"But we will make everything good again. Yes, we will," Vael confided in the fat bumble bee that buzzed along beside her. Rather than walk on the sidewalk, she pranced through the grass, bare feet dirtied by mud and slush and the lingering ash that came from the number of buildings that had been brought down by the conflict. In her wake, little sprouts sprang up where her footsteps left petite impressions.
"Bzzt bzzzzzzt," hummed the bee. Vaeluthil giggled and nodded.
"Yes. Of course. Being so close to Battlefield Park, the trees will be near enough that it shouldn't be an issue," she replied as she skipped along a long dirt path lined with oak trees that had dropped their leaves a month and a half prior. Sprouts became vines that traced the path she had taken there, inching toward the detritus that littered the district until the tendrils could wrap around charred lumber and shattered stone and begin pulling it out of the way. They cleaned the streets little by little, inch by inch.
"Bzz bzzzzt bzzztzzt," said the fat bumblebee.
"Hmm, that's a good question. They have been very grouchy and exploding all the things. The streets have run red with their sticky stuff and neighbors have turned against one another. This will not stand," Vaeluthil said, her wings lifting her up until she could stand on the wall the encircled three sides of the Seaside Baronial Manor. The view was spectacular from her perch. "Going forward, those who act up will be restrained by the viney-vines and their guns taken away until they promise to be nice. Arm the satyrs with naptime arrows. I don't like making people take naps but if they wanna be naughty, they'll have to lay down like naughty children until they decide they want to be nice again."
"Buuuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!" The bee exclaimed.
"They may share in cookies and candy only once they behave. Bad children don't get treats and nice things. But we are forgiving, aren't we?" Vaeluthil sat down on the wall, swinging her legs and letting her heels rebound off of the cold stone. The bumblebee bobbed up and down. Companionable agreement, at least that was how Vael took it. "Very good. Go tell the others? We have much to do!"
"Bzz bzz!" Off the bee zipped. Vaeluthil slipped a hand into the pocket of her bag dress and withdrew a cookie. While Seaside wasn't officially hers for a few more hours, that didn't stop her from sitting on top of the wall while she ate the cookie and admired the view.
"I have a roof now," she said fondly and took a big bite.
"I think that it is time that we light Seaside up again. Not with blowy uppers or kaboom bangs but pretty lights. I do so like lights," she murred, flitting along the Seaside manor's perimeter. A cloud of lights followed after her and she directed them here and there until the entire manor's facade was covered in faerie lights. No tangled strings of lights for the wee fae, no, just the twinkling wisps that bobbed in place at her command. When the whole manor was covered completely she stood in the front yard and beamed up at it.
"It is very pretty, yes. I think I like it very much. The rest of you, go decorate elsewhere please and thank you," she shooed off the remaining lights that were hovering nearby and they zoomed out into the district to hang around anywhere they were wanted or needed. Vaeluthil wanted yuletime cheer, dang it, she was going to get it even if she had the drag the broken district kicking and screaming through the holiday.
"And now! Now we make cookies. Miss Pepper, we will be needing all of the cookies and all of the milk. Anyone who wishes to stop by and have some may do so at any time. Unless I am sleeping, then I do not want them to wake me. I get very grumpy when I get woken up and I would hate to have to break out my slingshot," Vaeluthil grumped at the thought, her hand touching the beat up slingshot looped at her hip. Miss Pepper, a young gruff wearing a sparkly pink ascot (Vaeluthil's colors of course), scampered off to do as her lady commanded. They were going to need a lot of milk if this was truly going to happen.
"Flutterers, make sure the yum smell makes it all over and that everyone knows they are welcome. Even the bad people so long as they leave their guns and blower uppers outside." Hands on her hips, Vaeluthil nodded and a wild pack of monarch butterflies took up the charge, flapping as hard as they could to let the smell of fresh baked cookies waft over Seaside. Satisfied with her work, the little tyrant happily bounced into the manor to embark on the Great Cookie Adventure.
Grawlump, grawlump! Loaded down with great felt sacks of festive red and green, the massive owlbear made for a plaintive companion as it lumbered along the boardwalk path, purportedly giving the smaller being by its side an unabashed earful about the current state of things. On the modestly busy boardwalk around them, shoppers and other pedestrians looked on with something akin to jaded apprehension as the pair made painfully slow progress.
For his part, Cael met the stares with a half-lidded (and half sober) one of his own, trying hard to smile through the ridiculousness of the get-up he’d been conned into wearing. The heavy red hide was trimmed in white fur, running head to toe save for the much darker brown leather of his boots and wide wooden buckled belt, making him appear every bit the woodland Santa Claus. The ‘beard’ itself was the truly silly part, a gaudy affair of poorly glued cotton balls kept in place by a too obvious pair of plastic hooks curling around his ears. His ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ came out as more of a lazily muffled Huh, huh, huh and he paused every now and then to reaching into one of the heavy bags tethered to his scary looking companion, retrieving brightly wrapped parcels to press into the hands of random strangers.
“Joyous Yule from the Princess o’ Seaside. Have some free stuff. I think it’s sweets…”
Who didn’t love ruining a good surprise?
