Story for the Day: The Butterfly
It was a hard day. How about a nice story?
Morning ebbed over the Haanta archipelago, and with it brought the beginning of Kai Linaa’s day. The Phoraas was prepared, the early osculations between her and her mate were thoroughly enjoyed, and after Unghaahi had gone to begin his training on the shore, Kai Linaa was off to the well house to fill her stores and divest them across the island’s southern border. The sky, however, threatened rain, and though being only the beginning of the rain season, the scaled clouds billowing from the south recommended there being rainfall by evening. She went to the window and let down the bamboo thatch to keep any rain from entering the house, and once all the windows were covered, she tripped off to the well house and began her workday.
The morning passed well: her time was agreeably spent doling the day’s water, saying her hellos to Leraa and the Mivaari at the temple in her way, enjoying a small meal of Phoraas with Unghaahi, watching Otenohi be carried to the healer to replace another dislocated shoulder, helping Rhodhira with some of her patients, and sending an invitation to Mhavhaledhran to have the three Amhadhri, Khantara, and all their Traala spend the evening around their table. As late afternoon prevailed and the early signs of gloaming appeared, she went to Anjhali in quest of some lemon balm and mint for a tea she was desirous of preparing for her guests, but as the head gardener came to her and remarked, “I thought it would certainly rain, and here there is not a cloud left in the sky,” Kai Linaa was highly gratified at the prospect of their all eating out of doors together. She said her goodbyes to Anjhali with the promise of seeing her in an hour hence and skipped home, taking the Sniffles family tree in her way, inviting the family of mice to dinner, assuring them that a place at the table would be made and the meal one they should certainly relish.
The moment she entered her house, she took to work on preparing something for the whole party: the tea was made and set by to steep, the brassica were picked and washed, the grains were steamed and shaped, and despite her expectation of Anelta coming with something sweet, she mixed the stevia and the grains together in boiling water to make a sweet porridge. All was being prepared and the afternoon soon melted away to evening when Unghaahi arrived home and brought with him Leraa and Rhodhira. Asthahira and Otenohi would be along soon, as she heard her guests discuss beyond the threshold, and Khantara and the party from Mhavhaledhran would join them. Everything marked the evening out to be rife with the joyful regales that a night spent together on the islands could produce, but the house, though stone and spacious, was growing frightfully warm. The dampness of the air added to the curls of smoke and steam rising from Kai Linaa’ preparations brought the sweat from her brow by way of a few tributaries rolling down her cheeks to her chin. Though it was warm and damp outside, it was hotter within than without. She hastened to let up the bamboo thatch, and to her happiness did she discover a butterfly sitting on the sill. Its golden tipped wings were low and outstretched, its antennae unfurled, its ruby eye unblinking. She marveled at it for some time, watching to touch it and afraid to do so, until she realized that it had not moved. She had not been used to think that butterflies were capable or even willing to remain still for so protracted a period, and it was only when, looking at the scales of its wings, she realized its left wing was broken.
“Oh, no,” she breathed, her hands trembling as she reached out to the butterfly. “Let me have a look. I promise I’ll try not to touch your wings.”
Instantly when she scooped the butterfly into her hands did it at last move, it was rather a movement to give pain than faith: it leaned to one side, and without a flutter, slumped limp against Kai Linaa’s hand.
“Oh…” was her tearful exclamation. She cupped the creature between her hands and begged it to move. It moved not, and all Kai Linaa’s compunction and consternation rushed on her. “You must have been hurt when I let down the- and I didn’t see. I didn’t know you were there, and I crushed your wing with- oh!” in a shuddering breath. “Oh, please! Please, don’t be-“ but it was too late; its wings were unmoving, its eye was lifeless, and Kai Linaa was all at once distraught. The more she stared at the butterfly, the more her heart wrenched in miserably agony. Tear welled in her eyes, her throat tightened, and with an ululation of dreadful despair, she wailed, “Unghaaaaaahiiiiiiii!”
