Lesson 4) Dark Creatures, Part One
Welcome back. During our last class session, we finished our coverage of Dark spells by discussing the effects, and human rights implications, of the Unforgivable Curses. This does not mean that no further Dark spells will be mentioned, but they will not be the focus of our lessons from here out. Today, we will start covering the second category of the Dark Arts: Dark creatures. This lesson, like our discussion about Dark spell, will be a two part lesson as there are many dangerous and Dark creatures in our world that you need to be aware of if you have any intentions of helping protect our world and not dying in the process. Because we have a lot of information to cover, let us not waste any more time.
The first creature we will talk about, the basilisk, is a creature that we began discussing at the end of Year Five. However, now that you are preparing for your N.E.W.T.s, I believe you are capable of handling the full range of dangers that these creatures present, or as prepared as any of us can be. They are extremely dangerous and deadly even to the most well-equipped wizard. Fortunately, the only remaining known basilisk is nothing more than a rotting corpse in the bowels of our school.
The basilisk, or basiliscus (“little king”) is a large, emerald colored snake that can grow to a length of 50 feet and is known as the King of the Serpents. Direct eye contact will kill a person instantly, and even indirect eye contact, such as through a mirror or distorted through a translucent surface, petrifies the viewer. Additionally, its venom is unquantifiably powerful. None of our scientists have been able to concoct samples that come even close in their attempts to understand the basilisk. If bitten by the basilisk, death will occur in just a few minutes. This has led to speculation that its venom also contains magical qualities, though this has never been formally proven. What makes these creatures even more dangerous is that they cannot be controlled by just any person. No, the only people who are able to control basilisks are Parselmouths - those who are able to speak to snakes - and some basilisks have been known to be ‘keyed’ to Parselmouths of particular lineage.
Physically, as mentioned, the basilisk is a snake. Under normal circumstances, this would imply the presence of an osteoderm, but this is not the case. If you recall from our discussion at the end of Year Five, the basilisk is one of the few reptilian creatures that does not have an osteoderm. The current theory for this lack is that the basilisk, which is a reptile but is not the offspring of any reptiles, does not have the chance to develop the way a normal snake would. That being said, there are some notable physical characteristics that can aid you in identifying a basilisk. The first of these characteristics is that basilisks can grow to lengths up to 50 feet. Their scales are bright green and the creature has thin teeth that are sharp as daggers. Because of these characteristics, as well as the ones we discussed a bit earlier, you might be wondering how such a creature came to be.
The first basilisk was bred by an ancient wizard by the name of Herpo the Foul. He had a habit of experimenting with Dark magic, and found a way to breed the basilisk by placing a chicken egg under a toad. Specialists in the Ministry have attempted to replicate Herpos’s experiments, yet have failed. This has led to the understanding that, whatever Herpo did, there was more to the process that has been lost to time. In my opinion, and the opinions of most respectable magical people, this is for the best. While studies are still ongoing, I for one do not see benefit in the existence of more basilisks; there is enough danger in the world as it is without adding another one back into the mix.
Despite the loss of Herpo’s process, there was one wizard who successfully replicated it: Salazar Slytherin. Yes, Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of this very school, bred a basilisk. Not only that, but the basilisk was kept in this school after he departed, living in a secret area known as “the Chamber of Secrets” for approximately a thousand years, which makes it the longest living basilisk on record. Had Auror Potter - then just a student - not found the creature, who knows how long it may have lived.
Despite the dangers these creatures present, their attacks are not all necessarily fatal. If one happens to be bitten by a basilisk, there is one known cure that will save you: phoenix tears. Phoenix tears, with their healing powers that are known to heal most forms of injury, contain enough magical power that they can counter and nullify the even basilisk’s venom. To date, there has been no success in creating an(other) antidote potent enough to counter such high-level venom. Though not my area of expertise, this could potentially be a research topic for any of you aspiring potioneers; if you are interested, I encourage you to talk to our esteemed Potions professor.
To defend against its gaze, one simply needs to not look directly at the eyes. As previously mentioned, if you catch its gaze using a mirror or through a translucent surface such as a ghost, its eyes will only petrify you. While this is still a situation you should avoid at all costs, petrification is much easier to reverse than death. Some lore states that turning a basilisk’s own gaze against itself will kill it, but this has never been proven. Thus far, there are only a few ways known to kill these creatures. The first is the crowing of a rooster. Why this is the case is a mystery, but there is something about the rooster’s crow that affects the basilisk on a biological level. The second is to mortally wound the creature yourself, a task that is much easier said than done.
