“Is there anything more I can get for you, my Queen?” The bright-eyed, skinny young nymph said, his four hands clasped together and his antennae bowed. The Queen must have thought it was quite a joke, assigning her the only nymph she’d expressed an opinion on.
“Bring me an entire Banta and save us the time,” Itet’chi’zzt said, tearing into the meal between shrugging and stretching, trapped in her own aching exoskeleton. She was growing, and she was ravenous, eating half her weight every day.
And the longer this process went on, the more fascinating she found Tekchizeti. It was a strange sensation, almost like hunger, but warmer, somewhere deep inside her lower abdomen.
Maybe if she ignored it, it would go away.
“I could bring a quarter of a Banta, my queen,” He said, expressive Antennae shifting rapidly through alarm, thoughtfulness, revision, decisiveness.
“That would be fine.”
Half an hour later, Tekchizeti returned, dragging a large Banta leg almost as big as he was. The weak male struggled under the burden, his legs wobbling as he descended the tunnel into the cavern.
“Good, bring it over.” Itet’chi’zzt’s hunger made her say. “And sit next to me.” The other feeling made her speak before she could realize where it came from.
“As you wish.” Tekchizeti sat beside her, his antennae practically blaring Excitement/Nervousness with wild swings between the two of them.
Itet’chi’zzt wasn’t really sure what hers were doing. She found all of her attention focused on the body occupying the pillow beside her. She found herself devoting most of her attention to the side of her vision, studying the pretty male beside her. She was so distracted that she almost swallowed a bone.
“So…What do we do?” Tekchizeti asked.
“Sit down and shut up,” Itet’chi’zzt said. “Tell me about yourself.”
Itet’chi’zzt clattered her mandibles internally at the conflicting commands she was giving him. the new emotions were making her behavior erratic at best.
Was she a failure as a queen? She hadn’t heard anything about this. In any case, she had to present a consistent ruler to her Queen-chosen mate. Surely the queen knew better than she did.
“I was groomed from a young age to be a scholar. At the queen’s request, my thesis was on deviant behavior and how it may be of value to the tribe. You’re one of my case studies.”
The warmth in Itet’chi’zzt’s abdomen quieted down.
“What?” She demanded. “Are you saying…”
“I recommended you as a candidate for queen,” he said cheerfully. “I had noticed that your trouble working with others didn’t stem from a lack of love for your hive, but rather an inborn instinct that might allow you to-“
“You little assdew licker!” She shouted, leaping on the nymph and throttling him.
“Please, my Queen!” he hissed and chittered in alarm, unable to put up a struggle against her vastly superior mass. His thin arms tugged on her own pointlessly while his lower arms beat ineffectively against her thicker, darker chitin.
“Because of you, I had to watch my friends get murdered! I had to wander the Earth alone, away from my hive for longer than anyone should ever have to!”
“But…What if you hadn’t gone? What would have happened to us?”
Itet’chi’zzt heaved a sigh and released him, holding her head in her hands, still on top of the nymph. They would all be dead, because she was the only princess capable of doubt. Perhaps Itet’chi’zzt should thank him, but the honor of becoming a queen was far more of a burden. One he’d had a direct hand in.
“I apologize, I’ve been…strange recently.”
“It’s fine,” he said, reaching up and patting her torso and mandibles. “Queens are confused at first.” The sensation of his hands against her torso was incredible, causing her mandibles to relax. Her abdomen convulsively dipped down, bumping against his.
A jolt of pleasure shot through Itet’chi’zzt’s body, and she stiffened for an instant before hastily pushing herself off him.
“That’s not…we didn’t…”
“We did not, my queen,” he said, sitting up, his antennae nervous and thoughtful and confused and excited. “I don’t think so.”
“Good,” Itet’chi’zzt said. “I mean, it’s too soon, anyway.”
“It’s been three weeks, my queen. The extra week is practically a formality.”
“How do you know that?”
“The Queen told me that you would be, and I quote, ‘a slavering ball of lust’ by the second week. A date that came and went. Would you like for me to send for a different male?”
“That’s not necessary,” she replied immediately, idly petting his abdomen with her lower right hand. “I just don’t know…How to do it.” Itet’chi’zzt realized what her hand was doing and pulled it back quickly.
“I could show you?” he said quietly. “Males are given a basic education in the art of pleasing a queen, should it ever be required of them.”
Itet’chi’zzt pulled her upper right hand away from where it had wandered onto his back, and her lower left away from his leg. She drew in an enormous breath and heaved a sigh.
“If you would be so kind.”
Queen Ti’zishki watched through the scrying spell as the two youngsters finally got around to breeding.
