Bazyliszek
rating: +42+x

Warsaw
1944

Another airdrop had been intercepted by the enemy. The English had good intentions, but when those ended up being consistently dropped into German territory, one could not help but wonder if if they were trying to miss the zones occupied by the Home Army. And they had just dropped it in the worst possible location.

Basilisk Street was simply a name that her platoon had given this area. It may have had another name, once, before the Germans had razed it. The road looked familiar to her; she had visited it several times when she was younger, but she could not recall the name. She knew it had a bank on it, and a baker's shop, which had once been a knifesmith's house, centuries ago.

The relevance of this last point was not lost on anyone in the platoon. Stefania, with her brown hair and broad Polish face, was flanked by two others. Tolek, who had been designated their sniper, hefted a rifle that looked too big on the young man's frame, like he was a little doll that someone had stuffed into a uniform. Kazia didn't look much better; years of starvation had taken toll on their grenadier, but she had bounced back from it, and what she lacked in fat she made up for in athletic muscle, enough that she could lug at least ten of the improvised grenades they had made, along with her rifle. They fortified themselves behind a shell of a building, some bombed-out walls clinging to their foundations, as they waited for the return of their final member.

Their saboteur, Odekta, had just returned from scouting ahead, crawling on the ground laboriously. She swallowed, and looked at Stefania with wide eyes. On her coat, she wore what she considered a badge of honor: a yellow six-pointed star. She looked up at them, remaining prone. "They're not looking at the supply drop."

"What?" Kazia spoke up, in a hissed whisper. "That has to have five days worth of food in it. Why would they not even inspect it?"

"They're more focused on one of the buildings. I've seen three Szkopy — " an insult better than the Nazis deserved — "go into it, but none have come out."

"What building?" Stefania took out her binoculars and surveyed the area, coming to a pause over a sign for a barber's shop, smashed in two by an explosion. "Everything is rubble."

"Not so much a building, but the cellar of one." Odetka paused. "…you've told us about the second war before, Stefania. The one being fought next to this one."

Her hand squeezed around the binoculars. "A war of magic. I didn't believe it, either, until I saw what happened in the telephone building." Stefania remembered the taste of burning flesh when a man covered in intricate Nordic tattoos incinerated two members of her squad, before she put a bullet in his stomach, and then five in his skull.

"Everyone knows the myth. You don't suppose it could still be here?" Tolek's voice was a timid squeak, almost drowned out by the sound of a distant explosion.

"…if it is, we feed them all to it and seal up the chamber." Kazia moved out from behind cover, staying low to the ground. "Odekta, how many smoke grenades do you have?"

"Three of them."

"Three?" Stefania frowned. "You were given five. We used one to escape the patrol on Świętojańska, where's the other?"

"Pressure was leaking. I had to toss it as we were coming up from the last square."

"Wonderful." Stefania signaled to her companions to stay low, crawl if they had to. This was easy for Tolek's young frame. Poor Kazia had a significant target on her, with the grenades strapped to her back. Their plain clothing mixed in well with the rubble, providing some cover. From this distance, any Nazi without binoculars or a scope would have thought they might have been scraps of paper being blown about in the breeze.

Crawling, inching forwards, they approached the end of the street, as the September sun crept overhead. Gunshots rang out an indeterminate distance away. Another church in the city wavered on its foundations.


With the pace they were going, two hours had passed when they had arrived at the other end of the street. They ducked into alleyways, hid in buildings, and pissed on the rubble of what had once been a dress shop. They were too poorly-equipped to charge in alone, with or without grenades. Tolek looked like he was going to vomit at any point during the journey; fear of death outweighed the nausea.

Eventually, they reached the end of the street, believing themselves undetected. Five soldiers and one commander stood before a hole in the ground. The hole had once been a door to a cellar, and from the burn marks on it, Stefania guessed it may have been by a bomb. The Germans were accompanied by a pair of dogs, who had their attention trained on the hole. Behind them, their objective — the airdrop — stood, concealed under a parachute, forgotten.

