Bee
By: Timothy Law

What was that noise? Bee didn't know; her mind was a fog of vague memories, bits and pieces that just didn't fit. The moonlight swim, young Lord Anntun, did they kiss?

Bee was surrounded by dark, but it no longer felt like it was night, more a suffocating dark, too tight, too musty, not enough air. Earth floor, earth walls and earth above, she was underground now. No longer wet, no longer naked. That was good, maybe, but who had dressed her and how had she got there, wherever it was that she found herself. Bee cocked her ear as she thought she heard a noise. It was a distinct buzzing, faint but definitely there. Was it in her mind?

Her head hurt, gently probing just above the nape of her neck Bee discovered a damp patch, blood, she assumed it was hers. She couldn't see but she could feel the chain mail coat that she wore. A sword hung at her hip, was someone trying to protect her? Drawing the blade Bee felt its weight, not her own blade, Sting, but a well weighted weapon. That caused her to believe that she had a chance at least, a chance to find out what the heck was going on.

The buzzing sound was coming from her left and growing louder. Bee considered her options and turned right. Heading away from the noise and hopefully away from danger, she could see the promise of light; even faint light was enough for her kind to see. She sheathed the blade and began to move. The light was from a lantern Bee soon discovered. A bullseye lantern held by young Lord Anntun.

"What izzzz thizzzzz?" the young royal asked. "You, here? Thizzzz izzzzz not a part of the plan…"

Bee raised one eyebrow.

"I thought you liked me for me," she began.

"Nonzzzzenzzze," laughed Anntun.

In the faint light cast by the hooded lantern held by Anntun Bee noticed that his eyes had changed, no longer the deep-sea green that had attracted her in the first instance. They were now strange, not catlike but certainly no longer humanoid. They reminded Bee of a large insect, perhaps a mantis. There was also something that looked like antenna, tiny stalks sticking out of young Lord Anntun's forehead.

"What has happened to you?" Bee asked.

"I have been aczzzzzepted into the hive," stated Anntun, smiling. "I prezzzent you, darling Bee and I get to meet zzzeeee Queen herzzzelf…"

"So sorry I woke up so early," said Bee, sliding the blade free from its hilt. "I've never been a late sleeper."

"No matter," said Lord Anntun confidently. "I juzzzt need to inject you wizzzzz thizzzz and you'll do exzzzzactly what I zzzzay…"

From behind his back young Lord Anntun revealed a tiny dart, a child's toy with a pointy end which glistened with some sort of poison.

Without waiting Bee began to dance, her steps slow at first while she mumbled the words to a spell.

"Thy-rak, yuntoo, esh-rak-tun, eelshai-thor…" chanted Bee, over and over.

Her words grew faster as did her dance steps.

"A final attempt to win zzzzeeeeee freedom," laughed Anntun.

His confident, arrogant look changed to anger though as a gentle wind began where there had previously been no breeze at all.

"Impozzzzible," spat the young lord, half elf, half bug. "No matter zzzzzzo, you'll be mine again zzzzzoooon enough."

"Don't be zzzzso zzzcertain…" mocked Bee as she felt the wind, her wind, gather and swirl around her.

"Zzztay back or I'll throw thizzzz…" warned Anntun, raising up the dart threateningly.

Bee ignored him and stepped forward, threateningly, leading with the tip of her blade.

The wind caught the wick of the lantern, and it went out, leaving the pair in pitch darkness.

"Thy-rak, yuntoo, esh-rak-tun, eelshai-thor…" chanted Bee, louder and louder as her dance continued.

"I have been given zzzzzee vizzzzion of zzzzzee hive!" cried Anntun, triumphantly. "I cannot mizzzzzz…"

Bee felt the dart fly towards her, and she caught it in her breeze. The tiny weapon whizzed around her a couple of times before she sent it back from whence it had come.

"No!" cried young Lord Anntun. "No, impozzzzzible…"

The dart struck Anntun between the antenna and he immediately went silent.

Bee let the wind drop and she hurried over to where she thought she had seen the lantern fall. Finding flint and steel in a pocket of the loose garment Anntun wore she brought the lantern back to life and threw open the hood. Upon investigating Anntun, Bee discovered he had changed a great deal. His skin, no longer smooth had now taken on a coarse exoskeleton, luckily his whole head seemed clear of the condition.

