sideways: [o] I am a tree (►city life has crumbled)
[personal profile] sideways
Title: The Clutching
Rating: G
Series: Books of the Raksura (original characters)
Wordcount: 1419
Summary: The sister queen has clutched, and like the rest of the court a group of clutchmates have their interests.
Remarks: Last year [personal profile] syntheid  got a mutual friend and I into Martha Wells' series The Books of the Raksura (which I highly recommend if you're keen on seeing a society of matriarchal polyamorous lizard/bee shapeshifters done right). Naturally the next step was making "Raksonas" for ourselves...then making a couple extra clutchmates to round out the standard five...then inventing and populating an entire court for them to live in...

Long story short, the court of Ivory Smoke was born and I finally got hit with enough inspiration to pen something within it. I solemnly swear neither of my friends are Bright.

Mellow was in her Arbora form as she trailed into the bower, so there was no missing the drooping spines and dragging tail. She paused in the doorway, waiting until Token had carefully capped his paint and set his brush aside, and then intoned, “Never again.”

Token raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Isn’t that what the queen is meant to say?”

“Yes. And she did. Loudly, and repeatedly, and with a lot of teeth.” She slumped wearily over to where the pile of cushions was thickest, shifting to groundling just before she toppled face-forward into the mound.

It jarred awake the other occupant of the bower, and Token stifled a sigh as Bright sat up, hair mussed and bleary-eyed despite having only settled into the nap five minutes earlier – not that he’d been counting. His clutchmate blinked about the room in confusion, mouth opening to doubtless question why he was curled up on the Arbora levels and not above with the rest of the Aeriat as per usual, but then he caught sight of Mellow sprawled next to him and his eyes lit up. In a flash he was on his knees, shaking the mentor impatiently.

“Glacier’s clutch! Is it over? Are they okay? What-”

Mellow rolled obligingly onto her back, swatting away the insistent hands. “Five little fledglings, healthy and whole.”

Bright’s gleeful whoop was loud enough in the confines to make them both wince, though Mellow was smiling too, a little. It was good news, though Token had assumed as much already; there had been a steady stream of Arbora past the door the last little while, heading upwards, and the mood was more eager than anxious.

“Sounds like it all went fine, then,” he said to Mellow, who pushed herself up into a seated position.

“It was actually a lot easier than Loam’s clutch,” she admitted. “No one was tangled and they hardly even needed turning. I just don’t think I’d really appreciated before how- how-” she waved a hand, as if desperately grasping after the right word, “-how sharp queens are. And strong. And very angry when they’ve been cooped up for months with a heavy belly. She snarled at one point and I nearly shifted on the spot, which would have been a disaster considering where my hands were at the time.”

“Solstice wouldn’t have let anything happen,” Bright said confidently. It had little to do with Glacier’s consort being their own sire; a consort’s most important duty, besides getting the clutches in the first place, was providing a tempering balance for their queens when needed. Instinct might not cast a mentor as a threat, but a clutching queen was at her most vulnerable and could not help but know it.

“Solstice was busy trying to not get thrown halfway across the Reaches for breathing too loudly,” Mellow muttered, and then huffed and shrugged her shoulders in a way that suggested a dismissive flicking of spines. “But it wasn’t a disaster, I guess. And Tea says that’s just what you have to expect with a queen, so if I don’t want to worry about getting my head pulled off, all I have to do is never, ever attend anything but Arbora births ever again.”

“And how likely is that?” Token asked.

“Not likely,” Mellow said gloomily.

Bright shoved himself to his feet, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet but apparently remembering enough stern talks and annoyed pillow beatings to refrain from shifting to his winged form inside Token’s bower. “Well no one’s getting their heads pulled off now, so let’s go, before it gets really crowded!”

Token had just enough time to see guilt flash across Mellow’s face before a new voice chimed in from the doorway:

“The crowd’s already there.” Charm bent her head briefly to look into the bower, then folded her wings close and shifted to groundling as she stepped inside, without having to be asked first. “The clutching finished nearly twenty minutes ago.”

