This sub starts out average but it really jumps into awesome territory really quickly. The beetles are a beautiful twist. And the fact that the beetles are really the victims and the old man the bad guy is a second, even more awesome twist. But maybe I like anything where the bad guys is just a spry, old man.
Do they have to be a hive mind? You could have young adults wear the skins (and have names like Amy), while the tiny, mindless cling to out with their mother. A city of skin-wearing beetles would be great to be friends with (I know I'd want to come back again).
I'd add a bit of misdirection at the beginning. Maybe some blather about drinking to local brew or the badger ghost will get you. But no, this is great. Clever, self-contained, no plot holes. You should do a lifeform sub for these guys (just a short one).
I love the idea of a big scary beetle being the mentally abused victim of an old man. I couldn't put my ideas for this sub down fast enough once I had it worked out.
The beetles do share a hive mind, but they are still each unique. Because I wrote this sub as a narrative, I didn't get into the ecology of the beetles, but I haven't stopped working out their life cycles and natures. So I'll write a lifeform sub for them.
If you take out the parasitic brew, you could easily have a goldmine of a hidden plot that adventures could interact with regularly and never know it.
Richard's motivation is to build himself a castle using the beetles as his fear-controlled minions. He is as addicted to power as he is to the Nectar. By removing Richard from the equation, the beetles would have no motivation to build a city.
Some additional backstory that didn't fit well with the narrative: Richard was obviously the merchant nomad from two hundred years ago, but in the "brief exchange of violence and words" Richard actually wounded the mother beetle. The beetle pleaded for her life and offered the Nectar's secret in exchange. Richard left after the storm, but he soon returned to the lure of the Nectar, and he eventually threatened the mother beetle until she submitted to building him a city so he would never have to leave the Nectar of Life. Living forever by the power of the Nectar, he forced the beetles to build him a paradise, and any travelers were just more potential minions to him. Go to Comment
Thanks Kassy. I intended it to be a "one-shot" adventure that could be played out in a single night but could still offer long-term influence such as making friends of the beetles or becoming addicted to the Nectar. Go to Comment
It's not a question of power. The beetle simply doesn't like pain (or maybe the beetle is smart enough to know that any injury on an open circulatory system could be fatal). Once the beetle gets hurt, it begins to fear for its life and will do anything to survive. So the strength of Richard or the beetle is not the issue; it is more about Richard's abusive use of fear over years that has completely subdued the beetle. The mother beetle doesn't have the determination to stand up to Richard.
Besides, if the beetle ever injured Richard, he would only need to drink some Nectar of Life to recover his strength and return to fight again. Go to Comment
Good questions. The beetles are blind at birth, and they easily risk freezing at night if they don't have a body to keep themselves warm. After the beetle kills it's host, it will fuse its own "spinal cord" into the host's unused brain and tap into the cranial nerves (for facial movement), the ocular nerves (for seeing through the host's eyes), and the cochlear nerves (for picking up auditory stimulation). After a few weeks with a host, the beetle will slowly begin growing into the new body and gaining more access to the nervous system granting it better control over motor skills, sensory input from skin contact, and speech. Without a host, the beetle is blind, deaf, mute, and insensitive to feelings, so the beetle relies on the host's ability to provide these functions.
The beetles can target a host through keen scent and using ultra-fine hairs on its face to pick up vibrations and heat waves that humans naturally give off. Go to Comment
Idea from the Aeneid. Could make an intriguing encounter when searching for firewood..."Quite near there happened to be a mound of earth, at the highest part of which were growing thickets of cornel and a dense cluster of spiky myrtle-stems. I went up there and tried to wrench the green growth from the ground to provide a leafy covering for our altar. There I was confronted by a horrible and astounding miracle. For from the first bush which I tried to break off...blood oozed in dark drops, fouling the earth with its spots...A piteous moan came from the base of the mound and I heard a human voice answering me: 'Why, Aeneas, must you rend a poor sufferer? I am buried here...for I am Polydorus. Here death overpowered me in a crop of piercing iron-pointed spears. And so a crop resembling javelins has grown over me...'"