ShirshiSreen begin life as an undifferentiated cluster of eggs laid on a food source, generally decaying organic matter (a dead tree or the remains of some unlucky creature). Eggs hatch within a day and the grub-like larva immediately begin to feed, doubling in size within a few hours. In short order the grubs begin to mutate, developing legs, eyes and chitinous shells, then transforming into the various forms that make up an adult ShirshiSreen:
Each cluster of eggs produces a single Queen Brain, a stubby-legged creature with huge multi-faceted eyes and a tough chitin shell. Most of the Queen Brain's body atrophies, allowing a network of dense nerve fiber to fill the vacated space. A mature Queen Brain is little more than a stomach and brain in a shell. The Queen Brain's legs allow the creature the crawl at a painfully slow pace, but they are ideally suited for their true purpose, clinging to the Spindle Legs.
Each ShirshiSreen has three to six of these creatures associated with it. They provide the colony with both mobility and defense. Each Spindle Leg is spider-like in appearance, with four to six well developed walking legs, two grasping limbs altered to grasp and protect the Queen Brain, and two fore-limbs bearing spiny protrusions suitable for defense on their outer face and delicate claws for holding and manipulating on their inner face. The creature's bodies are covered in a protective chitin shell. Their head is a stubby protrusion, almost hidden by deep-set, multi-faceted eyes and powerful biting jaws.
The smallest members of the ShirshiSreen collective, the Swarmers are beetle-like, with six of their many legs mutated into delicate feather-like wings which fold beneath thick, chitinous shells. Their remaining limbs end in a cluster of curving spines and claws. When inactive, Swarmers cling to the much larger Spindle Legs and Queen Brain, but they spend a great deal of time scouting for food sources to feed the ever-hungry collective. Like the rest of the ShirshiSreen Collective, Swarmers have well-developed, multi-faceted eyes. Each Swarmer also has a pair of spiny mandibles capable of inflicting a venomous bite.
The ShirshiSreen Collective
ShirshiSreen inhabit dense woodlands, preferring the warm tropical environments. The typical collective consists of a central Queen Brain supported and carried by three to six attached Spindle Legs and dozens of much smaller Swarmers. A newly formed ShirshiSreen has a combined leg-span of a foot or so, but the creatures continue to grow throughout their multi-year lifespan. Huge specimens with ten foot legs and yard long Queen Brains have been reported.
ShirshiSreen are predatory in nature. Swarmers scout the surroundings, and when prey is located, the entire Collective attacks. Typically the Queen Brain will remain at a distance, with one or two Spindle Legs for mobility, while the remaining Spindle Legs and the Swarmers carry out a frontal assault. Once prey is neutralized the entire Collective quickly shreds the corpse and feeds it to the Queen Brain, the only member creature with a true digestive system. The Brain digests the remains into a soupy goo that she then shares with the rest of her Collective.
Each ShirshiSreen shares a collective consciousness, controlled and directed by the Queen Brain's dominating psyche. Collectives manifest a certain level of intelligence. Larger specimens use tools, construct primitive shelters, and lay traps for the unwary. ShirshiSreen are territorial in nature, and disputes often lead leading to violent confrontation.
As previously mentioned ShirshiSreen are egg-layers. Queen Brains are female and Spindle Legs are male. ShirshiSreen breed during the spring months, and during breeding season Collectives permanently exchange Spindle Legs, providing genetic diversity to the species. During the spring months each Queen Brain will lay three to five new egg clusters, which will hatch into new ShirshiSreen. Queens also lay individual eggs year-round, which are fastened to the Queen's own body by attendant Swarmers. These eggs hatch into new Swarmers or Spindle Legs and replace any lost colony members. If a Collective's Queen Brain is slain all its member creatures die as well.
Queen Brain Attributes:
- Good toughness shell
- Terrible mobility
- Average bite attack
- Collective attunement - The Collective operates as a singular creature so long as the Queen Brain is active, sharing all sensory information and coordinating actions as a single living being.
- Great psychic sensitivity - The Queen Brain can sense the mental energies of living beings within 60 feet. This sensitivity extends to reading surface thought and divining basic intent.
- Great sensation projection - Using its psychic abilities, the Queen Brain can project sensory illusions onto a chosen target. Sensations such as intense pain, horrible smells or blinding lights are typical results. Each projection lasts 2d6 rounds, and a Great test of will can negate the effect.
Spindle Leg Attributes:
- Great toughness shell
- Great mobility, including the ability to climb and cling to sheer surfaces using powerful clawed pincers.
- Good claw attacks (two each round) capable of inflicting bleeding wounds. Two successful claw attacks in a round allow an automatic bite attack next round.
- Good bite attack. A successful bite injects the target with flesh-destroying venom that inflicts Average damage each round for 1d4 subsequent rounds.
- Good toughness shell.
- Fair flight ability with Good maneuverability but Poor endurance.
- Fair bite attack with spiny mandibles. Each successful bite injects a flesh-destroying venom that inflicts Average damage each round for 1d4 subsequent rounds.