The Beewolves: Chapters 2 and 3 and Epilogue
by Lee M
Copyright © 2016 Ed Kline and Lee M
Based on a story from the webcomic Nightshade the Merry Widow
Created by and original comic script by Ed Kline and Kishma Danielle.
All characters and settings TM
Ed Kline and The Estate of Kishma Danielle.
In the absence of Ed Kline’s awesome CG artwork I’ve done what I can with verbal descriptions. I take full responsibility for any errors or misinterpretations that may have crept into my version of the story.
Hopefully the story will be clear to those who are not familiar with the comic, although of course I’d thoroughly recommend that if you enjoy the story you should read the comic as well, and please leave comments while you’re there.
This story contains sexual content. The planet Cyeatea’s huge, lush, three-dimensional forest is home to numerous species of intelligent beings resembling anthropomorphic insects and spiders. These beings practise a form of symbiotic predation involving the capture, sexual stimulation, partial feeding upon, and release of prey. This is called the Great Game and everybody knows the rules. Although some are better at complying with the rules than others, there is one rule that nobody is allowed to break: no Cyeatean may ever deliberately harm or kill another.
The origins of this world and its society are shrouded in myth, but strange, legendary beings called oomans are thought to have played a part.
If this is your first visit to Cyeatea, please bear in mind that things are not always what they at first appear.
* * * * *
In the Prologue, Queen Leonurus of Helianthus Hive and Nightshade the black widow discussed ways of improving disaster relief following a devastating flood.
In Chapter 1, the fly Peppers, showing unusual ambition for one of her species, went looking for work, and was assigned a position in Nightshade's household. Following a brief misunderstanding, the spider and the fly began what promised to be a fruitful acquaintance.
Over the next few days Peppers settled into her housekeeping duties, and Nightshade outlined Leonurus’s plan to her.
“Next time there’s an emergency like the Ranaris flood,” she told Peppers, “we can respond better if there are more local resources. Not just materials, but people with the right training to respond quickly and get things where they’re needed.”
“Sounds like you’d need some kind of local bases as well,” said Peppers.
“Exactly,” said Nightshade, “and that’s just what we’re going to get. Leonurus has persuaded the hives to set up outposts in the Emerald and Amber Realms. They can also serve as trading posts, way-stations, medical centers, places of entertainment...”
“So, kinda like miniature hives, you mean?” said Peppers.
“More or less,” agreed Nightshade, “although they won’t all be run by honeybees. The first one’s going to be built right here, on the neighboring branch. Construction is due to begin in a few days, once the work crew arrives from Helianthus.”
“Sounds good,” said Peppers. “Who’s going to be in charge?”
Nightshade grinned. “I am. Or rather...” she shot Peppers a glance: “...my servant and I are.”
“Wow,” muttered Peppers. “That really is going to be a challenge. Just hope I’m up to it,”
“Just remember everything Damiana taught you and you’ll do fine,” said Nightshade.
* * * * *
Soon the wasp came to term, and Nightshade freed her so that she could give birth.
Although wasps were generally treated with mistrust and suspicion, their babies were the most adorable creatures on Cyeatea. This meant that once a surrogate host gave birth, she could not help falling in love with the waspling and making sure that it was given the best possible start in life.
The waspling grew rapidly. Although Nightshade and Peppers offered to help with it, its mother guarded it jealously, and so they left her to attend to its education.
Wasp children grew and learned rapidly, and within a few days the waspling was old enough to fend for itself. Peppers, Nightshade and the adult wasp all wished it good hunting and sadly watched it leave, and then the wasp also made her farewells and flew away. Nightshade and Peppers sighed and hugged. The lair was going to seem a little emptier without them.
* * * * *
Shortly the work crews arrived and construction of the new outpost began. Perched nearby on a sturdy tree limb more than a hundred feet across, the saucer-shaped building slowly began to take shape.
Nightshade and Peppers watched in fascination, doing their best to stay out of the way of the construction workers, cargo shufflers, and the giant rotor-winged dragonflies who were acting as derricks and supply carriers. The scene was a frenetic bustle of activity.
The construction bees were the hardest workers of all. Easily identified by their hard hats and tool pouches, they rarely took breaks and never seemed to sleep. Like all Helianthus honeybees, they proudly wore gold medallions bearing the image of a helianthus blossom.
The hardest-working of all was Rhoda, overseer for the third, or Alpha, shift. Despite the complexity of the job, nothing seemed to faze her. If there was a problem she had a solution, or knew where to find somebody who did.
When Nightshade and Peppers asked if there was anything they could do to help, Rhoda politely told them it would be better if they stayed out of the way, and so they sat on a nearby limb watching as the dragonflies dropped off cargo and hoisted load-bearing members into place. The dragonflies never stopped.
Peppers poured hot coffee from her flask into a mug and handed it to Nightshade.
Nightshade sniffed. “Mmm. That’s not fly blood in my coffee. Smells good, though.“
“Some of the workers were taking a break,” said Peppers, raising her own mug. “I traded one of your silk belts for a quart of honey.”
Nightshade was impressed. “A whole quart, huh? Good quality too. Well done, honey. I can’t wait until we get the outpost up and running.”
“Me neither,” giggled Peppers.
Suddenly she heard a loud buzzing in the distance. As it came closer, the vibration grew strong enough to ripple the surface of her coffee.
“More workers?” she said.
“They’re coming from the wrong direction,” Nightshade told her, “and they’re flying in formation. Attack formation!”
Rhoda the supervisor was the first to identify the newcomers. “Beewolf attack!” she shouted. “Heads up, everybody!”
Beewolves were a type of wasp who, as their name suggested, mainly preyed upon bees. From a distance they could have been mistaken for bees, but they were almost twice the size of honeybees and had darker skin. There was no love lost between the two species, especially since the beewolves had a reputation for unfair fighting.
