“Stars swelled to dawns, and dawns burst into fountains of gold, carmine, and purple, and still the dreamer fell. Cries rent the aether as ribbons of light beat back the fiends from outside. And hoary Nodens raised a howl of triumph when Nyarlathotep, close on his quarry, stopped baffled by a glare that seared his formless hunting-horrors to grey dust.”
H.P. Lovecraft, Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
Originally mentioned in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, these ravening terrors serve Nyarlathotep as flesh-tearing hunters and intimidating totems of his dark power. Numerous elements of the published campaign provide Keepers with opportunities to incorporate the hunting horror as a prominent, recurring menace throughout all chapters. While every Nyarlathotep avatar in each chapter wears a different mask, the inclusion of the hunting horror provides a common monstrous link between the Crawling Chaos and his cultists. Even if you choose not to physically include them in each setting, allusions to the shadowy terror-worm help create a heightened sense of fear and danger hidden in the darkest corners of the campaign.
Though not included in the prologue, we allude to the hunting horror by describing strange bat-winged serpent creatures amongst the sculptures and glyphs located at the Father of Maggots pyramid complex. Investigators with appropriate skills identify the subjects as similar to mythological creatures from South American folklore with unsettling differences in shape and features. If possible, consider including cryptic gasps of terror referring to terrible black serpents during Larkin’s feverish, narcotic-laced dreams.
The hunting horror potentially appears at least twice in the New York chapter. First, in the form of the bookbinding for Roger Carlyle’s copy of Amongst the Stones. Second, a particularly murderous Mukunga M’Dari summons the beast to provide your investigators with an early taste of the Winged Death. Many Keepers like to use M’Dari and his hunting horror in their climax, as they rain terror on a party at the Carlyle Estate or pursue the investigators in a harrowing high-speed chase. This functions particularly well in Pulp-leaning campaigns.
We refrain from drawing a hunting horror into the early stages of the campaign, preferring to foreshadow their future appearance with the unsettling bookbinding and strange illustrations in M’Dari’s copy of Africa’s Dark Sects, as well as second-hand rumors of a giant, fanged bat swooping through Harvard’s Widener Library as recounted by Miriam Atwright.
As with many feature chapter villains, Edward Gavigan possesses the means to summon one of these dark Sky Devils to his service, and rituals that the Investigators interrupt at the Misr House appropriately showcase the ravenous features of this slithering monster. In our campaign, a hunting horror makes an early appearance as our Investigators attempt to drop Gavigan from the sky by use of a Gate spell when he visits Henson Manufacturing. Rather than using a hunting horror as an instrument of death and destruction, we allow Gavigan to save himself with a rapid summoning as he plummets toward the earth. From their vantage point on the ground, the Investigators only see a dark, bat-like creature catching the cult leader and flying away. The hunting horror returns as a stalking threat in the sodden woods surrounding Misr House gradually disassembling a team of United States Marines recruited from the American Embassy by Tip’s smooth talk. After wholesale slaughter, the horror disappears into the treetops only to return during the chapter climax.
We consider the ability to summon a hunting horror to be a point of pride for rising cult leaders, and we highlight Zahra Shafik’s lack of the summoning spell to drive a plot to steal Gavigan’s personal tomes. The investigators subsequently seek to learn the Summon/Bind spell themselves, which they use to great effect during the chapter climax. The consequent Sanity loss paired with the understanding that the summoning requires a ritual sacrifice deeply shook Irina, who adamantly refuses to use the spell again for any reason.
The Egypt chapter features several allusions to the hunting horror, as well as a direct appearance under the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. Perhaps Dr. Henry Clive has been tasked with recovering the lost Girdle of Nitocris by the Brotherhood, as he possesses the spell Summon/Bind Hunting Horror. His lesser companion cultist, Martin Winfield, may only call forth a Byakhee. Surprisingly, Omar al-Shakti does not have Summon/Bind Hunting Horror listed as one of his featured spells. You may choose to take this as evidence that Clive did indeed summon the Mosque Horror, or you may decide to provide al-Shakti with the spell to fill this gap. If defeated, perhaps the remains of the hunting horror offer a clue leading back to its summoner. Of note, in previous editions of the campaign, a cthonian burrowed into the Mosque of Ibn Tulun and carried away Nessim and the Sword of Akmallah. A hunting horror lands better thematically.
The encounter with Nuri of El Wasta and her son, Ubaid, provides another link between the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh and Hunting Horrors. The cruel maiming of mother and son is typical of hunting horrors, though their survival is most unusual and potentially serves as a lesson to other meddlers. In our campaign, if investigators succeed in speaking with Ubaid, he reveals he led his mother to the Eye of Light and Darkness fragment. He suspects their wandering about the base of the nearby pyramids drew the attention of the Brotherhood along with his mother’s frequent attempts to protect helpless locals against the cult’s dark rituals and plots.
Additionally, Farraz Najjar possesses a valuable Mythos artifact, the Amulet of the Night Beasts, that protects against the violent hunger of the Flesh Tearers. His silver and jet necklace featuring a large opal offers defense, but only a combined successful Luck and Spot Hidden roll uncover this protective ward. Unless directly revealed, it remains unlikely that the Investigators intuit the function of this talisman. The assassination of Najjar by cultists potentially places the Amulet in the investigators’ (or cultists’) hands. Alternatively, his presence at the hunting horror attack permits a demonstration of the artifact’s power. Once aware of its functions, investigators gain the incentive to acquire it. Perhaps Najjar (or his thieving agents) stole the Amulet from Nuri, permitting the hunting horror to attack her and Ubaid.
As the investigators approach the Mountain of the Black Wind, they potentially catch glimpses of serpentine shadows behind clouds or along the ground. Prior encounters with the hunting horrors allow the Keeper to stir fear and paranoia by describing slithering black shapes in the trees. Local fauna or Mythos threat?
While not expressly included in this chapter, M’Weru naturally possesses the appropriate summon spell for a hunting horror, as well as the byakhee. Preliminary rituals on the mountain potentially feature sacrifices to hunting horrors. In the event of a large-scale conflict featuring the King’s African Rifles and/or Nodens, the Bloody Tongue possesses a swirling retinue of hunting horrors.
In addition to his powerful Send Dream and Time Trap spells, Robert Huston also knows how to summon hunting horrors, which he may have used to defend the cultists against Flying Polyp attacks. If opting for a Dreamlands encounter with Huston, the hunting horrors loom in the background intermittently casting terrible silhouettes against the multi-colored sky.
While the powerful high priest Ho Fang includes a summon spell for the hunting horror, both Carl Stanford and Sir Aubrey Penhew do not. (Further evidence supporting our take that Penhew is a lesser threat compared to Huston!) Investigators potentially stumble upon rumors of terrible black dragon terrorizing neighborhoods in search of Jack Brady. Personally, we opt not to include the creature in this chapter since Penhew’s volcano lair features a heaping dose of Mythos thanks to the Shoggoth and Deep Ones. If investigators arrive in Shanghai early in the campaign, and you intend for them to return to Gray Dragon Island later for a delayed climax, consider including the Hunting Horror as part of an exciting and hasty escape to another location.