|Official Name||Rikhzah Beetle|
|Common Nicknames||Scrabbler Beetle, Excran Insect|
The Rikhzah Beetle is a small creature with a copper-brown chitin shell and a diet of dung largely disdained in wider Aloria as a gross insect. However, the insect is of high importance to the Asha as the Race makes use of the Beetle’s natural pigment that colors them black and forms an important part of the basis of their tattooing artistry. This ink sinks deep into the skin and then bonds permanently with the hair follicles, thus setting the color in the fur, even after the fur would be shaven, lost or regrown. Rikhzah tattooing can produce unnatural patterns, shapes, and formations, and is particularly popular among the Corsairs and the free tribes that live away from the Asha States. Thus, the Rikhzah Beetle prospers across much of the Asha world, including the former Asha world, and is valued by those who can appreciate their traits and role in the world.
When or where the Rikhzah Beetle first emerged has been lost to the sands of time, perhaps literally, given their fondness for humid to arid environments. The Beetle species was found in many areas of northern and central Daen as well as the Ashal Islands during the early years of civilization. Ruins and remnants of the Dewamenet Empire show imagery of this species playing an important role in the ancient worldview, perhaps representing the importance of the earth given their focus on tunneling and dirt. However, the Allorn Empire devastated those that could speak the truth to these claims, and in their scouring of the Dewamenet, so too did they scour the Rikhzah Beetle. However, the creature survived, not just in the wilds of the deserts which formed in Ithania and the more arid parts of Daendroc, but also in the rocks and sands of the Ashal Islands. It is also at this time that many believe the Beetle was first domesticated by those now called the Siwath-Khenu tribes, the free Asha seeking to maintain their social and cultural practices. They turned the keeping of the Rikhzah Beetle into a form of art, and a useful one, as the oil the creatures generated were used in the creation of the strange-patterned and deep-coloring Rikhzah tattooing dye.
For generations, the Rikhzah Beetle was cultivated by those with knowledge of Asha civilization, while in the wild they were largely despised as lovers of dung and a sorry companion to the Altalar's slaves who lived in squalor. But after many centuries, the Allorn Empire was destroyed by the Wildering and the Cataclysm, and thousands of Asha took this opportunity to rebel. The Great Journey saw them travel to the coastline, led by the knowledgeable Siwath-Khenu tribes to a new homeland in the Ashal Islands. Their tattooing style rapidly evolved into an expression of freedom, and soon, as the Asha States emerged as an expression of independence among the warriors who took to the seas in defense of their land from Altalar and Ailor raiders. This symbology continued to evolve into a symbol of true independence when the Corsair Fleets emerged and became attached to naval traditions. The Beetle during all of this time gradually found their environment evolving as the Asha pulled back the arid lands and took up residence. By 100 AC, Rikhzah Beetles largely grouped around the Fair-Ports where they were cultivated purposefully for use in tattooing, while abroad, the insect remained seen as a pest. This has remained the case until today, some non-Asha in the Fair-Ports even getting tattoos using Rikhzah techniques to alter their bodies in unique ways. The Beetle is likely to remain high in population as it long has many millions to spread across the lands of Daen.
Rikhzah Beetles are small creatures, being an inch and a half long, though with a large body with a width of nearly an inch and a height from underside to back of around half an inch. They have an ovular-round body shape, with their heads possessing a curved and plated front. Two sensitive antennas emerge from each side of the head while a pair of dark red compound eyes help the animal to see and sense all that is needed while their mouth is small yet rapid-moving. The rest of the insect’s body is broken up like other insects, with a thorax and an abdomen, however they are so large and smoothly meshed together they may appear to lack them. The Beetle’s limbs are three pairs of thick, segmented appendages, while the rest of the animal’s body is a sleek shell of chitin with the elytra having faint lines back toward the insect’s rear. The Rokhzah Beetle is unable to fly as the elytra are fused together. The Beetle has two more notable features. The first are in the fine hairs that coat its limbs and front of its body, which the insect uses to feel and sense what it grasps or is approaching. The next feature is what is called the Rik Gland, located on the underside of the Beetle’s abdomen. This gland is used to expel a black substance called Saihatib or “Rikhzah Ink,” the primary component in Rikhzah tattoo work. While some would assume this is the insect’s own leavings that is not true, and instead seems to be a general byproduct of the Beetle’s engagement with its environment. The Ink also forms a coat along the Beetle’s body, making it hard to grasp and apparently tastes disgusting, suggesting its role as defense mechanic. Regardless of why the insect creates it, the Ink is so potent that it masks the natural dull bronze coloration of the insect’s chitin.
Rikhzah Beetles are extremely uniform in appearance, with no indications of difference between their genders. Their gender ratio is generally equal.
Life Span and Development
Rizhzah Beetles are laid in clutches of six to twelve small, oblong yellow-white eggs with a sticky consistency that keeps substances like dirt and Rikhzah Ink attached to their form. The larva that emerges is fleshy and pale brown, shaped like a worm with a few short appendages to drag itself around on. As they are often laid in their primary food source, larva rarely spend more than two to three months eating and growing to an inch or so long. During this time, they also also constantly shedding their skin, left pale brown afterward before darkening to a more copper hue. In this stage however, the Ink can also interact with their bodies and dye them black. After they have suitably matured, the larva enters a pupa stage and stops moving, gradually developing a shell around its body and emerging after a week with an adult body and mentality. Rikhzah Beetles are then able to mate year-round, and can live up to three years.
Rikhzah Beetles spend their entire lives performing tasks, rarely resting for any period other than eating and saving energy to continue living. Their society is broken into two Guilds, the Gatherer Guild and the Tunneler Guild. The first are the Beetles most commonly seen by outsiders, those that gather dung and leavings and form it into balls, to then roll back to the Beetle nest, where it left for the Tunnelers to take, with the Gatherer returning to their task. Tunnels for their part are the diggers and shapers of the nest, taking the dung and cramming it into their home to use as both food source and building material. Gatherers and Tunnelers are not set groups, as it is common for Beetles to drift between the two positions during their energetic but short life. The Rikhzah Beetle doesn’t care much for other members of its species, as they outright ignore living larvae and pupae in favor of their own activities. Rikhzah Beetles are also known for their Ink, and where they dispel it. Commonly found slicking the tunnels they build for themselves, some nests have “swim chambers” where the substance sits on the floor in a large quantity allowing members of the nest to bath in it and coat their bodies. Given their small size, the species of insect often scatters at the presence of shadows or large animals.
Territory and Groupings
Rikhzah Beetles live in amorphous nests of up to thousands of members, both in the wild and in cultivation grounds within Asha Fair-Ports. These grounds make use of unique Living Metal architecture to pull up huge sections of earth to allow the Asha to extract the needed Rikhzah Ink before sliding the block back into the earth, though others find it just as effective to capture, kill and drain a few dozen Rikhzah Beetles by hand through the use of unique tools.
- Rikhzah Ink is sometimes used to write special, secret messages on the fur of “silent couriers,” members of Asha society performing what is widely believed to be one of the last remnants of the ways of the Siwath-Khenu tribes.
- Rikhzah Beetles are highly disdained in Ithania, despite their relative harmlessness, and most consider it an irony to have Asha slaves kill these creatures.
- The balls of dung Rikhzah Beetles Gatherers can roll have been recorded at being sometimes three times the size of the insect, a remarkable feat for such a creature.