Prickly sparks

Table of Contents

— Prickly spark insects are so pretty! Since the magic they acquire during the violent storms in the Orage Mountains makes them sentient, I'm sure I'll be able to communicate with them and make a deal!

— Aline, you foolish child! Don't listen to what Jean told you! Those insects are murderous, and you'd never be able to keep a ward up long enough to get the most aggressive ones to get bored and leave! And that's not even mentioning the magical storms that are going to kill you before you even see your first spark!
— A mother to a child without any survival instinct
 

Biology and ecology

 
The prickly sparks are large insects living in the Orage mountains. Young sparks are the size of a human hand while adult one can grow up to be the length of a forearm. They have a thick segmented trunk that makes their main body, with their head at one extremity and a dart at the other. They have two antennas on their head and big mandibles they can use to break up the body of their preys. They have three pairs of legs, with the foremost ones that can be used as arms to manipulate objects, while the other two pairs surround a pair of wings and are used strictly for walking. Their wings are translucent and looking through them makes magic briefly visible.   At the base of their head, the sparks have an organ that allows them to feel the magical current and predict the weather. This is an ability that all lifeforms in the mountains possess because of the violent magical storms occurring there. So as to resist the magic of the storms, the sparks have developped the ability to store magic in all of their cells and more particularly in storage tissue located on their trunk. This strong concentration has led them to developed sentience and what can only be guessed to be a strong culture, although this can only be guessed at by humans.



Lightning in the middle of dark clouds
A magical storm by Johannes Plenio
 
But the sparks are intelligent! All the stories are just superstitions about the mountains. I'm sure we can communicate with them provided that we don't insult them and are patient enough!
— Aline who knows the sparks better than everyone else




During magical storms, the sparks fly out in the middle of the magical currents to fill up their magical store. This makes them glow a bright blue and gives them fluorescence, which is at the origin of their name. This fluorescent is not uniform over their bodies, it is mainly found in the trunk where it forms interesting patterns that are shown off to potential mates during courting season.   Outside of storms, they use their magic to fly swiftly and enhance the poison in their dart, allowing them to catch up and eat other insects and even small sized animals. They live together in swarm and a full swarm has even been known to kill the bigger and most dangerous animals leaving in their mountains. They are thought to communicate with each other through body dances like bees and through emitting different smells.
 
The sparks ought to know where the storm mushrooms are growing, with how their spores get everywhere during the storm! It will be easy for them to show me where to harvest them, and then fortune will be ours!
— Aline explaining her brilliant plan
 

Relationship with humans

 
While intelligent, communication between humans and the prickly sparks has been extremely limited. They do not seem interested in a dialogue, but if the human visitors have strong enough magical shield or ward that they can support for a long period of time, the sparks will get bored and figure that the human are not worthy enough to be a meal. After such a time, adult sparks will leave while young ones will often stay behind out of curiosity for those new creatures they have never met before.   On such occasions, it is possible to attempt to communicate and make a deal with them and get them to lead people to interesting plants and mushrooms in exchange for something that catch their attention. This can be help killing a big and valuable prey, or more surprisingly, silk imbued with magic that they can use in their nest since silk worms are not found in the mountain. The sparks are able to see colours and prefer bright blue silk that match their own colouring or string red that can be easily seen through the forest.

Silk samples by Fritz_the_Cat


Look, I have it all planned! I'm going to bring along the corpse of a cow. The sparks are sure to smell it and come out to investigate even if a storm is not imminent. I'll just go to the foot of the mountains, sit down with the cow and me under the ward and wait. No danger!
— Aline, still stubbornly insisting on her plans



The other element of their name, "prickly" comes as well from the numerous little spikes covering the body of the sparks, as well as for their extremely susceptible behaviour. Thus, any visitor is warned to stay extremely polite to the spark to not catch their hire, but to also not go to the other extreme and be too exaggeratedly complimentary and sound fake or to be too slow and overeager to please in an attempt to not seem like a threat. Any of this will indeed cause the sparks to become bored and create their own amusement at the humans' expense.   The sight of prickly sparks during storms is legendary for its beauty and the fact that very few humans have survived it - both due to the danger of the magical weather as for the sparks themselves which are particularly aggressive during those moments.
A photo of a tornado getting near a small island covered with trees
The beginning of a magical storm forming above the Western Seas by Espen Bierud on Unsplash
 
— Have you heard what happened to Aline? They found her bones at the foot of the Orages! Not a scrap left or them, and even all the clothes and artefact on her were taken!

— Pfff, those damned sparks! Why all children nowadays think they are so clever that they can disregard all of our advice? They can rebel by wearing strange southern clothing, no need to go into the mountains.