“Joyous Yule. Free stuff. Compliments o’ the Prin-- Oi, is that ale? Share a nip, will ya?”
It continued on like that for hours, until his steps grew sluggish with a desire for sleep, and they were making their finally pass through some of the residences. He barely caught the hint of movement when I robed figure came rocketing out of the bushes with a curved knife and screamed. “For Gu-- ARGH!”
The great owlbear was quicker than it appeared, swinging its huge beak around and opening wide. By the time Cael could blink and take stock of what had occurred, there were little more than flailing robed legs sticking out.
“Ruffles, wait!” He barked the command. “Ya cannot do that! Let me get his socks first! No use lettin’ good socks go to waste. And no tellin’ the Princess, aye? We are goodness and light and all o’ that business.”
Who didn’t love Christmas socks?
"I do nae like this, Cael. I do nae like this one bit." Her mismatched eyes didn't pull from the window as she spoke but the slight shift of a heavy cloak behind her told her that the druid had heard her. Or he may have been sleeping. That was quite possible too. Vael hugged her arms around herself, squeezing tightly.
"I cannae feel the plants, they have gone to sleep under their cold blankets and I dinnae know if I can wake them up through all of Seaside. But some must rise, yes. We will drive the Winter away from here for those that must get away from the cold. Yes, this is what we will do. Are the cubby board cabinets full of the yums?" Vaeluthil finally turned away from the window. Already, the snow that had accumulated around the baronial manor began to melt and newly falling snow never reached the ground. Cael sat sprawled in an oversized armchair, his hood up and his arms crossed.
"Mostly'a sweets and honey, but 'm sure we can stock up." Beneath the shadow of his cloak's hood, his eyes were definitely shut but still he answered. Vael crossed the room and climbed up onto the arm of the chair. He cracked one eye open and peered up at her. She was like a little bird on a perch.
"Yes, we must. So the people can come to visit if they need homes. I do nae want anyone to freeze." She said with a determined nod.
"Nobody is going to freeze." Cael reassured her.
"Then let them come. I will stay little for a bit longer to help. And we will build persons of snow outside of the walls to welcome them in. And we will feed them. And if they need help getting here, we will help. And nobody will freeze." Her energy trailed off toward the end of her ramble, the glimmer in her eyes dulling. It would take quite a bit of work to hold off the cold.
"What're we going to feed them?" Cael asked curiously.
"Hmm. I would say, let them eat cake." Vael answered innocently, curling up on the arm of the chair like a content cat.
Cael chuckled and gave her red hair a ruffle. "Let them eat cake."
That reading could (Would, methinks. It's a fondness now.) be such a recreation or an escape was a far newer notion, discovered only within the last handful of months and only because the winter weather so often kept him remanded to the confines of the Seaside Manor. It wasn't that clinging wet snow and bite of the cold bothered him. One season was as easy to enjoy as another when you respected it for what it was, but not for his pretty little ward, who eschewed it as often as she could and looked for even the smallest reason for them to stay indoors or travel by horseless coach wherever they went (If she doesn't climb inside m' cloak, that is.). It had left him confined to the palatial manor house, which likely would have driven him to drink (More than usual…) were it not for the minimal staff and his ability to roam its halls mostly undisturbed or the sunbright smiles that reminded him that it made Vaeluthil Whitevale happy.
The reading of the books in the library had been her idea from the start, a childish desire to be read to and swept away into someone else's story that might have had as much to do with her age as it did with the circumstances of her upbringing that were slowly unraveling with the passage of time. To her it was a game and a comfort until it eventually became, to both of them, a near nightly ritual. That it would have lit a small spark of interest inside him was a surprise. But the more time he spent there, the more interesting things he found, and the more he was able to wonder.
You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
The irony of the statement wasn't lost on Cael, but the implication of the later half of the quote was dangerous in the tempation it offered. It hadn't been intentional at first, the way he had expanded the weave of air magic to include even clouding the Master's vision, but when he had discovered his mistake, the druid had... done nothing to correct it. His fondness for the little redheaded faerie grew by the week, if not the day, and his desire to keep her from certain forms of harm had been a source of strength as much of a concern. It wasn't, however, immediate. Vael's worry and anxiety were.
Changed as she had, with all the treats and frustrations that had come with it, the incident with the faerie trappers and the approach of the spring thaw had produced a concerning difference in her behavior. Cael being Cael, he just... alas, the poor man didn't know how to broach the subject. Or, for that matter, any number of subjects concerning the incident, her past, the future, her challenge, them.
Is there an us?
By the failing light of the library hearth he pondered all of it, a tankard of ale barely touched at the small round table beside is overstuffed chair. As it so often did, those thoughts turned back inward, to an old introspective of himself. The flip of another page brought him to: Though he travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or find it not.
"Ain't nothin' beautiful in me, by the Earth and Stars," Cael mumbled with a hoarse sigh. "Only beautiful thing I carry with me be that girl. Little ray o' sunshine is the only beautiful thing 'bout me." The words were for no one, for the ethereal, and found their end with a humorless chuckle.