The nearest workers flew to Rhoda’s side and formed up in a defensive pattern. Unlike most prey species, honeybees possessed stings, which they normally used to defend themselves against predators. Honeybees were the most desirable prey on Cyeatea because everybody loved honey, so it was hardly surprising that they had also been provided with the best defenses.
“Those damn cowardly, cheating thieves aren’t getting away with their crap on my watch!” she cried. “Come on! We’re gonna sting ’em down!”
The worker bees were determined and courageous, but the beewolves were bigger and more aggressive. Their “charming” leader Hilda had somehow discovered an ancient picture of a strange creature called a “Valkyrie”, wearing a horned helmet and long braids, and so she had adopted the look for herself. The rest of her raiders also wore horned helmets. The beewolves thought this would inspire terror in their prey, although the more usual response was one of ridicule.
There was nothing ridiculous about their fighting methods, however. “Sting anything that moves!” cried Hilda. “We’re here to do a little shopping!”
Rhoda flew toward one of the male beewolves, sting extended, aiming to get him in his big, fat penis. Unfortunately, his reflexes were better than hers, and like all of his tribe he had an unfair advantage. There was a small, circular shield attached to his arm, and as she prepared to sting him he raised it to intercept her attack.
The use of shields was considered cheating according to the rules of the Great Game, since they were neither part of the beewolves’ bodies nor grown organically. They comprised several layers of strong materials laminated together, making them tougher than any natural defense. Rhoda learned this to her cost when her extended stinger struck the shield - and snapped off.
In most circles, using shields was also considered a form of cowardice. Rhoda certainly thought so, if the stream of invective she lavished upon the beewolf was anything to go by.
“Now it’s my turn,” laughed the beewolf, stinging Rhoda in the arm. Cyeatean stings caused no pain; their venom produced both paralysis and erotic stimulation, though it was less potent than that of a deedee tongue.
The watching Nightshade told Peppers, “Those workers don’t stand much of a chance against the raiders.” Even as she spoke, they saw Rhoda receiving a second sting directly to her woobie.
“Come on, Peppers,” said Nightshade, hastily weaving a net out of her webbing. “Let’s see what we can do.”
By now Rhoda had been stung into insensibility. The beewolf’s female companion told him, “I think this one’s the boss. Good catch.”
A moment later, however, it was the female beewolf who was caught, her arms and wings bound by Nightshade’s net.
“Good shot,” said Peppers.
“Can you lift me over there?” said Nightshade.
“Yeah,” said Peppers. Clasping Nightshade’s hands firmly she took off, carrying the spider beneath her at arms’ length.
The already-snared beewolf had fallen onto the outpost’s half-completed landing platform. Working with only her feet, Nightshade wove a second net, carefully judged the trajectory, and then flung it in the direction of the male beewolf who was attempting to carry Rhoda away.
The net caught the beewolf when he was about ten feet off the platform, wrapping itself tightly around his arms and wings. He immediately dropped Rhoda and she landed a few feet away from the female beewolf, who was struggling in vain to free herself. The male fell awkwardly a few yards further on.
“Wow,” said Peppers. “Even better shot, from a moving position.”
“We got a wild web-slinger here!” called the ensnared male. “Somebody get her!”
At once three more beewolves approached.
“Peppers, drop me next to the foreman,” instructed Nightshade.
“OK,” said Peppers. “Bombs away!”
Nightshade fell in a graceful arc and landed next to Rhoda, her legs effortlessly absorbing the impact. Kneeling beside the honeybee, Nightshade cradled her in her arms. “Easy, girl,” she crooned. “You’re safe now.”
Rhoda chuckled weakly. “Safe? In the arms of a black widow?”
Then she cried, “Look out!” as the other beewolves attacked. Two of them fell upon Nightshade, and one of them managed to sting her woobie. The third had an angry fly to contend with.
“Take that!” yelled Peppers, delivering a flying kick to the beewolf’s face.
She had only meant to stun him, but was shocked to see one of his eyes fall out of its socket.
It took her a moment to realize that it was only a false eye - her kick would not have had the strength to dislodge a real one - and by that time another beewolf had taken advantage of her surprise by stinging her in the woobie. As a result she overshot and landed some yards away, half-paralyzed.
The glass eye meanwhile, bouncing from branch to branch, fell slowly downward and out of sight, never to be seen again. Eventually it would arrive at the Abyssal Plain, many leagues below, where none from the upper Realms dared venture. Perhaps it would make an unusual-tasting snack for one of the monsters that were rumored to dwell in the depths.
Nightshade was acquiting herself well against the beewolves, and several of them had already felt the power of her stings, but reinforcements were arriving. The widow soon found herself at the bottom of a beewolf scrum as every available raider planted sting after sting into her, and her body eventually became limp.
“OK, finally she’s done,” declared Hilda. “Take her to the pantry with the others. Everyone else, grab everything and move out.”
A beewolf picked up Nightshade by the wrists and took off with her.
Outwardly, the black widow appeared to be delirious from all the venom in her system. She was moaning and giggling, her tongue lolling and her eyes red, as her legs dangled limply beneath her.
In truth, however, it was all a ruse. Nightshade had far greater resistance than the beewolves suspected. Getting captured had been part of her plan all along. The widow grinned surreptitiously. Soon she would know the location of the raiders’ hideout.
* * * * *
Peppers, on the other hand, was genuinely delirious. She lay flaccidly on the platform, half-laughing and half-moaning, and another beewolf was preparing to take her as well.
“You may be just a fly,” said the beewolf, “but you’re one hell of a fighter.”
The beewolf who was carrying Nightshade called, “Hey! Don’t waste time chatting with the prisoners! Just hurry up and bring her!”
