After the tree was out of sight, the bees gradually rose from the grass level for the sake of visibility. The Cardinal could no longer be seen, but they knew that it was still not entirely safe to drop their guard. If the Cardinal decided to look for them somewhere else – which, although unlikely given the thing’s relentless nature, was not at all impossible – and found them, there would be no guarantee of another successful escape.
As such, the return trip was significantly quieter than the approach. It was more or less unconsciously agreed that communicating at this point would be too risky, and no one really knew what to talk about besides. The closest anyone came to real discussion was when one of the bees thought that they saw the Cardinal.
Eventually, they reached the colony. There was significantly less activity than there normally was, and they were initially scared that no one was left; however, the sight of a few stragglers proved otherwise. There was still time.
Flying into the hive, the bees saw the extent of the damage. The Infirmary Section was completely full, so many of the patients – and the medic drones trying to take care of them – were spread out throughout the hive. There were many bees on the ground, and it was hard to tell which ones were alive and which ones were… less alive, as there was very little motion from even the healthy bees – Where would they go, honestly? Hiverson mused. It’s not like anybee would leave the others behind, and at this point most of the hive is filled with infected bees.
Barnabee flew down to one of the medic drones. “Is-is Charlie okay?”
“Yes. He’s fine, or as close as can be considered. He’s held out surprisingly well, but the disease is taking its toll.”
“Can-can you… take me to him?”
“I’m actually treating him right now.”
“…Oh.” Barnabee looked down at Charlie. “H-hi, Charlie. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you.”
“It’s… alright,” Charlie responded weakly. “I mean, we all… kind of look the same.”
“T-true.” Barnabee looked up at the medic drone again. “We-we have the Silver Honey now. We can-we can cure the Skells.”
“…Really? Wait…” The drone looked up at Hiverson and Beeter, then looked back down to Barnabee. “…Are you the three who were sent on that fool’s quest? Because I can’t really tell.”
“Yes!” the three responded in unison.
“… I’m still not sure.”
“Sh-should I show you the honey?” Barnabee asked. “W-we can prove ourselves- ”
“No. I’m just a lowly medic drone; you’d do better to prove yourselves to someone else. If you are who you say you are, then go to the Queen and show her. She’s… not doing too well. If she doesn’t get help soon…” The drone stopped. Clearly he didn’t want to think about it.
“We’re on it,” Hiverson said. “Barnabee, Beeter, come on. We have to cure her.”
The Queen was, indeed, in very bad shape. Her once-full form was now almost emaciated, and she barely moved. She was surrounded by several other bees; most of those bees were infected with the Skells, and the rest. When the trio entered her chamber, she almost didn’t register them, indicating her awareness of their presence only through a vibration of her antennae.
“My… my Queen?” Hiverson said.
“…ahhh…” The Queen moaned softly. “…ch-chil…dren…?”
“We brought the Silver Honey!” Beeter shouted. “We can cure the hive!”
“…Beeter? Is… is that you?”
“Yes!” Beeter responded. “I’m back, and I’ve got some special honey with your name on it!”
“…” The Queen did not respond.
“…Um, you don’t seem excited about this. We’ve found the cure! Everything will be alright!”
Beeter stopped. Hiverson didn’t know what to make of that statement, but he knew well enough that everything was not alright.
“What is it, my Queen?” he asked.
“…Yes, we saw them,” Hiverson responded. “But it’s not too late for us. With this,” he said, spitting up a drop of the honey, “we can start again.”
“…but they’re… dead… we… we have failed them.”
“…I have failed them.”
Barnabee began walking toward her.
“You-you haven’t failed them at all.”
She rolled away.
“…Stay back,” she protested weakly. “We… are contagious. …We don’t want to fail anyone else. Please… let us die in peace, and save who you can.”
“Y-you haven’t failed them. It’s not your fault.”
“…But…we couldn’t do anything. Our children… are dead, and we… couldn’t save them.”
“That-that’s not important now. We-we have the cure, and we can fix all this. B-but we have to heal you first.”
“…But we… are a failure…we are-”
“Y-you’re our Queen.” Barnabee said. “You-you’re this colony’s leader, and… and it would be lost without you. And… and we’re not going to let you die!”
“Yeah!” Hiverson and Beeter agreed.
Barnabee pushed the drop of honey to her side. It left a shiny trail on the chamber’s honeycomb floor, and bits of it fell into the combs. The other bees in the room – even the infected ones – turned to face the Queen.
The Queen looked up at the shiny silver blob.
“…We see… Another chance.”
“An-another chance,” Barnabee agreed.
“Another chance,” Hiverson and Beeter said in unison.
The Queen drank the honey slowly, making sure that there was some left for her subjects.
