he srat, or Croesian falcon, is an evil magical creature, a mundane falcon which has been altered through the arcane arts. The secrets of its creation are known to only a handful of Barovian wizards. The srat is created to serve as a minor guardian and to commit petty acts of thievery and murder.
Srats have the general appearance of a peregrine falcon, a large bird of prey native to many regions of the Core. A srat's plumage is uniformly slate blue in color, while its beak and legs are oily black. When the creature is attacking, it becomes wreathed in pale, pearly flames.
Srats usually understand the spoken language of their wizard masters, but cannot themselves speak or read.
Combat: Srats never attack creatures more powerful than themselves unless explicitly ordered to do so. If commanded to guard an area or assassinate an individual, however, they can prove themselves to be cunning opponents. They use surprise, stealth, and their aerial maneuverability to their advantage, and rarely take risks.
A srat can attack as a normal bird of prey, using its beak and both of its claws to attack in a single round. Each attack inflicts 1d2 damage. The srat only uses these natural attacks as a last resort. Once per round, a srat can spit a flickering bolt of white fire that acts as a flame arrow. This bolt automatically hits any target within thirty yards, streaking unerringly towards its intended victim. The bolt does 1d6 points of piercing damage and 4d6 points of fire damage. The victim can save vs. breath weapon, however, to take only half damage.
One of the srat's most unusual abilities, though it is not that useful in combat, is its rapacious gaze. Simply by looking into someone's eyes, a srat can cause either 1d10 gp or a single object up to the size of a dagger (dictated by the srat) to be teleported from the victim's person to a predetermined point in its master's sanctum. The victim is usually completely unaware that anything unusual has happened. Depending on the relevance of the item teleported, the DM may allow the victim to make a Wisdom check to realize that the item is gone. The srat can use its rapacious gaze an unlimited number of times per day, even on a specific individual.
Srats can only be struck by weapons of at least +1 enchantment. They are utterly immune to fire damage, whether mundane or magical.
Habitat/Society: As magical creations, srats are extremely rare creatures. A few Barovian wizards, nearly all of them conjurers and arcanists, posses the knowledge necessary to create them. Ironically, the process is actually fairly simple. The wizard must cast a monster summoning I spell at precisely midnight, and the creature that arrives must be a normal peregrine falcon. If any other variety of monster appears, the rest of the creation process cannot continue. Once a peregrine is successfully summoned, the wizard must immediately cast flame arrow on it. The falcon must then be force-fed a black garnet worth at least 500 gp. The creature will not eat the gem willingly; it must be physically forced down its gullet. After the garnet is swallowed, the falcon is permanently transformed into a srat. As srats are inherently evil creatures, creating one is an evil act, and requires a Ravenloft powers check. Srats retain their free will, and are not obligated to follow their master's orders. They are, however, initially friendly towards him or her, and glady serve. Oddly, casting dispel magic on a srat will not revert it to its natural state, though it will prevent the creature from using its flame arrow or rapacious gaze for 1d6 turns.
Srats are efficient, loyal servitors, but thoroughly evil. They enjoy making other creatures suffer, and delight in thievery. They do not mind being forced into service, however, and obey their masters willingly, so long as he or she is of similarly malevolent disposition. They do not abide abuse, however, and a harsh wizard will quickly find a srat turning on him. The master is not immune to the srat's attacks, though he alone can strike the srat without enchanted weapons. Nonevil wizards should think twice before creating a srat. When in service to such wizards, srats become brooding and bloodthirsty, often murdering random innocents to provoke their "goody-goody" masters.
Srats are generally enlisted to serve as minor guardians for wizards incapable of or disinterested in powerful magical traps or necromancy. Obviously, the srat's gaze make it an excellent thief, particularly when it comes to small, easily filched items. Though incapable of communication, srats still make serviceable spies and scouts. They can sound alarms, and create diversions when necessary. In short, they have many of benefits of familiars or homonculi, without the perils.
Ecology: Like the peregrine falcons they resemble, srats are carnivores that hunt small birds and mammals for food. Their magical abilities and immunities aside, they are all in other ways natural creatures, requiring food, water, sleep, and breathable air to survive. Their impact on the natural environment is nearly identical to that of other birds of prey. In their service to their masters, however, srats are heralds of strife and evil.