The Origin of Servants
Servants of Maraa, called Servants by contraction, have no place in the taxonomy of nature. Unclassified by genus or species, they exist parallel to the web of order. They are living spells, incarnations of dark sorcery given some semblance of thought.
When Maraa had enslaved all the sentient races – except the Altaica, of course – he, according to legend, used his fully blossomed powers to create sentinels which watched and guarded his dominion.
The exact methods and spellcraft by which he created them are of course lost and unknown, if they ever were known to any but the terrible sorcerer himself.
From cattle, he created minotaurs, brutal hulks very difficult to injure and able to put down a small army of melee fighters alone.
From wolves, he created dark hounds, which of course possess unbeatable senses of smell and hearing, making secrecy or stealth an impossibility to those who opposed Maraa.
From stone statues, he created living gargoyles, the mightiest of his warriors and the guardians of his palace, being virtually invincible.
From assemblages of wooden stilts, sacks of hay, ragged clothes and pumpkins, he created scarecrows, ideal for watching the fields were his slaves toiled. They towered over the workers and also shot bows like master archers, making them the best ranged fighters in the sorcerer’s ranks.
It is said to that he took men and made them Bleeders, his priests and the puppet-masters of his other Servants.
There are others, but these are remembered in legends carried to Cavendia from the Old World.
One curious feature of the Servants is the use of gemstones in their creation. Whether the gems are the containers of the spellwork that gives such creations their instincts and directives is unknown. The gemstones usually form the eyes of the wicked beings. Some Servants have the ability to offensively use their own majik at will, and it is thought that the gemstones could be responsible for this.
Servants do not eat, sleep, excrete, or tire. They run purely on the will of the sorcerer. They fight even if injured and appear to be territorial, attacking whenever they encounter sentient life. They do not harm wild animals, though animals avoid them. It is thought that Servants were all given a basic ability to recognize and target any being with powers of reason who was not enslaved to Maraa. Any such being was to be captured or destroyed.
The remaining Servants on Tanzia may wander anywhere, but the majority of them stay close to the Inub Plains around Maraa’s former capital of Imortum, now a ruined palace and city none dare explore.
Dark hounds, likely a perversion of wolf-dog hybrids, lack fur. They have darkish skin akin to that on a bat’s wings. They also have three sharp horns upon their head and sapphire eyes.
Attacks: The danger of dark hounds is that like wild dogs they hunt in packs. They have particularly uneven fangs and teeth, and their method of killing is to overwhelm and gnaw the victim from the outside in. The pack starts with fingers, toes, and face, inflicting a slow and agonizing death. They can also drive the horns upon their head into a foe. Their keen sense of smell, hearing, and sight makes evasion nearly impossible when they are set upon the track of a marked enemy.
Weaknesses: In large packs, dark hounds can overwhelm groups of men, even those with firearms, through sheer numbers. Semi-automatic weapons with high capacities are best, therefore. Like all of Maraa’s creations, fear does not turn them back. A gunner who runs out of bullets when a great swarm of dark hounds descends has reached his end. However, lone dark hounds pose much less of a threat. They can be killed by bullets or other conventional weapons, though it frequently takes more than strike. They are seldom known to use majik. Whether dispatching them by blade or bullet, speed is essential, since a biting lunge from a dark hound is sufficient to knock a man down, leaving him at the mercy of the pack.
These Servants were apparently made of nothing but bits of wood, pumpkins, and stuffing. Towering in height and lacking joints in the legs, they must always slowly shift from one stilt to the other, being incapable of standing completely still. They were created to watch over Maraa’s harvesters in his fields.
Attacks: They are extremely tall and often carry long weapons such as scythes, spears, or axes, always on long poles. They have the advantages of far-reaching sight and reach. They can use majik, and armed with terrible great bows they can launch gigantic arrows at a distance.
Weaknesses: Scarecrows were designed to be unbeatable with melee weapons, which are all Maraa’s slaves would have had. Before their legs could be approached, the enemy would have been destroyed by the long reach of the Servant. Though attacks upon the thin, wooden legs are effective at bringing a scarecrow down, these pose a problem for guns because they are so hard to hit. Another problem for firearms-users is that a single rifle or revolver bullet can go through the torso of a scarecrow without damaging it. Shots to the pumpkin heads, which are always moving, are effective but difficult to score. The best way to knock over a scarecrow is to fire a shotgun into its body, which knocks enough stuffing out to crumple it. The flaw with this approach is that if the scarecrow has a bow and arrows, it is often difficult to get into shotgun range.
