But sometimes, things go horribly wrong*, and these elementals DO become not just evil, but predatory. Scholars theorize this has something to do with exposure to Negative Energy -- perhaps the elemental was summoned as it neared the end of its natural lifespan in the Churn, or perhaps it was bound by a lich using foul necrotic magics -- but the fact remains that these things are no longer content to just be in that alien manner of theirs. They hunt, they kill, and they revel in it.
They aren't, strictly speaking, undead (elementals were never alive to begin with), but these "predamentals" are to regular elementals as vampires, ghouls and the like are to ordinary humans: by feeding upon the life force of those they slay, they extend their ability to stay on the Material Plane. The exact metric is not known, but obviously, the more powerful the prey they consume, the longer they may stay upon Pellatarrum.
Fire predamentals are easy to spot, as they are unnatural fires which keeps burning beyond what would be considered "normal" and move as if directed by sentience, but that makes them hard to differentiate from regular fire elementals. Key to detection is mostly within subtleties of behavior: an elemental will choose to burn things which ignite easily and burn impressively, whereas a predamental will choose to inflict maximum pain and suffering. If it's content to sit there and burn, and not bother you unless provoked, it's a regular elemental; if it ignores a granary and chooses to burn an orphanage instead, it's a predamental.
Fire predamentals are sometimes known as Cinder Swarms. Fighting them without magic is difficult, but if encountered in the wild they are easily detected and avoided (because, you know, it's fire). While highly aggressive, they tend to die out quickly, though some have been known to inhabit coal seams or peat bogs for decades (see also muckfires).
Air predamentals, conversely, are nearly impossible to spot. They fly, silently and invisibly, and enjoy pushing people off of great heights to their doom or stealing their breath while they sleep. Like monsters in horror movies, they terrorize groups by going after the smallest members first, picking them off one by one. The defining feature of all air predamental attacks is that the victim dies in a state of extreme terror.
Air predamentals are better known as Invisible Stalkers. They can be detected through use of windchimes, pinwheels, or dust scattered upon the floor, though that detection does little good when it comes to fighting them. It's also impossible to tell when one has targeted someone for predation until people start dying. The best way to defend against them is through elemental wards sold by druids of the Gray Cabal.
Water predamentals are also nearly invisible to spot -- while at rest. When in action, however, they quickly froth up into malevolent shapes of strangling, suffocating foam: whirlpools, waterfalls, raging torrents and whitewater rapids. A tranquil pond occupied by a predamental could quickly become a drowning pool, so beware when approaching bodies of water with bottoms you cannot see and no apparent wildlife in or near them. Whether or not prey can breathe is irrelevant to a water predamental, as the suffocation is just the prelude to its preferred method of killing: forcible extraction of all bodily fluids through extreme compression.
Water predamentals are usually known as as Water Weirds. Much like fire, the best defense against them is detection and avoidance; don't go near the water until a ranger or druid has declared it safe. They generally avoid bodies of water which are large or fast-moving, as those tend to disrupt their cohesion, so flowing rivers are usually safer than still ponds.
Earth predamentals are the subtlest, most cunning of the lot. Only the youngest and most foolish take the predictable forms of avalanches, falling rocks, yawning pits and crumbling ledges, for even the non-predamental versions of these are easily spotted and avoided by folks with common sense. The oldest, and therefore most successful earth predamentals are known as Hungry Caves. Creatures will enter them of their own free will, either seeking a lair or shelter from the weather, and once inside the hungry cave will collapse upon its prey, crushing and chewing until nothing is left but a fine paste. Hungry caves look like regular caves with two exceptions:
- They are almost always at ground level. While hungry caves high on mountaintops or beneath the water have been known to exist, there needs to be a large quantity of prey species in the area to sustain them. Ground level opening optimize them for predation upon most mammalian, serpentine, and insect species.
- There is always something subtly wrong about the appearance of a hungry cave. It could be that the stones around it bear a passing resemblance to teeth, or a trick of the light seems to suggest malevolent eyes staring out of the darkness, or perhaps just excessively green and fertile foliage surrounding it. If there is something bothersome about a cave, but you cannot put your finger on why that is, do not enter.
If a predamental cannot be avoided, and a member of the Gray Cabal is not on hand to bind/control/dismiss them, the only other option is to attempt to pacify it through a sacrificial offering. This may be as easy as a bottle of wine poured into a body of water before passage, or as cruel as a living beings (usually condemned criminals) staked out in a line leading away from town.
It is fortunate for the inhabitants of Pellatarrum that predatory elementals occur rarely. Still, they serve as a constant reminder to the people that when nature demands blood, she usually gets it.
*Things going horribly wrong seems to be another recurring motif in Pellatarrum.