Here it is again, a short based off of my brain's weird interpretation of a song suggested by my fellow The Facebookers. This one was brought into being by a suggestion for "Does Your Mother Know" by ABBA. Yes, ABBA. Yes, that ABBA with the dancing queens and all. Anyway...
The Honored Daughter
Nomalee had never had the opportunity to view the actual sun. The orb consumed her thoughts in her moments of boredom, as her drone nursemaids told her stories of the world above, and how as an Honored Daughter one day the Womb Mother would be unable to stem the tide of raging fight-hormones at the presence of an adult female. It would not be a pheromone message, but a blazing chemical challenge. Fight the invading female. Cast out the stealer of drones. The thief of scarce males.
She herself would rise to the bait if they did not cast her from the birth den quickly enough. Nomalee had heard stories from the gossipy nurse-drones, each one similar in appearance enough to the other—all exact replicas birthed from the Womb for one purpose—that she had started referring to their twin androgynous features, delicate pale hands, and long lean bodies as One, Two, and Three. Three especially liked to talk as if it knew anything of the world above, the world of light and sun and males and grass.
"It wasn't always so for us," said Three, its large rainbow-hued eyes blinking slowly in a pleasing manner. Its six jointed fingers clicked out a rapid clik-song along with its words, voice buzzing softly. "Once there were only males and females and they birthed more males and females in an endless, and confusing cycle."
That had shocked Nomalee as a young female, that there was no Womb Mother, the all-source of drones and females, and the rare young male. It seemed so random and chaotic that she had slapped her elegant hands over her mouth in a gesture of horror.
As an Honored Daughter, she looked different from the drones. She had long supple black hair atop her skull, which would fall out when she chose a mate and sought to create her own den. Not only strange hair, but wide, small eyes more suited for bright light than the underground dug out caverns. It had embarrassed her at first, that she appeared so small, squinty, and weak compared to even the architect drones. Her fingers were short in comparison, her eyes an earth toned brown, her mouth small and lipped—compared to the nearly lipless drones.
"Once," Three continued in an amused buzz, the musty smell of laughter-scent curling around its body, "they say we were a lesser species. Every female gave birth and chaos reigned. Until the first Honored Daughter came into being after we fled to our underground homes. The First Womb created structure, and society, and an end to killing."
Nomalee was growing tired of Three's interpretation. "Not an end to killing. There are Mothers who still kill their Honored Daughter if there is a challenge accepted."
Three hummed in distress, its soft hands fluttering. "The guards will rush you out of the den before that happens, Daughter Nomalee. You have time yet before the challenge is issued." Three had always engaged in hugging, an unusual gesture outside of the scent-dances of the drones. Now, the nurse put its long, spindly arms around her and she could smell the calming-scent so like the fresh grass the hunter drones brought in. "You Daughter Nomalee, will form a great new den with many strong drones, and you will lure and catch a powerful male of your own."
She made a musical noise of laughter, rather than issue an easily read scent. "Would that I could catch the Kirile, that great untamed male who roams the wildlands."
The nurse drone was so startled its rainbow eyes swirled with color. "How did you hear of him?"
"Two and One told me."
A dismissive scent wafted from those protective arms. "Two and One speak too much of things they do not understand." With the grace intrinsic to nurse drones, Three rose to its feet, a tall, slim figure of comfort. "Come now, we will speak no more of this. You are still young yet."
"But Kirile is real, is he not?" Nomalee asked. She had a limited range of chemical scents to release, but when she grew old enough her ability would expand, and those signals would interfere with her Mother's. When her ability grew to maturity, it would trigger the challenge between Mother and Daughter.
A burbling hiss escaped a lipless mouth. "A myth. Nothing more."
Nomalee hoped not.
The Womb Mother Arna's great length sat in the deepest chamber of the den. As always Nomalee felt more than uncomfortable in the Mother's presence. It was a natural and instinctual reaction to the presence of a future rival female, but more than that, it made a small part of her jealous. Nomalee traced her gaze over the elongated torso, her Mother's fleshy abdomen full with unbirthed warrior drones that wriggled inside of her with restless abandon. As she watched, an outline of a sharp-angled face pressed against the pale sac that was the Mother's Womb. Like a great worm, the Mother Arna snaked her large head above the drones and her Daughter.
