|Common Nicknames||Hyppocampi, Riverwader, Taweret|
|Habitat||Ashal Islands, sparsely in Ithanian deserts where rivers flow|
The Maarhanet, one of many great beasts domesticated by the Asha people long ago during the golden years of the Dewamenet Empire while Asha technology was on the rise. During times of peace, the Maarhanet was used as a beast of burden, capable of transporting some of the heaviest pieces of equipment that were otherwise far too difficult to move. Some were used to house mobile cranes for construction or even as mobile homes as the Asha would construct beautiful technological howdahs on the backs of the Maarhanet. However during times of war, the perspective of the Maarhanet is vastly different, the seemingly gentle giants become terrifying beasts of destruction, chaos, and war and are amongst the most dangerous living siege engines known to Aloria. The Asha adorn them in Living Metal armor to make bringing down a rampaging Maarhanet very difficult.
The true starting point of history revolving around the are unclear as many of the ancient texts documented by the Dewamenet Empire were lost when the war with the Allorn Empire was lost. Some scholars speculate that the Maarhanet may have been the first animal domesticated by the Asha since even before the rise of their Empire, that their tribal communities once built more primitive howdahs on the backs of the Maarhanet and used them as a sort of mobile home and as transportation across the Isles in the stead of boats. Aside from speculation on the origins of the Maarhanet, one thing is clear and that is their history stems back as far as before the formation of the Dewamenet Empire when the Asha still lived in smaller more tribal hunter-gatherer communities. The Maarhanet played a pivotal role in the progression of their society alongside the advent of living metal as their primary workhorse in construction and doing all the heavy lifting. While the primary use of the Maarhanet was as a beast of burden for their caravans or as transport across bodies of water, the other was as a very frightening weapon of war. The Maarhanet was one of the single most efficient and deadliest siege engines known to Aloria when the Asha had clad them in full plates of Living Metal armor to deflect blows from swords, arrows, and was capable of even resisting some of the magic used against them. A fully kitted Maarhanet was described as being a colossal metal behemoth armed with tubes that could spit large volumes of fire, enough to scorch an entire village or lay waste to a castle wall, while their heads were reinforced battering rams to break through most castle gates.
Ancient history aside and in recent years, the Maarhanet suffered greatly by overhunting and poaching after the fall of the Dewamenet Empire and subsequent enslavement of the Asha people. Many Maarhanets died during the war with the Allorn Empire and were torn asunder by Altalar Magic or speared to death with magical weapons that could pierce through their armor and rupture vital organs. By the end of the war, the native lands of the Maarhanet were practically a graveyard of carrion and skeletons of the deceased, some bones charred and burned from being scorched with magical fire. Any surviving Maarhanet left in the wake of the war were hunted close to extinction for a variety of reasons, their tusks were used in ivory trinkets prized by Altalar nobility. While their meat was used to feed the population of now Asha slaves, to ridicule them and remind them of the fall of their Empire, to add only more insult to injury. Their great beasts of burden and war were no more, or so many thought.
Just before the Cataclysm some of the last still living Maarhanet were hunted and killed, the species had been declared and thought extinct until the harrowing events of the Wildering and Cataclysm that caused much destruction. Out of nowhere hope returned for the Maarhanet as the Asha people along their great exodus found an entire herd that had been hidden away in a small isolated pocket close to the Ashal Isles. The Asha people reunited and rekindled their bond with the still surviving Maarhanet and took them with them across the sea to their Ashal Isles where they began to make a recovery. Now in today’s world, the Maarhanet are numerous once more, owing to their salvation to the Asha who domesticated them so long ago. The Maarhanet return to their ancestral homes of the Ashal Isles and the winding rivers through the deserts of Ithania. Some herds are even said to exist in isolated jungles across Daen.
The Maarhanet are large mammals which have body proportions similar to that of many other quadruped mammals, but are extremely stocky and bulky, by combination of both muscle and body fat. They are also excessively large, being at least three adult Ailor tall, and wider than that by another adult Ailor. Their legs and backs are covered in ribbed fins, while their feet have stubby short nails with webbed toes, thus making them semi-aquatic. Their head is large and bulbous, with large canines and incisors that usually stick out of their rounded mouth. In the water, they appear like a massive leviathan gracefully running along the bottom toward their destination or grazing along the sea or river floor-grazing upon seagrasses and kelp. Curiously, the Maarhanet are not one solid color and come in a wide array of different colors depending on their region or which bloat they come from. Some bloats are known to have dull dark blue skin with a lighter blue underbelly with more vibrant pale blue webbing along their fish-like fins. While some others appear with dull forest green or a dull red tone. Males of the species are known to have spots of lighter color along their rear with some patterning on the head that is unique to each male that can be compared to a sort of fingerprint. Male and female Maarhanet can be told apart by the vibrancy of their patterns, as males always tend to be much more vibrant in color, and females being duller, with the only significant coloration being on their fins. Maarhanet also all universally have striking green eyes that shine with an emerald quality.
