Moth Ch. 018byellynei©
Please forgive the redundant copyright messages, I've found that sometimes my stories are copypasted in part and used elsewhere.
Posted on literotica.com with permission of author: Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.
Spring came to Altwar with a wealth of green leaves, and rain, and unbelievable amounts of hard work.
Kokata couldn't remember ever having been so exhausted in his life. Whenever he thought he had earned a good rest, Lei sent him into another back-breaking task.
"For all we know, I could already be pregnant," she'd say, whenever he'd look like he was even thinking about taking a break. "Children needs shelter."
Kokata had sort of wondered how moths built their homes, but finding out was not fun. It was hard, endless, back-aching work. Lei was driving him like a slave.
If she wasn't pregnant already, she certainly needn't worry about becoming so before the work was completed. At dawn, when she finally allowed him to stop working, he fell asleep sooner than he could even think of touching her.
His Lei was working herself just as hard as him, but she didn't seem to notice the blisters on her hands beyond the point of bandaging them. Sometimes there was a kind of wild panic in her eyes, as if she already had a baby laying in a crib with no suitable home in sight.
Kokata didn't try to reason with her. In a way it was satisfying to slave himself to near death for her. Maybe a moth-man wouldn't have needed instructions for what to do when building a moth-hive, but no moth or butterfly could have gotten as much work done in as little time as he had. Kokata was strong.
Granted, he didn't feel strong when he staggered to bed at dawn, and he didn't feel strong when Lei woke him at sunset and scolded him out of bed. But, whenever he, on his lonesome, carried a pillar that Lei had informed him four moths would cooperate to move, then he felt strong.
He was slaving for his mate, and, draining as it was, it was more fulfilling than he had imagined work could be.
At one point he had had the audacity to question the wisdom of building a moth-hive. Their future children might not get wings.
Lei had merely stated:
"Even moth-larvas don't have wings."
And had then sent him back to work.
In late spring, when the hive finally hung sufficiently completed to live in. Kokata was stronger than he had ever been. He had pushed his body further than ever before and it had literally grown to the task. He hadn't known he could still grow, and had only noticed by seeing that Lei's hands looked smaller around his legplates.
"I can't believe we did it," said Lei, staring up at their hive. It had only one floor, but pillars stuck out below it with the option to build more when needed.
"I can," said Kokata. "Together we can do anything."
The rest of that night, there was finally time to relax.
The old act of merely laying around, watching his web, and watching Lei, and talking, felt strange and new. Kokata could almost understand why Lei, even during winter, had rarely seemed able to sit idle. But, only almost.
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He chuckled to himself, when, after only an hour of leisure, Lei dug out her bow-making tools, and seated at her old work-place.
"You're as tireless as a bee-beast," he said.
"Watch your mouth," retorted Lei with a menacing smile, "or I might remember something for you to do too."
"Oh no," whined Kokata, and jokingly crept into hiding.
It was a nice sunny day, the kind that lured one to forget that summer was still some rain patches away. Weather was not the first thing on Keme's mind though.
The courtyard crowd was rapidly thinning, as couriers left in pairs of two as quickly as they received tasks.
There was never more tasks than couriers. Those that remained when the caller was done were automatically assigned to sanitary duty.
"Report gatherings for the agricultural administration," called the caller.
"Here," yelled Keme, as well as almost every other courier in the courtyard, and raised his arm.
"You," said the caller and pointed to one courier who wasn't Keme, "and you," the called again pointed at someone who wasn't Keme.
Disappointed Keme lowered his arm.
"Report gathering from the seer Ikki," called the caller.
"Here," yelled Keme, as well as almost every other courier in the courtyard, and raised his arm.
"You... and you."
Disappointed Keme lowered his arm.
"Volunteers to aid the Mollen medical center."
The courtyard was dead silent. Medical centers only ever needed aid with cleaning, and had many more sanitary facilities than the courier center.
