..and from the heaps of the fallen burst a nightmarish creature, sinuous death, like a snake with legs, the dying fires of the battlefields reflecting in its glittering scales. Mounted on its back, in dark, light-absorbing armour and wielding a lightning-wreathed lance, sat a monstrous knight, the horns on his helmet marking him as a Knight of the Locastrian Heron Guard.
He and his mount fell on me and my unit and from that encounter; I was the only survivor....
Excerpt from A SoldierÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â´s Tale by Sgt. Amonar Trask (ret) of the Home Guard of Akral Tel
The Rock Traghax, or Rock Tiger, is a carnivourous, lizard-like creature inhabiting the rocky Knuckle Hills, the foothills of the great Thunderhead range, far north of Locastus. These great, gecko-like beings, apparently evolved to climb vertical walls and steep cliffs, are surprisingly gentle and can be domesticated to the point of being used as a mount.
The Locastrian Military breeds these creatures as war-mounts and for scouting in difficult terrain. There are special commandos in the Locastrian armed forces that specialize in the use of Traghaxes for, for example, blitz attacks of hilltop fortifications and flanking operations over rocky terrain.
A full-grown male Rock Traghax, long body similar to a gecko's, can measure as much as 30ft in length, although more than half of that length in long, sinuous tail. The animal stands approximatively 6ft tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to a ton.
It's skin is covered in minute, ridged scales, colored a beautiful, dark metallic purple over the back and a glittering white on the belly. Females are somewhat smaller and darker in coloration than the males.
The first thing that sets the Traghax apart from other animals of this Realm is that it is hexapedal, the six short, stubby legs moving it along in a lightning fast, sinuous locomotion. Each leg ends in a strange, four-lobed foot-pad, the underside of which is set with four clusters of rubbery suction cups.
These suction cups are, via a system of internal ducts, hooked up to the Traghax's respiratory apparatus a Traghax can, quite literary, attach itself to a vertical surface simply by holding its breath.
The head is usually held low, below hulking shoulders, the skull short and blunt. Unlike most animals, the Traghax possesses not two, but seven eyes, deep-set, lidless and opalescent, set in a row across its face under a massive overhanging ledge of bone. The mouth, dominating most of its facial region, is large enough to swallow a dog in one bite and is filled with multiple, uneven rows of needle-like teeth. There is no nose or external ears.
The Traghax communicates with a wide range of hoots, snarls and whistles, a complex method of communication almost (but not quite) approaching a language.
Along the lower jaw, the Traghax has a row of walnut-sized secretory pheromone glands, used to accenturate or modulate sound communication, or to mark territory. These glands are sought after by alchemists and mages as they produce some very rare, unusual chymical compounds.
The Traghax, a pack animal by nature, is quite easily domesticated. Unless enraged, it is surprisingly docile and affectionate towards its handlers, not unlike a dog. It is also quite intelligent and picks up new training twice as fast as a herd animal like, for example, a horse.
Like any carnivore, when not ridden or otherwise kept active, the Traghax usually slumbers, curled up into a ball (again, not unlike a giant dog).
A Rock Traghax tends to bond exclusively with one single human, refusing anyone else as its rider. It can also be quite protective of its owner, especially towards other Traghaxes, causing problems when Traghax cavalry works as a unit.
A further problem is that a Traghax male, sensing the pheromone output of a female in heat, will be distracted and difficult to control, not unlike a stallion.
As a war mount, the Traghax is an excellent candidate species, able to move like lightning across open ground and climb vertical walls. Many a defensive lines have broken when faced with a concerted Traghax charge, savaged by 7-inch fangs and clubbed with a whipping tail. Its protective layer of scales also protects it from edged trauma, although rifle fire will penetrate if fired at close enough range. Moreover, its anatomy (with redundant hearts and alternate oxygenation pathways) makes it even harder to injure.
One of its few drawbacks is its limited use as a beast of burden; a Traghax, while able to move at high speeds over a short period of time, has low stamina and cannot be subjected to prolonged tests of endurance.
As a rule of thumb, one can expect a Traghax to be able to function at full capacity for maybe half an hour, then approximatively one hour after that at reduced speeds. Prolonged exercises will risk injury or death to the Traghax who will, since its metabolism is set so high, have spent its energy reserve and be in danger of collapse.
Another limiting factor to the use of Traghaxes in warfare is the astronomical maintenance costs - a Traghax, dependent on fresh meat every day, can eat as much as 200lb of meat in one sitting. This means that wherever a Traghax Cavary unit goes, a large herd of cattle has to be brought along to provide fodder for the animals. It's exotic physiology and anatomy also requires a large staff of specialists to ensure the animals are kept healthy and in optimum condition.
In all, despite their fear-inspiring demeanor and effectiveness in combat, Traghax cavalry is too cost-inefficient to be anything but a minor, elite force. The Locastrian Armed Forces, mustering up to 15000 men all told, have less than 300 Traghax Cavalry enrolled, divided into three regiments.
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? Responses (7)
The lightning wreathed lance put me off for a second. But this is a well executed submission and it provides an interesting beasty. Thanks.
I'd like to ride one of those.
Just remember to hold on to your hat - and bring plenty of sugar lumps...:-)
Your stuff is always of superb quality Ouroboros! I like this one a great deal.
Only request - any plot ideas?
I think you captured just about everything needed within this post. Very nicely done.
I love these critters..would love to saddle one up....mind you not with the sissy english saddle like they use in Sweden...but the good ol western saddle like a real cowboy rides...*L*
Great take on the ubiquitous fantasy 'lizard mount'. Terrific detail.