In the time before Midgard, there was only the Void—and within that twilight dwelled the ahu-nixta. While mortals use the name to define an ancient race of aberrant, Void-spawned tyrants, it may just as easily represent an ideal or the wellspring of the ahu-nixta’s very existence. It is a primordial name, given to these same aberrations by the dragons who coined it from a repeated syllabic phrase pulled from their incessant maddening chatter.
At one time, the ahu-nixta held dominion over many races. Cruel masters, they fed upon the younger entities and stole from them those elements they needed to transcend the Void. They broke the creatures they enslaved—salvaging flesh and bone, dominating thoughts, harvesting fears—and they warped them into vessels for their own designs. But just like those creatures, the encasements built from them proved weak and inefficient, prone to physical aging and damage. No matter how the ahu-nixta manipulated the raw materials, the result was always insufficient. To overcome these flaws, they sought out other raw materials, metals and crystals and other elements, the same the mortal races forged into tools and machinery. Using these new resources, they copied and cobbled, implanted and spliced, creating new forms, each stronger and more lasting.
In the fabled Codex of the Endless Void, one of the authors theorizes the ahu-nixta as both belonging to the Void and being the physical embodiment of the Void itself. She further claims that the ahu-nixta exist to expand the Void into other realms by building themselves—or rather, itself—into pieces of the realm. (The text is unclear whether the ahu-nixta are multiple entities or but a single entity spread through multiple forms.) The hive mind then warps the pieces, devouring the realm from the inside out. The theory also attempts to define the Concordant Chronosphere, the prime hive mind intelligence of the ahu-nixta.
Hive Nodes. Ahu-nixta reproduce from clusters of organic matter encased in a resinous, amorphous mass—a hive node. Occasionally these clumps take the form of long, weblike strands and sometimes as blankets of unnaturally sticky or caustic slime. Some believe a hive node’s appearance depends on the manner of its creation, but no substantial evidence supports this theory. Nodes range in size from a foot in diameter to the size of an elephant, and when ready to burst, they can disgorge from one to over a dozen various ahu-nixta: a large node may be filled with a swarm of drudges (see Tome of Beasts 2) while a smaller node may hold a single large, heavily armored ahu-nixta. It’s unknown how long a node can exist in stasis before bursting, but they have been found in ancient and long-abandoned vessels, adrift in the Void, buried in the ruins of sunken cities, and attached to debris, hurling through the planes.
The largest of these nodes is known as Node Prime, a titanic mass of pulsing biomechanical clockwork the size of a small planet. Node Prime serves as something of a homeworld to the ahu-nixta. From Node Prime, the Concordant Chronosphere communicates with the rest of the hive nodes scattered through the Void and beyond. Some consider the Concordant Chronosphere to consist of just Node Prime while others argue that it exists within all hive nodes simultaneously and that it manifests on Node Prime merely due to its magnitude—and some see it as all of the ahu-nixta combined.
Manifestations. Of the myriad forms that the ahu-nixta and their armor takes, three types are most frequently encountered by mortals. The first appears as a spheroid clockwork horror, which is what most creatures imagine when they think of the ahu-nixta (see Creature Codex), and the others are called drudges and cataphracts (see Tome of Beasts 2) with drudges assuming the role of servitor and cataphracts acting as violent and domineering juggernauts. Still, owing to their constantly evolving forms and the violent creativity brought to bear in their clockwork encasements, there exist countless lesser-known manifestations of the ahu-nixta, roaming the Void and occasionally slipping beyond.
Whatever is floating before you has an appearance like a brain, floating free of its mortal shackles—or maybe a putrid cuttlefish. But it also has several little appendages and eyes popping up all over its form.
While terrifying within their near invulnerable clockwork encasements, once plucked from their shells, they appear far less imposing. The creature’s mature form bears an uncanny resemblance to a putrefied cuttlefish. In the larval stage, bodies possess a similar texture to the adult, though lacking any consistent shape. In cephaloid form, an ahu-nixta can alter its body dramatically, allowing it to stretch its soft and pliable tissues within other structures. This allows them to occupy existing matter and manipulate it. They can also fuse together to manipulate larger objects, working in pairs or even entire colonies, depending on the nature and size of the encasements. Other times, they use their own larva as building material, for mature cephaloids are able to control larva at will. It is unknown if the creatures can also fuse their consciousnesses, though such an ability would account for their advanced intellects and mastery of arcane secrets, void magic, and clockwork constructions.
An ahu-nixta larva has the following quick statistics: Tiny or Small, AC 9, hp 2, speed 10 ft., Int 3. Additionally, any ahu-nixta larva will automatically do the bidding of any mature cephaloid (whether encased or not) within 120 feet. Provided a larva is capable of performing the commands, it obeys them to the best of its ability—including even those commands that would result in the larva’s destruction.
Medium Aberration, Neutral Evil
Armor Class 12 (natural armor)
Hit Points 32 (5d8 + 10)
Speed 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (hover), swim 20 ft.
Skills Perception +3
Damage Immunities psychic
Condition Immunities prone
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Deep Speech, Void Speech
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
Spellcasting. The ahu-nixta’s innate spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The ahu-nixta can cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
- At will: fear, firebolt (2d10), telekinesis
The creature’s clockwork armor resembles the slender, segmented form of a metallic spinal column, ending in an ovoid metal centerpiece, and an articulated arm mounted with a boring drill bit swings freely on top. Numerous metallic appendages dangle from the creature’s ventral region, each tipped with a tiny, barbed claw.
Tappers collect psychic energy from intelligent creatures. They often come in swarms and attack by affixing themselves to a host with their barbed claws and tapping into the base of the skull with their boring bits. Why the ahu-nixta need this energy remains unknown, though most speculate they use psychic energy to create the bond to their clockwork armor.
The creature inside the clockwork encasement, once a larval ahu-nixta, now lacks a cohesive form and fills the encasement as a viscous, jelly-like substance with only enough sentience to fulfill the commands of the hive mind directing it.
Tiny Aberration, Unaligned
Armor Class 17 (clockwork armor)
Hit Points 10 (4d4)
Speed 30 ft., fly 30 ft., swim 30 ft.
Damage Immunities lightning, poison, psychic
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages does not speak but understands Void Speech
Challenge 1 (200 XP)
Clockwork Encasement. The creature within the machine is a shapeless mass, both protected and given concrete manipulators by its armor. The clockwork armor has a few manipulators that the ahu-nixta can use to attack or to interact with objects outside of the armor. Unlike other ahu-nixta, the tapper can’t live outside its armor and dies when its armor is reduced to 0 hp.
Electrostatic Field. Once a tapper attaches to a target, it generates an electrostatic field to protect itself while draining its victim. Once per round, the first time something makes physical contact with the tapper, it triggers a 10-foot-radius burst of electrostatic energy. All creatures caught in the burst must succeed a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 3 (1d6) lightning damage. The burst doesn’t affect the tapper.
Immutable Form. The tapper’s clockwork armor is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form, as is the creature that controls it as long as the ahu-nixta remains within the armor.
Psychic Tap. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 6 (1d6+ 3) piercing damage, and the tapper attaches to the target. While attached, the tapper doesn’t attack. Instead, at the start of each of the tapper’s turns, the target takes 6 (1d6 + 3) psychic damage as its brain is tapped. The tapper can detach itself from its target by spending 5 feet of its movement and will detach after dealing 12 psychic damage or after the target dies. The tapper can be ripped free with a successful DC 13 Strength (Athletics) check, though doing so also injures its target, dealing 7 (2d6) slashing damage.
Read more of this and other great articles in Warlock, our regular zine for 5th Edition, only on Patreon!