Minotaurs are gigantic in stature, being some 12 feet or more high. They are undoubtedly corruptions of cattle, but with ape-like hands instead of front hooves. Their eyes are invariably rubies.
Attacks: Minotaurs are faster than locomotives at full speed. Unlike scarecrows, minotaurs were given the speed to chase down and trample fleeing slaves of Maraa. Being fewer in number than dark hounds, Maraa seems to have invested much more majikal power into them, giving them terrible majikal attacks. One of these is an invisible lash, which strikes the victim as the stroke from a bullwhip, bypassing armor or clothes and tearing the skin directly. Another other their diabolical talents is a spell which paralyzes their targets. Their weight and strength also makes it trivially easy to crush a man under hoof or kill him with a swipe of the hand.
Weaknesses: Minotaurs are so large that they are easy to hit with bullets, but they are so thick-skinned and thick-boned that shots must reach vital areas to do any appreciable damage. Due to their size and incredible speed, the Nadhili usually use warriors on horseback with long lances to wear down minotaurs, an approach which almost invariable costs many lives. The best guns for minotaurs are large caliber hunting rifles, such as Nitro Express rifles. Even then, multiple shots are often required. Melee weapons are seldom powerful enough to make any mortal wounds in a minotaur. Running away is impossible.
Gargoyles were the palace guards of Maraa, and they once stalked by the hundreds throughout all of Imortum.
Attacks: Gargoyles are the most-feared Servants of Maraa for no small list of reasons. They are made of solid stone, yet they can run faster than any natural man. Their eyes are made of diamonds and can cast a wide array of terrible offensive spells. Gargoyles can easily kill with their hands and sheer weight, but to make matters worse, they usually carry arms — huge stone maces, swords, or other implements of death too great for any man to pick up, let alone wield.
Weaknesses: Gargoyles have no weaknesses to exploit. They are too fast to escape on foot or even by horse at a short distance. Melee weapons which land a blow to them are often broken in the process. The solid stone bodies of gargoyles are impervious to blades and bullets alike. Sledge hammers might be employed effectively, but the agility of the gargoyles does not permit of their being easily hit by one. They can be chiseled apart if secured with nets and ropes, though this is almost impossible to accomplish. The only bullets of remote consequence to gargoyles are non-deforming tungsten carbide slugs, which still only make the merest chip into them. Due to their heavy weight, however, gargoyles can be trapped in pits or underwater. The best way to flee a minotaur is to be swept away down a river downstream, for they are too heavy to swim. They can, however, walk across the bottom of rivers, so merely crossing a slow river does not ensure a getaway. Nadhili war parties are said to have led gargoyles over hidden pits filled with thickened fuel. Once the gargoyle had fallen into the pit, flaming arrows were used to ignite the pitch, which burned hot enough to cause the rock bodies of the gargoyles to crack apart.
The only Servants not entirely automata, Bleeders are men who have been transformed into unnatural states by Maraa’s evil power. They are said to perpetually ooze blood from round spots on the cheeks and forehead, where skin never grows. They may possess the ability to write new hundrab deabscufa bog or “hundred shadow hands” spells, spells which self-replicate and continue producing their desired effect — such as giving birth to Servants or making majikal poisons and traps.
Attacks: They are not physically gifted with destructive qualities, but Bleeder majik comprises the most awful sorcery known to ancient times, made the worse by the fact that the scope and limits of such craft is not known.
Weaknesses: What will suffice to murder a mortal man suffices to kill a Bleeder, but whether one can survive and overcome a Bleeder’s protective spells is another matter …
Unknown but in rumor. Reported to be Maraa’s stalkers of the rain jungles, charged with making the jungles an unsafe refuge for anyone who dared defy him. One of its bodies is real, the rest of the legion is but shadow.
A Final Word
Tanzia has many regions yet uninhabited even by the natives. Certainly other fearsome Servants uncatalogued here dwell therein, making explorations into fresh landscapes doubly dangerous. There seems no ruling out what Maraa’s depravity might have wrought.