© Copyright 2017 Douglas Christian Larsen. Rood Der.
Rood Der — Episode Eight: Faerial Warfare
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A funnel darkened the sky above her and the ground vibrated with the agitated and incessant buzzing—normal bumblebees were loud enough, but these creatures were the size of small dogs, and the closest to her, twenty feet above her in a slow-motion circle, seemed to have tiny riders upon their furry backs. It looked like a black and gold tornado towering, churning the sky. Giant bumblebees with riders! Standing over Frederic, Frances crouched down with her spear butt held out in front of her as exploratory bees buzzed close—these were very angry bees, and they seemed to have a whole lot more personality than regular bees, their faces—oh their faces, they were looking at her, and they were so pissed off—but even worse were the riders, tiny people dressed in white, the size of dolls, shaking their spears and threatening her with drawn bows, arrow tips glinting in the lowering sunlight.
What kind of insane world had they come to—poor Frederic came here in a last-ditch attempt to save his life, and now this—threatening barbarians, bees the size of beagles, and madcap faeries. One thing at least, the angry bumblebees were also alighting close by on the ground, apparently attacking the creepy parasites. They hadn’t quite attacked her or Frederic, not exactly, not yet, although they had certainly buzzed close enough to almost knock Frances off her feet. But they had not touched her, not yet. They seemed to be deciding her fate, judging her.
Heck, if they wanted—the bees, the faeries—she’d leave now, just pack up her Frederic, fireman-carry him back in the direction of the portal, and hopefully they could escape, get back to their world. But the dark tornado above her, filling the sky, didn’t seem to be exhibiting a whole lot of plans for mercy. Apparently, they were trespassers, she and Frederic, and trespassers were not welcome.
Her right wrist stung. There was something wrong with her gun. The explosion was too massive. Even supporting her gun arm with her left hand, the whole thing had bucked. She was a good shot, and she practiced often at the firing range, even convincing Frederic to join her (and he wasn’t a very good shot, he hated the whole experience and did not like guns), but something was very different here. She was surprised the gun had not exploded in her hands. Her aim was off too, as she had been aiming at the savage’s heart, and it looked like the monster got ripped right across the face, as if with a shotgun blast, like buckshot, and shooting had never been like that, she had never experienced anything like it—she surmised that guns didn’t work the same here as they did where she came from.
She still had six bullets remaining in her pistol, with a backup clip of seven more shots, but that wasn’t even going to be an option here. Even fifty men with machineguns wouldn’t be able to handle this mass of bumblebees, which seemed to be growing by the moment—Frances had observed several clouds arriving from different directions, and the funnel expanded and towered high into the sky, up near the clouds.
No, the best thing to do was to get down low, cover Frederic with her body, and comfort him. He was sweating and delirious. She could whisper in his ear, and they could spend their last moments together, as she told him that she loved him, had always loved him ever since the first moment she had seen him, and she could put her fingers through his hair, as the fiery stings descended upon them. The sting and arrows of her outrageous fortune, that was actually kind of funny—but if she could decide again, knowing what she now knew, she would still come along with Frederic. Where he went, she went, and she would rather die with him here, in another world, than perish alone, withering in her own bleak world.
She crouched down and laid aside her makeshift weapon, her staff, and then placed the gun and the clip beside it, and then she lay down and snuggled in close to Frederic, placing her leg over his legs, placing her chest across his chest, covering him protectively as best she could, and she began running her fingers through his hair, talking to him, her lips close to his ear.
The volume and timbre of the buzzing changed somewhat. Yes, there was a distinctly different sound, not quite as oppressive.
Bees alighted all about Frances and Frederic, utterly surrounding them upon the flat rock, she could feel their antennae touching her, whispering across her body. They felt like tickling fuzzy pipe cleaners. She supposed that when the stinging commenced, they would not feel many beyond the first few stings. Perhaps with the shock of it all, they wouldn’t feel any pain beyond the sudden first stab.
“I came here with you, Frederic,” she spoke directly into his ear. “And it is wonderful, beautiful, I thank you Beloved. I thank you for bringing me here, to this wonderful world. And you were right, Freddybear, about the sky, it is amazing, lovely, I’m lucky it didn’t kill me with all its colors. I am sorry, Freddybear, that we wasted so much time.”
