Moth Ch. 010byellynei©
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.
Lei felt as if she had been flying a whole night and half a day. Since she had woken she had been reborn, had almost become a cripple, had discovered her new body, had been scared out of her wits, and had last of all laughed till her belly ached. She was exhausted. As soon as Black was done with her wings, she would go to bed.
"Hold still," snarled Black, waking her back to the present.
Lei realised she had been nodding off in spite of sitting up straight. She yawned heartily and widened her eyes as wide as she could for them not to close.
"Were your parents beetles?" she asked, remembering the detail Black had revealed while cutting her free. 'Raised by beetles.' It was the first and only detail Black had ever revealed about his past.
"Two of the same kind does not beget a child of another kind," said Black.
That was what everybody said.
"Was your mother a beetle?" she asked.
"Not likely," said Black, sounding as if the topic was boring. "They said there were no tracks. I've never met a beetle who didn't leave tracks."
"They?" prodded Lei, encouraged by the length of Black's sentences.
"Tracks?" prodded Lei.
"Marks left in the ground by footprints," snarled Black.
Lei sighed. Attempting a conversation with Black was always hopeless.
"It was a child that found me," said Black. "His name was Erric but everyone called him Bubbi. I was wrapped in leaves held together by straw. Only my face showed. Bubbi carried me home to his mother."
Lei dared barely breathe not to interrupt Black's narrative.
"Bubbi's mum thought I was a beetle-baby."
If his face had been the only part showing, Lei could see why. His teeth apart, Black's face perfectly resembled that of a beetle. Black shiny skin was common amongst beetles.
"The woman always claimed she unwrapped me to see if i needed changing. Behind her back, everyone else claimed she did it to check if I was a boy or a girl. She had four boys and wanted a girl. In her village abandoned babies were finder's keepers, if the finder wanted to keep."
Black went quiet.
"Did she keep you?" asked Lei, quietly.
"She dropped me." There was something dark in Black's voice. "She unwrapped me, my legs spilled out, and she screamed and dropped me."
Lei's stomach curled at the notion of a baby being dropped.
"She had a hard floor," added Black. "I hit my head and nearly died." Black paused and gently ran a leg-tip over the spot he was working on. Seemingly satisfied, he moved on to work on another spot. "No. She didn't keep me. The village council ordered her to nurse me back to health, but it was her man that did it. The woman couldn't touch me without making sudden movements, nor could she refrain from shrieking at the mere sight of me.
Submitted to literotica.com by the author.
"As soon as my wounds had healed, Bubbi's father returned me to the village council. No one would take me."
"The council held a charity gather. Beetles are very charitable," Black spat the last word as if it was an insult. "There was no end to all the things the villagers were willing to give for the abominable baby to get a home. Pots, cakes, brews, grain, roots, even red-rock. Everything stacked in bigger and bigger piles, ready to befall anyone who would take the creature home with them."
"Don't refer to yourself like that," said Lei, gently. "You're a person."
"I'm retelling what I've been told," said Black. "I've already cut out most of their words."
"You're not abominable," insisted Lei, "and you're not a creature." She shut her mouth not to add that he was 'just bad-tempered'.
"Try telling that to a beetle," snarled Black.
"Did anyone take you home?"
"No," said Black. "After my arrival, it became clear that every woman in the village was afraid of spiders. While I was recovering, Bubbi's mother had, by every other mother, been badmouthed for dropping me. But once I was up for adoption every mother claimed they too might drop me if they ever had to hold me." Black sounded like he was trying to laugh like whoever had told the story. It was an eerie disgusted sound.
"The council members took turns at feeding me from the Plentiful Piles of Charity."
Lei guessed those three words had always been spoken with great pride by anyone who wasn't the spider himself.
"I matured quickly, they said. Learned to walk in almost no time." Black laughed darkly.
Lei cringed with shame on the beetle's behalf. She had no doubt that they had chosen to equalise crawling stage with walking stage, since, for a spider, the nature of the gait would be the same.
"As soon as I had learned to say 'food', the council taught me to walk from door to door and wail it."
Black moved forward till his face was just behind Lei's left ear.
"Fooood," he exhaled.
Lei cringed. It was a ghoulish sound.
"It worked, they said," stated Black. "The council stopped feeding me, and yet I didn't starve to death."
His work on her wings was progressing swiftly. It seemed he was getting better at it with every spot he covered.
"I don't remember eating their food, though. As far back as my memory reaches, I've caught my own. I don't know why I stayed in the village for as long as I did." Black again went quiet.
"How long did you stay?" prodded Lei.
"Well..." Black paused, yet again moving his attention to a new spot on her wings. "One day, a council member, I can't remember which one of them it was, sought me out, handed me a cookie, patted me on the head, wiped his hand on his chest-cloth, and told me I was twelve years old. Then he straightened himself and asked how much longer he had to wait for the four full-balls of silk-thread his wife needed."
"Four full-balls of silk-thread?" blurted Lei. "He must have been rich."
"Actually he was," said Black. "How did you know?"
"Four full-balls of silk-thread," said Lei. "That's a fortune."
"Spider-silk," said Black.
"That's even more expensive," said Lei. "Killing large spiders are dangerous, not to mention the work of cutting them up and mixing the liquids, and even the largest spiders never give more than..." Lei stopped herself. "I meant spider-beasts."
"People kill spider-beasts for silk where you are from?" asked Black.
"The butterfly silk-masters do," said Lei. "They are the only ones who knows exactly how to make silk from the liquids in a dead spider-beast's glands."
"In Altwar, spider-silk isn't worth the fly-beasts to feed the spider," said Black, reached over her head and let a length of perfect unwound silk drop before her. It floated delicately down toward her outstretched hand and landed in it. She ran her thumb over it.
"You've never sown anything, have you?" she quietly asked.
"No," said Black, again padding silk onto a new spot.
Lei closed her mouth not to explain how much a full-ball of the strand she held in her hand was worth to anyone who wore clothes.
"Did he pay you anything at all for your silk?" asked Lei, straining to sound casual.
"Not even the fly-beasts it wasn't worth," said Black. "Never a word of gratitude. Every hour I didn't spend hunting my own food, I was spinning silk thread. No matter how hard I worked, it was never more than was expected." Black's voice was bitter.
Written by Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.
Lei closed her eyes, nauseous with behalved shame. She couldn't bring herself to reveal what the beetles had apparently managed to conceal. Black had been cheated of fortunes. It wasn't until then that Lei realised that the silk Black was padding onto the back of her wings probably had more value on a market than everything she had crafted through the fall.
It was a strange revelation.
Behind her sat the wealthiest man she had ever met and he had no clue of it. In her mind Lei went through all the wonderful things you could get on a market trying to think of things that Black might like to buy. He didn't use clothes, he didn't use tools.
"Do you like sweets?" asked Lei.
"Not really," said Black. "Do you?"
"Moth's have more sweet teeth than white ones," said Lei, quoting one of Oli's old jokes. "Of course, moths don't have all that many white teeth. Not with all the sweets they are eating!"
Lei smiled. It was the first time she had heard him laugh with genuine humour. She was glad she had remembered the joke and made sure not to ruin it by pointing out that butterflies were worse.
Copyright of Nanna Marker 2010.