TQ v.1:13

The Termite Queen
Volume One
The Speaking of the Dead

Chapter 13
Cassius:  Brutus, and Caesar: what should be in that Caesar?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
                                                                  from William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

       [A black chamber.  Hi’ta’fu the Commander scuttles to and fro between the walls]

       How can this time have come to what it has?  The proud cohorts of Lo’ro’ra guarding builders of walls and water ducts, while an outlander takes a place of honor and charms our Holy One and King!  Many day-cycles have come and gone since our citizens were slaughtered and there has been no sign of the monster.  If it never returns, then all this is for nothing.  I have lost respect in the fortress – I who have ever been called Hi’ta’fu the Unconquered, who have spent my life in the service of A’kha’ma’na’ta and her Kings.  I lost a hind claw fighting at Kwai’kwai’za.  I was scalded by the acid of the Nasutes when we broke the siege of Lo’ro’ra – the scars this accursed Huge-Head gave me in that conflict ache yet upon my thorax.  And now citizens who cannot remember what I have suffered for them whisper against me in scorn – who dare not taunt me to my face!  The Feeders brazenly stuff the outlander before they feed me!  Me, the bedrock of Lo’ro’ra for twelve long season-cycles!
       In the days of Thei’ga’na’sha’ma it would not have been like this.  He took interest in the affairs of the fortress.  He supported the Cohorts.  He properly advised the Holy One. 
       But Sei’o’na’sha’ma is too young.  He wants only to cavort on the Holy One’s back, to infuse his egg-maker whether she is in need of it or not.  He is no rampart.  He is ignorant.
       And the Alates murmur with the Holy One.  She agrees to whatever they suggest.  She defers to Kwi’ga’ga’tei because she believes that Kwi’ga’ga’tei, whom the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless seizes and causes to roll on the ground, has visions truer than those of any Holy Seer ever hatched!  I cannot contend against that!  I have no kind of seeing! 
       Why did the Power have to be divided in this way?  Why is it that those who have the seeing are the most fragile and those who are strongest of body must wait on the will of others even for their food?
       [Flailing about the walls, scrabbling]

       I will dash off my mandibles!  I will break my antennae!  I will impale myself on my own jaws!  When everything a Warrior has lived for has departed from its life, the only refuge is the World Beyond.
*          *          *
       [Bioluminescence brightens a chamber high in the fortress as many Star-Winged Alates gather in a circle.]

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  I and Mo’gri’ta’tu have asked all of you to assemble so that we can convey the commendation of the Holy One and the King.  The work on the wall and the water channels has proceeded at a speedy pace.  Even the breaches in the storage cysts have been repaired.  No’kri reports that the aqueduct flows cleanly, the cistern is full, and the fungus flourishes.  The tho’sei| trees have regained their productivity – we had a full crop of blossoms for the first time since the devastation of the Siege.  The Little Ones are thriving.  We are better prepared for the dry time than in many season-cycles.  Lo’ro’ra has never been so sound.

       [Another Alate]:  What of the monster?

       [The Chamberlain Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  No further activity has been detected from the reputed monster that attacked us.

       [Another Alate]:  Perhaps our sturdy preparation and the presence of our valiant Champion has weakened its will to attack us again.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Perhaps it has received a sending from our strong Seer deterring it.  Holy Kwi’ga’ga’tei, have you taken any further premonitions?  Have you seen this Sky-Jumper yet in any of your visions?  What does it look like?  You have been seeking visions, have you not?

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  I have not seen it, nor do I need to see it.  We are in a time of waiting.  Something will happen, Mo’gri’ta’tu.  Do not doubt that.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  I know.  ‘Patience will bring the speaking of the dead.’  Tell me, Holy Seer, what does that mean?  Interpret! – for those of us whose understanding is inferior to yours!

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  I do not know myself what it means.  But when it comes, every one of us will recognize it.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Certainly A’kha’ma’na’ta must understand.  Should the Holy One not perceive more deeply than her lowly Star-Winged ministers?

       [Di’fa’kro’mi the Remembrancer]:  You know well that the Holy One has no Inner Seeing, Mo’gri’ta’tu.  This is why we Alates exist, to guide her with our wisdom.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Such a pity, and such an irony, that the Holy One who gives us life – the Holy ma’na’ta| – should be so subject to those lesser than she.  Should she not at least receive the guidance of the entire Assembly of Alates rather than of so minuscule a number?

