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"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.