Iron Grip: Marauders isn’t all about fighting human enemies – there are many strange and hostile monsters in the wilds of Kathos. Some of the most commonly encountered creatures are the mortts. These huge insectoid creatures are very aggressive towards humans and extremely dangerous. When going in search of resources, marauder bands will often end up well off the beaten track, and mortts can be found lurking in the most unusual places.
Mortts can live alone, but prefer living in groups. They are all capable of asexual reproduction, but when food is plentiful, mortts sometimes seek out a partner to mate with. When two mortts mate, their offspring will be a mortt queen. Queens somehow act as beacons to all mortts within a large area (some researchers have suggested extremely potent pheromones are responsible for this), and they form a hive. Usually hives are formed in mountainous regions, but they can sometimes be found elsewhere. If multiple pairs of mortts choose to mate in an area at the same time and multiple queens are born, the queens will work together to form a hive. Once a hive is established, normal mortts cease any form of reproduction, instead relying on the queens to spawn new larvae.
Once they have joined a hive community, mortts don’t like to venture too far from the queens, and certainly not for long periods of time. Because mortts reproduce quickly (queens spawn large numbers of larvae), there is usually a point when a mortt hive becomes too big to sustain itself. Everywhere within a large radius of the hive will have been stripped of animals large enough for mortts to hunt, and the hive’s inhabitants will become so hungry that they turn on each other.
Cannibalism leads to great changes in the temperament of mortts, and they become far more aggressive and solitary, attacking other mortts on sight. This means that as soon as a hive runs out of easily accessible food and mortts start eating each other, it won’t be long before the entire hive collapses, leaving a very small handful of the strongest mortts alive. These survivors will either go into hibernation for an extended period of time, or they will migrate in search of food. Mortts which are migrating from a collapsed hive move erratically, and can sometimes end up in unexpected places. After a hive grows too big and falls apart, the local ecosystem will be able to recover, and large animals will return to the area. Eventually one of the survivors from the last hive will find a mate, a new queen will emerge and the cycle will start all over again.