habitat: River, Lake

origin: Celtic, Scottish, Irish

Horse-like water spirits. Kelpies are shape-shifters. But their preferred form is that of a horse. They appear as powerful black stallions rushing through water, sometimes with fins on their backside.

TRAITS Watery shape-shifters / Riverside hunters / Solitary stallions
CHALLENGE A kelpie is a solitary creature that controls a large swath of a waterway. Create a scenario where two kelpies are found in one area. What would cause such an unusual pact?
  • Use the water to the kelpie's advantage. It can grapple and drag its victims into the water for an easy kill.
  • Though the kelpie can be a savage hunter, it is not made stupid by bloodlust. If an encounter is not going it's way, it will try to disappear into the water.
  • A kelpie can be used in a non-combat encounter. You may find them shapeshifted in many forms. They may be willing to exchange information in return for interesting company - something they rarely have.
  • A local fisherman spotted a stranger sitting by the river. He swears the man had hooves for feet.
  • For some reason, dogs, oxen, and horses will no longer go near Moonrake river.
  • Three people have drowned in the last month. Their bodies have chunks of flesh ripped out with unusually wide teeth marks.

Kelpie Lore

As the deep purple of night fades to the bright orange of dawn, a fisherman stands at the edge of a swiftly moving river. He casts his line into the water, settling down on the grass damp with morning dew. He yawns and rubs the sleep from each eye in turn, one hand grasping his fishing rod. And then, he hears it: a high-pitched whinny that sends shivers up his spine.

He stands quickly and begins pulling in his line, telling himself the horse's call was far enough away for him to take care of his equipment. But alas, horses are fast, water horses more so. The river erupts near the shoreline, and there the creature comes on fast, its hair shining under the new sun, water streaming down its thick neck. Its cruel mouth opens wide, tearing into flesh and bone alike. The fisherman doesn’t even have time to scream before he’s pulled into the river.

A Beast of Many Forms

Some of the stories I’ve come across regarding Kelpies indicate the horse-like spirit-creatures live near bodies of water, while others take the position that these phantom beasts live within lakes, streams, and rivers themselves. One thing is common across all of the stories: Kelpies are dangerous, and eat men whenever given the chance.

Most that I have spoken to seem to agree that the kelpie can change its form to that of a human, choosing most often a beautiful, and scantily clad woman, intent on luring men to their dooms on riverbanks. The Kelpie’s usual form is that of a horse, most often described as a powerful all-black beast that rushes from the water to hunt on the shore. A few have claimed that the rear of the horse is finned, like that of a mermaid, and have created art to support their claims, but most write this off as needless dramatic embellishment of an already frightful creature. Another controversial claim is that a kelpie keeps its hooves when transformed into a human. True or not, perhaps it’s wise to glance at the feet of any stranger who approaches you near a lake!

One woman claims to have seen her son taken beneath the surface of a lake, from which he was never found again. A black stallion had risen from the water and made its way to the boy, and when the child touched the creature's mane, his hand was stuck fast. He struggled helplessly as the horse slowly walked back into the cold water, dragging him under the surface.

Misunderstood and Lonely

Not all who have encountered a kelpie speak of doom and death. Some claim the creatures, or at least a few of their kind, are merely looking for some sort of companionship. As lone, solitary creatures, some kelpies are believed to delight in sharing conversations and time with those who travel near their watery homes.

Well Referenced

Kelpie are popular creatures who have counterparts in many regions, and as such have been included in many stories and paintings. There have even been simplistic cave paintings of the aquatic beasts, such as the one uncovered by the famed monster hunter Geralt of Rivia. Stories of at least one kelpie are common at almost every body of water in Scotland, and the creature shares many aspects with various other monsters in nearby and distant lands, including the very similar wihwin of Central America, and bunyip out of Australia. Whether these creatures are also kelpie or cousins of a sort, I have not yet been able to ascertain.

Facing off Against A Kelpie

During my travels, I have come across more than one person who has claimed to have fought a kelpie and come out ahead, or at the very least knows someone who has. One youth was said to have been stuck to the horse by way of touch, much like the story I presented to you above. This boy used a quick wit, and a lot of courage, to free himself from the beast as it tried to drag him under the water. He pulled a sharp dagger from his belt and hacked off several of his fingers, freeing himself and taking the chance to swim to shore and escape.

Another man I spoke with claims his father once came across a kelpie disguised as an old man sitting on the edge of a stone bridge that spanned a river. The old man was friendly and amiable, but something instinct raised the alarms within him. Instead of befriending the old man, he struck him in the head with a hammer (he worked as a builder of some kind, and was on his way home from the job site). The old man let out an otherworldly shriek and transformed right before him, revealing his true form – a horse as black as pitch. The horse then dove off the bridge and into the water.

According to some who have made professional monster hunters, fire is a useful tool for taking down kelpie. But since water usually extinguishes fire, this is a theory I would not be keen on testing!

Written by Giles Ravensong.

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