"What am I going to do with you now?" pondered Bee.

"Take me to zzzzeee Queen?" suggested Anntun, hopeful.

"You two deserve each other," Bee agreed. "Come on then, lead the way…"

Anntun was like a toddler, eagerly telling Bee all about how the hive had been bidding their time, growing in number beneath the forest that Bee called home.

"Oaken Fort has no knowledge of our exzzzzizzztanzzzze," gloated Anntun as he marched down the tunnel toward the buzz.

Bee had instructed the young lord to shine the lantern's light, so he did. The great beam highlighted what was ahead, mostly earth and tunnel, tunnel and earth.

"So, for how long have you known, betraying your people, our people?" asked Bee, carefully keeping her anger from her tone.

"I hazzzz been a part of zzzeee hive for thezzzze lazzzzt three monthzzz now…" Anntun answered happily. "Zzzzere hazzzz been no betrayal… Zzzzere izzzz only zzeee Queen and zzzeee hive…"

"I zzzsee," said Bee with a frown.

"No, you don't zzzeeee…" replied Anntun. "Your royal blood izzz zzzeee lazzzt piezzze of zzzzeee puzzzzle…"

"Puzzle?" asked Bee. "What puzzle?"

"Elf blood, magic filled elf blood izzzz zzzzeee final ingredient zzzat zzzzeee Queen needzzz to birth children able to zzzzurvive outzzzzide zzzzeee hive…"

"What do you mean?" asked Bee, frustrated that she still didn't quite understand. "Your blood is royal too."

"Zzzzzeeee male izzzzz juzzzzzttt zzzzeeee drone… Zzzzeeeee blood of zzzeeee female izzzzz zzzzpezzzziiiaaalll…"

The buzzing noise was so loud now that it was difficult for Bee to hear Anntun clearly. His strange insectoid eyes seemed to be showing excitement. The very walls were suddenly vibrating around them. Then Bee caught sight of little clouds of dust in the lantern light.

"Zzzeeeee hive has zzzzeeeeen uzzz approaching," declared the young lord. "It izzzz time for uzzzz to meet zzzeeeee Queen."

"Thy-rak, yuntoo, esh-rak-tun, eelshai-thor…" Bee began to chant. "Thy-rak, yuntoo, esh-rak-tun, eelshai-thor…"

"Oh, no, not zzzzizzzz time you don't…" Anntun stated. "Zzzzeeee poizzzzon of zzzzeeee hive dozzzzn't work on me…"

Young Lord Anntun thrust the lantern light directly into Bee's eyes as he quickly placed a hand upon the sword hilt at her hip.

A section of the tunnel collapsed as thousands of little flying insects burst forth from the wall and flooded the area.

Bee pushed off the young lord and fumbled with her sword but in her rush the blade stuck and would not come free.

"It izzzzz not time to flee, Bee!" called Anntun, playfully. "The fun izzzzzz juzzzt beginning…"

The tiny swarm buzzed around Anntun, a living cloud, before flying straight towards the fleeing Bee.

"Get away from me!" screamed Bee in disgust as the cloud began flying around her head, body and legs. "Leave me alone."

As she ran, stumbling, she saw more little clouds appearing along the walls and ceiling above and beside her. The packed earth vibrating as more insects tried to break through, Bee swatted and slapped, stunning the tiny bugs that flew around her, harassed her every step. As the little critters dropped more and more replaced them, the cloud growing denser.

"Ash-larark-illuminus…" spat Bee, trying to rid her mouth of the critters that flew inside.

Flames licked her fingers, and she waved the tongues of fire around her face. Wings crackled as they caught and then burned. There was a buzz of fury as the hive reacted, the little critters turning around mid-flight to begin jabbing at Bee with their stinging tails.

"Ow! Ow! Ehen-gulf-expandius…" cried Bee and the flames that marked her fingers shot out causing the cloud of insects to break apart and regroup a foot or two away.

This gave Bee a chance to draw the blade; this time thankfully the sword remained unstuck and easily came free.

"Thy-rak, yuntoo, esh-rak-tun, eelshai-thor…" chanted Bee, the words spilling out quickly.

As if it were waiting to be summoned the wind appeared instantly. It swirled around Bee and knocked back any insects that dared to fly near.

"Stay back!" growled Bee as she ran through the tunnel again.

