Moth Ch. 021byellynei©
Posted on literotica.com with permission of author: Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.
"Hello," yelled a woman's voice. "Who lives there?"
"Beggars at this time of day?" moaned Brevila and tugged her blanket over her ears. "What are they thinking?"
Valo mumbled something which was unintelligible even to himself, laid his arm around his mate and went back to sleep. He had no trouble sleeping through the calls from outside.
His mate's voice was quite another matter, though.
"What?" mumbled Valo.
"Go make them go away."
Valo mumbled something and tugged his blanket over his ears. He was happy to again be sleeping with his mate, and he was also aware that it was his turn to get up if any of their children called, but daytime beggars were not his children.
"Dad," complained a very young voice.
Valo raised his head. One of his youngest stood at the foot of the bedding.
"There's someone outside yelling," complained the little one. "I can't sleep.
"Go back to bed, sweetheart," said Brevila. "Your dad will take care of it."
Valo groaned and started getting up.
"Hello?" yelled a woman from outside.
"I'll give you hello," muttered Valo, pulling on his pants.
"I'm sorry to have wakened you," he heard the woman yell to someone outside. "Can you tell me who lives there?"
The faint voice of one of his neighbours reached Valo's ears.
"Brevila and Valo?" yelled the woman, apparently repeating some of what the neighbour had said.
"Beggar, beggar, go away," muttered Valo and grabbed his bow and a handful of arrows, "don't come back another day."
"There's no reason to be rude," yelled the woman at Valo's neighbour, just as Valo stepped out onto the shadow on his ledge. "I told you I'm sorry."
"Get gone," yelled Valo, "no one around here feeds beggars in the day."
"You people are unbelievably rude," said the woman, in a loud voice. Valo was close enough that yelling wasn't needed.
Valo squinted against the brightness and put an arrow to his bow.
"Get gone," he warned, his bow still aimed into the flooring of his ledge.
"You don't deserve my help at all," said the woman in a loud offended voice.
Where the voice came from, Valo could see a large purple dot in the brightness that swiftly changed size from large to small to large to small to... Apparently the annoying woman was a butterfly.
"I should fly away is what I should do," stated the butterfly-woman.
"Yes," agreed Valo.
"You aren't even gonna ask me what brings me to your ledge?"
"No," groaned Valo. If the butterfly didn't fly away soon, he would show her just how close to his 'ledge' he was.
"You people are horrible!" said the butterfly, but she didn't fly away.
Which left Valo with a choice between raising his bow and asking what she wanted. He was too tired to trust himself not to accidentally release the string.
"What do you want?" asked Valo.
"Old healer Kuruma asked me to come fetch you. At least I think it's you. You fit the description."
"I don't know any Kuruma," stated Valo. "Go away."
"I've flown a really long way to get here. I'm not leaving until you look at the picture she told me to show you."
"You've got the wrong man," said Valo, gritting his teeth. The brightness of day was giving him a headache. He was very tempted to raise his bow.
"I'm not too sure about that. You're practically identical to the woman. Well, apart from being a man, obviously."
Valo relaxed the pull on his bow and took his arrow off it.
"What woman?" he asked.
"The one in the picture, of course," snapped the butterfly woman.
"Why don't you come on in," said Valo, and pushed his door open.
"Because you haven't invited me to," snapped the woman.
Valo bit back an 'I just did', and instead, as politely as he was able, said:
"Please come in."
"Thank you," snapped the butterfly, landed next to Valo, and went inside.
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"Gosh it's dark in here," complained the woman.
Valo slammed the door shut, finally shutting the sunlight out, and the woman jumped with surprise.
"How can you see anything in here," she complained, for the first time sounding nervous.
"I'm a moth," said Valo, withholding 'you stupid creature'. "Go back to bed, children," he said, waving at no less than three of his offspring. "We will keep it down now."
"Who is that butterfly, Dad?" asked one.
"Bed!" ordered Valo in a voice that promised more than verbal reprimand if he wasn't listened to, and the children withdrew.
"Here," said the woman holding a rolled up sheet out to him, "the picture."
"Thank you," said Valo, accepting it and getting his first clear look at the butterfly. She was a middle-aged woman, maybe a few years older than him, her wings were large and purple. Valo was glad he wasn't a butterfly, he loved his wings, but unfold-able wings, like butterflies had, had to be more a curse than a blessing.
"It's not a gift," said the woman. "Kuruma wants it back whether you return with me or not."
"Fine," said Valo, unrolling the sheet.
And then it was unrolled, and Valo was staring at his daughter. For a moment, his legs almost forgot to carry him
"Don't crumble it," complained the woman, and reached out a hand to pull the sheet from him.
