Ecology of the Mantari
“Are you sure this thing is down here old man.” Leanore asked as she stepped over the large rock on the tunnel floor.
“Yes, Yes, I’m sure. My student saw it with his own eyes, when it killed his torch bearer.” Rezamat replied.
“Then where is it? We’ve been in these tunnels for twenty minutes and haven’t seen or heard anything.” She said brushing her dark curly bangs from her eyes.
“As I explained before we already passed the area where the creature was encountered before, but that does not mean that was its roost. These beasts will travel far from their roost to hunt. Besides I am paying you by the day you shouldn’t want to find out target so soon.”
“Yeah you’re giving us a daily fee, but the big payoff is when we deliver the thing, and that’s what we really care about.” Bert said looking over his shoulder. The thief opened the hood of the lantern a little more and pointed it towards the roof of the tunnel making sure nothing lurked above. “You did say these mantari can hang like bats right?” he asked Rezamat.
“That is correct; they hang upside down much like bats. They have tendons that extend from their talons into their upper bodies rather than being attached to a muscle. When they clinch their talon around an object and relax their body the tendon pulls tight and clinches the talon around the object.”
“Listen we don’t care about the why and the how, all we care about is the what. Whether they hang upside down because of muscle or magic makes no difference to us.” Leanore growled at the sage. “Now just tell us what else you know about these mantari things and keep it simple.”
“There is not a lot of information on them, and that is the primary reason I want one captured alive. There has never been a live specimen in captivity before. What we do know is they prefer the dark and often dwell underground giving them exceptional night vision.” 1
“So they don’t need a light source to see then, I bet us using one just tips them off that we’re coming.” Bert responded.
“Correct that they do not need a light source, however where you are using one of not they would most likely know you where coming anyway. Mantari have an exceptional auditory sense.”
“Sense of hearing, they have an excellent sense of haring and can detect the slightest of sounds.”2 explained the sage.
“So they hang from the ceiling, see in the dark, and have great hearing. What else can you tell us.” the surly female warrior asked.
“They are extremely aggressive and have no natural enemies. They attack any living creature they encounter most of the time. However if they have recently feed they may be resting and not bother attacking unless disturbed.” 3
“And you said they are like stingrays right? That they sting you with a tail?” Bert asked stopping to turn and look at the sage.
“Turn around and get back to moving Bert” Leanore said “You don’t have to stop to listen to the old man ramble”
Bert turned and continued on as Rezamat answered his question. “Yes they do in fact look very similar to manta rays, and they have a long tail with a bony protrusion at the end that they attack prey with. In fact the tail is as long as their body is wide about four feet, and from first hand accounts they seem to have great control over it lashing out with whip like affect towards their target while in flight. This can make it difficult to hit the creature with shorter hand held weapons”4
“The thing that makes them truly dangerous however is the fact that they seem to have a sixth sense that allows them to target vital areas.”
“What do you mean by that” Leanore asked her attention now captured.
“After their initial strike, if the victim survives, any successive strikes seem to be aimed at vital organs and cause very nasty wounds indeed.”
“I sure don’t like the sound of that.” Bert quipped “you sure these nets will bring this thing down? I don’t want it to get a second strike, nine hells I don’t want it to get a first strike.”
“The nets have been weighted to bring down a creature the average size and weight of a mantari. I have every confidence in them.”
“They better work, for your sake” Leanore said as her piercing gaze settled on the old sage.
Shifting uncomfortably under the withering stare he cleared his throat and continued. “There seems to be something magical about the amount of damage caused by the wound of a mantari however.”
“Magical how? A group I was with ran into a ghoul once, it scratched one of the fellows and it froze him stiff. We propped his body against the door to trap the thing inside and got away.” Bert said laughing.