Darkness was only faintly penetrated by the tiny lights that still played along Bee's fingers. Every now and then she cast the spell that sent the flames forward like an unfurled dancer's ribbon, giving Bee a clue as to what lay ahead. It seemed like so long that she ran like this, unsure of where the exit to the hive lay. Was she just running in circles? Or had she been lucky and found the perfect escape.

"It izzzz zzzzuch a pleazzzzure to zzzzeeeee you again, Mizzzz Bee…" laughed Anntun.

With the swarm chasing after her Bee had run a complete circle, finding herself back exactly where the insects had initially broken through the tunnel wall. A smug, young Lord Anntun was waiting for her with his own blade drawn. In the faint light of her spell Bee took a second look at the sword that Anntun brandished expertly and realised that it was her blade, Sting.

"You foolish fool," Bee cried, her confidence suddenly given a boost.

"You are zzzzeeee fool," announced Anntun. "Not I!"

He winced in pain as a sudden cracking noise was heard. From behind the young lord there unfurled two glistening, translucent wings.

"How pretty," suggested Bee. "A true pity it is that I shall have to burn them off."

The wings began to flutter, slow at first but swiftly faster until they became a blur that produced a wind that began to push Bee backwards.

"You will need more zzzzan zzzzat blade and zzzzzeee flamezzz on your fingerzzz…" suggested Anntun.

Bee's sword thrust forward and wiggled as she chanted.

"Thur-rop-gh-MODT...!" she cried and pointed the sword tip at the tunnel floor.

The packed earth collapsed where the young lord stood, and his wings stopped fluttering as he tried to catch his balance. Bee nicked the hand that held Sting and Anntun's blood, black blood, not red, flowed freely. Anntun gave Bee a dangerous look, but Bee ignored him, instead taking the moment to drop the borrowed blade and to steal back her own. Sting flashed with a white light as it felt familiar hands caress its hilt. The swarm flew by Anntun and began to attack Bee's face once more. With a flick of the brightly burning blade, Bee dispatched most of the stingers; what remained flew back behind Anntun, seeking safety.

"Enough!" growled Anntun. "Zzzzeeee Queen demandzzzz your blood…"

"Your Queen shall just have to wait," growled Bee. "I need my blood much more than she."

"Take her now!" ordered the young lord.

As he pointed his finger Bee swung her glowing blade and sliced it off. The white-hot light of Sting caught the dried skin that was the last thing making Anntun resemble anything humanoid. Slowly the exoskeleton burned away leaving something that could only be described as a cross between a rhino-beetle and long-legged mantis.

"What the hell has happened to you," gasped Bee in horrified awe.

"It iiizzzzzz zzzzeeeee evoluzzzziiooonnnn…" declared the creature that had once been young Lord Antuun. "It iiizzzzz zzzzeeeee fate of all of uuuzzzzzz…"

"Not while I'm still breathing!" announced Bee. "Death to the hive and death to your queen…"

The creature deflected Bee's sword thrust with a steel-like limb. The blow caused sparks of white light to flash toward the tunnel's ceiling revealing thousands more insects crawling quickly towards the skirmish.

"Zzzzzeeee hive iiizzzz zzzeeeee future…"

Three quick stabs caused Bee to step back hurriedly.

"Zzzzzeeee hive iiizzzzz everything…"

Another two stabs, one Bee just managed to deflect with her blade, the second caught her in the chest with most of the blow deflected by the chainmail.

Bee sidestepped through the hole in the tunnel wall and into another, seemingly identical cage of earth.

"Let me out!" screamed Bee.

"Yeezzzzz, zzzzat'zzz zzzzeee way…," cried the creature. "Zzzzeeee way to zzzeeee Queen, zzzzeeeee way of zzzzeeeeee future…"

Bee again ran, thudding down the tunnel and into the unknown.

With no obvious escape, Bee believed her remaining choice was to destroy the nest. With that alone as he vague plan she tried to follow the path created by the creatures that had attacked her. Breaches in the tunnel walls led her deeper and deeper towards the heart of the hive.

"Yeezzzz! Yeeeeeezzzzzz!!" buzzed the creature as it quickly half stalked and half flew after Bee, never too far away.

"Clozzzzze now my Queen… I bring uuuzzzzzz the final puzzle piezzzzze..."

