Aiofla’s claws clicked across the wooden table, one set of arms crossed behind her head as the others scribbled on a sheet of paper. The chitin on her fingers was worn smooth from how much she had been writing. Orange flame licked across the worn paper and table, spilling over onto her smooth exoskeleton. The woman’s dark eyes scanned the sheet in front of her for errors. She had already had to rewrite the piece twice— nothing but the absolute best would satisfy the Church of the Deepmother. Hell, the high mothers would probably find a way to complain about her work anyway. At the very least the work would be done, and Aiofla would be free for the day. The crustacean woman kicked her legs, sending her long skirt floating back and forth. She gazed at the window in the sandstone walls out onto the waves crashing against the cliffside, atop which sat a lighthouse. Aiofla breathed in the briney scent of the ocean, letting the salty scent fill her sinuses, and the song of the dancing sea fill her ears.
A last dot on the paper and the codex was finished. It was busywork as far as Aiofla was concerned. A copy of a writing on the connection between the color of sand in the far shore and a verse from The Deepmother’s Psalms Volume I. Not Aiolfa’s favorite volume, but work was work.
Aiofla placed her reed pen back into its ink bottle and slumped in her chair. The light from a pair of lamps licked across the fresh ink staining the paper. The air was thick and humid, wetting Aiofla’s gills with the salty water from the ocean that drifted from the window. The familiar briny aroma of Solitar bay filled her olfactory receptors. Aiofla’s chelicerae twitched, rubbing against each other like wringing palms. The Paghurd woman stretched her spine across the backrest of her chair as she extended her arms towards the ceiling, letting out an exasperated sigh. Aiofla hadn’t noticed just how long she had been writing— how much her arms and legs ached from inactivity. A servant had prepared the desk before she had arrived such that she would not have to rise from her place until she was finished.
Rise Aiofla did, grasping her papers and exiting the room.The sandstone halls of the monarvent were warmer than the writing cell, but the breeze from the ocean still wafted from the barred windows. The Paghurd’s bare feet slapped against the rug rolled down the length of the hallway. Lights seeped from under numerous doors that dotted the halls. Aiofla continued to walk until she came to a door at the end of a hallway with a deep sigil engraved in the beige stone above it. Aiofla rapped her hand against the gray wooden door. A familiar voice beckoned her in.
“Come in,” It cooed.
Aiofla pushed the door open. Within were quaint bedchambers with a simple bed, desk, and table. At that desk sat a Paghurd woman in similar attire to Aiofla grasping a recently bound book. Her soft chitin was a brilliant cotton-candy color, a gradient of blue and pink like the tones of a brilliant sunrise. The light seemed to reflect off of her body and add a moody glow to the room. The woman’s glassy eyes rose to meet Aiofla’s gaze. The younger Paghurd quickly broke eye contact, staring at the stone floor.
“Mother Nencia, my contribution to the codex is finished,” Aiofla said.
“Ah! Wonderful,” Nencia said, taking the paper from Aiofla. The Paghurd scanned the paper, then placed it on her cluttered desk. “I’ll have the other High Mothers look at this tomorrow. It looks good to me, but you know how they are.”
Aiofla rolled her eyes and huffed, “Yes, mother Nencia.”
“They appreciate your work, Aiofla, they are just a bit— prickly. They see it as a test of character.”
Aiofla nodded, “I know— I know, High Mother.”
“Aiofla,” Nencia said, pressing her fingers against Aiofla’s chin and tilting her head up to make eye contact, “You are very talented.”
Aiofla blushed, her pupils dilating as warmth spread from the point of contact with Nencia to the rest of her face, then down her spine and to her limbs. “Y— yes, High Mother,” She squeaked.
“I ordered the servant girl you’ve been ogling to accompany you for the evening,” Nencia said, releasing Aiofla’s chin, “She is in your room.”
“Ogling?” Aiofla whimpered, averting eye contact as soon as she could.
“Y— Yes, Mother Nencia.”
Goddess, had it been that obvious?
