Your homeworld is dying.
It's been scarcely a century since the great Blight began. The terrible rot started off in a few isolated places, and the priests tried to contain it. They said a great necromancer damaged the barrier between our world and the world of Death, and hoped to repair the damage. But it spread too fast, and any who tried to stop it soon sickened and died. Now the forests lie silent, skeleton trees reaching up to the sky. Farms lie fallow, or burned, or rotting. Rivers flow with dust or blood, plague runs rampant, and dangerous earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and fierce storms wrack the land.
But there is hope. Though the great workers of magic have been unable to halt the spread of the Blight through your world, they have discovered the power to visit others. Not all can support life. Some are as used up and burned out as your own. Others are hellish, nightmare landscapes, or barren, desolate and freezing wastelands which could never hope to house your people. But there is one at last that has been found, a world of lush green growing things, a place where your dwindling people might make a home.
You are part of the expedition that has been chosen to begin settling the new land. Transporting people between worlds takes a great toll on the magic users of your homeland, as well as many precious materials that must be used as components for the spell. While they are seeking ways to send more people more quickly, for now only a mere fifty people may be sent each month. You will be in the second group sent to this new place, and one of the lucky few who will be able to escape the disease and death of your home.
"Welcome to Kalbar," a swarthy man in a military uniform grunts. His smirk peeks out from beneath a bushy mustache. "Just what we need, some fresh meat."
You step out of the great ether-ship, blinking in the unfamiliar light. The journey took three weeks, and in that time you've had only lamplight to see by. But it's more than that. The light on this world is different than your homeland's. The sun glints with a sharp, white light, harsher and brighter than any you have seen. The air is muggy, warm and humid, and your clothes immediately begin to stick to your limbs and body.
As overwhelming as these things seem, they are nothing compared to the trees. The trees! You've never seen so much color in all your life. Not just green, though of course there is green. Oceans of green, a green so deep and oppressive you feel as if it might swallow you up. But mixed in are plants with bark and foliage of deep purple, of blue, and bright and angry red and yellow. More than the sun, more than the heavy, fetid air, the saturated colors of this place tell you, you are not at home.
The man, who appears to be an officer of small authority but large ego, sighs. "Come on then, stop gawking. You'll have plenty of time to get used to this hell hole." He wanders off, clearly expecting you to follow.
You take in the scene before you. A city of tents covers most of a cleared hilltop. There are several hastily constructed buildings. The officer appears to be heading toward one of these. However, you can't help but notice a number of unfinished buildings. This in itself is not odd - what seems strange is that, despite it being mid morning and a prime time for it, no one is working on these buildings. Instead, workers swarm around the perimeter of the hill, furiously working on a half built wall of sharpened poles.
Halfway through the camp, the officer veers off in the direction of a small disturbance at the half-finished wall. Some men are carrying the body of a soldier. His body is mauled past recognition, great gouges rent in his flesh by some massive claw. Some distant part of your mind begins calculating exactly how large a creature might have made such wounds, and stops, unable to deal with the result. The thing must have been massive, the size of a wagon, or a small building.
The officer's face turns red, and he grabs hold of the nearest soldier. "I told you men to stay in pairs. I told you, dammit! How many is it this week? How many?!"
"Three, Marcus. And don't go yelling at the men, now. They haven't found this one's partner, either."
A tall, thin man in a shabby blue robe places a comforting hand on the officer's shoulder. His fingers are long and bony, and he folds each joint in a measured, deliberate manner. His face is long, with deeply set eyes like dark caves, and wide, bushy gray eyebrows. "Come on, my friend. Introduce me to the new recruits."
Marcus, the swarthy officer, gruffly shrugs off the tall man's hand. "New Meat, Istul. Istul, New Meat."
Unable to hold it in any longer, you blurt out, "What in all seven hells is going on here? Three what? What happened to this man?"
Marcus turns away. Istul looks at you with an expression full of sadness and pity. "Kalbar happened. This world hates us. Hates us. It wants nothing more than to kill and eat every single one of us." His voice is completely flat, devoid of all emotion, and all hope.
You stare at him incredulously. "What are you talking about? You mean this was done by natural creatures? Don't we have any druids here?"
A chorus of laughter erupts around you, a grim, desperate laughter. Marcus painfully jabs a sausage-like finger into your chest. "You think we're idiots, New Meat? You think we haven't tried that? Drav Kalidson himself came with us on this mission. Yeah, the Lifespeaker himself! And you know what happened to him? THAT happened to him!" Marcus finally removes his finger and gestures fiercely in the direction of the mauled corpse. "First day here. He went out to 'Commune with the spirits of the land.' I guess they made their point in a way no one was expecting!"
"But couldn't you just..."
Istul cuts you off. "No. No no no, I'm afraid not my friends. You see, Drav was killed, oh yes, but he didn't die right away. No. And we had other druids with us. You see, you see..." Istul's voice becomes more and more distracted as he goes on. Suddenly his eyes lose focus, and he turns away, cocking his head as if listening.
Marcus shakes his head. "He's gettin a call from home, don't mind him. What Istul's trying to say is that druids are powerless here. We didn't realize it going in, but something's different between this world and ours. And while the lifespeakers may be friends with OUR natural world, they sure as hell aren't friends here. Kalbar doesn't have friends. It doesn't understand friends. All it understands is that we are prey."
He claps you on the back, steering you back towards the large building at the center of camp. "And I'm here to try and turn us into the predators."