|Environment||Cold mountains or vacuum|
Source: Alien Archive 2, pg(s). 110
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Shantaks are a species of bizarre, intelligent spacefaring creatures with a mix of reptilian and avian features.
Shantaks have a vaguely horselike head, a wide maw, dagger-like teeth and a pair of vast bat wings capable of flying both in and out of an atmosphere. Their bodies are covered in slimy scales and appear ungainly when perched on their two legs. A shantak is about 30 feet long from nose to tail and weighs approximately 6,000 pounds.
Although capable of spaceflight and protecting their riders from the vacuum, shantaks are intelligent enough to be untrainable as mounts. Someone who wants to ride one must convince or magically coerce it, but the shantak has a tendency to strand riders in dangerous places or withdraw its protection and then eat its former rider in a place where the victim's allies can watch.
Shantaks are irrationally afraid of certain winged creatures, like humanoids, and try to avoid them whenever they can, although the fear is not strong enough to be actually harmful. They speak with a shrill voice like glass griding against stone.and winged
Despite their ability to travel in the void, shantaks rarely actually seek out new worlds for fear of being lost in space. Before the advent of Drift travel, shantaks were sometimes employed for the purpose of spaceflight, and continued to be used for this purpose in technologically primitive planets, or by those who refuse to use starships for some reason. Shantaks can be summoned by a shantak whistle, but have no obligation to obey its owner.
Although discomforted by functional starships, shantaks often nest in large numbers in derelict ones, feeding on the corpses of the crew. They ensure that their adopted homes are hard to spot, send false distress signals to attract prey, and sometimes ally with other creatures, like undead victims of a starship's destruction, granting their allies access to resources otherwise unavailable on a derelict.
A rare few shantaks, called dreamborn shantaks, are created in the Dreamlands within the minds of those that dream of riding a shantak before becoming real in the waking world with a dangerous ritual that almost always kills the dreamer. Dreamborn shantaks are swifter and more agile than common shantaks. Their eyes shimmer with strange colours, and nightmares can be glimpsed when one looks into them. A dreamborn shantak retains part of the ability to absorb mental energy, and is immune to mental attacks.