Stefania's eyes widened when she saw the hounds. Between Tolek's whimpering and their own stench from crawling in the sun for so long, they would soon be found out. She suppressed a swear, and signaled to her platoon to be at the ready. Both her and Tolek steadied their rifles on a pile of rubble that had once been a windowsill, ready to shoot whatever noticed them first.

Instead, the dogs were given a command in German: "Go!". The two dogs dashed into the hole. Some time later (Stefania's heart was beating so fast that it could have been anywhere from two minutes to an hour), one of them emerged, running and whimpering. Through her scope, Stefania saw that its eyes were shut. Then, it came to a halt by the Germans' transport, and fell over, dead.

That confirmed it, then. Basilisk Street lived up to its name. The cellar of a building, torn down to rubble, once more contained a creature that could kill with a stare. A perverse combination of rooster and reptile.

The Basilisk of Warsaw had never died. Or rather, maybe this was a descendant? Some youngling, hatched from an egg that had lain dormant until the bombs hatched it? Was Warsaw deciding to punish its invaders by recreating something that had been the terror of the city so many hundred years ago?

She could not be sure. She gave another signal to Kazia to ready a Filipinka; an impact grenade. The Germans were clustered together enough that a bomb would take out at least one of them. To Tolek, she for him to aim at the youngest-looking soldier, adjusting his rifle for him. Odetka readied her own smoke grenade to choke out whoever survived the initial blast.

Stefania pointed, and Kazia threw the bomb. The casing shattered on the back of one of the Germans, killing him before anyone could react. Another had his arm torn to shreds, and writhed on the ground, screaming. The rest had turned their attention to the rebels.

Odetka's smoke grenade sailed almost in tandem with Kazia's Filipinka. It landed at their feet, and the air was filled with the sound of choking and coughing. Nazis were dangerous in groups, but like most soldiers, they were an uncoordinated mess when caught by surprise.

Stefania's shot entered the heart of a third trooper as he stumbled from the fog. He gasped when his spine exploded outward behind him. Tolek managed to hit the knee of a fourth, and as the final two gained their composure enough to draw their pistol, Kazia let another Filipinka sail towards them. A second later, no more Germans lived in the street.

Stefania ran out from behind cover to a barrier the Germans had erected, then to another, and finally, to the jeep they had been next to. The others followed, with Tolek in the back, staggering themselves so that no one person was behind a piece of cover at the same time. Stefania rummaged through the transport.

"What are you doing?" Kazia hissed. "They're going to be checking up on the explosions. We could have snipers above us at any minute! Let's just grab what we can from the drop and go!"

"The Basilisk is real, Kazia," Stefania growled in return. "We can't let them get it, and if they're not getting it… well, the Home Army could use a… how do the Americans say? Trump card?"

"You're not serious," Odetka gasped, having opened up the crate; she was starting to stuff chocolate rations in her bag. "Stefania, that thing will kill you, if it is real. How do you even intend on bringing it out?"

"Szkopy are evil, but they're not completely without sense." Through her rummaging, Stefania found a cage made for large poultry, a metal rod with a noose on the end, an apron with mirrors on the outside, and an electric torch. The thing that caught her interest the most was an implent with a large set of flaps around a thick loop, all leather.

"What is that?" Tolek frowned as she removed the last object.

"Blinders," Stefania presented them. "I saw them used in a falconry demonstration before the war broke out. They cover a bird's eyes. Perfect for the thing down there."

"It will kill you in an instant!" protested the youngest member. Poor Tolek was shaking again. "Please, I can't. We can't lose you, Stefania."

"It can't kill me if it doesn't look me in the eyes." She pulled the apron, the noose, and the flashlight out of the transport, and found, on top of the cage, a set of black glasses. She placed them over her eyes, and smiled at her companions. "I'll be fine. Really."

She dressed herself in the apron, and left her rifle behind, electing to take a pistol from one of the dead Nazis. If necessary, she would kill the beast. She held the torch in one hand, noose in the other, and pistol by her side, Stefania descended into the cellar.