Aiofla had, in fact, been ogling a servant girl— Ragneta was her name— a Bajonlet woman who had recently been drelrune branded. She was mild-mannered and an excellent cook, frequently working the Monarvent’s kitchen. Initially sent to the monarvent to be drelruned, Ragneta had proven popular and was allowed an extended stay as a lay servant under the ownership of Mother Leonita.
Aiofla pressed her body against the exterior of the wooden door to her cell. She took a deep breath. The high mothers were likely testing her, intending to inspect her drelrune manipulation skills. Aiofla knew her skills were adequate to manipulate Ragneta but the pressure of doing it for a high mother was daunting.
Or maybe Nencia just wanted to help her relax.
Aiofla pulled the door open, lamplight splashing against her face. A familiar room sprawled before her, not unlike Nencia’s chambers, only messier. Aiofla would have appreciated a bit of warning in order to tidy up before Ragneta had been sent to her chambers. The Bajonlet woman was sitting on the edge of Aiofla’s bed, her antennae sticking straight up like flagpoles. Her body was snow white and covered with silky moth fur that shimmered in the gentle orange lamplight. She wore a black dress with cuts in the bottom— a design that indicated she was a runed servant. The moth woman’s lazy black eyes shifted to Aiofla’s face.
“Miss Aiofla!” Ragneta said, standing from the bed and bowing.
“Greetings, Ragneta, how do you fare?”
“I am well, ma’am. Mother Nencia informed me you needed some help relaxing?”
“Mm— Yes, thank you for arriving promptly,” Aiofla sighed.
Goddess, ‘Some help relaxing’? Aiofla had no idea how to present her desires to Ragneta. She was beautiful and soft and Aiofla was rigid and perverted. Aiofla took Ragneta’s soft paw with her clawed hand and pulled the moth close to her. She pressed her left claw into Ragneta’s fuzzy cheek and stroked down to her chin. The sweet aroma of coconuts and vanilla filled Aiofla’s senses. The scent coming off of Ragneta was nice, but there was part of the Paghurd that loathed it. It was the one aspect of the moth that Aiofla disliked; a single blemish on an otherwise perfect being. Aiofla hated that the Bajonlet smelled like anything short of her own musk. She wanted more than anything to fix this imperfection— even if Aiofla had to grind her scent into every inch of Ragneta’s body herself.
Aiofla swallowed hard.
“You look beautiful tonight, Ragneta.”
“Thank you, Aiofla. You look beautiful as well.”
Aiofla nudged Ragneta onto the bed, taking a seat beside the moth woman and wrapping her arms around her. Aiofla pressed a claw into the back of Ragneta’s head and squeezed the moth against her chest. Ragneta closed her eyes and hummed, a smile spreading across her face. Aiofla stroked a finger across Ragneta’s cheek, letting the soft fur brush across her skin.
“May I remove your clothing, Ragneta?” Aiofla said, straining to keep herself from stuttering.
“Of course, Miss Aiofla,” Ragneta responded, leaning away from Aiofla and turning her back to the Paghurd. Ragneta’s drelrune was burned onto the back of her neck, where the brain stem met the spinal cord. It was a high authority drelrune of control— intense for what Aiofla had been told was an obedient servant who seldom needed to be charmed, if at all.
Aiofla reached her claws up to the buttons keeping Ragneta’s dress on her shoulders. She fumbled with them, pulling one after the other through their respective holes before the dress fell from her shoulders like a thin veil. Aiofla had to hold a hand in front of her face to stop from gasping at the sight or Ragneta’s back.
Scars criss-crossed the length of the Bajonglet’s hind, some shallow and others deep. None of the scars were new, thankfully, but the sheer number of them was staggering. Aiofla traced her fingers down Ragneta’s shoulder blades, feeling the bumps and ridges of the horrific scarring under her chitinous fingers.
“Is everything alright, Miss Aiofla?” Ragneta asked, looking over her shoulder at Aiofla.
“How did you get this scarring, Ragneta?” Aiofla said, almost interrupting Ragneta.
“Apologies, Miss Aiofla, I do not know what you speak of,” Ragneta replied, bowing her head to Aiofla.
“You have scars down the length of your back— from a whip, it would appear,” Aiofla said, tracing a thick scar with her fingers.
