Friday, February 26, 2010

Tales of Mystri Island -- The Giant Ape

The great beast, a roaring maelstrom of black fur and muscle, had Richard cornered, stuck in the fluted trunk of a vast old sycamore fig tree, ducking from one deep hollow to another as the monster pounded its fists against the mossy wood. Left and right Richard went, and the ape followed him, varying its thrusts occasionally in an attempt to catch Richard unawares. Janice watched the scene unfold from downwind, knowing that if the ape tripped Richard up just once, or if its energy reserves were greater than her companion’s, it would be the end of him. Just one blow of those massive fists would certainly kill any man alive.

She stared at the frenzied giant ape down the barrels of her H&H .600 Nitro Express, which she careened left and right to keep time with it. Never in her life had she seen such a huge and terrifying beast, large enough to easily pummel to death even the elephants she had played with as a child, under Stek’s watchful eye. A great hunter and peerless tracker of the African veldt, Stek had raised the orphaned American girl, teaching her the ways of the savannah and jungle, and she had seen everything the Dark Continent had to offer, but nothing to compare with this. Again the barrels swayed -- she could not shoot, the chances were too great that she might hit Richard, crack shot though she was. And waiting for the ape to lurch more to the left or right simply wasn’t good enough. Richard, barely visible in the crevice, was as imperturbable as ever but even his great strength and endurance were clearly being taxed by this deadly game. The ape let out a deep bark of indignation and accelerated its attacks.

Janice laid her finger lightly on the trigger of the great gun and fought the urge to fire out of panic. Fresh in her memory was the concern on Richard’s face just this very morning as he leapt to her aid, saving her at the last moment from being stuck by a bloodworm. She wasn’t about to repay this latest debt by permitting Richard’s body to be smashed and broken.

The ape had evidently had enough of Richard’s evasions. Ceasing its pounding, it eyed the tree for a moment, then began ripping away at the fluted trunk. The time had come – all she needed was a clear shot at the head. She spied Richard draw his Webley, a futile gesture of defiance before death, and he looked at her for just a moment to communicate his understanding that there was nothing to be done. Janice looked down for a moment and saw a twig propped against the nearest tree. She gently shifted her weight, rested her foot upon the twig, looked back down the barrel of the gun, and pressed down with her boot.

The ape heard a distinct snap behind it – a predator? Another invader? Distracted for a moment from the violator it had cornered, the creature swung around to confront this new menace, its mouth agape in a roar, its eyes searching. The great ape had battled many foes in its time, conquering all with a deadly combination of wiles and brawn, its face a web of scars, bearing testament to countless challenges overcome. Whatever this new threat was, it was ready. Or so it thought. For nothing in all its experience could have prepared it for the roar that split its eardrums, the kinetic energy to which its skull was now subjected, like a meteor hurtling into the front of its skull. For a fleeting instant the stunned ape felt a terrible heat on its face, glimpsed a tall slender human artfully absorb the recoil of a huge rifle in the crook of her arm, and then … blankness, evermore.

Janice looked down the smoking barrels of her elephant gun and relaxed. The ape had collapsed in a heap near the base of the great old tree, the top of its head blown clean off, and Richard was already out and retrieving his white pith helmet. He holstered his pistol, tucked his tie back in his collar and said “not the first time that I’ve been grateful indeed for the cannon you lug about, what? I do wish you’d let the Gurkhas carry the blasted thing for you,” he added, faintly disapprovingly. “Can’t imagine how it must weigh on your shoulder.” He straightened his helmet and, looking back at the tree, said quietly, without looking at her, “thanks for that, as usual greatly appreciated.” Janice’s throat was parched but she smiled and faintly nodded.

The birds suddenly stopped their chorus, and the two adventurers froze in place. Forms silently materialized from the canopy of the jungle. There were eight of them this time, scaly with striped patterns, Reptilian Hunters including Janice’s new friend, Stalks-at-Dawn. They quickly surrounded the fallen ape. Stalks-at-Dawn loped over to Janice and looked at the smoking Holland and Holland. “This is great hunting,” he hissed very slowly to her, then, clearly vexed, snapped his jaws three times toward the other Reptilians who were eyeing Richard up rather like a meal. They stood down and returned their expressionless gazes to the corpse of the ape.