"Annnnnnnd," a floaty little sing song trickled through the library's door to tickle at his ears, "the smile that you get when you think I'm not looking. The one that pulls your lips all crooked and makes your tickly hairs wiggle. And the furrow in your brow when you read me all the stories. And the safe cuddles that fix the bad dreams."
As she listed off the things she found beautiful about the druid, the little faerie flowed into the library in an ethereal cloud of honeysuckle scent and lace trimmed cotton, kept loose for comfort as bedtime drew near. Flouncing on her tiptoes as she carved a weaving and indirect path through the library, dragging her fingers over the spines of long untouched tomes until she reached the end of a shelf and reversed course to seek him at the hearth. With very little preamble, she draped herself across his lap (and by proxy across his book) in a boneless sprawl that allowed her to peer up at him.
"And how strong you are. And how gentle you are. And how much the earth loves you. And how much that Best Vael loves you. These are a few of my favorite thiiiiiiings." She trailed off into a little song she had heard on the radio, since the television still perplexed her of course, and beamed a pretty smile up at him. "Do nae move too much. Wiggles will tear the pages."
Placid moss green eyes lifted immediately at the sound of her voice, his mouth gone dry as she sang and realization dawned on him that she had heard everything he had said. Recent events had made him very concerned over which words he chose, as what she found flip and what she took to heart seemed to change within the blink of an eye. She was upon him before he could move his book and prepare to receive her, so she was gifted with a surprised 'ooof' and a squirm of his large frame before her gentle admonishment stilled him.
"Cannae have torn pages," he rumbled in replied, reaching carefully beneath her to the curve of her back and lift to retrieve the book. She fit perfectly into his big hand and the leatherbound tome was rescued, set off to one side for later entertainment. A small smile curved his mouth, crooked but endearing to his pretty ward. "Are ye done singin'?"
Vaeluthil was a wee conundrum that even perplexed herself. She couldn't blame the druid for his hesitance in how he approached her even if it gave her a case of the sads when he didn't quite know how to respond. The squeak issued from her mouth came with a brief wriggle against his grasp followed by a disappointed giggle, if such a thing was possible. "Mebbe I wanted t'lay on your book..."
As he freed the poor book from beneath her modest weight, she settled back down on his lap and did her best not to wiggle, her lip pinned between her bottom lip. She hummed a little sound as she considered his question and finally gave him a vehement shake of her head. "Never! We must always sing, even if nae anyone is listening. Things are waking up, Cael. That is the best time to sing."
"And why would ye want tae lay on m' book?" One dark blonde brow lifted in idle curiosity, the hand slipping from beneath her after a casual squeeze and allowing for both arms to loop around the faerie's slender waist. She wiggled and spoke of things waking up, and it was all the big man could do not to groan and make a comment as lewd as he was uncouth. It was funny how, despite the things that had transpired between them, he was still reserved (mostly) in such things with her. "Aye," he murmured. "Things're wakin' up but it does nae always require singin'. Though I may sing tae the earth their earth songs when it is warmer."
"Ya want the first answer or the because-y answer?" She asked innocently, offering him the two options without gifting him a proper answer right off the bat. The squirming was kept to a minimum, the need sated by the slip of thick arms around a narrow midsection. Her shoulders rose with the next inhale, dropping on the quiet huff of breath on its way out. She dropped her chin toward her chest, her bottom lip jutting out in the barest beginning of a pout. "Then sing your songs when the time comes, I shant sing mine anymore."
"Give me the answer ye want tae give me, mine Best Vael." It was a soft bassy response when his mouth was nuzzled against her temple and the spill of red hair, before the druid drew back to slip a finger under her chin, lifting her face up towards his. "Sing all the song ye want, little dove. I like yer voice and all o' its sounds."
"Because it had what I wanted and I had to take it back." It was a little bit of column a and a little bit of column b in her answer. The bottom lip quivered with the lift of her chin and she gently shook her head, his finger grazing against soft skin. "Nae, ye said it does nae require singing so 'm nae going ta. But when they call, I have to answer."
A frown settled across his wide mouth, the faint prickle of growing concerned jabbing up along his spin. The gentle touch became a more lasting one, his big hand cupping her delicate cheek and the pad of his thumb brushing over her lips. "Who's gonna call, little dove? Need I worry for ye?"
Quite like a kitten when it came to physical affection, she leaned her face into his hand and rubbed her cheek against his rough palm. Mismatched eyes shut as her mouth rounded against his thumb, trying to capture it between a grazing grasp of her teeth. "They. As they always do when the things wake up and the cold goes away, when the table turns and Light and Life reigns supreme."
She caught his thumb and it was hers for the toying, though the implication of the action and the worry of her words created a mixture of emotions. The big druid adjusted the redheaded faerie in his lap, drawing her smaller body closer to his as if that simple act was enough to protect her and settle her down. "I won't be lettin' anyone take ye away from me..."
There was a danger in realizing suddenly how much truth there was in that promise.
Her teeth raked against the rough pad of his thumb before relenting. Letting his finger go when he adjusted her, she wriggled against him and dancing her fingers across his torso until she found the edge of his cloak. Slipping a hand beneath, she peeled it away just long enough to wriggle beneath it and wrap herself up against him. For how small she was, she was awfully warm, though pleasantly so.
