The Song of Ceber

Argument: Ceber enters Valayis and with a small contingent loyal to Queen Fyrness challenges Jeena to battle.

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Ceber in the Cave

Now, cunning Ceber       in the cave
Stood near the entrance, watching the valley below.
Her sharp eyes saw       the stone wall.
She wondered at its purpose.
To foil humans?       Hornets would fly over.
Spiders would climb.
“As for myself, I would just knock,”
Ceber said.

As she said this she became aware
Of a shape beside her.
A masked god or goddess overshadowed by gloom.
Wearing a white       ceramic mask
A jeweled-wasp of faded color.
“Speak goddess,”       Ceber said,
“For I need to know       if you be friend or foe.”

“Neither, Ceber, Carapace-Breaker,
I am but an enemy of your enemy.
The shallow       clockwork goddess
Has defeated the dragons,       O Dangerous Day!
And while distracted,       she will not dither.
Her thoughts will return to you soon enough.
Finish your business       and then forget your friends
Or she’ll come for them in time.
Hark! You shall bear three wasplets.
All daughters       all great fighters
Or all dead       if she finds them.
The goddess’s reach is long
But she has made enemies and is alone
Without allies.”

“These are dark tidings,” Honest Ceber said.
“To raise my daughters myself,
So as to endanger them,
Or to give care to a stranger
And never to know them.
To discover each of them
Or to dismiss them.
Is there another way?”

The shadow had faded
And Medy had returned.

Keeping her dark revelation to herself
She listened to Medy's news
And plotted her plan       against Jeena Kinslayer.

After the sky lamp fell
And the wane moon began to ascend
When the firmament glittered in heaven above,
Ceber went down to the gate in the dark
And knocking roused the guard.

Tinella, daughter of Casta,
A young wasp       youthful with yearning
For bloody battle       bellowed down
“Who walks at this hour?
What weary       walker is out now?
The hour is late,       you can’t be honorable.
Only spies and fiends       stick to shadows.
Come into the moonlight if you are honest.”

So Ceber stepped into the pale light saying,
“I am but a forest ant,
Traveled from Necco some two countries distant.
Never have I any quarrel with wasps
That I recall.       I consider them cousins.
Indeed, I was saved by a wasp once.
I had fallen into the Vada
Having no wings I almost drowned.
But a dauber pulled me out.”

In the bad light dark Ceber did
look something like an ant.
And Nella       noticing no wings
Took her at her word.
Ceber had entered Valayis!

“I’ve never seen an ant before,”
Nella said       descending on diamond wings.
“Cousins! I can see the resemblance.
The cave ants who slew my mama
were said to resemble       wingless wasps.”

“Verily,” Ceber said. “And if vested with true sight
I would say you are Casta’s child
For the resemblance is beyond cousinship.”

Nella narrowed her eyes, “How could you know that?
A stranger, an ant.       If you are a cave ant
I shall slay you       where you stand.”

“For your sake       hold your sting,”
Ceber said dryly.
“I’ve made a habit       of honesty
And I will tell you       the truth.
I am not an ant       but Ceber
Daughter of Tanis Dragon Half.
Now it is my turn to ask.
Do you stand with your mad queen
Or with your community?”

Tinella Sword-breaker       took a step back,
“Hawkwasp! I stand with my mother’s friend,
For though I can’t remember her
I have heard       her judgment was sound.
The Queen’s judgment runs wild.
A ruler who is insane       is like a rabid dog
The community is safer with her dead.
So, yes, Ceber,       I will stand with you.”

Honest Ceber inquired of Tamara
Of her linage, station, and degree.

“She is the only daughter of Anlay,
A brave wasp       a limber locust killer,
Half velvet ant,       half gall wasp,
My vote goes to Tamara for queen
A great leader!       She marshals the guards.”

“Guide me to this great       gall wasp.”

Tamara was in the guard house
Her lieutenants all around
When Ceber walked in the company cried,
“What is this!”

