A female hunter-caste entomorph.
Entomorphs are an insectoid people and the native dominants of Tethys. While 'Tethyn' or 'Tethyn native' refers to humans and Aquaans who live on or were born on Tethys, it is understood that the planet belongs to the entomorphs and humanity is there by their permission.
Tethys was founded in AU1941, but it wasn't until AU1943 that it was realised that the entomorphs were sapient beings. The entomorphs had been avoiding direct contact and they were not obvious tool-users.
Unfortunately, their sentience was realised after one of the human colonists, Feslo Tev, killed a hunter-caste named Bright Talon with the intent of bringing her back for study. Tev was captured by the entomorphs, carried back to Port Tethys along with Bright Talon's body, and executed by entomorph law. Despite such a tragic beginning, both sides wanted peace and a treaty was quickly agreed upon.
The Entomorph Treaty
The Entomorph Treaty was drafted by Thalassa Zefonith, first governor of Port Tethys. It spells out, in no uncertain terms, that Tethys belongs to the entomorphs, that humanity's territory and population will not expand beyond current limits, that humanity will not take non-renewable resources from Tethys or the Pherkad System, that humanity's law does not extend beyond humanity's territory, that the entomorph home territory is strictly off-limits to humans without invitation, and that the entomorphs get the last word in anything that affects Tethys. As well, humanity is not to interfere with entomorph culture, pry into entomorph affairs, or otherwise bother the entomorphs.
Relations With Humanity
Some entomorphs like humanity and will even take up semi-residence in Port Tethys ( 'citybugs'. ) Others prefer to ignore that humanity exists. The latter type are, unsurprisingly, not often encountered by humans or Aquaans. Most are indifferent, content to let humanity stay so long as humanity upholds the treaty.
Entomorphs will sometimes take up employment in Port Tethys. Most of the timber officers are entomorphs, and they often sign up on fishing boats. They are not limited to these tasks.
Any human or Aquaan found inside entomorph territory is politely but firmly removed. No human or Aquaan has ever been inside the entomorph hive. They do not answer questions about life in the hive and most information humanity has on them is by deduction.
What Is Known
- Entomorphs exist.
- Entomorphs are individuals, not a hive mind.
- The entomorph hive is subterranean.
- They developed sapience quite recently; no more than 2.5 million years ago or the Qohathoth would have mentioned it. Their sudden development is thought to be a result of the cataclysm that turned Tethys from tropical to temperate.
- Their population is quite low for a species and they are all part of the same supercolony.
- They have no cultural taboo against most human technology. Most of them carry PDAs. They do have a taboo against guns, refusing to give up their spears.
- Their weapons are made of the same pseudochitin as their exoskeletons. Either they use the cast-off shells of their moult stages, or they recycle their dead.
- They are not strictly hunter-gatherers. They farm sugarbugs for honeydew at least.
The entomorph alphabet is all straight lines, designed to be scratched into surfaces with claws. The main symbols correspond to 'buzzing' phonemes. The last seven symbols correspond to 'clicks'. While most words contain both, the division is not equivalent to consonants and vowels.
The entomorph spoken language is a fast series of buzzes and clicks that the humanoid ear finds nearly impossible to differenciate, compounded by the fact that instead of tonal variation, the entomorphs use scents and pheromones. Entomorphs have no vocal chords, instead speaking by rubbing and clicking various mouthparts together. As such, they are physically unable to speak Standard and humanoids are unable to speak entomorph. Many entomorphs - at least the ones who deal with humanity regularly - can understand Standard.
Communication between humanity and entomorphs is usually done in Standard, with the human or Aquaan speaking and the entomorph writing. Many Tethyns and assorted language buffs can understand the entomorph written language and will use that for communication instead.
A few of the entomorph scents are recogniseable to humanoids. The default happy scent is faint, sickly-sweet, with a citrus undertone, not usually noticeable unless the humanoid takes a really good sniff or is in a room full of entomorphs. An angry entomorph smells like musty lemons. A frightened entomorph is practically scentless.
The entomorph written language is a mix of letterforms with hieroglyphs for some more common words. Lacking scent cues, writing in the entomorph language tends to begin with a tone-setting sentence. Where a human might say, "The hunting was good today," an entomorph would write it as, "I am happy that hunting was good today." This has been loosely compared to Qohathoth writing, which includes tone glyphs, though the languages are entirely unrelated.
A part of the entomorph language that trips humans up is their pronouns. Entomorphs sort pronouns by caste rather than gender, and some early linguist chose 'she' for the hunters. Thus, "She is male," is a perfectly accurate description of a male hunter-caste entomorph. The entomorph language has at least two other personal pronouns, translated as 'he' and 'it'.
The entomorphs are often affectionately called 'bugs' by Tethyns. However, calling them insects outside a scientific context is considered insulting, as it's usually in a sentence like, "But they're just insects - why do you let them have any rights?"
The entomorph greeting gesture involves holding the hands up in front, palm out, fingers splayed to show their thumbs.
The entomorph term for humans is 'the soft people', due to their lack of exoskeletons. Their term for the Aquaans is a word that best translates to 'the travellers'.
