool of Instincts at our hip, we can delve further into the details of what separates particular monsters from one another. In total there are nine subclasses of monster, and are sorted not only by their unifying characteristics but also conveniently the properties their viscera and other anatomy carry for use in alchemy and spellcraft. In part due to this utility, these subclasses are what are most commonly referred to when describing beasts for all manner of purposes, and any aspiring hunter should familiarize themselves with the distinctions between all nine. For your convenience I have organized them onto a table below, sorted by class, and further have arranged them internally to their class from most to least common.
Night Malefic Night-Touched Strange Beasts
Necrophage Cursed Othyr
Specter Aberrant Mythic
Hemophage Elementa Fey

Necrophages

Perhaps the most common subclass of monster is the necrophage, whose name bears a great deal of meaning when deciphered from the Salgothic tongue in which it is commonly written. Necro means death, I am told, while the suffix ‘phage’ has to do with eating. As such, in common parlance a necrophage may be described as one that consumes the dead.

Specters

Another relatively common beast is that of a specter, or ‘ghost’ if you must, being an undead entirely lacking a physical form to call their own or constructing a body of ectoplasm.

Hemophages

As necrophages feed upon the flesh of the dead, hemophages feast upon the blood of the living.  I regret that I cannot speak a great deal on their abilities, as I’ve never dueled one myself, but from what I hear they can be incredibly difficult to deal with.

Cursed

Anyone can be cursed, really. The effects aren’t always obvious. What unifies these creatures is that they are humans or other living creatures that have supernatural punishments placed upon them that are outside their control to manage. It is important to remember that almost always, what lies at the heart of a Cursed creature is a person, and so while slaying them is possible it is considered morally reprehensible in high company.

Aberrant

One may consider this to be a natural extension of the Cursed subclass, for what differentiates the Cursed from the Aberrant is merely hope. While a Cursed may one day see themselves free of their affliction an Aberrant is so fundamentally twisted and totally changed that there is simply no manner for them to be returned to their natural state.

Elementa

Unique in the Night-Touched class, Elementa are inanimate objects possessed of a mind. Most often this is a body formed of one of the four elements; air, earth, fire, or water. However this is not always the case, and combinations of elements or even sentient objects have been noted in this category.

Othyr

One would be forgiven for bearing hesitation in declaring the Othyr truly monsters, for in many ways they are the closest beasts to human in our handbook. I must caution you, however, that despite these creatures looking very close to human their notions of morality are entirely unlike ours, if they even exist at all. Many Othyr have disappeared throughout the ages, such as the lost civilizations of elves and dwarves, though many others remain to this day and inhabit the wilds of our lands, such as orcs and trolls.

Mythic

Mythic creatures are natural entities distinctly non-humanoid in nature with abilities beyond those of common animals. A rare few bear intelligence great enough to allow communication, though the vast majority have minds more capable than a deer, wolf, or bear, with powerful personalities to match.

Fey

Perhaps the rarest of all monsters, Fey are reclusive creatures that inhabit the wilds of the world and are almost exclusively encountered by humans trespassing in their chosen demesnes.

Superstition

I believe it is my duty as a veteran of the craft to at the very least address the concept of superstitions in the field of monstrology. Simply put, superstitions are folk charms or unusual, nonlethal methods of dealing with monsters that are believed to prevent the beasts from doing harm, or otherwise control their actions. For example, I once heard of a creature that was rumored to be entirely unable to harm any who walked backwards while speaking in rhyme in its presence. I must impress upon you extreme caution when hearing such rumors, for more often than not they are crafted by more wicked hunters with the intent of weeding out the stupid from the craft, a form of murder by monstrous proxy. Still, I cannot entirely discount the veracity of some of these claims, and have relied on a few well tested superstitions in my time to assist in curse-breaking among their other uses. As such I will not tell you that you cannot attempt such things, only that you should do so with a critical eye and always, always have a secondary plan of action. It is however said that every beast that bears a name has at least one Superstition tied to it if not more, and those capable of discerning them may be greatly rewarded for their efforts.

