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We have lost one of the porters. He must have disturbed a nest of
some kind while he was searching for water. We were only alerted by
his screams. When we found him, he was completely covered with a swarm
of glossy black beetles, which were consuming his flesh at a startling rate.
Gilles’ men drove the swarm off with burning torches, but by the time the
last of the insects had fled little was left of the poor man apart from bones
and scraps of bloody skin. I managed to convince one of Gunther’s men to
retrieve one of the dead beetles for me, though they were understandably
loath to touch even the dead ones after what had happened to their friend.
From the sinister markings on its carapace, I believe these may be the scarabs
of Har-Khowar spoken about in von Bodenheim’s Pyramid Texts — supposedly
sacred to the god of the Naptaan underworld. It is easy to see now
how these insects might have picked up such an association with death.
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