Rika - Normal
The jungle has been quiet, like the calm before the storm. I didn’t know any other way to describe it. Maybe things just seemed too quiet after the attack on Istan and I was just getting bored of not doing anything.
It had been a couple months since the attack on Istan and I had plenty of time to become bored. I had gone on several patrols with Kirk and Yaju during this time but those had been uneventful. I still had trouble speaking seriously with Yaju after that tiff at the hospital but we could do casual conversations just fine.
Today was just a regular patrol. It was an evening patrol where the Hunters assigned to this section of the wall split up and walked through the jungle looking for unusual things. Generally it was a casual affair which mainly just gave the Hunters time to enjoy the Jungle. Since major threats would generally be detected far before they attacked the wall finding them was not a priority. Mainly we were on a lookout for minor beast which could cause annoying problems without being too powerful.
It was getting later in the evening when I heard the sound of branches breaking behind me. Having not felt anything previously I spun around bringing my hand quickly down to the sheathes at my waist. Behind me was a beast, at least I thought it was a beast.
It was like an insect, spindly with a carapace. It was walking on all four legs and it was looking at me with its black eyes. I backed up but it didn’t seem to be making any aggressive moves. It was just watching me. Once I had stopped moving away from it I stopped to watch it. When I did it starting moving closer to me again. It was moving slowly toward me. I wasn’t really certain what to do.
Then I noticed that it was injured. It was walking toward me on five legs but the last one had been removed. There was just a stump there instead of a leg. The stump even still dripped icore. It looked reasonability recent. The insect beast was still stumbling toward me.
I did the only thing that I could think of at the moment. I spoke to the beast. “What happened to you? What hurt you?” I wasn’t sure what I expected. There insect beast did not look like a noble beast, at least from my admittedly small experience with them. However the creature stopped moving after I spoke. It just stood there looking at me with its head cocked.
Then it began to do something strange. It started walking backward. Once it reached the tree line it stopped moving. Then it lifted up its front legs and beckon me toward it. That was strange, I had never seen a beast act like this before. So I decided to follow it. It might be leading me into a trap but I still wanted to see what it wanted of me.
It continued to move through the jungle and beckon me. I followed it for maybe fifteen minutes before I starting feeling the other beasts. There were maybe a dozen of them. I couldn’t tell very much else but I didn’t think that any of them were to strong. I kept my guard up but I still followed the injured insect beast.
It let me to a cave entrance and I followed it inside. It was a bit dark inside but there seemed to be small glowing insects on the walls however none of them were big enough to be considered beasts. I began to see the other beasts though, more of the insects types of various description.
Most of them seemed injured like the one that lead me here. They seemed to give a wide berth like they were afraid of me. Then the insect lead me into a larger chamber. Inside was a much bigger insect, almost twice the size of the others. I was surprised that it had managed to fit inside the cave.
Then I noticed the extent of the creature’s injuries. There were large cuts in the carapace of the creature as well as a bunch of smaller holes. I didn’t have to long to contemplate the injuries however because the larger insect looked at me. It had compound eyes however its face had features different than the other insects. Upon looking at it I knew that it was a noble beast.
The confirming my belief it spoke to me, “Welcome, Queen Who Dwells Among Humans.” The voice was chittary but I thought it spoke with a certain reverence.
I blinked, not certain about that title. “Why do you call me what?”
“You are a Queen are you not?” Said the noble insect.
I knew what it meant and wanted to dispute the creature. Its title made me feel like I wasn’t human. “I wouldn’t be so bold as to call myself a Queen.”
“Chi chi chi…” Came the sounds from the insect, “But you are the one that defeated the Black Horned One are you not?”
Memories came back about the Duke with thick black skin and the giant nose horn. “Was that his name?”
“Name? We do not use strange words like you do as name but it was the name that I knew him by.”
“I see, but it wasn’t me that killed the Black Horned One. It was Yaju that did that.”
“That name is not familiar to me. Do you mean the Golden Death, the spawn of the Golden Terror?”
“Yes, I suppose that would be her. She was the one that killed him.”
“But you commanded her did you not? Then it is your honor as well.” It said.
“Enough about names,” I said. “You are the one that called me here. Why did you do that? You know that getting this close to Districts will eventually mean your death.”
“Your Districts has already been my death. I just delay the inevitable for a little while longer.”
