Harbingers are the shock troops from the Shadow World. They are fast, agile, with a light frame that enables them to jump far and high, and sharp senses. In truth, they are predators, pure and simple. Hunters to seek out prey. Their features are mainly cat-like, some bird-like, with the notable large ears that resemble those of a bat. They have sharp teeth and bone talons protruding from their slender fingers. While they are thin and light, they are far from weak; they run, they leap, they fight, they kill, maintaining an athletic form by their own natural lifestyle. They won’t win a fist-fight with a brute, but they can kill one through agility and focusing on weak spots. Few beings can outrun harbingers, fewer still evade them altogether.
For all of these reasons, harbingers are widely used as scouts and spies, so very often they were the monsters humans first encountered before major assaults. Even if that wasn’t the case, the fact harbingers were innate hunters meant they were often encountered on the move, raiding in small numbers or even alone. Basically, when you met a harbinger, trouble was coming your way. Hence the name.
Yet there was more to the name than that. When the Shadow World came, it didn’t arrive in one big dramatic moment. It ebbed into our reality. The sky grew darker and magic crackled in the air although no human knew what that was at the time. This same magic flared and tore apart the very one who summoned the Shadow World. Then the monsters began to appear. Not in one single gateway. No. Two planes of existence became one and they came into our world here and there, and the legends say they were as shocked as humanity was.
It was the harbingers who appeared first. That is one of the few things well remembered about this terrible and tremendous event. The harbingers were among the humans, so they acted on impulse. They killed. They fought, they evaded, and then they hunted. No one remembers how long subsequent events took to occur, but it felt as if they were alone in this world for a while. There is good reason for this. The monsters that followed were wraiths and deemi, who were able to shroud or outright disguise themselves as they learned of their new home. Smaller monsters infiltrated the world long before anyone realised they were there. Brain-maggots, nippers and the form the gleaners originally possessed meant they were considered bizarre vermin instead of a threat to be written down in history. Some wonder if the magi arrived during this time too. Maybe hobgoblins and vermin. It can never be decided, most of the invasion was a blur of chaos and terror. When the more blunt and brutal monsters – brutes and vandals – took form and began their rampages, it was clear to the human race that it was fighting a myriad of supernatural foes. Then the most powerful ones were able to break through. Devil-beasts, aegis, sphinx and then the dragons completed humanity’s fall.
Why the harbingers were first, no one knows. Some insist they were sent in as scouts by the more powerful beings. Other believe that their hunter-nature defined them as being necessarily the first to exist, to pave the way. Harbingers themselves tend to claim they were the most daring so chose to go through. No one can be sure. No one is able to recall how the process went, let alone why the order was chosen. But they know harbingers were first. They were the heralds of humanity’s end. They were the first to shed blood. They were the first to be killed. They were the first to race through a bright and vibrant world and then to follow their nature.
Harbingers are predators. They always have been and always will be. Most embrace it. They are not necessarily evil or even cruel. They can be, like anyone else. They can hunt for sport as well as food and they are often known to draw the chase out for amusement’s sake. They see no wrong in this. Let the prey enjoy living a little more. Let it strive that bit harder. Hunter and hunted are part of a way of life that permeates nature everywhere, so why be ashamed of being one and not the other? Harbingers are often smart, but they also tend to be driven by instincts. They are often fighters and killers, assassins and bounty hunters, because that is where their impulses lead them. They were born to hunt. Designed to pave the way. They are proud of this.
It could be argued, and has been by many over the last two and a half centuries since the Shadow World merged with our reality, that if another type of monster had come first, things would be different. If magi or totems or denizens or sphinx or any of the more rational races had been the original newcomers, then the human race could have been spoken to. It could have understood. Many debate whether monsters are a kind of evil, to always be at odds with this alien world, or whether they merely hostile due to the way they were introduced to their new home. When this happens, the accusation can be made that harbingers started a fight that others then found themselves in. It could also be opined that humans assumed all who followed were ‘bad’ because of how the harbingers behaved. This kind of thinking has typically met two responses from the harbinger race. They either take pride in having initiated such conflict, or they snort and sneer, and proclaim all they did was follow their nature. As did everyone else.
The truth, that most beings that lived at the time and have lived since, is that things happened because of the way everyone was. Humanity was a fractured and belligerent race. It reacted the way it wanted to. Other monsters acted on their nature too. So did everything that followed.
Harbingers are known as the swiftest of killers, the most deadly of enemies and the ones who lead the way in conflict. They take pride in this reputation with a simple smugness – simple because in truth they know they could be no other way.
Read this short to get to know a harbinger who takes pride in being the best he can be: