Szamszerji - The Twice-Crossed Bows

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The libraries of Orabilis recount certain tales of the Primordial War, and speak of the vile and treacherous ways of humanity, Dragon-King and Mountain Folk. Late in the First Age, though, scholars in the service of Octavian (during one of the times when he was not bound to service in Creation, which happened lamentably often) managed to draw his attention to the description of some of the least of the weapons of the Mountain Folk; a t-shaped bow which was reputed to be more effective in the hands of weak beings. The Living Tower - who was not yet the Quarter Prince - had fought against the lamentable constraints of how most demons grabbed off the street and thrown against a foe as cannon fodder lacked skill at archery, and saw that this had potential as a cheap piece of equipment for discardable troops.

Octavian's invention of the crossbow was triviality itself - for demons may make many beautiful things, but they also make many clever ones, and soon iron-limbed crossbows were seeing use, handed out en masse before assaults. But still they were too costly for the troops he cared nothing for, and worse they were still not effective enough in such unskilled hands. The szamszerji, the twice-crossed bows were his solution.

A szamszerj is a living beast which somewhat resembles a crossbow, made of gnarled horn over pale green flesh. Two sets of bull-like horns extend forwards from it, one set vertical and the other horizontal, around a needle-jawed mouth, ringed by four eyes and four spinnerets. The latter produce iron-grey thread, which connect the horns together. Its gullet extends almost the entire length of its body, and at the rear of it is a tongue made of amethyst, far too short to reach out of its mouth. It has eight legs on its underside, and a strong and muscular tail. The tongue scrapes off fragments of its own shell, and loads it into the thread pulled back by the peristaltic motion of the gullet, before releasing it.

Oh, they are dangerous enough predators as it is in the Demon City, packs of them roaming wild and ambushing a lone demon, before they descend and tear off the flesh with needle teeth and even devouring the bones. Some gangs tame them - for they are as intelligent as the cats of Creation - and let them roam around areas they want others to keep out. But when picked up, their true purpose becomes clear, for their tail lashes tight around the bicep of their holder, and their legs cling onto one arm and then the other, like bracers.

They are not light beasts, and most demons require both hands to carry one, though some strong breeds are known to let one latch onto an arm and carry a blade or a second twice-crossed bow in the other. They were bred to aim and fire themselves without intervention from their carrier - thus solving the problem of ill-trained conscripts, who need only carry the slow-moving creature into battle - but with knowledge of the right pressure points one can use a twice-crossed bow almost as if it was a conventional weapon. Such knowledge is also required to have it let go; Octavian did not wish his troops casting them aside and fleeing.

A new szamszerj can come about when a twice-crossed bow is used to shoot a specially engineered species of demon whose essence was engineered for Octavian for this purpose. He hoped to keep sole command of the living technology that way. Of course, Malfeas being what it is, within a year of their innovation neomah-made copies had hit the streets, and their proliferation was rapid - made worse by the discovery that with sufficient shooting on rare occasions a new twice-crossed bow would gestate in any corpse.

Summoning: (Obscurity 1/4)
Many have heard of the weapons of Octavian, but most assume that they refer to his arsenals of magitech. Those who do discover the truth are often rather shocked by the simplicity of the concept. A twice-crossed bow can sometimes escape into Creation when a man with no skill at archery stews in bitterness after his lack of skill costs him dearly.

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