By now, everyone knew the boy priestess was being sent overseas. Shiori preened at their jealousy and snapped like a turtle at their pity.
Priestess Calluna told him not ever to cry, under any circumstances. The orchid mantis stays perfectly still, whether facing predator or prey. She said it with so much conviction, even Shiori knew better than to disobey her. He killed any fondness for his favorite game, of spotting the nervous buttonquails when they ran. He thought not at all of being sent off to bed without haggard carers and squabbling sisters.
Across the same seas, under the Orchid Mantis’s constellation, Umi learned the same lesson. She swallowed tears while her—his—hands bled from blisters. Warriors do not weep. Someone dragged her up from the mud and forced a sword back in her grip. Swing again. They’ll kill you no matter how small you are.
-The Stars Went Out
I found out what orchid mantises were recently and immediately wanted to use them in this story. Orchid mantises live mostly in Southeast Asia, but the equivalency map for this fantasy world is built around the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Luckily for me, Pakistan and India made the cut in fantasy geography, so I decided it’d be fine to fudge the mantises in.
(If you’ve never seen an orchid mantis female, look one up–they’re badass ladies!)