So Loitus talked well into the evening, telling the young queen about where she came from and what had happened. The little queen was surprised and confused about the whole thing, finally asking why they couldn’t just go back.
“I could explain everything,” she said to Loitus. “I am the queen after all.”
“I wish it was that easy,” the older Apis said. “If I go back, then I will be sentenced to death.”
“They will have all the proof I need to say that I kidnapped you.”
“They wouldn’t listen to me? But I’m the queen!”
“Don’t say that too loud. There are plenty of people that might take that as an opportunity of their own,” Loitus hissed.
Loitus sighed. “I’ll tell you later. But for now, we have to make our way to the capitol. You can at least learn about the world that way. I think that’s what I’m meant to show you.”
“To see the world?”
“Yes, little one. Now there’s one more thing I have to tell you.” Loitus felt strange acting as a mother, but it was all she could do right now. There was only one place for them to go right now. “Since I’m not your mother, I can’t name you.”
“You can’t?” the little queen asked.
“Well, according to Apis tradition, only the mother can decide on a name.”
“So, what will I be called?”
“Well, we are in a special circumstace, so how about this. I’ll just call you ‘little one’ for now, and meanwhile, you can find your own name.”
“You’ll let me name myself?” The little queen was surprised. “That is strange, but I will think about it.”
“Think of a name that means something to you. You’re in a special case. Not everyone gets to chose the name they will be called for life,” Loitus explained.
“Well, I am special. I am the queen.”
“Even though you’re the queen, you have to be humble. Good queens are humble and kind.”
“So if I am humble and kind, I will be a good queen,” Little One said. “I want to be a good queen and help people.”
Loitus smiled. “That’s what we need at Hive City. One day you’ll return there and make it better.”
The pair spent their last few days speaking to the healers at the Corona abbey. Little One was very curious about their healing arts, and Loitus was glad to have her learn something new. Both of them attended the lessons together, and soon they knew how to cure even the smallest cut and illness.
“May Mantodea guide you in your journey,” Sister Aloqui said to them as they prepared to leave. “I give you this to assist you.” She handed the pair a cloth bag not much bigger than Loitus’ upper hands put together. Inside was a few vials of healing liquids, some bandages, and a little prayer rolled up on a sheet of parchment no bigger than her pinky.
Loitus bowed low in thanks and Little One, confused at first, finally copied her.
“Why do we bow?” Little One asked as they made their way to the dirt path that lead toward the captiol.
“Bowing is a way of showing thanks as well as respect,” Loitus explained.
“So if we bow really low, it means we’re really thankful.”
“That’s right,” Loitus said with a smile. “You’re a fast learner.”
As the pair traveled, Little One learned many things. The passed markets and homes all along the way. Most of the markets were run by Rhoda; it was the growing season, so many were trying to sell their wares before heading off to their hunting grounds for the summer. At one market, an old Rhoda man had fresh honeycomb, still dripping, in a jar.
Loitus almost had a heart attack.
“How much for some honeycomb?” she gasped out. Little One looked at her, confused, but was amused as well.
“Ah!” the man exclaimed. “It’s rare to see an Apis traveler! Where are you headed?” He reached in the jar and extracted two large pieces, placing them on a paper plate. “That’ll be five Combs.”
Fishing in her bag, Loitus extracted a five-Comb piece and placed it on the table. “These are so good. Thank you!” She handed one to Little One, who sniffed it, and finding it interesting, took a nibble. “We’re actually headed to the capitol,” Loitus continued, her mouth full of honeycomb.
“You’re still a ways off,” the man said. “Traveling with your Rova here?”
“Rova?” Little One asked, her face smeared with honey.
The Rhoda chuckled. “It means ‘little traveler,’” he explained. “All of our children get that nickname on their first migration.”
“Rova…” Little One turned the name over in her mind. “I like it! That is what my name is now, Loi-loi.”
“Rova?” Loitus said, licking her fingers. “That is a beautiful name.”
“Mister, can I keep the name?” Little One asked, ever so politely.
The man laughed. “Of course you can, Rova. It’s perfect.”
After they had stocked up on a few apples and peaches, they thanked the man and headed on their way. But, before they left, Rova bowed so low that Loitus thought she might fall over.
“Thank you for the name, Mister,” she said with a huge smile.
The man laughed heartily. “You’ll use it well, Rova!”
Loitus frowned. The last thing they needed was unwanted attention. She paced over and grabbed Rova’s wrist and pulled her away.
Rova was confused. “Did I do something wrong, Loi-loi?”
Realizing she was holding a bit harder than she meant to, Loitus released her grasp.
“Remember what I told you? We have to be careful when we travel. We don’t want to draw any curious people.”
Rova frowned. “But the man was so nice.”
Loitus stopped when they were out of earshot from the man a bit father down the road. She turn and knelt next to Rova and put her hand son the young queen’s shoulders.
“I worry,” she said, plainly. “If you were to get caught or kidnapped, I don’t know what I would do.”
Rova blinked. “You would worry?”
“I haven’t known you for long, but I care about you, Rova. You have to be careful. We can’t let anyone know who we really are.”