As she stumbled through the earthen maze Bee heard the buzzing grow louder until it felt like to was all around her, in her mind, in her very being.

"You must be stopped," Bee growled through gritted teeth.

The packed earth tunnels became soft and squishy, fleshy and warm.

Bee thrust her blade into the tunnel floor and immediately the buzzing increased in volume and intensity. The hive was angry. She stabbed again and felt the floor beneath her feet shift and slide. Black blood was oozing out from where her sword had struck. Bee had discovered the hive's queen and the queen was unprotected.

"Zzzzeeeee Queen!! ZZZzzzzzz… ZzzzZZzzzz… ZZzztop! ZZzzzztop zzzzattt!!" cried the creature.

The swarm swirled around his body, flying forth with purpose and determination. Bee's sword swipes did nothing to deter it this time. Sting swung but the sword was alone against so many. Bee felt the creature's limbs stab her over and over.

"Death to your queen!!" Bee cried manically, not caring about herself, stabbing quickly at the space between her feet.

"Zzzzzz… ZZzzzzZZZZzzzz… ZZZZZZZZZZ!!!" cried the creature, no longer humanoid in any way, pure insectoid.

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The creature tried desperately to get close enough to Bee to stop her, but Bee just blindly ran and stabbed along the path of flesh. Many times, she slipped and fell as black ichor welled about her feet. The white-hot light that beamed from Sting grew dull as the blood of the insect queen covered it. Eventually the blade was completely coated, and each new stab merely bounced off.

"Ash-larark-illuminus…" mumbled Bee, nearing her point of exhaustion.

The flames once more licked her fingers.

"Ehen-gulf-expandius…"

As the fire expanded, Bee jabbed her hands downwards and felt with satisfaction the taut skin shrivel and break apart.

‘The heart,' thought Bee. ‘I must burn the heart…'

With the useless Sting still in her hands, Bee slipped and slid her way deeper into the hive. She could hear the unending buzzing, but she could also hear a rhythmic thud. Following the basic beat, she suddenly found herself face to face with a humanoid, elf like herself, the fleshy walls of the hive extending from her. The eyes were closed, head titled upwards, a tube thrust down this unfortunate's throat, drones buzzing above, spewing some sugary secretion, feeding their captive, their created queen.

"I am so sorry," mumbled Bee.

Facing the hive's queen, she again conjured up the flames that licked her fingers. Running her hands along Sting's blade Bee watched the blackness burn away. As the white-hot fire shone brightly once more Bee swung with all her might and severed the feeding tube. The figure gasped and then slumped forward like a prisoner who had been whipped to the point of death.

Choking noises followed as Bee watched in horror the birth of more larvae that wriggled towards her. The drones continued to secrete, the mess covering the queen, dripping from her head onto her shoulders and then her flesh that made up the hive floor. Bee watched on as the rhythm of the heartbeat of the hive grew slower and slower until it finally stopped. As if that was the signal the drones stopped feeding and turned, flying upwards through an opening in the ceiling. Bee kicked away the larvae and, after sheathing her blade, followed after.

The climb was tough, dying flesh retracted, sliding away from Bee. Slippery hand and footholds were there one moment and gone the next. Eventually the queen gave way to earth but even that was difficult to climb up through. The tunnel was too wide, and the walls were like stone. Bee hurried with all the speed she could muster as she heard the great cloud of escaping insects rising up from below her. As Bee neared the surface the great cloud of survivors few about her and past her, abandoning the dead queen. Light and air greeted Bee after what felt like an eternity. As she breached the surface, she watched the sunlight burn up the bugs, not ready for the real world. It felt like a victory.

That was until she heard a voice that she thought she would never hear again.

"You think zzzzaaattt you have won, Mizzzzz Bee?" stated young Lord Anntun. "Zzzzeeee battle perhapzzzz, but not zzzzeeeee war…"

The young lord again resembled his elven self, only the strange eyes betraying what lay beneath the skin.

"Zzzzeeerrreeee aaarrreeee more hivezzzz…" the young lord promised. "Faarrrr ttoooo maannnyyyy fooorrr you to findzzz zzzzeemmm all…"

"I shall find them, and I shall destroy each and every one of them," Bee vowed, though in that moment she didn't know how.

"We will zzzzeeeee," said Anntun.

There was a cracking sound as the young lord spread his wings.

Without another word spoken Bee watched him fly away.

-

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