Zmey

The Zmey are a race of monstrous creatures who are both exceptionally long-lived and especially savage. Thought once to be the rulers of all the worlds beasts, and then the power behind the Lizard Wars these jet black monstrosities present a deadly threat to anyone encountering them. There are very few Zmey in the world, thanks to their being exceptionally territorial, though for those who cower in the shadows of their ranges, even a few are too many.

Names: Zmey; Zmej; Zmaj; Darktooth; Darkfang; Sky Tyrant.

Potency


Visage

Zmey are enormous reptilian beasts, they have long, almost serpentine bodies covered in heavy blue-black scales. Their rear limbs are powerful legs for launching their bulk into the air and climbing rough terrain, while their forelimbs are dexterous, and double as front legs when they walk on all fours, and as arms for grabbing and raking when they are in flight. They have enormous bat-like wings sprouting from their shoulders and their bodies are capped by five or more writhing, serpentine heads, with powerful jaws, and deep-set jet black eyes that glitter with cruel intelligence. Spines of the same blue-black as their scales extend down their backs, and heavy slab-scales protect their chests and abdomens. In fact the legends of those who have encountered a zmey and lived say that they have only a single weak spot, either side of the spines on their backs. Zmey can grow to roughly thirty feet head to tale, giving them a shocking sixty foot wingspan. Their long, whipping tales end in a vicious barbed sting. Despite their ungainly appearance zmey are uncannily fast runners, and can rise up on their hind legs, and even balance vertically on their tales to rake forward with all for of their claws, like a serpent striking.

Aetherial

Aside from their obvious physical prowess the zmey possess other hidden weapons the can often prove even more deadly than their jaws and claws. The sting on the tail is capable of creating a savage wound in a man, but where it wounds it also delivers a dose of venom that leaves its victim paralysed, sometimes for hours, some people never recover. It uses this to take down larger creatures, who are not such easy prey for its brute physicality, and seems especially fond of delivering this sting to other flying creatures while in the air, so that the plummet to their deaths below. But this is not the zmey's only weapon, the creature is also able to disgorge a cloud of broiling black smoke from any or all of its jaws. This horrible caustic cloud does not travel far before dissipating, but it blisters the skin, chokes victims, and burns the eyes, often to the point of permanent blindness in mere moments.

It has also been said that when slaying a zmey, if a head is severed two new ones will grow to replace it - over the course of years, or even decades - unless all of the heads are severed. This is supported by particularly old specimens being reliably documented with upwards of eleven heads! In fact, some scholars even say that only destroying the heart will truly slay the beast. Add to this the two or three century lifespan of the creatures, and they seem more averse to death than anything else in the world. Thankfully they spend more than two thirds of their lives hibernating, for seasons, or even years at a time.

Finally, a strange ability that the creature seems to use more out of habit or amusement than cause, is the zmey's almost parrot-like ability to mimic sounds it hears, leading many to believe the monster capable of speech. Though their jaws are ill-suited to language, they can copy short phrases after hearing them only a few times, and will often utter them occasionally for years. Many a vengeance-bent warrior, set to slay the zmey that killed kith or kin, believes himself to be taunted by his predecessor's dying words, when in truth the creature is merely mimicking what it has heard. Precisely what motivates the great lizards to do this remains unclear.

Craft


Cunning

Zmey are by no means the evil, malign beasts of legend that many assume them to be, nor are they quite the forces of nature that the Thunderbears are. Instead the zmey are creatures of great intelligence, for an animal, but are still little more than large, clever predators with terrible tempers. While many mistake their mimicking for speech, they seem unable to communicate in any language but the tongue of beasts, and even then their solitude makes them inarticulate and simple. They are very clean creatures, though not to the point of obsession as some legends suggest, and like surroundings to be orderly and tidy. As a result they will be very picky in selecting a lair, and extremely unwilling to leave a place once it is made their own. Zmey are nearly universally solitary, territorial, and ill tempered creatures, seeing any creature in their truly vast ranges as either food,or competition.

Zmey sleep for nine months of the year, or at least remain in a sluggish state, rising only for the spring months, for a short, frenzied period of feeding, and to mate. They dislike being disturbed immensely, and if they have an inkling that a potential threat is close by in their territory they will rise quickly and remove the threat savagely. Their ability to do nearly a year's of feeding in the space of a few months and then return to a dormant, sluggish state in which they do little but move about their lairs, is the major reason they have not presented more of a threat to the other creatures of Allornus.

Social

Zmey are totally solitary creatures, and even other zmey when rarely encountered are fought off savagely. Mating only occurs when a male and female fight, with the winner mating with the loser by force, in the case of a female defeating the male she will then usually kill the male, but the male will often wait until the female has borne his progeny and then actively hunt and kill her. Zmey can have three to five offspring, and these are usually safe from the parent until they become adolescent, whereupon the parent will begin casually killing the weakest without warning until the remaining zmey leave the parent's range. Zmey have been known to allow one or even two of their young to take a portion of their range, but this is certainly abnormal.

