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Tell It To The Bees

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Fero told people that he found the cave that he used to call his home all by himself. The truth was that he found it because of the bees.


“The bees?” said Lem.


Fero felt his hackles rise, ready to yell, but Lem’s face was open and curious, and Fero's anger melted away like fog under sunlight.


“Yeah,” said Fero instead, “the bees showed me where it was.”


“Can you… can you talk to them?”


Fero made a face, thinking for a moment. “Sort of. They don’t really talk, not like we’re talking, but we can understand each other enough to get what each other means.”


Lem’s eyes widened further. “I see.”


Lem looked far too amazed to actually see, but that was okay. Fero kind of liked that Lem thought he was impressive. No one had ever thought that about him before apart from himself.


He also wasn't quite sure how to put into words what it felt like to speak to the bees as he carefully moved their hive from where it was almost falling out of a tree to a nearby, much more stable,hollow log. How they’d buzzed around him like a living cloud, the pitch of their hum rising and falling as he went, guiding his movements. How he’d blinked as the cloud of bees parted, startled to find he’d spent almost the whole day moving something only a few feet.


They’d guided him away from their hive, their pitch rising into a questioning tone as they rose up, making him step back again, and again, and again - until Fero had reached the edge of a glittering cave. The cloud of bees had waited, bobbing in the air before they turned back the way they had come. Fero had settled in for the night and never really saw any reason to settle anywhere else. It felt like a fair trade - one home found for another.


He went back occasionally, to see how the bees were going in their new home, telling them about his day, the little things he’d seen far away from their hive. They hummed in response, listening closely even if perhaps they didn’t quite understand the words.


When he left with Lem they were the only thing that he said goodbye to. A few bees settled on him as he spoke, and he could feel the vibration of their wings against his skin.


“It’s not forever,” said Fero, “I’ll see you again.”

There were a lot of beehives as they got closer to Velas, tiny boxes made to look like the houses of the people who harvested the honey. Lem eyed Fero, radiating nerves.


“It’s just so unfair!” said Fero, “It sucks that they’re trapped in there.”


“They’re not trapped,” said Lem, “They’re just bees .”


“So?” said Fero, “That’s their honey and people are just taking it.”


“I’m sure if the bees were really unhappy they’d leave,” said Lem, “After all, there’s plenty of forest for them to go to.” He took Fero’s hand, tugging him forward. “Come on, I want to get to Velas before nightfall.”


Fero let himself be pulled, looking back over his shoulder at the small village of hives. The bees were quieter, but maybe Lem was right, and they liked the quiet sort of life. Lem squeezed his hand, jolting him out of his thoughts. He looked up at Lem, and Lem smiled down at him.


“Come on,” said Lem.


Fero rolled his eyes, adjusting his grip on Lem’s hand. “Yeah, okay, fine.”

Lem wasn’t there when Fero saw the bees of Nacre, which was probably for the best. He would have either been too distracted to pay attention, or he would have been too scared by their strange blue colour to stick around long enough to really look at them.


Fero wasn’t really supposed to be looking at them either. He was supposed to be paying attention to the zoo, which he was pretty sure was some kind of weird bribe attempt. The animals were cool, wild new creatures that Fero had never seen before, but then he’d caught a flash of blue, buzzing around a flowerbed, and bent close to look.


The bee paused in its work, its tiny head tilted up to study him for a moment before it returned to it’s work.


“You guys aren’t so different here I guess,” said Fero, to the bee.


The bee hummed, buzzing to the next flower in the patch. Fero sat cross-legged on the cold stone ground to watch it, the background hum of the other bees pushing out his busy thoughts, making his muscles uncoil for the first time since he’d gotten on that stupid boat.


Distantly, he could hear someone calling his name. Fero blinked, the buzz fading to the back of his awareness.


“Thanks,” said Fero, his voice a little rough from disuse.


The bees hummed in response, a few of them making a lazy circle around his head before they returned to their flowers.

The Rosemerrow bees were the same, or, Fero assumed they were. He hadn’t paid too much attention to how they’d been before he’d left, so many years ago. He barely remembered his family’s old hive, tucked behind the woodshed where it was protected from the winter wind.


