The creature’s webbed feet slid silently across the cold stone floor. Its attention focused solely on the golden statuette. As it reached for the glittering item, it failed to notice the nearly invisible string attached to the base. With one pull, the heavy net fell from above and engulfed the vile thing. Hissing and shrieking, it tried to claw its way free—to no avail.1
“By the gods, you were right,” Koris said as he and his two companions walked from behind a large stack of barrels.
The tavern owner looked at the mage and the dwarf standing across from him. “What did you call this thing again?”
“A meazel,” said Phillip, the balding human mage.
“They live underground, and in dense marsh areas, and come to the surface at times to hunt for food and items.”
“Aye,” chimed in the gruff dwarf, “my people have had run-ins with these things before, and the only thing they like more than fresh flesh is gold.”
“You’re right Brandik, anything made of gold is their favorite item to pilfer.” Phillip looked back to Koris. “They are very adept at moving silently and remaining unseen. Also, because of they spend most of their lives underground they have exceptional night vision.”2
Phillip moved forward, whispered an incantation, and the struggling and screeching underneath the net came to a halt. Nodding, Brandik grabbed the net and began removing it.
“Wait, it’ll get loose!” the frightened tavern owner warned.
“Not to worry, I placed a holding spell on the creature. It will not be able to move,” the wizard answered.
With the net removed, all three could finally get a good look at the creature. Its face frozen in a snarl, its solid black eyes reflected the light of the lantern.
“Its skin, what are those red patches?” Koris asked, leaning in for a closer look.
“The raw patches are from a skin disease that is common among its kind,” chimed in Brandik. With a start, the tavern owner quickly walked backward and covered his nose and mouth with his hand. Seeing the worried expression on his face, Phillip quickly spoke up.
“Not to worry, the skin disease seems to only affect meazels, and is not contagious to other races.”
Taking no chances, Koris kept his distance. “Will others of its kind come looking for it?”
Brandik shook his head. “These things are solitary, they live alone. In fact, they don’t even keep mates.”
Phillip looked inquisitively at his companion. “I have not read any writings on their mating habits.”
Brandik nodded. “I’ve heard stories from other dwarves exploring subterranean tunnels. They’ve come across the critters breeding, and said it seemed to be nothing more than a male forcing himself on a female. I also heard tell of females being found with a child, but no male around. I guess they are so vile they can’t even stand each other.”3
“Yes, it seems all of the under-dark races detest the meazel. They are generally attacked on sight—even by orcs and kobolds. I guess that’s one thing we still have in common.”
The other two looked confusedly at the mage.
“Oh didn’t I tell you? We believe meazels are related to humans.”
The mouths of both the tavern owner and the dwarven warrior fell open.
“Some of my colleagues have dissected one of the creatures. All of its organs are exactly as they are with humans, elves and other standard humanoid races. And aside from their webbed toes, they also have the same skeletal structure and same number and type of teeth as humans. We believe that eons ago some humans descended into the depths of the earth, underneath marshes, and evolved underground. To further add to this theory, even though the creature is of an obvious low intelligence it has instinctive cunning.” Walking over to the still frozen creature, Phillip bent down and pulled a piece of rope from around its gaunt waist.
“Almost all meazels carry a cord like this made of whatever material they can find. If they come across a lone humanoid they will sneak up behind it and use the cord to strangle the victim. They will then drag them to their lair to eat.”
“So they are not only human, but cannibals?” Koris asked.
“In a sense I suppose, but they will eat any warm-blooded creature they can find and kill,” the mage shrugged.
“They are also cunning enough to avoid bad odds if they can. Let’s look at this one you hired us to catch.
“You have recently had small items that guests left in their room disappear. You also had a vagrant that typically sleeps in the alley behind your tavern go missing. I imagine both are the work of this meazel.
“He has been sneaking into empty rooms by crawling up the walls from the alley where he wouldn’t be seen, and pilfering small items that attract his attention from those rooms. When he saw the man alone in the alley he killed him and took him back to his lair to feed. That is why we found the drag marks in the alley that led to the cellar door. However, it would not take the chance of attacking people in the common rooms, as it was outnumbered.”
“I guess it’s a good thing they aren’t smart enough to use weapons and tools, or they could really become a problem.”
“Oh but they can,” Brandik spoke up. “There have been a number of times where my people have cornered one of these things and it had some weapon from a past victim in its lair. They will grab the weapon and use it instead of their bony claws. They have also found areas where the meazel appeared to have been digging with picks it had stolen. So it seems they don’t make their own tools or weapons, but will use any they may find.”4
“So what do we do with it now? Go ahead and kill it?” the tavern owner asked.
“Oh no,” said Phillip with a sly grin. “We are going to let it go and then track it to its lair. We will kill it there and collect all of the loot it has pilfered.”
“So you’ll be able to get my customers’ items back?”
“I am sure we will find their things and more. Of course, you only hired us to find and stop the thief. If you want the items returned there will be a … finder’s fee.”
Koris frowned at the news that this was going to cost him even more gold. ”Fine, just make sure you do what you were paid to do in the first place and stop that thing from causing me any more problems.”
Philip nodded as Koris headed up the stairs and left the cellar. “My spell will be wearing off soon,” he said to Brandik.
With that, the mage and dwarf headed off, behind a stack of barrels and out of sight. Within minutes the meazel began to twitch. It eventually sat bolt upright and hissed at the empty room. It quickly rushed past the grate lying on the floor and dropped down the hole into the sewer tunnels below.
After a couple of minutes had passed, Phillip and Brandik emerged from their hiding spot.
“Go ahead and begin tracking it, I’ll catch up. I want to gather up the net first,” the mage said to his warrior partner.
“Aye,” the dwarf growled, “I’ll catch its trail; you can take your time.”
Brandik made his way to the sewer entrance and lowered himself down. Phillip began gathering his magically strengthened net, and never heard a sound. In fact, he had no idea there was anyone behind him until the damp rough rope squeezed tight around his neck.
1. Meazels have no discernable spoken language. Their only form of communication seems to be through a series of shrieks, squeals and gestures.
2. Meazels are extremely adept at moving quietly and hiding in darkness. As a result, they receive a 15% bonus to both of these thief skills (which are at the 4th level of ability) when there is no light source brighter than a torch. They also have exceptional infravision of up to 120 feet. They are sensitive to bright light and receive a -2 to hit in torch light or stronger.
3. 30% of all meazels encountered will be female. There is no statistical difference between the male and female, however females have a 10% chance to have 1-2 young with them. The young will have HD: ½ AC: 9 and A/DAM: 1/1-2. Meazels have an average life span of 40 years and children will separate from their mother at age 12 to strike out on their own.
4. Meazels do not create their own weapons outside of the rope they use to strangle victims. However, they can use any weapon they find or steal. If the weapon is a one-handed weapon, the meazel may attack once each round with the weapon, as well as its claws with the other hand. This allows the meazel to attack twice per round; however only one of those attacks may be with a weapon, the other attack must be with its claws.