This is because of the scales that create a strong protective layer between the basilisk’s body and the outside world. While not an osteoderm, the scales are thick and tough enough that very few weapons would be successful in an attempt to penetrate them. Therefore, you must aim for weak spots, the chink in the armor you might say. However, that means finding places where there is soft, exposed flesh that could be pierced. There is only one known place where that can be found, and that is inside the mouth of the beast itself. If you are lucky and able to aim for the creatures mouth, you can use spells such as the Arrow-Shooting Charm, which we covered in Year Five, but in most cases basilisks are creatures that are best left to Ministry trained professionals; they receive specialized training that helps prepare them for the more drastic situations like facing many highly deadly creatures.
Moving on, the chimaera, like the basilisk, is a creature of various threats, each more deadly than the last. To start, it has the physical appearance of three different creatures; its head looks like that of a lion, its body like a goat’s, and its tail like a dragon’s. These physical appearances not only make the creature terrifying, but they serve as visual reminders of the various dangers that this creature presents. The chimaera is extremely ferocious and skilled at fighting with its mouth and hooves - skills you can remember it has by looking at its head; you know how a lion fights, and a chimaera is not very different. However, a chimaera is far more agile than a lion and much more nimble. It will have no problem scaling cliff sides and rough terrain to chase you, so you cannot count on that to save you. To add to the creature’s arsenal, it will also inject you with its venom if it manages to bite you, and unless you happen to be close to an apothecary, or regularly carry an Antidote to Uncommon Poisons on your person, you will likely not make it to a healer in time. If you know anything about dragons, and their potential to be venomous (depending on the species), you will not forget about the chimaera’s venom and will take even further precautions to stay away from both its mouth and its tail, both of which can inject you with venom.
Put all these traits together and you have a formidable opponent. The chimaera’s agility makes it extremely difficult to hit, though you may find it exceedingly difficult to use spells against a chimaera in the first place, since the creature is also magically resistant. If you thought it couldn’t get worse, well, then I have bad news for you. It can move its tail at lightning speeds to defend its sides as well, so you cannot count on success even when you have a team. It can also knock arrows out of the air, parry swords away, and bounce spells off and away towards other targets, all without hindering the thought process of the chimaera (which is likely Come here and let me eat you, human). How, then, can someone go about defending themselves against a chimaera? The easy answer is to flee as fast as you can; to stay and fight is to know you will be killed.
There has only ever been one wizard who has managed to kill a chimaera, and that wizard was Bellerophon. Bellerophon was a wizard of old, long before wands were used to channel magical energy. In those days, magical people used other forms of foci, but did not have clear ‘spells’ the way that we do now. Bellerophon rode his winged horse into battle, equipped with nothing more than his short staff that he used to channel his magical energy. No matter what Bellerophon tried, he could not cause any harm. His arrow-like spells were all deflected by its tail, the chimaera dodged his freezing and water-based spells, and he dared not get too close to the creature lest he get bitten and poisoned. It seemed like the battle would be won by the chimaera, yet Bellerophon refused to give up. Using the remainder of his strength and willpower, he managed to cast an earth-lifting spell that sent the chimaera flying into the air, tumbling over itself. While it tried to regain its balance midair, Bellerophon sent one final, extremely powerful, impalement spell towards the chimaera. Since it was disoriented, the creature’s tail could not accurately defend it, and he managed to overpower the magical resistance and impaled the chimaera through the stomach. It landed on the ground with a loud thud and was no more. Bellerophon, overcome with excitement of his victory, instructed his winged horse to fly him home. However, he never made it to the end of the journey. Overcome by magical exhaustion, Bellerophon passed out and was unable to hold onto the back of his horse. His horse was unable to react in time and Bellerophon fell to his death.
I tell you this story not to scare you...well, yes, it is partially to scare you, because I want you to understand the level of difficulty that comes with facing a chimaera. A wizard of much more skill than you currently possess, and may ever possess, managed to kill a vicious, bloodthirsty chimaera by sheer luck. There is no guarantee that anyone would be able to replicate that battle, nor is it likely that anyone would be able to get so lucky. The energy expended also cost Bellerophon his life, so I hope you all consider carefully before approaching any dangerous creatures. What cost are you willing to pay for ‘eternal glory’ such as that which Bellerophon attained?
If I have not scared you enough with the basilisk and the chimaera, then perhaps this third and final creature, in combination with the other two, will be enough to shake you.
The manticore, like the chimaera, is a creature whose breeding allows it to assume the body structure of three different entities: a body like a lion, a scorpion-like tail, and a human-esque head. It is a remarkably fast creature and is said to be nearly impossible to beat. Physically, its speed makes it difficult to keep up with and, assuming you can catch it, its skin is impenetrable so no projectile or sharp object can pierce it. Solely on a physical basis, the manticore is a tough adversary to overcome.
