How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Eberron
The Feywild is a reflection of the natural world as we know it, with a magical influence and a much more untamed aura. Elves, gnomes, and other magical races come from the Fey long ago, and have made a home in Eberron. But the journey was not easy. Most races were intercepted by nefarious slavers, attracted to their natural arcane talents and hardy frames. The elves in particular suffered upon entering the Material Plane. The already advanced giants captured most of the incoming elven race, and used their labor and magic to grow their civilization and power. Like any slaveowners, the giants soon learned to specialize and subdivide their labor, and through a series of profane experiments, they split the elven race asunder.
Though most explorers tell tales of the drow, very few know of the sub-species some call sand drow. To be fair, sand drow is a bit of a misnomer, as it implies that the race is an offshoot of the drow. The Haratana are a parallel race, much like Umbragen are parallel to the Vulkoori. While many giant arcanists manipulated elven bloodlines, their work was not always identical. Most of the Haratana’s heritage can be traced to the city of Qual’tox, whose gigantic laboratory spire produced arcane magic designed to overcome the surrounding arid conditions.
The Menechtarun Desert is a harsh place, but it is also a place of wild magic, hidden treasures, and endless sand. The first two may lure many adventurers, but the third attracted a set of giant artificers. The civilizations of Xen’drik had an affinity for glass in epic proportions, building skyscrapers out of glass and using the material as a medium for many magical energies. Glass prisms became a common fashion for giant society, and astrologists relied on it for powerful lenses to interpret the Ring of Siberys. Even though the sea shores of Xen’drik are vast, the giants soon found out that excessive harvest of sand would erode important coastlines, so they turn inward to the desert. Soon magical convoys carried hundreds of thousands of tons of silicon to be processed in great factories. The convoys necessitated trading posts, which grew into towns and cities. These cities attracted a certain subsect of the giant community; giants looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the jungle, looking for the quiet calm of the desert.
With this atmosphere in mind, aggressive drow were rarely called into service. Giants had looked for hardy features in the elven genotype when adapting drow specifically for the desert. Water retention, bodily temperature control, and reserves of stamina were sought out in bloodlines, and slowly the drow trickled into the outposts. And slowly, the beginnings of Haratana culture grew around the desert. On the one hand, drow culture always resembled the giant culture it supplemented. City drow, who served important and politically ambitious giants in the north, were known for their arrogance, strict hierarchy, and violent magics (a precursor to the Sulatar League). Tiran drow served the nomads, sentinels, and explorers of the south, making for a taciturn culture with a strong reliance on primal magics. The Menechtarun outposts drew a particular kind of giant as well, a quiet, contemplative, unambitious sort. The sand trade was largely automated, and there was little politicking to be done so far from the cities. Some giants were exiled, but many simply enjoyed the seclusion and peace. Appropriately, they had no need for overly-aggressive drow.
As the new drow came to the desert, they came to appreciate the cycles of the day; the noon time unfit for work or excursions, the dead cold nights, the sudden and violent sandstorms, and the scarcity of water. Every season required careful planning and patience to survive these extreme conditions, and slowly traditions grew into what became Haratana (a drow word for “patient despite his surroundings”) culture. Magical adaptation and strong bloodlines made life bearable and even pleasant at times. This is not to say that haratana appreciated their slavery. While they toiled in the heat, the giants plied their research and sat in comfortable, air-conditioned homes, and they showed little care whether the Haratana lived or died. Their resentment wasn’t as overt as their jungle cousins’, but it was just as real. In fact, some of the most fabled phiarlan of the days before Aerenal were Haratana. Though the drow were eventually banned from elven society, in the first centuries of the split, drow and elf intermingled fairly often. Bards travelled the entire continent, bringing tales and fables, specifically designed to relay secret messages between rebel cells and to quash any intercecine conflict. In fact, Haratana bards were some of the most respected in the land, reknown for their ability to generate booming decibel levels and rumbling low frequency chants, ideal for the bare desert terrain.
Soon enough, the Quori Giant War came about, and even the slow-moving desert giants were enlisted to defend Xen’drik. The Haratana were pushed even harder in their labor, and the usually peaceful drow began to rebel more and more. Some Haratana were taken to build the ziggurat upon which the giants performed the powerful blood sacrifice that separated Dal Quor from Eberron. The few that returned alive formed a secret society (akin to the Gatekeepers) vowed to prevent anything like it from happening again. Quickly, giant society was collapsing, and giants began leaving the desert outposts in droves, looking to the arcane fortifications of the cities. Thousands of drow were left behind, and they quickly gathered into tribes for safety. Without giant magic, the huge buildings and mechanisms were useless, and became the hunting grounds for predators like desert bullette, which the Haratana call Shaiheltan (“Lord of Mouths”). So they ventured into the wilderness, to coves and canyons, escaping the open desert for defensible positions.
Then, outside their view, the dragons enveloped Xen’drik in flame and arcane power, bringing down the giant society completely. With few giants remaining in the deserts, only a dozen or so dragons were dispatched to the Menechtarun, and most cared little for the Haratana. Their patrols ended quickly, and they returned to Argonnessen after the destruction died down. But one remained, vowing to make sure the desert was clean of any remaining giant magic or weapons. Yantanuphersagus (“The Lonely Song that beats back the Darkness”), or “Yan,” was a young brass dragon, a loner by habit, and more interested in the remnants of the astrological outposts and solitude than in actually finding any more giants. He roamed the Menechtarun for years before coming upon a hunting party of Haratana. They had finished field dressing a bullette, and had begun the song of appreciation and victory. The dragon was entranced as the low chants filled the desert air, and almost unconsciously, he changed form into a Haratana, and approached the party, joining the melody.
At first, the party was startled, weapons raised and ready to kill the stranger. But his song was so true and beautiful, they hesitated. He continued the melody, but created his own verse, describing himself as an old Haratana spirit, made flesh to join them and teach them the magic of the desert. Though the Haratana had survived the last few years, they were desperate enough to bring him back to the sietch, and after an initial unease, Yan began teaching them primal magics, mostly based in wind and earth spirits, but also including ways to create green oasises to collect moisture and grow food. Unlike Vvaraak, Yan had no grand plan to keep outsiders out of Eberron. He simply saw himself in the Haratana; the quiet isolation, the beautiful songs, and the hearty resilience. After a while, despite the love of the Haratana, he grew claustophobic, and set out to live alone again. But the lessons spread to all the tribes, and the Haratana developed their use of primal magic, incorporating their bardic tradition (one of the oldest on Eberron).