"Cael, sometimes... sometimes we do nae get a say in things. We must simply go."
He shifted beneath her again, but beneath the weight of her words, Vael's guardian was struck with a sudden need to pull her closer, arms in a far more possessive curl around her that threatened to steal her breath away. His words were soft against her cheek. Adamant. "Then I'm goin' too. Where ye go, I go, and I'll let nae a thing happen to ye."
As he crushed her against him, she sucked in a gasped breath, her lungs quiet in their vague protest. This close she could practically taste him, earthy comfort offering a heady scent to get lost in. It made her head cloudy or at least cloudier than the pull of Summer already made it. She squirmed in his grasp until she could sit upright properly at which point she set a delicate hand to each of his cheeks, her thumbs touching right at the corners of his mouth.
"Then come with me. If the Mean Face wins the challenge, come with me. We'll have the grandest of adventures and then when They call, it will nae be so bad to say fare-thee-well, yes?"
She shifted. He adjusted. He found her slim hands along either side of his face and he had arranged hers knees to rest on the outsides of his thighs. She straddled him and it let her face him fully, moss green lighting up my little increments with emerald fire. "I go where ye go, Little Dove o' mine. Ye say come, I come. Ye say follow, I follow. Fight, bleed, hold, help. These be mine things tae do. Call upon me and I'm yours."
There was no seductive or inappropriate intent in the way she sat upon him, no teasing or tormenting, intentional or otherwise. It was simply the easiest way to be close to the druid, seated as he was, and so she took full advantage of it. The green of his met the one green, one blue of her own gaze and she tipped her head to one side, an almost avian cant that let her study him from a slightly altered angle.
"So long as you're allowed." She said softly and leaned forward to touch a chaste kiss to the tip of his nose. When she sat back, there was a tiny glimmer of sadness that was easily shadowed by the warmth of her smile. "But for now, we look to the short term... like m'challenge. Next middle day of the week, the courier said. After dessert time but before bedtime."
"I dinnae care if'n I'm allowed," his lip curled derisively. Big arms pulled her in until they were chest to chest, his chin lifting against until the kissed tip of his nose touched faintly against the curve of her jaw. "I will nae abandon ye, nae matter who says what."
Cael felt silent after that, the words dying away with a feral, disgruntled rumble the change of subject saw him buried his face against her neck and heave a deep, masculine sigh. "I will stand as yer second and honor ye however I may."
"Nae matter? Mmh. Remember that," she murmured softly. It wasn't chiding so much as it was a gentle reality check. For all that the little faerie lived in a fantasy world of princesses and dragons and knights in shining armor, she was very aware of the real world around her. As he hid against her neck, her hands slid away from his face in lieu of tugging at his mouth to make him smile. Maybe next time, she giggled quietly at the thought and trailed one hand over his shoulder and up the back of his neck.
"Mine Bravest Cael, protector of Best Vaels. The Best Second and Lord of Honor that I could ever ask for." She mumbled soothingly, her fingers trailing up through the back of his hair with a graze of her nails against his scalp. "That is quite the gift you give."
"Ye mark m' words, Vaeluthil." He said them against her neck with a spill of hot breath against her sensitive neck. "Ye need me and I'll come fer ye. Every time. Call fer me and I'll come fer ye."
The gentle touched drew his head back again so that he could fix her with another look, moss eyes drinking her in in every subtle detail. "I'm nae much. Not even a real man. But I will serve ye as best I'm able, though I'm nae gift."
"Swear it? Swear it on your Word?" The touch of her hand against the back of his head tensed as she made her plea, her soft voice almost desperate to hear him say it. For all she had convinced herself that Cael was hers for the keeping, she knew how transient and evanescent things could be. They always left after all. Always. As he sat up, her hands slid to the sides of his neck, her thumbs grazing his stubbled jawline. It was then that her own expression hardened and she met his gaze with a fiery determination.
"Enough of that. Please? Please d'nae speak of yourself in such a way for you are mine and for that you are more than enough." She was stern in her tone, affecting a reproach better suited for someone far more grown than she. But little as she was, she pulled it off, scowl and all. Only for it to melt away as she leaned toward him.
"Please," a mumble into a kiss to his forehead.
"Please," another with a kiss to his nose.
"Please?" A final one ended with her mouth to his, soft but insistent as if she could convince him with actions if her words failed.
"I swear it to ye thrice upon all the Powers o' the Earth and Sky, Little Dove." She held him rapt in her dainty hands, his attention fiercely intent upon her face. The druid was too awake then to be anything other than serious. His own hands had traveled up along her spine, fingers gracing either side as they rose. "I will come fer ye. All the protectin', all the fightin' and bleedin', all the stories and piggybacks and little kisses. All o' it."
((written with Cael, thank you to him for being a part of it!))
“It’s nothing of import, Lady. The humans are riled up and when they get scared, they lash out.” Miss Pepper the gruff clopped a hoof against the entryway’s marble tile.
“What are they afraid of?” The tiny sidhe tipped her head to one side, spilling red down one shoulder. Pepper was quiet for a few moments before she chuffed a sigh.
“Those that are different.” The gruff answered.
