|Nature on the Move||The Impact of Life
|1||The Many-Faced or Dividing Leopard Worm|
A creeping mass of black-spotted yellow fur, voids gaping within the bunched mess of a head, bristling teeth like oily black quills. 15ft long tails thicker than your thigh drag behind the bulk before splitting away, hair separating, contracting and slithering with a mouth all their own.
Skinwalkers take the pelts as barbaric armour. The venom delivered by the caterpillar-like hairs that stand on end along their backs causes muscle spasms that can last for days. Older worms can eject hairs right out of their backs when threatened. The fibres alone contain enough venom to incapacitate ten burly men; if you take the pelt with the venom glands intact and keep them alive it will last indefinitely.
|The worm mass doesn't really divide, it is made up of individuals moving together like a brood of Spitfire Grubs, but their faces do, split into even quarters bristling with quill teeth to better drag you down their gullets.
Beyond defence and hunger related deaths and cripplings, the only thing left to mark their passing are the flimsy abandoned silk nests spun around large trees just within the woods, temporary shelter for a few days' hunting before continuing their journey.
Due to the hairs woven amongst the silk, the only thing you'll earn by collecting it is a week of convulsions.
|2||Spiders of Gushmora|
Exquisite neglect creeps in like rising waters, stranded wisps hanging from flowers turn to phantasmal curtains of translucent silk, undulating in the wind.
The brood mothers can only walk upon silken threads, and so a tide of their thousand children spills out before them, draping webbed paths over grasslands and trees until their spinnerets run dry and their bodies break, replaced by siblings birthed during the journey.
The Korhari Silk-Weavers follow the migration, gathering silk with long, pointed implements of bronze to be fed onto spinning wheels nestled within their gaily painted wagons, ornate and many-coloured behind a sea of white.
The few months spent following the spiders will provide them with everything they need for the rest of the year, producing fine Korhari silks to be sold to the highest bidder. Killing any kind of spider before a Korhari is invitation to violence.
|Absorbed by the ravenous hunger of the journey, the passing of the Spiders of Gushmora effects near-extinction upon insect populations caught in their path.
In the weeks preceding the arrival of the migration, many animals will flee to other hunting grounds. First you notice that the birds no longer sing in the morning, then the rodents disappear from your larder, you hear predators padding away in the night. Many plant species will take months to recover with nothing left to spread their seed.
The bite of the Spiders of Gushmora causes an accelerated rot, swollen wounds burst and spill decomposing flesh with an iridescent sheen much like the spider's exoskeleton, all fuchsia, purples and black. When the swollen boils appear across their chest and arms the victim will know they endured the amputation of their leg for nothing.
Korhari assassins often travel ahead of the migration, ending those they find preparing to defend their lands.
|3||Ignis Fatuus Floris|
Ethereal points of blue light float through the sunless dark, dancing on the wind. When the luminous seeds settle they sprout dark-stemmed flowers topped with thick bulbs, scored like a spiralling vortex. The feathery pink petals that sprout astride the spiral flutter in the breeze, until a strong enough wind blows in from the right direction and the pods violently ejaculate the next generation of seeds into the air in an unfurling explosion, one step closer to their destination.
The Moulting Priests of the Seeping Dissonance seek to destroy the Ignis Fatuus Floris, why they will not say.
They have been within reach of the flowers only twice, causing them to explode into an errant wind, thwarting the priests but setting the flowers back on their journey.
|For the species to survive the flowers must survive. When the seeds first enter the soil they excrete a toxin that causes all plant life in the immediate area to wither away, eliminating any competition for the nutrients needed to grow.
Unfortunately for the flower, the same toxin that kills flora causes intense hypnagogic hallucinations in fauna. If their needle-like thorns fail to deter wanderers or thrill-seeking boars hoping for a transcendent experience, the damaged flowers exude a chemical warning that causes the remaining flowers to disperse their seed into the nearest wind, regardless of direction.
|4||Eels of the Nighted Depths|
None know where they come from or where they go, only the swarm of oil-slick flesh that undulates over the land, toothless, wrinkled maws stretching wide to consume creatures twice their size, slipping onward while the hapless beasts howl from within their stretched flesh, slowly succumbing to digestion.
Apothecaries and Dabblers of the Black Arts lust for the flesh of the abyssopelagic nightmares. A piece of their blubbery leathered skin will buy a week's debauchery, their rock-hard sightless eyes would fetch an honest man's yearly wage, for a living intact specimen your very heart's darkest desire would be fulfilled.
|Upturned ecosystems, lost pets, lost loves, insane bearded men kicking down your door demanding to know which direction the eels went.
As people walk there seems to be a shadow not their own moving beside them, seen in their peripheral vision and absent when they turn.