Nomalee's body would change as well, once she was ready to birth for her own den's colony.
It seemed as if Mother Arna's attendant male was not present. Had he ceased to be fertile? And was the poor thing cast out?
Black wide eyes narrowed on Nomalee. "You reek of distraction-scent of the second order. You grow quickly, Honored Daughter."
Nomalee bowed her head, wishing her nurse drones were with her. No, they were not her drones. They were her Mother's. Was the need to collect drones to her side a sign that the challenge was near?
Mother Arna's lips curled as she bared wickedly sharp eye teeth. Birthing teeth, as sometimes the drones needed to be extracted from the sac forcefully. "Ah, yes, I find I can barely look at you without my spinal barbs raising. Look," the Mother said, twisting her neck around to peer at her own back, "I have even filled them with toxin."
Nomalee trembled at what that implied. But instead of rank fear at the Mother's toxin producing abilities, she gritted her teeth against a snarl. Who was this female who so dared to flaunt her unborn children in front of her? So easily could Nomalee gut the warrior children from her, and take them for her own. Then she would—
She blinked in surprise at her own thoughts.
"Ah, the time grows near, Honored Daughter," Mother Arna said, baring more teeth. "But I am not like other Mothers. Other dens are weak in comparison. Which is because I am inventive."
Shuddering again, Nomalee kept her longing gaze away from the birth sac. "You are powerful, Mother Womb."
"Do not placate me with trite words," the Mother said, her spinal barbs quivering. "For you, Daughter Nomalee, I will cast you out before the time of the challenge is upon us."
"You...cannot!" Nomalee cried. Other Daughters had been so cast out before they were fully mature, and no one ever saw them again. No den. No captured male. Dead, all of them. "I will not survive!"
A gurgling sound escaped the Mother. "You are stronger than any Honored Daughter I have before produced. I know you will create a den that will rival mine, and I will enjoy the war if you choose to invade your birth home."
"But there is no killing between dens..." Nomalee grasped for normalcy.
"You are not stupid enough to believe that we do not fight for dominance over another den." The great body quivered, and a pleased convulsion shook the length of Mother Arna's worm-like frame. "I will not send you out to die, little one. I will sacrifice two warrior drones to gift to you."
That was unheard of. No Mother could give up her drone children. Not one drone had ever been given willingly to another female. Taken yes. Given no. Nomalee found herself eager to wrest those drone children from her, to slay the female, to rend, tear, and end the life of this rival who pretended to gift those—
She took a steady breath and said, "I will accept the gift, Great Womb."
And later, Nomalee thought, I hope I will remember this kindness and choose to spare you and yours.
Nomalee stepped from the cave-like burrow entrance to her birth den and into the sparkling sunlight. When she closed her eyes against it, hissing in surprise, she could still see the light glow orange through her eyelids. The two warriors next to her vented battle-ready clouds of scent at her distress, that burnt sugary smell she now enjoyed.
Chastising herself, she peeked open one eye and then the other. The world was loud, so loud, and with clashes of riotous color—the green of this neverending meadow before her, the dark brown roots—no it must be a tree top, not its bottom—all seemed so strong. Here it was: above-light. It wasn't like what she had fantasized about.
The Prime warrior stood, its boney facial structure a mass of chitinous plates that stuck out at harsh angles, its eyes only slightly larger than her own and depthless black. Prime flexed red tinged fingers tipped with razor-claws. "Come, Honored Daughter," came its sexless voice harsh with something nearing command. "We must flee the area of the Mother's influence, lest Second and I fall prey to her scents."
Never before had she smelled, and felt and so many textures of the world! How could any female be seduced into burrowing underground when the hiss-rustle of leaves—leaves!—was so decadent? When the warmth of the sun rays made her feel like excitement-scent was coursing over her skin?
She ran headlong over the hills for the first time in her life, her warriors at her side, until she felt fit to burst. She ignored both Prime and Second as she allowed her long, limber legs to pump and leap into the awaiting air.
