Titansects Species in The Divine Ordeal | World Anvil

Titansects

I recently came to my attention that no one has ever conducted an exhaustive study on the biology and ecology of titansects. This is to be expected, I suppose, when the principal concern of most people is surviving to see another day. Notwithstanding the struggles my species go through, we have been using titansects since the discovery of taming, but there still is a blatant lack of understanding regarding these magnificent beings. Although a lot of hypotheses and know-hows are general knowledge, no real piece of work ever managed to compile an exhaustive report of all this.   From this assessment, I have taken upon me this great task. Beside gathering the knowledge spread all over this world of ours, I have in my possession a clutch of a hundred and nineteen titansect eggs that I will raise and study throughout its life.
— Eliar Semele, how to raise your titansect and other notes on titansect biology
 

Early life

 

The earliest reports of titansects date from humanity's arrival in the abyss. It is most probable that they are endemic to this place and not imported with the archduchy's population. One theory suggests otherwise, saying that they were regular insects which went through a major change by the will of the gods when they were transported from the outside world to here. The insectoid shape of some Seals and the existence of titansects looking nothing like the description of regular insects tend to disprove this theory, which remains nonetheless important among some scholar circles.

 
At birth, a titansect is no bigger than a regular insect. It's always a subject of wonder, how such massive beasts can lay eggs so small. On rare occasions, some may lay eggs the size of a man, in which case the offspring is a giant at birth. It must be noted that these are most likely defects, as these titansects regularly attain humongous sizes but suffer from a much shorter lifespan counted in months.   Although they lay as many eggs as the small insects of past, it is highly doubtful that all end up as titans. From most projections, one or two offsprings out of a clutch gets to be called titansects. The fate of the hundreds others eluded me, and most researchers, for a long time. I may not have obtained a definitive answer, but I can certify that after watching over my clutch days and nights, only one out of the 119 hatched. The others, of elongated shape at first, withered and dried after the first hatching. I have lost all but one specimen, which I hope will grow healthy.
 

Infant stage

 

Over the first few weeks of their lives, newborn titansects grow immensely. Most are smaller than a hand at birth, ranging from 2cm to 10cm for the bigger ones. Although they have the same general appearance as when they are adults, they lack a lot of features. Their shell is soft and brittle, like mush, and they only have a few of the natural weapons they will end up with. The mandibles are the first to develop, while claws and wings appear at later stages, though stems can already be seen in some species.

 

At birth, they do not possess a central brain like humans. Rather, their nervous system is spread throughout their whole body, concentrated at two to fifteen nodes. They are mostly reacting to external stimuli, incapable of reasoning or memory. While it makes them extremely predictable, it is also an ideal defense mechanism. Even though the cerebral node is the biggest and acts like a general manager, infant titansects can be decapitated without dying on the spot. They would become senseless and unable to feed and sometimes breathe, but if given proper replacements, they can reach adulthood just like any other, as their brain develops on another node.

 

During this time, they eat a lot, mostly the worms and caterpillar abundant in the soil. It is not uncommon to see them bury themselves completely for elongated periods of time up to ten hours. They always come out right where they dived, give or take a few meters.

 
Raising a titansect from the egg is not without inconveniences. Laria, as I've named her, likes to goes on hunt for around four hours. It is not as bad as it could be, but it forces our titansect to stay still for a long time. The captain of Kikirstel, my transport for the time being, is growing increasingly nervous, saying we are sitting ducks, which is a saying I had never heard in my life. She does not know what ducks are either, but the saying means that we're easy prey for any predator. She will do as I say though. I paid her handesomely and my research is worth the risk. Furthermore, no harm came our way yet.   I ought to address her concerns though. A nervous crew is often more of a liability than its captain, and I absolutely cannot risk a mutiny at a time like this. I sent some crewmates to gather as much ground food as they can. To make the best out of this situation, I will try to determine if the hunt is an essential part of the titansect's growth, or if it is possible to raise them just like cattle without much loss of function. I am afraid that it will render Laria more docile, in which case more studies would need to be conducted.
— Eliar Semele
 

Titansect growth meets its first plateau after three weeks, at which point most are at knee height. They will stay like this for a week or two while still feeding intensely. This transitional stage lasts until they shed their soft shells to replace it with a hardened one. As much as an end to their infancy, it can also be viewed as a transition from prey to predator. Mature features like wings or venom have yet to appear.