An entomorph vocalisation that catches mammals offguard is their laughter. As in humanoids, entomorph laughter involves breath forced out of the lungs. However, lacking vocal chords, there's no tone to it, leaving it a raspy wheeze that sounds like the entomorph is desperately gasping for breath. Since entomorphs have a back-up spiracle breathing system, they're in no danger of suffocating while laughing.
Because humans and Aquaans can't pronounce the entomorph language, entomorphs tend to use nicknames when dealing with humanity. Citybugs prefer to use bestowed nicknames over straight translations of their own names, which they feel sound stilted in Standard.
Entomorph names commonly invoke speed, sharpness, and grace.
Entomorph nicknames can be anything but tend to be about colour, since that's what humans find easiest to remember. Most often some natural item is used, such as calling a red entomorph Blaze or a blue one Sapphire. There are a few rules around being nicknamed - an entomorph must be named by a human or Aquaan rather than picking a nickname herself, however she has veto power if the mammal picks something she doesn't like.
There is a rule about edible things not being used as names. This isn't a taboo - entomorphs just find being called a food silly.
Twomoon and her student, Swift.
Few specifics of the entomorph culture are known.
There is a mentoring system among the hunter-caste. Young hunters pair up with older ones to learn their skills.
The Last Hunt is one known ritual: When a hunter feels she is too old and slow to be of use to the colony, she will perform a solo hunt on a predator that even a more vigorous hunter has little chance of surviving. This can be done either entirely alone or with friends along to watch. If she loses, it is considered a worthy end to a full life. If she wins, she returns to the hive and her work, spirit renewed. Once in a while, since humanity arrived, an entomorph will hire a boat so that she can perform the Last Hunt with a leviathan.
Entomorphs are a eusocial species with at least three and possibly more castes. However, the only ones humanity has ever seen are the hunters.
Hunter-caste are what humanity thinks of when they think of entomorphs - something like brightly-coloured bipedal dragonflies, 1.5 metres tall. There are males and females in equal numbers and can be told apart by antennae ( males have long, females have short, ) facial shape ( males have narrower faces and smaller eyes, ) tail claspers ( only males have them, ) and size ( females tend to be a bit bigger than the males. ) They have four arms - two primary ones and two much smaller ones. They have four wings, though the lower set is attached to the upper set.
Hunter-caste are 'tattooed' - or rather a design is carved very shallowly into their exoskeletons, then filled with molten pseudochitin of another colour. Sometimes the designs are a pictoral representation of their name or otherwise significant, often the tattoos are merely decorative.
There is an entomorph called the Teacher who the hunters occasionally mention and use a different pronoun for ( translated as 'he'. ) The Teacher doesn't seem to be a queen or leader, more a sage or shaman type but without real authority. It is claimed that a Teacher predicted the coming of humanity to Tethys. No human or Aquaan has been allowed direct contact with the Teacher, though sometimes hunters will act as go-betweens and transfer messages.
Based on studies of Tethyn eusocial pseudodragonflies and the fact that the entomorph term for the hunter-caste translates more closely to 'outdoor-worker', there is assumed to be a worker caste that remains inside the hive. Most humans also assume there are a queen and drones.
Like all the pseudoinsecta of Tethys, entomorphs are not true insects. The internal structure and organs are more complex.
The respiratory system is twofold. Like insects, entomorphs have spiracles and diffuse breathing. However, their primary breathing is done with lungs, through the mouth. The diffuse system acts as a temporary back-up while eating.
Entomorph exoskeletons are modified chitin, using a light zinc alloy instead of calcium carbonate. There seems to be little tactile sense in the exoskeleton beyond temperature and pressure.
The exceptions to the tactile insensitivity of entomorphs are in their hands and feet, which are covered in setae.
Entomorphs have copper-based hemolymph instead of blood, and thus bleed a deep blue-green. Their bodies are sectioned on the inside so that in the event of a major injury, the section will seal off to prevent the entomorph from bleeding out entirely.
The entomorph primary senses are scent and sight. Their night-vision is quite strong.
In short, the entomorphs don't talk about it and won't answer questions about it. The theories are that either there's a queen and the hunters are alates like in a termite hive, there's a queen and the hunters are sterile, or that there's no queen and they're all reproductives.
Younger hunter-caste are sometimes seen, who look like smaller versions of the adults. They tend to be closer to 1.2 metres tall, with shorter legs in proportion to the body, and their colours are duller.
Guesses to biology could be made from other Tethyn pseudodragonflies, but given the variety of types, this would be somewhat less useful and as insulting as an alien trying to get around a 'we don't want to talk about it' to learn about humans by studying lemurs.
Entomorph hunter-caste are carnivores, but not strictly so, and will eat plants if nothing else is available or it looks tasty. The ones that frequent the city will eat prepared food, but they prefer meat to be raw and rotting. The ideal state of meat to an entomorph is when it starts to go runny. Most Tethyn restaurants will give entomorphs the option of fresh raw meat, but don't have enough demand to make properly rotting it worth the effort.
Animal stomachs, preferably full carnivore stomachs, are considered the best part of a kill, and are removed and eaten before the rest of the carcass is put away to ripen.
Answers To Common Questions
No, you cannot ride an entomorph.