“Yeah, yeah, just as soon as I finish stinging her,” said the beewolf on the ground, aiming another sting at Peppers’ woobie.
Just then, much to the beewolf’s astonishment, a pair of pincers closed about her throat and she was forcibly hurled clear, losing her helmet in the process and slamming into a branch. A second later the helmet bounced off another branch and struck her painfully on the head.
Stunned, the raider fell slowly toward the Amber Realm. Eventually her neutral buoyancy bladders would check her fall, but there were a great many webs beneath her. Even if she was not caught by one of them, the sight of an insensible beewolf floating in mid-air would undoubtedly prove irresistible to some hungry predator. One way or another, she would have her comeuppance.
Back at the landing platform, Peppers’ rescuer introduced himself. “Hi, um... hey there, miss fly. You awright?”
Peppers looked up. Her savior was a male green earwig, with four legs, four arms, and an elongated abdomen with a pair of powerful pincers at the rear. In addition to his ubiquitous waistbelt and a backpack, he wore a short vest made from woven plant fibers decorated with a pair of large gold studs, and a broad sun hat made from a leaf.
The earwig helped Peppers to sit up, saying, “Steady there, li’l lady. Did she get a sting in ya?”
“No,” said Peppers, rising a little shakily to her feet. “You got her before she could sting me again. Thanks for your help.”
The earwig glanced at the departing raiders. “Uh, looks like them wolf types is makin’ off wi’ yer black widder friend,” he said.
“WHAT?” snapped Peppers. Turning to look, she just had time to see Nightshade being carried out of view.
“Oh, that is it,” she snarled. Peppers was slow to anger, but now rage was giving her determination, and the rush of adrenalin was flushing the last of the beewolf venom out of her system. “I’m going after her. Want to come with me?”
“Why, sure I do,” said the earwig.
“I’m coming too,” came a voice. It was Rhoda, almost fully recovered from the beewolf’s sting and determined to take decisive action. “Nightshade was taken on my shift,” she said. “That makes it my responsibility. But first we need to contact the Hive.”
The three quickly made their way to the outpost’s telesphere and contacted Leonurus. The queen listened gravely and announced that she would send help immediately.
Once the call finished Peppers said, “It’ll take time for help to get here. We need to do something right now.”
Her companions agreed.
And so Peppers, Rhoda and the earwig descended into the undergrowth, following the faint pheromone trail left by the beewolves.
* * * * *
In Helianthus, Leonurus set about organizing the promised help. Activating her telesphere, she said, “Theta and Damiana, please come to my private chambers at once.”
The call found Theta and Damiana in their sleeping quarters. Theta emitted a huge yawn and scowled at the sphere. Coffee, he thought.
“I’m sorry,” said Leonurus. “I did not realize you were still sleeping, but an urgent situation has arisen and we need your help quickly.”
“No problem, Leonurus,” said Damiana. “What’s up?”
“Right,” muttered Theta, thinking, Need coffee. “No problem. So... what is the problem?”
Must... have... coffee!
Damiana gave Leonurus an apologetic glance. Her mate had never been graceful upon awakening.
“The new outpost has been attacked by beewolves,” Leonurus told them, “and Lady Nightshade was among those taken.”
Theta and Damiana were instantly wide awake. Coffee could wait.
“Arm yourselves,” said Leonurus gravely. “The Avatars are needed.”
* * * * *
Peppers and her companions had a long head start over Theta and Damiana. They had descended several leagues, their bodies slowly adapting to the increasing air pressure and different atmospheric mix. Their eyes also had to adapt to the darker conditions, as less daylight penetrated this far down. The vegetation grew thicker, the islands of floatweed giving way to a tangled labyrinth of roots and vines.
Suddenly the earwig gestured Peppers and Rhoda to halt. “Hold up an’ stay quiet,” he whispered.
“What’s up?” said Rhoda.
The earwig shushed her. “We’re at the border o’ the Amber Realm, an’ we need to ready ourselves if we wanna chance o’ freein’ Lady Nightshade. Now remember to keep your voices low.”
“OK,” said Peppers. “So, what do we do?”
“We’ll get to that directly. First, I think it’s about time we introduced one another. My name’s Natwick and I’ve been hired to entertain at the new outpost.”
“Good hunting,” said the bee foreman. “My name’s Rhoda.”
“And I’m Peppers, personal servant to the Lady Nightshade. Good hunting.”
This news came as a surprise to an eavesdropping brown orbweaver spider who was hanging from a strand of webbing some yards above their heads. Unnoticed by the three rescuers, she had just finished wrapping up a captive fly in preparation for feeding upon him.
“Well, good huntin’ to you both, ladies,” said Natwick. “Now it just so happens, I know how ta mix up certain plant juices that’ll deaden your scents and help you blend into the background, so let’s get to it.”
It did not take long for Natwick to find the ingredients and prepare the mixture, and then Peppers and Rhoda smeared it on each other’s bodies. That would not have been an unpleasant experience, but for the fact that it smelled terrible.
“Now don’t forget,” said Natwick, “you need to spread plenty of this stuff around yer woobies and butts to mask your pheromones. You need to get some in your mouths and round yer eyes too.”
Peppers nearly gagged on the taste of the stuff, but she did as Natwick said. Natwick helped to spread some around the base of their wings where their arms could not reach, and then produced some dark leaves.
“Duct-tape leaves,” he told them. “Use these to cover up anythin’ shiny or bright lookin’. Remember, ladies, if ya don’t blend in, yer lunch!”
They applied pieces of the adhesive leaves to their belt buckles, the buttons on Natwick’s waistcoat, Rhoda’s hard hat and Helianthus medallion, and even the tool handles in her pouch. The only bright objects the tape could not conceal were Rhoda’s yellow wings, and there was nothing that could be done about that.