“We didn’t waste time,” Frederic said, and she could hear him quite clearly, despite the increasing electrical buzzing of the bumblebees swelling about them. “We were just getting to know each other, as friends, and I never had a friend I knew so well, or trusted so completely, as you, dear. Thanks for putting up with me, Frances.”
Frances drew back and stared into his eyes. His eyes were glittering with fever, but he was looking at her, and he saw her, and he smiled, such a beautiful smile.
“I can hear you so well,” she said, speaking in normal, conversational tones, and she could hear her own voice. It was strange, as if their voices were a part of the buzzing, and the buzzing was part of them. At least the bees were not stinging them, not yet anyway.
“They sure have a lot bees here,” Frederic said. “But don’t be afraid of them, Frances, bumblebees are our friends, they won’t hurt us.”
“These bees are very angry,” Frances said. “Apparently we are trespassing, and they don’t like it. I think we are about to die here, Frederic, but I don’t mind, as long as I’m with you.”
“No Frances,” Frederic said, “we are not about to die, but live, we are about to live for the first time—we are going to experience what real life is actually like, instead of the thing we experienced where we came from.”
Tears poured down her cheeks. Yes, yes, whatever he said, she would go with that, they were not about to die, surrounded by bees and elves, but they were about to set forth into a whole new land, together, yes, they would go with that. She smiled and kissed him, smoothing back his hair while dabbing at her eyes with her wrist.
“Look,” Frederic said, with wonder, “a beautiful hallucination!”
Frances looked where he was looking, and gaped.
A slim little creature, too lovely to be human, stood on the rock near them. She was taller than a Barbie doll, but was much slimmer and even exaggerated in the already exaggerated parts than the plastic doll the little woman resembled, glimmering white with shimmering silver hair that cascaded the length of her body. When she spoke, her little voice was completely discernible in the constant buzzing of the bees.
“Do not be afraid,” this faery creature spoke, bowing somewhat, or at least tipping her body forward in the suggestion of a bow. “The Mighty Red Cock did not perish, but lives, and has spoken for both of you. He has declared that his wounding was a misunderstanding. The Mighty Red Cock has spoken for you, Fran Cess and Fred Er Rick, and as you are friends of the Mighty Red Cock, thus you are surely friends of the Wee Folk.”
“You hear this too, right?” Frederic said, grinning feverishly. “This isn’t just the fever? Even about the Mighty Red Thing?”
“No, I hear her and see her, she’s real, I think,” Frances said, rapidly blinking her eyes, just to make certain she wasn’t already dying from bee stings and hallucinating the last strange sights prior to death. In the ER, dying people often saw angels, demons, monsters, and all manner of people, famous or dead, that were not actually there present and accountable.
“You are not dying, Fran Cess,” the lovely little faery said, “and yes, I and my folk are really here. I am Lady Celestaer, Archbee, warrior leader of the Air Defense. We came in answer to the distress of our Elder Ivygarten. All our tribes have answered the distress for she is the Second Elder of all our Folk, though many tribes shall not arrive for many hours, for their lands are far from here.”
“The savage—I mean, the man, with the tall red hat, the man I shot—that is the Mighty, what did you call him?” Frances asked.
“Our Mighty Red Cock, Protector of the Wee Folk. He came to us from another world, and he knows you,” Celestaer said.
“Hank? Is it Hank Reardon, great big guy, going bald?” Frederick said excitedly, trying to sit up. Frances aided him and eased him into a sitting position in her embrace.
“Yes, that is a strange name he has told us, Hank Rear Don, the Mighty Red Cock,” said Archbee Lady Celestaer.
“I am so sorry about that, Frances,” said a deep voice, as a broad wall of churning bumblebees parted, and the savage pushed through, smiling sheepishly, half his face a garish wash of blood, bumblebees swarming the tall plume of absurd red hair.
“Hank, oh Hank I am so sorry for shooting you! I thought you were another mugger, I guess I should have used my belt trick instead of the gun,” Frances babbled, holding out a hand to Hank.
Hank chuckled, staggering forward, taking her hand. “I’m okay, don’t worry about it, it was my fault, I shouldn’t have charged toward you like that, but I thought you were being attacked by some kind of worms or something, that’s what the bees said.”
“Hi Hank!” Frederic said. “I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to come through. I was full, full of—well, full of...stuff. Why are you...bleeding?”
“And what’s with the hair hat? And the tattoos?” Frances said, half-admiringly.
