“It is odd.”
Thermius turned from the cuneiform scratches in the walls, the optics in his eyes saving the results of the scans. Talo stood below him, two of his arms proffering food and drink while he ate his own. At least he’d learnt to keep the m’ano root to himself. Thermius could do without another psychedelic trip.
“What is?” he asked.
There was a local fruit. It looked like an apple, smelt like an orange and tasted like a good-old terran bison. Thermius had already tried cultivating his own, but some combination of UV, soil and climate meant he never quite got the same result. Biting into one, he sat on the top rung of the ladders.
Talo watched the human eat, digging teeth into the flesh and tearing chunks out. His own mandibles ground through a piece of drake leaf as he looked up at the history of his people.
“These tales, the canker that ate at our worlds and those of our allies, are told to all young.” Talo used his tail to bring another leaf to his jaws. “The Dru. My mothers always said, don’t eat your siblings or the Dru will get you.”
Thermius tossed the gristle-like core of the fruit into a crate. Every culture he encountered had similar stories; a blight that had swept this corner of the galaxy eons ago, ravaging populations. Only the coalition of nations, enemies turned comrades, could fight back against them. It cost all species dearly. And at the end, when families had time to grieve for those fallen, the songs were scrawled on parchments so no generation to come could forget their sacrifice.
But of the Dru? All was lost.
Or so Thermius had been told. A lifetime spent piecing together descriptions, clues, stories and tales. The most seemingly inconsequent details, when married up against a particular battle had begun to form an image.
“The C’taedas,” Thermius said, cutting off Talo. “They were the first to battle the Dru.” It was a statement, Thermius knew almost as much about this part of history as those who were born amongst the ruins.
“Yes. They were all but wiped out. Such great people, amazing singers.”
Thermius began pacing. Talo followed him with one of his eyes.
“The C’tadan word for humans, it’s Hasatas?”
“Hasata, Hamanu. We all have different names for you. Did you know the Kay still call you smelly whiskers?”
“Hasata. That’s not right. The morphology is too late, post-canen.”
“Oh you mean their lyrics? Yeah, they changed them after the great fall.”
Thermius descended a few steps on the ladder, until he was at eye-level with Talo, and pulled out a roll of Ink.
“Before the fall, before they first met the Dru. What sound would this word make,” he said, drawing his finger across the roll.
Talo silently wrapped his mandibles around the pronunciation as he studied the markings.
“The first symbol, it is closest to water if my memory is correct. But this last part, there is no equivalent. No C’tan would bother with it therefore.” Talo raised his eyes, all of them, to Thermius. “This is the Dru. The first form of the word.”
On the roll, in the ancient roman alphabet of terra, five symbols shone.
H U M A N
Prompt originally posted by Hkhjw on reddit and received 20 upvotes.