After ten minutes they were ready to proceed, despite the discomfort.
““This scent-masking stuff doesn’t just smell and taste bad,” complained Peppers, “it itches like crazy as well.”
“Yeah,” agreed Rhoda. “Ick.”
“Steady, ladies,” said Natwick. “You’ll be glad of it sooner than ya think.”
Above them, the greedy young orbweaver worked the helpless fly’s erection to help spread her venom through his system.
“Now,” she told him, “you hang quietly, my fat one, and let my venom finish getting you, while I go and see about getting me a tasty dessert.”
“This itching is driving me crazy,” said Rhoda. “I think it’s making me horny.”
“Well, I know a cure for that,” said Peppers with a seductive giggle.
“So do I,” laughed the orbweaver, swinging down on her strand and fondling Rhoda’s bosom.
Peppers, though momentarily taken aback, swiftly recovered and prepared to intervene in Rhoda’s defense. Before she could do so, however, there came a sudden buzzing and the spider was yanked clear of Rhoda, her legs trailing in the air.
A moment later the spider found herself lying on her back beneath a red-winged brown harpy wasp.
“Good hunting, Big Heavy-Boobed Foolish and Greedy!” said the wasp.
“Ohh, no,” moaned the spider despairingly. “Damn me and my greedy tongue! Not again!”
“Ohh, yes, my greedy one,” laughed the wasp. “Now, a deep stinging for you and a quick meal for me, and then I will deedee you hard and deep and implant my egg, and then bury you.”
Once the spider was paralyzed, the wasp turned her head at the sound of Peppers and Rhoda’s cries of disgust.
Narrowing her eyes, the wasp gazed at the rescue party from beneath her long lashes. “Good hunting,” she said, standing to greet them. “I am Dusk of the Dawntreader Clan. I claim this spider as my prey.”
“Good hunting,” intoned Peppers, Natwick and Rhoda.
The wasp had a similar bipedal body to that of a fly or honeybee, but was taller and had a sharper, more angular snout. Her face and body were an earthen red-brown, while her wings and the corneas of her blue eyes were blood-red. Her long black hair was tied behind her head with an equally blood-red band.
Dusk turned to face Natwick. “I know you, claw-tail. It was you who aided me last season against that female recluse spider. She was winning, and I was growing numb from her stinging. You grabbed her throat with your claw, giving me the chance to drive my sting deep into her woobie. Then afterward, I recall, we made love.”
“Eh, you distracted her good,” replied Natwick. “Helped me get outta her web. I had ta help you back.”
“So,” said Dusk, “what brings you down to the Amber Realm in the company of a fly and a honeybee?”
Rhoda fielded the question. “The new Emerald Outpost was attacked by a band of beewolves. They captured three of my construction crew, and Lady Nightshade the black widow.”
“Right,” said Natwick. “We’re goin’ after ’em - we’re the rescue party.”
The wasp regarded them sceptically. “Just the three of you?” she scoffed. “You simply save them the trouble of carrying you to their larder. You know this!”
“We must try,” insisted Rhoda. “Besides, Helianthus is sending help.”
“Oh? And how many can they afford to send? Ten? A hundred? Against a hive of beewolves that will be expecting pursuit?”
“No, not even that many,” said Peppers. “Just two.”
“Two?” laughed Dusk.
“That’s right,” said Peppers with a grin. “Two Avatars.”
Dusk’s antennae pricked up and her laughter was silenced. “Avatars?” she muttered. “I have heard stories... and if even half of them are true, the beewolves may well have cause to rue this day. Very well, I will join you - just as soon as I finish with this soon-to-be egg sac!”
While Dusk returned her attention to the paralyzed spider, Natwick, Peppers and Rhoda took to the trail again, still tracking the beewolves and their prey by the faint traces of pheromones left in their wake.
By that same trail, some distance behind, the Avatars Theta and Damiana followed.
Back at Helianthus Hive, Queen Leonurus was seated on her tall throne, an ornate curlicued and bejeweled golden crown upon her head.
A honeybee messenger approached the throne and bowed. “My queen,” he reported, “the beewolves who were captured during the raid have been brought to the Hive under guard.”
“Good,” said Leonurus. “Have them stripped of their gear and held until the next Arena. They need to be taught a suitably humiliating lesson. Do you have any news from Theta and Damiana?”
“None at this time, my queen,” she was told.
“Inform me as soon as you hear from them, or anyone else from the Amber Realm,” she commanded.
Then there was nothing she could do except sit upon her throne, waiting and worrying. There were times when the crown weighed heavy on her head - even though, being composed of virtual matter, it had practically no real weight at all.
* * * * *
Far, far below in the Amber Realm, Rhoda asked Natwick, “How much farther do you think we have to go?”
Natwick paused, staring intently into the distance, antennae erect. “We ain’t even half way yet,“ he said quietly. “An’ we can’t go any farther - not on this trail. We gotsta go around.”
“Why?” his companions asked.
“Them,” he said, pointing with one of his four thumbs.
In the distance they could see several egg-shaped plants studded with fat, finger-like protuberances.
“What are they?” said Peppers.
“Ambush roots,” he said. “A whole patch of ’em.” The disgust in his voice was palpable.
“But we can’t go too far around, otherwise we may lose the trail,” said Rhoda.
“Awright, then,” said Natwick. “We go above ’em, high as we can manage. Follow me an’ stay off the ground. That way you can see ’em comin’.”
“Uh... see what coming?” asked Peppers apprehensively.
“The tongues,” he said.
Right on cue a phallic pink tongue, many tens of feet in length, shot up from one of the plant’s protuberances. It was directly in front of Peppers and Rhoda, who had to swerve in opposite directions to avoid it.
