The Bee Who Would Not Dance
by Thomas K. Carpenter
In the time of smoke and brush, when the fire-poems sung their destruction across the sea of flowers with increasing frequency, the Empire of the Five Eyes came under attack by the flying eaters. Though many wings were dispatched to fend off the colony’s enemies, they were destroyed, one-by-one until the Queen had no choice but to send for the One Who Would Not Dance.
The sorcerous bee pressed the pollen ball betwixt its forelegs, rolling the sticky seed grain until the yellow walls were smooth. A slithering proboscis darted in-and-out of the pollen ball, creating tiny runes in which Bent Coneflower filled with secretions of royal jelly and other flower scents it had hidden away in its mouth pouches.
In exchange for defense of the colony, Bent Coneflower had received half the stores of royal jelly. The Queen had been loath to part with the wealth until Bent Coneflower had reminded the Queen that no jelly would be consumed if the bee-eaters won.
Bent Coneflower’s glistening abdomen shook, not in the ways of the Hive Dance, the language the drones used to find food, but in the other language, the one that described non-bee things. Time ago, this had earned Bent Coneflower exile.
Bent Coneflower brought the eight runed pollen balls to the Queen’s chamber. His mandibles vibrated with the plan. The Queen lounged upon her hunk of honeycomb. When Bent Coneflower was finished, she piped questions at him.
“What is the meaning of eight pollen balls? Why does this not match sacred number of our eyes?”
“Queen Mother,” vibrated Bent Coneflower with little deference, setting the drones quiver. “The number was calculated as necessary to achieve the desired goal.”
The Queen fluttered.
“Heresy! The number of five is sacred to the colony. We cannot survive without adherence to the law.”
“Then the colony cannot survive,” said Bent Coneflower.
“But the payment of the royal jelly! You promised deliverance from the bee-eaters.”
“A solution has been found. But it involves eight runed pollen balls.”
“Cheat! Kill him!”
The drones surged forward. Since he was not a member of the colony, nor an enemy from the great list, they did not attack him directly, but surrounded him with vibrating bodies. The heat rose, wilting his wings, turning his eyes gray, until he sung out:
“Five! Five! Five! Five! Five!”
The set of five, sacred among the sacreds, released him from death.
“Go forth and save us,” said the Queen.
When Bent Coneflower tried to take the eight pollen balls, the Queen had the final three removed, and destroyed. Bent Coneflower shivered, and the drones knew not what to make of it.
The sorcerous bee left the colony for five days and nights. Bent Coneflower finished his task in three, but was loath to return, for fear of upsetting the Queen.
Upon return, Bent Coneflower addressed the Queen: “The dangers besetting the Empire of Five Eyes are twofold. The first in the fire-poem that comes across the great sea of flowers at this very moment,” —a crescendo of vibration shook the hive, cracking combs and turning larvae back to goo, until the Queen silenced them— “the second in the swarm of bee-eaters that have migrated because of the fire-poems.”
“The workers have already told me this, exile,” said the Queen, fearfully, “tell me how we will survive!”
“The colony must move—”
Chaos reigned until the Queen’s vibration took hold.
“We cannot move,” said the Queen. “This is the Empire of Five Eyes!”
“If you do not move, you will be destroyed. I placed the five pollen balls as way-markers to a new colony. Each pollen ball gives the flower scents in the order that you must travel to find it. If you leave now, you will survive.”
“I will not leave!”
The drones attacked, but Bent Coneflower had already fled. News of the dangers filled the colony. Some drones and newborn queens left to follow the path, but since the final three balls had been destroyed, they never reached their destination.
When the fire-poem rolled across the valley, the bees that fled were snatched up by the bee-eaters. The remainder, including the Queen, were consumed by flame.
In a dark home, Bent Coneflower nursed a newborn Queen, feeding her royal jelly, and vibrating with tales of the world, until one day he slipped her into a new hive, and the Empire was reborn.