Moth Ch. 020byellynei©
Please forgive the redundant copyright messages, I've found that sometimes my stories are copypasted in part and used elsewhere.
Copyright of Nanna Marker 2010.
"Oh my, oh my," said Kuruma and chuckled at herself. Her mouth was watering as if she were a little girl and not an old toothless crone.
"What is it, grandma?" asked Tobi, her favourite grandson. Kuruma was old enough to be allowed the privilege of having favourites.
"Travelling termites," said Kuruma, her eyes had left her a few years back, but her ears were sharper than ever.
"Wow," said Tobi, he sounded like his mouth was watering too.
"Will you help me get to where they are headed?" asked Kuruma, reaching out her arm.
"Of course, grandma," said the boy, and took her hand.
That was one reason Tobi was her favourite. For him it really was 'of course'. That boy wouldn't dream of sneaking off before she should think to ask. He was a better beetle than most.
Even when the traders came close enough for everyone to hear their song, Tobi didn't fidget with restlessness as other children would, kept from running by the slow pace of an old woman.
"Do you think they will have sweets?" asked Kuruma.
"Travelling termites always have sweets, grandma," said the boy.
"Right you are, Tobi. Right you are."
Kuruma and Tobi had set out sooner than any of the other beetles in their village, but they were last to arrive. Kuruma had to rest far more than she had had to when taking the same walk last year. By the time they reached their destination the termites had long arrived and set up their booths.
"My nose tells me you are leading us away from the sweets," complained Kuruma.
"I want to go to the storyteller's booth," said Tobi.
Kuruma smiled and let the boy lead her where he would. He really was a considerate child. She couldn't name one other child who could have so stalwartly resisted his own longing for sweets for the sake of an old woman's health. Sweet things were no longer kind to her blood.
"Here we are," said Tobi when they were.
The booth, that would later be swarming with children and a few adults, was right then the most peaceful place in the camp.
"Wehiloo," greeted a travelling termite.
"That's a termite-woman," said Tobi, "she mans the booth, she waved when she said, 'Wehiloo'."
"Wehiloo," Kuruma returned the termite greeting. "We come to trade herbs for pictures and stories."
"Grandma is a healer and a seer," added Tobi, "she knows all there is to know about herbs."
"Nobody knows all there is to know about herbs," corrected Kuruma, lightly squeezing the boy's hand, then she raised her face to where the booth-keeper had sounded to be. "Do you have anything interesting to trade?"
"I absolutely do," assured the termite-woman.
Kuruma reached out her hands, and calmly waited for the termite-woman to put something in them. A moment later a piece of hard sheet touched the palms of her hands. Careful not to bend it, Kuruma lowered it for Tobi to look at.
"It's a drawing of a beetle fighting a large beetle-beast. The beetle is holding a spear," said Tobi. "It looks dramatic."
"Is that the kind of story you would like to trade for?" asked Kuruma.
"I don't know," said Tobi, hesitantly. "I've heard a lot of those kinds of stories.
"Let's try something different," said Kuruma, and raised the sheet to where she had received it. "Do you have something very different?"
"I do have something very different, but the one that springs to mind is a very short story," said the termite-woman, and took the sheet from Kuruma's hands.
"She is holding out a picture with a moth on it. Behind the moth there is a large spider. Oh!" said Tobi, interrupting his own narrative with a surprised outburst. "The spider has a face!"
"That sounds interesting," said Kuruma and held out her hands.
A sheet touched her palms, and Kuruma closed her hands about it.
"Oh!" exclaimed Kuruma, sounding much like her grandson had. He hadn't caught that expression from nowhere.
"Oh my, oh my," said Kuruma and chuckled.
"Do you see something, grandma?" asked Tobi, breathless with excitement. His grandma was more often a healer than a seer.
"Oh I see something, do I ever see something." Kuruma chuckled, caressing the sheet with her thumbs.
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"What do you see," asked Tobi.
"They are lovers, the spider-man and the moth," said Kuruma, Tobi was too young for further detail than that.
"Really?" Tobi sounded like he was being told a horror story. "But he looks so... so... and they aren't the same kind."
"Actually, his face is rather handsome," said Kuruma.
"It is?" Tobi sounded dubious, and Kuruma guessed it hadn't been depicted as such.