Rezamat swallowed hard at callousness displayed at the man’s fate. “No not magic in that way, rather the seriousness of the wound seems to directly correspond to the persons overall state of health and fitness. So someone in good health and in good shape like say yourselves, tend to suffer less serious of a wound than someone who is out of shape like me. ”
“I still don’t get why you want this thing alive” Leanore quipped.
“Well as I said with no live specimen in captivity the academic community is at a loss on some things such as reproduction and communication. The creature’s aggressive nature prevents anyone from studying it in its habitat.”
“Well how many of these things do you expect to find and how many do you want captured? Because the price is going to be per one captured.” Leanore added.
“Yes of course, I would like as many as three if we could capture them, but from what my student witnessed he only saw one. All evidence points to these creatures living either in groups or as solitary individuals so we cannot be sure if it was just a single mantari or if a single mantari was hunting away from its roost.”
“Were did these things come from? I mean a stingray flying around and living under ground, it sounds crazy.” Bert said shaking his head.
“We cannot be positive, but the first recorded sighting of the creature was just over one hundred years ago. It is generally believed they were created using magic. The fact that they seem to combine traits from several different species, one of which is not even an air breather and the magical nature of the wounds they inflict lends credence to this theory.”
As the three followed the tunnel deeper into the earth it opened into a small cavern. The distinct sound of water dripping echoed off the walls and as Bert raised the lantern to shine it at the ceiling there was a flash of movement. Leanore and Bert both grabbed the weighted nets that Rezamat had provided for them and crouched down. Rezamat, having no intention of being in harms way, moved out of the cavern back into the tunnels and watched. There was a distinct high pitch squeak to the groups left and as Bert turned the lantern to face the noise the creature swept from the ceiling straight at him.
It was five feet from wing tip to wing tip and a disgusting gray in color. It had solid black eyes that seemed to have no pupil and a wide mouth. It had a long tail trailing behind it and as it neared Bert it seemed to lift up its front and the tail curled underneath and shot forward. Leanore sprung just as the creature struck, hurling the weighted net at it. There was a scream as Bert dropped the lantern and it shattered on the stone ground.
Rezamat huddled against the wall, he could feel the rapid thumping of his heart as blood rushed in his ears, however he could still hear the horrid squealing sound coming from the cavern before him even if he could not see. His ragged breath coming quickly, he felt as if he might loose control of his bladder when he heard muddled cursing from the cavern.
“Bert, Bert you idiot” the sound of steel on flint and the quick lighting of a torch revealed the scene before him. Sitting on the ground holding his shoulder was Bert, the mantari had managed to strike his shoulder and knock him down just before Leanore’s net wrapped around it. The squealing sound was coming from the mantari writhing on the ground trapped in the net, its wicked tail flailing about.
Carefully Leanore approached the creature and timing the tail movement stepped on it trapping it against the ground. “How do we shut this thing up?” she shouted at Rezamat.
“I…I…don’t know” the befuddled sage answered.
Just then the creature stopped thrashing and squealing. Looking at it the party could still see its mouth moving but no more sound was coming out, they now were able to get a better look at the creature. With its mouth opening they could see a large number of sharp teeth that seemed far too small for the size of its mouth. Also as it was on its back they could see two small legs with sharp talons, the legs were folded up tight against its body.
Bert climbed to his feet and winced as he worked his injured shoulder “Looks like the thing decided to shut up on its own.” He said as he walked over and gave the mantari a kick. “Bastard damn near skewered me with that tail.”
“Stop your cryin and tie this things tail up.” With a nod Bert pulled a length of thin but strong cord from his pack and while Leanore kept the tail pinned tied the cord around it. He then pulled the tail tight up towards the creature’s wings when he heard a shout from the tunnel.
