Endless Blue – Week 64 – Sky Lancers: Death from Above   1 comment

Zoology

Sky Lancers – Death from Above

The most notable danger lurking in the Vastness are the ever-present sky lancers.  These vicious creatures vigilantly fly over the water, bidding their time until some unwitting sea creature swims too closely to the surface.  Spotting its prey, the sky lancer then dives downward at plummeting speed.  It juts out its specially evolved horn and using the built up inertia of its dive to break through the surface of the waves and impale its victim.

Sky Lancer

Medium Animal (Air/Aquatic)
Hit Dice: 1d8 +2 (6 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 5 feet (1 cubes), Fly 60 feet (12 cubes)
Buoyancy: Shoals (non-adjustable)
Armor Class: 0
Base Attack/Grapple: 1/-
Attack: Slam (1d4 points of subdual damage)
Full Attack: Slam (1d4 points of subdual damage) and Gore (1d8 point of piercing damage)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Gore
Special Qualities: None
Saves: Fort -1, Ref +3, Will -2.
Abilities: Str 7, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 3, Wis 5, Cha 8
Skills: Escape Artist +6, Swim +9, Search +12, Spot +10
Feats: Alertness, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (horn)
Environment: Shallow, clear waters (Shore)
Organization: Solitary, mating pairs, or flock (4d6 individuals).
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: Horn, plumage.
Alignment: Always neutral.
Advancement: Large (2HD),  Huge (3HD)
Level Adjustment:

The sky lancer is a predatory avian that threatens the shallowest portions of the Shoals.  Raptor in both bird and reptile connotations, it is named after its favored hunting practice of diving downward and spearing its prey on its horn.  This horn, approximately the same length as the animal’s body, projects from the upper jaw, but is not a modified tooth (unlike the tusk of the Narwahl Orcans).  The length of the body plus the hunting horn tends to equal that of the creature’s wingspan, and extends the creatures overall length by another third when the wings are folded back in its feeding dive.  These modified forearms have a pair of basic digits each at the second joint, allowing the creature to scrape residue from its horn when the wings extend forward, and clasp together behind it when in a power dive.  The mid arms seem to be used for stability in movement, much like the pelvic fins of piscean life.  The final pair of limbs are stout and webbed, well suited for kicking in the water as a means of locomotion.

The body of the sky lancer is covered in short, sturdy, water repellant feathers.  This gives the animals an almost slick sheen when wet, and helps to trap warmth against the body while submerged in the frigid sea.  Coloration varies widely between subspecies of the sky lancer, a feature they share in common with the Mer and in turn contributed to the popularity of sky lancers in heraldry among the Mer currents, despite the animal’s aberrational origins in the Vastness.  Like many of Elqua’s fauna, sky lancers show signs of bioluminescence on those patches of flesh not covered with plumage.  Culminating with the fine marbled veining of the sky lancer’s horn, the creature is an audacious display of coloration and patterning better suited for attracting attention than camouflage.

Sky lancers collect in loose groups called flocks.  Consisting of a few dozen specimens of varying age, this grouping behavior seems more instinctual than social.  Individuals will compete over food regardless of its scarcity, even between mated pairs or offspring.  Since entering the Vastness is considered taboo, little is known about the life cycle of sky lancers.  Resurrectionists that have studied the recovered remains of slain sky lancers discovered the animal reproduces ovipariously, by laying eggs.  Otherwise, because sky lancers are only found along the Shore, it is believed they must eventually return to solid ground to rest or nest, and unlike some other creatures of the Vastness, cannot spend their entire lives aloft.

Combat
The common tactic employed by the sky lancer is to circle the skies over areas of the Shore with crystal clear waters and an abundance of natural fauna.  As the creature circles, it scans the water with its sharp vision, searching for a vulnerable target.  Once spotted, the sky lancer immediately dives directly at the prey, hitting the water with such force that often times the victim is stunned (treat as surprised).  If the target fails to realize the danger, it is gored on the sky lancers eponymous horn.  This horn can skewer Tiny and smaller creatures, dooming them to the creature’s belly;  Small and larger creatures, while not impaled, are still seriously wounded.  For Large sky lancers, shift those sizes up by one step to Small/Medium, and to Medium/Large for Huge sky lancers.

The sky lancer is at its most vulnerable while in the water.  While a decent swimmer, it takes a full round action and a successful escape artist check at DC 15 to become aloft and rise into the Vastness.  During this time, any interference from outside forces, even the inadvertent bump of another sky lance attempting its own launch, will ruin the attempt.  The animal will seldom travel far from he surface of the waters, but occasionally has been witnessed to lose a combat with a constricting opponent like a squid or jellyfish.  In these cases, the sky lancer has been observed to withstand a portion of Shoal depth pressure.  The extent of this resistance is unknown, as all observed instances have succumbed to asphyxiation long before their depth tolerance has been met.

Creature Lore
Common:  Sky lancers are a common symbol in heraldry, with no less than five of the eight remaining Mer currents having at least one in their national symbol.
Uncommon:  While a sky lancer is deadly in the air, it is quite vulnerable in the water.  Their maneuverability is poor and it takes some time for them to become aloft from the waters.
Rare:  The horn of a sky lancer is quite beautiful, with its veins of phosphorescent color and minutely detailed filigree patterning, and as such is prized by craftsmen.
Obscure:  The phosphorescence of sky lancers is a passive, not active process.  It is charged by sunlight during the day and fades a few hours after twilight, to start recharging again the next daybreak.

One response to “Endless Blue – Week 64 – Sky Lancers: Death from Above

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 100 – The Shore: Illustrated | Endless Blue

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