"Oh my," said Kuruma, and chuckled. "That didn't last long."
"What didn't?" asked Tobi.
"Nothing important," said Kuruma. "Take a pouch of tea from my purse, Tobi. I want to trade for this picture."
The boy quickly complied.
"How much should I measure out, grandma?"
"Let her have a whole pouch, this picture is worth it."
"It's not a very good picture, grandma," objected the boy. "It's more sketch than drawing."
"Give her a whole pouch," insisted Kuruma. "Sometimes paying what an item is worth to you is the decent thing to do."
"Allright, grandma," the boy sounded like he disagreed, but he did as told, and the termite didn't object to the trade.
"Now help me find a place to sit," instructed Kuruma. "And when I am seated, take yourself a full pouch of tea too, and buy enough sweets to get a proper tummy-ache. I'll expect you to eat for me too, since I can't have any."
"Allright, grandma," said Tobi, sounding a lot more cheerful than before.
"Don't you want the story behind the picture?" asked the termite-woman.
"I think the picture can tell me more than you can," said Kuruma and chuckled again. "This sketch has changed caravans more than once."
"That's true," said the termite-woman. "I don't suppose I could convince you to trade me your services as a seer?"
"I'm not that kind of a seer," said Kuruma and shook her head. "If I had seen anything you needed to know, I would have told you already."
"Grandma is very charitable," informed Tobi. "She helps where she can." That was another trait which Tobi and Kuruma shared.
In her youth, Kuruma had cursed that she was so little a seer. During her more mature years of womanhood, she understood what a burden seeing could be, and felt blessed that the sight struck her so rarely. Now, that she was old, she was still happy that she mostly didn't know more than others of what would happen tomorrow. But, missing colours and light, which her eyes no longer supplied, she more than ever cherished the visions the sight supplied.
The picture of the moth and the spider was delightful to that end. As a healer she had helped too many people of too many kinds to condemn the pair.
All the different kinds of people, were really one people. She didn't often air such an unpopular opinion, though, she was too old to be a lone rebel. Too old to be independent and too old to change the world.
So, she cherished the picture and the romance of which it gave her visions, and kept it to herself. Kuruma considered it an old woman's innocent secret.
The pair was in Altwar, she was in Aribo, her occasional spying on them could harm no one. That was her thought at least, when for the fifth evening in a row, she went to bed holding the picture in her hands.
Just before sunset, Kuruma saw the young pair wake and whisper sweet words to each other while awaiting the dimming of light. When the sun set and the pair was ready to leave their bedding, Kuruma was fast asleep.
The visions the sight brought to her sleep were not of the pair, and they were not of love.
Zoa was silent. She had no words to offer the scene her eyes took in. The seer Evelin had had words, and those spun around in Zoa's head.
Blood all over. Smelly sticky blood.
Tears were running from Zoa's eyes, and she wasn't the only one. Most of her fellow couriers were weeping. Most of them had emptied their stomachs too. Zoa hadn't. Apart from her tears she kept it all inside.
A whole caravan. Seven families. They were all dead. Every single one.
Some of them were missing limbs. Several had been decapitated. Some had weapons in their hands, some didn't.
One child had had her gut cut open and her insides were spread out on the ground. From Evelin's prophecy and Keme's reaction, Zoa had guessed the child's name had been Penna.
The giant beetles were restless, with their mouths they were seeking the ground below their heads. They hadn't been moved for a day. In another two days they would die of thirst. Antler-less giant beetles didn't move without directions, and their drivers were dead.
They had been in good time. They would have had plenty of time to warn the travellers and set up a defence before the dreaded tenth day. Except, Keme had been wrong about where his family was, and they had ended up being a day too late.
One corpse was more mutilated than any other. From the amount of blood around him, Zoa guessed the man had died from blood-loss. It had to have been a very agonising death. Zoa wouldn't be sharing that knowledge with Keme.
Most of the couriers were sobbing or puking. A few were still as Zoa.
Keme was hugging the most mutilated corpse to his chest. He was screaming his sanity away. The man had been his father.
Zoa would let him scream till his voice was gone. Then she would bury the dead. Then she would put the giant beetles out of their misery. When all that was done, she would send home the weakest couriers. The rest of them had a task to complete.
Posted on literotica.com with permission of author: Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.