The Basilisk is a large snake-like creature found throughout much of the Known Worlds, created by magic sometime during the Mage Wars, probably in the mid-First Chaotic Period, though specifics are lacking.
Basilisks are often described as "a snake with the head of a dragon". They have very thick, short bodies but are long enough to be constrictors. Their heads are large and armored, and they have very large eyes able to swivel independently for a 330-degree field of vision.
Basilisks do not actually "eat" people; they eat freedom. They turn their prey to stone in order to capture their freedom, and feed on it.
In order to capture their prey, a basilisk must make eye-contact with it. They cannot hunt in total darkness but see very well in low-light conditions. They are known to hunt in caves (preying on adventurers carrying torches) but more often emerge to hunt at night.
Basilisks typically live in caves but have been known to inhabit sewers and storm drains in urban environments.
Basilisks are nocturnal, though will hunt by day in a prey-rich environment. Their boldness is directly proportionally to how much they have had to eat, so the more victims they have taken, the more likely they will be to emerge by day to hunt.
Basilisks are thought extremely intelligent, perhaps possessing near-human intelligence. They have an excellent sense of direction and navigate any tunnel-system flawlessly. Despite centuries of study on captive basilisks, their intelligence has never been fully proven (the job of "Basilisk Trainer" ranking just slightly bellow "Spider Wrangler" on the list of terrifying jobs).
The only known predator is the Galgan.
Fighting a Basilisk
It is widely believed that the only way to kill a basilisk is to show it its own reflection. This is, in fact, untrue on both counts.
First, a basilisk has a very tough hide; its scales are as strong as many metals, and basilisk hides were used throughout the Mage Wars to produce very sought-after armor. They can be harmed by traditional weapons, but it is very difficult. A heavy crossbow with a narrow, armor-piercing tip (not the more common 'cut-on-contact' broad head) will typically do the job; but if it fails to strike a major organ it will likely do little damage.
Swords are basically useless; but a heavy axe with a sharpened blade can crack the thick armor plates on a basilisk's back. Spears are also effective if enough force is delivered.
Pit traps have also been employed, though evidence as to their effectiveness is anecdotal.
The most common method for attacking a basilisk with traditional weapons involves using a keen archer to shoot its eyes with a longbow or crossbow. The creature is then cornered, and simply bludgeoned to death. Basilisks are not particularly menacing once blinded.
As early as 3450 B.G.A., the Order of Wizard Breakers was using mirror-masked warrior mages to hunt and kill basilisks. The technique involved a mask of highly-reflective metal (usually silver or highly-polished bronze) worn over the face, then covered with a shroud of cloth. The warrior would then engage the basilisk, get its attention, and remove the shroud; thus "showing the basilisk its own reflection". The basilisk must make eye-contact with itself in the mirror, and then turns itself to stone.
Shattering the basilisk statue then kills it, and in the process frees any of its victims whose statues remain significantly undamaged.
Captured victims can be revived after centuries or even millennia, but only if the basilisk is killed in the manner described above.
Much like ordinary weapons, simple magic can be used against basilisks. They are virtually immune to ice effects, and fire is weak against them; but a sustained burst of fire can usually get the job done.
More complex, non-elemental effects are more effective, wherein a mage will typically attack a basilisk the same as it would go after any other creature.
The earliest-known manual on killing basilisks was supposedly composed by Kosta Guitain, of Wizard Breakers-fame. However, it was common practice throughout the existence of the order to attribute authorship of its documentation to Kosta, so his actual involvement in the manual is highly suspect.
The Ie---chi--n Document
A manuscript recovered from a dig in the early Second Age contains the earliest-known written mention of the basilisk. The document was heavily damages but large sections of the text were still readable. The title is, with 5 of the 11 characters completely unreadable. It has been published under the title of the recovered letters with dashes where the missing characters remain. In academic circles it is referred to as the "itchy" pages, rather derivatively.
The text itself appears to be a day-to-day log of the goings on of a Mage Tower and the village around it. One section speaks of a basilisk terrorizing the townsfolk, and alludes that it may have been "sent" or created by some un-named foe.
The dig-site in which the document was recovered was a known-Dynastic-era find, but the document appears to be much older, and was found in a cache of goods believed to belong to an early museum.
Based largely on the descriptions given in the document, it has been conclusively dated to sometime early in the First Chaotic Period, possibly as far back as B.G.A. 3500. A small, focal contingent of scholars openly maintains that the log dates all the way back to High Tower and in fact the town mentioned is Asysias. However, as the name of the town is not specifically mentioned and some interpretations of the text indicate Mage Towers are not that uncommon, the Accepted Histories maintains a more recent date of sometime after 3500 B.G.A.