Friday, 12 August 2016

beetle...juice...?

At dawn, on ridges of sand and salt across the Dry Sea, can sometimes be seen the spindly, impossible silhouette of the fog beetles: six man-high legs supporting a bundle of black carapace, pitched slightly forward into the gentle, chill wind. Rarely is the fog hanging over the saltpans even visible, but the gentle chill in the air is there, and as the sun rises droplets of water collect across the black chitin and trickle down to the unsettling, articulated face at its front, its mandibles whispering endless mantras.

The beetles came from somewhere else: there are old stories of them, and still colonies of them, to the south, in the true deserts. But in the Dry Sea they found their ideal, a dead place where only the least essentials were provided, and where they could meditate endlessly on the most essential things. Their ancient hermeticism was raised to its highest order along the dead shores and the stranded fishing fleets, their endless mystical calculus enacted in the lines they danced in fine dry silt and the astral cycles they could trace with pitiless precision.  

In the true deserts they had been feared and shunned. In the new desert, there was no folklore, no legacy, no taboo: and though there were almost no other living things, word began to filter north and west to Vyrhrad and its mystics and malcontents. The Stenocarian Order - a term, a concept, only ever applied to them externally, one almost beneath their understanding - began to be faced with seekers. With disciples.

Some of the beetles detest them, and flee them. Some of them have come to rely on them. As they hum and tick and whisper, seekers cluster around them, tend to them, defend them, record their every mantra and recitation and calculation. Many do not live long, but others come.

The most faithful are accorded the highest sacrament: to drink the water from the beetle's carapace as dawn breaks. It is said that knowledge of the stars and of the futures of the earth follows.

Giant beetles are pretty fragile for a party clever enough to go for the legs, and they don't have functional wings, but they move like a six-legged racehorse and aren't slowed by soft and treacherous sand. 50% of them have 2d4 disciples, low-level monks and clerics who will happily die creating a diversion. Most beetles are too busy contemplating the higher mysteries to really stop and chat – including to their deluded disciples – but if you can do them a service their knowledge is extensive and their word is their bond. They have no material culture but are very evasive on the subject of certain inexplicable rock assemblages in the deeper desert.