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  Mo’gri’ta’tu, you rant to some purpose, but all my insight cannot reveal it to me.  You are the Keeper of the Holy Chamber.  If you feel that your access to the Holy One and King has been in some way curtailed, that has not been anyone’s intention.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  I merely wonder why the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name should chose to reveal herself to one single Priest, when the joint wisdom of the whole Assembly would serve the Holy One so much better.

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  The cyst of the bir’zha| fungus is not my private domain!  All of you are free to eat and sleep there and take visions from it.  You, Mo’gri’ta’tu – you, Di’fa’kro’mi – you, Fi’la’la’mo, A’dei’no’no, Zin’kwai’mo’mi … all of you are free to counsel the Holy One and the King.  I make no attempt to exclude you.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  True!  We may eat the fungus if we wish, and we may sleep in the cyst and dream bizarre dreams, but the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name never makes her way into those dreams!  Has the strangeness of it not struck any of you, my fellow Star-Wings, that the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name never comes into the dreams of anyone except Kwi’ga’ga’tei?

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  There has never been more than one Shi at any time who is Holy Priest and Seer.  The other members of the Council have their own functions, all of equal importance to the rule of the Holy One and the King.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Equal?  I do not think so …

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  Cease your subtleties, Chamberlain!  Are you looking to challenge me?  If so, reveal what vision gives you the right!  Vague insinuations will never convince the Assembly that you are more qualified than I am to be called na| noi’zei| u| tei’zei|.

       [A confusion of speech signals, a general perturbation of legs and wings]

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu, lifting his forelegs above his abased head]:  I have no Seeing and I cannot challenge you, Holy Kwi’ga’ga’tei.  I would only have the Holy One and the King, whom I protect with all my strength and devotion, served to the fullest capacity by all her offspring.

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  If the Council should believe that I do not fulfill my duties honorably and diligently, I ask them to relieve me of them and I myself will willingly deliver my body to nourish the citizens of our ancient fortress!  Is any here prepared to demand that of me?

       [A general outcry in support of Kwi’ga’ga’tei] 

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  There is no call for that!  I am myself dismayed, Holy Seer, that anyone should draw such import from my words!  Accept my apology and this excuse:  it is the times!  Take this to be nothing more than a product of the distress I feel when an unknown threat hangs over this fortress called Lo’ro’ra, which I love above all things in the world except the ma’na’ta|!

       [The Assembly disbands.  Two Alates follow Mo’gri’ta’tu along the corridor]

       [Ta’rei’so’cha]:  Can it be, Holy Chamberlain, that you doubt the truth of Kwi’ga’ga’tei’s Seeing?

       [A’dei’no’no]:  Can it be, Near-to-the-Holy-One, that you believe she is deceitful?  That she fabricates these Seeings to strengthen her influence over A’kha’ma’na’ta?

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu, confronting them]:  What do you believe, loyal Star-Wings?

       [A’dei’no’no]:  I am deeply devoted to the Holy One, Mo’gri’ta’tu – never doubt it!

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  So am I, A’dei’no’no.  I want only what is best for her and thus for all of us.

       [Ta’rei’so’cha]:  May we keep company with you, Holy Chamberlain?  There is much benefit to be gained when those who think alike share their thoughts.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  True, indeed!  But sometimes such thoughts must be kept out of the speech-web.  Do you take my meaning?  Come, let us walk together.

       [Meanwhile, Kwi’ga’ga’tei and Di’fa’kro’mi remain in the Assembly chamber]

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  What blasphemous manner of speech is this from the Holy Chamberlain?  I have to say – for some time, I have doubted his trustworthiness.

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  He envies me and covets my power, and neither covetousness nor envy is a laudable quality.  I find this challenge netted about with subtle words to be most distressing.  Remembrancer, I sense that if I were cast down now, some great ill would befall Lo’ro’ra – that I have a role to play in what is to come – one that such a schemer as Mo’gri’ta’tu could not –  fulfill …  Di’fa’kro’mi, this room is airless ...

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  I will ask the Builders to inspect the ventilation ducts.

       [A twitching seizes Kwi’ga’ga’tei.  Her head jerks, her antennae stiffen, her wings flail.  The glitter of her eyes darkens and she rolls over on her side, legs kicking]

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  Kwi’ga’ga’tei!  May the Nameless One protect her!  She has entered the Seeing Trance!  I will go fetch her attendants!  No, she is already coming back to herself …

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  Did I take the fit?  It is of no matter.  Accompany me to my quarters.  That is sufficient.