“They d’nae want us here?” Though she knew that not everyone in the district had taken too kindly to the impromptu summer in the midst of winter impending, she didn’t think it should have been enough to try and run the little baroness out.
“No. But we’re safe here for the time being. Would the Lady like a nice cuppa?” Miss Pepper nudged the faerie with a snout to her shoulder. Vael stood still at the window, watching the ebb and flow of the people beyond the gate. Her teeth worried her bottom lip and her hands clenched and unclenched repeatedly at her sides.
“Aye, that’d be lovely.” She answered absently. The gruff’s hooves disappeared down the hall to the kitchen, leaving the fae to her thoughts. A sudden blossom of flame erupted on the other side of the wall and after a moment something trailing smoke was tossed into the courtyard. Though she couldn’t hear it, glass shattered against stone, spraying flammable liquid across the cobbles for the flicker of fire to catch and devour. A second, a third, and a fourth soon joined. One caught the wicker furniture upon which Vael was fond of taking afternoon tea. Fire ate at it quickly, leaving her aghast and transfixed upon the dancing flames.
“Lady?” Miss Pepper trotted back into the foyer and skittered to a stop when she saw the looming destruction in the courtyard. The stone manor wasn’t in danger but the growing fire was troublesome just the same. “Lady, come back from the window. Come along now, come along.”
Ushered away from the open window, she drifted in a daze through the manor’s depths as the gruff scampered off to rouse the druid from his afternoon nap. Barely there mentally even when Cael did rise and join them on the first floor, Vael swayed in place and hummed an eerie little song to herself while they decided what to do. They bickered and bantered and still she hummed until all at once she snapped out of her little trance.
“Accorded neutral ground.” She said softly. Miss Pepper and Cael both quieted and turned toward her.
“S’that, Little Dove?” He coaxed her for more information.
“Accorded neutral territory… down the way. I have seen it oft but nae have we gone in. Tis s’posed t’ be a sanctuary of sorts for… our kind.” And others too but at the moment she was a little short sighted.
“Then we go at once, no?” Miss Pepper asked.
“Aye. We go. There’s but one way t’ go though. We may have t’ fight.” Vaeluthil did not sound pleased. It was as she had told Cressida, all she wanted was her peace. “Call in the satyrs. Bring in the bees. I will take care o’ the rest.”
- Buzzeria B Sting
- Junior Adventurer
- Posts: 9
- Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:03 pm
- Location: Buzzing around town.
The bees cheered in the language of bees...
FOR THE HIVE! - FOR THE SWARM! - FOR THE HONEY!
Buzz, buzz... "But what of the smoke, our queen-in-waiting.. 'tis a dastardly miasma, that it is!"
The concern came from one of the larger bees, one with the title of royal adviser.
"THE HIVE DOES NOT TREMBLE BEFORE SMOKE! THE HIVE PROTECTS!" She raised her lance again.
FOR THE HIVE! - FOR THE SWARM! - FOR THE HONEY!
The swarms buzzing intensified.
"The summer brings warmth and growth and more nectar! We must protect the honey! The hive must protect its Baroness! The swarm will not allow fire to claim its land!"
The chubby bee buzzed about and nodded. "'tis true, milady! The hive will conquer this threat! A great conquest for us and a righteous death for all those who dare stand in your way!"
"Fear this smoke! Nay! I spit on it!" She did so just then. Spat, spat! This caused more buzzing from the bees.
"Soldiers! See that the Baroness is well protected!" Buzzeria dropped from her stacked crates and stood among her fellow bees. "Those who die will do so in glory! And those who live on will remember their names!"
"FOR THE HIVE!" She swung the Queenstinger, the mightiest lance of the Queen's royal armor. The very tip of it oozing a devious venom which could quell any foe! Or that is what the tales say.
The buzzing reached its apex as the bees feverishly cheered,
FOR THE HIVE! - FOR THE SWARM! - FOR THE HONEY!
"Bring me the HOSE!" She ordered with pride. A flurry of bees began tugging a simple watering hose over to her. She'd take hold of it, bring it above her head, and thrice shook it! This brought continued cheers of buzzing from the bees.
Buzzeria unleashed her wings and zipped up into the air. The swarm did as instructed and parted ways to help protect the Baroness, while the more elite squadron followed after their queen-in-waiting.
The dreaded smoke created a quagmire of confusion for the squad, though they did their best to keep close to the queen but were unable to perfectly track her movements. Buzzeria, though kin to the bees themselves, was a special breed of forest-touched. While this stunted her communication with the squadron via pheromones, it nevertheless allowed her the use of both vision and hearing within the smoke... vision which had been rather diluted due to it, but still proved to be better than nothing.
The flickering of fire through smoke guided her easily enough, as well as its heat. Her rapidly beating wings did well enough to clear out some smoke, which allowed her companions a moments respite from its confusion.
"It is like taking candies from a pink skinned child!" She turned on the hose. The sudden spray caused her to jerk back some, but she found footing as the water began to do its part to put out the fire.
One fire down, a few more to go! Buzzeria gave the hose a tug to gain a little more slack. "The smoke outside the walls are the most dangerous.. it is there we venture next! For the glory of the hive! Once it is gone then there will be no stopping our defense!" She said to the elite bees, who buzzed their praise of their queen-to-be and her glorious example of courage in the face of danger.