The room was far too large to exist under Warsaw. Stefania had been underneath some other buildings in this area; she did some of her education in the basement of a now blown-out apartment building not a block from here. She used her torch, and never saw the walls. The air was cold, and reeked of petrichor, like she was in a cavern. She aimed her light upwards, and could not see the ceiling.

And so, she shuffled through the darkness. She felt a mounting dread, that she had known twice before: first, when she heard that Hitler had pushed his forces through Poland, and was aiming at the rest of Europe. Second, when she faced down a man using… shooting flame from his hands, in the PAST telephone building. He had reduced most of the relays that were still intact to slag, melted with no effort.

Since the Uprising began, she suspected the existence of the basilisk. Several squadrons vanished in the area of Basilisk Street in the past week. It had been where the myth of the basilisk took place, and Stefania knew all the details. The knife-smith's children being found dead in a cellar, their nursemaid dying to the creature's gaze, the wise doctor instructing on how to destroy it, the convicted man's expedition into the cellar…

Nobody ever knew what happened to the beast itself. A ghost story in her neighborhood said that, every time you saw a new statue around the city, it was a victim of the basilisk. It was a fairy tale, something made to scare the children, get them to behave.

This did not change what Stefania was looking at. One-hundred meters away from where the September Sun was shining down, Stefania Borowski was standing over a dog whose eyes had swollen to the size of hen's eggs. Its skin seemed ready to burst open; poking it with her noose caused an effluence of pus onto the floor of the cave.

She heard something skitter behind her.


Tolek bit down on a cracker ration he had taken from the supply drop. The rest would be distributed to those at the base, but for now, this was his. It was an American cracker, and theirs were the best, made with some honey or sugar.

Kazia's eyes admonished him between setting up traps of Filipinka attached to poles at either end of the street. When someone walked by, they would knock into them, and the grenade would explode on contact with the ground.

They stared at the cellar door. Stefania had just left, but it filled them with unease. Warsaw was an old city, approaching 750 years. It had much buried beneath its stones, old conflicts, attempted takeovers, the bones of tyrants that marched through and stepped on the scythes of the people. The bombings, the siege five years ago, and now the Uprising might be bringing it all back to the surface.

"Where are you, Tula?" Odetka chewed at her finger, keeping her sub-machine gun aimed at one end of the street. Poor range, but the fire could at least cause some to scatter, or set off the impact grenades Kazia was setting up.

"Heh low the hair!" cried a voice in an American accent. All three of them jumped at it, aiming their weapons. From out of one of the few intact buildings (which Kazia, with a curse, realized had a back entrance) came three men in black uniforms, the leader a blond man wearing black leather gloves. "Sprichst du Deutsche? Noh, uf korz knot."

"State your purpose!" Kazia growled, letting off a warning burst. It scattered off one of the buildings, and the unknown party ducked.

"Yew hidyot," growled another voice, this one from a more diminutive man with black hair and a Polish widow's peak. He had a more natural accent. "He's asking if you speak German, he's an American," this one said in Polish.

"We don't speak Szkopy!" Kazia growled. "We've got you outnumbered, and we have a secret weapon. One that will kill any German that toys with the Home Army!"

The Pole translated for the American. "The Basilisk, yes?"

"…yes," Tolek's hands shook and he gripped his rifle tighter. "How did you know?"

"We sent Stefania here to retrieve it."


Stefania kept her eyes shut, relying on her hearing. She held her breath to listen for the skittering of the basilisk. She had seen its body; a rooster with a lizard's tail and claws, just as the myth said. She couldn't help but wonder if it was hatched from a cock's egg, like the myth claimed.

She swung her noose almost at random, trying to grab any part of it. She remembered what the American — she thought he was a reporter — told her. This creature was dangerous, and if it couldn't be destroyed, it could at least be locked in a cage, contained, until the war was over and it could be properly studied.

The American told her that he worked for a Foundation, and they did not know the city like she did. It was an international organization, he claimed, trying to stop two wars — the war she fought, with sabotage and sniper rifles, and the war they fought, with monsters and magic. An Occult War, he called it.

