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Scarecrows (Secret World)

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Scarecrows are a rare and villainous form of magical construct in the MMORPG The Secret World; unlike other animated scarecrows in media, these creations incorporate more grotesque elements into their construction - including pilfered human organs. Though many constructs throughout the setting have the potential to become dangerous due to their inherent instability, the Scarecrows are actively malicious and often murderous towards human beings - even their own creators.

For this reason, only two major groups of Scarecrows can be found in the game: those patrolling the farms of Solomon Island, and those protecting the Olaru Farm in Transylvania. Also for this reason, most of these areas have been effectively depopulated by the time the players arrive.

Characteristics

As their names imply, Scarecrows are based on the traditional rural straw men, though few could mistake them for their inanimate brethren: even while dormant, the Scarecrows are clearly much more solid than their counterparts, and tend to resemble human corpses wrapped in sackcloth dangling from a scarecrow's frame. In the event that they aren't already active and on patrol, Scarecrows will remain dormant on their frames until someone enters their immediate vicinity, whereupon they will promptly spring to life, dropping from their frames to attack the intruder.

Despite their human-like movements, the Scarecrows are indeed little more than hand-me-down clothes and hay-stuffed sacking. However, in order to permanently animate these constructs, their creators have anointed the hay with enchanted oils and stitched their clothes with magical runes, with each Scarecrow implanted with a human heart to give them life. Their construction affords them a great deal of strength and resilience, though their human components tend to give them a thirst for vengeance often channeled into aggression and violence. As such, these straw golems are only used by magicians with a desperate need for security, an abundance of organic resources and a deficit of scruples: more ethical mages prefer simple clay golems and familiars: even the Illuminati disparage the use of Scarecrows - though mainly because the drawbacks outweigh any potential benefit.

Though their taste for violence makes them ideal security guards and enforcers, Scarecrows rarely remain loyal for long: because their hearts were often obtained without their owners' consent, the pain and grief the donors felt in the moment of the death lingers in Scarecrows, driving them to fits of rage and sorrow. Over time, this ferments into a bitter hatred for all life and a pain that can only be lessened by inflicting it on others. Possessed of a primitive cunning, they are able to sabotage their masters from within, either killing them or driving them off the farmland altogether.

In the absence of their masters, Scarecrows are content to continue their vengeance on lifekind by slaughtering them wherever they can be found: though only few can wander past the boundaries of their assigned farmland, they can still prove a consistent menace to travelers - especially given that the Henderson Farm and the Olaru Farm lie close to major roadways. While some bands of Scarecrows attack in groups, others are content to wander their patch of ground alone and prey on the outskirts of civilization like serial killers. A few have even been drawn into the service of other monsters: Scarecrows on Solomon Island can occasionally be found working alongside Jack O'Lantern and the Bogeyman.

In combat, Scarecrows can be divided into three types: melee combatants, marksmen, and magicians. Melee variants arm themselves with chainsaws, reveling in the carnage they can unleash in close-quarters; marksmen make use of shotguns; and magicians wield enchanted dolls as magical foci - most likely taken from their former creators.

History

Like many monsters on Solomon Island, the Scarecrows were a creation of the infamous sorcerer-turned-farmer Archibald "Archie" Henderson: having already created the equally-notorious Jack O'Lantern and attempted to enhance his powers by harvesting the terror of those who lived nearby, he began a new spree of atrocities in the late 1900s, ironically in an attempt to keep what remained of his family safe. By then, his wife had killed herself, his son had been killed in an earthquake, and one of his daughters had been eaten alive by a wendigo, and Henderson had developed an unhealthy obsession with the safety of his remaining daughter: turning to the dark tomes in his private library, the magus set out to create his own private army to protect his property and kin, and - as he was still a farmer - he saught to give them the perfect camouflage.

Murdering several dozen innocent travelers in the woods around Kingsmouth, he tore out their hearts and implanted them into enchanted bodies of straw and sackcloth. Thus, the first of Solomon Island's scarecrows were born. For a week, they functioned exactly as intended, killing any roaming monsters who strayed too close to the farm; after that, however, things started going horribly wrong. Henderson had failed to take into account how the pain and sorrow of of his victims would taint the newly-made constructs: from the hearts he had stolen, the hatred corrupted each Scarecrow, slowly instilling them with an unreasoning hatred of all humanity - and eventually, all life.

In the second week of their existence, the Scarecrows began murdering humans too, killing first intruders, then visitors, then passers-by. One of them, known only as the Collector, even took to collecting the organs of those he'd murdered. Eventually, though, the hatred of the Scarecrows eventually inspired them to turn on their creator; though Henderson was too powerful to be harmed, the Collector was cunning enough to take its revenge on him by strangling the life out of his daughter and leaving her dismembered corpse for her father to eventually find. Shortly afterwards, Henderson killed himself.

Without the sorcerer's animating will, the Scarecrows returned to their perches and descended into inanimate slumber. Eventually, other farmers appropriated the motionless Scarecrows for use on their farms, scattering Archie Henderson's legacy all over the island; even while still inanimate, the straw men possessed impressive longevity and didn't often need repairs, inspiring even the most superstitious of farmers to keep them around.

Then, in 2012, the Fog swept over Solomon Island: magical energies took root in the soil, resurrecting the dead as zombie all over the Island - and reactivating the Scarecrows along the way. With little else to do, the Scarecrows resolved to continue murdering intruders and passers-by, content with inflicting their pain on all living creatures within reach.

Unfortunately, Archie Henderson's techniques did not die with him, nor was he the only modern magus to create Scarecrow servitors; a visit to Transylvania reveals that another group of farmer-mages took to creating Scarecrows in order to guard their orchards and fields.

Hunting Grounds

Currently found only in Solomon Island, Maine, and Bacas County, Transylvania, the Scarecrows make use of very specific hunting grounds. Normally, the Solomon Island Scarecrows would have been restricted to the old Henderson farmland in the region commonly known as the Savage Coast. However, thanks to their re-appropriation by other local farmers, combined with Nathaniel Winter building an amusement park on the site of the old Henderson Farm, the Scarecrows have been spread from Innsmouth Academy grounds all the way to the foothills of the Blue Mountain.

With most of the surviving populace hiding at the police station or the Wabanaki trailer park, the Scarecrows will most commonly attempt to take out their frustrations on the players; however, some of the more outgoing strawmen have strayed as far as the Academy boathouse, allowing them to massacre several members of the faculty as they tried to escape by boat. Given their propensity to eventually reanimate after being disabled, it is not known exactly how many Scarecrows are present on the island, though the current population could stand at over a hundred at the very least - another indication of why Archie Henderson has become so notorious.

Meanwhile, the Olaru Farm in Transylvania was using animate Scarecrows at least up until the events of the vampire invasion: it is not certain if the farmers were killed by their creations, as the presence of werewolves and ghouls on the abandoned property suggests that the rural magicians simply sell victim to Queen Mara's auxiliaries, and the Scarecrows took over the farm in their absence. However, the Olaru Scarecrows are kept much more occupied than their Solomon Island counterparts, in no small part due to the Blajini living nearby: as such, players are tasked with escorting the helpless Blajini past the Ratcatcher Scarecrows in the mission "The Kindly Ones."

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