FOR THE HIVE! One said.
FOR THE SWARM! said another.
FOR THE HONEY! they all came together in unison.
Wings unleashed once more and flight taken. The queen-to-be and her marry bees zipped out of one smoke cloud and into the other as they dropped from the sky and down past the walls of the Seaside manor. Buzzeria saw through her multitude of vision the licking flames in the distance, but - gasp - was stopped by the hose! It seemed that it wasn't large enough to go the distance. She tugged and tugged and tugged.. but it just wouldn't budge!
"Mayhap there is another source of rain and water.." She spoke aloud. The bees with her buzzed from the safety of the smokeless opening their queen-to-be made with her still beating wings. "It very much is our only option.."
She buzzed about as her mind raced for an answer. Ah-ha! There may very well be another mighty hose near by, but the pink skin who owned it was grouchy and she didn't really like him.. but he did give the swarm and her candy once, so he could not be that bad. Mayhap she will ask him for help!
"To the elder pink skin! The one with drooping flesh!" She said aloud and turned about. ".. Now which way is the way to the elders home? Ah-ha!" She looked up. If she did not know where then the answer was to simply fly into the sky and out of the fog! Genius!
.. and through the fog a glint of steel came. She hadn't seen it, but its bite had been enough to jolt her attention from her merriment of a well thought idea. Buzzeria's body jerked forward, then back as the wielder of the spear attempted to draw it back toward him. Her hard exoskeleton made it difficult and caused her to be pulled along with it.
The queen-in-waiting cried in pain as white ooze spurted and seeped from her body, then more as another glint of light saw a second spear pierce her thorax.
Her wings beat in panic. The smoke around her lifting enough for her assailants to be seen. Terrible, terrible masks! She screeched in fright and began to swing her spear left to right in a pained attempt to escape. This did not work, as the second spear wielder jerked his weapon forward and up to cause the girl to be raised off her very feet.
The elite guard did all they could, but heavy jackets prevented their stingers from doing much to their queens assassin! It had been Buzzeria's own Queenstinger, the lance of the royals, that finally saw retribution as she stabbed it forth and into one of the spearmans neck. Its poison mattered little as the pierce itself caused a spray of blood and a paniced grasping of the neck as the man crumpled to the stone street.
Buzzeria pulled her lance free and tried to do what she did once more, but a the second assailants foot met her mid and forced her back as his spear ripped from her body; with a chunk of chitin along with it. More white ooze bellowed forth as she staggered to to keep standing, but even that became no more than a dream as the spear once more drove in to force her to her knees.
The Queenstinger fell to the ground and she looked up in anguish. Her attacker had no interest in pulling his spear from her again and instead released it. Buzzeria watched as he pulled an axe from his side and took swing. She released a pained breath and looked down to the ground. Her wings no longer beating and the smoke began to cover once more.. but for a moment she witnessed her fallen subjects who had given their lives to protect her.
And that was the last thing she saw.
“Might I offer you another cookie?” Asked Contessa Genista, an olivine haired dryad with golden skin. A (literally) willowy arm reached over the table.
“Nae.” The baroness shook her head. Genista’s hand retracted slowly.
“Mayhaps a hot bath?” Miss Pepper the gruff suggested.
“Ooo, yes! With the bubbles!” Genista nodded.
“Nae, no bath. No bubbles.” A frown had pinched her mouth into a tight bud, her brows knitting with equal parts fatigue and dismay.
“Then a nap after tea. That’ll do you some good.” The dryad smiled, hopeful.
“No nap. I am weary and tis nae the kind that sleep can fix.” Vael admitted, setting a delicate teacup upon its saucer in front of her. The spread across the table was the picture of springtime cheer, shades of white and yellow accented by soft greens. The little sidhe had dressed in airy pink, soft layers of tulle wrapping her up in a cloud of whimsy. But it was a facade that cracked all too easily.
“Wish ye to talk about it?” Miss Pepper prompted softly.
“Nae. I am going to go for a walk,” she declared, pushing her seat back from the table. The wicker groaned with the motion then relaxed when she rose. The others at the table rose with her, watching as she abandoned the tea party in favor of the cobbled path around the side of the stone manor. Despite summer’s rise, she was exhausted and it showed in every step.
“Dove?” Cael’s strides too were slow but they were much longer than hers, eating up the distance between them as she rounded the manor into the back courtyard. The oak trees were budding, spreading a shaded canopy over the fringe and partially framing the view of the sea beyond the sharp cliff face that abruptly ended the property.
“Aye, Cael?” She answered without slowing.
“Y’ alright?” He asked once he caught up. The height difference between the druid and his faerie charge was stark but his shadow was a comfortable one. Ever a creature of the sun, his was one of the few shades she could bask in.
“I am nae too sure…,” Vaeluthil admitted. He was one of but a handful in which she could be completely candid. She felt the brush of his rough hand over her hair, smoothing the fiery waves and soothing the little fae. “I grow weary.”
“What of?” The druid asked. He offered no band aids like the others, rather he sought to get to the core of the issue.
