For about five minutes after that, we talked with the queen. Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything about our conversations. Maybe because we were extremely tired and anxious, or maybe because what happened later was even more dramatic.
The catalyst was something trivial. The queen apologized for making us stand so long and called for two queerats to act as chairs even after we declined the offer politely. Squealer, still holding the torch, came along with the two queerats.
The bright flame of the torch lit up the cavern, and the queen.
Because the queen’s voice had been unexpectedly gentle throughout the conversation, our initial fear had abated somewhat. That’s why we were doubly shocked when we saw her actual appearance.
My first impression of her was of a giant hornworm with four short legs and a tail.
Pale, sickly skin from lack of sunlight and rings of wrinkles encircling her body made the resemblance all the stronger. But the defining difference was her face. Half of the giant head was covered in brown spots, though they would probably be red under the sun. Her eyes were tiny beads buried under layers of skin, and her sharp, chisel-shaped teeth were hidden behind strong, thick jaws. Around her neck was a necklace of crimson almadine, glowing fluorite, beryl, and cordierite sparkling in the light.
Her appearance exposed, the queen roared and charged. We flinched, but she was aiming for something off to the side.
She caught Squealer in her mouth and lifted him easily into the air, shaking him violently from side to side. Squealer shrieked and dropped the torch. The cavern was plunged into darkness. I could hear the queen’s angry growls punctuated by Squealer’s intermittent screams, and the two queerats shivering in a corner, scratching at the dirt with their claws.