Exalted: The Black Heart of the Isles
Ecology of the Emberhive
Rare but not unheard of, most aged hunters will claim to have seen at least one Emberhive in their lifetime. Few will claim to have killed one.
The namesake referring to the pigmentation of the hive and surrounding host tissue (It is hued like cooling embers), an Emberhive is a supernatural symbiosis between a host animal and a swarm of ember wasps.
Ready to propagate to an additional host, a thriving hive will split and seek out a strong animal to bond with. The ember wasps secrete a minor dose of their hallucinogenic venom into the host, calming the animal during assimilation and easing its pain. The Emberhive is built into soft tissue and bone, usually the upper-back, proximate to the heart and dense shoulder tissue. It fuses with the host’s circulatory system, which nourishes the living hive; and grants the swarm access to the vital blood nectar the host is adapted to produce.
Despite its understandable unwillingness to undergo such a transformation, the host is granted extraordinary advantages by the hive. While tales vary from story to story, some common themes exist. Rodents are said to act with advanced intelligence, birds demonstrate beaks capable of puncturing coir, and enormous boars blend frightfully into their surroundings.
More terrifying, the swarm will actively fight for the host. The sting of the ember wasp immediately causes intense nausea in even large prey. Their wings are scaled, and shed a toxic dust that acts as a powerful hallucinogenic when the swarm is massed around a victim. Further, the Emberhive mind is impressively intelligent, and can coordinate attacks surprisingly well with it’s animal host.
The host animal enjoys a much longer life span and, typically, an ease of life beyond any it could normally experience. Post assimilation, the hive is painless, if uncomfortable for a time. Once infested, the hive will never abandon the host and will quickly die if the host is lost.
*The wasps are said to be powerful spirits, granting might to animals in payment to the hubris of men. Stories depict the Emberhive as only inhabiting mammals and avian, and never aquatic mammals or humans.
(DG:*would definitely love a more robust lore behind the creature if someone would like to contribute