Moth Ch. 013byellynei©
Please forgive the redundant copyright messages, I've found that sometimes my stories are copypasted in part and used elsewhere.
Written by Nanna Marker, a citizen of Denmark, born in 1976.
"What are you doing?" asked Kokata.
"I'm hiding the full-ball," explained Lei. "I don't know these people. You don't walk into a camp full of strangers with something that valuable in your hands."
"I see," said Kokata, who would never walk into a camp full of strangers at all. "Then how will you trade it?"
"First I show them the sample," Lei held out an arm-long string of thread. "Then, while I see if they have any goods I want, I get a feel for how dangerous they are. And finally, I might trade in portions."
Kokata wasn't sure what she meant. He didn't like her going where he couldn't.
"Black, I'd like your help if you don't mind," said Lei.
"What kind of help?" snarled Kokata.
"Crankywort," said Lei automatically.
"Crybaby," retorted Kokata, but neither of them smiled.
"I'd like your help to check how sneaky they are."
"How could I possibly tell?" snarled Kokata.
"I'm gonna tell them I have friends waiting in the forest. The same 'friends' who are holding the silk." Lei patted the leaf-covered full-ball which she had hidden in a crevice on the branch they were on. "If they are sneaky, they will send out people to follow me when I fly back and forth between their night-camp and my 'friends'. You are great at hiding. You should be able to spot whoever they send after me, if they do send someone."
"I can do that," agreed Kokata.
"Great," said Lei with a wide smile. "Let's do it then."
It was a well-sized caravan. Lei counted nine full-grown giant beetle-beasts. Seven carried living-boxes as well as cargo boxes. So, most likely, there was seven termite families.
Approaching the camp, Lei also counted a total of seven guard posts each marked by an ember-pole. Most termites knew how to keep fire. Lei's mouth watered. Fire was used in the making of some kinds of sweets.
The termites weren't singing their song, but no weapons hang from the poles at the guard posts to signal visitors away. So, Lei slowly flew toward the nearest guard post.
"Wehiloo," called the termite-man at the post she was headed for, and cheerily waved his arm.
Most grounded people, were born with natural armour. Termites had head-plates which actually looked much like the head-shaped helmets other people would wear in times of war. Travelling termites had a tendency to carve tattoos into their head-plates. The ones on this man's were an intricate pattern of circles.
"Wehiloo," greeted Lei, and landed.
"It always makes me happy, when a beautiful moth is attracted by my night-light," said the termite-man. "My name is Robba." The way he said it, it sounded almost like 'robber'.
"My name is Lei," said Lei.
"This is my son, Keme," said Robba and pointed to a young man sitting next to the ember-pole.
"Wehiloo," greeted the young man, stuck an arm out from the blanket he held around him, and waved at Lei.
"Wehiloo," said Lei and waved back, noticing that the natural armour plates on the young man's arm had the same colour as his father's: pale yellow.
"Have you come to trade stories?" asked Robba. "Or are you perhaps a singer?"
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Lei couldn't help but notice that Robba's son, Keme, was running his eyes up and down her form. Lei realised that she had grown too old to wear only breast-hider and thong.
"I've come to trade thread," said Lei, rearranging her wings to cover her rear. She was glad her buttocks were facing the forest. Keme couldn't possibly have had a look at them.
"Thread?" asked Robba, and only then eyed her up and down. Unlike his son, he only did it once.
"Perfect thread," said Lei, rolled out the arm-lengthed sample, and handed it to Robba.
"Perfect thread," repeated Robba, amiably accepting the strand. "That sounds interesting." He took the thread to the pole, and, in its glow, started inspecting the sample.
Keme rose, still holding his blanket around him. It seemed he was inspecting his father's inspection. But he asked no questions. Offspring of traders knew better than to ask questions that might reveal too much to the other party in a negotiation.
Around this time, a trader would usually go, 'Interesting.' If they were interested in trading for the item. But instead Robba said:
"Fetch the bright-glow, son." His voice sounded just a bit too relaxed to be natural.
Lei shifted from foot to foot, then realised she was fidgeting and stopped it.
Keme swiftly returned with a bright-glow and lit it at the ember-pole.
The bright white light hurt Lei's eyes, and she raised a hand to between herself and the bright-glow.