Rezamat was relived when the torch had been lit and he saw his hired adventurers were still alive and had captured the mantari. Perhaps one specimen would be enough. After the scare he just had Rezamat was more than ready to leave the caverns when Leanore had asked him how to quiet the creatures awful squealing. He was unsure, he did not know if it could simply be pummeled or gagged like a man, then the creature stopped. While at first relieved the awful noise had stopped Rezamat was quickly overcome with a sense of dread. Why would the creature simply stop? It just made no sense, it isn’t as if it reasoned that it could not escape, it was no smarter than any other animal was it? Just then he saw a flash behind Leanore and he knew.5
“Behind you!” Rezamat shouted as he saw the creatures swoop from the darkness towards Leanore’s back. Bert turned just in time to see Leanore lurch forward in pain as the bony spikes of the two mantari punctured her chain mail and dug into her back. Down but not out Leanore turned to face her attackers and drew her short sword. As one of the creatures swooped down at her she swung but was unable to hit it as it pulled up and lashed out with it’s long sinewy tail, staying just out of reach of her weapon. The mantari’s spike struck home again this time piercing just below her sternum, Bert shouted and drew two daggers throwing them at the other mantari that was diving in behind his grievously wounded companion. One dagger nicked he creatures wing but failed to stop its attack. The second mantari drove its spike through the back of Leanore’s chest piercing her lung, as both creatures flew away pulling their spikes from their victim gouts of blood spilled forth. Leanore looked down and then towards the stunned Bert, she staggered forward and fell on her face, a pool of blood quickly expanding around her.
Bert let out a moan as Leanore fell. He felt the anger well inside him as he watched his companion for the last six years take her last breath. The mantari who had slain her landed on the ground beside her and immediately started picking at her exposed flesh, it was as if they were unaware of the pressence of anyone else.6 Bert drew his long sword and prepared to charge in and exact vengeance on these foul things when a sharp pain shot through his leg, he fell to his knees and looked behind him.
He had forgotten about the mantari he had been attempting to tie up. It had rolled itself over and was now propped up on the tips of its wings walking along much like a bat; it had shot its tail forward and struck Bert in the leg driving him to the ground. As he grasped his injured thigh, the beast whipped its tail over its head and shot it forward once again. The bony spike on the end burst into the side of Bert’s neck and his body quivered as blood started to spurt when the spike withdrew.
Rezamat sat watching in horror as the beasts slaughtered the warrior Leanore, and now the one they had thought subdued had just felled Bert. All of the mantari seemed intent on feeding and had yet to notice him. As quietly and quickly as he could the old sage moved down the tunnel away from the scene of the slaughter. However he had only his staff with him, all of the light sources had been carried by Leanore and Bert. He wandered in the darkness feeling the tunnel walls, trying to remember the correct way when he ran into a tunnel branch. After 15 minutes of wandering he sat on the ground and put his face in his hands and sobbed.
After several minutes he dried his tears and stood, reaffirming his resolve to press on and try to make his way to the surface. Once again he began tapping forward with his staff, finding his way, when he heard a squeak…
1. Mantari have 60’ infravision.
2. Mantari have exceptional hearing allowing only a 1 in 6 chance of being surprised (1 on d6)
3. There is a 85% chance that a mantari will attack on sight, the rest of the time they will have already fed and will not attack unless disturbed. They will remain in this state for four hours at which time they will be ready to feed again.
4. Because they attack with their long tails exclusively and keep their distance. Weapons less than four feet in length receive a -2 to hit a flying mantari.
5. Mantari can emit a high pitched wail that is out of the range of human and demi-human hearing. This wail can be heard by all mantari within a ½ mile radius. Any mantari hearing the ail will become agitated and they will feel drawn to investigate. Mantari drawn in this way will always attack on sight.
6. Once a mantari’s prey is dead it will land and begin feeding ignoring other activity around it. It will continue feeding for 5 rounds or until attacked.
The Looking Glass
Instead of introducing something new this week I want to use this space to let everyone know my latest module is available for download on Dragonsfoot here. It is a introductory module meant to present the players with a mystery to solve that will lead to adventure.
I expect to have another module available for download in a couple of more weeks, and I will announce it here as well.
I hope everyone enjoys.