As the phenomena ceases in one settlement it emerges in another, trailing across the land until the reports finally cease after several months.
The Scholars of the Seventh Seal seek any and all information pertaining to what they call The Periphery. Shared knowledge will be rewarded, false informers will never be found.
|A lingering feeling amalgamated of dread and rapture, the subtly unnerving presence of the Scholars weeks after the event.
It begins with bands of gregarious wingless nymphs, a hopping carpet of bronze-tarnished mandibles, but when their density reaches fever pitch a flavescent metamorphosis takes place that sees their carapace harden into grotesque studded plates of rich yellow armour, glittering wings unfurling in the light.
Their omnivorous plague migration sweeps over vegetation and flesh, a flying wall of hooked limbs and eager squirming labial palps.
Communities with Forewarning often plant large crops of Mandrake before the oncoming swarm, a fragrance irresistible to the locusts, tearing roots from the ground after gorging upon the leaves and flowers. While it will not kill them, ingesting Mandrake renders the locusts lethargic and uninterested in pursuing further sustenance for at least a day.
At night roosting locusts may be caught up in nets and baskets. Fried Xanthous Locust is said to be an unsurpassed delicacy.
|Devastated crops and shrubberies, flesh chewed straight from the bone while you're still screaming and flailing, an abundantly delicious crunchy food source for those smarter than you.
|7||Fog Walkers of the Broken Isle|
Magnificent striding things on slender multi-jointed limbs, symbiotic creatures hanging from their shaggy pelts with bright eyes and wicked little hands. The mottled fur of the creatures makes them nothing more than mossy discolouration among the grey coats of the Walker's short, stocky bodies until they move with alarming speed.
The fog that seems to have carried away from the Broken Isle to surround the Walker's body is in reality a cloud of minuscule insects, feeding on the blood of the creatures before being sucked into the Walker's facial ducts for nourishment. What sustains the creatures is as yet unknown.
Too sure-footed and strong of limb to be cut down from the ground, Companies of Landsharpuniere carefully select Walkers to bring down with harpoon and rope, protected by pikemen and foot soldiers from shrieking creatures in descent.
|The Fog Walkers always seem to be accompanied by grey skies and light rain, as if their very presence had seeded the clouds.
Vegetative growth after the rain is strong but somehow subtly wrong, vaguely reminiscent of the Broken Isle if you stare long enough.
Clacking pyramidal shells amble out of the sea encrusted with lustrous blue barnacles, their long hibernation in the depths at an end. Tortoise-like creatures the size of absurdly large wolves on a slow plod through whatever falls in their path.
When confronted by another creature their small hard skulls raise high on startling long necks, pudgy grey skin stretching tight and regarding the stranger through glassy white eyes. If they perceive danger their head and limbs retract completely within nigh-impenetrable shells until the threat has passed, if there is no threat they renew their slow plod straight through you, smooth featureless faces rotating to stare all the while as you fall to the side.
Various Birds land on the Abysslodira as they walk, dislodging barnacles from their shells with surprising ease and feasting where they land. The parasite they have eaten will cause the birds to fly without rest to the nearest suitable body of water, plunging into its depths to drown and decay, birthing a strange algae-like ooze from their feathered corpses.
|Undeterrable from their path, the Abysslodira will plod over mountains and through battles with the same measured lackadaisical step until a cavalry charge causes them to drop to the ground, a wave of horses breaking over their blue-jewelled shells.
Towns that find themselves host to the migration of the Abysslodira would be best advised to clear all obstruction and make them feel welcome, because it will take weeks for them to move out of the streets if some slight offence or threat causes them to retreat into their shells.
The algal bloom bears a semi-sentience that sees it infect water supplies and drown animals before moving on to sample the next set of organisms it finds again and again before finally being swept back out to sea.
|9||Caustic Sludge Crabs|
A plague of black carapaces spills from the protection of the Moldenwood in order to reach the Hollow Sea to spawn, crawling over the land in a blanket like a swarm of mites over a corpse.
Within the woods the crabs are without predators, rock hard shells containing their liquid flesh, in the open air birds swoop amongst them in an attempt to carry away lone crabs before being dragged down amongst the swarm.
Albino Ibis close a nictitating membrane of the same unhealthy pink as their wrinkled faces over their eyes to ward off snapping claws as they descend. After escaping with a crab they will lay it on a hard surface and peck a hole in the armour of its belly to expose the oily sludge beneath. Caustic to most creatures, the Ibis dilute it with their own vomit before sucking it up through long, curved beaks.
|Little will stand in the way of the crab migration. Anything caught in their path will be pulled beneath by claws too numerous to count, bones picked clean in their wake, and a smashed crab will easily melt through armour with its spilled liquid flesh.