"Sorry," said Robba, and rotated the bright-glow's shielding to block light from heading Lei's way. Then he returned his full attention to the thread. The termite's forehead had furrowed all the way to where his head-plate began.
"Fetch my eyeglass, son," he said.
Again, Keme swiftly returned and handed his father a monocle. Robba put it on and again inspected the thread.
"Is it interesting?" asked Lei. Maybe it was a bad choice of words, but she was growing nervous.
"Yes," said Robba, absently, not taking his eyes of the thread.
"Son, go ask Mava to please lend me her rock inspecter."
"Rock inspecter?" said Lei. It was more protest than question. "I'm selling silk, not red-rock."
"Where did you get this?" asked Robba, still not taking his eyes of the thread.
"It was a gift," said Lei.
"Did the giver," the way Robba pronounced 'giver' it was obvious he didn't think the thread had been 'given', "tell you what it's made of?"
"It's spider-silk," said Lei, and took a step backward, away from the man.
"Don't be alarmed," said Robba, absently, still not taking his eyes off the strand of thread. "We are not law-men. We will not try to detain you."
"I'm not a criminal," said Lei.
"Did the 'giver', tell you how this thread was made?"
Lei opened her mouth, then closed it. She had a feeling that Black wouldn't want these people to know about him. Before coming she had expected the termites would assume the thread had been made by butterfly silk-craftmasters. Travelling termites traded wares from everywhere.
"How much of this thread were you planning to trade?" asked Robba, still keeping his eyes on the thread.
Lei took another step backward.
"There's absolutely no reason to fly away at this point," said the termite, still not taking his eyes off the thread. "We've already seen both you and your thread. All you gain by flying away is not to do any bargain at all."
"I'm not a criminal," stated Lei again.
"You wear no jewellery whatsoever. Your only weapon is a knife in a worn down holster, which has been badly reholed to your size. You are half-naked and the little clothing which you do wear is badly made and sewn together with badly spun wild fibres, " said the termite, calmly listing fact. "You come alone to a termite-camp in the middle of nowhere, to sell perfect thread, which, impossible as it should be, actually is perfect."
"I'm not a thief," said Lei, and took another step back.
"Whatever you are, I'm willing to trade for your perfect thread," said Robba.
"You'd trade with someone you think a thief?" said Lei, narrowing her eyes at such dishonest behaviour.
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"I'll give you a twentieth of the value," said the man, finally taking his eyes of the thread. "That amounts to half the finder's fee I'll receive for it."
"A twentieth of the value," Lei was appalled.
"If you will let my son portray you, I will offer full value," said Robba. "As full a value as travelling termites ever give."
"It's common practice when trading valuable goods, moth. If we have a portrait of the one who sold us the goods, then the lawmen won't take it from us. No matter where it came from."
It was Lei's turn to furrow her forehead. Termites had strange ways.
An old bat-hunter had once told her that termites thought that termites ruled the world. When Lei had asked her father about it, he had laughed and agreed. Her father had then added that if you let them think you thought so too, then you got better value for your goods.
"How long would it take your son to portray me?" asked Lei.
"Not long," said Robba.
"If that is true, then we can trade," stated Lei.
"Excellent. Is the rest of your thread as perfect as this sample?"
"I'd think so, but I haven't unrolled it all, nor have I inspected it with an eye-glass."
"How much do you have?"
"If you have all the goods I have in mind, then I'll trade a full-ball," said Lei. "But not at once."
"Obviously," commented the termite, apparently not the least surprised by the inferral that she feared to be robbed if she showed up with a full-ball of the thread. "What type of goods are you looking for?"
Lei started listing and was still listing when Keme returned with a red-rock inspecter. Robba accepted the device from his son's hand and signalled for Lei to pause.
"Go fetch your drawing kit, son. Our pretty visitor is going to model for you," said Robba, then turned back to Lei and encouraged her to continue.
Lei resumed her listing; Keme fetched a drawing kit; and Robba put the thread under the red-rock inspecter and put it to his eye as if he were inspecting a jewel.
"Can you tell me anything at all about the giver?" asked Robba, when Lei was done listing.
"He is my friend," said Lei. "I won't tell you more than that."
"You should ask your friend to make you some clothes," said Keme, Robba's son, with an insolent grin. He had just returned and was seating himself, with white sheet and pen at the ready.
