Originating in ancient Greece, the basilisk is the king of serpents and snakes. Its’ venom is incredibly lethal, but it is best known for its’ gaze, which can kill anyone that makes direct eye contact.
First written about by Pliny the Elder, the basilisk as believed to be a rather small snake, only about a foot in length, with incredibly potent venom that dripped continuously from its fangs and would kill any plants or animals that came across it on the ground even hours later. It was believed to be hunted by weasels.
Traits and Behavior
Despite Pliny’s claims, basilisks are large snakes, reaching upwards of twenty feet when fully grown, and may indeed never stop growing as they age. Their scales are unique, taking on a dull, dusty color to camouflage amongst grasslands during the day, but becoming an iridescent blue-green at night. They are capable of hunting in both the day and night, but are generally nocturnal. Their eyes can range widely in color, favoring browns and reds, though the full spectrum is not known, as no witnesses can make direct eye contact, and film/photography immediately degrades. They have a large spiked crest over their eyes that has given them the nickname ‘King of Serpents.’ Despite the title, basilisks are genderless, and other snakes largely avoid them.
Basilisks are hatched by a chicken from the egg of a snake or toad, which can take months to hatch. The reverse, a chicken egg hatched by a toad or snake, will produce a cockatrice, a bird-like creature with similar attributes. The basilisk as an infant will not harm its adoptive parent, but as they age have been known to see the chicken parent as a potential food source. They do not linger after birth, as they are almost immediately independent and capable of hunting small prey for themselves.
Basilisks at hatching are only a few inches long, and do not gain their iridescent adult scales for their first three sheddings. The basilisk sheds its skin once a year for their first 5-8 years of age, then shed progressively less over time. With each shedding the basilisk grows in length, and by the time they have reached 10 years of age are generally 3-5 feet long.
Basilisks do not develop their full killing gaze until they have reached adulthood at 8 years of age. Prior to this, their gaze can numb or temporarily paralyze prey, though larger animals are more immune. Younger basilisks use this to hunt, catching small insects, rodents and lizards as they grow. Older basilisks more typically hunt without this gaze, as they prefer living food.
Their gaze at adulthood will kill any living thing that makes eye contact with them, there are no known exceptions. The death will be instant, and to all examinations will appear to be without cause. Most basilisk deaths are put down to heart failure. Beings that are already dead, such as banshees, ghosts or vampires, have demonstrated a temporary paralysis or weakness when exposed, and some have been destroyed altogether, whatever magic or energy that bound them to sentience dispersed entirely.
Basilisk venom develops in potency around the same time as their gaze, but it is not lethal except in extremely large doses. Instead, the venom has a paralyzing effect, ranging from a few minutes to hours depending on dosage. Adult basilisks use this to subdue their prey before eating.
As basilisks continue to grow, they need to seek out larger and larger prey, often targeting hooved animal herds. They are ambush hunters, using their camouflaged scales to hide in tall grasses and between hills. Between meals they sleep a great deal, digging shallow burrows in the ground to rest in. Their scales are hard to penetrate and few species are willing to risk catching their eye for a meal, so they do not always bother seeking out shelter to rest. They are cold blooded, so their habitat is purely in warmer zones and they rarely travel unless they are seeking food. Even so, they show a strong preference for the area they were born in and often go back as soon as there is food again available there.
Basilisks can swim, and choose to hunt for fish instead of land prey. They cannot breathe underwater, but can hold it for several minutes, and they can move rapidly in the water.
Basilisks rarely seek out humans as prey, regardless of some legends, and generally see humans as a potential threat. They will attack if provoked, but will only seek out humans for food if there is nothing else available. Some research in this direction suggests they don’t care for the taste. Humans meanwhile have been known to hunt basilisks, partially for the safety of their herds and communities, and in part because basilisk scales are highly valuable, as they make nearly impenetrable armor and shields.
Basilisks have decent night vision, but primarily rely on infrared vision that shows them heat pockets surrounding living beings. During the day they use their sense of smell, which can pick up their prey from great distances. This enables them to hunt without the use of their eyes in most cases. Their gaze is primarily for defense, allowing the basilisk to retreat without being pursued.
As basilisks do not breed together to be born, they do not lay eggs or present any kind of mating behavior. They are capable of smelling another basilisk at great distances and will avoid entering each others territory when possible. Basilisks can be killed by another basilisks gaze, so fights between them are generally over with quickly. Basilisks largely exist in solitude, largely, but have been seen resting amongst other species between meals and during their resting periods.
Basilisks get slower with age, as their larger size takes up more energy than they can supply, and spend longer and longer periods of time sleeping as they get older. Eventually, they will simply be unable to support their own size and pass away. Their bodies are often harvested for scales and fangs, as their venom is a natural paralytic and extremely sought after, but the ground on which they died will be toxic for some time. Eventually, as their bones break down, the ground will once again support life, and often a number of toads and snakes can be found living in the remains. Some speculate they are somehow born from the bones themselves, but this has never been proven.
Basilisk scales are extremely dense, but can be pierced through with enough force. An easier method is to take out their eyes or stab through the much thinner flesh of the inner mouth. Basilisks are generally immune to poisons, being venomous themselves, but a high enough dose can at least slow them down if they ingest it. However, as they prefer living prey over dead, it is extremely difficult to introduce poison into their system. They are more vulnerable when sleeping, as they do not have particularly sharp hearing.