The stranger moves towards you in slow, gliding steps, their body hunched inside a great coat covered in dry leaves and sticks and rotting plant matter. Metal trinkets and bones hang from the gnarled branches extending from their head like horns. A powdery whisper accompanies them as they move closer, and a low thrumming voice like rain asks where your dead grow.
Light washes over the strangers coat as they move into the glow of your lantern, and you see the gaps amidst the sticks and filth. You see fungal sinew strung inside, like the forest floor caught in a web. A thick mass of lichen veil hangs in the hooded space below the strangers antlers, and ever more unexpected mounds and wooden horns are illuminated across their back. Small stout yellow round-capped mushrooms in jagged rows beneath its throat and chest quiver and begin to thrum against wood and bone, forming the words that politely ask again, Where do your dead grow?
Colonies of fungus and mould that cobble debris together to gain a locomotive form. They will talk to you, theyll even trade, but they have no empathy. They wont understand why youre so upset that they dug up your daughter, pulled her corpse apart, and placed the pieces amongst their body. Fragile but hard to kill permanently, and the spores that erupt from them in times of stress end up everywhere, and your flesh is ever so fertile.
|The Diasporea have no predators or prey, only those ignorant enough to try to kill them then scream in horror at the release of their infectious spores.
If you're savvy enough you may find yourself in possession of time-lost artefacts at the cost of a dead dog or an ancestor's corpse.
As long as a man, putrescent yellow flesh glistening under thick layers of mucus as they emerge from swamps during the wet season, smelling of stale semen and broken drought.
Generally placid, violent in short sharp bursts that you never expect. Their wounds bubble out in pink masses of vivid new flesh, deflating into yellow normality over the coming days.
The Flesh Crafters continue to obtain samples of slug mucus for experimentation, but since the successful capture and confinement of a live specimen within their labs six years ago have shown no interest in further capture, in fact they show an aversion verging on disgust at the thought.
Gold-Banded Broodsac Larvae attempt to invade the slugs, carried as sporocysts until they develop into Broodsacs as the slugs near settled areas or forests. The Broodsacs push into the slug's eyestalks and secrete chemicals that induce a compulsive need to climb the tallest thing it can find; an ancient tree, a belltower overlooking the town square. At its height the Broodsacs squirm and pulsate, golden Rorschachs glinting in the open sky until a bird of prey descends to tear it from the slug's head, the next stage of its life cycle begun.
With the majority of its brain torn out the slug will fall to the earth, impacting in a disintegrating shower of yellow flesh bubbling regeneration even in death.
|Sudden maddening irritations befall bare skin exposed to the thick mucus trails left in their wake, progressing into lesions and worse. Those unlucky enough to discover an allergy will spend the rest of their lives swaddled in cloth to hide the horror they have become.
Herds of them, white fur so pure it nearly glows. The female of the species, and the herd is almost entirely female, bear branching antlers as fragile as glass, shattered and disintegrating on impact. Semi-parasitic young hang from their backs, pink pupal piles of them with pliant manipulable bones that curl around their brood sisters and into their mother's fur.
Monolithic among the herd is the Husband, black furred with a compact, upright body like a giraffe, its powerful chest supporting the thick, muscled neck that stretches up to a magnificent head crowned by twisting spires of horn as tall as its body, piercing the sky.
Packs of Predatory Beasts try their luck harrying the migration, but lone predators would never dare. Before they disintegrate completely the Deer's shattered antlers fracture into splinters, leaving wounds full of powdered glass where they pierce the flesh.
In dire situations the Husband tramps through the herd like an icebreaker, all discordant howling and rage, any shred of self-preservation lost. If the Husband perishes another Powder Deer will undergo a transmutation to take its place, but such things take time.
|Their powdered antlers fertilise the growth of both bacteria and vegetation. Lush foliage and crops sprout where there has been conflict, but any wounds contaminated by the earth or even the plants themselves are likely to fester within mere hours.
Less a migration than a minor incursion, men and women bearing the faint scent of carnal knowledge arrive at secluded cabins, farms, taverns, palaces. The method of their approach and petition for solace varies, but invariably ends in an enticement to lay with them.
Where their advances are rejected they leave with apology. Where accepted, people report seeing either a heavily pregnant woman or an obscenely obese man with a pendulous gut leaving in the small hours of the morning, while inside the homes are all torn flesh and a madness of blood and bile.
Respected and Disregarded Organisations are all in consensus that the reports are utter fallacy, only lone eccentrics and outright lunatics seek out incidents of Copulatorum, though not all for the same reasons.
|Jilted lovers, subsequent suspicious deaths, absurd stories and hangings.
