Government: Hive Mind
The land of H’rethek was once the south of
Corland, proud home of chivalrous knights and prosperous farmers.
Now it has fallen under the iron-fisted rule of the formians, an
otherworldly race of centaur-like ant-men. From the beginning, the
formians have single-mindedly sought to dominate anything within
reach, and to bring it into the hive-mind.
A land of gently rolling hills between the
Stoneheart mountains, the Saronne river and the straits of Mavarre,
H’rethek is sits at crossroads of some of the most important sea
routes in Vatheria. Once, the southern ports were filled with
ships from a dozen nations and half as many races on any given
day. But the formians are not sailors and so the ports sit silent,
the ships gone or rotted and lying on the harbor bottoms.
Little is known about what truly happens
within H’rethek. It is thought by the wise that the H’rethek
began with only one queen, jealously guarded within the
fortress-city of Kal Primus. Divinations have revealed that this
entity refers to herself as Ryak’al, the First Mother. But now
it is generally thought that there may be as many as three or four
queen formians in H’rethek, each subject to their mother at the
capital. It is further thought that whatever portion of H’rethek’s
original population survives does so in underground slave cities
where they are worked without mercy until they die, bitter and
It is not the need for new slaves which
drives on the aggressive warriors of the formian realms, however.
It is the formians’ basic drive to dominate all around them, to
bring all into one harmonious, cooperative whole. And they are
very, very good at enforcing their will on those around them. They
conquered in a single generation the land that required two
centuries of Conorrian occupation to pacify.
Despite their stunning successes, not all
has gone well for the formians. Their assault on the Stoneheart
mountains met with stiff resistance from the giants and their
subject tribes of orcs and goblins. The collapse of Corland was
halted at the river Saronne, and now a great defensive line is
being erected on that border. From time to time, magic-wielding
adventurers have staged daring raids into H’rethek cities to
rescue human slaves from their formian masters.
H’rethek’s territory has stabilized in
recent years as the natural borders of river, ocean and mountain
have slowed it’s rapid expansion. However, there are some who
argue that this is merely a pause in the campaign for the purpose
of breeding new armies, and that very soon, the formians will
again swarm forth, intent upon conquering the world.
For most of written history, H’rethek was
part of Corland. The cities of Arvaiglos and Darcassore were
centers of industry and great art. The southern shores teemed with
bustling activity. For more information on this history prior to
2753, see the entry for Corland.
The first known contact between the formians
and the residents of Corland was in the year 2753, but most
historians believe that they must have arrived in region years
earlier, for when they burst onto the scene, it was with great
armies and a thorough knowledge of the terrain and their targets.
In that fateful year, they overwhelmed the unprepared towns of
Chantalle, D’orevec and Medregar. The following year, they
destroyed the army of Corland at Medregar and took captive its
The formians laid siege to the cities of
Darcassore in 2755 and Arvaiglos in 2757. Both were hard-won
victories achieved despite the fierce resistance of the defenders.
Arvaiglos was home to the knightly orders of the Mantled King and
the Brotherhood of the Blinding Light. The knights of those orders
fought to the last to defend their holy relics, hoping to buy time
for reinforcements who were not coming. Both cities are now
strange formian hives, and the subject of many sad ballads in what
remains of Corland.
The fall of Arvaiglos signaled the end of
the initial formian campaign. The enslaved population of humans
and halflings swelled the ranks of workers, who soon began to
build the great formian hive-cities which are now home to the
First mother’s daughter-queens. During this time, the formians
fought a disastrous war with the giants of the Stoneheart
mountains. Secure in their mountain fastnesses, the giants and
their orc and goblin slaves slew thousands of the H’rethek
before the latter retreated back into the plains of H’rethek. In
2762, an armed expedition into the Neldorean wood met with some
limited success before the natives drove them back across the
narrow strand at the southern edge of the mountains.
In 2768, Queen Armallia, last monarch of
Corland, rode forth to reconquer her lost lands. At the head of an
army 30,000 strong, and supported by 3,000 Aelissian archers and
6,000 Lorraine troops, Amallia’s army met with some initial
success. Her river crossing on a magical bridge caught the H’rethek
completely by surprise. The swift speed of her advance bypassed
several H’rethek cities, striking at the heart of the formian
empire, a fantastic hive construct built over the ruins of
Here Armallia met her match. A vast horde of
formian workers and soldiers marched forth from the city, led by
the giant vassals of the hidden First Mother. The formians showed
an understanding of magic which they had never before displayed.
Before the Corish understood what had happened, they were
surrounded, and formians were pouring out of hidden tunnels and
camouflaged redoubts around the plain. The last stand of the Queen’s
bodyguard and the death of the queen herself has since become the
subject of many a ballad and poetic lament.
Over the last ten years, the H’rethek have
been seen only rarely. Here and there on the borders, travelers
will see a small group of workers or soldiers. And rumors of a war
against the giants continue to circulate. But the formians seem to
waiting for something before launching their next campaign.
MAJOR POPULATION CENTERS
Kal Primus (population unknown)
Before the invasion, Darcassore was a small city in the middle of
southern Corland, best known for its mighty Conorrian walls and
its soaring cathedral towers. Now, in its place stands the great
hive of Kal Primus, a weird construct more than half a mile across
constructed of alien materials. The great hive looks ominously
alive to Vatherian eyes, with its ribbed buttresses and fluted,
twisted columns. No one is able to approach Kal Primus safely, for
it is patrolled above, below and on the ground by a vast horde of
workers and soldiers. The only reliable reports of the city are
from those who escaped the massacre there in 2768.
Arvaiglos (population unknown) No one
knows the formian name for the hive that has arisen above this
ancient city in the Stoneheart foothills. No one has even claimed
to have sighted the city since its fall. Likewise, oracles and
divinations can reveal little about it. It seems that some strange
magic is afoot in Arvaiglos.
IMPORTANT LOCAL SITES
The Maggardh Fens - This large
wetlands along the lower Saronne are home to an astonishing
varietyof life. And deep within them lies an ancient secret. A
great stone arm holding a colossal orb protrudes above the gnarled
cypress and valaresh trees. It is known to locals as the Hand of
God. The arm would be proportional to a statue standing more than
three hundred feet tall. Local lore says that it drops just a tiny
bit lower into the fens each year. It is believed that this
massive statue is the only remaining example of the cyclopses of
Numanthaur, that once guarded the borders of that ancient realm.
The Shadowwood - This forest in the
foothills of the Stoneheart mountains was sacred to the Miletians,
who sacrificed to the god of the forest each year, believing that
he brought good rains to the valleys of southern Corland. For the
last hundred years, the Shadowwood has been the haunt of the
dragon Urugall. The dragon’s relationship with the formians is
unknown at this time.
The Ring of Gretagne - The small town
of Gretagne now stands empty, its inhabitants dead or enslaved
within the pits of Kal Primus. But the town was most famous for
its ancient ring of stones. These gleaming black monoliths stand
atop a ten-foot dike of earth more than twenty feet across. Each
is more than thirty feet tall, and made of an unknown metal with a
mirror-like sheen. Each monolith is separated from its neighbor by
more than one hundred feet, and the diameter of the ring is more
than a mile across, with the town at its center. Druids hold the
ring to be sacred, but its meaning and purpose are closely held