The Mad Land
rating: +30+x

The green lands of Haarot are going mad.

Vast and deep, the lands of Haarot have forever been ones of mystery, strangeness, and change. Bulging with forests large enough to cover a ocean, mighty mountains, deep valleys, caves, pits, and islands, all covered with a profusion of plants and animals too varied and strange to be believed, Haarot is a land still half-buried in an age of myth. Her people, the Harrahem, act as the gardens and wardens of the land. Their lives are entwined with the ivy, their hearts pulsing with the slow beat of the mountains. Haarot has never fallen to any invader, her people never kneeling to any but the Broken Throne. Until now.

Haarot's myths reach back to a time long before the other bastions of man. It is said that the Harrahem were made by a mad god, one who felt that the immortals should not be alone in their enjoyment of Ur. He blessed them, and forged them in his own image, and sent them out, even as the other gods fell upon them. He was cast out, and down, landing on frozen shores, far from the palaces of the gods, left to fester and hate. His creations, however, had found a place, tending to Ur and her glory. The mighty immortals found this pleasing, and watched from the black void above.

The Harrahem grew in power and knowledge, and founded citadels and metropolises the likes of which the world had never seen, before or since. Their deep connection to the world let them mold and sculpt rock, plant and flesh as easy as clay, and they outdid each other in feats of creation at every turn. In time, however, avarice and anger grew in their hearts, and soon creation turned to destruction. War boiled from the ground, carried by beasts and horrors born for the sole purpose of slaughter and destruction. The gods, if they remained, stood silent as their plaything burned.

Finally, the High Lord Gol-Jin rose from his throne. He called all the lords and kings from every corner of the empire, summoned them by oaths sworn in blood, written in scars. They came, and the whole of the world held its breath. High Lord Gol-Jin screamed, and wept, and laughed, and told them the folly of their ways, of the flames that awaited them both here and beyond the veil. He asked if any were more happy now, with their riches, then before, when they pulled their needs gently from the living world. He spoke for a full day, then turned his back to them. He pulled free his vestments, threw down his crown, and struck his throne with the force of an avalanche. It split, cracking in two, and with it the age of blood and progress ended.

The empire crumbled. Some still clung to the old ways, but they slowly were forced to abandoned them. The people returned to the earth, the High Lord Gol-Jin, now Jin the Wise, ruled from the overgrown rubble of his palace, sitting in the dirt before his still-sparkling, broken throne. No man, living or dead, has ever touched it since the Sundering. The people relearned the joy of growing, of peace, of adaptation. Man became, again, a beast of nature, no better or worse, just slightly more clever.

Nature, in turn, grew to love the Harrhem again, and would dance to their will. Shunning the reckless, destructive and corrupting magics of the other realms, the Harrhem retreated to their home, and became masters of the natural. Beasts could be sculpted, shaped, and adapted to tasks, trees and plants grown to form homes, carts, and clothes. The land itself kept them safe, and resisted the intrusion of outsiders with thorns and teeth. Great guardians, built from the mud, stone, and trees of the land, roamed the land, or lay, dreaming mountains, in the cool clearings.

The Outsiders stayed away, and the Harrhem missed them not. For ages, this went on, the Harrhem content to ignore the outside, the outside content to dismiss them as backwater savages. When the missionaries came, baring staffs topped with glowing orbs, clad in dirty, soot-caked robes, the Harrhem were more amused then anything else. At first. Their doctrine of mastery of the earth, of bending the world to serve and service mankind was so…silly, there was really nothing to do but laugh. When the men grew angry, and came back with weapons of cold metal, and armies clad in dull, seaming armor, the laughter stopped.

The war seemed to almost be over before it began. The strangers marched through the trees and fields, finding only abandoned towns and silent woods. The dull, bass roar of the Null Cannons did little to quell the growing sense of…wrongness carried by the men. The priests finally ordered the towns and forests burned, enraged at being denied their retribution. However, the rains always came up seconds after the fire sparked, and the flames were soon drowned. The army found the land more and more unforgiving, the ground turning marshy, the plants thicker thorned, the plentiful fruits and scarse game scrawny, bitter, and poisonous.