“Dunno,” Hank said, chuckling, “it all just kind of happened. I’m not sure how long I’ve been here, but I kind of went—native. I mean I didn’t get tattoos or anything, all of this just kind of, well, grew on me. It’s my hair, and I guess I’ve just been so happy to have a full head of hair again, I couldn’t bear to cut it off with a knife. And the Wee Folk love it, and I kind of just went along with the whole—I don’t know—program, if I have to say it. I just went with it. I love it. I’m never going back to—that other place.”
A little figure was perched on Hank’s left shoulder, one long leg wrapped about his neck, a gorgeous little woman with metallic-looking hair that spilled down over Hank’s shoulder, she was much larger than all the other Wee Folk that Frances had seen thus far, this one clinging to Hank must be at least two feet tall when standing, but was so lithe and willowy as to appear more insect than human. She was ministering to Hank’s wounded cheek, which jaggedly gaped open and gory like a second mouth.
“Please forgive me,” Frances said, “I never would have shot you if I knew who you were.”
“Heck,” Hank said, “I’m surprised your pistol actually worked over here, it must be a top-of-the-line model, because they usually explode, or just kind of collapse in on themselves. In fact, it felt like you hit me with a miniature shotgun of some kind. But I’ve been shot a couple of times before I retired, and this ain’t all that bad. We’re just so lucky that Ivygarten didn’t get hurt.”
“That’s some Mohawk you have,” Frederic mumbled, dozing back toward a fever sleep.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to keep it, and change my name too. I’m so done with that manufactured world, I’m done with my name and everything from over there. To make things easier with these guys, my Wee Folk, I’m changing my name to Rooster.”
“From Blazing Saddles?” Frances asked, surreally on the point of uproarious laughter, because really, this was all too much—Wee Folk and Mighty Red Cocks and bumblebees and parasites—she hoped the bees had taken care of those things that had escaped from poor Frederic. There couldn’t be much worse than those parasites.
“You mean True Grit,” Hank corrected. “I’ve always loved the Duke—John Wayne, that is. Of course, Jeff Bridges did a great job as Rooster Cogburn, so yeah, I’m going with Rooster, all around, it makes sense. John Wayne and Jeff Bridges, yeah, I’m Rooster. It’s official. Hank is gone, on the other side, he is no more. I love Ayn Rand as much as anyone, but come on, I’m not some third-rate copy of a secondary character, I’m a real person. I’m Rooster. A real unique guy, and heck, I really do got some grit about me.”
And Rooster sent it out, using that pollen connection, to all the bumblebees and all their riders, and all the Wee Folk everywhere, from hereon out he was Rooster, their Protector.
“I don’t know, the title the pixies call you, that might be more popular in certain quarters,” Frances said, giggling, staring about at the mountain of bees crawling about them, a wall maybe twelve feet tall, with that same dark funnel in the sky above them. It already seemed like night, the bees were so darkening the sky.
“Don’t call them pixies, I take it they have pixies here too, though I haven’t met them yet, but they’re savage and much smaller than the Wee Folk, and the two tribes don’t get along, and don’t ever call them elves, they like that even less, I hear they’re very similar to the Wee Folk, but only about four feet tall, and a whole lot meaner than Legolas ever was in Tolkien,” Rooster said, wincing as Ivygarten worked at his wound. Apparently, she had a coil of spidersilk thread in her pack for just such an emergency as this.
Ivygarten jerked, her whole body spasming. Hank groaned as the spidersilk tugged his cheek out painfully.
“I am sorry Beloved!” Ivygarten cried, and then was standing upon Rooster’s shoulder and whistling loudly, summoning a very large bumblebee that was half-again as large as the biggest bumblebees. The creature hovered before Rooster, its strange and almost human face staring into his eyes.
“Protector,” the bumblebee buzzed, and Hank understood its speech, and he received an image of an attack wasp, the deadly enemy of both bumblebee and Wee Folk. And then he saw—he experienced—a whole river of the angry wasps.
“Trouble,” Rooster said, standing to his full height, swinging his battle ax up to his right shoulder.
“What is it now?” Frances cried, hugging Frederic hard to her body, who groaned in his fever sleep.
“They are coming,” Rooster said, speaking as if in a trance. “This congregation of bumblebees has alerted—aggravated—the angry wasps, and they are coming, guided by Malevolence, the great and bloated Emperor of Wasps. One wasp can easily kill ten bumblebees, or more, but when the bumblebees are mounted by Wee Folk, oh but it changes, the dynamic changes, there is going to be war, right now. Terrible war, and bodies shall knee-deep litter this ridge!”
