Oh man I was hanging on to this one but I figured I’d post it because I have that podcast in less than two weeks, so I figured it was a GOOD TIME.
3450 words. Korven the Prime and various mantid OCs. This is meant to be a backstory fic for him, in the vein of Unbroken. Hopefully it works!
There was an honor to be a part of the swarm, one that the fleshy races of the world would never understand. The mantid commander stood tall, surveying the hills before him. Soon, they would advance on the fleshy ones, the Pandaren, they called themselves. But first, there was work to be done.
Between them and the fleshy Pandaren were a large people, who had cut down a fair number of mantid who tried to advance through the pass. Korven narrowed his large eyes for a moment and chittered. The foot soldiers below him turned their eyes to him, and he spoke loudly.
“The swarm will not be stopped here! These Mogu will be crushed under our carapace!“
A great buzzing and hissing rose from the crowd of soldiers, and Korven looked at the other leaders, gesturing with a forelimb.
“We advance! For the empress! For the swarm!”
He laughed himself into the fray, regretting, only once, that he has lost his wings years before. The amberwings buzzed overhead, carrying with them lightweight and cruel weapons of war. Korven’s own blade, a simple sword, was raised as he darted through the press of mantid to the mogu they advanced on.
He pulled two small objects from a belt on his body- round things, round amber baubles that he flung ahead of him. The mogu turned, the small things hitting him and sap spreading across his chest and arms.
Korven let out a screech.
The amber solidified, freezing the Mogu is place as Korven leaped, bringing down his blade and taking off the mogu’s amber-encrusted arm in one smooth movement. The mantid swarmed around him, picking the mogu apart as Korven looked ahead. There, the leader. Korven raised his sword, letting out a cry as he advanced.
This one would not fall so easily.
Korven launched himself at him, the mogu raising a large axe and parrying away his blade. The mantid bounded back, coming in for another strike, shrieking as he did in an effort to disrupt the mogu’s focus. It lowered its axe, reaching out with one hand and grasping one of Korven’s forelimbs and grabbing him roughly by the throat. Korven struggled, striking out with his sword, but even his strikes grew weak against the mogu’s stony skin. With a final twitch of him limbs, his eyes closed, and the mogu threw his corpse to the ground.
The mogu laughed, a deep and resonating sound, and put a foot on Korven’s lifeless chest. The mantid was still, and the Mogu began to apply pressure with a clawed foot, expecting the mantid’s exoskeleton to give beneath him.
Korven’s eyes opened.
He gripped the mogu’s leg tightly, hissing as he rolled, flipping the large, unwieldy mogu onto his back and making a pleased clicking sound as he stood over him. Grasping the mogu’s axe in two of his claws, he took off his head with one quick movement.
Their victory was assured.
Sunrise was dim over the Dread Wastes, the skies always clouded over as the mantid empire thrived on the coast of the world. Korven was awake early from his nightly rest- though mantid did not truly sleep, they frequently rested.
He had work to do.
The swarm was long over now, and he had ample time to turn his mind to his research. He was a hero, yes, known for his prowess on the battlefield, but he always felt more at home among his tools and research. Weeks had been spent carefully coating living things in amber, and he furtively glanced to a large egg-shaped piece of amber in the corner of the small workroom. He could just make out the shadow of the creature inside- a soft, fleshy beast. He had begun his experiments years before, prior to the swarm. The small Pandaren had struggled at first, but eventually succumbed to the amber. He was surprised to remove the cloth from his project and find it intact after he returned from his successes beyond the Wastes nearly half a cycle ago. Sonic probing showed that, even after these years, the captive was still very much alive in there.
He rested a forelimb against the amber and chittered, moving his mandibles to make a sound the creature inside would be unable hear were it free. Yes, it was still alive, but deeply asleep. The Klaxxi would be pleased.
“Prime.” His door was open- all doors in the empire were open when there were no outsiders invading their lands. The messenger was young, still possessing wings that Korven had lost long ago. “You are summoned by her excellency, Empress Zarvira.”
Korven covered his experiment with a large bit of thick fabric, a trophy from beyond the Wastes. “Let us see her, then, we have much to discuss.”