Janice knew what a compliment she had just been paid. “May your blood channels be ever wet,” she said respectfully in reply. “The weapon is mighty indeed that can bring down He-Who-Kills.” Janice held the gun out. She was slightly alarmed that she had slain this creature that obviously meant so much to the Reptilians, the only living thing on the island they truly feared. For how often had Stalks-at-Dawn referred obliquely, and with quiet reverence, to “He-Who-Kills,” the ruler of the deepest jungle at the center of the island, a despot who knew no rivals? The Reptilians, it was said, steered his territory a wide berth, and prevented any efforts to explore those nether regions. Stalks-at-Dawn himself (or “Stalkers” as Richard playfully called him) wore an amulet that represented “the fearless heart of He-Who-Kills.” And now, here the mighty one lay crumpled in a pile, slain by her -- a mere human. Janice was eager to put the credit, or the blame, for the kill on the weapon, rather than the shooter.

The Reptilian looked at her quizzically. Communication with them was not always easy, so she pointed to the ape with the heavy rifle and said, loudly and slowly, “only this great weapon allowed me, a human, to slay He-Who-Kills.” All of the Reptilians were looking at her now, and they hissed, popped and cawed at each other for a few moments. Stalks-at-Dawn shook his head back and forth several times in mimicry of what he had seen humans do before. “This,” he said, looking at the fallen giant, “is not He-Who-Kills.”

(The Mystrian Giant Ape is available now from Khurasan Miniatures.)
War in Another Dimension: Species 84

Species 84, so named by Federal scientists because no communications from them have been decipherable to date to determine their name for themselves, are creatures that live in another dimension, and have on occasion travelled to ours as part of their 7,000 year war with the Ti Monhids.

The image shows a Species 84 life form with a ceremonial staff, but in combat the species wears instead a scythe-like glove on its right arm. They appear to human eyes to be reptilian and centaur like, but nothing whatsoever is known of their physiology.

Much more is known about the Ti Monhids, their foes, although these are also mostly unknown in our dimension. The Ti Monhids are an extremely aggressive, imperialist race who made an assault on the realm of Species 84 but got more than they bargained for, as Species 84, an incredibly advanced species, obliterated their invading armies and laid waste to their frontier as a warning. The Ti Monhids, knowing no fear and seeking only war and conquest, redoubled their efforts and launched an all-out research and development effort to find a weapon to defeat Species 84. They eventually bred the creatures known in our dimension as Space Demons.

The war has occasionally spread into our dimension, as the Ti Monhids have attempted to outflank Species 84 using dimension travel. It appears that Species 84 continues to hold the upper hand in this war, but this has not deterred the Ti Monhids from their continued efforts to exterminate Species 84, and the Space Demon hordes have gone a long way toward levelling the playing field. Occasionally Space Demons have gone feral in our dimension, which explains theire presence.

These incursions into our dimension have mostly occurred in the space of the Pelagic Dominate, and when Species 84 enters our dimension to fight the Ti Monhids, Pelagic space is almost always where the battles occur. These titanic struggles lay waste to entire star systems, and Federal Intelligence postulates that this is the reason for the imperialist efforts of the Dominate -- to find new systems to colonize to escape the cataclysmic destruction of the Extra-Dimensional War.

The Ti Monhids are the closest that any species in our dimension have seen to pure evil. No image is shown of them here as it is a violation of Federal law to do so. It is thought by some that these creatures may have occasionally explored our own planet in its early history, which would explain the origin of demon myths, but this is pure conjecture. They are tall and lanky, usually about 2.5 meters tall, of essentially bipedal form, have long slender heads lined with eight unblinking eyes, and wear a body suit that continually changes colour, which includes a small cannon growing out of its back, elevated atop a rod, which swivels to fire in all directions, freeing the hands of the Ti Monhid to engage in hand to hand combat, at which they excel.

Both Species 84 and the Ti Monhis have incredible strength and apparently are considerably denser than creatures found in this dimension making them incredibly hard to kill and making armour unnecessary (their garments sometimes appear to be armour like, but seem to be mostly decorative or to show rank). Most frightening is their ability to freely engage in extra-vehicular activity in the void of space, which causes them no harm and can be endured by them indefinitely. This possibly explains the mysterious toughness, and resistance to a void, that the Space Demons themselves show.

Space Demons instinctively obey every wish of the Ti Monhids, which, like all communication by them, is conveyed telepathically. The Ti Monhids, and even more so Species 84, are capable of using telepathy in sustained attacks, and these are especially deadly to vertebrates of our dimension. Federal scientists and intelligence officers have found a way to retrieve Ti Monhid communications, and to some extent to decipher it, which has been the source of much of our knowledge of the species and the Extra-Dimensional War. Efforts to control Space Demons using simulated telepathy have to date been unsuccessful.