"You... and you." Having no raised arm to pick from, the called pointed out two random couriers. The unlucky two trotted away.
"Courier delivery, twenty days."
"Here," yelled Keme, as well as every single courier in the courtyard, and raised his arm. Courier delivery was what it was all about. That was where adventure in far off places awaited.
"You... and you."
Keme gritted his teeth at not having been picked, and he wasn't the only one. He was so distracted that he didn't hear what the next call was for. But almost everybody else raised their arms, so he did too.
He didn't get picked though.
"Report gathering from the seer Evelin," called the caller.
"Here," yelled Keme and raised his arm. To his astonishment his voice was the only sound in the courtyard. Disconcerted he looked around, but it was too late to pull down his solitary arm.
"You." The caller pointed out Keme." And you." The other courier, who hadn't volunteered, cringed when she was pointed out.
Keme and the young, flat-breasted woman, joined up and left the courtyard.
"You're a newbie, aren't you?" asked the young woman, briskly walking toward the assignment managers' booth.
"I've been a courier for nearly two months," replied Keme, keeping up with the young woman's speed.
"So, you're not just a newbie, you're a stupid newbie."
"Excuse me?" Keme was insulted but tried not to be too hostile about it.
"Volunteering to see Evelin," snapped the other. "Are you really that eager to find out how old you are not going to get?"
"She wouldn't," objected Keme, his eyes widening.
"Evelin is insane," snapped the young woman. "She sees too much."
"There was this guy who was on Evelin-duty, she told him that his poor, poor daughter was going to die screaming and alone in a dark, dark, place. The guy had never even touched a girl yet, let alone fallen in love. Can you imagine carrying that kind of information around for years?"
"Didn't she tell him how he could prevent it from happening?" asked Keme.
They reached the booth and was approached by the closest assignment manager.
"Names?" he asked.
"Zoa," said Keme's flat-breasted companion.
"Keme," said Keme.
"Report gathering from the seer Evelin," said Zoa, darkly.
The assignment manager shot them a look of sympathy, then took his pointing stick; pointed to a spot on one of the large maps covering the back of the booth; and started narrating directions.
"... and," added the assignment manager, after he was done giving directions, "if you are lucky she will look more at your past than your future."
"Thank you," said Zoa, and jumped into the air.
Keme hurried after her.
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"If we are lucky she won't tell us anything at all," yelled Zoa to Keme, once they were high enough not to be heard by others. "Mostly she is so far gone she doesn't know anyone is there."
"Then how do we get a report from her?" yelled Keme back.
"We don't. Her caretaker is the one who reports to us."
It was a fairly short flight. The Emperor kept the most informative seers close to the capital.
The seer Evelin's home had the size and looks of a normal single-family termite-hive. The man who stood outside it looked like a normal family man, except that he looked more worn out. He was pale and had dark lines under his eyes, as if he was getting too many worries and too little sleep.
"You must be the pretty boy," said the man, when Keme and Zoa landed in front of him. Sadly he was eyeing Zoa when he said it.
"I think not," hissed Zoa, narrowing her eyes at the man.
"Oh," said the man. "My mistake." Then he turned his attention to Keme. "Go pick a flower, please. It will make her happy."
Keme blinked, confounded by the request.
"Go on," said the man. Waving his hand dismissively at Keme. "A flower. Preferably something small enough to take inside." Then he again focused on Zoa. "Where is your bow?"
Zoa clapped the sheath connected to her upper thigh.
"Oh, I thought that was some sort of sword," commented the man.
"It's a bow from the far west," said Zoa. "They're flat and small. Harder to use, but easier to travel with."
"She mentioned that you were as good with a bow as a moth," said the man. "She might want to see it." The man went to the door and waved for Zoa to follow.
Zoa took a step forward, and so did Keme.
"Flower," reminded the man, pointing at Keme.
"Flower," repeated Keme, sounding and feeling like an idiot. "I'll go find one then."
"Good," said the man and went inside the hive with Zoa.
