The Song of Ceber

Argument: Medy enters Valayis alone to see what the situation is there. He is met by Tamara, the Sergeant of the Watch. She takes him before Queen Jeena.

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Five: Valayis


Helpful wasp, truthful Medy
Came to the city Valayis
A traveler
A stranger to that place.
Looking for shelter,
Like many wasps       without true maps.
Visiting for       a very short vacation
From their vast       turbulent troubles
Then on the road again
Or in fair flight       to faraway
Sundry lands       to see strange sights
To be again the noble stranger,
A fellow without nation
Wanderer,       wary earth-stepper,
Who knows delight in the quest,
The endless journey,       faraway from home
Friends with whatever companions they meet.

Since Ceber left, her people built a wall
Nine spans in height.
South a portal door faced
And here noble Medy scratched.
He could have flown over,
But as the saying goes,
A wasp who will       fly over a wall
Is a wasp       worth slaying.

The portal door       was pulled open
And Medy faced the city guard.
Brave Tamara at their head,
A shield maiden       She looked as a warrior should.
Yellow and black       with windowed wings,
Armed only with her sting,
The city guard loved her
As daughter to mother
Loyalty unbounded,
Better wasps you could not find.

“Who are you, stranger,
To be knocking at our door?”
Flame-spreader Tamara asked.
“I see by your cold colors
That you are one of those dauntless dauber wasps
Of a tribe that rarely travels.
We are suspicious, see,
For our Queen had a vision
That an old enemy shall return
And so I need to know your business.”

Medy rebuked her,
“My Queen Sochek,       knew your Queen Fyrness
From wasplet to wasp       yet you worry on her servant?
My name is Medy of Terbeir.
Long has Sochek       Mud-Mistress
Spoke of the Kuroni’s honor.
How they helped us       against the hornets
At the Battle of Dora.
What changes has wrought our friendship unfit?
I am to see you Queen, not her underlings,
Or is custom as dead as friendship?”

“No, good friend,”       Tame Tamara said.
“I do not want to be rude.
You may see our Queen,
But fierce Fyrness       is dead.
Her friend Jeena, horse-slayer
Is queen now, and quite the monarch!
But lo! She is not welcoming of late.
A dark vision cast her gaze to the void.
And all her subjects as well.
Did you see a hawkwasp on your travels?”

“On my travels, no,” Medy said,
“But there’s a matter for your queen.
I will dispel her worry
And void her void.       Restore her value.
Dark times should be quick to flight,
Let the sunshine through
And never darken another doorstep.”

Tamara nodded in agreement and let him into the city.

Blood-spangled Jeena had brought the ant’s
throne to her room
And sat where       the ant-queen Shnon had set
Her spoils decked the room
Top to bottom       Ceiling to floor.
Rubies, crusted cups,       turquoise trinkets
Human helmets       and fair-folk knives.
Not a space       didn't shine with silver.
Not one place was bare.
Long retired from combat,
Queen Jeena’s spoils were from Fyrness’s
Treasure hoard
And Jeena rolled in it.
Wallowed in it       like a beached whale.
She’d grown fat       forgetting her son
By forgoing her       alms-day fast.
Everyday she feasted on fowl
Brought by the town.
And day by day       her girth grew
Until her wings could not lift her
Nor barely her legs.

Then a whisper came and became her mind.
That Ceber would return       for revenge.
So when black Medy       was brought before her
She half-thought Ceber had come to call
Before fact killed belief
And Medy was Medy       once more.

“A dauber in my domain?
Are you from Terbeir or from Seret?
No never mind that! Have you seen a hawkwasp?
She would have been heading south from here,
toward Terbeir down the Run River. I fear she
may wish to return.”

Medy spoke,       casting Tamara a questioning look.
“I’m from Terbeir       that town on the tributary.
The only survivor,       since it was destroyed
By the volcano.
I myself would have perished if I were not away.
As for hawkwasps,
I did see one,       a season or two ago.
Drowned in the Vada.
She had no wings and must have not been able to escape.”

