The Blackbeetle, or in Browniin the Eioiei (lit. simply "black"), has - as the name already implies - a shield of a shiny black color; its head and thorax are plain black. It grows up to one and a half palmspans, making it one of the biggest beetles at the southern Sarvonian continent, and its flesh is seen as a delicacy amongst the Brownies. This beetle is found throughout Sarvonia, although it is only hunted by Brownies, to whom the beetle's meat represents an important resource for their diet.
Appearance. The male Blackbeetle grows up to 1 ½ palmspans. The female may range up to 1 palmspan. Both have a round body, much like the seeán beetle ("luck bug"). The shield is a shiny black, the males with a blue film over it, the females have a more white reflection of the light. The shield is divided in two parts, that are locked together neatly when the beetle is on the ground. The seam cannot be seen when the shield is closed, nor does it allow anything to penentrate, thus the Blackbeetle is protected against e.g. rain. The drops will just glide off the very smooth shield.
Thorax, head and 6 legs are plain black without any shine to it. The head and
body stand apart just a little. This small gap is one weak point of the beetle,
as an experienced Brownie hunter will shoot
a stone from a sling-shot right between
the head and the body, paralyzing the prey. After this, the neck is cut through
with the hunting knife.
There is one more remarkable difference between male and female beetle, except the size and somewhat different coluor, and that is the head. Both are plain black, but the male has a way of defending itself and its nest that the female isn't capable of, as it has two strong pincers of a little less than half a palmspan. It makes the males far more dangerous for Brownies than the females, because if the hunter is not very careful, (s)he might be bitten in two (seeing that the beetle is as big as the Brownie). Even humans have to be careful with these pincers, because they can wound them quite badly, too (e.g. in the hand).
There is a tale, written on bark and stored at the Council Tree in the Vale, of two hunters, who faced an angry male Blackbeetle, told by one of them, demonstrating what kind of life-threatening danger a Blackbeetle poses for Brownie folk. This is part of that story, translated to Tharian.
"Greyhart and I stood
motionless, as the Blackbeetle snapped its pincers at us. Then, for some
reason I still can't understand, Greyhart started running, away from the
creature. Of course it started after him, and it outran him. In one big
snap, Greyhart's legs were running, but his upper body didn't run with
him. It stayed where I was, and in the end the beetle left, not sensing a
threat from me. Looking at Greyhart, I saw an expression of amazement in
his eyes, as if he didn't believe what had happened."
The thorax of the Blackbeetle is as smooth and as hard as the shield. The latter has the function of protecting the very weak transparent wings. If the shield weren't there, the wings would break when they'd touch anything. Still, they are strong enough to carry the bodyweight of the beetle. There are two wings on each side, folded against the body when the beetle is not flying.
Picture description. A sketch of the Blackbeetle used for studying purposes done by the Brownie Leafbiter. Image drawn by Seeker.
In order to fly, the Blackbeetle opens the shield, so that the two parts of the
shield split upwards. Then the white transparent wings spread to the side.
Although it is very difficult to say, some Brownies claim that the wings not only go up and down, but that the two wings on the side move towards and back from each other too. Some think this is a means of steering in the right direction. Others suggest that it is meant to give the beetle more speed, although they fail to explain h<<Auswahl in Dokument>>ow exactly this would happen. Another group doesn't believe in the back-and-forth theory at all, so they have never quite come to an agreement.
Although it is not a real ability, the Blackbeetle is among the biggest beetles
in Caelereth. The male for example is a
little less than 5 times the size of a mercarto fly,
not including its pincers. The female is a little more than 3 times its size. It
is not known exactly why this beetle is this big (see also
Another specialty is the way the beetle is born: not as a larva, popping later to become beetle, but already as a full beetle, only very small, and quickly growing.
Territory. This particular beetle lives throughout all of Sarvonia. It is not known to Brownies if the other continents are inhabited by this species too, yet they have heard from their Akdor relatives that it is in any case not hunted there. They are by far less in population than, for example, the seeán beetle, mostly due to their different ways of reproduction.
Habitat/Behaviour. Most of the time Blackbeetles are seen flying or walking around. It is said that females found alone are gathering materials for their nest, because some push forth leaves or little twigs with their front paws.
Sometimes two Brownie hunters follow the animal if possible, and with a little luck it leads them to a nest. Brownies have noticed that one nest usually consists of 2 or 3 males, and 5 to 7 females. In extreme cases of luck (in the right season), there will be several holes in the ground with the eggs of the females in them. These are very rarely found, considered even more a delicacy than the meat of a grown Blackbeetle. It is even harder to rob a nest of its eggs, than it is to fight a grown male beetle from close by, making them even more rare than they already were.
A nest looks a little like a ring, made with twigs and leaves, the inner part only ground. Nests are used to sleep in, and in spring/summer to protect the eggs.
Brownies have developed the theory that the beetles live in nests to protect their females, who have no means of defending themselves. A natural enemy of the Eioiei is the shrew, a kind of mouse, a little smaller than a male Blackbeetle. It prefers female beetles, because of the lack of defence. A shrew attacked by three males will very soon retreat.
Diet. The beetle is herbivorous, eating just about every plant-leaf it can find. In the neighbourhood of a Blackbeetle nest you may find many half-eaten leaves. Thus a hunter may judge if there is a nest very close at hand by the amount of eaten leaves. In this case, he may go for help first, because a grown male Blackbeetle is the same size he is.