“I— I don’t know, I didn’t know I had scars, Miss Aiofla.”
Aiofla furrowed her brow. There was no way Ragneta didn’t know she had scars on her back. There had to be some level of forced memory loss here, something that was occasionally implemented in the runing process. While it was against the Monarvent’s rules to trample on a high mother’s work, this forced memory repression was something that Aiofla may be able to remedy via accessing Ragneta’s drelrune.
“Ragneta, may I access your drelrune?” Aiofla asked, tilting her head to look into Ragneta’s eyes.
“You do not need to ask permission, Miss Aiofla,” Ragneta said, leaning back to allow Aiofla easier access to the drelrune branded on her neck.
“Yes, but I am. May I access your drelrune?”
“Y-yes ma’am. Apologies, Miss Aiofla.”
Aiofla pressed her fingers against Ragneta’s drelrune. The moth closed her eyes and stood still, sponging intrusive thoughts from her mind to give Aiofla easier access. Aiofla did the same, focusing on her rune evocation incantations. Aiofla ran into an issue, however— as Ragneta was already under a charm of some kind, one that Aiofla could not penetrate. Aiofla tried harder, running through cogent probing evocations to figure out what the charm was and who placed it on Ragneta. Aiofla became frustrated, attempting to latch onto recent memories or parts of Ragneta’s history she happened to know. The Bajonglet moaned and whined as Aiofla pressed her fingers deeper into her neck. Finally, Aiofla caved to frustration— using a forced dissipation spell unique to her Monarvent, something of a master key for breaking charms. Aiofla held her breath, and—
“Ow, godsdamnit!!” Ragneta yelled, tumbling onto the floor and clutching her dress against her body, scrambling to pull it on and conceal herself.
“Excuse me?” Aiofla said, reeling backward.
“Get the fuck away from me! What the fuck did you do to me?” Ragneta screamed, reaching for an inkwell on Aiofla’s desk.
“Hey hey! I dispelled your charm! That’s all I did! Charm gone!” Aiofla yelled back, holding her hands up to shield her face from the oncoming projectile, “I’m not going to touch your drelrune anymore, I swear to you.”
Ragneta’s breathing slowed but her eyes were still darting around the room. Aiofla stayed quiet, allowing Ragneta to put her clothing back on in relative peace.
“Ragneta, are you alright?” Aiofla asked.
“No, I am not.”
“I could have guessed,” Aiofla said, relaxing her shoulders, “What happened to you?”
“I— I need to get back to Mother Leontina,” Ragneta said, standing up and strutting towards the door.
Aiofla stood and grabbed Ragneta by the arm.
“Did Mother Leontina do— that to you?”
Ragneta’s eyes welled up with tears. She made eye contact with Aiofla— then averted.
“You don’t care.”
“I do care, Ragneta. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t have dispelled the charm on you,” Aiofla said. The paghurd squeezed Ragneta’s wrist.
“I— I’m just—” Ragneta sobbed.
“If Mother Leonita hurt you then I do not want you to return to her, Ragneta,” Aiofla coaxed.
“I— I have to. I shouldn’t be walking around in this state without one of Mother Leonita’s charms.”
“Can you tell me why?”
“I— yes. It is not a secret, Aiofla, or anything of the sort. I’m just— your forced dissipation evocation caused me to become a bit delirious, is all.”
Aiofla leaned back on her bed and tapped her chin, “I do not know if I believe that.”
“Please believe it. The charm on me was minor. It-it was just there to stabilize some issues I had been having with my drelrune,” Ragneta said, climbing onto Aiofla’s desk seat.
“Ragneta, your demeanor has changed completely since I dissipated your rune, I do not believe you.”
“How so?” Ragneta said, almost interrupting Aiofla.
“For one you have not said ‘Miss Aiofla’ once, and you did not ask my permission before sitting in that desk chair.”
Ragneta bolted to her feet and shivered, her eyes racked with fear.
“No-no! You can sit. Just tell me about your rune— let me know what happened.”
Ragneta took a deep breath and looked around the room before finally taking her seat once more, “O-okay, I suppose I will.”