Current estimates state that there are no more than a few dozen zmey in all of Allornus today, though some scholars speculate that their slumber becomes longer and longer as they age, and that the eldest zmey may even sleep for several decades before emerging again. If this is the case then their appearances would seldom overlap, and with several being mistaken for a single creature, their estimated numbers could prove very conservative.

Sea-Zmey


While most zmey live in high mountainous regions, great reptilian creatures with many heads have been sighted in the open ocean now and then. They are so like massive, wingless zmey, with flukes in place of legs, that those scholars who do believe in them have suggested that they are some other species, cousins of the tyrants of the skies. Of course, only a handful of sightings are recorded, and none were close to the creatures, so other scholars have suggested that the men have sighted colossal squid surfacing for some unknown purpose, and mistaken tentacles for heads. Still, those who have seen them swear blind that what they saw was a black, lizard monster at least as large as the greatest seagoing vessel. If such things do exist, then perhaps it is best not to venture into the open oceans.

Zmey Killing


Because the creatures have few qualms about attacking man or myr, and will ready attack settlements for food, Zmey are one of the most tenaciously hunted and destroyed creatures in the world. However because the are so fierce, it is a great and heroic task indeed to fell one, and few prove up to it. For those who would make the attempt, there is certain lore passed down from slayer to slayer, and many great zmey fighters will take apprentices, and spend a lifetime in stalking and planning the demise of one particular creature. Like practitioners of magic, they guard their lore jealously, and expect an apprentice to devote years to service before teaching a thing, and like magicians they keep their art alive by passing it from master to student down through the generations.

Generally, the lore taught is that severing the head of a zmey will not kill it. Even severing all of its heads will only cause the creature to play dead in the hope of being left alone, so as to grow new heads and seek revenge. A true zmey-slayer can only kill the beast by piercing it's heart with a special, long-bladed zmey-spear. The creature's heart is well protected by a pair of rib cages, but where its wings meet there is a gap where, if precision is used, a slayer can thrust a long blade and pierce the monster's black heart, then slay it by pulling the blade down the length of its back some way. Of course, mounting such a fearsome predator and staying on long enough to land a precision blow, with the strength necessary to penetrate its leathery hide is quite another feat.

The method passed down varies only slightly in the details, and usually requires a master an apprentice to affect it properly. First, the master uses a bow, often of various materials, but always one of great strength, to perforate the creature's wings so that it cannot fly, using hit and run tactics. Then, once it is earthbound, the creature must be enraged and drawn into the mouth of a ravine, where the apprentice waits with a broad lasso, again always of a strong material, set up as a snare. Once the creature is drawn to put its heads through the snare, the apprentice must tighten the knot, and then flee. He (or occasionally they) is tasked with the dangerous role of distracting the creature until the master can ascend the sides of the ravine. Then the apprentice must lead the creature into the ravine, and the master must time his jump, thrusting downward with his spear, perfectly so that the force of his fall penetrates the creature's back between the wings. Then, hanging onto the weapon, he must take the lasso and tether himself to the beast, riding the now furious creature as it rolls over and over trying to dislodge him. With every roll the spear will be driven deeper, until the heart is reached. Then he must draw the spear down the length of the spine, and ensure that the monster's bleeding turns from red to black.

Understandably, few slayings are successful. But all of those that have been nearly universally used some variation of this method.

Statistics


Statistics Traits
statistic roll average elite heroic maximum random trait rating subtrait rating
Agility d n n n n [[include 2d6]] Plan plan
Beauty d n n n n [[include 2d6]] Diet diet
Constitution d n n n n [[include 2d6]] Cycle cycle
Dexterity d n n n n [[include 2d6]] trait n
Endurance d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Initiative d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Strength d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Intelligence d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Knowledge d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Perception d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Will d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Wisdom d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Bravery d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Charm d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Leadership d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Negotiation d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Luck d n n n n [[include 2d6]]
Vital Information
sex modifiers
Male no change
Female n
Length ? feet ? inches + Body inches +?' - ?'
Weight (Body + Brawn Skill) x ? lbs + ? lbs - ? lbs
Age
category range modifiers skill spend
Infant n-n years All stats reduced to 65% 5%
Child n-n years All stats reduced to 75% 25%
Adolescent n-n years Physical stats reduced to 90%, Mental and Interpersonal stats 85% 50%
Mature n-n years Physical and Interpersonal stats are 100%, Mental stats reduced to 95% 60%
Adult n-n years All stats are 100% 70%
Midde-Aged n-n years Physical stats reduced to 90%, Mental and Interpersonal stats are 100% 75%
Old n-n years Physical stats reduced to 85%, Mental and Interpersonal stats are reduced to 95% 80%
Venerable n+ years Physical stats reduced to 80%, Mental and Interpersonal stats are reduced to 90% 75%
Random Traits (1d6-5)