Szz’an sat across from the elf, a cup of sweet wine in her hand and a bemused look on her insectoid face.
“Wait,” she said, the word buzzing softly from her mouth. “Your how old?”
The elf, Halian, smiled under his glass half-mask. “I am 344. No…346 years old. Does this surprise you?”
Szz’an sat back heavily in her chair, rolling the thought over in her mind like a hard candy. Savoring it. “346 years old.” She sipped her wine. “No, I can’t say that I’m surprised,” she said. “I’ve always heard your people had long lives. Then again, everyone has a long life compared to us, it seems. I’m three, in case you were curious.” Szz’an looked down at the table and smoothed the yellow hairs of her thorax as she felt the full brunt of Halian’s eyes.
Halian’s smile faded. “Three. Amazing.” He let the word hang alone in the air of the busy tavern until it was lost in a sea of white noise. “You know, my grandfather lived until he was 784. Conversely, my closest friend, a human who I grew up with, died of old age last year. Lifespan means very little. How one spends their life, however, well that means a great deal.”
Szz’an lifted her head to meet Halian’s gaze and nodded. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. But think about how much I could get done with a life as long as yours.”
His laughter was like birdsong compared to the crass sounds of the tavern.
“You’re laughing at me,” Szz’an said, stung by his reaction.
“No, my friend. It is just that you remind me so much of my human friend. He said much the same to me years ago as you are saying now. And I will tell you what I told him.” Halian leaned in close enough that Szz’an could see the flecks of gold in his green eyes. “It is your shorter life that gives you such great ambition to achieve and accomplish. Elves…elves are not afflicted by such drives, for the most part. We know that we have years and years to fill and so there is no great urgency. While you are envious the quantity of my life, I am envious of the quality of yours.”
The elf and the melliferan sat in silence, enjoying the fleeting moments far more than the wine.
The melliferans, or bee-folk, are rarely seen outside their far-flung hive cities, and those that do venture out are often regarded as monsters due to their insectoid appearance. That perception could not be farther from the truth, however. Those that get to know melliferans find that most are affable and helpful, thanks to their communal nature.
Melliferans are around five feet tall and weigh under 100 lbs. Their faces resemble that of a large bee, though their antennae are proportionately much smaller. Their coloration varies greatly depending on their hive, from yellow-and-black to metallic blue to wild iridescence. Melliferans walk upright on two legs and have two sets of arms, one set of which appears much like humanoid arms. Their second set of arms are smaller but can still hold and manipulate objects like their larger counterparts. Melliferans also have large wings which allow them to fly. When not in use, the wings fold tightly against their upper back.
For the Hive
Like their less-evolved cousins, melliferans live in large colonies in which each individual is specially bred and raised to fulfill a specific role within the hive. This rigid caste system is not seen as oppressive to the melliferans, most of whom appreciate not having to waste any of their short lives worrying about their place in society. Those that are not content with this fatalistic existence are free to leave, however they are not allowed back into the hive unless they are ready to fully submit to the will of the collective
The hives themselves are three-dimensional mega-structures which house every aspect of melliferan society. Some strata house vast farms and larval incubators whereas others contain business and residences. Though extremely insular, outsiders are occasionally allowed access to the hive cities, however they must be in the company of a melliferan at all time. Such access is rarely granted and usually limited to a day or two at most. Even if they are granted access, outsiders find it very difficult to navigate these cities without the ability to fly as the hive was not designed to accommodate land-bound individuals.
A Short Life
The melliferan lifecycle is strange when compared to most humanoids, even those other humanoids that lay eggs. Hundreds of eggs are laid at one time by a city’s queen, after which they are brought to a hatchery. Their time in the hatchery is brief, as it only takes a week for the larvae to emerge. At this time, the nursery melliferans gather the larvae and separate them according to what job they will fulfill as adults. The larvae are then sealed in cells for several months, over which time they pupate and develop into adults. At three to six months old, adult melliferans emerge with all of the knowledge they need to succeed at their given role.
This quick development is necessary as adult melliferans only live for 10-15 years, with the exception of the queen who can live for as much as 100 years under perfect circumstances. This short life and congenital desire to succeed at all costs makes for ambitious individuals who will gladly sacrifice their own well being for the overall success of the hive.
A Sweet Life
For the melliferans, honey is not just an emergency ration like it is for bees. In fact, honey comes in many varieties, each with their own cultural importance. For example, black honey is used to impart ancestral knowledge on all who consume it. In this way, knowledge can be perfectly preserved and passed on between generations. Melliferan libraries are vast warehouses of carefully curated jars of such honey.
Another example of this specialized substance is bonding honey. Though erotic love is virtually unknown to the melliferans due to the nature of their reproductive cycle, many individuals form deep relationships with one another. If they wish to formalize this relationship, a melliferan can create a special honey that, if consumed by their partner or partners, will grant them limited telepathy with each other.
Melliferan names consist of an individual-specific first name as well as a last name based on their occupation. Though the surnames are imparted via the genetic memory they gain as they grow from larva to adult, no melliferan is exactly sure where the individual names come from. If a melliferan abandons their hive, they earn the surname Zuzv’vl’z, meaning “one who shuns the hive.”
First Names: Ch’ez, Dvir, Hzz’eis, Js’zev, Mvuri, Sz’ti, Szz’an, Th’vix, Uvzil, Zzelyx
Surnames: Csz’vl’z (one who delivers messages), Cz’tch’vl’z (one who tends the larvae), Dz’x’vl’z (one who guards the queen), Fvi’z’vl’z (one who guards the knowledge), Jvs’ln’vl’z (one who deals with outsiders), Lzix’vl’z (one who punishes), Nnz’x’vl’z (one who creates art), Sz’lz’vl’z (one who builds the hive), Vzz’sil’vl’z (one that gathers resources), Zuzv’vl’z (one who shuns the hive)
Melliferans are like all people, a variety of skills, experiences, and tendencies. The information presented below is meant to reflect many melliferans, though not all or even most. Work with your DM to change the following information as you see fit. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything provides rules for swapping out features as needed.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and one other ability score of your choice increases by 1.
Age. Non-queen melliferans reach adulthood in a matter of months and rarely live past 10-15 years.
Alignment. Melliferans will gladly sacrifice their personal liberties and safety for the good of the hive, and as such value Lawfulness more than freedom. Though they are an affable people, they are often very rigid in their thinking and may commit acts that are considered evil if it means achieving the greater good.
Size. Melliferans are between four and a half and five feet tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. Your size is medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 20 feet.
Flight. You have a flying speed of 30 feet. To use this speed, you can’t wear heavy armor.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Melliferan. Melliferan is a language hardly spoken by other humanoids due to the difficult clicks and vibrations made by melliferan mouthparts. Written melliferan is a riot of swirling, colorful filigree which is prized as an art more than a practical means of communication given the melliferan ability to pass information via honey.
Chitin. Your exoskeleton provides a manner of protection against physical attacks. When unarmored, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.
Secondary Arms. You have a second set of arms just below your primary arms. These arms have a reach of five feet but are too weak to wield weapons or shields effectively. Your secondary arms can lift a number of pounds equal to twice your strength score (not modifier). You can use your secondary arms to interact with objects while your main hands are occupied, such as opening containers, retrieving items, etc. Additionally, you ignore the loading quality of weapons with which you are proficient.
Armor problems. Between your wings and your second set of arms, most found armor will not fit you unless it is specifically made for a Melliferan. This specialization doubles the cost of armor for you.
For the Hive. The success of the group vastly outweighs your own individual accomplishments. When you use the help action, the number of creatures you can affect is equal to your proficiency bonus.