 

This is also when the first signs of sexual dimorphism appear. Although slight, the gender is identified primarily by brighter color spots in females or their absence, as well as the presence of longer antennas and sometimes additional abdominal segments. However, this last trait can appear in either male or females depending on the species, so its meaning is a case-by-case situation.

As it turns out, Laria is not a female like I first supposed, but a male. What I mistook for precocious signs of "puberty" or differentiation disappeared as it shed its soft shell. As I had never witnessed such a phenomenon, my new hypothesis is that it was a kind of skin condition that speckles the early outer layer of a titansect. I can only hope it does not jeopardize the health of my subject, as it has never been documented before. Larien, as I renamed him, seems fine for now.
 

Juvenile stage

 

Once the titansect is in possession of a fully chitinous layer, it enters the juvenile stage of its life. Its growth will start again, for a duration between four and twenty months until its intellect is fully formed. During this time, it will shed its shell around twice per months. It is the most important period money-wise, as a sturdy shell is very valuable and has various uses. It also begins to be able to fight for itself, whereas the infant stage has very little in the way of battle.

 
Larien is becoming too big to be fed by hand, and its dives now take up to six hours. The captain and crew are a bit relentless, but they calmed a lot with the first sheddings. Per our agreement, they keep all of the throwaway chitin to sell while I use my research funds to provide for its development and my seat aboard. It is a huge win for them, as raising a titansect is rather costly.
 

As they usually reach a height of ten meters in this stage, their daily intake increases exponentially. Depending on the species, they will develop new strategies beside burrow feeding. The most ferocious hunt for their kin, while others will dig up large portion of ground, or use something akin to photosynthesis, although the absence of sunlight makes the exact mechanism wrapped in mystery.

 

After two weeks, a central brain appears. The cerebral node will begin to inflate until it fills most of the cranial cavity and centralise all the nervous inputs. This process takes many months, and its completion marks the end of this stage. When the cerebral node is destroyed at the infant stage, another node will inflates instead. One of the node of the second metamer is most often chosen in this situation, however, there is no strictly defined law and too few cases to identify a true pattern.

 

This is the best time to develop a bond with a titansect. Solitary creatures by nature, they don't have any sense of family or gratitude toward the people who raised them. It is however possible to bud a friendship with the insect now endowed with a basic sense of reasoning. Titansects are completely loyal to their first friend and are never able to forge such a strong bond later on, even after the death of the human.

 
The first contact is the most important. I made sure to always be the first human Larien sees when he comes back from his dives, as well as the closest to him at any time. Since the development of the central brain is not caracterized from a phenotypical point of view, I had to keep this routine until I was certain of our bond. Now, I am sure that we share something special, he looks for me aboard and seems to display jealousy toward my current vehicle at times.   This means it is almost time to bid farewell to the crew of Kikirstel. I can tell that they are torn between the relief of having the troublemaker leave and saying goodbye to the golden goose. On my part, it was merely a professional relationship necessary for the first years of my research, and nothing more.   I will depart once we reach the next city, where I will buy mounting gear for Larien. Some might object that to properly study a titansect, it should be done as if it was a wild specimen, but I disagree. I believe humans and titansect have become too close to be separated, especially when studying their life from an utilitarian perspective.
 

Pre-mature stage

 

The stage preceding adulthood is the most loosely defined. The titansect quits the juvenile stage with an ultimate shedding, identifiable from the others with the abundance of fluid ejected from the body. While the outer shells are commonly dry or moist at most, they are soaked in a viscous liquid. There is too much fluid for to solely be the content of the titansect's head, and contains a lot of impurities and unhealthy substances. Since this shedding initiate the last growth stage of the juvenile titansect, it is supposed to be a mechanism to prepare the body to enter adulthood.