Vast sexual dimorphism exists among the Maarhanet wherein males are significantly larger than females and far more threatening in appearance owing to their violent and aggressive tendencies towards outsiders or those, not Asha. Males stand at a height of around eleven feet with very little variation and are eighteen feet in length while females of the species stand at around nine feet in height and sixteen feet in length. Males also weigh around four thousand to six thousand pounds while females are only three thousand to four thousand pounds. Differences in pattern and coloration also exist where males are more vibrant with rich patterns along their fins, around their eyes, and some splotches along their backs. The more vibrant and wild the display, the better the potential mate, a sign of a stronger male.
Life Span and Development
Maarhanet mothers give birth to a calf every other year and the calf will often stay with their mother until they are a year old in which case they take part in the bloat alongside their mother in the event they’re female, or if they’re male they are eventually exiled from the bloat once they reach adulthood. Curiously however the dominant males are capable of recognizing their sons and instead take a paternal role in caring for, teaching, and providing for their offspring until they reach adulthood in which case they are thrust from the bloat however not particularly violently. This behavior is very contradictory to the speculation of scholars and behaviors of most species and their close relatives, wherein dominant males will kill their own younger sons to eliminate competition, rather, males of the Maarhanet seek to ensure a stronger and more lasting legacy through mentoring their younger sons. This has caused some hereditary habits and even a vague semblance of ‘culture’ to form among some Maarhanet bloats. That being said, most female Maarhanet can live up to sixty years while males often only survive into thirty before being killed off by a younger male while some die much sooner.
Maarhanet exist in both domesticated and wild form. While domesticated Maarhanet are much more friendly, approachable, and social, often allowing outsiders to live among their bloat or their bloat lives among the outsiders. Bloats of Maarhanet have been known to exist inside of Asha villages close to the coast or river and enjoy being fed things like watermelon. Domesticated Maarhanet are known to be very kind, gentle, loving, and very playful. They often enjoy swimming alongside their owners in the water and are also known to enjoy playing with large wooden balls that float along the surface of the water. Wild Maarhanet on the other hand are extremely aggressive and territorial and will relentlessly pursue any threat until they are either tired, dead, or the threat to their bloat is dead. While females aren’t nearly as aggressive as males, they are known to also attack or flip boats that come too close for comfort. Males on the other hand have been reported destroying small fishing vessels that stray into their territory. They do this entirely without warning, the second a wild male Maarhanet even remotely glances at an intruder, death soon follows. However, the Maarhanet are known to tolerate some other smaller animals and sometimes live alongside species of crocodilian who are entirely incapable of posing a threat to even a Maarhanet calf. Birds enjoy living along the backs of Maarhanet pecking at parasites or bugs that try to make their home there.
Territory and Groupings
The Maarhanet are primarily native to the waters of the Ashal Isles and feed mostly off of things like seagrass, kelp, fruits, nuts, and any other herbivorous things that they can find. They’re known to also greatly enjoy melons, particularly watermelons. As far as their numbers go, the Maarhanet prefer to live in herds or bloats as groups of Maarhanet are called, with up to around ten to twenty females and their calves with a single dominant male as the head of the bloat. Males of the species are extremely aggressive and territorial towards other males, predators, or trespassers and are known to chase them for miles until eventually tiring out and returning to their bloat. Very few people are accepted by the wild Maarhanet, or allowed to be near their bloat and only Asha can go near wild Maarhanet without being attacked or chased due to their proximity for millennia.
- In ancient times, there was a rumor in circulation that one obscure yet brilliant Asha inventor managed to engineer a means to fly using the same tubes of fire that they used as weapons. Enabling one armored Maarhanet to ‘fly’. Vague accounts of the Allorn Empire report seeing an armored ‘flying’ Maarhanet overhead raining down death and destruction upon a neighboring village yet no evidence exists to back this claim and the full report had been burned. Scholars speculate that the Altalar didn’t want such a revelation to come to the public as it would cause a modicum of doubt or renew the spirit of the Asha people. Whatever the cause, the truth has yet to be determined and may never truly come to light.
- Allar, especially Mai-Allar get along surprisingly well with the Maarhanet whenever the two come into contact. Beyond the Asha, they’re the only other Race that wild Maarhanet won’t outright attack. Primarily due to the fact of their reptilian appearance and resemblance to the crocodiles that some bloats of Maarhanet are known to live with.
- There are some rumors in circulation that the Asha are working alongside the Regalian Government to try developing a new type of armor for their Maarhanet siege engines that are capable of negating the effects of Magic in the event that the Altalar or Kathar ever decide to attack their isles again, or that the Asha might be preparing for war. However, the rumor remains yet to be proven. For now, it might just be a load of hot air, but a frightening one at that.