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Frostwyrms are aerial apex predators native to Jotunheim. While not one of the most exotic creatures populating the interdimensional Mechanocracy of Mankind, this dragon-esque beast that inhabits the Mechanocratic capital world has earned a place as one of the most majestic.

Overview

It is often said of frostwyrms that they resemble the difference between a quetzalcoatlus and an alligator snapping turtle: they have the body of the former and the head of the latter, while possessing a long, rudder-like tail. They are vast creatures, bearing an average wingspan of 20 metres and a length from nose-to-tail of roughly 15 metres. Despite their enormous size, frostwyrms do not pose a danger to patrolling Mechanocratic aircraft, typically soaring at a height of 14 kilometres – well above the height of most air patrols – as they cross the glacial Jotunheiman landscape in search of food or a nesting location. Travelling at such a great height allows them to conserve precious energy during long trips, especially on a world where viable hunting grounds may be hundreds of miles distant from each other; the extra energy can be devoted towards exercising their spectacular eyesight to search for the aforementioned hunting grounds. Meanwhile, the dense, clear fur on their bodies keeps them warm, both on the surface and as they fly high in the air.

Although their moniker and appearance would suggest that they are reptilian, the frostwyrms are in fact chiropterans, their closest Terran gene-relative being the giant flying fox as opposed to a lizard. This is a logical evolutionary direction for two reasons: one, a cold-blooded reptile, even a furred one, would quickly die from hypothermia in an environment as frigid and hostile as Jotunheim; two, their ability to regulate their body temperature to an extreme degree accounts for their hunting style. A frostwyrm will spot and shadow a herd of scytheheads at high altitude, waiting for the right moment to strike. When this moment comes, the wyrm will take air into one of two sets of lungs and refrigerate it, solid crystals of ice beginning to form (a protective layer of antifreeze-infused mucous prevents damage to the creature's insides). Then, similar to how a peregrine falcon hunts, the wyrm will initiate a steep dive, closing on its target at a top speed of three hundred miles per hour before unleashing its crystalline payload upon it with a mighty breath. Scytheheads bunch together to protect one another when under attack from a ground predator such as a pack of ripper-wolves, but this tactic does not last for long against an incoming frostwyrm strafing the herd with what is essentially an icy chaingun: the barrage of frozen crystals will strip unarmoured flesh to the bone in seconds. The herd must disperse to avoid being torn to pieces en masse, allowing the wyrm to snatch a fleeing loner in its titanium-crushing beak and return to the skies with its catch.

For apex predators, frostwyrms are somewhat sociable. They are known to form travelling packs of three or four individuals, typically for a long hunt for food as they search far and wide for herds of scytheheads. Typically, this is to make the most of a successful hunt, with one wyrm diving and showering their quarry with their ice-breath attack and the others catching those that either run or are killed in the bombardment. Mating pairs will often remain together with their hatchlings until the latter are mature enough to hunt their own prey without aid from their parents.

Perhaps more crucially, this social nature gives them a chance to be raised as tame by an opportunist who knows enough about the creatures – such as an especially ostentatious Prokaznik looking for a fearsome battle-mount. Like most beasts serving the Mechanocratic armies, such as the Kadathean raptor-hounds often found in installation patrols, tamed frostwyrms are outfitted with cybernetic augmentations of varying kinds. Most crucial is a neurally-installed device that allows the wyrm to differentiate friend from foe, preventing it from turning on its handlers. Most notable, however, is a modification of their second lungs that are normally used to store and refrigerate atmospheric oxygen, giving them their frost-breath. The lungs are replaced with a pair of fusion reactor-esque artificial organs that essentially perform the reverse of the refrigeration process. After ample augmentation of the wyrm's respiratory system to protect against heat, the creature has its icy expiration replaced with a fiery one. Thus it is granted access to what is essentially a bionic plasma-thrower, able to tackle armoured foes with far greater ease than its ice-crystal bombardment.

These "firewyrms" exist solely within Prokaznik service, being deemed far too impractical for general military usage – and even then among only a very small handful. Practicality, however, has never been an issue for the Prokazniki, with the so-called "rule of cool" effectively being a fact of life amongst them. And few can deny that the wyrms serve as powerful psychological weapons, likely to completely disorient (if not flat-out terrorise into submission) an enemy unprepared for the spectacle of a literal fire-breathing dragon in action.

Trivia

  • As of 2168, Ippolyta the Manreaper possesses a pet frostwyrm going by the name of 'Cheburashka'. She only rode him into battle once – as she and her horde laid waste to Yith III in the First Helleon Campaign. Cheburashka presently resides at one of the Manreaper's private dachas in Siberia, where he hunts resident wendigos and wargs that otherwise prey on the local wastelanders. (Ippolyta devised this purpose after Elena Trotskaya asked her to perform a deed of goodwill as a propaganda stunt. This wasn't quite what the Grand Curatrix had in mind.)
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