Friday, 29 July 2016

Insects of Hyperborea

If you go far enough north, you come to Hyperborea. This is true everywhere. Travel past the kingdom of fake Vikings and the mountains of the white elves and the ice-ridden shores of the polar seas and the place where sky and sea and land all blur into each other and all you see is white. Keep going north and you will find it.

There is life even in Hyperborea. Silent birdmasked whale hunters. Kite cities floating on katabatic winds. Empires of sapient bacteria, subglacial magma-heated saline bubbles the only universe they know. Reefs of white coral that filter food particles from the eternally howling wind. Fake Vikings who've gone a little weird. Self-perpetuating magnetic fields that want to liberate your soul from your body so it can dance with them in the aurora. Goblins. Mammoths. Mammoth seals, like elephant seals but bigger and stupider. Tusked apes. Pockets of rainforest that unfreeze for a week in the heart of summer to briefly mimic the tropics. Piranha penguins. Crimson oozes that leave their pigment in caves when it's time to hunt. Tomb vultures that eat only the flesh of dead empresses. Stunted scavenger bears. Skeleton jellies. More goblins.

There are also giant insects. Hyperborea is not subject to the same natural laws as your world and insects can be as big as they like. Here are some.
  1. Myrmeleon. The larvae dig funnel-shaped traps in the snow and lie in wait with their jaws open at the bottom. The adults are called 'lacewings' and are rarely seen. They're rumoured to grant wishes, but this is probably bullshit that someone invented as a cruel prank.
  2. Dripping mantis. Translucent chitin. Hangs in contorted postures from rocky overhangs and the eaves of houses, perfectly disguised as a cluster of icicles. On warmer days, moistens self with tear-like substance secreted from special glands to give the appearance of melting.
  3. Snow strider. Skates across plains and hummocks of metre-thick powdered snow as if it were hard earth. Carries 1d6 bubbles of liquid nitrogen affixed to the hair on its legs, to be flung at enemies.
  4. Ice lice. The size of small dogs. Mostly live on mammoths and other huge mammals. Will drain a human dry in under a minute, then crowd around the corpse trying to figure out why it doesn't have any more blood in it.
  5. Boilfly. Abdomen glows with a chemical reaction warm enough to melt snow and bright enough to act in lieu of a torch. Explodes if startled or ungently prodded, spraying sticky, boiling liquid over everything in radius of its light.
  6. Hogbody caterpillar. Giant fuzzy caterpillar lumbering its way though waist-high drifts, consuming every scrap of organic material it can get its mandibles on. Takes seven summers to accumulate enough energy for metamorphosis.
  7. Hogbody moth. Wings like sheets of ice glint and refract the summer sunlight. Fat fuzzy body. Horrible gargoyle face. Antenna that can detect the radiation of your thoughts from half a mile away. Feeds exclusively on the aurora, but wants your flesh for its babies.
  8. Avalanche beetle. Rolls compacted snow and dung up into perfectly spherical boulders, sends them tumbling down cliffs at you. Makes snowmen in its spare time. No one knows where it gets the carrots for the noses.
  9. Fisherman centipede. Scuttles along the underside of ice shelves, feeling the vibrations of footsteps through its legs. Attacks through concealed breathing holes, bursting from snow dunes in a torrent of spins and legs. Venom is a potent antifreeze and anticoagulant that confers haemophilia on victims.
  10. Plowhorn beetle. Shovels snow out of the way with a huge chitinous horn, leaving highways in its wake. Hard to domesticate, but kept track of by seasoned travellers and sometimes steered with presents of nectar.

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