|Common Nicknames||Hyppocampi, Riverwader, Taweret|
The Maarhanet is one of many animals domesticated by the Asha people long ago during the golden years of the Dewamenet Empire while Asha technology was at its peak. Still serving a value to their society after their technological ascension, the species carried on within their territory. Those within the Allorn Empire suffered a far wost fate, which was soon brought upon the Maarhanet of the Dewamenet as well. The species was rendered almost extinct, but survived, going on to thrive after the collapse of the Allorn Empire, and today, some even live reclaimed in Asha territory. Enormous, powerful, and aquatic, the Maarhanet is a fearsome living tool of war when wielded by the Asha, and a terrifying animal to cross while in the wild.
Unlike most creatures associated with the Asha, the Maarhanet was well known to the Allorn Empire, though not with positive connotations. They once roamed a significant ways south, and served as a river-born threat for transportation and fishing in the ancient, inland waterways of the Elves, be that through direct attacks or blocking passage. Efforts to tame them failed, and early into the Allorn Empire, the southern variants were rendered extinct through aggressive hunting at the hands of the Fin’ullen. To the Asha, however, the Maarhanet was a respected being, largely left alone when encountered in rivers due to apparently being one of their first domesticated animals. They thus knew, and respected their strength, and even with the advent of Living Metal, the rare domesticated members of the species were useful for hauling large loads. When the Allorn began their war with the Dewamenet Empire, the Elves learned very quickly just what sort of force an armored, well trained Maarhanet could be. Legends exist of their strength in this conflict, surprising Allorn river-crossings, and demolishing barricades with ease, even pushing through magical illusions or barriers, though such acts might be better attributed to their Asha controllers. Despite this advantage alongside many other things brought to bear by the Asha, the Allorn defeated this rival state, and enslaved the mammalian Race.
The Maarhanet was subsequently hunted across the lands of Westwynd, though never truly wiped out. Lighter Allorn settlement in the north of their territories, focused on vast cities, allowed the animal to thrive at the fringes for generations, low in number. Some were also tended to by the free Asha, who hid from the Elves that had broken their Empire long ago. As the Allorn Empire weakened though, individual regions turned to improving internal aspects of their local area, or crafting narratives to better exalt their leadership. Hunting and killing these creatures, with their ties to the Asha, was at the top of the list for principalities with Maarhanet populations. Fortunately, internal squabbling often cut the effectiveness of these hunts, and the Cataclysm ultimately changed everything. The Wildering which rocked the Elven lands saw huge, dense wilderness spring up, and newly restored biomes granted the Maarhanet tremendous breathing room. Other Maarhanet populations moved with the Asha on The Great Journey, tamed, and then transported, to the Ashal Islands. Today, these domesticated Maarhanet thrive, semi-feral overall and not nearly as hostile as their mainland counterparts who lurk in the deep vegetation and rivers of scattered corners of Westwynd.
The Maarhanet are enormous creatures, standing at between ten and thirteen feet tall, and twelve to fourteen feet long, with a weight of up to three tons. Their head is large and bulbous, with a prominent set of four large, white tusks emerging from their mouth beneath a rounded muzzle which features two large sealable nostrils. Their pair of eyes are surprisingly small and dark, though their pair of ears are large and rounded, and are positioned on top of their head. They have a thick neck which connects to the rest of the body, which is similarly thick and bulky, almost unusually so for an animal so heavy. However, much of their bulk is surprisingly hollow, and any additional fat comes and goes from their body with each season in a healthy cycle, leaving behind only their powerful muscles. They are supported on four huge legs, which end in feet featuring three short nails and slightly webbed toes. Their aquatic traits do not stop there, as their broad backs feature ribbed fins, large vertical protrusions these animals can open and close, while smaller ones exist on their “shoulders” or closer to the first joint of their legs from the body. Their form then ends in a short vertically-finned tail. Maarhanet bodies are covered in porous skin, though it often feels far smoother thanks to routine dips in the water.