Mellow held a pillow up in front of her in feeble defence as Bright yelped, “What?” and lunged for the door. He took in the same thoroughfare Token had been quietly observing, and swung back around with betrayal writ large across his features. “But you promised you’d come tell us first, you said we didn’t need to wait because you’d come-”

“Well it turned out a lot of others waited,” Mellow said defensively, still behind her cosy shield. Charm had her hands lightly on her hips, glancing between her clutchmates; Token knew as well as she did that Mellow had mostly wanted Bright specifically out of the vicinity – “I really need to concentrate,” she’d whispered, tugging pleadingly at Token’s sleeve, “and he’s just so loud and you know he’ll start shouting questions up at me if it goes too long and then he’ll get pummelled or exiled or eaten or something” – which was how he’d ended up playing host to a restless Aeriat in his own bower in the first place. The other warriors perched nearby hadn’t put up much of a fight as he lured one of their number to a safer distance with promises that had apparently been false.

“I tried to come straight here,” Mellow was saying now, “but I couldn’t get five steps without someone asking me how it went, and how Glacier was, and whether there was any sign it was a royal clutch-”

Bright’s face went from crestfallen to thrilled in the space of a wingflap. “Oh, oh, is it?”

Mellow clapped the pillow directly over her face and let herself flop over backwards. Token patted the knee nearest to him.

“You know there’s no way to tell so soon,” Charm said with weary patience, and Bright shuffled his feet and hitched his shoulders.

“I know,” he said, “but I thought…maybe with mentor magic, you could get a hint…”

“I think if Mellow had achieved something never before achieved in the known history of all Raksuran courts, she would have said so before now,” Token said, and Mellow made a muffled sound of agreement from beneath her pillow.

Royal clutches were always welcome, of course, but since Glacier’s first clutch with Solstice had turned out all warriors and the second had turned out a single consort amidst warrior siblings, there was much curiosity and no few hopes surrounding this one. It wasn’t surprising there was push for an answer well before it could come. Aeriat liked certainty and Arbora just liked knowing.

Bright sighed noisily, and then turned on his heel with the old spring back in his step; for all his faults, he wasn’t one to hold onto a grudge. “Are you coming?” he offered to Charm, who shook her head.

“Maybe once the rush has thinned out,” she said. “It’s a sea of Arbora.”

He groaned even more loudly at that, and shifted – only to immediately furl his wings tight and flatten his spines sheepishly as both Token and Charm hissed, sidling rapidly for the doorway under their glares. “Right, right, sorry – oh! What about Medallion, does Medallion know?”

Mellow finally peeled the pillow off her face, squinting in his direction. “I…saw her on the way down. I think she’s already there.”

It was the final straw: with an anguished “Argh!” Bright flung himself out the door and over the railing, wings snapping wide to catch the air and pumping hard as he made for the higher levels.

In the well of silence left in his wake, Mellow sighed. “I should have let him stay.”

“He would have made himself a nuisance,” Charm said, with all the reasonableness of a female warrior. “And then I would have had to pummel him.”

“You’ve already seen the clutch?” Token asked.

“Of course.”

Token shook his head; now that his bower was empty of over-excitable clutchmates, he pulled his paints closer again, smoothing down the parchment in front of him. “They’ll look just the same in an hour as they do right now.”

“He does love fledglings though,” Mellow pointed out, still lying prone on the pillows. “He even gets excited about Arbora clutches. And it’s not like he’ll ever have one of his own.”

There was a considering pause.

“Small mercies,” Charm murmured, and Token snorted agreement, dipping his brush into the paint to put the last touches on his piece: a gift for the queen and her consort, one of many to come her way in the following days, in welcome of the new clutch.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-03 06:54 pm (UTC)
syntheid: [Elementary] Watson drinking tea looking contemplative (Default)
From: [personal profile] syntheid
Oh my god, this is great. Between Bright being... not so much. And everyone else's exasperation ahah.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-04 12:19 am (UTC)
syntheid: [Elementary] Watson drinking tea looking contemplative (Default)
From: [personal profile] syntheid
Token patting Mellow's knee in sympathy

A doodle to go with your word doodle. Wordle?
Edited (okay full image way too big.) Date: 2017-05-04 12:20 am (UTC)

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