In the dark, she stood still, eyes shut behind protective glasses. The basilisk didn't caw, didn't chirp, didn't crow like a cock. It just ran about on its little feet, and occasionally tried to peck at her. It came from her left, and she began a slow turn towards it. If she spun too fast, the mirrors would warp with the apron, and the basilisk would not be stunned, and would flee for another attack. Too slow, she would be pecked to death by a venomous chicken.

The basilisk came up on her. Stefania turned, noose wand extended, and felt a tug on the end.


"Why would Stefania agree to this?" Odetka sounded skeptical. "She should keep it for the cause."

"And risk losing her own force?" asked the translator. "She could kill everyone in the resistance, from the lowliest peon to… you call her Jaga?"

"Lt. Mileska," Tolek nodded. "She's nice. She's cared for us."

The American nodded and spoke more things nobody understood, until the translator spoke, pointing to the trapdoor. "Things are faster down there."

"Faster?" Tolek asked.

"Time moves faster. She could have been down there for quite a while now." The translator looked at them. "Warsaw is a messy city. Both of the wars are making it messier. Once she's out, we must—"

"You must what?" Stefania asked, emerging from the underground with a basilisk, blinders over its eyes, trapped in a noose wand.

"Stefania!" the American smiled, switching to German, something both of them could speak. "It's good to see you again! You have your prize?"

"…yes," Stefania replied in the same language. To her compatriots, it must have sounded like she was speaking in a snake's tongue. "You'll keep it safe?"

He nodded back towards the transport, with a swastika painted on the side. "We have a cage in there."

Everyone's heart sank. Stefania's blood became volcanic, and her vision bore holes into the side of the transport. "You're. A. German organization?"

Tolek yelped, and covered his ears, curling into a ball. The conversation had taken a turn for the worse; he could tell from tone alone. The cowardly soldier remained curled up, whimpering.

"It's a matter of convenience," the American explained. "They have better equipment, we can move through freely through the occupied zones. No offense to your forces, but those K-Pattern weapons aren't going to work against… well, nevermind."

Stefania's hand approached the basilisk. "Szkopy were here earlier, trying to get it out of the hole themselves."

"They were looking for it as well," the Foundation agent elaborated. "We simply wanted to get to it first. Are you really going to begrudge us some espionage?"

The only word that she could use to describe the American was 'traitor'. "They were going to use this as a weapon." She stared at him hard enough that even the basilisk in her hand could have turned to stone. "How do I know that you aren't?"

"You don't, I'll admit," the Nazi licked his lips; his nervousness was showing. "You're just going to have to take my word. We will keep this specimen secured and contained until the war is over."

"And then what?" Stefania's hand came up the basilisk's beak, towards the blinders. "You'll let it lose on the next threat?"

"Frau Borowski, please—" he began.

"I am not a Frau." Her hand was on the blinders. "I am Polish. I am free!"

The others realized where her hand was going . The officer drew his gun. Kazia pleaded and turned away. Odetka begged, and shut her eyes a fraction too late. Tolek remained curled up on the street, as if a bomb was coming for him.

Stefania pulled the blinders off of the basilisk.


Tolek Lisiewicz was left alone on the street, with the shuddering sound of his companion's last breaths. He knew what had happened. The boy crawled towards Stefania, eyes still clamped shut, and felt her stony legs. She, too, had looked into the eyes. Intentionally, or inadvertently, it did not matter. She was dead. He believed the others to be as well.

He felt his way up her body, mumbling apologies the whole time, until he came to the basilisk, trapped between her tight, stone-encrusted hands.

Its neck came between his fingers.

His hands twisted in opposite directions. The Basilisk of Warsaw was no more.

Eyes still clamped shut, sobs suppressed and swallowed, he limped his way back down Basilisk Street, fearing that if he looked back, if he even opened his eyes to blink, he would put a picture to the horrific sound that he heard from the instant he snapped the basilisk's neck.

Tolek heard screams, barely muffled by stone. Of them, Odetka's was the loudest.


Underneath Basilisk street, in a disused cellar, an egg laid by a rooster began to hatch.

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