Folkloric Fridays, Part XI: Creatures & Critters of Lore

Gyrizo.  According to late Dark Days folklore from the contemporary Hawksworth region, the gyrizo is a small, non-aggressive woodland creature of great intelligence.  Stories describe them as uncannily self-possessed—though most bits of lore agree that they lack the capacity for Human speech—and extraordinarily spry, with bushy brown hair and a humanoid visage resembling that of an old, stooped man; and even go so far as to assign to them the ability to turn invisible.  The people of the Dark Days believed that leaving gifts of acceptable quality within a small house-like structure of twigs, bark, moss, or other natural materials out in the deep woods would cause local gyrizos to grow friendly and leave gifts in return.  It is said that they can mimic the sounds of birdsong, and that a long and low whistle precedes the appearance of one of these creatures.  However, the gyrizo—if indeed it even exists—is so shy and elusive that many individuals today dismiss the tales as the quaint but untrue fancies of a group of brutally oppressed people looking for a small measure of comfort.  More likely the tales are inspired by the zabolie, a creature whose existence is proven and recorded, and which almost exactly matches the folkloric descriptions in its form.

Zabolie.  As mentioned above, the zabolie is commonly considered to be the real-life inspiration for the mythical gyrizo.  Like the latter creature, the former is described as having a facial structure resembling that of an elderly man with bushy black hair and a stooped form.  In behavior zabolies are extremely intelligent with a distinctly mischievous bent; they have been observed undertaking impressive displays of mimicry, responding to the calls other species or even echoing Human language that they have recently overheard.  To all appearances the creatures harbor a peculiar fascination for Human-made objects and often destroy or take apart such items, presumably to see how they work.  Although some people consider them nuisances because of this habit, others insist that “helpful” zabolies have repaired pieces of broken armor that were left unattended outside their homes.  The truth of these rumors have not been substantiated through first-hand observation; but it is known that zabolies are able to use basic tools.

Firebird.  Stories about the firebird go back to before written record; it is believed that they originated on the islands of Zikari before being transported to the mainland by ancient Serenite sailors.  Instantly recognizable by its glowing feathers and entrancing song, the firebird is much-revered throughout the world.  Wherever it lands it tends to shed a few feathers; finding these feathers is a good indication that a firebird is in the general area, as well as a stroke of luck, since the feathers are known to possess healing powers of some potency—functioning like a greater benediction when still-lit, feathers do gradually lose their power over time.  Generally speaking, firebirds are gentle but easily startled, and will often provide healing and other restorative magic to those they deem worthy.

Gruagach.  A gruesome and bloodthirsty creature from Stemman folklore, the gruagach is commonly invoked by frustrated parents attempting to scare their children into good behavior.  It is said that the gruagach stalks the night looking for disobedient children to snatch and gobble up; the darkest versions of this myth describe the way in which the gruagach dons the skin of its victims after it has finished sucking the marrow from their bones.  Described as vaguely humanoid in form, the creature is supposed to have long, sharp claws and a hunched, animalistic posture.

Psari.  The Psari are a “mysterious race” of people created by the collision of the White and Black Gods and rumored to inhabit the oceans and rivers of the Ephemeral Realm.  Stories surrounding this race describe their homes as beautiful underwater palaces carved of coral and pearl and lit by the glowing of tiny sea creatures.  Because the Psari are fashioned only of Body and Spirit, they are said to covet Human spouses, who will introduce innate magic into their bloodlines.  Instead of courting prospective spouses, however, they simply abduct young men and women by disguising themselves as fishermen, lovely black-haired performers, or healers who do not charge money for their services—to accept free healing from these individuals is considered an agreement to come along with them to the sea!  According to legend, they have a weakness for silver or things made of silver metal, and so one way to avoid abduction is to cast silver coins or objects away from yourself if you suspect that you are in danger.  Another rumor has it that giving a Psari a “treat”  of three drops of blood will cause the creature to gift you with an enchanting song for no further toll.  Methods of identification vary from tale to tale; some describe them as having shining green eyes, others say that they have very pale skin with green or golden hair, often perpetually wet.  Still others claim that they are dark-haired and inhumanly beautiful, or that they can be recognized by the wet hems of their clothing.  Whatever the case may be, each version of the legend agrees on one thing: the Psari cannot live long on dry land.

Sea ghosts.  Colloquially known as “sea ghosts,” these creatures represent the elemental incarnations of water.  Often found wandering aimlessly around still bodies of water in small groups, they are frail incorporeal beings who seem to take little notice of what is around them.  This is not to say that they are not sometimes dangerous, however; threatened sea ghosts have been known to induce magical sleep in victims, or to cause other mischief using the thaumaturgical abilities of the water element.

Living statues.  The elemental incarnations of metal, living statues are so-called because of their ability to phase between living motion and the still, un-breathing state of statues as they so desire.  Very little is known about the purpose or motivation of living statues, although records describe them as singularly focused and efficient, even to the point of brutality, in undertaking actions.  Scholars and followers of the Brown God tend to view them as particularly interesting mysteries and the locations in which they are found are usually noted as places of interest—for whatever reason—to the god responsible for their creation.

Sprights.  As their colloquial name—derived from “sprightly,” meaning “agile” or “energetic”—implies, the elemental incarnations of fire are playful and sometimes wayward creatures who greatly enjoy games.  Such games are usually innocuous, but because sprights are very easily angered, interactions can turn devastating or even deadly quite quickly.  Numerous stories and tales caution Human participants from winning such games, as one way to upset a spright is to beat it at its own game.  Bubbly and full of energy, sprights tend to move alarmingly quickly and hum loudly as they travel.

Sentinels.  Sentinels are the elemental incarnations of earth; due to their ability to speak in simple, broken sentences, they are considered the most intelligent and—by some—the Brown God’s “favored” incarnations, leading to speculation among scholars that the god might in some way prefer the element of earth to that of fire, water, metal, or wood.  Whatever the case may be, sentinels are most often found at sites of natural disasters with the apparent intention of maintaining calm and stability within the affected areas.  They are rumored to be quite kindly and slow to anger, although they are extremely formidable opponents indeed if pushed to violence.