 

The growth is not as impressive here, but only because it spans several years. The titansect now sheds its skin twice per year, and it is completely autonomous. By the end of this stage, they can reach up to 457 meters, as shown by the absolute force of nature that is the Gronzephax. However, their usual height is between 25 and 150 meters tall, while their shape is completely dependant on the species.

 

During these years, they develop their definitive features and become completely differenciated. Claws, fangs, secondary mandibles, acid and whatnot appears, alongside some otherworldly abilities unequivoqually gifted by the gods. The most impressive of those are the ability to fly despite wings too thin and light to support their heavy bodies.

 

Pre-mature titansects rarely have permanent crew onboard. Due to their regular sheddings, it is a bother to equip them with the installation required by a yearlong crew. However, they are favoured as carriages and fast transporters for their speed and smaller size that helps them hide from predators. The bigger they get, the more haul they can lift but the more dangerous the journey. Thus, near-adult transporter titansects are often escorted by one or two crew to make sure it stays out of harm's way.

 
It's been two years, and I'm starting to feel lonely. Larien is a great company, if a bit too quiet. By chance, we have only been preyed on once, without much harm. I've studied him in all ways and manners I could, and can now declare myself an expert on titansect anatomy, enough to fill a whole notebook of supplementary materials. Beside that, he does not display any peculiar ability or noteworthy feature. A beetle titan, no more, no less.   This whole enterprise feels vain at times. I suppose it is because I don't make as many discoveries as I expected, or because the landscape is the same morose grey every day. I did not meet a single human for the past seven month, save for the occasional wandering trader, and even they are becoming scarce. I may come close to a boundary unknowingly and would hate to vanish. I might go back to where I am from. After all, I am no explorer, undiscovered lands holds very little interest to me.
 

Adulthood

 

Once fully grown, the titansect will not undergo further big changes. However, they can lose some of the abilities they gained in the previous stages. Wings are the prime example once again, as they can fully develop even in the late pre-mature stage, allow their bearer to fly for a few month before it becomes to heavy for them to support the weight. Nonetheless, even the wings of flightless insects have their use, as their immense size can summon whirlwinds and tornados just by flapping.

 

They never stop growing, even though past this point it is almost unnoticeable. Their sheddings become irregular, once in two to five years. It is always a major hassle for the permanent crew they now hold, but they also have a greater control over this mechanism and refrain from doing it at inconvenient times. The exception is once again the Gronzephax, which did not shed in more than 50 years.

 
The adult titansect feeds much less than its juvenile or even pre-mature counterparts. I think it is partly due to the poorly understood novel strategies I explained before, as well as a reduction in energy consumption. The adult emits much less heat and move slower, which led me to believe it is much more efficient and can perform the same task with 2 to 6 times less nutrients than when it was adolescent.   Although no evidence of that exists, I surmise they also possess an organ to store food, water or energy, much like the camels of old, to be able to travel long distances without frequent stops. I have studied Larien during his meals, but no anatomical change was to be seen in its belly or abdomen, even when I prevented him from feeding for over a week. Still, he showed no sign of weakness or starvation. I am missing something here, and I would hate for it to be another divine shenanigan.
 

Mating

 

Titansect reproduction is poorly studied due to the rarity of the event. While male and female titansects alike possess purely decorative displayed thought to be used during the courtship ritual, no such ritual has ever been recorded. Whenever they are of age, they have a yearly reproductive season. It is roughly the same for all titansect species, but it has never been strictly defined as each species has a different gestation period.

 

During this season, they will try to mate whenever they encounter an individual of the same species. They are not picky, unless their potential partner is gravely injured or visibly ill. The mating is very dangerous for the crews, as it requires the male to mount over the female to have their genitelia interacting. Each season, many installations are destroyed and crews unable to react in time get crushed under the abdomen of the male in heat.

 

The intercourse lasts for several hours, after what both titansects continue on their way. There is nothing like attachment or couple in their species, and mating solely has a reproductive goal. They are ovoviviparous: female will then hold the eggs in her abdomen for a period between two and eight months, and only lay them one the ground when they are ready to hatch.