The tongue fell short, but was followed by others in quick succession. Natwick clung to a limb and laid about him with his tail pincers to deflect the tongues, while gesturing Peppers and Rhoda onward.
“Keep movin’,” he ordered. “If them tongues get ya they’ll paralyze you and suck you dry! That’s how the filthy, snaeakin’, blood-suckin’ potatoes done my brother!”
Peppers was horrified. “You... you mean they kill?”
“Yeah... sometimes,” he said sadly. “Brainless spuds don’t know when to stop. Not like a spider or wasp.”
“We are sorry for your loss, Natwick,” they told him.
“Thanks,” he said. “Jus’ remember, here in the Amber Realm some things can kill you, even if it’s by accident. So don’t go messin’ with anything you don’t know!”
Once they were past the ambush roots they rested for a while and surveyed the terrain. They were deep into the Amber Realm by now. The air was dense and misty and sounds were muffled. They were close to the forest floor, although in truth it was merely a crust; the roof, in fact, of a far deeper and deadlier realm where no Cyeateans dared venture.
“So,” said Peppers, “any idea where we’re heading?
Natwick replied, “To the undergrowth at the base of that sentinel tree on th’ right.”
Peppers and Rhoda peered out across the hazy landscape to where Natwick was pointing, and their eyes widened.
“That’s got to be... sixty leagues, at least!” exclaimed Rhoda.
“Well, what’ja expect,” said Natwick, “a three-hour tour? Them wolf types have their nest set up underneath the sentinel tree’s roots. We ought to make it by midday tomorrow.”
“Um, maybe we’d better rest and get something to eat before going on,” suggested Peppers.
“Why, sure,” said Natwick. “You ladies rest up on this limb, and I’ll go get the viddles. I better do it anyway, ’cause I know what’s safe to eat, and how ta avoid gettin’ et myself.”
* * * * *
Elsewhere, Dusk was finishing her prey. Before impregnating the spider, she had released the grateful fly who was to have been the spider’s lunch. As was customary in such circumstances, the fly offered to let her have sex with him, but she politely declined and he went on his way. She then inserted her ovipositor into the paralyzed spider’s backside and transferred her egg, causing the spider to moan quietly.
“Good,” said Dusk. “Now I’ll let you two get to know each other.”
Dusk buried the spider then covered her with moss, taking great care to ensure that she was well-camouflaged. Dusk left only a small part of the spider’s abdomen uncovered, so that she could breathe through the orifice located in her lower back.
As far as Dusk was concerned that was the end of her parental responsibility. Once the waspling hatched it would be the spider’s job to raise it.
So, turning her back on the spider, Dusk brushed the soil from her hands and muttered to herself, “Now to find the bee, the fly and my lover - finally!”
Dusk set off, following the rescuers’ pheromones.
* * * * *
The rescuers, meanwhile, continued toward the sentinel tree’s vast root system for several hours, eventually pausing while they were still several leagues away.
“We need to take a rest here and figure out some stragedies,” declared Natwick. “Must be twenty or more o’ them beewolves to deal with, so we don’t wanna just walk up an’ ask them for our friends back. Like Dusk said, we’d just end up joinin’ ’em.”
“By the way,” asked Peppers, “where is your girlfriend anyway? I thought she’d have been here by now.”
Natwick chuckled. “Oh, she’s been around fer a while now,” he said. “My feelers picked up her wingbeats a ways back.”
Peppers and Rhoda looked all around in puzzlement. “Uh, where?” said Peppers. “I don’t see her.”
“Yeah, that’s somethin’ ’bout wasps,” said Natwick. “Ya never see ’ em until they -”
“- Want you to,” came Dusk’s voice, completing his sentence.
With almost supernatural speed the wasp emerged from concealment and planted a kiss on Natwick’s lips.
“We’re fast too,” she said, somewhat redundantly.
* * * * *
At that moment the honeybee Avatars Theta and Damiana were closing in on the rescue party’s position. Flying slightly ahead of Damiana, Theta spotted a potential hazard.
“Five hundred yards ahead,” he said, “twelve degrees left,”
“I see it,” she replied. “It’s a porproom Big one too.”
The porproom was a type of fungus, a sickly green in color, roughly conical in shape, several feet across and about as tall as it was wide. Like the ambush roots, it had animate tendrils many feet in length, which could seek out prey and then paralyze and drain them lethally.
Some varieties of porproom were able to fly like balloons by inflating internal bladders with hydrogen. This particular specimen was just beginning to hunt, detaching itself from the limb to which it had been clinging, its tendrils reaching out menacingly in the honeybees’ direction. Most disturbingly of all, it was looking at them, with a huge red and yellow eye atop its bulbous body.
“Arm imploders,” said Theta.
The imploders, also known as Songs of Justice, were hand-held ray pistols that could disrupt atoms on a quantum level. Their origins were lost to posterity. Only a handful were known to exist, and they had all bonded themselves to trusted users like Theta and Damiana. They were deadly weapons, which meant they could never fire upon sentient beings. Unfortunately for the porproom, it was far from sentient. Whatever intelligence it might possess was rudimentary at best.
Theta and Damiana drew the dart-shaped weapons. The honeybees did not even need to aim them. Having identified the threat, the pistols aimed themselves, guiding their wielders’ hands, and then fired simultaneously and with absolute precision.
The porproom stood no chance. The beams struck it dead center, causing it to disintegrate in a brilliant flash.
* * * * *
The flash was visible to the rescuers, who were by now only tens of yards ahead. Dusk, who happened to have been looking back, was momentarily blinded. Blinking away afterimages, she said, “I think the Avatars have arrived.”
Theta and Damiana holstered their weapons and settled on the limb where the rescue party were resting. Once introductions were made Natwick suggested they should agree on their next move.
“Before we make any plans,” said Damiana, “I think I should scout out the beewolves’ outpost and see what we’re up against.”