By the time the counter-strike came, the armies of the outsiders were a broken shell. They awoke, in the night, to find the camp beset by nightmares made flesh. Shaggy beasts, roaring with rage, broke and slaughtered men and equipment, horned titans trampling bodies in to the muck. Men, trying to flee, met with the thin, sharp horn-blades and jaw-knives of the Harrhem, or the slinking shadows of the night beasts, all black flesh and yawing fangs. The few who escaped were left to flee away, while the Harrhem turned to the healing of the gouge the army had made.

It was a shock when the men came again, this time with mighty fortresses of metal and stone, commanding armies of clanking, shambling monsters. The New Dawn found the magic in the heart of Harrot nearly immune to the draining power of the Null, and so decided on more…traditional means of slaughter. Fire, poison, toxins, acid, and blades were turned loose, butchering the beasts, burning the forests, drawing in everything they could touch to fuel the flames of industry and conquest. The Harrhem drew back in shock from the wave of sheer, blind rage pouring forth from the great, black ships.

The land, and her people, resisted. Tooth and nail grew keen, thorns jagged, flesh toxic. The invaders were given no quarter, allowed no moment of rest outside their ragged strongholds. Bird, beast and plant grew against them, the oceans churning with nightmares called from the darkest depths. Still, it was not enough, and the outsiders slowly, grindingly, churned their way in to Harrot. The Harrhem debated and thought, and slowly they remembered old talents. Beasts were sculpted, not with the guiding hand of farmer, but with the pounding blows of the smithy. Jaws made large, eyes sharp, stingers grown, new limbs created to deal more and more varied death. The Guardians were summoned, and threw themselves against the despoilers. Their deaths were met with wailing cries from the Harrhem, but even in their falling, they could bury whole armies under their crumbling corpses.

The war has dragged on for much too long. The lands near the front lines are now so wild, so savage, that even the Harrhem fear to tread there in the open. Nature is growing more ruthless, and the people of the land find it inattentive to their call. Nightmarish beasts of fleet foot and tearing limb now spring up with no prodding. The gnarled, twisted brambles and trees have started to sprout outside the battle lines, driving out their softer, peace-loving ancestors. Poisons, belched from the outsiders strongholds and ships, cake the ground, choke the rivers, and kill all but the most hearty of beasts and plants. There are even some now who thrive in it, things so twisted and broken the Harrhem refuse to even acknowledge them.

The Harrhem fare not better. Many are drifting into fits of rage which are difficult to lift. Men laugh, scream, tear out their hair, and writhe on the ground, only to rise and slaughter until they fall from death or exhaustion. Women find their children strong of limb, but weak of mind. Some have been born so twisted, so strange, that their mothers recoil from them in fear. Each change is used as best it can be, the new forms and minds bent against the invaders, but the wise and the old look about with growing horror. The healing of the land has always been their talent, but these wounds are going too deep, piercing too much, and they are forced to ignore a growing and gnawing dread.

Most frightening are the strange, new beasts rising from the battlefields on which the Guardians have fallen. Things rise there, made of metal and roots, bones and mud. They rise, titans of dripping, writhing, clanking rage, filled with souls of metal shavings and broken teeth. They cut swaths of bloody, savage death through the outsiders, their Null fields doing little to slow them. However, they have no love of nature. With no enemy to fight, they attack the land, tearing hills, crushing trees, boiling lakes to steam. Their hate is so great, the Harrhem are unable to speak to them, and are forced to even bring them down at times.

The Harrhem are starting to tear in two, as well. Many still hold to the old doctrine, working to drive out the invaders, and work to restore order to the land. Some, however, speak in a new voice. This voice says to indulge the changes, to help them. Only by embracing the growing strength and madness can they hope to control it. Only by surpassing the savagery of the invaders can they hope to destroy them, and is it not the way of nature to adapt to new threats? There is even talk of, when they are pushed from the shores of Harrot, the Harrhem should follow, and strike a blow to the invaders. Nature teaches to eat or be eaten, and the Harrhem are growing hungry.

The lands of Harrot, once green and peaceful, are growing dark and strange. New horrors grow daily, and the people of the land find themselves growing to be strangers in their own homes. So many new thorns. So many beautiful, choking fruits. So many beasts who grow too quickly and too large, only to burn out in weeks. Too many evils are being indulged as necessity.

The lands of Harrot are descending in to madness.

And her people are forced to help.

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