|Common Nicknames||Scarab, Flesh Beetle|
|Habitat||Deserts of the Ashal Islands|
The Torat-Nekh is a species of particularly vicious, carnivorous insect that many would rather read about than meet face to face. A beetle of varying sizes and ferocity, the Torat-Nekh are a breed of insect that devour any flesh they can get their pincers on, and live in the deep deserts of the Ashal Isles - far, far away from any established cities. An ancient legend claims that many Kings and Queens of the Asha kept these scarabs in jars, meant to warn against extreme criminal behavior. Dead Torat-Nekh were often used to decorate the walls of holy sites or crushed and ground into a fine powder to be used in paints or dyes. Whether or not the legends hold true has been lost to the sands of time and now, the Torat-Nekh are a vague threat in the back of travelers’ minds as they navigate the deep deserts of the Ashal Isles.
The Torat-Nekh has a long and horrifying history with the Asha. First encountered by the Asha people upon the Ashal Isles, it became quickly apparent that this was not a beetle to be trifled with after one poor settler found himself swarmed with the insects. Upon recovering his corpse, fellow settlers found that the swarm had stripped him of every bit of flesh they could crawl across, leaving only bone and tattered clothing in their wake. Rather than risking an infestation that would bring a settlement to its knees, the settlers moved on, away from the far deserts, to settle elsewhere. Today, the shed pupa and dead bodies of the Torat-Nekh can be found in many collector’s possessions, with few rare live specimens kept in jars on shelves in the more eclectic hobbyist’s shops. However, in the furthest reaches of the Asha deserts, buried in the sand, these terrible creatures lurk, waiting for anything to fall into their clutches.
The Asha people often found more uses than just dyes and paint for the dead beetles. In higher standing circles, they would collect the smallest of specimens and dip them in clear resin or amber to preserve them and turn them into marbles to entertain themselves with or fashion pieces as a status symbol amidst the higher echelons of the society, whereas others turned them into board game pieces. Amidst the stranger, more unconventional people, the Torat-Nekh was something to be coveted and collected, some going so far as to spend half their month’s earnings on the royal blue variety of the insect. Torat-Nekh are frequently depicted on temple walls as well, often shown swarming unfortunate souls unlucky enough to be caught in their swarm. It is regularly suggested that tourists do not touch any of these beetles, or try to pull them from the walls as souvenirs, as it was a common practice to utilize them as a means to tempt thieves into stealing from the wall itself and, as such, doom them to a rather unpleasant death. Torat-Nekh were frequently forced into stasis and carefully attached to the walls. More than a few architects lost their lives by accidentally jarring the scarabs and alerting them into wakefulness once more.
Cautionary tales were common amidst the Asha populations, some used in nightly rituals as parents tucked their children into bed in the form of “Do not let the Torat-Nekh bite,” others used as horror stories to warn against heinous crimes or repeated bad behavior to ensure the less fortunate population remained somewhat in line. Rumors circulated through the lower class of the Asha people of certain gangs and groups of cut-throats keeping jugs of Torat-Nekh in their backrooms to help rid bodies of their flesh, making it easier to simply dispose of the bodies of their victims. One such Lew Clade gang, notably sporting a blood-red Torat-Nekh with its wings spread as their sigil, was known for kidnapping their victims and extorting their families, only to send the kidnapped members back to their family as bones. They were also known to utilize the Torat-Nekh as weapons - thinly crafted glass bottles housing no more than three or four of the beetles would be thrown at their enemies, causing the glass to break and the beetles to cling to their next victim.
Torat-Nekh come in a wide variety of sizes, with the youngest of the species being the smallest, though all share the same general shape. They can range from two inches in length at their smallest to up to four and a half inches at their largest. In terms of width, the smallest settles in at an inch and a half wide and, at their widest, two and a half inches. Consistent across all sizes, however, the Torat-Nekh always stand at three inches tall. Their head sports a pair of vicious, inch long mandibles, used to both burrow into their victim and tear at the flesh of their victims. Torat-Nekh have one pair of eyes, situated on each side of their head, and a short pair of antennae. Their exoskeleton is composed of chitin, a hard fibrous substance, covering their wings and equally protects the squishy interior. The beetle sports six legs, each covered with a fine, thin layer of hairs coated with a mildly sticky substance that allows them to crawl up walls and hang from ceilings. Torat-Nekh come in a limited array of colors, the most notable and popular being that of vibrant green, and the more rare and coveted royal blue.
There are no discernable differences between male and female Torat-Nekh. A beetle from one side of the desert, when compared to a beetle from the other, show no differences beyond minute coloration concentrations. Torat-Nekh closer to normal food sources tend to sport the bright green, whereas beetles that live further in the desert and find a harder time locating food tend to possess the royal blue coloration.
Lifespan and Development
Torat-Nekh breed during the rare wet seasons of the Asha deserts, surfacing en-masse to participate in competitions of strength and posturing to claim the females’ attention. After their breeding cycle is done, the females lay their eggs and retreat underground. The result of these breeding seasons results in hundreds, if not thousands, of eggs. From these eggs hatch larva, which go through three stages of growth. During the larva stages, it is common to find the larvae eating one another, ensuring only the strongest survive until the pupa stage. The pupa stage does not last very long and, after two weeks, the newly emerged Torat-Nekh is fully grown. These beetles can live as short as two months to as long as several centuries. In times of food shortage, the insect can go into a form of stasis, suspending its basic needs until it is disturbed by an unknowing victim.
The Torat-Nekh as a species are vicious and aggressive, attacking anything that is not another of its kind with intent to kill. It will attack anything with flesh. They are unable to be tamed and are extremely dangerous to keep as pets, as even a single Torat-Nekh can kill a grown adult. Extreme caution is advised and it is often suggested to either kill the beetle should one stumble across them or simply run in the other direction, as where there is one Torat-Nekh, there are certainly hundreds, if not thousands, more nearby.
Territory and Groupings
Torat-Nekh live in colonies that range anywhere from as little as several hundred to as large as several thousand in the more animal populated areas of the desert, especially along travel routes. They swarm their prey, burrowing into their skin, and devouring them from the inside out. Once done, they retreat into the sands from whence they came.
- An ancient Asha legend speaks of a wretched criminal who was buried alive with a grouping of Torat-Nekh, arguably one of the worst ways to be buried, as the beetles will pace themselves to make the food last.
- A hobbyist was once found dead in his home after having accidentally dropped a jar containing a live Torat-Nekh. When his friends found him several days later, the beetle had burrowed out of one eye.
- A swarm of Torat-Nekh can strip clean a body, living or dead, in less than half a minute.