“It’s about time,” she said, giving them privacy with a dismissive wave of her hand. Her plans for the next generation of her people were coming to fruition. The cleverest scholar and the most free-thinking princess were an excellent match.
Tzetin were strong and nimble, renowned as excellent combatants, and yet they were poor, their land and population constantly shrinking. Idiotic queens across their home planet tried to breed ever fiercer warriors, hoping to bring back their glory through force of arms.
Then they would agree to an outrageously bad deal, and some off-worlder would walk away with all their food, or money, or land.
Ti’zishki had realized that it wasn’t a matter of strength at arms, or even intelligence. It was about thinking in a way that ran contrary to the very nature of the Tzetin. She couldn’t do it well, herself, but she had hoped to identify a princess who could.
Itet’chi’zzt had that kind of non-Tzetin mind from a very young age. Hopefully a pairing with Tekchizeti would lead to more cunning queens in the future.
Queen Ti’zishki would not allow her race to die out.
The next five days were a blur of passion for Itet’chi’zzt, taking every free moment to delight in the male’s body, using him to satisfy herself at the slightest provocation. He seemed fine with it.
Itet’chi’zzt had reached the full size of a Queen, some nine and a half feet tall, dwarfing the little male.
“Tekchizeti, fetch me another shoulder cut of Urtoros and then perhaps do your duty while I eat.” She said, lazily reclining in the pool of silk at the center of the cave. Her swords lay at the end of the cavern where she had set them over a week ago, nearly forgotten. There was no way they would fit her now.
They were child-sized now, the handles almost too small for her hands.
“My queen…” he said, his antennae showing hints of unease and a small amount of discontent beneath his reverence.
What did he have to be discontent about? From everything she’d seen, he enjoyed himself as much as she. Perhaps there was something she was unable to see it.
“Tell me what is bothering you.” Itet’chi’zzt said, placing a digit as long as his head between his antennae and massaging the sensitive area.
His posture of deference began to give way to the wild twitches of arousal and pleasure.
“I..Ummm…” he said, shaking. “I wonder if perhaps my queen does not value me for more than fetching food and breeding.”
“Foolish, emotional male,” she said, picking him up and setting him atop her abdomen. “We Haven’t been outside the Succession Chamber yet, have we? When I go back aboveground, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove your value to me.”
Itet’chi’zzt considered for a moment as she petted him. “I would be especially glad if you were a capable minister. I care little for tedious paperwork.”
“I am very good at paperwork,” he purred between his words.
Itet was about to slide him lower on her abdomen and put him to work when the smell of smoke and screams from non-tzetin lungs resonated in her eardrums.
“What in Kolath’s name is that?” She said, sitting forward violently, sending the male tumbling to the floor.
“What is what, what?” he asked, coming out of his rutting stupor. A moment later, he heard the sound, coming to attention.
Itet’chi’zzt made for the tunnel up, stooping far lower than she had on the way in. She reached the trapdoor, only to find it held down. In the distance, the sounds of Tzetin in pain filled the air, and a tiny bit of smoke wafted between the slats.
She slammed against the wooden trapdoor twice to no avail, then braced her body against the floor, and pushed with every muscle in her body straining to its limit.
There was a tortured metal screech as the trapdoor began to open.
“Stop!” Came the commanding voice of her Queen. In the tiny crack, Itet’chi’zzt could see her queen’s feet. “Stay down there until I call you. You alone must get through this unharmed. Our hive depends on it. Maybe more.”
Itet’chi’zzt’s insides burned, but she swallowed her unease and let the trap door fall back to the ground. With a hiss of frustration, she turned back the way she had come.
“What’s happening?” Tekchizeti asked, shivering in terror.
“Don’t know,” she said, walking past him and grabbing her swords. Her harness that secured her blades didn’t fit anymore, so she simply grabbed the four blades and unsheathed them. “Something bad.”
Itet’chi’zzt stalked back to the tunnel and listened. She heard the sound of the Queen leaving the hut, and the sound of battle. In a few short minutes of agonizing waiting for the queen’s signal, the sound of Tzetin disappeared, and only the mocking laughs of Otherworlder’s remained.
She tightened her fist around the tiny sword handle. She should have trusted her instinct and gone against the Queens wishes. With her help they might have…died slower, her cynical mind filled in for her.
“Hey, look at this,” a guttural offworlder voice said from the end of the tunnel. “This must be the Queen’s hut.”
“How do you figure?” Another voice asked.
“More shiny rocks, than anyone else.”
There was a loud guffaw.
“Fuckin’ barbarians. You think that’s how they choose ‘em? Least flimsy hovel?”
“Who cares? We did our job, let’s get out of here.” Said a third voice.