 
They all share this mechanism, in striking contrast with the insects of old in which the most common occurence was oviparity, where the eggs are laid on the ground right after the mating and will develop there. My supposition is that they evolved this way since the ground is nothing but dry gravel, devoid of any nutrient essential for the development of a newborn. A most fascinating adaptation which is another evidence to prove that they lived far longer than us here, as the evolutionary time is way longer than our presence.
 

Taming

 

Wild titansects are almost impossible to tame. Despite their rather great intelligence, they are creatures of instinct rather than thoughts. They can be used with the right set of equipment and protection, but will break free given the chance. However, if a titansect developed a bond with a human early in its life, it will stay tamed even after its first partner's death.

 

In these situations, it is even better if a child of the human takes its place, as their scent will be similar and ease the titansect's mourning. Thus, titansect captains are most of the time lineages, and the property of a mount is almost never given up by the a captain of blood.

 

They are still purchasable though, but these ones don't have a strong bond with anyone, or the lineage of their original captain went extinct, which happens more than people think. There are multiple competing enterprises in the business of raising and selling titansects to a trading company, for transport or the military. Except for endeavors requiring a strong link between the captain and its mount like joining the Ultimate Armada, it is considered way too expensive, long and difficult to raise a titansect alone.

 

Elderhood and death

 

It is unknown if titansects can die of old age. Elderhood is pretty much nonexistent, as no titansect was ever found to grow weaker or present any sign of senescence. This is not to say they are immortals, or that the numerous legs that hit the ground have done so for a thousand years. The average lifespan of a titansect is about 300 years. If it is not time that claim them, it is disease, wounds or predation.

 

Disease

 

Lots of pathogenic agents fly in the air at any given time, in proportion so small that it is insignificant for most people. Titansects, however, absorb huge quantities of these pathogens throughout their lifetime and while they repel most agression, all the sickness needs is one failure of their immune system.

 

Most of the diseases come from airborne fungi. The worst of them has symptoms akin that of a Cordyceps, forcing the victim to adopt an erratic behavior while its brain is getting eaten. A titansect parasite also live in the ground, and can infect them as early as the juvenile stage, but will stay mostly dormant for most of its life, hindering lightly the development process, until the host has no strength left and its body collapses, sometimes a century after contracting the parasite.

Wounds

 

The hard shell of a titansect is not so easy to repair. When a wound is so grave it has pierced, or even ripped apart the shell, it takes a long time, sometimes years, to close the breach. In the meantime, a lot of infectious agents enter the vulnerable innards. If the hole opens the lymphatic system, it means a quasi-certain death as the bodily fluids of the titansect will escape to the outside with no biological mean of coagulation.

 

These wounds can happen as a result of a fight between two titansects, like a predator picking the wrong prey, a violent boarding by another crew or even an unfortunate dive, if it met a sharp rock that cut deep in its belly. The latter is very rare, but happened multiple time.

Predation

 

Some titansects have a very straightforward strategy when it comes to their daily intake: hunt down other titansects and feed on them and their potential crew. They are fickle and hard to tame, with an exacerbated taste for blood and violence. Many of them are not that huge, but able to fly and, if the sky allows it, launch devastating ambushes. A swarm can take down an adult titansect in a minute, faster than the crew is able to react.

 

Earthbound predators are less common, as they not only need to be bigger than their preys but also faster, in order for the hunt to have a favorable risk-reward ratio. The consequence of this evolutionary path is that they are much less efficient and thus must feed on a regular basis to avoid starving and becoming unable to hunt.

 
I am becoming old. Larien does not age, or much slower than I do. I cannot hop off and on his back anymore, so I spend most of my time in the cabin I installed between his wings. The poor creature did not shed for five years and seven month today, I think he is doing it for my sake. And he is right, I would not be able to get the installation back up if it were to detach.   This is my lifelong work, the observations of a titansect from birth to my unfortunate death. I am currently headed toward a city, which I hope is still standing. My map is as old as I am and it's been long since it was last reliable. I also wish I will reach my destination alive so I can transmit all my notebooks in person.   If not and you happen to have taken these notes from the dried hands of my corpse, please ensure they make their way to the nearest university, and have them published. At this point, I do not care if my name is on the publication or not, you can put yours instead. My only desire is for my work not to be in vain.
— Eliar Semele, how to raise your titansect and other notes on titansect biology, last page
Lifespan
300 years
Average Height
Birth: 2-8cm   Infants: 40-100cm   Juveniles: 2-20m   Adults: 25-150m
Average Weight
Hard to measure without proper instrument
Average Length
Greatly depends on the species (more than height does)