The imperial palace was built around the trunk and roots of a great kypari tree, and the guards respectfully lowered their weapons and Korven strode past them. He had known some of them when they were mere hatchlings, and doubted they would survive the next swarming. The palace walls were the same amber color as the rest of their grand architecture, illuminated in places by insects preserved in sap. There were many winding chambers- the palace grew with each generation, though not in a way that had much to do with order or forethought. The empress’s chambers were deepest of all, but he could hear her long before they reached them.
She sang the old songs, from times long before- songs of praise for the dread old one Y’shaarj. Her voice, the tone of her clicking and chittering, pulled at something within him- a deep feeling of wanting and belonging. He had studied the fleshy races long enough to know that this must have been what they called the emotion of ‘love’, though there was no exact word for that in the mantid language. He felt for her as he believed all mantid felt- she was their mother, their queen. To many, her will was nearly absolute. Only the priests, the Klaxxi, could oppose her will.
Empress Zarvira opened her eyes, her forelimbs stretching up as she vocalized, the sounds resonating off of the walls of her chamber. The assembled attendants were reverent, some reaching out with forelimbs to gently touch her garments as she sang. These songs were not just meant for them, but for all of her children. One, in particular, stood close by. Her thorax and abdomen were garbed in nearly royal robes, cloth from beyond the wastes and decorated with wings that had been gifted to her by the younger mantid. It was an honor, after all, the help clothe the new empress.
The song ended, the sounds echoing off of the walls of the chamber for a moment afterward, and there was pleased buzzing and clicking from the attendants.
“Your highness.” Korven stepped forward, holding out his forelimbs and showing her his thorax out of respect. “Your summoned me?”
“Korven.” Her voice was warm, and she closed her eyes for a moment, pleased. “I will see the trees today.” Waving away the attendants and gathering her silks around her upper limbs, she stepped forward. “I could not see you sooner.” She lowered her head apologetically, and turned toward her heir, the young empress. “Wait for us here, Mek’riev. When I return, I will teach you again how to sing the praise of the old one.”
The young queen gestured with her forelimbs, turning to the attendants that surrounded her.
“It has been too long since I properly saw the trees for myself.” She folded her arms across her thorax, and Korven watched her carefully as they walked through the champers of the palace. There was something odd in her gait that was not there before- it had been many seasons since the last swarm, and many still before then that she had been born. “I know my time is growing close.” Her voice was calm, and he was silent. “Soon I shall have to honor the old traditions and allow my body to nurture the new swarm mother. This is the way of the cycle, and it must be preserved.”
The words were an utmost truth, and Korven chittered in agreement. “Your excellency is wise.”
“Only owing to my years.” She rubbed her mandibles together, amused. “You wished to speak with me, Korven?”
“Your excellency, my research has progressed far beyond my expectations.” They stepped into the dim light of the open air. “I have shared my research with the Klaxxi, and they seem most intrigued.”
She gently rested a forelimb on the head of a large palace guard, who closed their eyes reverently and made a soft, pleased noise. She turned her attentions back to Korven as they walked beyond the steps of the palace. “What have you discovered?”
“The fleshy test subjects are weak, but my experiments with insectoid creatures show much promise. Your excellency, I believe there may be a way to preserve certain individuals for later use, as they are needed.”
“And the Klaxxi wish this?”
“They foresee great use of heroes of the swarm in later cycles.”
She was silent for a moment, walking among the rocky and barren terrain surrounded the greatest kypari tree in the wastes. They reached where a root had broken the ground, and she placed her claws against it, ripping a shallow gash in the tree that leaked sweet amber. “I understand. There will be need for such heroes if something were to go wrong. They would have been made of use in the past.”
He stepped forward, eyeing the slowly leaking amber sap enviously. He knew what she spoke of- the past was marred with few empresses who disobeyed the cycle, though it had happened. “My research has shown that amber is the key, your excellency.”
She tilted her head at him, gathering the leaking sap in her claws and bringing them to her mandibles. “I have heard little of your research, but I know the concepts behind it.” She thought for a moment, the amber coating her mouthparts as she drank it down. “I trust the judgment of the Klaxxi.”
He watched her carefully, and then gestured with a forelimb, agreeing with her. “I will tell them.”