Flocks of inky black birds with eyes like fresh-spilt blood alight on rooftops and concentric patterns in fields, named for a habit of digging amongst entrails after a slaughter, the Bowelbird is possessed with a desire for objects of the colour red, not gore.
At each rest they erect crimson piles of thievery in ensanguined cairns, incomprehensible shrines which will be destroyed by various breeds of Simian if they happen across them, reproachful shrieks echoing through the trees.
|Carcasses strewn open, crimson veils carried away, roses a-snatched mid-courting.
Something much more were the cairns altogether allowed to stand.
Loathsome grey masses emerge from the sewers and water systems of the cities, slopping and rolling clumps of tentacles that make their way to the nearest patch of bare earth beyond the city walls, seemingly melting into the dirt.
The majority of their migration takes place beneath the ground, but when it begins to rain they will emerge through shifting clumps of dirt, tumbling and running chaotically across the land amid the spattering drops.
Apathetic Gastronomes savour them as a delicacy, and Various Unseemly Bookish-Types would rather like to get their hands on a specimen.
|The light touch of a tentacle when you get too close to them opens a painless ulcer in your skin that will heal within a few days, but while it persists you remain mildly irritated over nothing. They often evade capture simply because those around them are too busy arguing over meaningless drivel.
Unseen in the light of day, slinking through the night, melting into shelter when something is near. Beneath a tree you raise your head to the night sky to find a dark shadow towering over the leaves, staring down at you with furtive reflective orbs.
One-Eyed Stygian Herbbalists have an unwholesome interest in the movements of the Nightshade.
|Unearthly beautiful blossoms unfurling their shimmering black petals in the morning light provide the only marker that a Nightshade ever passed.
|17||The Crawling Rot|
They emerge from their burrows, decaying with splitting flesh in the sunlight, undergoing regenerative transmorphosis throughout the night, an ever-shifting parade of warped flesh and cancerous disease.
Every Being With a Sense of the Sanctity of Their Own Existence or Self-Preservation will avoid the Crawling Rot at any cost, even the carrion vermin know better than to meddle with their flesh.
|You will know their passing by the rotting remnants of shed antlers, teeth, eyestalks and splitting jaws, twisted arms, segmented legs, tentacles and gore, you will know them by the smell.
Transportation is what they need; human, animal, they don't mind. The anaesthetic saliva of their bite renders the host unaware as the mites enter their body through holes bored in the legs, populating through the body, consuming everything non-vital to their needs over time. Somnambulance is induced when they reach the brain, carrying the Broodmites towards their desire.
If they absolutely must be stopped, a human host will speak with others, but it won't make sense, like a lover waking you in the middle of the night during a dream.
|For the most part no one will ever know that the Somnolent Broodmites have passed, but some may find the target of their hunt or planned thievery suddenly split apart by their attack, spilling piles of bloody mites in search of new transportation.
|19||Jewelled Mounds of Ur|
Shambling masses of flesh little more than a delivery system for the rose-tinted crystals sprouting in clusters from their skin, hobbling on pairs of bony arms like crutches and cloven-footed hind legs.
They travel towards the Valley of the Nine Streams and the anchored egg sacs already laid by their females within the sapphire waters. When they reach the stream's edge their unheard voices raise in a harmonic reverberation, bursting their fragile crystals over the water, releasing pink seed to fertilise the eggs. After this release the males will die, their corpses waiting food for their unhatched young.
Uneducated Would-Be Jewel Thieves have sometimes killed Mounds in order to dislodge the giant crystals from their flesh, only to be rewarded with a burst of honey-thick semen for their troubles. The Mound's seed also happens to hold remarkable mutagenic potential, a property that makes it rather valuable to certain other parties.
|Apart from theft-related mishaps, fish and amphibians that spawn from the Nine Streams during the same period are abundant in number and girth, even if their flesh does taste unnaturally salty, and their entrails form strange patterns amidst too-many bones.
|20||Ash Spider Colossum|
Spread fractal shadows beneath them as they pass, light clouds of dust motes shaking free from segmented legs that stab the earth with every step, stretching straight up to lightly suspended plateau bodies bearing black monoliths that scratch the sky like lightning-struck trees.
Shivering Bare-Fleshed Zealots worship the Ash Spiders as gods, climbing to their backs to partake in an endless liturgy amongst the monoliths.
Blue-Bloat Bore Grubs infest the colossal limbs, burrowing tunnels as they feed.
|Zealots crawl over the Spider's legs as they walk, digging out melon-sized grubs to gorge on succulent blue flesh.
Madness sprouts in their wake, a religious fervour erupting in settlements that drives the afflicted to scale their new gods and worship at their peaks, replenishing the ranks of Zealots that have climbed within grasping mouths, food for the gods.