Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mesoamerican Bestiary Part Two

Part one way back here.

Okay so there’s a type of contemporary folk monster in Latin America collectively called the duende, sort of a gremlin or goblin equivalent.* Depending on who you ask, this creature may or may not be the same thing as an Alux (plural: aluxob), which is a Nahuatl word for something really close to the same gremlin archetype.

The thing is that duende legends originated in Spain and Portugal before the conquistadors brought them over to the new world. So there’s a couple possible implications. The traditional (read: eurocentric and insulting) way of seeing it is to assume that the Maya and Aztecs adopted the belief from the Spanish, and applied their own Nahual language to it. The other is to assume that the Alux legends existed before the Spanish arrived, that the only reason we don’t have explicit records of that particular belief is that the priests and conquistadors burnt all but three of the many codices they found, and that the creatures are just similar enough in temperament for their names to be used interchangeably in a modern context. If this is the case, the Aluxob were a sort of mischievous nature spirit or elemental.

Another folktale I’ve tied into that of the duende is that of La Lorona, or the Weeping Woman. The legend goes that she drowned her children for the love of a man, who then rejected her. Crushed, she committed suicide. When she reached the gates of the afterlife, she was asked where her children were, and turned away until she could find them. Now, she is cursed to walk between this life and the next as an undead spirit, sometimes compared to a banshee, hunting and stealing the children of others in a futile attempt to replace her own.

Some say that this legend is based on a Nahual woman named Malinal and known to the Spanish as La Maliche, who served Cortez as a translator and advisor during his conquest of Mexico. The most important factor that made this conquest possible (among many, including gunpowder and rudimentary chemical warfare), was a divide & conquer strategy that pitted multiple native factions against each other to multiply Cortez’s invasion force. Sort of like smart PCs in a super-traditional D&D campaign.

This means that Malinal (La Lorona) would have played an invaluable role in the deaths of her people and culture (her children). In fact, the Aztecs referred to her and Cortez by the compound title of Malintzin, since he spoke through her. She’s also thought to have been Cortez’s lover, having borne him a child, before he rejected her in favor of a Spanish noblewoman. Now here’s the part where I tie in the duende: Malinal hunts Europeans (especially the Spanish) and transforms them into duende that follow her unconditionally (the children La Lorona kidnaps for her own).


La Lorona
She appears as a beautiful native woman dressed completely in white, always crying loudly when encountered. Those not of native descent who hear her wailing must save or are irresistibly compelled to follow her to her Shadow Kingdom (something like Faerie but with skulls and rivers of blood all over the place), where they are transformed into her children, the duende, over the course of a day.
HP:22 | CB:+10 | DM:2 attacks for d12 | AC:0 | MV:20’ | MO:12 | ethereal

(These stat lines are for my house rules, which is homebrewed to the point of being a different game. If you want to use this monster with old-school D&D rules, then use the CB as the monster’s hit dice, and AC here is on an ascending scale from 0 (no armor) to 7 (plate armor with helm) and doesn’t include any sort of dodge bonus. DM = damage, MV = movement, MO = morale, and all of those can pretty much stay where they are. Or just use the stats for a banshee and goblins.)

These creatures are about as tall as a human child, with somewhat adult proportions. The major exceptions are overly large & pointed ears, and long, crooked noses. They are thieving bastards that must eat humans to survive, preferably children. 
HP:2 | CB:1 | DM:d6 | AC:0 or 2 (leather) | MV:30’ | MO:5 | stealth

The aluxob are only a couple of feet tall, and wear traditional Mayan dress. They come into being when native farmers build a house for one, known as a kahtal alux, which looks a lot like a miniature step pyramid that comes up to about shoulder height. For seven years, the alux watches over the farm and guarantees a good harvest. At the end of this period, the farmer must seal off the kahtal alux, or it goes feral.
It builds its own kahtal alux at the entrance of a cenote or wet cave and begins playing potentially deadly tricks on humans. They have the abilities to become invisible at will, and to spread disease by touch. Use whatever disease rules you prefer; personally I like the disease rules in LotFP. Incubation period one day, interval of four hours, infection time two days total, save or -1d4 constitution at each interval. Let’s say the main symptom is projectile rainbow vomit.
Aside from a generally mischievous sense of humor, their primary motivation is a kinship with and desire to protect nature.
HP:2 | CB:1 | DM:d6 | AC:0 | MV:30’ | MO:7 | invisibility, disease

Some natives are unknowingly cursed from birth to become tlahuelpocmimi (for real I don’t understand Nahuatl pluralization rules at all you guys) around the time they reach puberty (like X-Men!). These creatures have the ability to separate their bodies at the waist, storing their legs in a safe place, and transforming their upper bodies into faintly glowing vultures. They also must drink the blood of at least one human per month to survive, and prefer to prey on children.
In order to enter a potential victim’s house, the tlahuelpuchi must first fly over it in a cross pattern, north to south and east to west.
If one of these living vampires is ever found out, the monster must be killed on the spot. However, if a family member of the tlahuelpuchi causes its death, the curse is passed onto that relative, so families of the tlahuelpuchi hardly ever alert their neighbors to its presence. These parasites also have an ancient bargain with shamans for their protection, but what the shamans get out of the deal is unknown.
HP:8 | CB:6 | DM:d8 | AC:1 | MV:50’ | MO:5

There are two cadejos, one black as coal and one white as chalk. Both have the appearance of wolves about the size of horses, with horns and hooves like a goat, and brightly glowing, red eyes. They only appear between the hours of midnight and one in the morning, and are primarily concerned with protecting drunks, adventurers, and other degenerates. The black one protects men, while the white cadejo protects women. Sometimes this means they end up fighting each other, which is obvious when you think about it for like two seconds.
HP:15 | CB:6 | DM:d8 horns, d8 bite, or d12 trample | AC:3 | MV:60’ | MO:11

*Not a D&D or Tolkein style goblin, a spoken word folktale style goblin. Which is basically what most of us probably think of as a gremlin. I am being redundant.

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