The Reificant: Battle
The living past. The burning bones made flesh. From water. From before. One now many.
You will listen. This is story of FLESH I have inhabited. Begins and does not end. Let it stand as warning to you and your kind.
I am not of your flesh, I have burned within it.
I am not of your place, I have walked its deserts.
I BEGIN. I AM.
I exist in flood of life through my QUEEN. By hundreds we adhere to the walls of the birth chamber. Our fruit ripens. Mammals are thrust into the world. They spill into existence. I devour my way into the world. I choose to live rather than smother within the membrane of my ovum.
Wriggling. Without context. Soft. My shell not yet grown. The winnowers scent my purpose.
My gestation is fortunate. My QUEEN imbues me with potential to be revealed in the hatchery. My plump, soft body lengthens, nourished by the milk of the secretors. The winnowers quill with excitement above the entrance of the waxen comb.
I AM something more. I am a sunken monument revealed by retreating oceans, the weave of my tissues exposing the genetic monoliths of elaborate patterns and segments possessed only by the mightiest warriors of our spire. I exist not for worker's monotony or the short, brutal life of warrior drones.
I AM FOREVER AND WILL BE a guardian, thinking fighter, CHAMPION, wise as a learned devisor and the equal in battle of a formation of simple warriors of any spire. I swear a personal oath, with the loudest words of my quill, to serve the QUEEN until my death. I dip my antennae and lower my tarsi and, with effort, avert my gaze from the rapturous beauty of her majesty. My duty is etched in my body. My faith is etched in my mind.
MY QUEEN is the Ordinal and the Diviner, Regnant Queen the 888th, whose perfected physical body contains all distilled wisdom and strength of our spire. She is the largest of our kind, resplendent in her throne room, body iridescent crimson and golden and black, like polished stones. Nature could not devise a vision more sublime. No artist could assemble a sculpture more compelling. Her eyes that see me are like stars that glitter in the sky above at night. She is attended by the swarms of winnowers and secretors, advised by a chorus of devisors and shapers.
My QUEEN relies upon my ability. The scent of her favor fills my carapace to bursting. At her command I deal with deficiencies within our spire. I remove derelict workers and scour the lower levels for malcontents that might creep into our midst.
A hundred times I am dispatched as an emissary to upstart spires that threaten my QUEEN's preeminence. I am a jagged claw offered in friendship. I savor the sour odor of discomfort my presence causes in the meager throne rooms of bristling, lesser queens. War is always averted by such visits. Obedience is achieved.
Not this time.
The air is stifling in this lesser queen's chamber. She has many guardians. She refuses to hear my quills. She speaks with her pheromones and I am sickened. I return with words of war. Why has this traitor queen declared herself an equal to my own? Others align themselves with the betrayer. Preparations commence for a great conflict. The swarms of warriors begin the slow circle above our spire.
This serpent shadow falls upon the gardens built to honor my QUEEN. The memory obelisks of past generations are reduced to tombs. Their vast, silent halls of statues and desiccataphs echo with the distant thrum of warriors at wing. The beauty of our city is forgotten. None sit upon the shore and contemplate the dark tide of the Surata. There is time only for the present, for claw and HISS and hot beams that split open the shell of our enemies.
MY QUEEN pronounces a final hope. TREASON must always be answered with VIOLENCE, but in her wisdom She knows the horror of mass war can yet be avoided. I am chosen to lead the greatest of her champions and descend upon the enemy spire. I must locate the affliction, the renegade organ, and remove it.