Abred sat against the straw shack, trembling hand holding his innards inside his body. Both his legs were folded under him at unnatural angles, a constant source of terrible pain.
All his training undone by sheer hulking ferocity and a fucking length of wood bigger than he was.
The queen came back from where she had disappeared to further in the hive, causing Abred to clench and moan as a fresh wave of pain assaulted him.
The Tzetin tilted its head, studying him with its huge, disgusting eyes.
“I want to know who did this.” The Tzetin chittered, the huge bug leaning down to inspect his wound.
This was a perfect opportunity. All he had to do was spin a tale for her that was just plausible and she’d deliver him and herself to the hands of the Dan Ui clan.
“My queen,” Abred wheedled, panting. “I’m a prisoner, forced to work for these people by these.” He motioned to the gaudy bracelets on his wrists. “I could not be more grateful to you for the assistance.” Unless she was an Archmage, she most likely wouldn’t be able to tell there was no mana circulating through the bracelets, and being a Tzetin, she would eat it up.
“Ah,” The Queen said, looking at the golden bracelet, held between her chitinous thumb and forefinger. “Your welcome.”
Abred heard a crunch, then a fresh pain seared up his arm, joining the rest’s incessant nagging. The queen had crushed his wrist between her fingers, along with the bracelet, which was now crushed into his flesh, stopping up his veins.
Abred began to thrash violently, trying to claw himself away from the immovable hand almost the size of his chest.
“Did that undo the enchantment?”
“Perhaps I need to get both of them?” she said, reaching for the other wrist.
“No, NO!” Abred said, trying to keep his wrist away from her.
“Oh, alright. Anyway, I was asking about who did this, not your tale of woe. Non-Tzetin are so often confused about what is and what is not that I seperated six of your companions around the hive, and the first two with identical stories will be returned unharmed. You’re actually the second one I’m telling this, so you’ve got a very good chance as long as you’re not…confused about the reason for this attack.”
Abred’s blood ran cold. The Tzetin were looking for a way to deal with dishonesty and subterfuge. It seemed like they still didn’t understand it, but they’d come up with a brutally effective way to seek the truth.
“The Dan Ui Clan instructed us to cull the T’zzitet hive.”
“They were free of their debt and likely to grow into a problem in the future if left unchecked.”
“Your story matches,” The Tzetin said, causing Abred to heave a sigh of relief.
The last thing he saw was a dark shelled fist heading for his face.
Itet’chi’zzt cleaned the clan member’s brain matter from her fist, her insides quivering with rage, hoplessness, disgust, and shame. He’d believed every word of her lies.
She turned and went down the side path that lead toward the entrance to the hive, standing above the Queen, who was sprawled against a thatch hut, her limbs rigid in death.
“What would you have done different, if you had known?”
The corpse held no answers for her. Itet’chi’zzt took a deep breath and sat in the mud of the street, letting the loss of her hive sink in.
What you need to do, is protect the hive. A familiar voice whispered at the back of her awareness. The same voice that had given her power over ice. Her sister who died better than her in every way.
What hive? It’s gone. Itet’chi’zzt thought, inhaling the smoke that hung over the hive, wallowing in despair.
You’re the hive, saplicker!
Itet’chi’zzt’s head came up, then she glanced at her bulbous queen abdomen and her darkened exoskeleton.
Right. She stood and headed back to the Succession chamber.
She only had a few weeks until she started laying the next generation of the hive, and she would need a Succession Chamber. If another queen dug one by hand, Itet’chi’zzt could too. She just needed the mushrooms.
There was no way she was going to stay on this planet controlled by the Dan Ui clan. If she went to the outer spheres, she would have fifty uncontested years to grow a healthy hive, powerful enough not to be trifled with.
As soon as she thought of the outer spheres, she thought of one person.
That scumbag will help.
“How’s the new arm treating you?” Garth said as they walked through the Arcanite dungeon, filling their pockets with the illicit mineral.
Leanne flexed her blue left hand, torn from a delicate Corio woman who’d tried to kill them in their sleep. She hadn’t been a perfect match for Leanne, but Garth had been able to tweak it enough to make it feel natural for her.
“The fur feels weird.” She said, stroking the forearm.
“You’ll go blind playing with yourself like that.”
Leanne used her new arm to punch Garth in the shoulder, sending him careening into the stone wall.
Garth spat out a rock and pounced on Leanne.
“That how you show gratitude young lady? Arm confiscated!”
“Try it bitch,” She shouted, kicking him away from her. “You’re not my dad!”
When Garth charged her a second time, she leapt into the air and pirouetted around him, putting him in an arm bar in a blink of an eye.
Leanne yanked backward without mercy, and Garth was only barely able to remove his elbow joint in time to avoid it breaking. Channeling mana through his body, Garth grew slimy brown tentacles he’d harvested from the stationary ambush predators that looked like stalagmites.
They burst out of his chest, complete with nerves, extending his perceptions outward as his brain changed on the fly to accommodate them. Garth’s vision went white as he removed the connection to his optic nerves, before rewiring them to the new eyeballs sticking out of his nipples.
Garth peeled out of his clothes, and his head folded back, chest splitting down the center to reveal a row of jagged teeth made from his rib bones.
“I’ll bet you’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going,” Garth said with his chest-mouth, the air rattling through air sacks built just for speech.