"Will you be so kind as to spread your wings?" asked Keme, in a far more professional tone. "I'll need to portray the markings on them."
Lei turned slightly to face Keme fully frontally, before spreading her wings.
"I'll need a shirt and a skirt too," she said to Robba. "I won't have him portray my buttocks."
"Why would I portray your buttocks?" asked Keme with a grin.
"I'll get you a skirt," said Robba.
"Why would I portray her buttocks," asked Keme, turned to his father.
"Thong," said Robba, and turned to the nearest giant beetle. "I'll start gathering your wares, moth."
"Thong," mouthed Keme to himself, as if trying to catch the punchline of a joke. Then his eyebrows shot up, and he made a move as if to get up.
"Stay put, son," said Robba, loud enough to be heard while still walking toward the giant beetle. "You don't need a better angle for the first portrait."
Lei sternly eyed the young termite-man, silently reinforcing Robba's command. Keme grinned and winked at her. It wasn't his fault that she was wearing a thong. Rumour had it that termites didn't condemn crossfucking. Rumour also had it that termites had ways of avoiding conception. Judging from the way Keme didn't conceal his appreciation of the view, at least the first rumour seemed to be true.
When Robba returned, he had a whole pack of termites with him, it seemed he had woken his entire family to help gather Lei's wares.
"Do you trust us so much as to bring a tenth of a ball at a time?" asked Robba, handing Lei a skirt of a cut as uni-size as a thong but far more covering.
"A tenth at a time will be fine," agreed Lei.
"Good," said Robba. "We will sort your wares into ten piles then. I will trust you with the skirt, though."
"Thank you," said Lei, already engaged in the process of strapping the skirt on.
Written by Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.
The portraying took far longer than 'not long', but the gathering of, and agreeing on, wares, took longer, so Lei didn't complain about that slight.
"Do you have any bows for sale?" asked Robba, after Lei had discarded six out of the ten tools he had just displayed to her on a trey.
"Not yet," said Lei, a bit surprised that the termite had guessed she was a bow-maker. "And if those," Lei gestured at the tools on the trey, "are the best you had to offer, then I've got a long ways to go yet."
"I hope we can find better then," said Robba amiably, and handed the trey to a termite-woman, who was most likely his mate. "Where are you from, moth?"
"That's all my business and none of yours," said Lei.
"If you insist so," said Robba, with a shrug, and changed the topic. "How many pieces does it take to make a bow?"
"Twenty-seven," replied Lei, matter-of-factly.
"Twenty-seven," repeated Robba, and waved for a small termite girl to bring forth another trey with a selection of tools. He took the trey off the girl's hands; sent her away with a 'thanks sweetie' and a smile; and raised the trey for Lei to inspect.
"Keme," said Robba over his shoulder, "where do people make bows out of twenty-seven pieces?"
"Aribo forest," replied Keme.
"Aribo forest," repeated Robba, turning back to Lei. "How long has it been since you left it?"
"You are awfully curious," said Lei, inspecting the tools on the trey.
"You are awfully interesting," said Robba and shrugged.
Lei didn't really have a reason to hide her past up until the point when she had met Black, but she didn't really have a reason to share it either, so she let Robba continue asking questions and only avoided the direct ones. It was fascinating how much he could infer from asking general questions, like with the bow-pieces.
By the time half the wares were in order, Robba had somehow deducted the name of the beetle village where Lei's parents bought most of their metallic tools. Lei was more than impressed by his knowledge. The travelling termites seemed to know something about everything.
Lei grew more relaxed with every passing hour. Robba and his family were charming people. Even Keme was endearing, now that she was better dressed and more accustomed to his ever watchful eyes.
"Son," said Robba, while opening yet another crate of specialty tools, "when that moth flies off to fetch silk, you will follow her."
"Sure," replied Keme, who had hoped for such a command.
"I don't think the moth has lied to us. I think she has been lied to," said Robba. "It's not her you need to fear, it is whoever she is protecting."
"The one who gave her the thread," commented Keme.
"Yes." With his top pair of arms, his man arms, Robba took two of the same tools out of the box. One of a quality the moth would likely reject, the other of a quality she'd likely accept. The bad one he put on the trey which he held in his bottom pair of arms, his termite arms. The other he left on top of the box.