Essences & Malefica

There is a secondary utility to sorting monsters by subclass, as I mentioned earlier, in that their internals are used in different ways in some arts such as alchemy that might be useful for the aspiring monster hunter. The extraction of various humor-rich organs, unartfully called ‘Malefic Butchery’, is a lucrative trade for those so capable. I will attempt to summarize my knowledge of these Essences below, though I regret that a more extensive look at the surgical particulars will have to wait for a point much closer to the end of this book. Consider this a primer, however, on Essences and the crafting of Malefica.

When one refers to a creatures ‘Essence’, they are speaking of one of the four forms of humor-rich organs that can be used in other arts. Each of these has different characteristics, symbolic associations, and are useful in different arcane magics (or so I am told, admittedly unschooled in the arcane arts as I am). Below I have included a helpful diagram that might help one attain some limited understanding of the complicated nature of monstrous Essences.

 

Essence Relevant Organs Temp. State Potence Presence Nature
Sanguine Heart, Liver, Marrow Hot Liquid Vital Physical Aerial
Phlegmatic Tongue, Brain, Lungs Cold Liquid Necrotic Physical Tidal
Choleric Stomach, Viscera, Eyes Hot  Solid Vital Spectral Infernal
Melancholic Bone, Cartilage, Claws Cold Solid Necrotic Spectral Telluric

This is not where the differences end, however, for the Melancholic Essence of an Othyr will be unlike that of a Necrophage or Cursed in its various properties as well as its appearance. As such, any competent butcher of beasts will be sure to indicate not only what sort of Essence they bear with them but the subclass of beast from which it originates, such as saying one has Hemophage Sanguine Essence. It is here I must apologize that I cannot speak to these properties in any great detail, for I am not an Alchemist by trade. It is known to me, however, that certain Essences when combined with each other by an Alchemist of extreme competency, may combine several Essences of different sorts to make potions of extreme potency and unique effect. These are termed Malefica, and should fetch an extremely high price on any traders cart, assuming they are legitimate. Once again I must emphasize, in this trade reputation is everything, not only for you but for all you associate yourself with.

Though likely this final note on essences belongs in the later discussion of the unique characteristics of Specters, I feel one should not go into the field unarmed, and I know this tome is weighty and may be used more as a reference beyond this introduction. It is a unique quality of Specters that Essences are not harvested from the ectoplasm of the floating soul or manifestation of pain itself, but from the corpse that spawned the ghost. For this, among other reasons including feasibility of resolving Spectral Night Malefic, it is imperative the hunter be schooled in grave digging, and the most successful ghostbreakers I know often have a bloodhound as a companion trained in finding human rot. The corpse of one who has died and become a Specter often has physical changes, both to its outward appearance and Essence-bearing organs, and these changed organs seem to bear the unique potency of the Specter unlike the ectoplasmic goo sometimes left behind when a Specter is banished by spell or sword. Notably, one should not attempt to harvest Essences from the corpse of an unresolved Specter, lest they wish to be the singular focus of the Specter’s wrath.

Conclusion

It is my hope that after reading this introductory chapter you have at least some foundational knowledge that will serve you as the novice hunter, lessons I hope will aid you even if you read not one page more of this book. The remainder of this tome will be a more explicit exploration of the monstrous subtypes, anecdotes from my own experience and those of trusted fellows, and a bestiary of sorts organized from the most to least common beasts we have encountered and slain, or at least escaped. In this tomes second part we will be exploring the particulars of monstrous anatomy, the practice of butchery, and the extraction and purification of essences for use in alchemy and trade. I’ve left doublewide margins in this tome so that future generations of scholars might comment and improve upon my designs, for though my reputation precedes me in my own time I am not so prideful to assume I am all knowing, and there will be new discoveries in the field long after my death. With that, let us begin a real, in-depth exploration of what lurks in the shadows and the dark.