Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Insect War – Part 3

A blue and black striped Wasp, the relative size of a horse, zipped over Storm Wizard’s head in a screaming buzz attack and thwacked a Mosquito of the Crimson Heart Squadron directly between it’s eyes with it’s ebony sting. The Mosquito fluttered to the ground dead, the pulsing red and green light fading forever from its eyes. Not far off on a grass blade, the Ant-Men were battling the mosquitoes, flanked on all sides by the Black Ant Battalions. With his huge black sword the Ant- Magistrate cut a long gash in the side of one of the Crimson Hearts attacking him. On another blade, two Mosquitoes were hovering over an Ant-Man, and with their pulsating eyes brought him under their control. Suddenly three Black Ant Battalions changed course. They began to head directly toward Storm Wizard.

With that Storm Wizard recalled that discretion is often said to be the better part of valor, and so he abandoned Rohar, the Silver Locust Prince, and flew up into the air. It was time, he thought, to get away from this place. What might become of Rohar from this point forward would be on his own head, as the Mosquitoes under his command did not seem to distinguish very well between friend and foe. And this was a true observation. The Mosquitoes of the Crimson Heart have no loyalty, except to their own incredible cause. “The Great Cause”, for which all mosquitoes have an everlasting religious fervor. That the Rohar was controlling the Crimson Heart Squadron at the time was not so much a matter of any particular alliance as it was a matter of the generally greater mental power of the Locust-Princes. However, even Rohar was not able to fully dominate the likes of a Mosquito of the Crimson Heart. But Storm Wizard had no way of knowing this, and assuming the worst, he flew off, leaving Rohar to his fate.

Far below in the darkness of the spider hole, Juliette and Laraby struggled slowly forward carrying the Red Ambassador of the Locust people. Morgana, after being freed from the webs, took charge of Brian, helping him along by holding his hand. He was quite delirious and continued to mumble to himself, as did Ferdinando, who was being lead by Isabella. As they walked Juliette noticed that with her Eye-Stone she could see through the earth that fifteen feet below them there was a tunnel crossing beneath the tunnel that they were walking through. And in that tunnel she saw a figure in a black cloak, with a cowl covering the person’s head. The person, whomever it was, carried something, but she could not make out what that was. She was then distracted from that by the sound of moaning coming from the large white sack of webs attached to the wall behind her. With her mystical sight she could pierce the shadows, but not the webs themselves. Again she reflected on the fact that her Eye-Stone was limited to seeing only through that which was not magical. Whatever was inside that mass had begun to writhe and moan as the spider-children rapidly scuttled across the floor walls and ceiling toward it. Juliette considered attempting to free whomever, or whatever it was, but she feared. Having accidentally released the spider-children from their eggs, she thought, by reading the poem, she was deathly afraid that whatever was inside that large sack could be another horror. So she turned her back on it, and kept going. The debate in her mind raged for quite some time, but regardless she moved away from it. The small black spiders began to gather on the webs near the sack.

At that moment Juliette stepped into the black reflection of the river, its shimmering surface glinting with starlight from somewhere. Feeling the freezing touch of the water she looked down. She then caught site of runic symbols from the webs reflected in the water. She looked up, and saw the billowing webs form a runic statement. She looked at it with a long hard stare. And suddenly she felt she knew what it said.

“John Bellowick will be King”

She was shocked! What could that mean! How could Storm Wizard become King. But then, she recalled that it wasn’t long ago that she was offered to be a Queen. She decided to keep what she read to herself. Juliette had the strange feeling she had stood in that black water before. It seemed to her that it was very much like standing in the black waters of The River of Death. She wondered what it might take for herself to become a Queen. Would she have to return to the River of Death? She didn’t think Penelope would be too happy with her if she killed herself so she could return to the land of the dead to marry the Scorpion Prince and become a Queen.

At that moment she heard the sound of whomever it was that was moaning in the sack of white webs. The sounds grew louder.

Suddenly, the Red Ambassador starting struggling fiercely trying to escape from his bonds. “You do know”, said Juliette, “that there are spiders in here. And I bet they’re really Hungry!” The Red Ambassador stopped struggling, and his locust eyes bulged, as they looked around wildly in every direction. Then the sack of white webbing started shaking again, and the moaning grew more incessant. Juliette again contemplated cutting the sack loose. But she decided against it. It was too great a risk.

“Lets keep moving, Laraby”, she said. And so they followed as quickly as possible after the rest of the party. It seemed that the others had managed to get far ahead of them. In fact Daniel led them out of the tunnel and into the daylight. Isabella and Ferdinando came out behind him, followed by Morgana and Brian. Only Laraby and Juliette struggling to carry the Red Ambassador remained behind in the tunnels.

Meanwhile Storm Wizard had spotted the Ladybug on the leaf beyond the area of the battle and began to fly towards her. She noticed him approaching and began to make a twiddling noise and spread her wings, closed them, spread them again, and closed them again. She seemed excited to see Storm Wizard.

From behind Storm Wizard heard a low rumbling voice speaking to him very slowly.

“Come back…” said the Crimson Heart Mosquito. And with that he cast a powerful spell over Storm Wizard’s mind. He felt his mind grabbed from behind, and felt himself compelled to turn around. And so he did. And slowly he began to fly toward the hovering monstrosity with the huge glowing red and green eyes, and long barbed proboscis. In the distance he could see the Wasps flying into the main formation of the Crimson Heart Squadron over Rohar, but the mosquitoes dodged and darted so that none of them were hit. Not far from him hovered the monstrous Mosquito Lord, who controlled his mind and body.

“Come to me”, said the blood-sucking monster. And Storm Wizard went to him.

Behind him, Isabella was the first to spot him in the air.

“Great Elkron! Storm Wizard has been captured by the Crimson Heart!”

