Beasts of the Brackettverse: Venusian Nahali

Leigh Brackett‘s third published story concerns the disreputable space-rats, murderous villains, Terran Guard washouts, and scum scraped from across the Solar System who together make up the Stellar Legion. This force is guarding a circle of protective forts on the soggy ground that surrounds the swamplands of southern Venus, to protect the fertile uplands and plateaus from monstrous raiders, who wait only for the rainy season to begin.

Welcome to Venus:

Men…sweated in the sullen heat of the Venusian swamp-lands before the rains. …the eternal mists writhed in a thin curtain over the swamp, stretching for miles beyond the soggy earthworks…

The swamp folded them in. It is never truly dark on Venus, owing to the thick, diffusing atmosphere. There was enough light to show branching, muddy trails, great still pools choked with weeds, the spreading liha-trees with their huge pollen pods, everything dripping with the slow rain. …Fort and village were lost in sodden twilight.” (“The Stellar Legion”, Planet Stories, Winter 1940, 98)

The swamps are dangerous, not least the for the malarial fever that will inevitably fell any person traveling without helmet and coveralls. A traveler might make it through to ship out on a tramp freighter out of Lhiva, were it not for a greater danger: the Nahali.

nahali

Venusian Nahali
No. Enc.: 2d4 (6d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60′ (20′)
Swim: 120′ (40′)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (touch)
Damage: 2d6 electricity or stun
Save: F2
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XIX
XP: 47

Nahali are six-foot, scaly, anthropoid swamp-dwellers with red eyes, triangular mouths, and noseless faces. Nahali can communicate across long distances with a low, monotonous piping call, which they use also to pray to their rain gods, and can learn to speak with humans despite their otherwise low intelligence. Nahali are amphibious and must consume water through their skin to respire; this may be thick mist or rain. During the rainy season, they can leave the swamp in great numbers to raid upland areas remorselessly, but will suffocate out of contact with water, fog, or rain. Nahali will also quickly suffocate in clouds of soot or smoke, A Nahali’s most dangerous trait is the electrical charge generated throughout their body with which they can choose to stun or kill creatures that they touch. If the Nahali is merely attempting to stun a creature with its touch, that creature must make a saving through versus paralyzation or lose consciousness for 1d4 hours. If the Nahali is attempting to kill, the creature touched takes 2d6 electrical damage. Creatures that attack a Nahali with bare hands or metal weapons also suffer 2d6 electrical damage. However, Nahali bioelectricity makes them vulnerable to electricity that overloads their “bio-circuits”, and they take double damage from electrical attacks.

Locals who regularly fight these creatures have developed special weapons, such as the electro-pistol. An electro-pistol is a handheld weapon that fires an electrical bolt, which deals 2d6 electrical damage on a successful hit unless the target succeeds on a saving throw versus paralyzation. Creatures who are generally dry get a +10 bonus to this saving throw, but creatures who are soaking wet (such as Nahali) do not. Electrified moats and electro-cannons are also employed against Nahali raiders.

Nahali first appeared in Leigh Brackett’s short story “The Stellar Legion” (1940). The statistics above are adapted by this author for use with the Labyrinth Lord RPG.

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