Animantaraxes are huge reptilian quadrupeds native to the inhospitable wastelands of the northern border of the Skorne Empire. These enormous beasts weigh between six and eight tons when fully grown and measure up to nine metres long and over three metres high at the shoulder. Bulky, lumbering, and lethargic, they prefer to dine upon carrion and rarely attack in pursuit of prey. They dislike the proximity of anything but their own kind, and a blow from their clubbed tails can turn an armoured man into jelly.
Animantaraxes have low-slung bodies and stout legs better suited to slow but steady travel over long distances than sudden bursts of speed. Thick, bony armour protect it from attack by the other great beasts that share its home. Its thick tail is capped by a club-like osseous growth, allowing an animantarax to deliver crushing blows powerful enough to shatter the bones of a titan. Its size makes even formidable predators give it a wide berth.
The animantarax’s snout is short, blunt, and filled with small, ripping teeth. These teeth are suited to tearing flesh, particularly those that have been left to decay for a short while, but the creature lacks the bite force to use them as a weapon. The eyes are relatively small, suggesting poor vision. The animantarax has a superb sense of smell to compensate for its limited eyesight.
An animantarax can scent carrion, its preferred diet, from miles away. Drawn by the scent of spoiling meat, an animantarax will travel great distances to procure a meal while relying upon their bulk to bully other predators into giving up their food, and those who attempt to defend the kill are crushed to death and eaten as well.
Wild animantaraxes are lethargic beasts, spending most of their time sunning on warm stone outcroppings as they wait for the scent of decay to alert them to their next meal. Confrontation with these creatures is easily avoided as long as one maintains a respectful distance and makes no aggressive movements. Though not ordinarily aggressive, the animantarax has a temper and is prone to lashing out against anything that comes too close.
Wounded animantaraxes sometimes enter a blind, pain-fuelled rage that grants them greater strength as their injuries mount.
Animantaraxes have been used in battle by the skorne for centuries, although they remain relatively rare. The cost of capturing and training one represents a staggering investment of manpower and resources, which only the wealthiest skorne houses can afford. Their incredible durability and strength made them ideal as weapon platforms in the house wars that raged for many centuries among the skorne. The recent westward expansion of the Skorne Empire begun by Vinter Raelthorne IV has increased the demand for animantaraxes, and they have been seen frequently in the Army of the Western Reaches, as the skorne have encountered considerable fortified resistance in western Immoren.
Skorne warlocks rarely control animantaraxes, as they do with many other skorne beasts. Instead, an animantarax is taught to follow audible commands, blasts from a trumpet-like instrument with the ability to create a wide variety of tones. There are specific trumpet blasts for various types of movement and attack; a competent driver with an experienced animantarax has access to nearly twenty different commands.
The siege animantarax's primary role in battle is that of mobile siege engine. It accomplishes this task by assaulting enemy fortifications directly, smashing down walls with its heavy tail while its crew fires ranged weapons at enemies on the battlements. In addition, if the enemy walls are low enough, the animantarax can attack the fortification while its crew attacks over the walls. The spearmen riding in the houdaa atop the animantarax, although certainly capable of attacking foes atop fortress walls, are largely used to keep enemy infantry at bay, preventing them from swarming the animantarax.