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  Holy Seer, were you afflicted with a vision?

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei, staggering as they go out]:  So brief I must speak it so I will not forget …  I saw – a huge creature, like a fortress …  But it was also like a bird – it flew across the sky with fog puffing from its anus.  It had a long row of eyes bright and blank as colorless crystal …

       [Di’fa’kro’mi]:  May the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless ward all of us!  Is this the Sky-Jumper?  Is this what may come to destroy us?

       [Kwi’ga’ga’tei]:  Say nothing of this, Remembrancer!  Keep it in your head only!  What I saw was frightening, but I am not convinced that it was evil and there is no need to spread alarm.  Now accompany me to my chamber.  I must rest.

*          *          *
       [Mo’gri’ta’tu and Ki’shto’ba meet head to head in a corridor.  The Huge-Head squeezes to the side]

       [Ki’shto’ba]:  Your pardon, Holy Chamberlain.  I cannot help blocking the corridor.  I come from a larger race than that of the Strong Flower Fortress.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Your apology is accepted, Champion.

       [Ki’shto’ba]:  You are far afield, Mo’gri’ta’tu.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  I am on the Holy One’s business here in the Warriors’ Quarters.  Good day to you, Huge-Head. 

       [The two Shshi pass each other and continue in opposite directions]

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]: Any progress I can make in the Alates’ Assembly is too slow to serve me.  Perhaps there is another course.

       [He encounters a guard in the corridor]

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  You smell distressed, Warrior.  Why do you abase your head and groom so nervously?

       [Guard]:  I am anxious for my Commander, Hi’ta’fu. 

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]: These are its quarters.

       [Guard]:  Yes.  It has shut itself in for two days.  It does not even go to the refectory.  I detect pain and anger pheromones even through the stone.  I feel the striking of walls.  Life deals badly with it. 

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  What?  You mean, you think it might do damage to itself?  The great Hi’ta’fu Wei’bao’zei, Commander of the Cohorts of Lo’ro’ra?

       [Guard]:  I do fear that.  But I fear more what it will do to me when it learns I have spoken to someone of my fears.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Push back the stone.

       [Guard]:  Chamberlain!

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Push back the stone and convey that the Keeper of the Holy Chamber would speak with Hi’ta’fu.

       [The Guard complies.  Mo’gri’ta’tu enters the Commander’s chamber]

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  Commander!  Your odor is not one of well-being!  I have come to inquire after you, since you have failed to attend the last two Councils.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  I do not want your inquiry.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  It is not mine.  It is the Holy One herself who has sent me.  She values your devotion, Commander.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Then she is one of very few.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  That is a matter that disgraces the ground itself within which our beloved fortress lives.  You may be one of very few who can perceive clearly that things are amiss.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  What is your meaning?

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  ‘The time is new,’ the Seer pronounces.  What do you take that to mean?

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  I am not in a mood for riddles, Chamberlain.

        [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  I take it to mean a new order of rule is coming to Lo’ro’ra.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  What?  Would you dare blaspheme our Holy Life-Giver?

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  It is not the Holy One whom I would question – may the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless end my life if I should ever think such sacrilege!  It is those who mislead her – who turn her against those who have served her longest and suffered most loyally for her – and introduce disaffected upstarts from other fortresses to supplant those who have never failed in their duty.

       [Hi’ta’fu is silent.  Its antennae and mouth palps quiver]

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu]:  I do not ask for a reply, Commander.  I ask only that you ponder my words.  There are others in the Star-Wing Caste whose thoughts run in this same course and there may be some among the Workers, to boot.  Undoubtedly many Warriors besides yourself possess crops that spew at the thought of fighting alongside this Huge-Head if the monster should come back.  See if you can find it in your will to root out treachery and keep Lo’ro’ra great.  To that end, take yourself to the Feeding Rooms; if a crisis were to come, your strength must be mighty.

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu makes to depart]

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Mo’gri’ta’tu!  What you yourself hint at is treasonous!  I ought to tear your wings from your body!