I looked over its wounds, I could feel a small amount of sympathy for it. Looking at them they certainly did look large and dangerous, they could certainly be deadly to this creature. “Then you were already attacked by Hunters then? This is rather far out for them to find you.”
“No Queen, not Hunters, it was the Nothings that did this to us.”
“Nothings? What are you talking about. If it wasn’t Hunters then what was it?”
It looked at me, “I know not. But your Hunters are like us. When we die to Hunters we feel that it was part of the natural order of things. But they were different, not Hunters, not Humans, not Beasts, they were Nothing.”
“Do you mean that is wasn’t Districts that attacked you. If they weren’t human then it couldn’t have been Districts.”
“They were shaped like Humans, fought like Humans, but there was no Human inside them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even Humans have instincts, weak as they are, but these had none. No reason to fight or live. They were more like an earthquake or a flood. Just something that happens.” Said the insect.
“I have never heard of anything like this before.”
“Neither had we. My hive was wiped out, we are all that remained.”
“Even had this Nothings not attacked you had you remained near Districts then this would have happened because of Hunters. You should have known it would be dangerous to live this close to a city.”
“No, not here. We lived farther way. Now that place is gone.”
I frowned, this story was getting stranger and stranger the longer that I listened to it. I was wondering how much of it was accurate but I didn’t get the feeling that this beast was lying. “Then they came to you? That doesn’t sound like Districts to me. How do you know it was us that attacked you.”
The creature reached out with one of its appendages that pressed it up against my clothing. “This.” It said.
I looked down at the small insignia on the clothes. It was the symbol of Districts. A fortress with wings. All Hunters wore an insignia like that while we were out of the city. If this creature had seen this insignia when it was attacked then these Nothings must have been from Districts. I couldn’t see any reason why these Nothings would fake an insignia to fool a Beast so I thought it must be true.
“If so then why did you come here? If it was Districts that attacked you then wouldn’t you want to go in a different direction.” I looked over the beast and then at the other injured insects in the room. “And you don’t seem like you are in any shape to take revenge. So why did you come here?”
“Revenge? No, I have lost everything. This small hive can not longer protect anything, I can no longer protect anything. So I come before my enemy, the enemy to defeated me.” The creatures voice was harsher then it had been, “I came seeking you Queen Who Dwells Among Humans. There is no nobody else I can turn to.”
“Me? Why me? Do you think I am going to take revenge for you? Against my own city?”
“Against the city? No, but the Nothings are here and I know they are not your ally. They are nobodies ally, not even their own. But I am not here to convince you of that. I have lost my brood and soon I will lose my life. Yet even at the end there are things that I do not want to lose.” It was speaking slower then it had been earlier. It said it didn’t have long to live and I was beginning to think that it wasn’t lying. This insect has been saving all its energy so that it could speak with me this last time.
“Then what do you want from me?”
“You are young. Your brood… your court is still small. I come to offer you my most precious possession. Please protect it, that is all that I can ask of you. Please protect my daughter.” Previously I had difficulty detecting emotion in the clacking accent of the insect but now I could clearly hear the desperation and sorrow in this creature’s voice.
“Your daughter?” I asked.
The insect pointed toward the back of the cave. There was a cocoon there against the wall. In the dim light I could see a figure illuminated through the cocoon. The insect spoke again, “Please protect her. Please let her serve you. She will soon be reborn in a form acceptable for you kind so please take her.”
“I…” I didn’t know how I should answer. My mind kept racing but it didn’t find any answers to my questions. I looked over to the cocoon watching it when I turned back to the insect. However the leg that had pointed toward the cocoon had dropped to the ground. The insects head and slumped. The presence that I had felt with me this hold time had disappeared almost with me noticing. The creature was dead.
The other insects were silent. Then they began to move, gathering around their former leader. They formed a group around the noble beast. The one insect that I had seen before approached me, looked at me, and then approached its former master. Then together they lifted it and began carrying it away, out the mouth of the cave.
I watched the corpse get carried away and when it was gone I was alone, no, not alone. The cocoon was still there. Inside it was the daughter of the noble insect. It was probably another noble beast. And the dead beast had asked for me to take care of it, I had been trusted with her care.
Why me? I hadn’t gotten a chance to know beyond the fact that the beast thought there was no other choice.