“…How do you feel, my Queen?” Hiverson asked.
“We… feel better already. We are not recovered yet, but we feel better.”
The other bees gave a loud cheer. Well… no, that’s not quite true. Since most of them were infected and weak, the cheer was actually quite small, but it was far better than the silence that had preceded it.
Beeter then began to push the honey globule towards the other bees in the room. As he pushed it from bee to bee, each one drank his or her fill. When the globule was depleted, the rest of them drained the honeycombs that some of the honey had fallen into. Soon everybee had drunk some of the honey; now it would be just a matter of time before they were cured.
“C-come on, guys,” Barnabee said, “W-we need to cure Charlie next.”
“Okay,” they agreed. They flew back to where the medic drone was taking care of Charlie. Barnabee gave the honey to the medic drone, who gave the dose to Charlie in turn. Charlie looked up at Barnabee.
“Th…thank you, Barnabee. You’re… a real friend.”
The medic gathered the rest of the honey with his honey-stomach and flew away to heal the others. Hiverson turned to Beeter.
“You have the last drop, right?” he asked.
“Yep! It’s right in here!” Beeter said, motioning to his abdomen.
“Good. Fly around and give it to –“
>O HKUT AUYOI OK QEIOI
The hive shook violently, causing the trio and all the bees that were unlucky enough to be standing to lose their balance. The shock caused Beeter to vomit out the honey; it flowed into the honeycombs on the hive floor.
Hiverson, Beeter and Barnabee scrambled upright and flew upwards.
“Wh-what was that?!” Barnabee asked.
“It’s that stupid bird!” Beeter shouted. “It must have followed us here!”
>ZUJI UYQ KUT
The hive shook again, this time far more loosely. The other bees in the hive were now panicking. They knew that the hive was being attacked, and they also knew what they had to do to defend the hive; however, many of them were still too sick and weak to move, and the rest were too terrified to act. This was, after all, the Blood Cardinal that they had been taught to fear and to avoid at all costs.
“You know what we have to do, right?” Hiverson asked Beeter and Barnabee.
“Yeah,” Beeter said seriously.
“Y-yes,” Barnabee confirmed. “We won’t let this hive die.”
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
The trio flew out of the hive. The Cardinal saw them almost immediately.
>QEIOI AUY EOI
>QEOP IKAP KUT
They strafed to their right, drawing the Cardinal’s attention. It swooped towards them. Hiverson dodged upwards, while Beeter and Barnabee dodged to the left and right. The Cardinal crashed into the side of the tree and was knocked back, but it recomposed itself quickly.
Hiverson was now flying above the Cardinal. Seizing opportunity, he landed on the Cardinal’s head. It tried to shake him off, but it was too late.
He stung with all of his strength.
The wind blew steadily over the field at a low pace as Charlie worked. He buzzed from one white tulip to the next, drinking the sweet, sugary nectar from each one in turn. He made sure to fly in a circle around each tulip three times before drinking it. After all, he thought, I’m my own bee. This is my style, practical or not.
Looking up, he saw a few cardinals fly by. Since the Blood Cardinal’s death, other birds had been returning gradually. It was a slow process – the area had been terrorized by the omnicidal cardinal for a long time, so most birds were somewhat reluctant to return – but it was happening nonetheless.
He eventually came to the Blood Cardinal’s corpse, as he always did. It was beginning to decompose, but the sting marks in its head were still visible, as were the exoskeletons of those who made them.
He was the only one who stopped to mourn them. Certainly, they were missed by the others, as they should have been. In fact, their story would be told for generations; the Queen made sure of that by telling her larvae the story of “the Three Bees and the Silver Hive” – modified to be a bit less horrific, of course. However, most bees didn’t have the sort of time necessary to stop and mourn the deaths of their friends; there was work to be done, and there was nectar to be gathered. It was because of things like this that Charlie was glad not to be “most bees”.
He stood for a long while, considering how Barnabee had saved his life and how the three bees had saved the hive. If they hadn’t done what they did, the hive would have perished. They’d given the hive more than Silver Honey. They’d given the hive more than even the death of the Cardinal.
They’d given the hive another chance.
Slowly, Charlie circled around the Cardinal’s body three times. Then he hopped to the next blossom.
…And that’s the end.
That was actually kind of draining. I can’t believe that it ended up spanning 11 pages, but I guess I ended up getting strung into the narrative.
Anyway, that was the story. Constructive criticism would be appreciated, although given that I’m posting this on the Internet I probably won’t get that. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be seeing you!
Cole is 15 years old. Cole has Asperger’s and is this site’s first young adult monthly contributor. Cole will write about a variety of topics. He started High School this year at an IT specialty center. He dearly loves pet sitting, and is a total pet whisperer!