— Well, at least that's one imbecile less in the village...
— Villagers from the region next to the Orage Mountains


Cover image: A prickly spark by AmélieIS

Comments

Author's Notes

Based on the Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)


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5 Dec, 2021 02:33

A really good article. I like the images used, The information is great, and i just like the idea of magical storm infused insects.   Aemon

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
5 Dec, 2021 20:20

Thanks! It was fun to come up with these insects :D

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5 Dec, 2021 21:24

Damn, I was really rooting for Aline. So positive and full of energy, even decided to wait under a dead cow, which who knows how she would drag all the way to the mountains... To what end?...   I'd love to see the sparks during a magical storm. What is a typical/average size of the swarm? Does it increase in size during the storm, i.e., do they join to form a larger swarm?   Also... magical silk and STORM MUSHROOMS! Silk sounds fun, especially a blue one, but the mushrooms pique my interest, especially since Aline was looking for them. Honestly, until the very end I thought you were introducing a new character for a short story...

Introducing my challenge entry, with my cat as the main character and visitor to the tavern.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
5 Dec, 2021 23:06

I live to toment the readers :p But minor self palm because I didn't think about the possibility of bringing in the MCs of book 2 and 3 who live just next to the mountains (which is why I'm doing all this worldbuilding around the area). There may be a good occasion to have them appear in the next articles!   The mushrooms will definitely be coming soon, and I have articles planned about silk worm, magical materials and weaving magic, so that should cover all aspect of the silk XD Not sure if I'll get everything done this month, but they will be written at some point.   For the size of the swarm, I'd say something between a hundred to a thousand sparks probably for an establish colony. And since storms can cover vast areas, all the different nearby colonies would come out at the same time and mingle together. I might add that the particularly big storms that encompass the whole mountains are a kind of festival for them when they all get to meet and exchange gossip.   Thanks for the comment :D

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5 Dec, 2021 22:52

Lovely article! I especially liked the detailed description of their biology, and the fact that they might be willing to make deals to get silk for their nests. And interleaving the article with the girl's story is a great idea - I'm kinda sad that she ended this way, but not too surprised. The sarcasm in the quote boxes foreshadowed her demise pretty well. (By the way, you spelled her name "Alice" in the second and third quote, and "Aline" in the others.)


Creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source.   My Pledge for Summer Camp 2022
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
5 Dec, 2021 23:08

Thanks for the comment and pointing out the typo :D I might like killing characters in the quotes a little bit too much XD But I'm also trying to do something different in some of the other articles I'm writing this month and to also bring in people from the novels, so the characters may have some change of survival after all XD

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6 Dec, 2021 02:22

Cool article! Aline's death was pretty surprising. I didn't expect that. That plan certainly took some guts.

Lilliana Casper   I don't comment much, but I love reading your articles! Come check out my world, Jerde.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
6 Dec, 2021 07:55

Thanks for the comment :D I think it could have gone both way with Aline but that I would have needed a lot more words to show how she could have survived. The plan wasn't bad in itself, she was just too self assured and underestimated how petty the sparks can be... :(

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7 Dec, 2021 23:49

RIP Aline, I was rooting for you.   I love the prickly sparks, though I think I will observe them carefully from a distance and not close up at all. :D

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
8 Dec, 2021 08:04

Thanks for the comment :D Distance is definitely the best way to go!

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12 Dec, 2021 00:26

Such majestic insects, so beautifully dangerous. I will keep my distance and enjoy the view from there.

Creator, artist and writer of the science fantasy world Kingsmaker
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Dec, 2021 09:45

Thanks! That's probably the best way to go :p

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11 Jan, 2022 06:40

This is a really neat article, the story about Aline mixed in with the information was especially entertaining. The layout is nice, and the information is well thought out. Great job!

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Jan, 2022 20:50

Thanks :D

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Sage Tris
Tris (necromancertris)
31 Jan, 2022 06:21

Ah yes, why not make the storms even freakier by throwing giant kinda-murderous insects into the mix! Amélie, your articles always leave me in awe, they are so detailed, yet so easy to read, which is a rare skill in the worldanvillands of many words and long articles :D I like how you focused more on the "social" aspects of the species and the article is not a simple "biological" breakdown like many other species articles out there. That makes it stand out and I find it refreshing.   And I really enjoyed the progression of Aline's quotes :)

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
4 Feb, 2022 08:31

Thanks! Coming up with the social aspects was really fun, and it gave me an interesting idea for featuring them in my novel :D In the end, while biology is interesting, not a lot of it is going to be seen/known by the characters, whereas the interactions with humans is often really we care about :p

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31 Jan, 2022 17:23

I like the way these are characterized. Just because something is intelligent, it doesn't mean you can communicate with it. At the same time, just because something is dangerous, doesn't mean it's actively malevolent. These things really just want to do their own thing and be left alone, don't they? :P

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
4 Feb, 2022 08:24

Well, left alone, left alone... the sparks don't really mind when food walk up right next to them XD If you can survive long enough to prove that you're not food, then they might be willing to interact more. Or maybe not. They just normally don't think about humans all that much because luckily the storms keep both species apart.   Thanks for the comment :D

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