Extra story: Pains of Summer
I really hate summer. Here is why.
The Pains of Summer
|Rautu and his war on ants|
After all the small reparations and cleaning of the house were completed, a small supper was made for those who wished it. Few claimed it was far too humid to eat anything beyond a few bites and far too hot to be walking outside before evening. The meal was tender and quiet, and once everyone had done, each went to a different corner of the house to sweat and feel uncomfortable.
The commander held a special despisal for the short summer months: the feeling of uncleanness due to prolonged yet mild perspiration was unbearable, the state of being fatigued yet not being able to sleep due to the discomfiting heat was insupportable, and sleeping beside one who radiated so much warmth made her dread Rautu’s demands for cuddles. Sheets stuck to her during Khopra, eating meat made her stomach ache, and the more her mate basked in the heat and reveled in the humidity, declaring how excellent a season it was for Frewyn, the more she was determined to loath the three months of weatherly torment.
One thing both she and the Den Asaan could agree upon was that the increased appearances of spiders and other insects was not welcome. Although the commander had never minded spiders, she was made to remove them whenever she should hear a roaring of her designation from across the cottage, but the insects that she could not abide were ants. When the commander walked over the kitchen basin to begin the cleaning after their small supper, she found a colony of ants swarming over a few crumbs of cake left on the floor by a certain giant who had been there moments before. She swore to herself and poured some of the washing water on them before sweeping them outside, but no sooner had she returned when she found another swarm of them near the larder. She sighed and considered what would be the best action to take to rid of them. her mind illuminated with a sudden notion: she had a son with Sotaa. She recalled Leraa speaking to every spider the last time he visited, why should her son not do the same. She opened the door and called for Soledhan to renter the kitchen, and a few moments later, Rautu came to the larder where she stood with their son sitting on his shoulder.
“I abominate the summer,” she hissed, placing the last of the dishes on the drying rack. “If it isn’t the unconscionable heat or the uncomfortable humidity, it is the increased number of insects to always be removing from one’s home. Soledhan, will you please ask these creatures to leave before Iimaa should smash them?”
Soledhan hopped down from his father’s shoulder and made his ardent commands in his tiny voice. His orders for them to leave the kitchen and return out of doors were ignored, however. He attempted once more with a pointing of his finger, a pout, and a stomping of his foot, but leave they would not.
“Why will they not listen to you?” the commander asked. “Are you not well-versed in their ant language or their customs?”
“They are hungry, Iimaa. Utaa gave them food.”
Rautu glared at his son. “I did not give them anything,” he asserted.
“You might as well have done with your trail of cake crumbs,” the commander said, wiping the remainder of his confectionary exploits from his lips.
“Very well, they’ve had their amusement t the expense of my comfort, and now they must go. Will you ask your cat to come and lick these ants from the floor. I know how much khaasta enjoys chasing and eating insects.”
Soledhan leapt away, calling for his cat throughout the house, when Jaicobh came to give his assessment of the circumstance.
“Aw, don’t kill ‘em, darlin’,” said the farmer. “They’ll realize there’s nothin’ here for them and go elsewhere. We had them at the farm every end of spring.”
“And I did not enjoy them crawling over my hands and feet then either. They may go wherever they like, not my kitchen, however.”
Jaicobh made a sigh of discomfort and was resolved to finish his work in the garden while the genocide should take place.
Soledhan returned riding his cat and asked if it would lap the remaining ants. There seemed to be little distinction between the insects and the crumbs they were swarming over, and soon the ants had another creature to evade. What ants Soledhan’s cat was not quick enough to devour crawled over Soledhan’s feet. He giggled at the tickling sensations, but his mother was not so fond of their raillery and quickly dusted them from his feet.
“If they are a threat, Traala,” Rautu began.
“No,” the commander sighed. “They are more of an annoyance than they are a threat. I’m not fond of their bites but they aren’t unendurable. You don’t seem to be affected by them as much as you are by spiders.” She watched her mate’s inspection of the ants’ irregular movements and smirked at his interest. “Do you have something similar to ants on the islands?
“Are they somewhat enormous in comparison?”
“Are they venomous?”
“Yes. They are called Vhandhahu.”
The commander considered the name for a moment. “The bottomless? Shall I ask why they have been accorded such a title?”
“They are rarely seen on the islands. They only appear once after the rains have stopped. They emerge from dunes to eat the carcasses of Undu and other animals left by the Laustari. They eat every portion of the carcass from the shell to the bone and then return to the dunes.”
The commander simpered and shook her head. “And have these creatures been known to eat the feet of unsuspecting passersby?”
“How appealing. It always astonishes me that every equivalent on the islands is always larger and decidedly more dangerous .”
“Just as your ants here, Vhandhahu are killed instantly when placed in water.”
“That is reassuring. But by the time one reaches the shore, one is certain to have lost a few toes. I don’t suppose your healers have a remedy for eaten appendages?”
“No,” Rautu grunted, but his attention was soon taken from the conversation when one of the bit the top of his foot. He brushed it away, but the damage had been done: a small bump rose from where he was bitten and the plague of itching had begun. He made the mistake of scratching his wound, and suddenly he felt a wave of itching assail him.
“Now you see why I despise them so, Iimon Ghaala,” the commander said, dabbing some cold water on his bite. “They may not devour toes, but they do make skin itch, which is sometimes less preferable than a missing appendage.”
Rautu scowled at the few ants that remained and made a silent vow to detest them as much as he did spiders, for though he had his reason for disliking creatures with eight legs, he now had motivation for despising those with six.