“I’m glad to hear it, for she was a mortal enemy of mine.
I know Terbeir and its destruction saddens me. Let me
offer my condolences. Now, this drowned wasp—
she couldn't be alive, could she?”

“None,” Medy said. “Our doctor
As skilled in healing       as any heroic physician
Could not help her.”

“You lie! For I have seen this wasp upon my ever waking
hour and often after I’ve drawn to the slow kingdom!”

Tamara ventured, “Milady,
Sometimes       the slow shades infect dreams
As dark visitors       drawing drama
But their power is       temporary trouble.
And fades.”

“A shade only steps on sleep, but I’ve seen her in the
morning on my doorstep where I can see her clearly
like a needle in my eyes.”

“I speak true,” Medy said.
“I do not       speak to deceive.”

“Damn the truth! My eyes are worth more than a thousand
truths that ever leapt from mandibles and my counsel better than
that too. My mind speaks prophecy and that damned wasp
will kill me like she did my son. In cold blood did she creep
into his chamber while he slept. She stung him and killed
him! My only child, dead before his prime. Now she sits out
there in the desert waiting to get into my city. Tamara! We
need to build the wall higher!”

Lady Tamara said gently, “Milady,
The Wall cannot stand higher,
The sand will       not support it.
There is no bedrock.”

“Don’t make excuses. You’ll build the wall until it crumbles.
The wingless hawkwasp will come over it if you don’t and
she’ll kill us all. Your duty is to your queen, so do as you’re
told and build the damn wall up and up until you break your
back. Die serving your queen or go die. Leave me and take
this dauber with you. Perhaps he can build a better wall than
you idiots.”

They left,       Tamara terrified,
Not for herself but for her people.

“See now what troubles our times,”       Tamara said.
“Our Queen has lost her mind.”

Medy thought and whispered,
“Why don’t her aides       disbar her?
Are her ministers as mad       as Her Majesty?
It is the duty of the deputies       to solve disputes.
If they don’t, the people’s anger eventually will,
And that leads to protests and instability.”

Sad Tamara sighted       and said,
“Her aides are friends and family all familiar,
Growing as grossly fat       as she.
The crown is crooked       Soon the city will fall.
That is my fear.”

“Is there no brave warrior to displace her?”
Medy asked, though he knew the answer.

“Once maybe.
You heard her talk about       a hawkwasp.
Once this hawk was       hero to us.
A shield maiden,       special, brave.
Bent-sting Jeena hated her,
With the hawkwasp       watching Her plans against Fyrness, well,
Jeena wouldn’t have dared       anything at all.
Though I was too young to remember
My mother tells me       that malicious Jeena
Sent her son to the heroine’s bed
And as the hawk slept       he sought sex
To defile her, to burn her reputation,
But she awoke and slew him.
Jeena enraged convinced Fyrness
To banish the brave       battle-wasp
Setting the theater       for her base treason.
Now you tell us the hawk is dead.
It was the hope of my mother’s
That the warrior would       reclaim her wings
From where they hang over the Queen’s bed.
But if she’s dead, it falls to me
To do the deed       to the death, if I must,
And to the death it surely would be,
For I don’t doubt my ability,
But neither do I       doubt Jeena’s
Sniveling sycophants       starving for power.
They’d have me killed       for my trouble.
A dishonorable death.”

“How many Kuroni think as you?” Medy asked.

“Many, my guard, my friends
And most of the town grows uneasy at her madness.
It won’t be long       before battle.
I fear I will be       first to fight.
But you’re only a stranger      without stake in this stage.”

“No wasp knows where       his grave will be,”
Medy said.

“Truth, I fear,”       Tamara said.
“Come, the Queen might be rude to guests,
But I am not.
Dine with me and my guards
At our barracks.       They’re not beautiful,
But they’re home.
Young Tinella is a fine poet.
She’ll tell us a tale.
Something good on such a winter’s night.”

“Nay, nay,” Medy said.
“Your monarch has made it very plain,
I must be moving on.”

“Very well,” Tamara said.
“It hurts my heart       to hear that,
For it reflects badly on us.
However, I understand it.
I wish you well       in your wanderings.”

The Song of Ceber

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