       [Mo’gri’ta’tu, backing away hastily]:  No, no, not treason – not in the least!  Our loyalty is to the Holy One and the King, not to some Priest who corrupts them with the drivel of false Seeings.  Must I name a name?  Goodbye, Commander.  Think on what I have said but keep it private.

*          *          *
       [Mo’gri’ta’tu, hurrying along the corridor]:  The risk here is great.  If I am not successful, I am carrion.  The Commander is a Warrior who values honor above all else, but which will prove stronger in its mind – this perceived transgression against its personal honor or its devotion to outdated taboos?
       Well, I am weary of this flat existence that I have led for the past three season-cycles.  I will gain everything, or else lose nothing.  I will approach Lo’lo’pai.  It owes a debt to Hi’ta’fu, who saved its life during the siege by taking Nasute acid intended for its Lieutenant.  Chief A’gwa’ji is young and inexperienced; all it knows is what it has been taught and to suggest that it turn against those principles would outrage and confuse it.  And the Nasute Sa’ti’a’i’a inwardly has no loyalty to any of us and licks the anus of its old confederate; it would make an unreliable ally.  If I want a Cohort to support my cause, it must be the First.

*          *          *
       [Lo’lo’pai, Chief of the First Cohort, enters Hi’ta’fu’s chamber]

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  I did not send for you.

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  I have had speech with the Holy Chamberlain …

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  What!

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  He tells me you could draw encouragement from an assurance of support.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Mo’gri’ta’tu sent you to me?

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  No, Commander, it was my choice to come!  Mo’gri’ta’tu stated only that he had spoken with you and you seemed ill of demeanor – that life has turned against you of late and a profession of loyalty by the First Cohort’s Chief would lift your spirits. 

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Has Mo’gri’ta’tu been suborning you to treason?

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  Treason!  How, treason, my Commander?  I only want to reassure you that whatever path you might choose, I follow and support you.  I owe you a debt.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Your loyalty is to the Holy One and the King before it is to me.

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  I believe that to be one and the same thing, my Commander.  I am as galled by this unneeded Champion as you are.  It may be that the Alates and especially the Seer have brought it here to further their own ends.

       [Hi’ta’fu]:  Mo’gri’ta’tu suborns you and you do not even know it.  Well, who comes next?  A’gwa’ji?

       [Lo’lo’pai]:  I cannot speak for it.  I only say, if you reach a decision to take some action, you need not worry about lacking a rearguard.  Be of better cheer!

       [Lo’lo’pai departs.  Hi’ta’fu is alone]

       Why do I crouch here passively, as stunned as if I had been beat about the head?  I should be on my way to the Holy One and the King to put an end to this insufferable insinuation!  Dare I admit it to myself?  That I am tempted?  To employ a second shame as a way to avenge the first!  This cannot be Hi’ta’fu the Unconquered – victor of Kwai’kwai’za, of Zin’bu’zi, of the Nasute siege – that I perceive talking inside my head! 
       Perhaps I am sinking to the level of honor that has been put upon me.  Perhaps the Holy One and the King – and that overweening Priest Kwi’ga’ga’tei – have seen my days growing short.  Perhaps they were right to bring in a Champion.
       I cannot accept that!  Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name, help me, for I do not know how to help myself!  Why do you allow that dissembler to put these dangerous thoughts into my head?
       But I will go to the refectory.  The conniver is right in that – whatever is to happen, I must not meet it with weakness.  I will endure the humiliation of being slighted; I will take nourishment and reflect on this unfortunate matter, and see if I can find a way to justify what may be an inevitable destiny.

The End -- for now!

Read the remainder of the story when the  book is published!
This post will appear on Monday, March 12, 2012.
Expect publication within a week, barring some catastrophe!


  1. The vision of Kwi'ga'ga'tei, in which see sees the ship, is certainly fascinating! Unless she actually saw it physically, while it was present, or received a description of it from someone who did, this seems to prove that her visions are real, and not "false Seeings", as Mo'gri'ta'tu asserts.

    But I still find it hard to see see what roll the Champion is to play in the resolution of the mess with the Humans.

  2. Interesting remark1 In Volume Two when Kaitrin learns about Kwi'ga'ga'tei's vision of the flyer, she says almost exactly the same thing: "My theory is that maybe somebody saw the flyer during the first expedition and told her about it, and then she dreamed that image but didn’t remember being told."
    As for the role of the Champion ... well, you aren't supposed to know at this point, but if you keep reading, all will be made clear!