Vlasts

Ethereal Carrier Pigeons of Valos
The Vlast is a specially bred variant of stirge that can fly through the ethereal plane. Vlasts have excellent homing instincts and can be domesticated, making them ideal for carrying short messages quickly. A vlast can be bonded to a person or party by spending one full day in their company while being fed a particular herb called Mindwort. Thereafter, when released the vlast will fly back and forth between its home base and that person or party. Rebonding a vlast to a different person requires an interim week of feeding on Mindwort in the company of only its trainer or other vlasts.

When released, the vlast will disappear into the ethereal plan and fly toward either its base or bonded handler. It will fly at about 50 miles per hour.for up to 20 hours, then rest 4 hours if necessary before continuing. A vlast can fly for up to two days without food. If hungry it will use part of its rest period to feed, like a stirge, on the blood of a suitable creature. If unable to feed after two days of flight, the vlast will fly at half speed for the third day, one quarter speed for the fourth. If it still cannot feed by the end of the fourth day it will die of exhaustion, emerging into the Prime Material Plane at its point of death. Vlasts are normally carried in small basket cages along with a couple live rats or other small creatures on which it can feed.

Normally a vlast returns to the location where it was previously released. If a party releases one and then moves before the vlast has returned, the creature will search for them by flying in two or three circles about a quarter mile wide to pick up a psychic trace, then fly directly to the party. There is always a small chance that keen observers familiar with this behavior may notice and follow the vlast. Therefore, after releasing a vlast it is most advisable to remain in place until the creature returns.

To make the creatures more useful as message carriers, the wizard Zoluss created a kind of miniature Bag of Holding called a Conveyance Tube. This small capsule of hollowed out bone is about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Tightly rolled pieces of parchment or vellum up to three feet long can be inserted into the tube, which can be sealed with wax. The tube can also carry up to two fluid ounces of small amounts of liquid or powdery material, or even thin metal rods. Weight is neutralized inside the tube. Empty or fully loaded, it weighs only a few grams. The conveyance tube is normally strapped to the underside of a vlast by means of a small harness, with loops around its neck and just above of its back legs. About three dozen Capsules are known to exist. Four have been lost on vlasts that have presumably died en route. Unbeknownst to the Emperor, one has been stolen by an agent of Veldra and is in her hands being studied, along with the vlast that wore it.

Possession of vlasts is viewed with extreme suspicion by people familiar with their use. In most places anyone caught with a vlast is arrested immediately as a presumed spy and sent to Vericanthum under guard, unless they present proper Imperial credentials.

The Kaladan palace in Vericanthum hosts a large rookery of several dozen vlasts, under the direction of the wizard Zoluss and his apprentices and students. The vlasts are used extensively for espionage and to keep track of exploratory parties. None are known to be in private use.