“Thank you, Korven. I have not been to Klaxxi’vess in some time…I will see them one last time, but you will speak with them before I do.” She stepped closer, resting a sap-covered claw against his mouth, and was still for a few seconds, and then turned back toward the palace. “I only wish to offer one piece of advice to the Klaxxi.”
He closed his eyes, tasting the sap on his mandibles, and watched her. “Anything, your excellency.”
“You, Korven, are our greatest hero.” She turned back to look at him. He could see the age in the way her small wings on her head and back were ripped and worn, no longer the prideful crown of the mantid empress. “I suggest ask that we preserve you in amber, as a hero of the swarm.”
He blinked, his eyes closing in odd intervals, and placed a forelimb to his mouth. “Your excellency…I will tell them. It would be an honor, and I would gladly volunteer for it.”
“I know they are beyond my will, it is the way of the swarm, for the good of all.” She turned away, and began to walk. Korven followed closely, catching up and walking at her side. “I like to think they would honor this one wish, as you seem eager, as well.”
He gently rested a limb on her abdomen, the cloth she adorned herself with rich and smooth beneath his claw. Perhaps it would be better this way. His experiments had shown promise, but there was no guarantee that he would survive for more than several swarming cycles. Still, there would not be another swarm until he was too old to venture beyond the wastes. He had earned his title as a hero, but he would kill no more for the swarm. Such was the cycle.
“You are the greatest hero of this swarm.” She looked down at him, resting a claw against his head. “I would honor you before your preservation.”
He tilted his head at her. “To be preserved is honor enough, your excellency.”
She chittered, amused. “We are planting a kypari tree- the last that will be planted in my reign. I would ask you to plant it for us.”
He let out a surprised hiss. “Your excellency, it would be an honor beyond what I could imagine.”
“You will name it, as well, in accordance with our traditions.”
He removed his claw from her, some strange feeling in his thorax. “I would name it Kypari Zar.”
Empress Zarvira hissed in response. “Then it will be my namesake.”
“May it nurture the swarm for cycles to come.” He looked up at her, and she closed her eyes, pleased.
The sun had not broken the horizon when the mantid assembled near the small lake, even several of the Klaxxi’va standing on the hill near the water. It had been decided- the Klaxxi would honor Zarvira’s wish and grant Korven the honor of becoming the first hero preserved in amber. “Paragons”, they called these heroes. He would be the first- known to history as Korven the Prime. It was an honor that he had hardly imagined.
“Her excellency approaches, kzkxx.” The Klaxxi’va gestured with his staff, his headdress following as he turned his head to gaze toward the direction of the palace. There was a small guard with Zarvira, and various attendants. Mek’riev, the empress-in-waiting, followed, carrying a small amber-colored container with a small sapling inside.
The assembled mantid, even the Klaxxi’va, displayed their thoraxes in respect as she approached to stand with them.
“Your excellency.” The Klaxxi’va made small sounds with their mandibles, the three of them standing close together.
“Klaxxi,” she made a clicking sound, “va Zin, Kie, Vox, it is an honor to have you in attendance.”
“The cycle is to be preserved for the future of the swarm. The kypari are our lifeblood.” They nodded, agreeing with Klaxxi’va Zin, who spoke and held his staff. “We are honored to be here to witness.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, pleased. Korven watched her closely, and she hesitated, almost reaching out to rest a claw on the Klaxxi’va, but she knew to stop herself. They may have been children of hers, but they were equals, and she could not show them the same affection she might to a lowly swarm tender.
Zin let out a clicking sound, turning to the top of the hill. “This site has been selected?”
“Yes.” She turned, climbing the hill, the mantid following her lead. Some, like Korven, had long ago shed their wings and walked, but a few flew. She waited when she reached the top, letting the last of them follow, and then gestured to Korven. “Mek’riev, please.”
The young empress chittered. “It is a great honor we bestow upon Korven the Prime, hero of the swarm.” She stepped forward, holding out the small container with sapling. “We ask that he plant this kypari tree, as that is the will of the empire.”
He took the container, holding it close, and watched Mek’riev for a few seconds before she turned away. She was different from Zarvira, but reminded him of her in some ways. He had no doubt she would make a fine empress in her years, and for a moment was regretful that he would be unable to see her reign.