"Why are you still stalling her?" asked Keme.
"I'm still hoping she will slip and reveal the thief. I don't like sending you," admitted Robba. "Something so unique, so perfect, as that thread can't have belonged to anyone but the emperor himself. Someone who has stolen from the emperor..." Robba halted and shook his head. "I don't like sending you into danger, son."
"It might just be a strayward tailor," said Keme, with a grin. "I think I can handle a tailor, dad."
"Don't handle anything." Robba was stern. "You keep your distance, and you watch. You don't go close enough to listen, and you don't try to steal back any stolen goods you see. You observe, you come back, and that's it."
"Don't worry, dad," said Keme, and placed his hands on his father's shoulders. "I won't do anything stupid."
"You're a good man," said Robba. "But I often find myself wishing you'll soon outgrow your wings. I hate sending you into the wind. Even when it's for the emperor.
"I know, dad."
Robba sighed and turned to take his trey back to the moth.
Keme remained with the boxes, they needed the moth to get used to not seeing him all the time, so she wouldn't suspect anything for him being out of sight when it was time for her to go. Keme was excited about the adventure.
Trailing a beautiful young moth lady through the moon-light to locate a silk-thief who dared steal from the emperor. Even if the supposed culprit should turn out to just be a greedy tailor, Keme expected this night might become something worth telling and retelling till old age.
"Silk as perfect as if straight from a spider's butt," said Keme, to an imagined audience. He'd have to think up something better than that once he had a story worth telling. Silk from a spider's butt was useless, you couldn't teach the beasts not to add glue to their web.
Finally, hours after the moth had arrived. His father gave up on stalling further and gave Keme the signal to creep into the forest. Keme kept the blanket around his shoulders till he had a tree between himself and the moth and then finally freed his wings. He had had them a full year and was more than happy to get a chance to use them for a real adventure. His father's, and his father's father's wings, had only lasted three years, Keme didn't expect his to last longer.
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In the hopes of becoming a courier, at least for one year, Keme had trained hard. He was sure he could keep up with the moth. He found a hiding spot on a high branch, from which he could observe the moth who was still at his father's guard pole. There he started smearing himself with cheap paste ink. The blacker he could make himself, the easier it would be to hide in the night.
He was far done, and far impatient, when his father and the moth joined hands, sealing their agreement on the wares, and the moth finally set off.
She was fast. Keme had no time to spend on hiding, if he had tried he would have lost her. Sometimes he did lose sight of her, but, luckily, her white-grey wings were easy to spot, even far off.
Keme had no time spare to look for anything but the moth and the branches and leaves between them. He wasn't accustomed to flying fast and far in the upper branches like moths did.
It was a thrilling and exciting chase. But then from out of nowhere, something huge and black bashed into him. Keme screamed. The start of his scream, he couldn't hear for the wind howling past his ears, the end of it was cut off by his own wind being squeezed out of him by something hard bashing into his abdomen.
Within a split second, Keme realised that his crazy push through the air had ended, and that maybe it had been his abdomen bashing into that something hard and not opposite. Within a second split second, Keme realised that he was in mortal danger. Whatever had bashed him out of the air was still holding on to him. Keme inhaled.
"HELP," he screamed. "HELP ME."
The thing that had caught him was spinning him around in its hold yet never letting go of any of his limbs.
"IT'S A SPIDER," realised and screamed Keme. "HELP I CAN'T MOVE."
He was getting dizzy from the spin. Already couldn't tell up from down. And the being helplessly caught part was just getting worse. The spider was webbing him.
"HELP." He was too far from the caravan for his family and friends to hear him. He could only hope he wasn't too far from the moth.
"Black, what are you doing," yelled a woman's voice. Keme recognised it to be the moth.
"Please help me," yelled Keme.
"Black, stop that," yelled the moth.
"Help," whimpered Keme, the spider had stopped spinning him but the world was still spinning.
"He was following you," snarled a man's voice. The voice came from right behind Keme. But there couldn't be a man there. There was where the spider was.
"Help me," whimpered Keme, hopelessly pressing against the web holding all his arms to his body.
"Keme, is that you?" asked the moth.
"Help," whispered Keme.
"Black, you've scared the wits out of him." The moth sounded like she was scolding someone.