Keme turned around to look for a flower. He wasn't sure what kind of flowers a crazy old woman would like, so he just took the first one he saw that was small enough to take inside. It had white petals, a yellow center, and a spring green stilk.
The door was closed when he returned. Holding the flower in one hand, Keme rapped the door with the knuckles of his other.
"Come in," called the man.
Keme stepped in and closed the door behind him. The door led straight into what seemed to be a large living-room. In the midst of the room was a large table. It looked like a dining table, but was covered with white sheets, pen-holders, and ink bottles, and an absolute disarray of scribbled notes.
The room had many windows, but they were all closed and shuttered. The room would have been dark if not for an array of pretty bright-glows, the kind children liked.
The man sat at one end of the table, and was shifting through notes. Zoa stood next to him.
"I did prepare a full report for you," said the man, to Zoa, it sounded like he was continuing a conversation. "Evelin must have hid it while I was outside. She hides things sometimes."
"We can come back another day," offered Zoa.
"Just give me some time," said the man. "I can reconstruct it from my notes."
Flower in hand, Keme approached the table, and nearly tripped over a length of chain on the floor. Annoyed and embarrassed, Keme looked down at it and tried to figure out what it was doing there. One end of the long chain was attached to the far wall, the other end, after a long, snaky road around the floor, ended in a wall-closet.
Keme shook his head. This place was strange.
"Evelin probably hid the report for the very purpose of delaying you," said the man, looking down at his notes. "There's no reason to upset her by not letting her plan succeed. She's so rarely happy. Yesterday was the first time in months she let me wash her." The man sounded tired. "She even let me put a new dress on her. She insisted on a white one though."
The man shook his head.
"She rarely knows her own age," he added to Keme. "So, when you give her the flower, treat her like she is your age. It will make her happy."
"Allright," said Keme. Wondering how he would pull that off while looking at an old crone.
"Thank you," said the worn out man. Then he said, "Evelin. There's someone here to see you."
There was no reply.
"It's the pretty boy," stated the worn out man.
The doors to the wall-closet creaked open, and a small face peeked out at them.
"I know," said the little termite girl and stepped out of the closet. "It was me who sent you out to fetch him."
"That's Evelin?" whispered Keme, surprised.
The worn out man nodded.
"He brought you a flower," said the worn man, and smiled at the little girl. The expression sort of quivered, as if he was too tired to hold it.
There was a rattle of chain as the little girl approached. With a sinking feeling, Keme realised the chain was attached to the child's ankle.
"You didn't have to bring me a flower," said the child coyly.
"A beautiful flower for a beautiful young woman," said Keme, and managed to smile, as he sank to one knee and offered the flower to the child.
"You are such a pretty boy," said the child and reached for the flower with both hands.
Humming to herself, the child wandered off with the flower. The chain rattled after her.
The worn out man scribbled away, in between rapidly shifting through notes.
"Do seat yourselves," he offered.
Zoa and Keme accepted the offer and seated at the table.
The child, Evelin, seated herself at a wall, and started singing to her flower. It was a strange song with broken verses and strange words. It sounded old. Keme had never heard it before. He doubted the child had either, not with her ears anyway.
"I know where the report is," said Evelin, suddenly interrupting her own song. "Do you want to know where it is, Keme?"
Keme felt cold. He hadn't introduced himself to the child, nor to the worn man.
"I will tell you if you want me to," said the child, coyly.
"Sure, that would be nice," said Keme, trying hard to sound friendly, not spooked.
"Come to me, I'll whisper it in your ear."
Written by Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.
Keme glanced at the worn out man, hoping he would shake his head, but the man simply looked at him.
"Allright," said Keme, rose, went to the child, and knelt.
"Closer," insisted the child.
Keme crept closer and leaned forward for the child to whisper to him. The girl pressed her hands around his ear, and put her mouth to the tunnel her palms formed.
"Spider," whispered the child. "Black spider. You saw him."
