Ankhegs

An ankheg has six legs and a many-segmented body, all covered in a brown (some closer to yellow) chitinous exoskeleton. The head has black compound eyes, mandibles capable of snapping small trees, and antennae. Usually, ankhegs do not create tunnels, and simply burrow down into the ground. However, they are able to make tunnels if they dig slowly. When seriously pressed, it can spit acid. Spitting acid is usually a last resort, as it cannot digest food for several hours afterwards. Ankhegs are around 10 feet long and weigh 800 lb. One might describe it as a giant combination of ant, cockroach, and larval antlion. Habitat and society An ankheg uses its mandibles to continuously dig winding tunnels 30-40 feet deep in the rich soil of forests or farmlands. The hollowed end of a tunnel serves as a temporary lair for sleeping, eating, or hibernating. When an ankheg exhausts the food supply in a particular forest or field, it moves on to another.

Autumn is mating season for ankhegs. In a year, the young ankhegs resemble adults and can function independently.

Beginning in its second year of life, the ankheg sheds its chitinous shell just before the onset of winter. It takes the ankheg two days to shed its old shell and two weeks to grow a new one. During this time, the sluggish ankheg is exceptionally vulnerable. Its natural armor is severely weakened. Additionally, it moves at only half its normal speed, its mandible attack inflicts less damage, and it is unable to squirt acidic enzymes. While growing a new shell, it protects itself by hiding in a deep tunnel and secreting a repulsive fluid that smells like rotten fruit. Though the aroma discourages most creatures, it can also pinpoint the ankheg’s location for human hunters and desperately hungry predators.

Ankhegs living in cold climates hibernate during the winter. Within a month after the first snowfall, the ankheg fashions a lair deep within the warm earth where it remains dormant until spring. The hibernating ankheg requires no food, subsisting instead on nutrients stored in its shell. The ankheg does not secrete aromatic fluid during this time and is thus relatively safe from detection. Though the ankheg’s metabolism is reduced, its antennae remain functional, able to alert it to the approach of an intruder.

The ankheg does not hoard treasure. Items that were not dissolved by the acidic enzymes fall where they drop from the ankheg’s mandibles and can be found scattered throughout its tunnel system.

Ecology While an ankheg is able to survive on organic matter in the soil, they prefer a diet of meat. While hunting, an ankheg will either lie below the surface or else simply burrow into the ground until it detects prey overhead. Somewhat similar to a larval antlion, the ankheg will attempt to grab the prey with its mandibles. Stomach excretions aid the ankheg in consuming prey that are too large to be immediately swallowed.

While the ankheg itself has no natural predators, humans will occasionally hunt them to protect farmers or else to harvest their shell and digestive enzymes. The shell can be fashioned into armour, highly valued both for its protection and light weight.

Though a hungry ankheg can be fatal to a farmer, it can be quite beneficial to the farmland. Its tunnel system laces the soil with passages for air and water, while the ankheg’s waste products add rich nutrients.

Ankhegs

CastleGreyhack Bincho