Rova could barely keep up after almost a half mile of running. She wished she could fly, but her wings were not even half the size they needed to be to take flight.
Finally, out of breath, the collapsed on the road, attracting the glances of a few travelers. One stopped to help her up, but Loitus was already there, scooping her up like a pile of leaves at the end of the sunny season.
“Are you alright?” Loitus hissed, taking flight. The extra weight made it hard to balance, but she didn’t have far to fly.
When Rova woke up, it was storming outside. Over their head was a tall roof made of wood and sealed with beeswax. It smelled like manure (which made sense, seeing as it housed a few Puller-Beetles). She lay on the floor, a large scratchy, but warm, blanket draped over her. A small lantern glowed next to Loitus, illuminating her facial features.
“What happened?” she asked.
Loitus looked at her and smiled. “Glad you’re awake. You passed out on the path.”
“Where-” a loud crack of thunder interrupted her and she squeaked in fear, squeezing next to her guardian. Loitus smiled and rubber the little queen’s head.
“Why were those men after us?” she asked after a few moments. Another roll of thunder echoed against the walls, this time not as loud.
“I’m not sure, but it sounds like they were trying to get rid of you.”
“Get rid of me?” Rova gasped. “What does that mean?”
Loitus looked at her, trying to decide whether to tell her or not. She decided it was best to go ahead and be honest with her rather than hide it.
“They mean to kill you.”
Rova’s eyes widened in fear. “Why would they do that?” she whispered.
A loud thunderclap reverberated the walls making her yelp. Loitus put an arm around her to keep her warm and hold her close.
“I don’t know,” Loitus answered truthfully. “But they won’t be going anywhere in the rain. When it rains, Hive City basically shuts down.”
“Why is that?”
“Apises can’t fly in the rain, and holding an umbrella while flying super fast doesn’t work really well.”
Rova giggled, imagining the sight.
“You best get some rest,” Loitus suggested. “We still have far to travel after the rain lets up.”
Rova yawned, not realizing how tired she really was. She nodded and settled down next to her guardian.
Loitus looked up at the rickity old barn’s cieling and sighed. She never asked for this adventure. It had been forced on her by some unknown benefactor. She looked at the lanturn, it’s flickering light casting shadows across the straw-strewn floor.
“There isn’t much I can do about that now,” she said to herself. “But if things are going to change, I have to get Rova to the capitol.”
The thunder rolled outside and rain battered the walls of the barn. The Puller-Beetles grumbled, trying to get comfortable.
Loitus’ eyelids suddenly felt very heavy. Not fighting it anymore, she curled up next to Rova and entered into dreamland.
The air was still damp as the pair traveled the empty road. After the rains, it was always a bit bare on these roads. Residents of Terrasect still preferred to avoid the rain - a habit they’d kept from their days on Earth.
Rova stuck close to her guardian, fearful of the lack of sun. Though Loitus assured her that nothing was amiss, the young queen still was wary of the changing weather.
The capitol came into view just as the cloud began to clear. The sun peeked out from high in the sky, indicating it was close to midday. Loitus pointed it out and Rova smiled widely.
“It’s so big!” she exclaimed. She looked at Loitus. “Have you ever been there?”
“Actually, no I haven’t. Only the super rich people get to go there from Hive City. It used to be a vacation spot for Apises, but the last ten years have been…restrictive.”
“What do you mean?” Rova asked, frowning.
“Well,” Loitus wasn’t sure if now was a good time to talk about all the politics in Hive City, so she pushed it away again, “I’ll tell you later.”
“That means the answer is long and complicated,” Rova stated with a nod.
“What do you mean?”
“You say ‘I’ll tell you later’ when the answer will take a while to explain.”
“How-” Loitus thought about it for a moment and realized Rova was right. “Well, I still will tell you later.”
“Yes, I promise.”
They arrived at the capital just a few hours later. By then, the clouds had cleared up, and the sky was so blue, Rova asked if she could roller-skate on it. Loitus blinked, not sure what that meant, but found it amusing all the same.
“That means it’s really blue and flat so it’s good for roller-skating,” Rova said as if it were common knowledge.
Loitus just laughed, and Rova found herself giggling, too.
The city was huge. There were hive-homes and Atta hills all over the place, not the mention wax-and-plant structures for Corona and stone-and-leaf houses for Ocellus. Everywhere Loitus looked, there were different species all around.
There were Puller-Beetles helping people pull large carts of goods, and smaller Puller-Beetles that other rode on. There were stalls made of tree branches and rope for selling goods, and fancier beeswax structures for more permanent stalls. Fish, nectar, vegetables, and various other foods were being sold at the stalls as well as crafts of various materials.
There were an awful lot of Rhoda as well, which was to be expected. They made most of their money from traveling markets. Loitus wondered if they would see any familiar faces.
She looked around, wondering that, now they were here, what she had to do. They best option right now, would probably be to find lodgings until something happened. But, they couldn’t look for a nice place that might draw attention.
They found a small inn that seemed to be habitable, if not run down a but. It was staffed by an old Ocellus that didn’t seem to like his job very much. He was small and squat, with a sun hat and a large mustache, which was odd. It seemed fake to Loitus, but she didn’t question it.