"Yes," admitted Keme.
The child lowered her hands from his ears.
"You were scared," she said, and giggled. "Scared of the spider."
"He looked scary," admitted Keme. "But in the end he didn't harm us."
"Giant snail monster," said the girl, and giggled again.
"Snail monster?" asked the worn out man, alarm in his voice. "When?"
"Ssshh," said the girl, holding a finger over her lips. "Secret."
"Evelin tell me more about the snail monster," said the worn out man, rising from his seat.
"It's a secret," whispered the girl. "He doesn't tell anyone."
The girl reached out a hand, and gently caressed Keme's cheek, as if she were the old crone he had imagined.
"He seeks," she said with a smile.
Then her eyes went vacant.
"Seek. Sought. Soken. Seeks, it seeks."
The girl's eyes widened, and she grabbed hard on Keme's cheek.
"Your family!" she exclaimed. There was horror in her voice.
"What about my family?" asked Keme, ignoring the pain in his cheek.
"It finds them. It... seeks!"
"Evelin what do you see?" asked the worn man, now standing behind Keme.
"I see sweet little Penna," whined the child.
"That's my sister," exclaimed Keme and grabbed the child's upper arms. "What about my sister?"
"Her intestines all over the ground," sobbed the child, and released Keme's cheek. "All gooey and bloody all over the ground. All dead. They're all dead."
"No," screamed Keme and shook the child. "Tell me how to stop it."
"Let go of her," yelled the worn man, and tore Keme's arms of the child.
"She has to tell me how to stop it," screamed Keme, now struggling against both Zoa and the worn man to get back at the child.
"It kills," screamed the child.
"Where?" asked the worn man the child, even as he kicked Keme's legs away from under him. "When?"
"It's not happened yet," said the child, suddenly sounding older than time. The child rocked in place, side to side.
"When," insisted the worn man with a stern voice.
"Ten days," said the child. "Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten..." she chanted. "It is seeking."
"Dammit, Keme," grunted Zoa, pulling the young man's arms hard behind his back. "Hold still."
"You!" the child raised a hand and pointed at Zoa. "Your arrow goes here." The child pounded a fist at the side of her own neck. "Your arrow. If you're there you save them."
"Where?" asked the worn man. "Where Evelin."
"It seeks," hissed the child.
"Let go of me," screamed Keme. "I know where they are."
"It's angry," cooed the child. "Blood all over. Smelly sticky blood."
Without warning the girl jumped Zoa and tried to bite her. Zoa reeled back with shock.
"Get your hands of my man!" screamed the child, clawing her nails into Zoa's skin. "My man. Mine." Zoa struggled to keep the frantic child at bay without harming her.
"Mine," screamed the child, her face distorted in a mad grimace of jealousy.
The worn man released Keme to tear the little girl away from Zoa.
"He's mine," screamed the child, her arms outstretched toward Zoa, her fingers curled. Some of her nails had blood under them.
"I don't want him," said Zoa, speaking loudly, crawling backward away from the insane girl.
"You can't have him," hissed the girl, sounding nothing like herself. "He's mine."
"I don't want him," repeated Zoa, less frantic now that she had a good distance between herself and the child. Behind Zoa the door opened and sunlight streamed in.
"Pretty boy," wailed Evelin, suddenly sounding like a small girl again. "Why did he leave without saying goodbye."
"Calm down," said the worn man, holding Evelin tight. "Calm down, Evelin."
"Why did he leave so soon," complained the girl, large tears streaming down her face. "He was supposed to hug me. I was looking forward to it."
"You'd best go after him," said the worn man to Zoa. "Evelin said that you were the one to save them."
Zoa looked around for Keme. He was gone.
"Batshit," she exclaimed, jumped to her feet, and ran out the door. Keme was barely a dot in the sky when her eyes finally located him.
"Wait for me," she yelled and set off after him.
Copyright of Nanna Marker 2010.