The Maarhanet have a great deal of diversity in their species. For starters, their colorations are quite extensive, and there were likely far more before the hunting efforts of the Elves. Maarhanet palettes vary greatly, with dull hues of green, red, blue, purple and gray paired with pale undersides. Their fins are often far more colorful, and have deeper hues of coloration than the dull hues of the surrounding back or legs. This carries on into their stark gender dimorphism. Maarhanet males are universally larger than females, and often possess both sets of fins, with spots of bright red along the inside of each fin. Females, meanwhile, sometimes lack the leg fins, and if they do have them, they are often small. They also lack the red dots found on male fins. The Maarhanet population meanwhile, is skewed male by a small amount, at around three to two.
Life Span and Development
Maarhanet females give birth to a singular calf at an interval of two years. When they first emerge, plump and far more rotund than their parents, their skin is a pale shade of pink with speckles of their adult coloration along their flanks and lower back. Their mouths also lack the tusks of their parents. They slowly mature into juveniles over the course of a year, the stubs of their eventual sharper tusks coming in by this stage, and the adult coloring fully coming in, while their legs begin to lengthen. Another two years will see them reach the stage of young adults, at which point they will separate from their parents. Curiously, throughout this three-year maturation process males are largely raised by their father, while females are raised by their mother, creating a stark divide in gender within their bloats (the term for Maarhanet herds). This separation allows a more seamless transition into each respective gender group, as they will have been around them all of their lives. Maarhanet lifespans are sixty years both in the wild and for those domesticated by the Asha, but most wild males die earlier as a result of attacking predators, or due to injuries from mating competitions.
The Maarhanet live in two different spheres, those of the Ashal Islands and those of the mainland, who dwell in Westwynd, often amidst the wilds raised by the Wildering or isolated river systems. These wild Maarhanet are often aggressive, and highly tribal in the way they conduct themselves. Males will frequently fight for mates during the mating season, but also to assert their dominance in their social group. They are also often the first line of defense to attack threats to the bloat. Females are less violent, but tussles among them are not unheard of, though they are rarely as damaging as the injuries inflicted by males against each other. Wild Maarhanet couples, meanwhile, live closest to the river, and will live together throughout the period of raising their offspring, separating again once the child has grown up. It is in these pairings that real care can be seen among the species, Maarhanet parents loving their children, and each other, with the uncommon occurrence of frequent mating producing a life-bonded pair. Threats to Maarhanet young are responded to harshly, and hunters or observers should outright flee if they cross a Maarhanet parent.
Ashal Maarhanet, meanwhile, are far more docile and relaxed. Their climate is virtually void of predators, and they have become highly used to the Asha and other animal-life of the region. As a result, those in this part of the wild are best described as semi-feral, easily tamed, and equal to those fully domesticated by the Asha. Some are even playful with the Asha. Much like in ancient times, few Maarhanet have been directly domesticated, and instead the species often lazes about in waterways, Living Metal machinery skillfully arching itself around or over them. Some are still trained as beasts of war though, and the world should pity those having to face the wrath of an armored Maarhanet.
Territory and Groupings
As mentioned earlier, the Maarhanet are divided into two groups. Those on the mainland live in the wilds and isolated rivers of Westwynd, often hidden from sight and in bloats which number between thirty to fifty. Those on the Ashal Islands live across the region, also keeping to the rivers, with bloats that can reach up to sixty members. Maarhanet bloats are often led by a prime male and a prime female, the respective leaders of their gender half of the bloat by benefit of size, seniority, number of children, or a combination of all three. The rarest kind of leadership is a prime family, which occurs when a prime male and prime female form a lifebond.
- The Maarhanet are omnivorous, and are very partial to melons, especially watermelons. The Asha often enjoy watching them crush the huge, solid fruits in one smash of their great big mouths when feeding a bloat in a particular region.
- Maarhanet pudges, as their babies are called, are often highly buoyant, and can be found in the adorable act of spinning in the water, unable to right themselves, half confused but also half enjoying themselves.
- Maarhanet-headed Asha were apparently once a feature in the past, their ancient wall art showing such beings. However, in the modern day, it is unheard of.