“A room for two,” she said, putting a handful of Combs on the desk. The man looked at the money and handed her a key.
“Second floor, up the stairs to the right,” he instructed.
“Not much for customer service,” Loitus said, under her breath as she lead Rova away.
“Are you sure they went this way?”
“I’m pretty sure.”
Three Apises, dressed in all black, continued toward the capitol. One had a bandage on her head and another walked gingerly, as if it hurt to breath.
“You’d better be. These two have given us enough trouble already.”
“Stop complaining, Arinin,” the one with the head bandage said. “At least your can see properly.”
“At least you can walk properly, Krix,” Arinin snapped.
“Okay, you two, stop bickering. We’ll need to work together to get this done.”
“You may be the one in charge, Porsic, but that doesn’t mean you’re the most capable,” Arinin growled.
“Okay, seriously, stop,” Krix frowned. “Complaining won’t get us anywhere. We can talk to a medic in the city.”
Arinin grumbled something unintelligable, but said nothing else. The three looked a bit comical, sporting various injuries, but anyone actually telling them that would meet a rather untimely end. Despite a strict no-violence policy in Hive City, those laws didn’t apply outside of the hive.
The three trudged along, daring anyone to approach them. But, no one did, and no one asked questions. The less they talked to people the better.
The arrived at the capitol at a much slower pace than they had originally hoped. The sun was already setting when they oozed their way into the city. The most capable of the three, Porsic, went ahead to find a place to rest for the night. They needed some place out of the way that didn’t ask questions.
“That mustache doesn’t look real,” Arinin said only loud enough for Krix to hear. Prosic paid for their rooms and tossed him a key.
“That hat’s a little weird, too,” Krix added.
“You two stop whispering and go get settled. Do what you want until morning. We’ll have a meeting when the sun rises,” Prosic commanded.
“Yes, sir, ma’am, sir,” Krix said with a bit of sarcasm, which Prosic just rolled her eyes at.
“I’m headed to the healers,” Arinin stated.
The night air was cool, but the bio-luminescent street lamps blocked out most of the stars. Arinin might have enjoyed it more if his thorax wasn’t in so much pain. He trudged to the nearby healer, indicated by a few street signs and the yurt covered in vines. He knocked, hoping the place was still open.
The door creaked as the Corona inside peeked out.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“I need a bit of medical attention, Arinin managed to get out. It hurt even more that his adrenaline had finally worn off.
“Do you know what time it is?”
“Yeah, I do, and it’s a bit of an emergency.”
“Fine, come in.”
Arinin nodded his thanks and stepped carefully as to not cause himself anymore pain.
“Take your shirt off.”
Arinin obeyed, observing the Corona woman gather supplies to perform his healing arts. He grimaced on noticing the extent of the injury.
“You should have come to me right away,” she said.
“I was a bit far away for that.”
“You’ve only just arrived?” she asked. “This injury is a bit worse than I expected.”
“Can you fix it?”
“If I do, you’ll have to stay here for two days to make sure it’s healing correctly.”
“Two days?” Arinin exclaimed.
“Don’t shout. My other patients are asleep.”
“I don’t have that kind of time!”
“Well, I can set it, but you risk it cracking again if you move too much in the next week.”
“So I can either stay here two days or walk carefully for a week,” Arinin grumbled.
“Sounds about right,” the healer woman nodded, rubbing a sticky substance on his cracked thorax.
“Are you comfortable?”
Rova nodded and looked at the cieling in silence as Loitus tucked her in. The older Apis watched her for a moment, then spoke again.
“Is everything alright?”
Rova was silent for a moment more, then turned to look at her guardian. She opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it again.
“It’s okay, you can tell me,” Loitus said.
“It’s just, why are those people wanting to kill me? I’m…it’s not like I did anything.”
Loitus sighed, trying to think of a quick answer.
“You promised you’d tell me,” Rova pointed out.
Loitus pulled up a chair and sat on the opposite side of it so she could rust her elbows on the back.
“There’s quite a lot to tell. Are you really ready for it?”
Rova nodded and adjusted herself so she could see her guardian’s face in the light of the bio-luminescent lamp on the desk. The street lamps outside cast additional shadows on the walls of the room, flickering blue and green.
Loitus smiled and began her story. There was so much to tell: the way Hive City was laid out, the status of the government and how to queen is treated, and the working situation. Though Loitus was worried Rova might not understand most of it, her fears were unneeded. The young queen seemed to grasp all of it just as well as anyone else three times her age.
“So they want to kill me so they can keep their position,” Rova said when Loitus was done explaining. “My mother is just a figurehead?”
“She is much too old to rule. She’s only there to keep the city from rioting. But there are many people that know what’s really going on.”
“And that’s why the Wings was made,” Rova realised.
Further explanation was cut off by the sound of talking in the hall. Loitus silenced her and peeked through the hole in the door.
“What is it?” Rova asked, sitting up.
A chill ran down Loitus’ spine as she realized what was going on.
“It’s them,” she breathed. “It’s the Apises in black.”