“Nella, if I’m not mistaken,
This is the Queen’s hawkwasp,”
Brave Tamara said.
“The outcast who troubles our monarch’s mind.
Who travels the Queen’s dreams       and drives her mad.”

Vanlay Sabersting,       stepped up,
“Why wait?”       she shouted above the din.
“Fall on her and rend her to pieces.
Save the Queen       return her sanity by slaying
This monster who stalks her sleep!”

“You fool!” Tamara bellowed.
“You’d kill our one chance at survival?
With or without our honest friend
Jeena's insanity would remain.
Every year she increases in degrees.
The path is set,
She’s moving invisible pieces.
The game is nearing its end.
Great Hawkwasp of the gods! Hear me out!
Queen Jeena killed your queen and friend.
Return the favor!       You’ll find her and her followers
In the throne room where Shnon ant-queen died.
Where Fyrness Wasp-Queen died.
My guards and I will escort you
So that none will get in your way.”

“Bold words!” Ceber laughed. “Friends,
Long ago I fought       for Fyrness.
I fight for her again.
Let the usurper fear.”

Vanlay cursed and said,
“Upon my honor,       honorable hawkwasp,
My uncle is up there with the Queen.
He’ll die protecting her and so will I.”

Vanlay charged, but her speed and skill failed her.
Ceber sidestepped       and cleaved Vanlay’s head
From her body       with a single bloody bite.

“I am earnest,” Ceber said.
“Do not doubt       a dauntless warrior
Whose résumé is       written in blood.”

Insanity-struck Jeena heard of the trouble from Sidney.
A guard, she fled the hall when Vanlay died.
Her loyalties lay       with the Queen’s lot.
She was a spy       who spoke for money.
A ring could sell       a kingdom
aught she cared.
Amethyst, amber,       golden amulets,
Treasure-spires into the sky       stocked her dreams.
Greed unbound.       Gold-givers
Were her only friends.

With pretty words       she preached
And Jeena rose       enraged.

“Damn miserable guards. Assemble those loyal
and send all the traitors to the auto-da-fé.
Capture or kill them all. Slay the hawkwasp!”

The word went out       and the warriors assembled.
Jeena’s wasps blocked off the palace
From Ceber’s advancing       armed army.
A stand off ensued.
Both sides reluctant
Sure as it was
Sister would end up       slaying sister.

Ceber strode       to the center of the line.
The opposition shook       to see her.
The demon hawkwasp       who had worried on Jeena’s mind.
They wondered at her crystal voice
That struck them       like thunder.

“Wasps of the Kuroni!
I am Ceber Starlight       Murderous Hawkwasp
Of Comely and the Kuroni!
Queen Jeena has done       me disservice
Taking my good name,
My queen,
And my country.
And I hear she has my wings
Placed like a plaque       above her pillow.
And she wonders why I haunt her dreams!
For these wrongs I could claim her life,
But I will forgive all
If she returns my wings.
If not–
I will destroy all       who dare defy my wrath.
Answer now Queen! Answer now!”

“Damn you, Ceber,” the Queen roared from behind
her troops. “Your wings are mine by right. I won
and you lost and you will lose again for this time I
will see you burn. One thousand golden cups for any
who brings me the hawkwasp’s legs. A thousand
more for her head!”

Shouting this she retreated to her throne.

“Who thinks cups are       coin for consciousness?”
Ceber said,       “Step up or flee!”

For a second it seemed       none would take the challenge,
But then Sidney shouted       and started the charge.
The rest followed,
Bloodline met battle line.       Both bathed in blood.
Twisting together       thunderous slaughter.

Ceber came direct.
Those that faced her had seconds
To realize their mistake
That they were about to be hit
By a mighty wave
Before being       borne away.

Sidney, servant of silver       slew many
But kept an eye on Ceber.
Eager to collect,       she snuck and circled
Wishing to get behind       the hawkwasp
So to sting her       secretly
To spirit away       several of Ceber’s limbs.

