Swamped Chapter 51 Page 5

You may never know, because Dean happens to glance your way and then shouts at you.

“Get away from that jar!”

You put it down and back off. So does everyone else, not really knowing what to do.

“Oh, er, sorry. It’s only the grebling who really has to keep away. Though I suppose there’s still the risk of a real bad stomach ache if you’re human.”

“You mind explaining what these are?” you ask, annoyed. “Especially if they’re going to kill me or something.”

“They’re called blood beetles, at least once they hit maturity,” Dean explains, picking up the jar. “Though they don’t really have anything in particular to do with blood, that’s just because of the blood-colored markings when they’re adults. They’re parasites that live in the stomachs of various animals, but they don’t last long in humans. Which isn’t to say they don’t hurt. Greblings, however, don’t hold up as well from an infection.”

“This wasn’t in a stomach. This was where we found a dead tunneler. They feed on those?”

“I don’t know. It’s possible, given the sheer size of tunneler stomach, but we don’t have a lot of samples to examine. Was there any fecal matter around when you found the eggs?”

You wouldn’t have thought anything of it if there was, but actually, you didn’t see any. And considering the size of tunneler dung, it would be hard to miss.

“Nope. They were just laying on the ground in a sac.” You pull out the small piece of metal. “Only thing nearby was this.”

Razor is getting annoyed.

“Is there a point to this? We have important matters to discuss. I appreciate your concern for Crosswinds’ safety, but unless there’s some relevance to whether or not a dead tunneler had a beetle infection, I would prefer to move on.”

You give Dean a glance.

“Well, you heard the man. Does it mean anything we oughta be worried about?”

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Well…if there was a big pile of tunneler dung that would one thing but uh…bloodbeetles kind of have a sordid history…they were used as a sort of biological weapon against…well Greblings for one. But if you get them into an opposing army’s food stocks, you can end up with a serious infestation that will clog all the latrines and leave an army weakend and dehydrated.

Oh also they’re from Kandria? I thought we were seeing mostly desert creatures so that’s weird.