Leanne tried to drop the arm bar, but Garth’s hand had turned into another sticky tentacle and wrapped around her limbs, preventing her escape.
“Now gimme that arm, you ungrateful brat.”
“Bite me!” Leanne shouted, biting off a chunk of his tentacle and squirming away, delivering a solid kick to his now empty head.
“If you insist.” Garth said, his chest mouth looming wide as Leanne screeched.
Out of the corner of his nipple-eye, Garth saw motion, followed by a shriek of horror.
“Umm…” Garth said, turning to address the party of three adventurers watching the two of them scuffle. “This isn’t what it looks like.”
It was a party of two big orcs and a lithe benkei woman, all dressed in light armor, with shortbows and longswords. Each of them had a bandolier full of potions and scars from years of fighting.
In a matter of seconds, half a dozen arrows lanced toward Garth, perforating him.
“I blame you for this,” Garth said to Leanne as he rerouted his circulation around the arrows in the midst of charging forward. Garth’s head snapped back into place and he became able to see what he was doing more comfortably. For a touch of flair, he wiggled his tentacles and gave an unearthly howl from his distended jaw, while gnashing his ribcage teeth.
“Gods!” the lead orc shouted, dropping his bow and drawing his sword in one smooth motion.
Garth was about to reach them when the stone under his feet turned to liquid mud, dropping him knee deep into the puddle before it solidified in an instant. Garth glanced over at the Benkei woman who was deep in concentration. That woman could be a problem.
“Die!” the lead orc plunged forward and slammed his blade down on Garth’s neck, cleaving away his head and right arm, which flopped down onto the ground.
Torso Garth whipped a tentacle forward, stretching it and wrapping it around the Benkei mage’s face, seeking to invade her body. Garth hadn’t had a Benkei sample yet.
“It’s not dead!” The second orc shouted, cleaving the tentacle in half.
The lead orc let out a feral howl and brought his blade straight down on Garth’s chest, cutting him in twain and sending gouts of blood everywhere.
Head and Shoulder Garth grabbed and bit into the orc’s leg, forcing himself into the meat-sack’s bloodstream.
The lead orc screamed and tried to dislodge the disembodied head while the second or tried to unwrap Tentacle Garth, who was worming his way into the mage’s respritory system.
To be fair, he managed to tear a lot of Tentacle Garth away. The Garth that remained crawled into the mages lungs and began to assimilate and reproduce.
“It’s a regenerator, Use fire!” the lead orc called, shearing Head Garth away from his leg and pulling out a potion. He drank the potion down and then breathed an enormous jet of fire onto both halves of Torso Garth.
Garth’s thought processes became muddied as his torso started mindlessly flailing in the heat of the fire. The other hims were too small with too little neural tissue to do very much thinking, and the connection between them was disturbed by the chaotic screaming of the largest piece.
The fight devolved into pain and mindless thrashing.
Time slipped by. Warm. Wet. Hungry. Aching growth. Confinement. Garth was penned in somewhere, confined. When he tried to stretch out, something pushed back, keeping him in check. It felt like Garth was trapped in some kind of egg. confined in every direction.
Rallying all his strength and every bit of brainpower he could muster, Garth pushed up, piercing through his confinement with the snap of bone.
“I liiiive!” Garth shrieked in a tiny voice as he emerged from the Benkei woman’s chest. Never thought I’d be a chestburster. Life goals.
The lead orc was thrashing on the ground, his mouth frothing as he went into shock from the Garth eating its way through his bloodstream. Shoulda lost the leg, buddy, Garth thought as he pried himself the rest of the way out.
“Pardon me,” He said as he shoved a big, soft breast out of his way. There were perks to being baby-sized, after all.
“What the hell are you?” The second orc, clutching his stomach where Leanne had disemboweled him. His eyes were wide with terror, skin pale from blood loss.
“Oh, hey Garth, I thought you were dead.” Leanne glanced over at where the monsterous charred corpse was still smoking, standing upright and split in half.
“Perks of having a decentralized nervous system, I suppose.” Garth said, then glanced at the orc. “And as for what I am…Human Kipling Aberrant FleshWeaver, is probably the most accurate description.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
“You know it,” Garth said, reaching back down into the Benkei mage’s chest and retrieving her heart. It didn’t come easy, as attached to her entire circulatory system.
“You ever see those movies where someone pulls someone else’s heart out of their chest?” Garth said, straining to get it out of there. “Well, it’s total bullshit. This sucker is in here good.
Garth formed blades with his hands and cut around the heart before pulling it out, snacking on the tough meat and the crunchy heartstone.
“mmm, that’s good stuff.” Garth turned back to the mortally wounded orc. “So. About the Arcanite trade. Did you or Krog do any under the table dealing with a large syndicate?”
“How do you know his name?”
Garth finished the heart, feeling his body ache painfully as it rapidly grew. He eyed the Benkei woman, her eyes sunken into her face, since there was nothing behind it to support them. Garth had eaten her brain first.
“Take a guess.”
The remains of Tentacle Garth coiled up Garth’s leg and rejoined him, along with a flood of red blood from the now dead Krog. Head and Shoulder Garth clawed his way across the floor, eager to reunite despite half his head sheared away by the lead orc.