Flash: Chich-a-whoo Feathers

Image by saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“You know hon, you really should wear pants if you are going to take taxis in this part of town.” The rhino driver commented in conversational tones, when looking over her shoulder as they approached the noble’s stop, hoping not to be heard. “Or, at least, underwear,” she muttered under her breath. She did not need to know what designs the woman trimmed into her short hairs.

“What?” The noble mouthed unheard over the animal’s stamp through the wide streets set aside for transport. She likely stated in the lackadaisical accent they all adopted to imitate the spacers from the far-flung worlds of the Empire.

Saba kneed Mai-mia to a halt. “We are here, Your Eminence.” The driver quickly crawled up the steps, adjusted her skort, a combination of shorts for modesty and skirt as required by Lavinian law, thankful once again for the length exemption granted to drivers. Otherwise, with her caste, she would be covered from head to foot, long-sleeves, scarves, hat, and full undivided-skirts – who wanted to live that restricted?

Helping her client stand on the steady animal, Saba got another eyeful of boobs and butt she could have done without. She helped the Important Person down the primary steps to where the ladder started. In deference to the stature of her passenger, Saba snapped down the secondary when something startled Mai-mia, sending them both stumbling.

Saba held onto the woman’s waist, swinging her around. Using the strength she with which she could control the rhino when Mai-mia got cranky, Saba pulled her back on the animal instead of the woman falling and getting trampled. They both fell forward onto the animal’s head, with Saba spread eagle over the noble.

The weight and touches on the head behind the ear told Mai-mia to move at a trot. “Don’t move!” Saba yelled at the white dressed woman.

Of course, the noble started struggling, trying to free herself. Mai-mia interpreted the movements to run. “Don’t move!” When the woman continued, Saba sat up, straddling the woman at the waist and slugged her several times until she went unconscious.

Keeping the limp body on the rhino took every bit of skill Saba had developed transporting the morning vegetable to all the vendors on Hiss-Hot alley.

“Just like Bindle’s daily bag of melons.” Saba muttered, while touching and maneuvering around Mai-mia’s head until the animal came to a stop. Once still, Saba took in her surroundings. They were nearly to the Markers’ farm, just outside the gates. Taking out her crop, she looped both ends around the rhino’s ears indicating it should remain still, like she should have done the first time. She had gotten lazy; Mai-mia and her had been together a long time.

Once satisfied the rhino would remain in place, Saba carried the woman back to the patron seat and tied her in. Sometime her older clients and the extremely young needed the additional support. And the drunk. Mostly the drunk. Lots of drunk on her runs. Saba looked over the damage. The woman would have a black eye and several bruises across her chin, but no scratches and she shouldn’t have any scars. Most importantly, the woman was still breathing, and not coating the hooves of the rhino.

Climbing down, Saba did an even more through examination of the rhino, finding two darts, with the gray-blue-purple feathers of the Chich-a-whoo bird. The darts smelled of Hurt, the best antiseptic on the planet that lived up to its name during initial administration no matter what method was used in its application and the doctors tried everything: suave, injection, oil. The initial sting was blinding in pain, but two second later, the injury site would be numb and healing. Nearly half of the population passed out from the pain, the other half vomited. A rare individual was immune to the pain, but Saba had never met one.

“I’m so sorry, Mai-mia.” Saba rubbed her rhino’s sensitive horn. Unlike the Earth’s version of the rhino, the horns on Lavin rhino provide them the ability to predict weather, migrate, and communicate over distances. The animal moo’ed and snick’ed back, seeking comfort from its human and asking forgiveness. “I know, I know. It wasn’t your fault. Not your fault.”

Swimming up to the head seat, Saba removed the halt-crop and slid back off the animal to guide Mai-mia to a balboa grove about two hecto outside of town, the one with a pump well her caste could use for their animals. Two dramas, something that looked like a cross between a dromedary camel and a llama from old Earth, were being watered by the four youngest Marker children, between water fights.

When they ran to Mai-mia in greetings, Saba stepped between them and her animal. “Careful, she’s had a fright. Move slowly, like around old Grissizzie.”

“Someone scared Mi-mi?” Dhruv asked, the second youngest, eyes so round they barely fit in the head.

“Scared and hurt her. She needs some water.”

“We can help.” Prisha gathered her younger siblings around the pump and they all quickly went to work, as only farmer children could when things were serious. The lever swung high enough to pull the youngest two from the ground, but the combined might of the four children too young to attend school, at least for their caste, had water gushing before Mai-mia had settled enough to drink.

Climbing up her animal, Saba set the halt-crop between the ears once again, then went to inspect her passenger. Wiping the blood and grime from the noble’s face using a cloth she had wet before climbing up brought the woman around. Her eyes tracked quickly and the only reason the noble didn’t attack Saba were the restraints.

“How dare you, you banthie?!? I will have you killed for this! Do you know who I am?”

“Not a clue, Your Eminence, but next time you are on a taxi’s head and the driver say ‘Don’t move,’ I would recommend not moving.” At this point, Saba was sure she was dead, in fact, she had accepted the outcome while she was pulling the woman back to the rhino, but she hoped she could save Mai-mia to be sold to another owner and not be put down.

“You kidnapped me.” The woman pulled on her restraints.

“I did no such thing, Eminence.” Saba studied the woman’s face, neck, and exposed skin – so much exposed skin, even for the highest of castes, the woman had to be a slit-slip – for bruises; all the ones she thought would develop were developing, plus one on the arm where she vaguely remembered grabbing the woman, and one on the leg which matched the one Saba could feel on her knee where the driver had landed on the split-slip when they both tumbled onto Mai-mia’s head.

“Then, what did you do banthie?” She spat.

“Saved your life, Your Eminence.” Saba pulled the darts from where she tucked them into her belt and opened her hand so the fetching would be visible. “Might this lowly Bane of Lavin ask why the blessed creature we are on was injured in your service.”

The noble prostitute examined the damning fletching, used exclusively by the Unclassed Guild, her rare blue eyes shining with intelligence and consideration. A careful frown, one which would not add wrinkles, turned down the edges of her painted lips.

(Words 1228; First published 12/22/2019)