Archbee Lady Celestaer was already mounted and lifting swiftly into the sky to lead the warriors of the Air Defense.
Ivygarten leapt nimbly from Rooster’s shoulder and landed fully upright upon the great bumblebee’s back. The creature hardly shifted in its hovering, buzzing flight. She turned and waved her hand to the great warrior with his ax. She called to him.
“Go and be safe, Beloved Mighty Red—I am sorry, Hank—Rooster, if you will, but flee, and be safe. You cannot be Protector here on the ground—the Elders feel that it is you, Rooster, for which the wasps are coming, they seek to strip off your flesh, you must go, and take these two Tall Folk. Malevolence delights in stripping Tall Folk of flesh. Take these two up to the Hot Springs!”
Rooster instantly knew the location of the Hot Springs, receiving the information like a map through his pollen connection, as well as the best way to reach the springs. He could trace the whole route in his mind, almost as detailed as Google Maps. The springs were high up in a near mountain range, but not too far away, they might reach it in a few hours, if Rooster could manage to run most of the way.
He retrieved Frances’ emergency backpack and slung the seemingly light bag over his left shoulder—he didn’t know if the bag was so light because it was empty, or rather because his new strength was so disproportionately powerful, but he easily leapt to the surface of the flat rock and snapped up Frederic from Frances’ embrace.
“You can’t possibly—” Frances began, but Rooster was already leaping from the flat rock and charging along two faint tracks in the rocky soil. Frances hastily grabbed up the water bottle and canteen, stuffed away her pistol and clip, and took up her spear-butt staff, and lit out after Hank—Rooster—whatever, she followed the savage barbarian.
Frances was a runner, she could easily do five fast miles, each and every day, but she was having a difficult time following this heroically sculpted monster of a man—yes, she might actually believe that this was the slouching, aging Hank Reardon she had known for several years (but it was tough to believe such a thing)—through the connection of Frederic and backyard barbecues they did every few months for friends and family of the Viking Society—but the colossus running in front of her was more like some Olympic athlete, sculpted, muscular, and young. She could barely keep up. Carrying Frederic, the giant man ran, trailed by a phalanx of bumblebees and their riders. Perhaps a hundred bees flew along with them, while the vast body still churned like a tornado in the sky.
The vast body of the bumblebee Air Defense was configuring into battle lines, creating terrific patterns in the sky. Glancing over her shoulder as she ran, Frances could just barely make out the approaching cloud of angry wasps, which seemed larger than this impossible gathering of bees.
Frances had seen nature shows that presented actual footage of bees versus wasps, and she knew the coming clash was going to be...horrific. She had not seen a wasp in this world, but she had a sick sense of anxiety as she imagined the kind of monster-size and ferocity of creature that flew these skies. This world was incredibly beautiful, but in equal measure, deadly.
As Rooster dashed, pumping his massive legs up the steep inclines, leaping boulders and springing over fallen logs, he saw in his internal hivemind the overall strategy employed by Archbee Lady Celestaer as she formed up a thousand strong bowbees bearing archers, each with thirty arrows in quiver—thirty thousand arrows, all tipped with spider venom, the deadliest poison against wasps, and each archer wore complete tight bodysuits of spidersilk, both an effective armor to wasp stingers and a deterrent to wasp aggression. Each bowbee rider was equipped with a razor-sharp wasp stinger affixed spearlike to flexible staffs, the weapon of choice of the archer when all arrows were depleted.
Lining up in ranks before the bowbees were more than ten thousand of the heavier infantry bumblebees, armored in spidersilk girdles, their riders bearing comparatively massive halberds fashioned from full-length wasp stingers, each full of sludgy spider venom, these bee and rider combinations were like jousting knights, for the purpose of crashing into and stabbing an enemy wasp. These infantry riders wore much thicker spidersilk armor—but sadly, even wearing the thickest of spidersilk, receiving a direct sting from a wasp would prove catastrophic, to both bee and rider.
Forming before the infantry bumblebees were the individual warrior bees, more than one hundred thousand strong, without rider, without armor—these were the cannon fodder, the expendables that knew they would die, but die gladly for their tribes. These would sacrifice themselves, in their attempt to tangle and tie-up their far more deadly adversaries. In this match-up, tragically, one wasp might easily decimate ten or more of the great warrior bumblebees.