15mm scale models of the Ti Monhids are completed and will be available first. Species 84 will be available later this year.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tales of Mystri Island -- The Savannah Lords

A massive Savannah Lord on his Wooly Rhinoceros mount.

Entry of November 11, 1917: The most physically imposing of all the thinking beings of Mystri Island are the Savannah Lords, huge creatures that appear to be a mixture of human and crocodilian. They are so called by the human population of the island because they rule the savannah without question, riding across it mounted on the huge Wooly Rhinos they import from the south of the island, the only trainable creature that is strong, fast and aggressive enough for their taste. On the single instance when I observed them standing erect (for they seem forever to be riding atop their mounts), I noted that the Savannah Lords are clearly over seven feet tall. One such creature must easily weigh 28 stone.

Living in villages near the great Mystri River, which cuts through the savannah, these beings are exclusively carnivorous and conduct no farming of their own. They dwell in huts built very close to the river, with channels cut into it which run into the huts so that they may wallow in muddy water as they devour their prey and plan out their next hunt. Around the village are built sturdy pens for the rhinos, where those creatures graze, clearly unhappy to be in such a warm clime. The health of the rhinos does not seem to be affected by the heat, but they do not breed on the savannah, requiring that the Lords purchase the rhinos from the barbarians to the south, which I presume happens by means of intermediaries.

The Savannah Lords are the senior members of the alliance which the people of the island call the Herpetile Confederation -- this includes the Reptilian Hunters, and the mysterious beings that live in the swampiest parts of the Island called the Salamen. Like the armies of old England, these Herpetile forces are composed of knights, foot soldiers and archers, the Savannah Lords supplying their mounted shock force, the Reptilian Hunters the combat infantry, and the Salamen the archers, as well, apparently, as fleet mounted forces; Miss Prishwalken and I have yet to encounter these last creatures so I do not know their method of archery (except that poisons are employed) or the beasts on which some few apparently ride. Stalks-at-Dawn, the Reptilian befriended by Miss P., tells her that the Salamen are smaller even than the Reptilians, but this, as I have learned, is no indication of the danger Mystrian creatures pose.

We are reassured by Stalks-at-Dawn that the Savannah Lords see humans as nothing but prey, and the German agents on the island would find nothing but death to greet them here. As dissemblance is utterly alien to the Reptilian Hunters, I am enormously reassured and grateful to hear this from his mouth, as such gargantua, properly armed and trained in the methods of war, would make formidable foes indeed.

Four months after our arrival, we accompanied a battalion of the Parayan Dictator Lopez's forces as they attempted to make a short excursion across the savannah, in order to outflank a battle line of his foes the Argentians. Despite being armed with muskets, and being accompanied by a cannon (both of which however were, I should point out, exceedingly antique, being at least fifty years old), the dictator's loincloth-clad troops, generally the picture of bravery, were clearly nervous. Fortunately for us, as the march column was about to move out onto the savannah Stalks-at-Dawn appeared from the jungle and restrained Miss P. from leaving the cover of the trees, and as the Gurkhas and I were not about to go on without her, the battalion marched out without us.

What to our wondering eyes did appear from behind a stand of trees but over a hundred of these towering beasts, galloping across the savannah, lowered lances thick as saplings, moving at great speed in absolute silence but for the thunder of their mounts' feet. (It is clear that these creatures are cunning, for they waited for the humans to advance far enough onto the savannah so that escape would not be possible.) The Parayans began shouting and formed a line, then issued several volleys, but these seemed to bounce off the thick hide of the Savannah Lords, and only few of the mounts were struck. The cannon, deployed quickly and skillfully, got off one cannister of grapeshot, killing several attackers, before it, as well as the rest of the battalion, were struck by this tidal wave of scale, muscle and horn, and seemed to be driven into the very earth itself. Fascinated and horrified, we turned to thank our savior but he had disappeared. We watched as the triumphant beasts pounded the few survivors with enormous mallets, which easily weighed five stone, then gathered up as many of the corpses as they could drape over several now-riderless mounts and upon their own beasts, and rode slowly off, over the horizon of the vast grassland, presumably to feast upon this new bounty of human flesh. -- RS-G

(The 15mm Savannah Lords should be released this week. They are very large crocodilian knights riding charging wooly rhinos. They will be released in two packs, one with six riders (three different poses), six rhinos (in two poses) and six savannah lances, another with one commander, one rhino and a replacement totem for a lancer to be converted to a standard bearer. Despite their size, they have been sculpted to fit on bases with a depth of 30mm, in compliance with the basing requirements of most popular 15mm gaming systems.)