By Michele Ivo Polacco

The first-hand contact obtained during the recent months by a small party has shed some light on the inner workings of Ascorbite Society.

Ascorbite society has been little explored in the past decades. The first-hand contact obtained during the recent months by a small party lead by an Amathean healer has shed some light on its inner workings.

It seems that the main unity of Ascorbite social life is the "village" or "tribe" (Areyem). The terms seems to be interchangeable to the creatures. Each "village" stakes out a territory in the jungle, which may varies from a few thousand acres to almost a hundred square kilometers.

The occupation of territory seem to be the defining feature of the village and, it has been supposed, the size of the territory is somewhat linked to the "importance" of its inhabitants, altough the exact correlation is mostly unknown, and density of food sources seems to be a factor. Villages can be above or under ground, but the second type is preferred, and can vary from a few dozen to almost three hundred inhabitants.

The principal factor in the size of the village is, as it can be expected, the availability of food and shelter, as Ascorbite economy is virtually non-existent. The territories of the villages are inviolabile by anyone (with a few exceptions) and whoever trespasses is attacked and destroyed, unless the proper rituals are precisely followed.

It appears that the Ascorbites see the human settlements as just another form of "village" whose rights to the territory they occupy has been acquired by combat, so they tolerate the human population of the planet.

Also, some of the raids of the insects may be now explained as an attempt from one village to expand into the territory of another, rather than some form of retaliation or "anti-human" warfare as such.

The great Ascorbite underground cities have been revealed to be religious, rather than population, centers.

They remain nearly empty for most of the time, gathering large number of insects only during their infrequent religious festivals. The only permanent inhabitants of the cities seems to be the "wise" (see below). A city is also occupied should an external force threaten it. In that case, the Ascorbites of the area gather to defend it, if necessary to the last.

It appears that their cities are, in fact, extended temple complexes, linked to their (still mysterious) religion.

The villages, which can be both above and below ground, and are the true centers of Ascorbite daily life, are commanded by a "Chief" or "War leader" (Na'whelm), who seems, however, to have limited authority.

While in times of strife and crisis he (or she, more on this later) has power of life and death over any member of the "tribe", in peace he seems almost uninportant, except for some cerimonial purpose. The most striking feature obsereved, is that the Ascorbites, in war (note, however, that the Ascorbites' concept of "war" seems to include a lot of things which we would consider different. For example, hunting), will heed any command of their leader, without question or objection.

During the recent problems, the leader of a deep-jungle tribe has ordered a number of his warriors to run into what was known as a minefield, to clear a path by the simple system of stepping on every mine they encountered. The chief was obeyed unquestioningly, and wounded ascorbites even crawled further to detonate more mines, until they were completly dismembered.

Chiefs come to power by duel. When the previous Na'whelm dies, a "wise" shows up, and finds the three most suitable candidates, places them in an enclosed area, where they fight to the death. The survivor is the new chief.

The second important figure in a village is the "voice" (Lhorx), which seems to be some sort of ambassador. He is the only figure in a community which is allowed to cross the borders between the villages without being disembowelled on sight.

It is so far unknown how exactly an Ascorbite ambassador is distinguished from an "ordinary" villager, but we suppose that some form of pheromones are responibile for the identification. The "voice" is responsibile for arranging the passages of the infrequent religious caravans from one territory to the other, and for the organization of the "meetings" to solve territorial disputes.

The latter are usually solved by an unharmed duel between the two chiefs, or between other ascorbites (there seems to be some precise definition on which applies in each situation, but the differentiation is far from resolved). The duel is to death, and appears that the losing village's population is then destroyed and used as hosts for the Arme'tova. This is as much as hearsay, as it has not been experienced firsthand, and it may be an error of interpretation.

It also appears that in some cases the "duel" (an'terro or le'hei. We do not know if there is some difference or the two terms are synonimous) degenerates in a free for all battle, sometimes even before the ambassadors cross the border. It is so far unknown if this is due to some tradition which forbids duels in some instances or it is very simply a form of surprise warfare, unsanctioned by tradition, or something else completely.

Unlike the "chiefs" it seems that the post of Lhorx is given from one generation to the next by adoption. The "voice" adopts one of the new generation, and teaches him during his second stage. The new Lhorx then either kills the old one or leaves seeking a new position in a village whose Lhorx died without heir.

Ascorbites seem to have two "upper" classes which are outside the normal village structure, and enjoy a generally uncontested right of free passage.