All of this Hank knew in an instant, running, and he nearly stumbled and retched, bile rising in his throat. He desperately wanted to go back and defend these, his people, for he was connected to them, and hopelessly, helplessly loved them. Yes, he would die, and die gladly for them, as ferociously giving up his ghost as would every single bee alight in the sky. But for Frances, and Frederic, Rooster would turn back—but he had them now, and he would not turn back, not until they had reached the relative safety of the caves high in the mountains where the great pools of hot sulfuric waters steamed.
Rooster felt Ivygarten, even as if they were together, with she riding his back, even though she was now more than a mile away from him, they were separated in body, but not in mind. They were fully connected, and he felt her breathing, he saw through her eyes as her great bumblebee rose up alongside the heavily armored bee of Archbee Lady Celestaer, riding the airwaves just before the infantry bees, just behind that first great wave of riderless warrior bees. The two brave leaders would not ride back in command, but would lead their merciless charge upon their superior enemies.
Tears streamed down Rooster’s cheeks, burning the gash on the left side of his face, and he tasted blood in his mouth. He wanted to scream, roar out his death threat to the Malevolence—if anything happened to his Ivygarten, if she perhaps did not survive—he would track down the Malevolence, and rip out its heart with his teeth.
But he didn’t scream, and he didn’t roar, for doing so would probably scare poor Frederic to death. And Rooster ran, cradling the slender, ill man, as gently as he was able, but soon, perhaps in another mile, perhaps sooner, he would need to shift the man up onto his shoulder, and carry him like a potato sack, for not even these great muscles of his new body could manage these efforts for very much longer, not at this speed.
A thousand strong of the fierce angry wasps came like an arrow, and the great mass of warrior bumblebees swelled out like a net, with the higher bees soaring up and up and speeding forward, above the approaching enemy, and the middle of the mass hovering slowly backward, apparently retreating from the arrowhead of the mass of wasps, but really drawing them inward, toward the greater mass of bumblebees, and just at that moment of impact, the highest bumblebees dropped down, plunging, speeding in attack, and the great mass of bumblebees beat forward, like a throbbing heart, seizing and grasping with furry legs, and there was a great and fearful buzzing as the higher pitch of the flying wasps joined the racket of the buzzing bees, and a flash of conflict rippled through the masses, a spiral of death up in the sky, as the speeding arrowhead of wasps ripped through that initial barrier of solitary warrior bees, and the bowbees at the rear of the configuration loosed their first volley of arrows, directly before and into the path of the barely slowed company of leading wasps, and then, finally, a great number of leading wasps plunged from the sky, spinning out of control, on the other side of a great falling curtain of slain bumblebees that fell like ripped-out hearts, withering and clutched into tight balls of death.
Rooster moaned and stumbled, absorbing the vast psychic exhalation of spent lifeforce, his own heart constricting within his breast, but he managed to keep his feet, and maintained his running, but he juggled and tossed Frederic up before him, catching him as gently as possible upon his right shoulder.
Shrieking their battlecries, Ivygarten and Celestaer sped into the great driving force of the wasps, flashing their lethal spears, at first slashing at passing wasps, striking as many as possible in the first few instants, but then spiraling off as wasps broke away from their force to respond to the attack, and Ivygarten acting as one with her steed, dove and spun, spiraled and dropped from the air, pursued by two wasps, and as her bee tumbled and spun upside-down, Ivygarten stood and dashed about the body of her bee, harpooning a wasp, full in its ugly face, surprising it fully, as she continued her dash about the bee’s body, until it spun upright and she was again seated securely upon her mount, twisting away her lance as the second wasp dove in, its backside curved forward, the deadly stinger jettisoning out toward her, but Ivygarten parried the lethal strike with her lance, and managed to slice into the wasp’s thorax as it passed in its violent dive, and her bumblebee steadied and soared upward, slamming its body into a passing wasp, and as they broke apart Ivygarten hurled her spear, catching the wasp in its hindquarters, and the bumblebee broke off course, plunging with the falling wasp, allowing Ivygarten a momentary chance to catch hold of her lance and twist it as she ripped the weapon free, spilling out acid from the wasp’s backside.
Rooster, running, experienced all of this fierce battle, all of it passing in but two seconds, and vomited, keeping the spray of his bile to the side, but he kept running.