When she could run no more, her birth den was nowhere to be seen or smelled. Already the sun drew downward, a haloed orange orb, the strange sky above coursing with fire hues. As she felt her energy draining from her, something rustled in the brush.
When she spun around, neither of her warriors were to be seen.
Panic slammed into her. Had they abandoned her? Then the realization hit—they had simply followed instinct and returned home, not fully bonded to her as she was not capable of claiming them. They were not hers, and Mother Arna knew it. It was her Mother's intention to rid herself of a strong rival Daughter.
It was betrayal. And death.
Here she was, an immature female and droneless for the first time in her life. In the wilds for the first time.
She was alone for the first time.
She prowled about in her ignorance for food. Chemical-memory stirred whenever she ate the bright orange flowers peeking above the sturdy grasses of the wild, and instinctively she knew they were safe. But it was not enough.
As she cautiously approached a nearby stand of trees, she could smell the musk of something. Perhaps ground dwelling fungi. Her mouth watered as she abandoned all thought other than her hunger.
A deep, smooth voice said from the darkness, "Does your Mother know you are out?"
The voice stirred something inside of her that was not chemical memory or quite instinct. The sound was lower and deeper than any voice she had ever heard. She cast about her for the face to match the voice, but she saw no one.
"I am my own Mother," she shot back.
A strange grating chuckle drifted from the darkness in the trees. She inhaled, but no scent marker assaulted her. "You are a weak little Daughter, obviously not-so Honored by your Womb Maker. You are only a child. Nearly an adult, but stunted."
"I am not stunted!" she cried, feeling the first flush of battle-anger. "I am my own! I will create the fiercest den that—"
Again came that strange laugh sound. Mocking. But the sound came from a different angle. Quiet now, Nomalee stalked her way toward the strand of trees and entered the cooler darkness, allowing her eyes to adjust. With deft hands she began to climb into the roots—no branches—and that's when the face appeared.
She squeaked and nearly let go.
The face of strong lines, smooth jaw, and a mop of waving amber hair top its head peered at her. No, not its—his. For the broad chest, long legs, and musculature certainly claimed him as male. And the voice...it nearly dislodged something in her mind. His orange-sun hued eyes narrowed on her, his lips curling up in a gesture that showed his teeth, but she sensed his amusement.
Her hands tightened on the branch. "You're Kirile, the wild male."
"Wild?" his lips quirked more. "Simply because I am immune to your trap-scents, and your lure-smells? Perhaps I do not like dens underground. Or perhaps I am a castaway as you are."
As she struggled to say something, he leaned down close to her and said, "Or perhaps it is that you nascent-Mother's always think you're so clever. You all grow weary of chasing me."
With a graceful leap, Kirile bounded over several branches until he reached the ground and made a mocking chirrup sound. Yet, still no scents.
Before she could move, he was gone.
Nomalee always saw him in the distance, or at the edge of her sight while she munched on sweet grass, or just a breath away. Teasing. Mocking. His deep voice vibrating along her spine. But it did not fill the hunger or loneliness. Already now, she could feel the mixtures of volatile challenge-scent forming around her, a scent reserved for rival females, the kill-tear-rend smell of furious abandon. She took all of her fear, all of her hopes, and thought of revenge. Then she cast an aura scent of challenge toward the wayward male.
Not a lure smell. That she could feel hovering in her body, eager to make the chemicals necessary to incite a drugged state in males, a total complacency of pleasure scent. No, this was pure challenge, and she was certain only Mother Wombs secreted the scent at one another.
He came from the tall grasses and stared at her, his sunset eyes narrowing. He bared his teeth, this time it was not amusement.
Before he could speak, she spat, "You lonely little male. Easily trapped by pleasure-scents. You're no different from the others I've thought about capturing. They did not suit me. And neither do you."
He stepped toward her. "I am not weak and—"
She turned and ran from him.
This dance of theirs played out for so many rising and settings of the sun that Nomalee lost count. She would offer a challenge in word and scent, and he would bluster and laugh, and she would flee. Even that had become a game. She ran through the silvery glowing grasses beneath the cool kiss of the moons and their delicate light. And he chased her. When she stopped, he would approach and build a fire that reflected his own inferno-colored eyes, huddling around it for warmth.