“Gotta be thorough,” The second voice said. “Besides, some of these rocks are valuable.
There was a slam above her and a pained shout along with the clattering of stone on wood.
“Gah, I stubbed my toe!”
“What the hell? There’s a trapdoor here, and the fastening’s bent, poor Cirius lost some skin on that one.”
“Let’s pry it open, maybe they’ve got something valuable in there.”
Itet’chi’zzt stepped away from the tunnel, dragging Tekchizeti back with her. She took a deep breath and shoved all the fear and anger down and locked it away. Suddenly it was as though she was watching her body from a distance. She was about to lie.
“Tekchizeti, I need you to stay calm and agree with whatever I say.”
“Our saviours!” Itet’chi’zzt said, clasping her hands together. Her blades were hidden beneath the sheets in the center of the cavern. The torch-wielding orcs paused at the entrance of the Succession Chamber to stare at her and Tekchizeti. “The Ji’Zztit hive will pay you handsomely for my return! Those foul T’zzitet captured me and my mate and intended to use us as a bargaining chip!”
Itet’chi’zzt chose to impersonate the most well-off hive on the planet, a hive known to provide muscle to the Dan Ui clan, and a nearby one as well. Her queen would never do something so risky, but it might just sound plausible to an offworlder.
She could see their faces light up, but Tekchizeti’s antennae were twitching in horror, his gaze directed at her. She could read the complex emotions displayed without him needing to voice a single one.
How could you say that about your hive? How could you claim to be anything else? What kind of monster are you? Mostly he just looked shellshocked and confused.
Itet’chi’zzt represented the Hive now. The Hive decided to live.
“Political prisoner, huh?” The man in front said, whistling as he took in Itet’chi’zzt’s size. A moment later, he directed his gaze toward Tekchizeti. “Not the kind of treasure I was hoping for, but almost as good.”
“And you’re her mate from the Ji’Zztit hive?” he asked, his posture relaxed, obviously not expecting any trouble. This was good. Once they were outside the tunnel, Itet’chi’zzt could take Tekchizeti and find an opportunity to escape. All Tekchizeti had to do was say yes.
“I am…the servant of Itet’chi’zzt!” The male’s voice began to raise, causing the orcs to change their stance. Itet’chi’zzt could only watch in horror as the little male rushed them, his Antennae quivering with rage and confusion. “Of the T’zzitet Hive!”
With a smooth motion, the orc lopped the little Tzetin’s head from his shoulder. He studied the corpse for a moment, then brandished his blade at her, a quizzical look on his face.
“Did you just lie to me?”
Itet’chi’zzt skewered him and his two friends on swords made of ice.
I should have done it this way from the beginning, she thought as the orc tried to claw the blade out of his gut. She used her free hand to snap his neck before disposing of his friends. Poor Tekchizeti.
Abred Norman of the Dan Ui clan was cleaning his fingernails as the mercenaries cleaned out the T’zzitet hive. The analogy wasn’t a bad one, this particular hive had grown a bit too much, so it was time for them to be trimmed down to size. Somehow they’d succeeded during the dungeon Rush, and rather than spend it all on food and weapons as they should have, they decided to buy farming equipment, switching their focus on stabilizing and expanding.
That attitude didn’t sit well with the ones in charge of this planet. Tzetin were a valuable resource. As they were. They should stick to fighting who they were told and leave the thinking to their betters.
The ignorant savages.
“What’s taking Gurd so long?” Abred wondered aloud.
“I think they found the queen’s hut.” His underling said.
“Well tell them to hurry up. I don’t want to spend a second longer in this stinking cesspit than I have to.” He wrinkled his nose as he looked around at the tiny straw huts.
“Remind him that a dock in pay would cost him far more than a chance at a bit of…scrimshaw or whatever the hell these bugs consider valuable. Seashells?”
“Right.” The underling set off toward the hut at the top of the rocky outcropping, obviously the Queen’s hut because it had a goddamned proper wooden floor.
Abred snorted and continued picking the dirt and slime from beneath his nails. Terrible hygene, all of them. He couldn’t wait to get back to the branch.
An ear drum shocking sound of shattering wood caught Abred’s attention as the Queen’s hut exploded, pinning the nameless minion to the ground with a massive beam.
What was his name again? And what the hell is that?
A Queen stepped out of the hut, nearly bigger than it was. Her chitin was darker and healthier than any rural queen had a right to be, and she was huge! What had they been feeding her??
Abred’s thoughts came to a halt when a spear of ice shot out of a free hand and perforated two of his mercenaries.
Magic using, extra large, extra rural queen. He thought, bringing up his Lantern. Just when you think you’ve seen everything.