Inside the dark cave, Juliette heard the sound of stone sliding on stone. She felt a draft in the air. Laraby seemed to vanish from view. She no longer felt the Red Ambassador on her shoulder. A man wearing a black cloak and cowl passed by the white mass of webs, and walk past where she was standing without noticing her. He was carrying a silver tray. On it was a roast chicken, a bowl of fruit, and two glasses of wine. He made his way through the billowing webs and brought the tray to a stone table, where there were two stone chairs. He put the tray down. She thought he looked like the figure she saw in the tunnel below. The food smelled wonderful to her.

“Hey, you, want to give us a hand?”

“Juliette!” he said with a surprised though gentle tone. “What are you doing here?”

“Do I know you?” she asked… and as she looked at him she suddenly realized that she recognized him. His long black hair, and youthful form and handsome face came into view. It was the Prince with the black hair.

“Juliette, what are you doing in here?” he asked again.

“Being stuck. With a Locust,” she replied, too surprised to say anything else.

“I thought you had escaped from here,” he said mildly.

Juliette turned to look behind her for the Locust Ambassador, but she didn’t see him. Nor did she see Laraby. Nor did she see the closed in walls of the spider cave. Instead she saw a huge and open black sky twinkling with dark stars, and nearby a river of black water flowed past.

“I thought you had escaped”, he said again. “Won’t you join me for dinner?” he asked her after a pause.

“Now … is not … the best … time…” she said, confused and bewildered. “If you help me and my friends to escape with our Locust captive, perhaps we will have dinner sometime.”

He smiled. “Juliette, were we are now, and we have all the time in the world.”

“I’m quite anxious about my friends…”

“Don’t worry. They will be wherever it is that you left them.” He took a glass of wine in his hand and sipped it with relish. “This is so good,” he whispered.

“But my friends… I …”

“Juliette. You are always so worried about everything else and everyone else… but yourself. Won’t you ever take time just to enjoy life… while you have it?”

“The Locusts are coming and they’re gong to eat everything. And while you have lots of magic juju going on… other people don’t.”

“Juliette, you know I’m not the only person here with magic juju going on,” he said politely. She laughed.

“I cooked this myself. Please… have dinner with me, and you can go back to whatever it is that you were doing later. Please. We may never have this opportunity again. I fear it may be our one and only chance. Shall we not take it … together?”

“Ok,” she said. He handed her a glass of wine. He served her chicken and fruit, and they ate happily for a time.

“I have not eaten this well since I died and was resurrected,” she said.

“Shhhh…,” he said in a whisper looking around. “Don’t use that word here. It is bad luck.”

“Ok,” she said.

“A toast to you. May you live well, and prosper in the world,” he said. They toasted, she smiled. She felt the atmosphere had become warm and pleasant, though it was very dark. He spoke to her of learning to relax and let things go.

“It would help you, I think, if you weren’t so caught up with the world. Live. Be yourself. Enjoy your life,” he said. “I would like to recite a poem for you, if you like… I wrote it myself not long ago… Golden petal, silken blond, alight fond caress, now gone, now gone…”

And then she noticed that she was back in the cave, her shoulder aching under the burden of the pole upon which the Red Ambassador was trussed. It was as if she had just woken up, standing there where she had been before. Laraby was still grunting under the strain, and trying to make his way through the webs. But as the other world faded away into complete darkness she heard his voice saying “… be true to yourself… be true…” and he was gone.

Juliette, stunned, enchanted, and alarmed all at once, hoisted the pole to a better position on her aching shoulder and trudged on through the darkness. Juliette, remembering Ember, reached into the folds of her clothing and found the fiery kitten happily sleeping. She rubbed her ears with her free hand and without waking Ember began to purr. Behind her, Juliette heard the moaning sound in the webs. She looked back and saw the spider-children descending on the web. Juliette turned away and kept walking until finally they saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And soon they were stepping outside below the large gray rock that shielded the group from the battlefield.

Storm Wizard was flying slowly toward his Mosquito Overlord. His mind was filled with thoughts of obedience and self-sacrifice for The Great Cause. He wished more than anything in the world to have the barbed proboscis plunge into his chest and all his blood sucked into the gaping maw to please his master.

Daniel, non-plussed and without pause marched over to Storm Wizard, grabbed a foot, pulled him down out of the air, and grappling his diminutive brother without any trouble, pulled him away. At that moment the black Dragonfly darted from his blade of grass up into the air. It flicked the entire distance in but a moment, and suddenly the Mosquito of the Crimson Heart was snatched out of the air, and vanished. The black Dragonfly darted off, his pray still fibrillating in his tiny but sharply edged fangs.

Storm Wizard awoke as if from a terrible nightmare. There was a bottomless pit in his stomach, and he felt woosy. Had Daniel not been holding him he would have fallen over. Meanwhile, Storm Wizard being safe, Isabella, greatly relieved, had called the Ladybug to her and everyone was boarding onto her legs for take off. Storm Wizard was last aboard, after they secured the Red Ambassador onto the Ladybug’s under body. He was still shuddering at the thought of what might have happened next, had not Daniel plucked him out of danger.

Up into the air lofted the Ladybug. Emmanuel the Red Locust Ambassador, was ominously brooding, though he kept very still. For as Juliette pointed out to him after they had lifted off, it was a very far fall down to the ground below. Behind them they watched as the battle of the Insects receded into the distance, Rohar surrounded by ants and battling with a gleaming sword, as Wasps and Mosquitoes careened through the air, and Ants marched in relentless columns toward the center of action.

Farewell, Rohar, thought Juliette, as they flew away into the sun-drenched distance.  Only Morgana seemed as sad as could be, but no one knew why...

Previous Episode: Insect War - Part 2
Next Episode: The Terrible Alter

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