In the Geana’s lands there is a large collection of insects known as the Swarm. The Swarm ranges over a couple of miles and covers more than 100 square yards at a time. Living beings who come in contact with the Swarm have the flesh flayed from their bodies within moments. Shortly afterward, the meat and blood is devoured, and then only the bones are left. Few living beings have survived direct exposure to the Swarm.
The Swarm is composed of every insect in the land. Some druids on Gaena have, at great risk, catalogued the insects, and they claim there are even insects there that exist no where else in Vernlarum. Some of the creatures are as large as birds and can suck a normal sized humanoid dry of blood in a minute or less. Centipedes of all sizes, and other crawling insects, are a part of the Swarm as well—often finding their way under hastily erected shelters that stop the flying creatures.
Gaena passes through the Swarm once every year or two. The Elders work powerful magics to try to protect the people of Gaena when the Shamble passes through the Swarm. Their spells disguise and conceal those on Gaena, but almost every time Gaena passes through the Swarm, someone is caught out in the Swarm. The animals of Gaena’s forests seem to sense the coming of the Swarm, and they seek shelter before they are exposed. With the aid of the Elders’ spells, few animals die to the Swarm during a pass.
Some visitors to Gaena have advanced the idea of erecting a magical barrier to keep the insects away or a spell that gives the insects an aversion to Gaena. But the druids understand the necessary role insects play in an ecosystem. While there is something dysfunctional about the Swarm itself, it provides a constant boost to the insect life on Gaena, which helps keep the animal population high and the soil fertile.
The druids have studied the Swarm, knowing that such a large group of insects shouldn’t be able to exist the way it does. But nothing they’ve discovered explains the Swarm’s existence to their satisfaction. Now, some just accept the Swarm, others are still curious about the magic that must have been used to create it. Some Acolytes have wondered if the Swarm is an Ark that didn’t finish forming at the time of the Creation, though none have been curious enough so far to go to the heart of the Swarm’s land. Or if they have, they haven’t returned.
One of the Elders, Elurin Oakstaff, has recently fallen ill. He believes he has been poisoned by one of his rivals, but he doesn’t know which one. Elurin knows he has a reputation for being a bit paranoid and doesn’t expect anyone to believe him. He’s also unsure who he can trust, since anyone he asks for help may also be the person who poisoned him or in league with his poisoner. The poison, he believes, is slow acting—the tingling in his extremities started a week ago and has only moved up to his wrists. But he fears once it reaches heart, he will die. Elurin has tried magical and alchemical cures for poison and has yet to find anything that works, which makes him suspect a highly competent, and probably magical, assassin.
Elurin now believes his only hope lies in the Swarm. The gracker bug is a rare insect known only to live in the swirling mass of ravenous insects. Grackers secrete a fluid that is a numbing agent and can be mixed with certain herbs to create the most powerful known antitoxin. Grackers are not particularly dangerous, so Elurin hopes he can find someone to trust, preferably an outsider, who will help him capture the three he needs for his antitoxin. The Swarm is only a few days away—he fears this will be his last chance at a cure. He has means and can pay, and will make antitoxin for those he hires, assuming they recover enough gracker bugs for themselves.