Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tales of Mystri Island: The Stossechse

The details were kept a closely guarded secret, but part of the Italian trench line taken by the Germans at Caporetto in November of 1917 was not seized by their vaunted Stosstruppen. In one or two selected points on the battlefield, something worse even than the stormtroopers was at play. In those sectors the Italian defenders were utterly wiped out before they were able to withdraw -- worse even than wiped out, torn to pieces, their bodies mangled, sometimes beyond recognition. Only one man survived, a reliable veteran Sergente, but he had been driven insane, and to this day shields his face and screams for no apparent reason. The Germans had here unleashed a weapon that, in its war-winning capabilities, might eclipse the flamethrower and even poison gas itself.

With great effort, Allied intelligence eventually determined from scat left in the assaulted trench sectors that this weapon was biological, apparently some sort of … animal. The Bosche seemed to hold it only in limited quantities at present, or they would have scythed down the entire front, a ghastly slaughter. Thank God for little miracles, though this was literally cold comfort to those torn limb from limb in their trenches.

It was a Belgian spy who first caught wind of the likely origin of the new Hun menace, in the summer of 1917, in fact a few months before Caporetto. She heard two German officers speak obliquely about the “dividends being yielded by a Guards captain on an island in the Pacific,” and how those may “some day yield triumph for the Fatherland.” She passed this information on to the British Secret Service, and it floated around Whitehall Court for a few months, usually described with evident amusement as “Jerry’s Witch Doctor Battalion.” But after Caporetto an enterprising intelligence officer put two and two together, and a team was established specifically to investigate what the Germans were doing in the Pacific. As the Secret Service learned more, two agents, an Englishman and an American, were sent to Mystri Island to see what they could find out. But doubts persisted -- could the obliteration of two full platoons of good Italian infantry be caused by something biological, found on a remote island?

* * *

Von Schrecklichdorf beckoned the party on, his Broomhandle Mauser now heavy in his hand and still hot from use. The native porters remained jumpy from the previous attacks, and clearly expected to see more of the vicious feathered reptiles bolting from the jungle at any moment, but the cadre of German explorers had moved these eggs around on Mystri Inland before and knew that the coast was now clear. The creatures, which Gotz had christened “Stossechse,” would not attempt to retrieve their eggs this far beyond the river.

Good thing too, v. Schrecklichdorf thought as he spat in his monacle and rubbed it on his bluse to remove a blood splatter. Nine more porters killed, over fifty rounds of invaluable K98 ammunition and six grenades expended ... defending six animal eggs. Not that the local tinpot dictator cared a whit about the losses to his own people, but it was getting harder to obtain carriers, conscripted or not, who would not flee as soon as the opportunity presented itself. These simple people, he thought ruefully, nursing a surface gash on his left forearm, had the good common sense not to transport demon eggs out from the deep part of the jungle.

Von Schrecklichdorf allowed himself to relax a little. “Stossechse.” Something right about that name -- “assault lizards” -- yet something so very wrong all the same. Scaly skin and a face like a lizard, but feathers like a bird, and a taut, wiry body like nothing he’d ever experienced before. What were they, besides damnably dangerous?

Well, that was a question for men in white lab coats back in Germany to answer. But what he did know was that these were the first animals he had sent back to Germany that led to clamours for more. Though in their wild state they were incredibly dangerous, in fact nearly suicidal to approach, the creatures were, he was told, domesticable when raised from the egg, and made awesome weapons. (Von Schrecklichdorf tried to image that for a moment.) This was good. He had not come here to fail the German people in their hour of trial. He would collect more of these eggs, and no one would stop him, he thought, looking around the jungle, the hairs now standing up on his neck. He had that old feeling again, like he was once again being watched, but not by Stossechse.

Janice sensed her German subject was aware of her, as she slipped through the jungle, Richard right behind her ….

* * *

Comparison to a 15mm sci fi model

We will soon release a pack of von Schrecklichdorf’s Stossechse (pronounced sh-tows-egg-zuh), dinosaurs now known to science as Deinonychus, often called "raptors" in popular parlance. There are six different poses and the animals are represented in line with the most up-to-date dinosaur science, so they are covered in feathers for heat regulation as well as display. They represent medium to large “raptors” in 15mm scale, but are perfect for 28mm scale smaller “raptors” such as Velociraptor (not the movie monster, the actual animal, which was about the size of a German Shepard).

1 comment:

  1. Perfect! Just as I was beginning to plan running X1: Isle of Dread (a dino-heavy D&D module), these minis appear! Great! I will buy a few (and a few lizardmen, too) once they'll be ready!