Peppers spoke up. “I... I want to go with you, my lady. Please?”
Damiana hugged her former servant tenderly. “You’re not mine anymore, honey,” she said, “and as good as you are, I won’t risk you.”
“I’ll go instead,” said Dusk. “I’m a better risk.”
Damiana and Dusk looked each other over for a long moment. They both seemed to like what they saw. Theta said nothing, but smiled wryly. He knew his mate.
And so, as the two girls headed off, Natwick gathered the rest and led them to better cover.
“Nothing to do now except wait,” sighed Peppers, picking up a curious blue rock. The ground at the new hiding place was strewn with small outcrops of them. Peppers hefted it and threw it at a nearby outcrop, muttering, “Nothing to do but throw rocks at other rocks.”
Peppers was not a good shot. Her throw missed its target. Picking up another rock she tried again, determined to keep trying until she got it right.
In the gloom of the sentinel tree’s vast root system, the raiders’ hideout came into view. Hanging beneath one of the giant roots at the end of a thick vertical tendril, the lair was an inverted dome-shaped structure from which numerous radial projections angled slightly downward. The entire edifice was covered in moss, so that it seemed to grow organically out of the tendril. Lights showed from within.
“Do you see what I see?” said Damiana quietly.
“Yes,” said Dusk. “Or rather, what we don’t see.”
“No guards,” said Damiana. “Not one. They know we’re here.”
“It’s a trap,” agreed Dusk.
They headed back to warn the others. Behind them the raiders’ home remained strangely quiet... even unnaturally so.
Damiana and Dusk reported back to the others. “There are likely forty or more warriors to deal with,” said Dusk, “and they are expecting us.“
“The place looked deserted but the lights were on,” added Damiana.
“So, an obvious trap,” said Theta.
Dusk sighed. “At my best I can handle ten, no more.”
“I think between us we could deal with thirty,” said Theta. “But if Dusk’s estimate is conservative, there may be twice that number.”
“Well, what about your Songs of Justice?” asked Peppers, who was in the process of hefting her fiftieth rock.
“They won’t work on anything that is not deviant or non-sentient,” Theta told her.
“Well, I could argue about beewolves being sentient!” said Rhoda, causing Damiana to chuckle in agreement.
“We need somethin’,” mused Natwick. “Some advantage.”
Even as he spoke, Peppers finally scored a hit. Her fifty-first rock struck a large outcrop dead center.
The result was both surprising and devastating. There was a brilliant flash of light, and a pulse of energy shot through the rescue party’s nervous systems, literally knocking them off of their feet.
It was some time before they regained their senses. Theta and Damiana were the first to recover. “Wh-what hit us?” moaned Theta. He had a throbbing erection and felt delirious, as if a dozen spiders had been working him over. Damiana appeared to be in a similar condition.
Nearby, Peppers was masturbating furiously in an effort to relieve the massive arousal that the pulse had given her. “Note to self,” she slurred, “Do not bang the rocks together, guys. Especially those rocks!”
“T-that was the most mind-blowing orgasm I ever experienced,” wailed Rhoda.
Natwick could only moan in agreement. The earwig lay nearby on his back. His four insectile legs were curled up above his elongated abdomen, his four arms were splayed on either side of his torso, and his penis was solid and pulsating.
As for Dusk, the wasp lay on her back in a patch of vegetation, sighing post-coitally as her ejaculates languidly evaporated from the heat of her body. “Would you look at that?” she murmured. “I’m smoking.”
Once they had all recovered, Natwick examined one of the rocks. It was unusually smooth and rounded, semi-transparent with a blue surface and reddish core. Natwick stroked its surface with his fingers, and at once a smaller pulse of energy raced through his body, giving him an instant erection.
“Miss Peppers,” he said, “Didn’t I tell ya not to touch anything ya don’t know?”
“Uh huh,” she muttered, but she was captivated by the sight of his impressive penis.
“Hey!” he snapped. “My face is up here! I got a good mind ta give ya a swift kick to yer fanny!”
“Uh huh,” she said, but she still seemed distracted.
“Allow me,” said Damiana, swiftly pirouetting on one foot to plant a smart kick to Peppers’ butt with the other.
Peppers moaned and rubbed her backside. Meanwhile Natwick continued to turn the strange rock over in his hand. As his fingers slid over its smooth surface, waves of erotic energy continued to flow through his nervous system, causing his penis to remain erect.
“On th’ other hand, Miss Peppers,” he conceded, “you might just have discovered our advantage.”
“Whoopee,” she said grumpily. “Also: huh?”
Natwick walked over to Theta, still stroking the curious mineral.
“Theta, these are some type o’ nerve crystals,” he said. “I’ve never seen ’em till now, but I heard stories.”
“Me too,” said Theta. “You know, I think we might be able to cobble some sort of weapon out of them.”
While he spoke, Natwick had continued to stroke his crystal absently, and now its proximity was sending pulses of energy into Theta’s nerves as well, causing his penis to harden and throb in precise time with Natwick’s.
“Um, would you please stop rubbing that?” said Theta.
Peppers snickered at the accidental innuendo. “Get a room, boys,” she giggled.
“Uh, sorry, yeah,” said Natwick. A little reluctantly, the earwig put the crystal down, and their arousals subsided. “Right, uh, a weapon. That’s just what I was thinkin’ too. Somethin’ that’ll bowl them beewolves over, like we just was, so’s we can go in an’ rescue the pris’ners while the guards are stunned.”
Theta said, “We’ll need some sort of controlled displacement elements and a means of carrying them. I saw some null-iron wood nearby that might work for a frame.”
“Right,” said Natwick. “And some testin’. Lots o’ testin’ and stuff too.”
