You join us, fair reader, in the kingdom of Anthophila. What once was a peaceful and prosperous kingdom has now turned to despair; ravaged by a giant Beast who descends upon the land, decimating homes and pillaging gold. The Queen, pre-empting further attacks, sent out her strongest, most fearless knights to try and defeat the monster. All left with strength in their heart and courage on their side but none returned and each time the Beast came back stronger and more destructive.
Following the latest and most brutal attack of them all, the Queen called upon her final and most honourable knight, Sir Apidae. Sir Apidae had travelled far and wide upon many quests for the Queen, always returning with gold from villages grateful for their saviour. Sir Apidae reached the towering hall of the castle, his armour glinting in the sunlight streaming through the windows that lined the walls, and knelt before his Queen.
“Sir Apidae,” said the Queen, “thank you for returning my call.”
“I am at your disposal your majesty.”
“While you were away the Beast ravaged our kingdom once more. I am afeard to say you are our last hope.”
“You can count on me your majesty. I shall return with the Beast’s claw in hand or die trying,” replied Sir Apidae.
The Queen merely nodded her head in gratitude, for the latter was what she feared the most.
Come daybreak Sir Apidae rode out, his trusty sword at his side. He travelled the main road out of the city, weaving between houses and waving you youngsters as he passed by, all the while wondering if he would ever see their smiling faces again. As he reached the outskirts the damage from the Beast began to show; rubble strewn across the road, whole houses raised to the ground and families rummaging to recover anything from the pile. This sight caught Sir Apidae off guard, he knew the damage had been great but had not seen it to this extent himself. He fought the urge to stay and help the families rebuild their lives; that was not his task, and it was his chance to save further heart ache.
As he headed out of the city the road became rougher but the path to the Beast was clear, for in its wake it left only destruction. Sir Apidae had heard rumours that the Beast resided in a cave not far from the neighbouring village and so he travelled on until he reached an inn; the thatch mid-repair, clearly the Beast’s doing.
“Dear sir,” called Sir Apidae to the worker on the roof, “know you the whereabouts of the Beast?”
The worker paused his toil and looked down upon Sir Apidae, “why, pray tell, do you ask?”
“I am Sir Apidae of Anthophila, first knight of the Stenotri and here by order of the Queen to hunt down the Beast and rid our kingdom of this scourge.”
“Begging your pardon brave knight but you are quite dim to attempt this feat alone,” the worker replied. “Many have tried and all have failed, what makes you so different?”
Sir Apidae was taken aback by the abruptness of the young worker, “I am an experienced warrior, having ridden many times into battle and each time returning unscathed. I am a great mediator, often negotiating treaties on behalf of her majesty bringing about peace between lands, but most importantly…I am the only one left.”
The worker stood aghast, “the only one?! Well sir, say what you need and I shall do my best to assist you, for you are our last hope.”
“I just need to know the way dear friend. Rumour has it the Beast resides in a cave near here.”
“That I can confirm to be true. The cave is carved into the face of the cliff overlooking the village, only a few miles out.”
“Thank you for your assistance, I shall away and leave you to thatch your roof in peace.”
“But Sir, before you pass on, my brother is the most skilled armorer in the whole kingdom. I beg of you, let me call upon him to create for you the best defence possible against the beast.”
Sir Apidae glanced down at the armour he wore. It was old, tarnished and bore the scars of the many battles that came before. If he wanted to defeat the Beast he would need the best defence as skill alone was not enough. Sir Apidae agreed and the worker took him to his brother who worked through the night crafting the strongest and lightest armour the knight had ever seen. It gleamed bright gold, striped through with inlayed black onyx.
The armour complete, Sir Apidae rose at dawn, the better to catch the Beast unawares. He scaled the cliff with ease, his new armour being much lighter than that he had used before. He climbed on and on, through the clouds until he reached the top where upon he found a thicket woven of vines and thorns. Sir Apidae drew his sword from his side and hacked at the thicket, battling his way through until…
The Beast was awake but not yet aware of Sir Apidae’s presence. For this he was grateful; the element of surprise was always an advantage. He crept up as close as he dare before he took his sword and thrust it into the hide of the Beast. A roar of pain burst from the mouth of the beast and it swung this way and that, swatting for Sir Apidae. The knight retreated, his sword lodged with that first striking blow, but the Beast had him in its sights and began advancing. He looked behind him and could see the cliff edge and knew then the Beast’s plan. Sir Apidae gathered the last of his energy and leapt at the Beast, scratching and clawing at it until he was thrust aside and toppled over the edge.
“Ow! Little fucker”
“What?” asked Steve. At least she assumed it was Steve, it was quite difficult to tell each other apart under all the gear.
“One of them got me on the neck! I thought the netting was supposed to stop that.”
Sarah pulled her netted hat around to find a small hole in the weaving. She sighed and pulled a patch from her pocket, carefully sealing it. She caught sight of it out of the corner of her eye and bent down to take a closer look. Swollen little body, wings bent, legs twitching. “Poor little bugger,” she thought.
She stood, adjusted her hat, and headed out towards the hives, honey crate in hand.