Valo turned his back to the woman, bringing the sheet out of her grasp. His hard hold on it was crumbling the edges of it, but the edges were blank and unimportant.
"Where did you get this?" asked Valo.
The woman on the drawing was fully grown and more sketch than drawing, but there was no doubt to it. It was Lei.
"It belongs to the healer Kuruma," said the woman, trying to reach around Valo to snatch it back. Where he stood there was no room for her to get around him, not with those large wings. "Please stop crumbling it. It's very dear to the old woman. She said it is her only connection."
Valo shook his head, trying to make sense of the butterfly's words and the drawing in his hands.
"Where is the woman in the picture?" he asked.
"I don't know," complained the butterfly, again reaching for the sheet. "Give it back."
"What's going on?" Brevila, his beloved mate, had abandoned the bedding and was now eyeing him and the stranger.
Valo didn't care if they looked like children fighting over a toy, and kept moving the sheet out of the butterfly's grasp.
"She has a drawing of Lei," said Valo, although right then it was himself who 'had' it.
Maybe the butterfly didn't like looking like a little girl being teased by a boy. However it was, she gave up on snatching back the sheet and stepped away from Valo.
"Hello," she said to Brevila.
Valo's mate ignored the butterfly and went to Valo.
Glancing back at the butterfly, to be sure she wouldn't make a move for it, Valo showed his mate the drawing.
Brevila looked, then stared, then started crying.
"I never really believed she was still alive," she admitted, sobbing against Valo's shoulder, but keeping her eyes on the sketch.
"Look at how beautiful she is," said Valo, tears streaming out of his eyes too. "She looks more like you than me now."
"No," disagreed Brevila. "That's more my sister's body than mine." Brevila was smiling and weeping and sobbing, but still managed to sound as if she was scolding him for not noticing the difference.
"If your sister was this beautiful, I would have taken her instead of you," joked Valo. Weeping harder than his mate.
Both of them ignored the spider with the face which was also on the drawing. That one had obviously been made up by whomever their daughter had modelled for.
"Now, aren't you happy I didn't fly away?" asked the butterfly-woman.
Valo's abdomen twisted in a series of light cramps. He wasn't sure if it was laughter or sobs.
"State your business, strangers," said the beetle-man, clutching his large axe.
"We are couriers in the Emperor's service. We demand to..." Zoa was interrupted by a hard shove to her shoulder that nearly cost her her balance.
"Please forgive my friend," said Keme, who was the one who had shoved her. "The things we have seen have affected her mind." Keme rotated a finger in small circles next to the side of his head.
"I'm n..." began Zoa, then remembered that Keme, who had been a travelling trader since birth, knew these people better than her. Zoa closed her mouth and lowered her head. She'd shut up, but she refused to put up an act of insanity.
"We are chasing a monster," continued Keme, in a friendly voice. "A murderous abomination. A very dangerous abomination. We beg your seer's aid in locating it."
"The seer is dead," said the beetle.
Keme's shoulders rose and his head crept down as he again assumed the crouching stand he had held since burying his family.
"Cursed," he hissed. "Cuuuursed."
Gone was the harmless, friendly, appearance he had assumed for the beetles. His face and body was again distorted in hate. Zoa's was not the mind that had been damaged by what they had seen.
"She was killed by a spider," said the beetle. "Tortured to death in her hut."
"Spider!" Keme turned back to the beetle-man and shoved his distorted face into his. "A black spider?"
Zoa was amazed that the beetle-man neither flinched nor raised his axe at the madman.
"There were tracks," said the beetle-man. "Spider-tracks. But, the act cannot have been committed by a beast. It kept her alive for hours." The beetle-man's face which had before been slightly hostile, as Keme's had been friendly, was changing into a grimace of hate. Not nearly as mad as Keme's though.
"Hours," hissed Keme, withdrawing from the man. "Hours. Alive for hours."
"We heard her screams."
"And you didn't help?" Keme drew his sword and again spun to face the beetle-man.
"Keme!" warned Zoa, grabbed her bow, and aimed it at Keme. Prepared to shoot him in the leg if she had to.
"The seer sometimes screamed at night," said the beetle-man, clutching his axe harder. "That's how come her hut was so far from the rest of us. She was often plagued by visions from far off places. Terrors she couldn't help."
"We couldn't tell the difference," added one of the other beetle-villagers, who stood well behind the one with the axe.
"We should have," snapped the man with the axe.
"Yes, you should," hissed Keme, but made no move to attack.
"Show us the tracks," demanded Zoa, not taking her eyes nor her aim off Keme. "Please," she added.
Copyright of Nanna Marker 2010.