Nella saw this and blocked Sidney’s way.
“Sneaking spy,       stay so I may slay you!”

“Your head is worth nothing,       Noisome Nella
But I accept the challenge.”
So Sidney Silver-Eye said.

They clashed       coming together
With the lust of bloodthirsty lovers
Seeking painful bites       and poisoned penetration.

Nella scored early, clipping off a wing.
Sidney quick to return a favor
Caught a claw       in Nella's carapace
Drawing bright blood       brilliant.

As the night gained       the two fell to grappling,
Destroying their wings       in the dirt.

Then Nella bit down       and blinded Sidney
In one eye.

Screaming Sidney       lashed sideways
Catching her sting       in Nella's hide.
The pain drove Nella's body rigid.
She bit down, killing her foe,
But knew herself extinct.

The two thrashed       in the mud
Until they became still       ere the sun’s light.

Ceber on the steps       to the stony palace
Turned to find       Tamara, True Warrior.
No common soldier,       she said,
“We’ve won,       wondrous news, eh, Ceber?
None can stand against you!
I see them break before       you bite them.
They flinch and step back       then flee.
Surely even the sea       would swim from you!”

“The war’s not won yet,       wild Tamara.
There’s still the mad queen
And whatever servants       or sycophants she has left.”

They entered together       and found themselves
Confronted by Nikki,       Fyrness’s devout daughter.

“Honest Ceber,” the princess begged,
“Why have you       brought war here?
Is the cost of all our sister
Worth Jeena’s life?
If it is so,
I will stand by you,
But I cannot confess       to certainly, Ceber,
Or I would have killed Jeena years ago.”

Tamara spoke, “If you had acted years ago,
None would       know death today!
You might be queen tomorrow,
But today you are a coward.”

“Nikki,” Ceber said, “you are not a war girl
And your people will soon need you.
Go to them.
Neglect neither side.
I will finish here.”

The princess nodded.       She knew the price
for failing to appear.

Strong-armed conqueror       Ceber Carapace-Breaker
Came into Jeena’s hall in victory
With Tamara close behind.

Jeena stood upon her throne.
“I knew you’d come back, Ceber. You’ll not get
forgiveness from me.
Banished! Banished! Banished!
For killing my son, my Therdy. Well, you can’t
come back. My mind is made up. There shall be
no repentance, no indulgences. You shall die alone.”

“Poor Jeena,
Where is the wasp       I want to remember?
Who stood with Fyrness against the hornets?
Sure she is not       this fat simple thing.
Jeena! I beg you!
To kill one in such poor health
Is distasteful.       Don’t die in disgrace.
Honor our history!       Honor Fyrness's memory!”

“Fyrness! There was a queen. A Good Queen!
Where did she go? She told me Ceber had
found a place that wasn’t so dry. In Valayis or
in some north place. Ceber found— Ceber found…
Ceber, Ceber… CEBER YOU DIE NOW!”

She stepped down from her throne.
Her spidery legs       spoke
With cracks and she fell.
A fall any wasp       could fair,
Yet so fat was she,
She toppled headfirst.
Her weight crushed her head
Leaving not Jeena
But a blank-eyed       imbecile.
Nothing could compel       Ceber of Comely
To leave her in that state.       She stung Jeena
In mercy.

Such a sorry       shameful end.
My only hope is that
Fyrness found Jeena as a friend
In Ja-Kara Zăd
Instead of a foe.

The two went to tell       their people the tale
And to decide       the descent of power.
Either Fyrness’s daughter Nikki
Or True Tamara       Ceber's friend.
They offered queenship to Honest Ceber,
(Who had regained her wings
Useless though they were)
But she refused
Knowing a monarch with a curse
Would bring anarchy in the end.

Retiring to the caves and Medy
She soon laid three eggs
And sent Medy to make arrangements
For her children’s protection.

The Song of Ceber

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