“Right,” said Theta. “It’s a pity Dill’s not here. She’s the Head of Scientific Research at Helianthus. She’d just love this.”
Over the next few hours everyone pitched in with ideas and helped to find and collect materials with which to construct the weapon. Peppers, for instance, found a patch of spring roots. They were not named for the season, but rather because their coiled shape and resilience made them ideal for use as springs.
Meanwhile Rhoda, being a construction worker, was able to help by using her anamorphic tools and portable holo-fabricator to shape the raw crystals and materials into the parts for the new weapon.
Finally it was complete. The crystal elements were arranged in two elongated ovoids forming the barrel, while the stock was a long, thick wooden structure. The trigger was designed to strike the crystals together, causing them to emit a beam of energy from the front of the barrel. The completed weapon was about two and a half Cyeatean feet in length and very lightweight for its size.
Now all that remained was to test it.
“We, uh, we need a volunteer,” said Natwick.
Without hesitation, a voice spoke up: “I’ll do it,”
The others stared in astonishment. “You, Miss Peppers?” said Natwick.
“Yes,” Peppers insisted. “I volunteer. Maybe this will make up for my being so... well... me.”
This set off a lengthy argument concerning who was and was not suitable or deserving of the task, but eventually Peppers won - although none of them was certain that “won” was the right word in this context. The fly moved to stand several yards from the others, trying not to show how nervous she was.
“You sure about this, Miss Peppers?” said Natwick, leveling the weapon.
No, she thought. Aloud, she said, “J-just do it, already!”
Natwick counted down from three. Peppers flinched as the count reached zero, and then Natwick pulled the trigger. The barrel glowed bright green for a moment, and then Peppers wailed as the energy lanced out to wash over her body, accompanied by a brilliant blue-green flare of light and a sound that might be described as “Screwwwch!”
“It... it works...” declared Natwick, looking at the steaming barrel.
“Y-you think?” slurred Peppers. The blast had knocked her off her feet, and now she lay on her head, unable to move, her torso and legs forming a tripod that held her abdomen loft. Her genitalia were also steaming, with evaporating ejaculate.
“I’m paralyzed and horny,” she told them, “and so screwched!”
The others helped her into a more dignified sitting position. “You were very brave, honey,” said Damiana, and sat beside Peppers, stroking her intimately to relieve her sexual tension until the paralysis wore off. If anything, Peppers’ emotional relief was even greater. She had not only survived the experience, but had been forgiven.
Once Peppers had fully recovered and the excitement had settled down, Natwick announced that he had come up with a name for the weapon. “I think I’ll call it a screwcher,” he said.
The others did their best to keep straight faces. “Oh, yeah.” “Definitely.” “Sure, that’ll work.”
“Awright, then,” he said. “Let’s get down ta business. I think it’s time we pay a visit to some beewolves!”
After many hours making their way on foot through the dense undergrowth, they sighted the beewolves’ hideout above them in the distance.
“Stay close an’ stay quiet,” said Natwick, surveying the scene. After a moment he told them, “Ah don’t see any cover. We’ll have to fly up in plain sight all the way.”
“Wait, Natwick,” said Peppers, pointing. “That big branch behind it. If we can reach it by climbing the connecting branches, we might get within jumping distance. What do you think?”
Natwick considered this. “Can’t tell from here just how close that branch is. Hard to judge distances in this gloom. But heck, looks like it’s the only chance we got!”
Gathering themselves, they made their way up around roots and bracken, climbing from branch to branch, slowly crawling closer to the distant hideout of the beewolves - and their friends.
Soon they arrived at the nearest branch and crouched within range of the outpost, a few yards above its elevation.
“OK, Natwick,” said Theta. “Saturate the place. Once everyone inside is paralyzed, the rest of us will fly in and carry our friends out.”
Natwick hefted the screwcher in his upper pair of hands. “I’m only guessin’ at the settings on this thing,” he said. “I jus’ hope it’s enough.”
With that, he pulled the trigger. The beewolves’ hideout was immediately saturated with blue radiance. It looked as if the weapon was indeed powerful enough.
Or perhaps just a tad too powerful...
There was a faint rustling noise as part of the thick tendril connecting the hideout to the root above it withered and melted. With nothing to support it, the structure began falling - and there was nothing beneath it that could break its fall.
The rescue party watched aghast as the huge structure crashed through branches, roots and undergrowth. The sound of its impacts resounded thunderously in the dense atmosphere, growing gradually fainter as it sank out of sight. Finally it smashed through the crust of the forest floor and descended toward the depths, where the atmospheric pressure and toxic gases were lethal.
Theta was horrified. “Our friends... and the beewolves... did... did we just...”
Before he could continue, he was surprised to hear laughter coming from somewhere above.
“A little overkill, don’t you think?”
The voice belonged to Nightshade. She was alive and well... and she was not alone. The black widow was seated upon the shoulder of a gigantic male spider.
“Lord Bael!” breathed Theta.
He and the other rescuers bowed. They were in the presence of a god.
“Are you all here to rescue me?” called Nightshade from her hallowed perch. “I’m touched. And don’t worry, everyone is safe, thanks to Lord Bael. He got them all out well before the hideout fell.”
The great spider turned toward Natwick and intoned in a basso-profundo voice: “Natwick, may I see that formidable device of yours?”
“Oh, please take it, my lord,” said Natwick. The others could not help noticing that Natwick’s rustic accent seemed momentarily to have vanished.
The weapon was dwarfed in Lord Bael’s hands as he examined it closely. “A very clever use of these crystals,” he said. “Natwick, do you mind if I hold on to this for a while? It might be safer.”
“Of course,” said Natwick. “Please do whatever you want with it, Lord Bael!”
Nightshade leapt from Lord Bael’s shoulder and landed beside her rescuers.