The first is that of the "wise" (Layan); these people live almost always underground, sheltered in the great Ascorbite cities. They seems to be both religious and political figures together. They are religious in the sense that they lead the rites of the Ascorbites, including the infrequent sacrifice of metal, which seems to be their main cerimony.

They are also the keepers of the lore of the people, something closely resembling viking skalds of Holy Earth. The "wise" also produce the Arbat'a and the Es'arbat, the two "special" ascorbite weapons.

The "wise" are considered sacrosanct and is "bad luck" to hit one. Curiously, however, there seems to be some form of religious cerimony in which a "wise" is killed by the "commoners", altough, having not experineced this firsthand, we have to rely on the sometimes confusing Ascorbite description, and it may be some kind of funeral rites.

Some of the "wise" have displayed psychic capabilities, altough none of these encountered seem to have stigmas of any sort (or maybe we would not notice them). It is usually possibile to recognize an Ascorbite wise for his (or her) very pale carapace color, due, probably, to their living underground.

From the ascorbites tales, there seems to be an upper level of "wise", which are called the "wise among the wise" (Aherin'layan). These are the greatest minds of the race, which have achieved immortality (or reincarnation, or a very prolonged life, the tales are very confusing on the subject).

These seem to wield absolute rulership over the race, for, it appears, a "wise among the wise" is to be obeyed without question in any circumstance by anyone else, or the offender faces instant destruction. These persons are "invisibile" (N'gai, altough this may mean either they hide themselves in some hidden sanctuary or they move among society under some form of cover), but they may show themselves in some unknown way. They are also responsible for calling a Teklyyb (explained later).

The second dominant class is that of the "heroes" (Worassa). These are some form of holy warriors. They are recognizable by the fact that they carry crystal swords, but, it appears, not every such weapon is in the hand of an "hero".

For what it has been surmised, there is some form of reincarnation theology behind this apparent contraddiction. Our data seem to indicate that the sword is the "receptacle" for the "soul" (theren, which could be the same word used for memory) of the warrior, which will "help" the bearer in combat, if he (or she) is deemed worthy.

A sword can be carried, and used, by a non "hero", as the weapon allows itself to be carried around in its search for a new righteous wielder. The swords are apparently created by the ascorbite "wise", possibly using some unknown psychic process, altough the process, it appears, is one of the religious misteries of the insects' culture.

Psychic and theurgic examination of the few available specimens have, so far, given completely negative results, but this could be a product of our inadequate equipment and/or procedures, rather than a true fallacy of the "receptacle" story.

It is possibile that there are two types of crystal swords, because the ascorbites have slightly different names for them. The first, the more common Arbat'a, seems to refer to the weapon in the hand of a "commoner", while a sword wielded by an hero is called an "Es'arbat"

In effect, ascorbite heroes are impressive warriors in unarmed or melee combat, even above the already fearsome capabilities of the general populace. There also are unconfirmed reports of psychic capable "heroes", and of some swords which exibit supernatural abilities, but this could be just ascorbite epic or myth, and we have no human witness of such a thing. There is another figure in Ascorbite society with warrants our attention. It is the "high leader" (Ya'welhm). This seems to be both a political and a religious figure. This is an uber-chief, leading anything from a handful of village to (teorethically) the whole ascorbite population. An "high leader" is chosen during a Teklyyb, which is a special meeting of the inhabitants of the affected area in one of the cities (usually the nearest, but some exception seem to exist).

The gathering is called by the wise. An high leader is tasked to resolve a specific problem which threatens more than one village. After he succeed (or if he fails) he will be removed by the wise.

The Ya'welhm is selected with the simple method of placing all suitable candidates (screened by the wise, we do not know with what sort of criteria, but it appears that only village chiefs or heroes are eligible) in an enclosed area and having them fight until only one is alive. If everyone dies, then the villages are given enough time to select another leader and the process is repeated. A Ya'welhm is to be obeyed in any circumstance, like a "wise" and has complete authority over anyone in his jurisdiction.

The Ascorbites have also demonstrated an awesome capability at stealth. It has been reported that is nearly impossbile to hear an insect moving in the thick jungle even at a few meters'distance.

They also seem to leave few to no tracks, which makes following a group of them nearly impossibile without advanced equipment (such as IR scanners or seismic sensors).

They also have an innate orienteering ability. It is not completely known if this comes from a very detailed knowledge of territory, some form of "indications" which we aren't aware of (pheromones have been suggested), or even some form of natural attunement to the magnetic field of the planet.