Moth Ch. 041byellynei©
Submitted to literotica.com by the author.
Zoa let herself fall to her bunk.
"I'm exhausted," she complained.
"How did it go with the ropers?" asked her room-mate and friend, who was now officially her temporarily assigned servant.
Zoa turned her eyes to him, he was one of the veterans from the Altwar massacre. That's what it had come to be called, the fight where the monster had slaughtered couriers.
"They wasted hours pretending to be too stupid to carry out the exercises I told them to." Zoa groaned and raised her hands to her forehead. "As if they weren't stupid enough without pretending too."
The veteran courier laughed and handed Zoa a mug of hot tea. His wings had started to dry, but instead of spending his last winged days shortening his journey home, he was staying by her side.
"Then General Hopez came around," continued Zoa. "That got them jumping around as if they were walking on embers. In their efforts not to look too stupid to handle throwing ropes two of them dislocated their shoulders. Two!" Zoa held up a hand with two fingers pointing up.
The veteran chuckled and Zoa sighed deeply.
"I'm never gonna escape his clutches, am I?" asked Zoa.
"I'm afraid not," said her friend. "You're stuck in Dewgold city, Officer Zoa."
"I swear he said it was a temporary position," said Zoa, sipping her tea. It wasn't the first time she had said that to her room-mate, friend, and officially assigned servant.
"It's your own fault for not reading the sheet before signing it," said her friend and chuckled again. It wasn't the first time he had told her that.
"General Hopez is a con-man," insisted Zoa.
"Takes one to know one," teased her friend.
"That whole gold sheet thing was just something I did to make enough of an impression to be listened to. You know that."
"Well it worked, didn't it?" teased her friend.
"It worked too well," groaned Zoa.
Her friend laughed.
"Today I told General Hopez that the gold sheet is a copy," continued Zoa.
"And he didn't have you thrown into a cell?" Her friend looked worried, as if expecting the general could show up any moment to drag Zoa away to imprisonment.
"He had already figured it out," said Zoa, and sipped her tea. "He had also figured out that it had been made for me by the Emperor's librarians. 'How else could it have fooled old man Mekel,' he said." Zoa shook her head in defeat. "General Hopez is a very devious man."
"Good officers save lives. Bad officers cost lives," said her friend. "Besides you never really claimed the gold sheet to be library material. You just let people assume it was."
"I still can't believe he fooled me into signing a twenty-year military contract."
"Well, starting out as an officer isn't the worst way to begin a military career, Officer Zoa. You get to skip being a recruit, and a private, and a.. ah... whatever else lies between private and officer."
"Who said I wanted a military career?" complained Zoa.
"It's what you do best," said her friend and shrugged.
"You only say that because you've never seen me pulling out weeds," said Zoa.
"Your family are farmers?"
"Tunnel farmers mostly," said Zoa. "I was raised to sow, and care for, prime quality moss."
For a few moments they sipped tea in silence.
"The sight of General Hopez put the fear of Death into the ropers," said Zoa. "I'll get them ready in time."
"I checked in on the web-throwers today," said the veteran. "They've progressed nicely."
Zoa nodded, and added, "They will be ready in time too."
"I'm terrified of fighting that thing again," admitted the veteran.
"There's still some days left, your wings might become useless before then."
"If I can't fly then I will fight on the ground," said the veteran. "I can join the ropers. I'm with you till the end, Officer Zoa."
"Let's get some sleep," said Zoa, not sure how to respond to the declaration of loyalty. "It's late and we both have to get up early."
Kokata snuck closer. There was no doubt, it was a healer's hut. The smell of long since brewed potions and lotions hung about the place like an invisible fog. It was too close to the rest of the village for his liking. He'd have to stuff the inhabitant's mouth with silk till the healer was too scared, or too coherent, to scream for help.
One of Kokata's legtips sunk into loose soil and he looked down. He was standing on a fresh grave.
"Oh no," he whispered. There wasn't smoke coming out of the healer's chimney, and he had yet to hear any sound from inside the hut. "Please, let that not be the healer's grave."
He snuck around to the hut's entrance, opened the door, and went inside.
There was no one.
Kokata sank to the floor and started crying. It wasn't fair.
"Is somebody in there?" called someone from outside, it was a woman's voice.
"I've come for a healer," called Kokata, with one leg pushing the door to near shut. "Are you a healer?"
"We don't have a healer anymore," called the woman. "She died a few days ago. We've sent for replacement but it will be weeks before one arrives."
"Do you know anything about giving birth?" called Kokata, hiding behind the door.
"A little," said the woman, pushing up the door. "Oh, it's dark in here."
Kokata grabbed the woman and held a bundle of silk against her mouth. Then he dragged her out the hut, picked her up, and jumped.
Lei groaned with pain and grabbed the bark below her. What was taking him so long? What if the baby came before he returned? It felt like hours had passed.
