A Valley of One

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An excerpt from the journal of Professor Ellie Rafkin,

The dim light from the campfire flickered against the canvass tent.  In the still of night the jungle was alive with the howls of monkeys and the singing of crickets.  A gentle breeze rustled the fronds of nearby palms.  Even though it had been months since I’d left the Lycaeum, the jungles of Eodon still made me uneasy.  I had seen such beauty in the Valley during my time here.  Brilliant fauna gave Eodon character and intimacy.  Meandering streams cutting through the verdant landscape made it feel alive and fertile.  In the distance the towering caldera of a great volcano smoked confidently, owing to its wise past.  On the surface, Eodon appeared inviting and warm, but a foreign and present danger lay hidden beneath.
I had been fortunate enough to only encounter the Myrmidex once.  A gleam of sunshine had caught my eye, the reflection from their chitonous exoskeleton.  Before I could focus on what I was seeing my escort let out a bellowing war cry and brought his axe down in front of me.  The axe cut through the air and landed squarely in the thorax of the Myrmidex warrior.  Greenish hemolymph oozed from the wound as the creature struggled and writhed.  I tried to turn away but my curiosity drew me in.  The creature was large, nearly twice the size of a man, insectoid in appearance with elongated, jointed appendages.  The unmistakable crimson of blood spattered a set of pincers protruding from the head.  As I moved closer to get a better look my escort cleaved his axe through the air once more, this time decapitating the beast.  More greenish ooze leaked from the creature’s neck and pooled onto the jungle floor.
I had not seen a Myrmidex since that day.  I would come to learn the Myrmidex were a mostly subterranean species, coming to the surface only on occasion to hunt for food to return to the hive.  Eodon was full of surprises and each day was rich with discovery.  Such work had made me tired, a welcome benefit as it made it easier to fall asleep and assuage my unease.  Just as I felt my mind begin to drift to the land of nod the jungle fell silent.  Seconds later a chilling scream echoed throughout the Valley…


The Drone

By EM Malachi

Four months ago:

The great mandibles tore into the sapwood, as the insect drank to refresh itself. The drone had worked exceptionally hard to collect vegetation for the nest, and the day was hot. It would work a few more hours before returning to rest in safety. The Queen would be happy with the bounty it dragged home.

As the drone enjoyed the sticky water, the ground started to rumble, and there arose a strange wind. The rush of air along its antennae triggered a taste-memory that had been passed Myrmidex to Myrmidex, generation to generation. The taste was sour, and there was a mix of scents from animals and plants it did not know. The memory caused the drone to tremble in fear for a moment before moving toward the source. It would gather information for the Queen, or its death scent would warn away the Swarm-Family. Either way, its purpose would be served.

It moved deeper into the forest, scurrying through the dense foliage, as the bad taste grew stronger. The sense hairs along its body could now feel energy charging the air. Moving into a clearing littered with fallen trees, it saw the source of the magic, shaped exactly as it feared. The swirling eddy of the Silver Gate reflected off its multifaceted eyes.

The Oppressors had used such magic, those who had controlled and hurt the Myrmidex. An uncountable number of the Swarm-Family had died to remove the Oppressors from the world and hide away their magics. All that remained were scattered ruins and the creatures that were once their pets. Now the drone watched as such creatures came through the gate, glittering in strange metallic carapaces and moving in a pattern that reminded the small Myrmidex of its own nest’s defenders.

When one of the creatures pointed at it and started shouting, the drone knew it was time to retreat swiftly and report everything to its Queen.

 

The Swarm

By EM Malachi

Nearly starving, the allosaurus had strayed from its normal hunting range onto the dry sands. When it crossed paths with the Myrmidex that claimed the region, it had charged the insects, believing them to be an easy meal. The drones had scattered, their flight leading the dinosaur closer to the nest. From those dunes, Myrmidex warriors swarmed from all sides, flanking the great beast and preventing its escape. While the allosaurus’s powerful jaws claimed more than a few limbs, the Myrmidex tactics insured that the injured were immediately replaced by others in the cohort. The relentless tide of insects tore at and eventually overwhelmed the great reptile. Its final screams were terrible.

As the insect warriors moved away from the fallen dinosaur, the smaller drones returned and started to pull apart the carcass. It was a strangely orderly process of torn flesh and cracked bones, and the meat was dragged into the caverns below. When it was done, there was no trace of the skirmish on the sands. Geoffrey watched from a distant cliff and recognized the danger to Eodon.

When he had been brought in to oversee Britannanian interests in Eodon, it had meant being an armored line between the worst human elements of both worlds. When he wasn’t protecting explorers from tribal hostility, he was trying to stop Sosaria’s poachers and raiders from wanton plundering. One of the more grievous crimes had been some who were hunting Kuraki for sport. He had done all of this while keeping Minax and her allies besieged in Shadowguard.

Except for Minax, these threats paled compared with the Myrmidex swarm. While initial reports had considered them simply to be giant ferocious insects, it was now clear that the Myrmidex were organized and intelligent. Hordes of drones spent their days dragging carrion back to their hive to nourish a growing army of warriors, and there were almost daily strikes by the Myrmidex on human settlements and camps. Most of the native tribes of Eodon had pulled back and fortified their main settlements against the threat.

The exception was the Barrab. The Barrab Tribe worshipped the Myrmidex, wearing discarded carapaces in homage and sacrificing their dead to the maws of the insects. They saw the current swarming as an omen of a cleansing of Eodon. They would not allow Geoffrey’s scouts anywhere near the Myrmidex tunnels, and he couldn’t commit his forces to an attack with the Barrab at his back.

A solution needed to be found, otherwise the Myrmidex would overrun all of Eodon.

Geoffrey hoped his king would find one soon. As Geoffrey turned to leave, he swore that one of the drones was watching him.