It was in these unguarded moments that he told her of his wildling existence. He had fought and killed warrior drones from seven different dens, all sent out to capture him. He had dared to slip into the very front walkway of a den in order to steal jars and jars of preserved grubs in sugar. Of how he had eaten every toxic fungi out of curiosity, and had managed to convert the toxins inside his stomach into a harmless chemical.
And she told him of her upbringing, such as it was. And how she dreamed of sunlight.
In the mornings, they began the chase again.
Finally, she allowed him to catch her. And for the first time, Kirile the wild male seemed uncertain as to what to do. Not to playfully chase. She had been the first to challenge, and he the first to accept and win.
She knew how the other Mother's wrapped and enslaved their males with domineering pleasure and mindless-drugged scents, but she did not want to claim the Kirile. Nomalee wanted him still a wildling.
"Seek me no longer, Kirile," she said sadly. "I do not want to force you below ground."
"Honored of my heart," he said playfully, "we will form a new den above ground. To suit us. I have captured you, and you have contained me without evil snares."
This was the third brood of warrior drones sent out to kill Nomalee. And she knew them from a distance, that reek of a rival female's chemicals upon them. Not just any female, but Mother Arna's.
It was the first time she felt her spinal barbs growing in.
Kirile spun his claws in an arc, scoring them across the unarmored neck of the warrior drone. Blood-ichor poured forth from the wound, and its black eyes rolled back, shivering in death throes. The wildling male was quicker than the armored drones, smarter in his movements, made of grace and beauty. The more he fought, the more the need consumed her to protect him from any rival that would dare steal him away.
He was hers.
She would claim all that was hers. These drones would become hers.
As she moved then, she touched Kirile's shoulder and he instinctively backed away a few steps. She could sense the venting dominance-reek coming from her, the toxins in her spinal barbs now moving to her claws. Leaping upon the warriors, she grappled with them, her lithe hands quick. Each one's movements slowed, their heads fuzzy with scent-markings. The toxin she created in her body was designed not to kill, but to claim.
The remaining warriors stood still, large eyes watching her in devotion.
"Pledge yourselves to your new Mother Womb," she proclaimed. She raised her eyes to the wide open sky, and knew what she must do. "You are mine, my warriors. You belong to Mother Nomalee."
They crowded about her body, a living mass of drones shielding their female, the source of life and community. One narrowed its gaze on Kirile, and it snarled out a shrill hiss-leaf wind-branches breaking sound. She stilled her warrior with a single touch, and it bowed its chitin armored head.
She met Kirile's gaze and instead of bowing his head in acquiescence, his brows narrowed. "Do you expect me to bow like them?"
She held out her hand and the warriors as one drew aside. Her body absorbed the toxins back into her blood, leaving her scent strangely bland. "Never, my wild one. If you choose to leave now, I will not ensnare you. I wish you all the freedom of the wildlands."
He touched her hand, his long jointed fingers curling almost possessively about hers. It was a strangely female-like gesture of mindless possession, but she knew it was not so for him. It was fierce and protective and wild. A dizzying combination of challenge-scent, mixed with a mating-musk, and combined with a gentler scent of concern-wonder. It was the first time he had so vented a cloud of scents to communicate his uncertain emotions.
"You aim to invade Mother Arna's den," he said quietly. "And you wish me to fight at your side." Males so claimed by a new Mother became soft, pliable little weak things. They did not fight for anything. Even against death when he became less fertile and expendable. "I will always do so, Nomalee, if you will follow the path of above-light. With me."
She could not help but vent pride-scent of the first order. The strongest cloud of pheromones. "You are my warrior-male. My wildling. I will follow at your side above ground."
The warrior drones beside her buzzed their approval.
"But first," Nomalee said, "we must destroy Arna's den. Or she will never let me be."
Nomalee's toxin tipped claws rent through even hardened chitin, using her new claim-charge-win toxin to make those drones of Mother Arna's into her own. Her nurses eagerly transferred their scent-markers to her, so the soft-bodied One, Two, and Three purred over her growth and power even as she sent out her claimed drones to bring forth others. Underground, her eyes adjusted to the weak luminescent glow-grub lights, and she saw her birth den as it was—a strong set of wondrously dug tunnels. Arna's architect drones more outstanding than she first thought.
