Torpid Slivers #9

It is thanks to Doctor Catechault-Bonneleck’s comprehensive work on the subject in the 1850s that Puppenoptrids are no longer perceived as squalid companions for organ-grinders* — although that is how they first appeared to us, in markets and public squares near Ellubecque’s harbor, among the sightseeing crowds by the Januspont and in similar spots extending north along the Black Sea-side. Today they are best viewed going about their own business by the forest’s edge in northwestern Haemusmont: in their element, but never too removed from ours, as the (now updated) description below would suggest is quite natural.

Puppenoptrids (Pupafurius hypervespa) are born headless. They seek out the heads of neglected dolls (preferring older ones) and affix them to their own bodies. A post-larval, headless Puppenoptrid, or drone, is asexual. Its head’s gender will determine its reproductive organs. The head will also provide the accrued wisdom of the doll’s own experiences — thus the primacy of an older head, irrespective of its body’s age. The recipient of an aged head will be able to move with ease in its new insect body almost immediately, while one acquiring a fresh head will usually wobble about like a newborn foal.

A drone is treated as expendable. It makes itself useful to the hive, but its strongest instinct is to complete itself, as it cannot feed and will die within three months if it does not obtain a head. Should the hive locate a trove of suitable heads (e.g. an attic full of old playthings), it will typically send out a birthing crew, made up of several mature specimens bearing newly-hatched drones.

Puppenoptrids use their thread-like tongues to feed on sawdust and similar finely granulated substances through minuscule holes drilled into their mouths. The feeding process not only provides the insect with essential minerals; it also produces a paste used in the construction of hives.

*Or even as outright frauds, e.g. the “masked imported roaches” and “aerial marionettes” of the earliest accounts.

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