While not a missile weapon as it were, Combusting Shrews still fall under the missile category because of their peculiar usage.
The Combusting Shrew is a small, pudgy rodent of the shrew family, roughly 7-8 inches in diameter and weighing about 5-10 pounds. Its diet consists of grain and/or the seeds of various plants, most of them common weeds that are inedible by humans. Their short fur is often a reddish-brown in colour, and some have black or dark-brown patches.
The truly strange quirk in the Combusting Shrew's nature is its ability to burst violently into flames, due to the creation and secretion of a natural, combustible oil in a special gland at the back of the shrew's throat. When the creature's large front teeth strike together hard enough, sparks are created which cause the oil present in its mouth to ignite. This sometimes causes the mammal to explode, but invariably leads to an oil-fed blaze that spreads quickly and is quite difficult to put out.
Since this odd feature does not seem to serve as any practical advantage to the animal itself, it is largely thought that the small mammal's genetic structure was tampered with at one point, most likely by magic.
In battle, Combusting Shrews are deployed by being loaded into catapults or large slings and fired at the enemy, igniting when they come into contact with their targets. Of course, there is a chance that the shrews do not catch fire, but this is greatly limited if the creatures are catapulted hard enough.
In addition to their abilities of combustion, the shrews serve as a demoralizing force towards the enemy. The idea of being repulsed with a fusillade of little rodents is a bit of a disheartening concept to many.
Several theories exist as to the shrew's origins. The Circle of Magi denies any part in the creation of the creatures, abhorring the loss of animal life needed to effectively use them. An independantly operating wizard might have invented them, but the Circle denies the existence of these hedge-wizards and -witches as well.
Oddly enough, the Holy Church of Our Champion actually sanctions the use of the creatures, however, refusing to believe that it has been magically altered, and saying that such a useful beast must have been created by Our Holy Champion for just such a purpose. Although magic is frowned upon by the Church, exceptions have been made in the past, and the Combusting Shrew may have been one of them.
Another feasible origin might have been as a result of experimentation by the Royal Academy of Scientology. Although such a drastic change in the genetics of a creature is supposedly beyond the limits of modern science, the High Scholars of the Academy have never been entirely forthcoming about scientific breakthroughs, preferring to keep the knowledge to themselves.
The most useful aspect of the shrew is simply its ability to reproduce in enormous quantities, and to grow in a very short period of time, making it a regenerating supply of ammunition, so long as a breeding pair remains. In addition, feeding is rarely an issue since the mammals feed on the seeds of common weeds which human beings cannot digest.
The only thing which prevents some armies from utilizing the shrew as a missile is their conscience. Hundreds of shrews screeching from a battlefield as they are consumed by flames is a moral step that some simply refuse to take - ironic in a morbid way, since the very act of war is filled with mindless killing anyway.
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? Responses (24)-25
Dear God, I feel so evil after writing this. *shudder*
You know,this item is actually worthy of a full 5/5,but cruelty to animals has always been a big turn off for me,so I'm going to have to deduct one point for that. I apologize if you think that's an an insult,but my little biases rule me with a firm hand.
Go, exploding lemmings! OK, it was black humour, but I do like it.
Whatever the mysterious origin of that ability, the small rodent can profit from it. Not a single one, but as species: what better way to make predators learn it is wrong to eat this food, than to explode in their mouth? The smaller ones could be killed outright, the really big ones at least hurt (distracted enough for the rest of the group to flee).
This means another risk for the battlefield user - don't you dare to squeeze or threaten this 'missile' too much... you might miss your hand or more later. Security is important around these rodents.
Wodgen, you should be ashamed of yourself - that is truly evil - funny though
I must say, I do like the multiple theories on the Shrews' creation
Regarding evolutionary advantage, I agree with manfred - in fact, in a magical universe, such an ability just might evolve naturally
Sick, but I wish I'd though of it - 5/5
This one needs to be changed to a Lifeform category critter.
You can see it happening. Once the critters exist, they will be used this way. Shudder.
Amusing. It makes me want to invent a party game. Something similar to hot potatoe.
Dear god... It's Beautiful...
I mean *insert animal rights stuff*
I enjoy ecosystyems, and never thought of a component such as this. I have to give you full points for this Wogden, it can be no other way.
Unique. Beautiful. I like it. =p
Them's some huge shrews. So, how do they reach that size before combusting?
They come that size to begin with.
An awesomely well done post Wogden. It is entertaining and at the same time makes us question why we are entertained by screaming rodents bursting into flames. The backstory is well done, avoiding any one blame for the creation of the rodents.
Dude, this is GREAT stuff. I am envisioning a 'Castle Argggggh' Scenario with a french taunter and everything. I'm SO using these things. I have an upcoming super-battle to wage, might be just the ticket.
On a side note, this got me so giddy, I turned into surfer dude for a brief moment.
The starved rat? You mean Muzzled Mouse?
I think that Muzzled Mouse was a little more on the disturbing side of these sorts of items, while this is a touch more whimsical. ;)
Could you honestly imagine?
A Honorary BUMP!
I love a good shrew and what could be better than a flaming shrew to fling at someone. Rock on
The suicide chicken.
Need normal sized ones to use as sling ammunition!
This is, perhaps, one of the odder posts here. It deserves to see the light of day, just for the cringe and the chuckle factor
Twisted and oddly fitting. Definitely a way to spice up a castle siege for jaded players.
This a damn entertaining read and a fun idea.
I could see these things evolving, what predator would eat and exploding animal.
This post deserves more attention.
Noooo! Not the shrews! They're so adorable! I love this submission so much, butcause as much as I love tiny fuzzy things I love tiny fuzzy things turned deadly more.