Fero dug around in his pack to find some fruit, setting it out in front of the hive. Only a few bees emerged, prodding at the fruit before they disappeared back into the dark hive.


“It’s for you,” said Fero, “You can just have it. No payback necessary- I mean, I guess apart from you guys already kind of working here.”


He waited, pulling his coat tighter around his shoulder. He glanced behind him, back towards the house. He shouldn’t leave Lem alone too long there, who knew what sort of embarrassing thing he’d say.


There were a few bees settled on the fruit when he looked back, their hum quiet but steady. Fero smiled.


“You’re welcome.”

There were a surprising amount of bees at the Mark of the Erasure, buzzing around the flowers that bloomed in Samol’s presence. Fero lay in the soft grass as he waited for Samol, watching the bees trail lazily from one flower to another, telling him the long story of how he’d come to be there.


A few of the bees broke off from the others, buzzing as they settled in the small plants that had begun to grow through his hair.


“Huh,” said Fero, “I guess that means the rest of you don’t really care about hearing the rest of what I have to say?”


“They do,” said Samol from behind him, “They just got work to do while they listen.”


Fero turned, careful to keep his motions steady so as not to disturb the bees in his hair too much. “Usually that means people don’t want to hear me talk, but they don’t want to tell me that.”


Samol gave him a crooked smile. “Not always. Sometimes it just means that folks have a lot to do.”


He let out a grunt as he sat down on the grass across from Fero, their knees almost touching.


“Go on now,” said Smaol, “we both like to hear you talk, me and the bees.”


Like the flowers under Samol’s hands, Fero’s heart bloomed.

Fero remembered that, as he watched the bees at the Last University. They, at least, pretended to listen to him as he talked. He carefully wrapped blankets around their hives, trying to protect them from the bitter winter cold. People said the cold would break soon. He just had to keep them going for a little longer.


He could hear a distant buzzing, distorted by the wind, and pressed further into the forest, a little further than he would normally journey. He hoped it wasn’t a big hive - he was out of blankets and his coat wouldn’t give much protection from the wind. It certainly didn’t feel like it was helping him.


The wind fell as he stepped into a clearing. Fero looked around, his eyes widening as he took note of the small flowers trailing across the soft grass, their delicate petals undamaged by the winter winds. Fero flexed his hands, feeling coming back to them now that he was out of the wind.


In the hollow of one of the trees sat a small hive, the bees there working as industrially as though it were spring. Fero sighed, sitting down against the tree’s trunk to rest a moment.


It was too bad, he thought, that he couldn’t just stay here with the bees, away from the Last University’s rules and pressures. There must be others who felt as he did, people who wanted to leave, who only stayed because they had no other choice. It was too bad that they couldn’t come here too, to get away from the Last University, if only for a short time. Fero tilted his head up, looking at the trees above him, sheltering the clearing from the winter winds.


Perhaps he’d come back here, and build something.

After everything, Fero found his way home again. His cave was just as he remembered it, if a little strangely shaped on the outside. The small furniture he had made for himself so long ago was still there, dusty but unharmed by the changes of the Rhizome.


He settled his things back where they used to belong, and stepped out to see how the rest of the forest was doing. The stream was in the same place, although it turned into a waterfall as it went over the edge of the branch. The small cluster of fruit trees was still there, although they seemed to have tangled together into one big tree. As he reached the tree to get a closer look at it's strange new fruit, he could hear a faint buzzing.


He followed the sound, winding a path down the branch until he reached the hive. It was bigger than he remembered, much bigger, and so were the bees, bumping against him as he approached the hive. Fero ran a hand along the soft fuzz on the top of their heads, laughing as they butted up against his hand. The tenor of their hum rose and fell, a greeting he hadn’t heard in a long time.


Fero felt his eyes prickle. "Well hey there big buddy."


He looked back up again at their new home, taking in all the ways in which it had changed, and all the small ways it was just as he remembered it, still their home, just a little different now, as they all were.


One of the bees butted up against his hand again, and Fero laughed.


"Told you I’d see you guys again."