Candlebush and mutliweed are examples of leaves they eat, but they may as well eat the leaves and even petals of flowers like allia or hanging horn (in some places).
Mating. One female digs a hole in the ground, about two nailsbreadths deep, and lays her eggs in it. The amount of eggs is usually 10–12. Afterwards, one male of the same nest will fertilise them, simply by dropping his seed in the hole. This seed produces a kind of scent, warning the others that they are too late. The others will fertilise other egg-holes. A male may fertilise more than once each spring, but not directly after each other. He needs some time to recover, and so the others have time to fertilise other eggs. They don't fight each-other, because if one would kill or maim the other, there wouldn't be enough defenders of the nest left.
Like this, there may be 5 eggs of 1 egg-hole fertilised, with 2 out of 3 a female. Not all eggs of 1 hole are fertilised, because, much like humans, there may have taken place fertilation without the growth of a new beetle, or the seed might for some reason not have reached the egg - e.g. covered by other eggs. This is the reason females will lay there eggs in different egg-holes: with luck, they each have 5. If there are 5 females laying eggs, this makes 15 new beetles in the best case.
A female will lay her eggs in spring when the ground is easily dug into. The eggs will hatch in summer. During this period, the small beetle grows inside the egg. This makes the beetle different from other beetles: when coming out of the egg, the little beetle already looks like the adult, but is very small. They don't start as larvas of any kind. Theory goes that males use their pinchers to get out of the egg, and females use their front paws (also used for digging their egg-hole).
Females lay their eggs the first spring after they come out. All females make eggholes, although not all in the beginning of spring. Some will wait till the middle or end of spring to lay their eggs. Because the new beetles grow within the eggs for round and about 3 months (Brownies haven't quite figured out how much exactly), there are new beetles both in the beginning, the middle and the end of the summer.
Females usually don’t make it to the second spring, dying in the winter after their eggs are hatched. The males live a little longer, though not much, up to two years (making them only a couple of months older than females).
Usages. A Blackbeetle is usually hunted by several Brownies, because of its size and (for males) its danger. The hunters told of earlier were not searching for one, yet have encountered it unwillingly.
Once the beetle is killed, the hunters take it home. four hunters put their hands under the thorax, and lay it on one shoulder. If there is one, another hunter takes the head for later uses. If there is no other hunter, one of the carriers of the body binds it against his stomach with ropes he has brought (if there aren't five hunters available).
The beetles are stored at the council tree, for special uses (e.g. Naming Day, a traveller passing, etc). If an event such as Naming Day is about to come, hunters will go hunt for the Eioiei about a week in advance. The meat is preserved on its own for a week and a half to two weeks, yet if drenched in salty water it may be preserved far longer, up to a month. The shield and thorax are first divided, with an art that only those initiated know.
To prepare a Blackbeetle to be eaten, the cook will first put the shield on the fire and let it stew for an hour. Then he adds the spices (shelfung and kragghi sap are favourite flavourors, either both or apart, and other spices may be used, but this decision is made by the cook, and only the cook).
After the spices are added, he lets the meat shudder for another 10 minutes, then takes it off the fire and leaves it to cool for two hours or longer. Some don't do this though, because they like it warmer, but others prefer the cold version.
The shield with the meat in it is put on the table, and everybody eats directly from it, with their hands. In case of a traveller, he is offered the complete beetle, still making a nice little bite for a big race.
Almost all parts of the beetle are later on used too. Here is a list of some of the uses.
As mentioned before, the head is taken home along with the body. It has several purposes:
~Male. The pincers are detached from the male head, and made much less sharp. With leather a handle is made, and then it is given to children as a toy - a kind of sword, made dull.
~Female. There are no uses for female heads.
~Both male and female. A special clan (a far smaller one than e.g. Hunter or Grower Clan) is the clan to make decorations. They have discovered how to take small parts of the head, and make them into decorations for clothes or even bracelets and necklaces. This art is only known to full members of the clan.
This part knows several uses. After cooking in the pot, it may become a bath for the smallest children, maybe a little boat for bigger children to play with. The aforementioned Decoration Clan can make it thus, that it doesn't look wrong on a chamberwall.
Strengthened a lot, this strengthening too is a secret of the Decoration Clan, the wings may serve as decoration for blowpipes or sling-shots. Otherwise these parts too look great decorating a wall or a door.
In combination with the pincers, the thorax may become a children's toy, the pincers being the sword, and the thorax the equivalent of a shield. Like this, children play a kind of war that Brownies could never have for real. Additionally, the thorax may be used as decoration.
All these parts have other uses than the ones listed too,
these are just some of them. Brownies are
innovative enough to discover new uses for them every day.
Myth/Lore. The most extraordinary thing about the Blackbeetle of course is its size. It has already been stated that this beetle is probably the biggest one in Sarvonia. The reason for this is subject to many speculations, though.
Most Brownies believe that somehow the Blackbeetle has done something favourable for the spirits of tree and river, and have been granted them this specialty. There are many myths concerning the 'favourable thing' and the way the spirits had granted them written down in various Brownie barks are too many to state here.
Some are more practical of belief, and think that the size depends on the way of birth, and that they have more time to grow than those beetles born as larvas.
Information provided by Irid al'Menie