“But I’m a queen,” Rova frowned. “Why should I be afraid?”
Loitus sighed and picked up Rova, slinging her up on her shoulders. Rova gasped at being so high, but soon she realized it was a fun place to sit.
“We have to be careful,” Loitus said. “You are more precious than all the Combs in the world, and not just because of that. Please remember to be careful.”
“Okay, Loi-loi, I promise.”
“Why are we sleeping outside instead of in a hive?”
Loitus looked at Rova, a bit surprised she’d asked. But, thinking back on it, she should have expected it. Rova was curious about everything.
“Well, we could make a hive, but it would take a long time,” Loitus explained. “If we sleep under the stars, it doesn’t take long to pick everything up the next day.”
“What if it rains?”
Loitus thought about the for a bit. She didn’t really have an answer. Looking around, she noticed they were walking alongside a forest.
“Do you see those Giant Rhubarbs?” she said, pointing to a bush with leaves so big they could easily be a roof. “We can hide under some of those.”
“Woah!” Rova exclaimed, racing over to the leaves. Loitus smiled, slowing to a stop as the young queen raced over. “These are so huge, we could use them as umbrellas!”
Loitus laughed. “Before umbrellas existed, people used to do that.”
“This is so cool,” Rova said, sticking her head between the leaves.
Loitus smiled and made her way over to the giant leaves. The sun was getting high in the sky, so now was a good a time as ever to have a little something to eat.
Rova leaped out, spotting the wrapped package Loitus extracted from her bag. The bread was a bit dry, but it was thick and full of nutrients. It was sweet, but not sweet enough to meet Loitus’ liking. She didn’t complain, though. It was either this bread or nothing.
Groups of people passed by ont he trail, mostly Rhoda’s heading to the capitol. There were a few Atta in small groups, but, like Apis, they didn’t usually venture from their Hills. Thinking about this, Loitus became a big angry. Atta had much more freedom than Apis, she felt.
Rova must have felt her anger, because she paused and looked at her older counterpart.
“What’s wrong, Loi-loi?” she asked.
Loitus blinked, then looked at the young queen. “Oh, nothing,” she lied, not wanting to explain it right now.
The pair watched the groups pass by for a bit, munching their bread. Coronas from the abbey they stayed at passed by and they waved in greeting, recieving a return wave. Even an Ocellus passing through town made his way by them in the road.
As they finished their last few bites, a group amid the crowds made Loitus feel uneasy. It was a rare site to see Apis out of Hive City, but that wasn’t what really worried her.
They were dressed all in black, indicating they were special forces, usually emplyed for dangerous assignments outside Hive City. These days, they basically didn;t exist except for the Flyers that left to collect nectar.
But seeing them here could only mean one thing. They were looking for her, and by that token, also looking for Rova.
“Get down,” Loitus hissed, pulling a rhubarb leaf in front of them. Confused, Rova obeyed, ducking behind her guardian.
“They couldn’t have gone that far,” one of them said.
“Brother Bartholomew said they’d only left a few days ago,” the second said.
A third pulled the other two aside. “Don’t talk so loud about it,” she hissed. “You don’t know who’s listening.”
Only a few people passed by them as the talked off the side of the path. The road was mostly empty now, but Loitus couldn’t hear what they said, but they seemed to be very interested in finding her.
“Who are they?” Rova asked.
“They’re from Hive City. They seem to be looking for us.”
“Oh then they can take us home!” Riva exclaimed. Without waiting for an answer, she emerged from the leaves and walked straight toward the three agents.
“Hello!” she exclaimed, waving. “Are you from Hive City?”
“There she is!” the first hissed.
Without waiting for he to get closer, the first raced over and grabbed her, picking her up bodily.
“Loi! Loi!” Rova screamed. “Help!” She kicked and squirmed trying to get away.
“Stop wiggling!” the second growled. “We’re under orders to get rid of you, and a little wiggling isn’t going to save you.”
“Get rid of her?” Loitus gasped. Without waiting a second longer, she raced out of her hiding spot and made a b-line for Rova’s captor.
“There she is!” the second shouted. The third raced toward Loitus, attempting to capture her as well, but Loitus was ready. She swung her bag around in an arc, hitting her pursuer squarly on the side of her face. The special agent, not expecting the attack, fell backwards onto the grass.
“It’s going to take a lot more than a bag to stop me,” The first shouted. He frowned and motioned for the second to take care of Loitus while he tended to his business.
Rova watched as her captor extracted a small needle from his pocket.
“Just sit still, little queen, while I send you to the great honeycomb in the sky,” he cooed.
Rova screamed again, kicking with her whole body. She felt her foot connect with something in the back of the man’s thorax and heard a crack. He doubled over in pain, dropping the needle, which Rova stomped on.
Loitus struggled against the second agent while the third sat up, rubbing her head. Thinking quickly, Rova grasped a rock from the path and hurled it toward the second agent. It landed with a loud thunk on the side of her head, instantly sending her to the ground.
Loitus blinked. “Did you do that?”
Rova nodded and raced over to hug her guardian.
“Now you see why I told you to be careful,” Loitus said, kneeling next to the little queen. “Let’s get out of here before they all recover.”