What makes it even more difficult to defeat is that it can think like a human, due to the human head, which is part of its anatomy. Though it is a primal creature whose instinct is to devour all animals, excluding the elephant for an unknown reason, it is a creature whose intelligence is able to adapt to its combatant. It will learn your strategies and change its own to counter you perfectly. That, added into its scorpion tail which can move lightning fast, causes instant paralysis, and death within a few minutes, makes the manticore just slightly more deadly than the chimaera.
Fortunately for you, manticores are extremely rare and it is unlikely that you will ever encounter one. But if you do, what should you do? First, you must be unpredictable and make sure that you never fall into a pattern. If you do, the manticore will learn the pattern and will adapt itself and its fighting techniques to counter it. You cannot depend on your ability to attack it directly, since its skin makes its entire body, including its head, impenetrable. Therefore, you must think outside the box, something I hope you have learned throughout your years here under my teaching. If not, your midterm practice next lesson will certainly drive the message home.
There is one known weakness in the manticore’s armor, and that is its mouth. The fleshy inside of the manticore’s mouth is completely vulnerable to piercing and an attack. However, due to its tail, you will want to keep your distance, so some techniques that might be useful include using the Arrow-Shooting Spell, if your aim is good enough. I should note that, on top of all of its deadly qualities, the manticore also has self-regenerative powers, so any damage you inflict must be severe to even make a dent. It will be impossible to overpower the manticore and slay it in a single shot, so it is imperative that you find ways to keep forcing its mouth open so you can fire multiple shots into its mouth. However, the best advice is to get away as fast as you can. If you are able to fire even a single shot into the manticore’s mouth, it will be angry, but also surprised. This will provide you with a few seconds that you can use to get as far away as you can. With any luck, you will put enough distance between you and the manticore that it will give up on you. On the other hand, if it’s hungry… your odds of survival drop drastically.
The Current Situation
With all of the information about the dangers of these creatures, you might be wondering how it is possible that we don’t hear more about them. Particularly, why do we not hear about more attacks by manticores and chimaeras if they are so dangerous? In theory, you would expect that they would wipe out the entire population of its target city or village before the beast could be stopped. And normally, you would be right about that. However, the various ministries around the world have worked together to come up with plans that, for the time, have worked well to limit the risk of chimaeras and manticores attacking and killing vast populations.
The first precaution that has been taken is limiting to ensure that the majority of the population lives further away from forested areas or other known habitats of these creatures. By keeping people away from known chimaera and manticore nests, professionals are more easily able to keep these creatures away from vulnerable prey, such as humans. This includes the use of various enchantments and spells that both trigger a notification for those professionals and slows the creatures down. While all of the specific spells used in the Population Protection Combination (PPC) are unknown except by the experts who cast them, it is very likely that the Impediment Jinx, or a stronger variant, is used.
Finally, the local ministries make sure that the creatures’ preferred (non-human) meal is easily accessible in their habitat. By ensuring that there is plenty of food available to eat (and particularly prey that they can catch), it keeps the attention of the creatures focused on hunting the prey and not hunting the humans who foolishly roam too close; it also keeps the creatures from expanding their hunting territory.
Even with all of these precautions and plans in place, there are still far too many manticore and chimaera attacks. The Ministry of Magic is currently seeking proposals for new plans that will further limit the number of attacks - perhaps you may have the plan that saves an entire city...or not, but you can certainly try.
To summarize, your chances of defeating any of the creatures we have discussed today are next to none. Even the most skilled of wizards struggle to overcome such creatures, and they have had many many more years of training than any of you. To have come this far, you are all skilled, yet I have minimal confidence that any of you would survive an encounter with even one of the creatures discussed today. That said, you must still be prepared for them. You may be unfortunate enough to have to encounter one of these, or any of the other deadly creatures of our world; the Ministry makes efforts to contain and control these creatures, but at the moment their efforts are not fool proof and they are seeking proposals for new ideas for the more dangerous creature discussed today.
While I cannot teach you techniques to defend against all of the creatures of our world, I hope that I am providing you with useful skills that will enable you to improve your chances of survival out there, though that’s assuming you survive your N.E.W.T.s.
For today’s assignment, you will have an essay, a fact that I’m sure surprises none of you at this point. Next lesson, we will be covering some more creatures, techniques about how to defend yourself against them, and you will be required to participate in a N.E.W.T. preparation assignment. The purpose of this assignment is to reinforce the creativity that I have been expecting of you throughout your educational experience and to push you towards your limits. I hope you are all ready. Dismissed!
Manticore and Basilisk = Harry Potter Wiki