Already hundreds and then thousands of the solitary bumblebee warriors were falling ripped and lifeless from the sky, a dark rain of black and gold, and the bowbee archers released volley after volley into the farthest reach of the still arriving wasps, and the collective mind of the bumblebee tribes recalculated, refigured, as more than three thousand of the wasps arrived and frenziedly attacked—they had stopped and slain the initial arrowhead of more than a hundred wasps, but the remaining two thousand nine hundred went into a frenzied killing spree, cutting solitary bumblebees in half, knocking riders of the infantry bees off their mounts, where they fell calling out to the collective, to be caught moments from the ground by swooping bees, rising from near the ground to catch these fallers, saving them from a crushing death, and they rose again to find their mounts, to leap midflight from bee to bee, ever flashing their large and brutal halberds, slicing legs off wasps, but even a carved or stabbed wasp was full of spite, and would refuse to die, and often the deadliest wasp was one that had lost all its legs, with holes punched in its wings, and yet it still had those aggressive mandibles that could easily cut a bumblebee in half, with that thrusting sting that if placed just right could kill bee and rider in one fell strike.
The bowbee archers were now firing close range into wasps, and although they dealt severe wounds, no wasp was ever dropped by a solitary arrow, regardless of the lacing spider venom, which worked rather slowly, paralyzing affected parts of the wasp’s body.
The infantry bees clashed with wasps prickled with dozens of arrows, and the wasps seemed just as deadly as the wasps clean of arrows and wounds. The solitary warrior bees clasped and stung, able to sting multiple times without ripping out their entrails, but the wasps were hardly affected by the bumblebee poison—true, enough stabs could and would slay a wasp, but they were notoriously tough to kill.
In hundreds of deadly dances, embracing couples of bee and wasp, plunged from the sky, lashing at each other viciously, riders parrying stabs of stingers, bumblebees grasping at narrow wasp bodies, holding off the wasp mandibles providing a chance for solitary bumblebees to dive in, clasp and fall, the weight of two or three bumblebees dragging the malicious wasp to its death below, but often, even when riders broke free and wasps fell to the ground, the malicious enemies were back in the air in a moment, dazed, but hardly damaged.
The infantry riders aimed first at cutting off wasp legs, which were sharp and deadly of themselves, and in many cases infantry slammed into wasps already missing one or two legs, but they found that these wasps attacked all the more aggressively, often seizing riders in a single bite, slicing through the spidersilk tunics or leggings, cutting riders in half.
Rooster wheezed and finally stumbled, tripping and going to his knees—but he never dropped Frederic.
Frances was fifty yards back, running as fast as she could, but suddenly a wasp dropped down in front of her face, and it was the most terrifying thing she had ever seen, it truly seemed vicious, with a long yellow body, and sleek racing stripes, like some missile of death grown organically, it surged toward her face, but was tackled midair by three massive bumblebees—the bees outweighed the thing by probably sixty percent apiece, but they scrambled furiously in the air for a second, and then hit the ground, a two-foot tall rider being thrown into the dirt, while the other bee and rider maintained their clasp on the wasp—even in this flashing maelstrom of death, the bumblebees seemed like relatively gentle creatures, while the wasps were wicked and malicious—and Frances shrieked as loudly as possible as she stabbed in with her staff, spearing the wasp right through its bloated and striped ass. She lifted this monstrosity as the bee and rider disengaged and she slammed the squirming wasp over her head and into the dirt, with all her might, and then she did this again, and again, until the thing was hardly wriggling. It was about the same size and shape as a medium-sized dachshund, only with wings, beautiful translucent wings that shimmered with rainbow colors—these wings were now crumbled and wrecked.
Another wasp dropped down like a spider in front of her face, all yellow and black and she didn’t have time to lift her staff and saw its stinger flash toward her, but something flickered and she was knocked aside, and then Hank was there, and he had batted the wasp out of the air with the flat part of his ax. It rang like a silver bell, and then Hank jumped and cut the still struggling wasp in half, and then came back and cut the wasp in half that she had savaged. He jumped again, swiping his ax, clubbing one, two, and then three wasps out of the air—they were coming for him, not for her!
She ran forward where Frederic lay in the grasses, and stood over him, her staff up and ready to fend off any more attacks of killer wasps, but they were swarming Hank—Rooster—Frederic’s friend. He couldn’t possibly stay on top of that—the wasps were going to get him, despite the heroic efforts of the surrounding bumblebees and Wee Folk.