Kirile was covered in the blood-ichor of those drones not swayed quickly enough by Nomalee's domineering cloud-smell. Some first generation drones were too inured to the old Mother's scent to change, and they had attempted to kill her—the invader.
Even still, with glowing delight Nomalee felt the power thrumming along her nerve endings. The closer she got to the Mother's chamber, the headier her rage. Before she knew it, she had slashed her toxin-tipped claws through a crowd of newborn nurse drones, and they fell to her side with slavish devotion. Her fierce wildling Kirile dashed about at her side.
She arrived at Arna's chamber and feeling the thrill of challenge, she sprinted into the room.
Mother Arna reared up her massive body, her wormlike tail whipping forward. "So, Honored Daughter, you have returned to fight."
"I am a Mother now," Nomalee growled, her claws filling with a more toxin. "And I have claimed your pitiful den as my own."
A wild rage-challenge scent wafted toward Nomalee as if sprayed in a broad froth from glands. Her mind bent inward, the untamable rage filling her until she could see nothing but her need to kill. But she stilled her quivering muscles, and did not respond.
Mother Arna's whipcord neck spun about as quickly as her tail. "I wanted you to return, daughter. Who else could capture that lovely wildling male, but you? Now, you have brought him to me, and I will birth the proudest warriors of all. I will capture all dens with my fierce drone-children!"
Nomalee released amused-scent at her Kirile, who had taken an unbidden step toward Arna. He shook his head as if to clear it. It seemed that even he was confused by the heady clouds of scents from two different females. His eyes widened and he stepped back, his mouth trying to form words even as he released a disgust-terror scent.
Arna held out a long, sinuous arm, her hands tipped with wicked claws. "Come here, my beautiful male! Come and be content. You will want for nothing. Never ending pleasure."
His eyes glazed over at her words and pheromone message. He took another step forward, his muscles trembling in resistance. "No...I cannot...the above-light..."
Nomalee leapt forward then, trumpeting a sound of challenge even as she spat a frothy toxin from her mouth, the rage-challenge-fight smells wafting from her and toward the evil rival. Swiftly, she bounded over Arna's back, even as the Mother's tail slapped against her throat. Breath seemed difficult, but she moved now in something beyond instinct. She fell to the ground in front of the mighty Mother, and she was close now, so close to the thin-skin of the birthing sac. Claws raked against Arna's breeding skin, and Nomalee crowed in triumph, plunging her hands deeper into the Mother's abdomen and reaching birth-organs.
Arna thrashed and let loose a wild bellow, as the blood-ichor poured from her. Desperately, her tail curled around Nomalee's throat, the muscles squeezing until Nomalee's sight blurred. No breath now, but she tore the birth organs from Arna's abdomen and they slopped at her feet. Bringing up her claws once more, she slashed at the hard armor of the Mother Arna's tail, her rock hard claws slicing into flesh.
The tail released her and Nomalee crawled away from the rival female, the evil taker of drones, the horrible-vile-wicked thief of males. She shuddered with the untamable need to completely slay the female before her, to end her by evisceration. But an even darker part of her thoughts stilled her hand.
"You will live," Nomalee croaked, sighing painfully in joy as Kirile came to her side to touch her bruised throat. "But you will not live to give birth, or be a Mother. You are now no more than a gelded female, not even an Honored Daughter."
Arna howled, her screech voice rattling the rock walls. "You cannot! I will kill you!"
Nomalee spat again at Arna's abdomen. "That is for abandoning me before I was mature. Now will I take your drones for my own and we will live openly in the above-light. And you will be here, alive and weak, unable to produce any children. No drones. No males. Nothing."
Without another glance back, Nomalee left the howling gelded female and took her male's hand. Kirile met her gaze with his glowing orange eyes and pride-scent came from him.
"You are mine," he said proudly. "And I am yours, Nomalee."
She beamed with pride as she took the entire colony with her into the light.