H is for Harpies

H is for Harpies, their stench and their screech,
Snatching the food and spoiling the feast.


Faerie Might: 15 (Auram)
Characteristics: Int 0, Per +2, Pre 0, Com —2, Str 0, Sta 0, Dex +1, Qik +3
Size: —1
Virtues & Flaws: Negative Reaction; Greater Power; Faerie Sight, Faerie Speech, Highly Cognizant, Hybrid Form, Improved Damage (excrement-covered talons), 2 x Personal Power; Slow Might Recovery; Traditional Wards (salt)
Personality Traits: Fetid +3, Ravenous +2
Claws: Init +2, Atk +9, Dfn +12, Dam +2 (+7)
Soak: +0
Wound Penalties: —1 (1—4), —3 (5—8), — 5 (9—12), Incapacitated (13— 16), Dead (17+)
Pretenses: Athletics 4 (flying fast), Brawl 5 (claws), Faerie Speech 5 (lies), Guile 3 (false fortunes), Leadership 2 (Harpies)
Becoming the Thunderer’s Daughter, 1 point, Init —1, Auram: The Harpy can change into a cold blast of air, allowing it to enter any room that isn’t air-tight. It is also an sure-fire way to escape pursuers.
(Base 30, +1 Diam)

The Bold Announcement of Presence, 1 point, Init +2, Form: This power is similar to the Hermetic spell, Stench of the Twenty Corpses.
(Base 3, +2 Voice, +1 Diam)

Talons of the Winds, 1 point, Init +3, Form: As the Hermetic spell.
(Base 4, +2 Voice, +1 Diam, +1 Requisite)

Vis: Three pawns of Auram vis in their heart.
Appearance: Harpies are birds with women’s faces. Originally beautiful, they are now monstrous, with hag-like faces topped with wispy white hair. The size of a large eagle, their talons, legs, and bellies are covered in their own excrement and filth. When they speak, their shrill voices make listeners cringe.

The Harpies are a good example of faeries who change their role over time. Originally pagan storm goddesses, noted by Hesiod for their beautiful hair and graceful flight, the Harpies sought different ways to gain human vitality. Rather than simple, lesser wind deities, the Harpies changed into foul, horrific predators. Fear is a more delicious emotion than reverence, at least to these carrion-women-birds, and stories of their depredations grew.

Most people familiar with the legends see the Harpies as justifiable retribution. In early tales they acted under Zeus’ accord, and while the pagan religion is long past, echoes of it reverberate in some cultural concepts. People in the Thebes Tribunal think that anyone pestered by the Harpies deserves it. A lesser known aspect of the myth is that the Harpies are protected by the gods, and killing a Harpy is forbidden.

In practice, Harpies swoop down to a feast, scattered the terrified revelers, eat as much as they can gobble, and foul the rest with their excrement. So marked, the Harpies will return to the feasting hall regularly, repeating this pattern until they are removed or the place abandoned. They are persistent and dangerous, and in combat can join into Trained Groups of up to 4 members.

The Harpies are often confused with the Fates, another group of pagan faeries with avian features. To enhance this misconception, Harpies tend to group in threes, purposefully misrepresenting the Fates of the past, the present, and the future.

Story Seeds: A powerful magic item is thought to be found in the ruins of an old covenant, and the young magi are charged with finding it. The covenant, renowned for its feasts and hospitality, still contains the Harpies that led to its downfall. Carefully scouring the records reveals that the covenant was plagued by Harpies, but that was many years ago.

This entry was posted in A Faerie a Day, Ars Magica. Bookmark the permalink.

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