Rooster was spinning dynamically, blocking right and left, dodging, and three or four more of the bees with riders were there, stabbing and slashing at the wasps. He was the Protector of the Wee Folk, and he meant to earn his daily honey.
Up high in the sky, near the clouds, Archbee Lady Celestaer was knocked for the third time off her mount, and she plunged toward the ground far below, spreading her arms and legs wide, slowing her descent, and a solitary warrior bee came down fast from above to catch at her from behind, slowing her, while another bee, this one mounted by an archer with all arrows expended, caught her from beneath, and after only a second she leaped off the side of the bowbee and landed upon her great bumblebee’s back. She caught sight of Ivygarten tangling with a wasp and swooped to her aid—Ivygarten was the second elder, and should never have been out here in battle, for after fourteen months the Wee Folk became too brittle for such dynamic activity such as Faerial Warfare, but she had been out here with the Protector, and thus she best served her tribes mounted, and in flight.
Ivygarten had slain three wasps, a lower number compared to Archbee Lady Celestaer’s death count of twelve wasps; but even so, Ivygarten’s feat was truly amazing when considering her age and that the next highest count on the field was one wasp killed head to head, by Rookspire, but tragically he had himself been cut in half only a moment later.
Nearly a thousand wasps were dead; however, usually each wasp casualty was brought about through the participation of many Wee Folk and bumblebees, and down below the Protector had already killed ten of the invaders, and the other Tall Folk, the female, she had killed one wasp with a piece of wood! The Archbee was proud of the Second Elder, who had achieved something that would be remembered as a legendary feat. Lady Celestaer was very much aware that Ivygarten was performing this heroically, this fantastically, all to impress the Protector.
Bonding herself to the Protector had flushed Ivygarten with new youth and vitality. She was fighting almost as fiercely as Archbee Lady Celestaer, who was the fiercest warrior in their long history.
Frances stood over Frederic, who looked dead, lying in the grass. But she watched the battle, and thus far no more attacks had come upon her, but more and more wasps were divebombing Hank, who fought magnificently. It seemed the more he was attacked, the better and more efficiently he fought, and the more savagely he fought, the harder the wasps swarmed in at him.
The sky looked like a Vincent van Gogh painting, Wasp Sky in Evening, alive with swirling movement, as everywhere above, life-and-death battles surged, bumblebees dropping like rain from the sky, and bee-and-wasp death spirals set about like constellations. She witnessed heroics she could never have imagined, little people jumping from bee to bee, crossing the sky to throw themselves without restraint upon the back of a wasp, where they rode, stabbing and hacking, until the wasp fell apart in two pieces, and the little woman leaped again to catch hold of a bumblebee which carried her in its legs, to drop her again upon the back of another bee passing in the other direction. These feats happened everywhere in the sky, as the Wee Folk enacted heroic deed, after miraculous stunt, after incredible derring-do. It was marvelous, and terrible to behold.
Still, the Wee Folk fell from the sky, and were not caught, or in many cases bees did catch the bodies before they struck the ground; however, the bodies were already dead, poisoned by wasp venom. Something struck the grass near Frances and when she looked she almost fainted with horror, for there in the grass was the torso of a beautiful little woman, a being full of life suddenly cut in half, and dropped from the sky to smash into the dirt, still very breathtaking in death, her eyes open and staring at the sky.
Could she remain in a world such as this, a world of such beauty and yet horrifying danger and death? Hell yes, she could—let them try and remove Frances from this place. She was never, ever going back, never, and she had never felt this alive, so alive, wonderfully alive.
Wee Folk scrambled about on the ground, tearing arrows free from wasp bodies, and carving up wasps that still writhed and kicked.
Frances wished she could do more, for she already felt involved with these magnificent people, invested in their savage plight. She had met the beautiful little faery women, with their platinum Rapunzel tresses, and she had seen the handsome Wee Folk men scrambling about bare-chested, not as fierce as their female counterparts, but still fully engrossed in the life-and-death struggle, it was the men who scrambled about in their fur kilts upon the ground, pulling the wasps apart, harvesting their stingers cutting off their legs, which they converted into spears and knives, retrieving arrows from still dangerous corpses, from which stingers might stab in a final spasm of terrible death. When they had filled a quiver full of retrieved arrows a bee would appear almost instantaneously, seizing the quiver, and transport it to a bowbee and archer, who immediately put it to good, efficiently deadly work.