“Everythin’. The city, these stone walls. The people, the dreadful, dreadful people and the way they treat their neighbors. The way they kill each other. The way they took Buzzeria from me. I tire of the charade of sweet little Vaeluthil. A delicate flower so easily trod upon. They think me a child, a stupid little girl. I have played pretend for much too long but even still They call.” It was an ever present call, one she had denied for years now. It was loud, so terribly loud in both her head and her heart, thrumming its drumbeat through her veins with every squeeze of her heart.
“The Wyld, aye?” He inquired. By now she had told him much of it and that which she hadn’t, he could pick up through her fitful mumblings when she slept. Bits and pieces that put the puzzle of her past together little by little. Her wandering slowed to a stop but she didn’t look up at him. Softly she nodded.
“The table will turn again before long, Summer will begin to wane. How long can I last before I cannae ignore their call any longer?” It was a matter of blood, of duty, of birthright. Her self imposed exile in Rhydin could only be forgiven for so long.
“However long ye wish. Should the time come ye change yer mind, I’ll there every step of the way.” Gentle in his vehemence, it was a comforting reminder that even if she didn’t have Rhydin, she would always have the druid. Vaeluthil leaned into the crook of his arm and sighed against his chest.
“It changes with the tides, it won’t be long before we’re both swept away,” she admitted. Cael nodded.
“I know it.”
“Just so long as y’ know.”
The little Faerie in her big stone manor had been (and continued to be) the driving force behind Seaside's perpetual summer. Even as she became more and more reclusive, closing the baronial manor to the public and discontinuing her public tea parties in the courtyard, she continued to safeguard the district against the bitter chill and incessant snow. What the people didn't realize was the toll that it took on the tiny Sidhe.
Listless and restless were an odd contrast that led her to wandering the halls of the Seaside manor in short bursts, drifting from room to room in search of something she would never find within those four walls. It was ultimately what led her to stand in the middle of the upstairs hallway in nothing but a swishy nightgown with her hands on her hips and her toes on the edge of a beam of moonlight that cut in from a nearby window.
For a druid, the change of the seasons were a transition. The cycle of life and the natural order panned slowly across moderations and extremes with the passage of days, and Cael was always well aware of the changes even though the pretty little Baroness had seemed to be a staunch opponent where their home was concerned. The big blonde man himself was used to only the extremes of nature and in other people, haven't preferred his own short life be filled with constants he could control, like himself.
My, how times had changed.
He have never concerned himself with the notion of human emotions or at least allowing himself to become fully immersed in the full spectrum at any significant degree. Much to his curiosity, and to his horror, his time with Vaeluthil seemed to have changed that. As his heart had warmed to the petite faerie woman, so too did it to the feelings that surrounded the form their life had taken together. And as Vael become more withdrawn and restless, her big protector had grown more concerned. It was he who was usually the silent one, having to be tugged from his own thoughts and inner distractions by the bubbly brilliance of her presence... something that was sorely lacking in recent weeks. It didn't surprise him to find her there, having abandoned her bed to stare at nothing in particular.
The familiar warmth of his cloak wrapped slowly around her, his arms lingering at her sides with the druid within the warm folds of wool as well, offering her some unspoken solace. He didn't yet know what to say.
The soft exhale of her breath was all that said she registered his presence. She seemed hesitant though as if the silvery light was keeping her from progressing further and as she tucked her elbows in to let him wrap her up, she rocked back on her heels with a little shake of her head. "If ye follow the moonlight all the way across the sea, you'll end up amongst the Hunt. S'a bridge, you know?"
Gentle fingers rose along the outsides of her arms and settled their familiar weight on her slim shoulders. Tall as he was, Cael was hunching over to bury his face against the wealth of hair atop the crown of her head to speak softly. "Would ye mean ta follow it, Little Dove?"
Tonight, after dinner and dessert and second dessert and a bath, her hair was a clean smelling spill of liquid flame. Sweat and heady, like she always was. Beneath the slight pressure of his face, she shook her head. "Nae... y' do nae follow without an invitation lest y' have a wish for death."
"But ye wish ta go there." It was pure speculation on his part, but the slim beauty was longing for something. He could only guess as to what. Callused fingertips stroked her skin tenderly, gentle touches meant to ground her to the earth, to the moment, and to remind her he was there. "Or ye want somethin'. You have been very distracted lately. Taxed."
"Sometimes..." She admitted. Turning on a heel she faced him without looking up and instead set her forehead to his chest. Her hands lifted to smooth over his torso. "I want t' go home... it's been much too long here. I keep thinking that maybe... maybe the right ones will come calling but they never do. Always the wrong ones."
The hour was late and the big druid had gone to his rest in nothing but his simple underclothes, so when he hands touched his torso, it was bare skin and muscle she felt. His own hands eased along her shoulders to her neck and then beneath her jaw, lifting her face gently to look at his in the small shreds of light the window provided. "I'm here, fer what it's worth. And, Little Dove, I will follow ye wherever ye wish ta go. I am yours."