Still, he had chosen his path- the path of the Paragon.
Korven walked to the apex of the hill, turning to the assembled mantid. “It is with great honor that I carry out the will of the empire, and plant the tree Kypari Zar.” He placed a forelimb against the ground, carefully digging a place for the sapling, and gently shook it from the container, roots still holding onto the dirt it was planted in. He placed it in the small hollow he had crafted, covering the roots with the wet soil he had disturbed to plant it. The kypari were strong trees, and one day, this sapling would no doubt be a beacon for the empire- the greatest kypari tree in the Dread Wastes. It would nurture the empire for cycles to come.
Zarvira stepped closer, resting her claw on his head. “We are deeply honored, Korven the Prime.”
“I am, as well.” He looked up into her eyes, and she closed them, pleased.
“Your excellency.” Klaxxi’va Vox stepped close. “Forgive us, but we have much to discuss with the Prime.”
“Yes, of course.” She let go of him, and he could tell that same distance that separated empress and Klaxxi’va now separated her from him as well. No longer was he merely of the swarm.
“Korven, we have thought it would be suiting to bury you beneath the hill.” Klaxxi’va Vox looked to the other two, who clicked in agreement. “On the shore of the lake.”
He thought for a moment. His research was nearly complete, and that was an ideal location. Future empires would be unable to find him- the location would be known only to the Klaxxi. “This would be acceptable.”
“Good, good.” Klaxxi’va Kie rubbed her mandibles together. She turned to speak to the Empress. “Your highness, we would be honored if you would attend. We are not servants of the empire, but this is a historic occasion.”
Zarvira hissed in pleased surprise. “I would be honored, in turn. I have never felt at odds with the Klaxxi.”
“Good.” Klaxxi’va Kie fluttered her small wings, pleased. “Korven is to prepare his possessions; we will reconvene on the next full moon. We will, of course, take his research notes, but the rest he may do with as he wishes.”
“Thank you, Klaxxi. May the cycle be endless.” Korven looked out over the lake. So, this was to be his place of rest.
He had few possessions beyond his research- some small trophies of the swarm that would no doubt have been of only little value to another mantid. The heavy cloth he owned was gifted, sent to the palace for Mek’riev to use in garments for herself, though he would never know if it was used or simply discarded- he would never see the bright covering she made for herself, and how proudly she wore it until she passed it along to the next Paragon.
The next full moon was only a twelve suns from the planting of Kypari Zar, and it passed swiftly. His trips to Klaxxi’vess were frequent as he prepared the amber that he would encase himself with.
Finally, after many restless nights, the next full moon arrived. Only a small guard accompanied Zarvira, but the Klaxxi were all in attendance. They spoke amongst themselves in hushed tones, some reverently displaying their thoraxes to the empress, some remaining slightly apart from such polite displays. Lower-ranking attendants to the Klaxxi busied themselves with containers of amber that Korven had prepared. The exact location was dug out of the shore of the lake, and the Klaxxi assembled themselves around the pit. They made a soft buzzing around, and silence fell over the small group.
“We have assembled.” Klaxxi’va Zin gestured with his staff. “Korven, do you have any words before you sleep?”
“I am thankful that the Klaxxi have allowed me this honor, kzkxx.” He stepped to the pit, gesturing for the amber to be poured in, slowly. “It is my hope that I will be able to serve the Klaxxi in the future, should the need arise.”
Klaxxi’va Zin chittered. “If the need arises. May the cycle be eternal.” The other Klaxxi chittered in agreement.
Korven allowed himself one last glance to empress Zarvira, and climbed into the pit. The amber had begun to solidify, and it stuck to his exoskeleton. Containers were poured in, and he could hear for a short time. Zarvira’s voice was quiet, but sweet as the amber that was encasing him. As the amber flooded through his mandibles and filled his lungs, the last thing that echoed in his mind were sounds from the ground above- Empress Zarvira’s voice, lulling him into sleep with one last song.
The cycle would be endless, and he would ensure that, when he awoke. It would be many cycles before he did. For now, there was only amber hardening around him, dirt being poured back on top of him, and the tones of Zarvira’s final song echoing through his mind.