In this world, the wasps were the muggers, the serial killers, and the monsters.
Rooster was surrounded by cloven bodies, wasps still kicking, but the bumblebees had withdrawn outside of his deadly circle of death. The hive mind knew that the Protector was in full-on battle mode, and he could take care of himself—in fact, now, at this late stage in the battle, the more wasps that Rooster could draw away, the better.
He was a raging rhythm now, batting aside wasps, or cutting them in half, surrounded by watching bees, he knew with the greater mind when each threat advanced, without thinking he felt and understood from which direction the threat loomed, and what response was required—he could do this with his eyes shut, because the vision was happening inside of him. He laughed madly, because it was all equal parts Wax-on/Wax-off and Use the Force Luke.
His body coupled with the hive mind, fed information by the watching bees and their riders, and the more death he clove, the more he drew the wasps, which streaked to the aid of their dying comrades in arms. Although highly antisocial to all creatures, to each other they were social wasps, responding to the deaths of their sisters, the wasps responding with furious outrage, dive-bombing Rooster to sting him to death, wherein they would carve away his flesh and be done finally with this menace to Malevolence.
But Rooster spun with almost supernatural grace, and overwhelming agility, even punching a wasp that got inside the deadly reach of his ax. He wanted to kill the wasps, crush them, and even bite them into pieces. He howled as he fought, striking wasps so swiftly and in such rapidity that he produced the exaggerated sound of rain pelting a tin roof, ping-ponging each attacker, sometimes two or three at a time, bashing them into goo, forward and backward, spinning to hit three in one second, hardly needing to see them as he destroyed, his mind full of information and direction and purpose.
Suddenly he felt something go out of him, as if his breath were momentarily snatched away—but he could not allow himself to focus on that, as terrible as it felt, but must instead focus on the dealing out of death to these marauders. It was like almost remembering something important, and then having that almost thought snatched away.
And then the bees were forming a protective shell about Rooster, infantry hacking with gusto at each new attacker that now ignored the bees and their riders, only going for the death-bringer, Rooster, the Protector of the Wee Folk, their true target, he whom they called the Mighty Red Cock.
The archers actually set up a small range, aiming to strike the wasps as they passed through the best kill zone, pouring dozens of poisoned arrows into each new attacker, so that now all wasps that actually reached Hank were already slowed by arrows and carved-away pieces, punched with holes and gaping rents, and gradually the rain upon tin sound diminished, slowly, slowing, as fewer and fewer wasps answered the call to plunge through the gauntlet of death toward the Protector.
Suddenly, it was over. There were no more wasps flying through the sky, and the wasps upon the ground were quickly being chopped into pieces. The war was over, the wasps were defeated, and now it was all about saving the wounded, and dealing with the dead.
In the ring of carnage about Rooster, thirty-two wasps lay crushed and mangled.
More than two hundred Wee Folk had been slaughtered in the ferocious warfare, one hundred fifty warrior women, and fifty males slain both in the sky and upon the ground.
And then Archbee Lady Celestaer came down upon her great bumblebee, and she was bloodied and held an arm at an awkward angle, and Hank stopped breathing when he looked into her eyes. Yes, suddenly, he was just Hank again. All his pretensions of being the Mighty Rooster drained away as he looked to where the Archbee beckoned, as two large bumblebees came down bearing a litter between them, a bed of pure white spidersilk upon which lay Ivygarten, still and quiet.
They hovered until Hank reached up and gently took the small form and cradled her against his breast, and he wept upon her, making no sound, as the bees and the Wee Folk turned from him, withdrawing, leaving him to his grief, and Hank sank to his knees and howled silently, still unable to make a solitary noise, still unable to breathe. He shook his massive head and wept, and did not know if he would ever inhale again.
Night was at hand as the last edge of the sun dipped behind the mountains.
© Copyright 2017 Douglas Christian Larsen. Rood Der.
Rood Der — Episode Eight: Faerial Warfare
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© Copyright 2017 Douglas Christian Larsen. Rood Der. All Rights Reserved by the Author, Douglas Christian Larsen. No part of this serial fiction may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited, but please feel free to share the story with anyone, only not for sale or resale. This work is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental (wink, wink).
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