Looking up without resistance, she her face was half cloaked in shadow with the window to one side of her as it was. She was tired, that much was readily evident. Even their little exercise in hospitality for her two year mark as baron had taken the wind out of her. "You are worth so much, mine Cael. So very much. It sustains me even when I tire. And someday. Someday we'll leave here and I hope you will go with me."
"Wherever ye'd bid me go, Vaeluthil, I would walk with ye. I would have yer back, stand at your side, and be the warmth in yer bed e'ery night. Don't ye doubt it." Big fingers, surprisingly gentle, stroked the sides of her face. "I would be yer knight, I would."
"I know... and for that I adore y'." She reached up to touch his jaw, a tender show of affectionate despite her relatively absent demeanor as of late. Her hands slid then down his chest to wrap around his waist so she could hug him tightly. Looking back up once more, she tilted her head to one side, the moonlight shifting accordingly. "Do y'wish to be a knight, Cael?"
"I wish ta be yer knight," he told her without a moment's hesitation.
"Bein' a knight is a lot of work, mine Cael." She said, terribly serious about it all. There was no teasing, no sing-song tone. Instead she was as still and silent as the grave as she looked up at him. "Are ye sure?"
"I am no stranger to work, Little Dove," he promised her and, to add some gravitas to the moment, dropped to one knee to put the both of them eye to eye. The druid appeared serious enough, his broad face framed in the moonlight. "I would be yer knight. I would be your whatever ye wish or need me ta be."
"Okay..." She said slowly but it wasn't a confirmation so much as an acknowledgement. He knelt and she took his face in her hands. For a few moments she studied him, the face she had looked up to every single day for over two years straight now. "It's a forever sort of thing... did y' know that?"
"Forever with ye?" He asked softly, without touching her with his own hands. His emerald green eyes were intense.
She nodded ever so softly in response to his question. "Forever is a very long time, Cael."
Slowly, the big druid leaned forward, until their noses nearly touched. His voice was a quiet, hoarse whisper as if his tone meant to touch her in a way his hands had not yet done. "Forever with Vaeluthil Whitevale is nae long enough. I did nae think I would ever hold someone inside mine own self like I do ye, night and day, in all things. I am nae a man, or whatever I am, who claims ta understand such a thing as love, but I can think of no better word that describes ye in my own way. Ye are fer me, Vaeluthil. I am fer ye. I would be yer knight. Fer always."
The little Sidhe held her breath as he leaned in, perfectly silent as he spoke. When he was done, she exhaled softly and pulled her hands away, instead turning one palm up to the druid. "If y' so swear on both Name and Power to be mine until your last breath..."
"I swear it," he told her in earnest. " 'Pon mine own Name and mine Power, that I am yers 'til Death take me and even then beyond that."
"Take mine hand, Cael." She said softly.
He did so, lifting one large hand and placing it atop hers in silence.
"If y' so swear 'pon Name and Power that by life and limb y'll follow me from here to oblivion then I name thee mine Knight, Cael the Brave." Still holding his hand, she touched with her free hand to each of his shoulders and then to his jawline. "You are mine Knight and I am yer Lady."
"I Swear it, mine Lady Dove." His chin tipped into the touch of her hand, eyes alight with emerald fire as he lowered them to the floor at her dainty feet. "I Swear I am yers in all things."
The moonlight had faded, passing by to grant another window it's argent path across the sea, leaving the Faerie and the Druid to linger there in the dark hall until she touched the underside of his chin to bid him to rise. "So it is Sworn, so it is Done."
Laughter and fond farewells filled the halls and grounds of the Seaside Baronial Manor until the dawn’s first light. The long standing lady of the house was on her way out and though it was the transient way of a fickle sport, the staff was sad to see her go. There would be no tears though, Vaeluthil’s last orders were firm, and thus they rang out her reign in grand fashion complete with mead and music, sweets and songs, farewells and even fae fireworks contained just over the manor’s courtyard.
The cobbles had long since been cleaned over the fae blood that had stained them, leaving the imposing stone manor nothing short of pristine for the incoming Baron. The gardens were lush, full of springtime life and protective plants that stood watch along the tall stone walls around the courtyard. The trees were flowering, lending fragrant shade to the long path leading to the manor itself. Of course… the dungeons were a lost cause, shut and locked as if that would be enough to mask the fact that there were several malingering skeletons left within in the wake of the city’s riots years prior. Those souls were luckier than the ones tossed off the back cliff though Vaeluthil couldn’t be sure just how much of those remains could be found in the surf below anymore.
Just the same, she would be leaving the manor in even better condition than when she received it so long ago.
Where will you go?
Penny, Knight of the Wyld, had posed such a simple question only a night prior. And though the cadre of wildlings had been insistent that they would follow no matter where their Lady went, Vaeluthil could do little to stop the worry that she may very well lead them astray.
The key in her grasp could be the figurative key as well to preventing that. The forethought of a Knight with more wisdom than the Lady herself. Her thin fingers tightened around it as if it might stave off the chill that settled in her bones as she read the card attached to a midnight blue bouquet delivered by a sharp eared delivery girl only moments ago.
Condolences on your loss.
Summer may have been fast approaching but Winter’s chill refused to let go of the little faerie as she said goodbye to one home and hello to the next.
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