L’yophin felt pain to his very exoskeleton. The attack of the Daer-seehn had exhausted him. Seeing Ruth transform horrified him, seeing her reveal herself as a phantasmagoric entity.
But seeing Soltana in her state pushed him over.
They had passed out of the canyon and were now in a sparse mycelium. Hive Vulnerado was just moments away.
His limbs were shaky and his mind hurt from the attack. But tread on he did. He refused to give up. Just as Soltana had refused to give up hope when she was trapped. He would continue on and get her repaired.
He hoped it wasn’t too late.
Ruth continued pulling the cart, bellowing and bantering to keep lesser dangers at bay. It had worked, keeping the trip uneventful apart from the attack. L’yophin was glad Ruth had revealed herself, finally. He had told Soltana Ruth was a fake, not because of the Seal.
“What gave me away?” Ruth asked, breaking character.
L”yophin let out a chittering chuckle at that.
“Goblins don’t have red hair. Never have.”
“Only Redcaps do.”
It was because Ruth had decided to wear red hair. Goblins naturally never had red hair, unless they metamorphosed into a Redcap. Which metamorphosed from a Hobgoblin.
Ruth’s ignorance of Goblin biology and vanity revealed her.
“Feh, cursed by my own desire for beauty.”
“A human trait,” He responded.
Ruth looked back at the impassive spider. He gave a simple shrug.
“Be around humans long enough, pick up patterns. Humans are run by incentive, the pursuit of beauty, and curiosity.”
“So I will need to do better to disguise.”
“Correct. You need to drop your own identity for the sake of the disguise, otherwise it will bleed through.”
“I’m not sure that’s safe,” Ruth responded with a sigh.
L’yophin quickly accepted Ruth’s body horror, storing it away in a compartment inside his mind. Once a Dugrum did that, they rarely forgot and could compartmentalize the emotion tied to it. He also realized his remembering the past war with humanity came up less frequently when speaking to Soltana about it.
Please, whatever god is watching over her, please keep her safe, L’yophin thought a prayer to anyone.
A thought occurred to him now that he was cognizant.
“How did you defeat the Daer-seehn?”
“I found a being that was injected into me from long ago. I am unsure how I was changed, but apparently it was the core of the genetic experiment.”
“It was called an Ancath.”
L’yophin felt his heart suddenly race. He stopped, and Ruth halted in response.
L’yophin’s mind was spiraling. The memories of seeing his god destroyed in front of him surfaced.
“You can’t be…”
“Why? L’yophin what is an Ancath to you?”
L’yophin shook from his thoughts, furrowing his brow at Ruth.
Ruth went silent, trying to process what she heard.
“Ancath were the Scarabaeidae’s gods. Angels are to humans what Ancath are to Scarabaeidae. Without them, our species declines. We spiral without purpose, with most stuck in a drone state. Doing the same tasks over and over until they can’t. Many are more self aware enough to break out of it, like me and other Dugrum. It is why I am a hermit.”
“We are a triplicate species. Scarabaeidae. Dugrum. Ancath. All three are of the same lineage, branching from the Ancath.”
“Whoever changed you must have collected the DNA of an Ancath, implanting it in you.”
“Not just the DNA, but the soul as well.”
L’yophin’s mind was reeling over that.
“Her name was S’yliska.”
L’yophin sat down at that, trying to comprehend how the soul of the precious Ancath S’yliska ended up here. His eight eyes were wide with shock, trauma evident on his face; even for non-Scarabaeidae.
“Show me,” L’yophin demanded.
“But what if others are watching-”
“Show me,” L’yophin pressed.
Ruth stepped away from the cart, her flesh flowing and changing, becoming tall and thin.
White chitin and vermillion underflesh.
A smooth chitinous face with vents for eyes.
A massive presence, and a gentle smile.
Ruth said through the voice of the Ancath.
L’yophin fell over on his back, staring with wonder at the familiar being.
“S’yliska…” He murmured.
She stepped to him, kneeling down and tracing her fingers through his soft ash grey fur.
“My precious S’yliska,” L’yophin chittered with a spidery sob.
“It’s not our fault. It’s not your fault.”
She said twice over to him. L’yophin shut his eyes, feeling the familiar hand.
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know I led them to you.”
L’yophin said with a sad chitter. His mind was replaying that day in his head. He could not lock it up.
He felt her presence in his mind, reading through the moments that pained him so.
“It was foretold. Our fall was foretold by the ancient Grimo’lder; the first of our kind. You did all you could, even when you realized what was wrong.”
“I should have stayed, should have-”
“Been destroyed with us? No. That was not your future. I forbid it. I forbid you feeling sorry for this situation. I am here now.”
“But now you can rescue our people, you can-”
“Repeat the same destruction as before?”
“Those that destroyed us, The Church of the Third Advent of Christ, are even more powerful than before. Their eons of war and toil brought forth the fruit of a hardened people. I would raise Scarabaeidae back up to the heavens, only to see it crash back down to oblivion.”
L’yophin’s heart broke because he knew she was correct. Near the end of the war, casualties for humanity was borderline zero. The brunt of all fighting was focused on The Ten Cardinals. One in particular hunted each Ancath to destruction solo. The best they could do would be to run and hide for a time.
And then perish.
“You can’t leave us.”
“Only for a time. Ruth’s calling is now my calling. I will aid in her mission.”
“And so will you.”
“What do I do?”
“Keep the path in front of you. Repair Soltana. She will guide you both.”
“She will need you both.”
“How can you remember? You were depleted like the others…”
“I have read through your mind, seeing the memories of before. In that regard I am refreshed.”
“So you can return to your old strength?”
“No. One would need to go backwards. I will continue forward. I, S’yliska will change as I must. It will be a new strength for a new time.”
L’yophin was shaken by that. Shaken by many things. The sudden change and discovery unseated him. To have her returned to him changed drastically was disturbing to a spider set in his ways. Or was set in his ways before Soltana.
There were no coincidences of meeting his god again. The question was how did one get a hold of his god’s soul? And who? How many souls did Ruth entomb? Were there more Ancath waiting in the wings? Demons? Angels? The church should have had full access to the souls after defeating the Ancath.
L’yophin’s mind whirred at the possibilities. Nothin made any sense anymore. Not with Ruth. Not with Soltana. A shapeshifting monster housing the soul of his god. An adamantite not-an-anform Lambent that continually remembered more of herself.
“Do not worry of what to do, the path is plain. Continue your journey.”
Ruth stood up, her flesh flowing and melting, her form changing back to the Trow.
“Oi, you ok, Mr. Spider?”
The Trow said as he held out a large beefy hand for L’yophin to grab.
He felt pulled to his feet by the great strength.
“Come on, Mr. Dugrum, we ‘ave a Hive to visit.”
L’yophin was in shock, storing it down into his own memory compartment. He would confront it later.
Now, he had a mission. His energy was returning, inspired by a visit of his long lost god.
He continued on his journey, leading the way to Hive Vulnerado.
Within some time, the Hive was within view. A massive city vessel, several hundred feet high.
A monument and testament to Scarabaeidae technology.
How it was brought deep underground was an impossible story.
It was the main hub for their race.
And a tomb to for a deceased one.