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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Helpful wasp, truthful Medy
Came to the city Valayis
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
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
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.
“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
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.
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,”
“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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