What Man Hath Wrought
"A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story"
They were not as intelligent as man, but they were close enough to see what he was doing right and what he was doing wrong. Or at least what they thought were right and wrong. Their skin was chitinous, insectile, hard and durable. Man's skin was soft like water and spilled a bright red substance when they were slain. Their eyes could see in all directions, but men could see only in one at a time, and some even seemed to not see so well at all, having to use some kind of condensed stone to see through.
Kark, the leader of his Battle, a group of three hundred Sectiles, an underground insect race that could walk upright, or crawl on hands and feet as easily as a spider, unlimited by ground, ceiling or wall. And precisely why they could do that was another reason that Kark saw humans as weak and futile. Their skin broke as easily as water, and they could only fight in one dimension.
Their strength, though, was their strange barking weapons that spit stone so fast and hard that it shredded the chitinous armor of his family, reducing their numbers as effortlessly as a quake, when it shook the ceiling of the world down upon them, as it had some cycles back, causing their entire civilization to be demolished to the point where only a few Battles remained in existence, ranging from one underground cavern to the next, seeking shelter and food, which they drew sustenance from in the form of a radiant plant that thrust its feet into the stone of their world.
When they first met the soft ones it had been his mother Karthis, who had greeted them. The traditional greeting was to offer ones claws to the stranger and then cut their right appendage and drink the blood. She had done so with a large heart filled with hope of a new friendship with this strange species, but instead the one she had offered the sign of friendship had recoiled with a scream and others had come running and using the bark bark things had ripped her body armor apart until she lay on the dirt and rock, oozing her life force before them, a smile of welcome slowly fading into the nocturnal night that came to all intelligent creatures.
It was on that act that Kark had declared war against the soft ones, acting decisively, he and his Battle had managed to kill dozens of them. And since that first great battle, he and his Battle had sought other Battles to join together against these invaders of their dark world.
But even as he and his Battle ranged ahead of the weaker, soft ones, his mind was troubled by the uselessness of the violence. It was not in his nature to harbor so much darkness inside, when there was already so much outside. He and his Elders had heard of another world, deeper in the caverns. A place of great beauty and serenity, where all creatures were welcome with open hearts. Even if they had only two or three as his species did.
In that other realm there were soft ones too, but these were much larger and shone as if they had a light bursting forth from inside them. Even tales of this caused his armor to glisten brightly with hope, its dimmer black colors brightening to a more hopeful green and red.
Kark sighed, which to humans, would have sounded like a razor blade cutting through thick paper, but to him was a clear emotional release of his souls. His race believed each one of them had two souls. One that inhabited their bodies and another that fled upon their release from mortality and went to the Inner World that the Elders told tales of.
He prayed that when his time came he would be able to fly there as well, but he wasn't so sure these days, not with the advent of the soft ones. He had once spied upon them, trying to figure out more about what they were thinking, why they were there. He was starting to grasp simple words, such as eat, food, drink, hot, cold and this helped, but unless he had one to speak with, he'd never get further than a rudimentary understanding of the soft ones.
So he stayed alert for the chance that one day one would make a mistake and become isolated enough for his Battle to surround it and capture it, even if it meant maiming it to do so. He prayed he didn't have to take off its head. That usually slowed down a creature until they could grow a new one. His people could lose their head at least six times and regrow it. Upon the seventh it came back stunted and the member of his race was blind and dumb.
So it was with great hope and surprise that he saw two of the soft ones clambering through a series of vents in the stone, trying to avoid the hot wastes that spewed from a river below them. They made it to the other side of the cavern he and his Battle were camped in, and then laid down to rest. Another creature joined them. It looked like one of their own, but was much taller, and even from where he stood upon the precipice of stone over the raging lava river below. Even there he could sense it had more hearts than his own.
What manner of creature would join with the soft ones who had so many hearts?
He had to know.
So he made sure he left the Battle in a safe position to follow him if necessary, and then made his way to the base of the soft ones. He had no intentions of capturing them at that time. He just wanted to speak with the hard one, the friend of the soft ones. He was puzzled as to why it would betray its hard skinned friends, the Battles.
Rowff stood sentry over his exhausted friends, Rush and Everett, watching the ever changing tides of magma...lava, his friends called it. A strange sound that was hard to pronounce, and caused his multiple tongues to get stuck together and tangled.
They had been traveling for about a week, another strange term, his friends used, that made no sense to him, as in his world there was no time...only tired, hungry and needy. When he had to emit the noxious liquids and solids his body threw off.
They had run into a strange species that lived in the walls of one tunnel they traversed. The creatures never left their hive homes, but instead extended their heads out and when someone approached, shot lanced tongues at their approaching food, and then eating it in one gulp.
Lucky for Rush and Everett, he had been leading on that day. The tongue that struck his lower armor, glanced off its hard surface. Had it shot out at a different angle, and had the creatures waited until they were fully in the tunnel, then they would all have perished, even Rowff.
Rowff had torn the tongue from the mouth of the creature, and sadly, its head as well, for they were firmly attached together. In a matter of moments, he went from hive to hive ripping out tongues as Rush and Everett covered for him, sometimes saving him, sometimes not, as he saved himself instead.
But by the end of that time period, they were all juicy from the evisceration of all the creatures and the saliva spewed by their mouths. The two humans were worn out and depressed.
"We never get a break." Rush had growled as he flopped down on the bed of broken rock, which to him at that moment, seemed like a soft mattress after the stone floors they had been using up until this time.
Everett had rested with his back against a wall and nodded. "Breaks we get all right, just not the kind you can live with. Literally."
For some reason both humans broke into laughter then, but Rowff couldn't see the humor of it, but he could laugh when they did. Their faces and noises they made were somehow funny to him and comforting.
That was when Kark had shown up, extending the claws of his right hand.
Rush and Everett immediately jumped to their feet, grabbing their make shift weapons, which were rough spears of stone.
Rowff laughed. "Worry not."
They didn't believe him, kept at the ready as he approached Kark.
Kark immediately cut Rowff's right arm. Rowff didn't' scream out as a human might, but instead nodded his great head, causing both Rush and Everett to back off, thinking maybe their friend had lost his mind.
Rowff immediately lashed out at Kark's left arm and cut it. The two creatures leaned towards each other.
"Be prepared to charge the monster." Rush warned Everett.
"Got him covered." Everett nodded.
But instead of the two insectile creatures battling, they licked at the wounds they had made, making happy sounds. After several seconds of that, they straightened, then nodded, then sat down like two rocks out of control with thuds on the floor.
Rowff looked to his two friends. "Twould splike you to meet mi ah new frienda, Kark."
Everett gave Rowff an uneasy look. "But he never spoke."
Rowff laughed in that rough way he always did. "Humans. Always fudge everyone by twat you do. Our blood spleeks as loudsly as our voices."
Rush and Everett put down their spears and taking a chance, sat next to Rowff, who grinned at them, with that look that most children would have run home screaming for their Mommies had they seen it, then looked to Kark.
"Speak now. They listen. I help the dumb ones do."
Rush barked out. "Hey! We're not stupid!"
Rowff eyed him sternly. "To swum tings, most shupid!"
Then they sat there and spoke to each other. Humans and insectiles, learning how they each other thought. And for a few hours the world beneath the earth was peaceful. Even if a bit crazy confusing.