Theories and observations

 
I surmise that the birth defects are in fact not biological, but divine in essence. The lifespan of regular titansect is far too great to be reasonable, especially given their light nutrient intake. In a purely biological world, titansects would emerge from huge eggs, reach sizes twice to four times as big as they currently are, and die within a few months, years at best. This suggests a divine intervention to make them, from their birth, smaller and more manageable, as well as longer-lived. This hypothesis would argue in favour of a benevolent move from the gods, considering the titansects are the pillars of our survival.   Though interesting and quite groundbreaking, publishing it would lead me to be burnt at the stake, which would hinder my future research.
 
  Gruesome rumours
There is a legend about a pirate clan named The Headless Riders which cuts off the head of their titansects during infancy and nurse them to ensure they don't die from the shock. Then, the pirates supposedly give dread-inducing prothesis to the mangled insect replacing any essential function they would be lacking. They then proceed to raid lone crews, sparking fear in the heart of their victims just by the nightmarish appearance of their mounts. As horrible as it is, I think they would have much to teach in the ways of titansect early biology, if they even exist.
 
 
The failure of my clutch may not be representative of the general process. After all, we know of about a hundred different species of titansects, with perhaps more unknown. Several of my peers suggest alternate theories. In both, most hatchlings get out of their eggs safely, but as regular-sized insects with a rather short lifespan. Where they diverge is on the root cause of this phenomenon. One claims that the birth of a titansect requires as much energy and nutrients as a whole clutch, leaving its siblings in a weakened state, unable to grow and dying prematurely. According to the others, they are the expected offsprings whereas titansects are divinely altered individuals with surnatural properties.   What bothers me with both theories is that while small and medium insects are not unheard of, they are clearly not the majority. Even if one out of a hundred eggs became a titansect, which is already quite the stretch, we should be swarmed by literal bug clouds increasing in frequency and density around hatching periods. Since this is not the case, either they competitive theories are wrong, or we are all missing an essential link bringing everything together.
 
 
From the ancient records, it seems like some insects, especially flying ones, underwent a larvae stage before reaching their adult and definitive form. This is the most highly discussed bit of lore, as it is very far from the titansect's biology, despite them sharing a great deal of features otherwise. Titansects always come out of their eggs with their definitive appearance, albeit very small. Furthermore, the caterpillars living in the soil that make up most of our diet are entirely different species, with no similarities whatsoever, except perhaps the occasional gigantism that occurs in some worm species.
 
 
I, as well as several colleagues, believe that the Gronzephax has reached the threshold of what a titansect is capable of, whether in size, weight, and longevity. It is the beast of all records and using it for reference is not only nonsensical, but also a scientifical fault. However, a commonly accepted model is to consider its measurements as the absolute maximum when considering a titansect's potential.

Comments

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Jan 2, 2024 10:05 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Fascinating creatures :D So there must be lots of people trying to raise them like Eliar if they're so valuable, right? Did they all just not bothered to take notes and study them in details while doing so? Are all the dangers from the desert coming from wild titansects?

To see what I am up to: my Summer Camp 2024.
Jan 2, 2024 18:53

Thank you! Titansect taming is indeed a thriving job sector, with at least one enterprise dedicated to it in each city or large communities. However, it costs a lot and takes a long time to have a return on the initial investment, so it is very rare for individuals to raise their own titansect if not to become captains.   I should probably mention somewhere in the article that Eliar Semele's work was done quite early in humanity's fall, at a time where people were still trying to figure out things. He was the first to tackle a lifelong study, and his book is the foundation of all titansect science, as well as one of the only written account of past wildlife.   Most of the threats are titansects, mostly untamable ones that bear very little resemblance to the insects we know. There are also Dune-like giant sandworms, pirates of course, natural disasters and some other critters that have not been defined yet.   Thanks again for your questions!

Hoo~ Hoo