"Maha'as. Maha'as. Treyu, Treyu, Maha'as."
The low chanting preceded the dawn, but with luck, there would be just enough time. She was almost done.
The light was still low, but luckily the moon was on her side and the dew was still glistening on every surface, meaning her prey could not escape. Usually impossible to spot, the grey light of pre-dawn illuminated the moth white against the black bark beneath it, wings outstretched, waiting for the sun to dry them. It was easily as big as her hand, with a fat, fuzzy body - a perfect morning snack.
In one sudden motion, Linta snatched the moth up by the wing, stuffing it quickly into her pouch lest any of the rest of her catch escape. Finally. It had only taken all night.
"Maha'as, Maha'as. Treyu, Treyu, Maha'as."
The chanting grew louder as more voices joined in, and the first birds began to stir and sing. Pressed for time, she scrambled down the thin tree-top and made her way to the baskets, jumping from branch to swaying branch with urgency. Luckily, she was nearby, and she made it just as the others were beginning to surface above the canopy.
The baskets were set atop the trees, nested tightly in their uppermost branches, with only sky above them. Linta rushed to the one atop her tree, a flurry of motion starkly contrast to the slow approach of her neighbours. Several women had sleeping babies in slings on their backs; elders looked out from their hollows, sending younger climbers up in their stead; there were even some bleary-eyed children, quietly yawning. They all chanted in low voices as they climbed to their baskets to deposit their own offerings.
"Maha'as. Maha'as. Treyu, Treyu, Maha'as."
"Maha'as, Maha'as," Linta whispered breathlessly, in tandem with the rest, "Treyu, Treyu, Maha'as." The chanting grew louder as people made their offerings. She pulled opened the lid of her basket and put her pouch inside, shaking its contents out and quickly - quickly, now - closing the lid. Luckily this time she'd been quick enough, and none of her offerings had managed to escape. The basket lid, woven from the skinny dried leaves of wicker vines, had rather wide gaps between fibres. Still, they'd been constructed carefully, meaning that the gaps were wide enough for the tips of Treyu bills to pass through without issue, but not quite large enough for the offerings within - certain, special insects - to wriggle out.
She wound the closing-cord tightly around the handle of the basket, securing it in place, before retreating and slinking down the tree once more. "Maha'as. Maha'as. Treyu, Treyu, Maha'as."
The chanting softened once more as the offerings were completed, fading into silence just as the chorus of waking birds rose to meet it. With that, the day could begin.
~ / / / ~
The sun was higher in the sky when Linta emerged from her hollow for the second time; not afternoon yet, but well into the morning. Once again she was grateful to her past self for choosing a spot so far from the canopy. In her family's hollow, her eyes would have been stabbed by the light as soon as she emerged, but only a few direct rays managed to reach this far down. Still, she had to blink several times to adjust to the sudden light when she opened her curtain.
Unsteady from sleep, she spent a few minutes sat on the edge of her hollow before heading out. She used the time to observe the activity above her: people walking here and there along the dozens of ropes criss-crossing the trees, or climbing up and down the mighty trunks. She saw people with wide baskets on their heads, children bouncing on slack lines, even a couple whose front-most member kept up the conversation by walking backwards. They all looked strikingly like ants marching along thin branches.
Before leaving, Linta closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The morning chill had not quite gone, she could feel the cold dampness on her skin and the cool air felt clean in her lungs. Distant conversations floated down between the trees like the chattering of birds, punctuated by the occasional shout or shriek of laughter. A gentle breeze whispered through the leaves, caressing every villager with motherly gentleness. The tree itself vibrated near-imperceptibly as people climbed above.
As soon as she opened them, her eyes were pulled down, first to her feet swinging off the hollow's edge, then down, down, endlessly down to where the tree trunks faded into blackness. Unlike the view above, Linta's view below was uninterrupted by tightropes or hollows. Looking down, she could have been the only person in those trees. She'd always been told never to look down, but from the first time she'd done it, she couldn't tear her eyes away.
Newly refreshed, Linta stood up, stretched, and took to the trunk. She'd carved hand and footholds into the wood when she'd started carving out her hollow, but she rarely needed to use them. The bark of these trees was thick and strong, with cracks deep enough to easily hold onto. She had to climb a short distance to reach the first rope, which was the beginning (or end, she supposed) of the criss-cross of lines that connected the village. Once there, she took off across. She had always been faster on the lines than climbing anyway.