So I was doodling with this last week and here it is for #awesomegamerday – a mini story about fauna (& flora) and a poison fit for most fantasy contexts. Add your own mechanics.
The Steward’s Tale
A beehive should last forever. Each queen is born, not alone, but with a sibling, its steward. She the life force, creating, shaping. They the preserver, possessing a gland on the undercarriage of their thorax, a gland that secretes an airborne elixir that permeates the hive, strengthening its hexed walls, catalysing its photosynthetic production of sugars, and revitalising the queen. The ‘worker’ bees are actually thinkers, born to ponder problems miniature and profound; the hive a scholarly seclusium of collective thought, renewing and building knowledge for the future.
That’s the idea. But before the first thinker reaches mentally maturity, the incessant inhalation of the smog of eternity sends the steward mad. They quit the hive, tear off the gland and deposit it somewhere unwelcoming, and dance to death amongst the flowers over months and months, leaving intricate pheromonal clues as to the gland’s location.
The desperate thinkers now devote their frail lives to tracking and decoding these clues, some which lead to the next, some that appear to contribute to a larger puzzle to be cracked. And some are chemical traps, co-opting the thinker’s nervous system to flinging it thrumming into the sky until it’s wings break from exertion, or kicking off an endothermic reaction in their blood until nuggets freeze and the body plummets. All this the thinkers brave, trying to find their way to the gland. In the rare instances that they do, of course, their efforts to graft it to one of their own ultimately just restarts the doomed process again.
So when you see a bee buzz from one bloom to another, know that they are trying to taste the flavour of a mad one’s laughter, doomed to fail their collapsing home of thoughts, and pregnant with profound thoughts that they will die on the wing before ever sharing.
The steward’s body , ground into a paste and in solution, produces a poison of arresting effect. One afflicted is overcome with the need to divest themselves of their most precious item by hiding it somewhere. They are also compelled to leave a trail of clues, traps and challenges; the afflicted acquires the cunning of the steward atop their own and will be very effective at using every means to do so without detection.
Different temperaments will work at different timescales; a dull innkeep might pull an all-nighter to throw his silver into a sack, bury it with a bear trap atop, and whisper the landmarks to his three most violent customers; a cunning sorceress may spend a year or more developing an underground network filled with summoned keepers and violations of reality. The afflicted will never return to the precious item – they care not a whit for that any more – but will continue to be preoccupied by making the series of clues ever more involving and torturous, increasingly neglecting other needs to do so.
The rumours that the chemical traps rendered by the steward are also bequeathed to the afflicted are, of course, merely rumours.
(5 Aug 2014)