Couatl

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The couatl, A, is the weakest of the angelic beings. It is one of the few non-sea monsters to possess a drowning attack. This is usually irrelevant, but can be deadly if the couatl happens to be on a square containing water (it needs to be on the water, not just next to it).

The couatl is generated lawful, therefore friendly to other lawfuls. Like all angelic beings, it ignores Elbereth.

A couatl may be generated to chase you when you pray to an extremely angry god, or as minion of the outgoing god when you convert an altar.

Origin

The couatl as presented in NetHack originates from Dungeons & Dragons. It is derived from the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. The couatl is a feathered serpent, with a pair of rainbow-coloured feathered wings.

A small mix up occurred with the sources: The lawful god of the archaeologist is actually Quetzalcoatl, so both entities are derived from the same source.

Encyclopedia entry

A mythical feathered serpent. The couatl are very rare.

SLASH'EM

In SLASH'EM the encyclopedia entry was expanded to:

A mythical feathered serpent. The couatl are very rare.
The couatl are feathered serpents of myth and lore. It is believed
that they are distant relatives of dragons, though this remains
unproven. So rare as to be considered legendary, the couatl are
some of the most beautiful creatures in existence. A couatl has
the body of a long serpent and feathered wings the colour of the
rainbow. Occasionally sent as messengers from the gods to their
erring servants, a couatl will always seek to punish those who
deserve it.
[ 2nd ed. Monstrous Compendium, by TSR, Inc. ]