In a previous post (https://uppitymonkey.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/unpleasant-and-unpopular-monsters/) , I gave a brief history of the gleaners. I actually said more than I planned, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the only mention of their origin. Here, I will tell more and flesh out not just their beginning, but make it clear just how bizarre and unique the gleaners are.
So when it comes to monsters, there are a few types that don’t get a lot of attention but are just as dangerous. Brain-maggots, for instance, are small, leech-like and will latch onto the back of the head or neck, where they can drain the intelligence from a person. At least, that’s how most people term it. In scientific terms, they drain the fluid surrounding the brain – the cerebrospinal fluid, which is also found in the spine, hence latching onto the neck as well – and if not removed, they’ll suck up every drop of fluid or juice available. Not only that, but they release a toxin to paralyse. Basically, if the brain-maggot isn’t removed, the victim ends up dead. If it is, they are usually left unconscious with possible long term affects.
Originally, as I have mentioned before, gleaners were small scuttlers, on the same level of brain-maggots. They even worked the same. Gleaners could sting with their tails, bring much larger beings down, then drain them. It is claimed they had sharp mandibles to lock into flesh, even bone, as they stung until victorious. As for their danger rating, they were a step up from brain-maggots and other small monsters. The venom was very potent, deadly often, and they would drain every type of fluid in the body. Stories tell of downed individuals being swarmed over by small gleaners and left withered husks. That’s an important detail. Gleaners drain, they don’t eat. The very tails that inject venom can also extract fluids, although never at the same time.
Many suspect gleaners were a level up in every way. Because of what happened, a higher intelligence would make sense. A higher and much more vicious intelligence.
This brings us to Madagascar. There are four magical hotspots around the world, including this place. Each overflowed with magic, which meant the inhabitants produced far more magic-users, also more powerful ones, and drew those who craved magical strength, such as aegis and devil-beasts, and dragons. There were immense, fantastical battles across Madagascar early on, just as there were at the other hotspots. As far as anyone knows, there was nothing there to draw the gleaners. It was an island and had people living there, mostly humans. Other such places existed.
The gleaners came in vast swarms. They must have come close together or the inhabitants would have either fought them off or left in time. Perhaps they didn’t have that chance. But the legend is that the gleaners were quickly all over the island. Everything else died. No matter the individual or collective strength, none could endure the numerous injections of gleaner venom. Then the gleaners fed. Then they made nests and laid eggs. Again, as said in the previous post, a new type of gleaner was born – far larger, more monstrous, much more deadly.
So the question remains, did the gleaners plan this? Was this an intentional act? Did they co-ordinate their efforts? Were nests all over the world summoned? If so, who by? Could it happen again? Could another race bring about such a drastic and empowering change?
Even now, gleaners are more savage than intelligent. They may well have had some animalistic cunning before, and certainly do today, but while gleaners are capable of coherent thoughts now, they aren’t known for complicated or far-reaching machinations. They can plan, some of them may well be quite smart, yet gleaners follow their instincts. They hunt, they catch, they feed, they breed. If they attack a secure position they will rush in with their numbers and strength first and only work on alternate ways in after being beaten back. If they are.
So could something like gleaners have known that emigrating en masse to Madagascar would result in a new and improved form? Highly doubtful. Not impossible, yet none believe the gleaners could have foreseen anything like this. But maybe there was something at a lower level. Something primal, some instinct, something in the nature of the world that called the gleaners. Or, of course, maybe it was just one of those many bizarre incidents that has come about since the Shadow World’s arrival. After all, no one knows for sure if all the gleaners showed up, and there were some already on the island. The new ones replaced the old, but who can tell how long that took. Perhaps only some were changed and they eradicated the rest around the world. Gleaners certainly are capable of such ruthless behaviour. So maybe the stories make it sound more planned than it was.
It has to be mentioned that it wasn’t just the gleaners that came out of the carnage changed. The island itself soon became a twisted and dangerous place, with poisonous plants and barren landscapes. It could be argued that this was because of the abominable gleaners, a fitting home to match their decaying and deadly ways. It could also be argued that the island reacted to them and wanted them gone, so made itself as inhospitable as it could be. True, it remains the home of the gleaners, with vast networks of tunnels joining the many nests, but most now live around the world. That could just be due to the ways of their kind – they fight, kill and compete for food and power, so nests continually have to expand or split apart to create new ones – but even gleaners must find the new form of Madagascar a difficult place to live. It should also be noted that the small islands near it remain flooded with magic, as does it, yet are not changed, so if you want to tap into that power, it can be done, if you can evade the neighbours.
While there are many questions surrounding the creation of the new gleaners, it isn’t utterly shocking something like this happened or could happen. After all, mutants abound. They were created by science, of course, and with deliberate intent, yet magic has affected people as well. Changes have been made to individuals and groups. It is hard to discern what level of radiation and pollution turned humans into mutants, and what part magic played in it, and those who distrust the power from the Shadow World will add it into the blame. But mutants exist, therefore mutation among monsters isn’t unthinkable. Also, there are the scions. Devil-beasts created a generation that they used their magic to transform while in the womb to create a new type of their own, planned to infiltrate and enamour humans in order to bring them down. Now, again, like most mutants, this was done deliberately and with a lot of effort. But the similarities are there.
Really, the origin of the gleaners – as they are today – is still a unique moment in history. There are things like it, but nothing matches it completely. People can change and be changed, so the question remains as to whether this was done deliberately by the gleaners. Even so, miss migration, wholesale slaughter, eggs being laid amongst and within corpses, new and much more terrifying forms emerging, all on a land steeped in magic – either this was one hell of a convergence of rare moments or something, somewhere, brought about one of the worst races in existence.
Because of the presence of so many gleaners and the current state of Madagascar, few go there. So what is happening there is mainly conjecture with some thoughtful guesswork and a sprinkling of knowledge. There are rumours of a High Queen that rules over all. Fears abound that the gleaners are trying to create a new form or that they are massing for a world-wide conquest. Close by, the people of the south of Africa watch for raids but secretly wonder why another invasion hasn’t taken place. The aquatics stand guard, or perhaps that should be swim it. When gleaners leave to make new nests, they follow them to ensure they leave the sea as well. There are those who want to raid Madagascar in search of power, secrets and just knowledge of the gleaners. Until someone does so successfully, the many questions and fears the rest of the world has about this race and this place will remain.