She heard screams in the distance and her heart froze with fear. What if Black had failed? What if he was injured?
The world spun upside down and Lei grabbed hard onto the branch's bark not to roll of it. It was just the fever. Up was still up, down was still down. She wasn't rolling anywhere.
The screams rapidly approached.
It had to be Black and the healer.
Seconds later Black landed. A pang of jealousy hit Lei at seeing him hold onto another woman.
Copyright of Nanna Marker 2010.
"Please don't eat me," screamed the termite-woman.
"If you stop screaming I won't eat you," snarled Black.
"We won't harm you," promised Lei, and started coughing.
It took a whole lot more reassurance than that to get the panicked termite-woman to stop screaming. It wasn't until Lei screamed with another belly-cramp, that the woman went quiet.
"I'm not a healer," whimpered the termite-woman, even as she crawled to Lei.
"Please help," begged Lei, and grabbed the termite-woman's hand. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know how to do this."
"Allright," said the still sobbing termite-woman. "We need fire. And boiling water."
"No. Please no fire. Nothing boiling," wept Lei.
"Moth's don't usually have fire around when they give birth," added Black, sobbing even harder than any of the women.
"Allright. The fire isn't all that important. It's just to sterilise the knife."
"Knife?" wailed Black.
"To cut the cord," hissed the termite-woman, whose sobs were lessening.
"We have a knife," said Lei. "Get her the knife, Black."
"I don't need it yet," said the termite-woman.
For hours the termite-woman held on to Lei's hand and soothed her with words of comfort. But instead of coming sooner and lasting longer, Lei's pains faded and disappeared.
"It might have been a false alarm," stated the termite-woman, when half the night had passed and Lei was sleeping.
"False alarm?" asked Kokata.
"It happens sometimes late in the pregnancy," explained the termite-woman. "Our healer was always good at calling it. It's sad that she isn't here to help."
"So the baby isn't coming tonight?" asked Kokata.
"It doesn't look like it," said the termite-woman.
"Please stay with us till dawn," begged Kokata.
"Do I have a choice?"
Kokata averted his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"I wish I had the kind of man who would abduct a stranger to help me," said the termite-woman and sighed. "Don't worry about it, sir spider. As long as you carry me back at dawn, we can remain friends about it."
"I will," promised Kokata. "Unless the baby decides to come after all."
"Even if it isn't tonight, it won't be long," said the termite-woman. "I guess I'd better tell you how to help her when it is time."
"Please do," begged Kokata.
The pale, worn out, man woke at dawn, washed his face and armpits with cold water, dressed, and went to Evelin's room to make her bed. As he had expected it was empty. His daughter never slept past dawn.
Usually he would make breakfast before seeking her out, but lately Evelin's behaviour had been even more unsettling than usual. He found her in the living room, standing on her tip-toes, scribbling on a white sheet on the table.
Next to her stood his timeglass.
"Goodmorning, Evelin," he said.
The child glanced at him, then returned her attention to the sheet.
His stomach curled into a painful knot. The child hadn't glanced the way Evelin glanced, and she wasn't holding the crayon the way Evelin would.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My name is Kuruma," it was an old woman's voice. "Your daughter's spirit came to me in my dying moments."
"Get out of her," he ordered.
"There is still time," said the old woman, pointing to the glass.
"Evelin, evict her," he ordered.
"Evelin is sleeping," said the old woman, still scribbling. "Have no fear. I will leave before the last sand hits the bottom of that time-glass."
"What do you want?"
"Evelin has done something bad and it is tearing her apart."
"She is just a little girl," objected the worn out man.
"Just a little girl who sees far too much," agreed the old woman in his daughter's body, laid down the crayon, and inspected the sheet.
"Please don't hurt her."
"I haven't come to hurt her, and I haven't come to undo what she did. It is too late for that." The woman in the child reached the sheet out to him. "Take this."
The worn out man accepted the sheet.
"Evelin needs seer's solace," said the old woman with Evelin's mouth.
The man gasped and stepped back from the ghost. Seer's solace was a poisonous herb, everyone knew that.
"Not raw," scolded the old woman, from his reaction following his line of thought. "It has to be prepared first." The ghost glanced back at the time-glass. "Time is so very strange when you are dead."
"Please, Kuruma," said the man, remembering the ghost's name. "Get out of her."
"The herb is called seer's solace for a reason," said the ghost. "And that reason has nothing to do with Death. Follow the instructions on that sheet to the letter. Then you will see what I mean."
The ghost glanced back at the time-glass, it was almost empty.
"Pick up her body," said the ghost, raising Evelin's arms to him. "She is asleep."
He picked her up.
"Don't forget to follow the recipe to the letter, and never give her more than I've written down," said the ghost of Kuruma.
Then she was gone and the man's child was sleeping in his arms.
Posted on literotica.com with permission of author: Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.