The conversation outside ceased, and all in an instant, Unghaahi was in the house, he was standing before her, he was regarding her with a most concerned look. “Ghaala…” he began, but the sight of her weeping uncontrollably over the body of her poor little friend answered his apprehensions.
“I killed him,” she sobbed.
Unghaahi neared and placed his hand on her head. “You did not do this on purpose,” he assured her.
“But I killed him.” She sniffed and marked the dead creature with a woeful aspect. “He was on the sill when I let down the blinds. I must have pulled it too fast without knowing he was there. I crushed his wing and now-“ but she could not continue. Her sorrow overcame her, and she wallowed in the unbearable sorrow of her unintentional transgression.
Leraa soon arrived, and upon hearing the incessant sobs of his friend raced into the house with Rhodhira waddling in after him. “Mizoahi,” he said, hastening toward her. He saw the butterfly in her hand and listened for a voice, but heard nothing. The silence signaled his possible decease, and he could only place his hand on her back and share her tears. “We will give him a ceremony and we will help him reach Haantaas,” he said decidedly through his tears. He allowed himself a moment of somber reflection, but only a moment: a voice suddenly echoed through his mind. “Mizoahi, he is alive!” Leraa cried, smiling through his tears. “He is moving!” He pointed to the creatures legs, and there he descried a small flicker of movement.
Kai Linaa gasped in exultation. “But,” said she, in a shrinking voice, “his wings are damaged. Once a butterfly loses the scales on his wings, it cannot fly again. If he cannot fly, he cannot feed and he will die.”
“You can heal him, Mizoahi,” was Leraa’s gentle reminder
She glanced down at the small writhing creature, and with a determined “I’ll try”, her hands begun to glow.
The green shimmer of light grew and pervaded the house, throbbing with warmth and life and the goodness in knowing that she might save his life. Her brow contracted, her face contorted in grimaces of immense exertion, and when she could maintain the glow no longer, the light extinguished and up from it flew her friend, his wings in good order and his symmetrical image the picture of health. She cried a cry of happy relief and laughed as the butterfly landed on Leraa’s nose.
“Oh, Leraa,” she sniffed, wiping her tears, “What does he say? Is he angry? Can you tell him it was an accident?”
Leraa looked cross-eyed at the butterfly as it spread its wings. “He says he is not angry with you, Mizoahi. He says he was looking for nectar and saw your vaunta,” said he, pointing to the braid of flowers laying across the sill. “He ate the nectar, but was too full and had to rest.”
“And that must be when I hit him. I’m so sorry, Mr Butterfly. If I had known you were there, I would have put the flowers in a safer place for you.”
The butterfly slowly flapped its wings.
“He says khostaas for making you cry,” said Leraa.
“I’m the one who should be asking for forgiveness,” she pleaded, wringing her hands in supplication.
Again the butterfly flapped its wings, and with more than common alacrity.
“He says he likes the vaunta on your head.”
With great care did Leraa take the butterfly from his nose and place it atop Kai Linaa’s head. It moved gradually about, nestling its long tongue through the strands of rose-grey hair in search of anything good to eat. He fluttered about and settled on Kai Linaa’s forelock, restoring her to all her former happiness.
While Kai Linaa had been bewailing her grave mistake, Otenohi had arrived with Asthahira. She went to Rhodhira and looked on while Otenohi sidled Unghaahi and observed the creature’s renewal with a complacent smirk and folded arms.
“Should we tell her that the creature she saved is a venomous zhrota?” Otenohi whispered, with mirthful eyes.
“She considers all life precious enough to preserve,” Unghaahi quietly replied, “even if that is a zhrota.”
They exchanged a sagacious look and resolved to allow Kai Linaa her restored felicity. Leraa was by and Otenohi with his powers at killing deadly insects with forcible rapidity was beside her, and with her family about her and the butterfly revived, there was nothing more to do but prepare the stone table for their evening meal, enjoy one another’s conversancy, and say nothing of the lethal creature that Kai Linaa had resting on her brow.