“Come now, all of you,” said Lord Bael. “Walk with me.”
Without question they did so, following their deity into a sphere of blue-green light that rapidly enveloped them all.
“I seem to be a tight fit in here,” said Lord Bael, crouching down to fit inside the sphere. “I thought I would save you all the long journey back to the Emerald Outpost. You’re all very tired and deserve a rest. Well done, all of you.”
In what seemed the blink of an eye the entire party was transported back to the Outpost. Construction had continued apace in their absence, and now it was complete.
“Lady Nightshade, I want to show you something in the larder,” said Lord Bael.
In the larder at the base of the Outpost, an appetizing site met Nightshade’s eight eyes. Hilda and her raiding party had been strung up in neat rows by their feet, and securely tied with webbing.
“My thanks, Lord Bael,” smiled Nightshade. “It seems my trick worked. Now our new larder is nearly full.”
“Well done,” he said. “My apologies that I cannot stay and... sup with you, but I want to show this weapon to someone right away. Good hunting, my children! Good hunting!”
Then Lord Bael stepped into the glowing sphere once more and vanished.
“Wow,” said Peppers, grinning hugely. “That was a great game!”
Deep within Helianthus hive was the laboratory complex, overseen by its Head of Scientific Research, Dill. Dill was a short, intense honeybee with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. From her laboratories had come countless discoveries and innovations that had enriched the lives not only of honeybees, but of all Cyeateans.
Among those innovations were the eyeglasses she wore, held in place upon her muzzle by a pair of adhesive pads. Early in her scientific career Dill had been blinded in a rare accident. Cloned eyes had failed to take, and mechanical eyes had always given her terrible headaches. The breakthrough came when she realized that the circuitry could be built into external lenses remotely linked to her optic nerves.
The glasses not only gave Dill perfect vision, but also allowed her to see in a wide range of normally-invisible spectra and at any desired level of magnification, making them perfect for research purposes. They could also be patched into the telesphere network, allowing Dill visual communications no matter where she happened to be. They also projected holographic images of eyes, restoring her face’s normal appearance, so she had to remember never to take them off in public.
Dill took a quiet pride in her accomplishments, but she was not one to rest on her laurels. Even now she and her assistants were engaged in yet another exhaustive series of experiments.
Dill was busy checking some of their data on a small hand-held computer, muttering quietly to herself. “There it is again. We’re still getting a three point six percent shortfall on the predicted outcome. It can’t be the calculations, I’ve triple-checked all of them. There must be some other factor we have overlooked. Perhaps if we...”
At that moment she became aware of a hush in the air, and turned to see a giant hand reaching toward her.
All of the other laboratory staff seemed frozen in awe, but Dill was not one to be thrown by the unexpected. Not even a visit from her god could faze her.
“My dear Dill,” said Lord Bael, “I have a new toy for you.”
So saying, he handed her the weapon. “Be careful with this one, Dill. It is a weapon. It paralyzes. It also dissolves plant tissue.”
“Hmm. Very interesting,” said Dill, taking the weapon and examining it, her previous experiment temporarily forgotten.
“Let me know what else it does,” Lord Bael told her. “My thanks, and have fun!”
Dill adjusted her lenses and peered closely at the barrel. “Hmm, let’s see. Simple displacement elements and phased-monopole crystals... and what are these?”
“Oh, by the way,” said Lord Bael, “I believe we will be calling it a ‘screwcher’.”
Dill shot her god a sceptical look and said, “With respect, my lord, I think the name might need a little work.”
* * * * *
In the Emerald Outpost’s large, circular lounge, the opening celebrations were well under way with music, song, dance and stories. There was food in abundance and plenty of honey-flavored beverages. The entire honeybee construction crew had been invited, including Rhoda, whose stinger was growing back nicely. Also present were the outpost’s first visitors, and all of the rescue party - all, that is, save one.
“Say, Peppers,” asked Damiana, “where’s Nightshade? I thought she’d want to be here for this.”
Peppers grinned. “Oh, she’s a little busy welcoming some other guests right now.”
The fly inclined her head downward, toward the outpost’s larder.
“Oh,” said Damiana, with a small chuckle. “Those guests! Yeah, that’s going to be quite some welcome!”
* * * * *
Swinging from tether to tether, Nightshade slowly and painstakingly checked all of the captive beewolves to make sure their bindings would hold - not that there was any real doubt, but it helped to build the beewolves’ suspense.
Finally turning to their leader, the widow said, “Good hunting. It’s Hilda, isn’t it? Lady Nightshade at your, ah... service.”
As she spoke, Nightshade slowly turned Hilda’s body around, fondling and caressing her to increase her arousal. There wasn’t much Hilda could do except moan at the intensity of her sensations, and both she and Nightshade knew they were about to get even stronger.
“Good,” said Nightshade. “I think you’re about ready, and I certainly am. But don’t worry, the rest of your gang needn’t feel neglected. I’ll get around to every one of them in time. Oh, yes, we’re all going to have plenty of time to get acquainted. Right now, though...”
Nightshade plunged her deedee tongue deep within Hilda’s back passage and began pumping venom into her. Hilda groaned loudly as her body was racked by orgasm after orgasm.
“Ah, there’s nothing like a nice long supper,” sighed Nightshade. “Well, supper for me. Just deserts for you!”
* * * * *
High above them in the lounge the party was in full swing. “Reckon it’s just about my turn now,” Natwick told Peppers.
“Oh, that’s right,” said Peppers. “You said you were an entertainer, only I don’t think you told us what it is you actually do.”
The four-armed earwig favored her with a grin, and then opened his backpack and drew out a pair of fiddles. Stepping out into the center of the floor, he took a fiddle in each of his left hands and a bow in each of his right, and proceeded to delight and astonish the audience by playing a set of virtuoso duets with himself.