Never get into a fight with an insect. That is not a piece of advice I would have ever thought worthy of writing down. Up until recently, the thought would not have occurred to me, as my experience with insects had led me to the conclusion that a rolled up newspaper or well-aimed shoe usually sufficed. But then, up until recently, my experience of insects had not included eight-foot tall, space-travelling, alien insects. Now that is something else I never thought I would write in my journal.
Yes, bug-lady is back. I don’t know if she made it across the portal and has been hiding since, came by some other route, or possibly just popped into existence like an unexpected bar bill, but she is definitely here. And, it would seem, already making an impact.
I started the evening with no more thought than a quiet drink and perhaps catching up on some writing. I found Cristof outside the tavern, somewhat bemused, and nobody could blame him, by the sight of bug-lady’s soldier. Presumably the queen was hovering somewhere. I suppose I should use the creature’s name, but I can only render it as Kzzzz. Maybe it makes more sense if you have insect jaws. I’ll give Cristof his due, he was not overly perturbed by this new arrival, although it was doing its “I’m big and aggressive” thing, just greeting it with a good evening, the same pleasantry he addressed to me. He might have been somewhat distracted, I heard him saying something about somebody getting attacked by a Sluagh, presumably Nadya, as I could see her inside the tavern, rolling around in pain and cursing in a variety of languages.
I briefly explained to Cristof that I knew the soldier, that its queen was likely hereabouts, and that it communicated telepathically. I wasn’t sure if I could even communicate with soldier, having never tried it before. I called up images of Jasper Cove, with me talking with queen, trying to project the idea of friend. Meanwhile, Cristof addressed it, trying to calm it by saying that there would be no threat here, no need for challenge. Soldier’s mind, as far as I could tell, was stark and simple; a single-minded determination to protect its queen. The latter must have been listening in, or maybe the minds are always linked, I don’t really know, for she landed and even made an attempt to speak in English, although that seemed to be limited to “Hello”.
Cristof remained unperturbed, speaking almost with the grace of a diplomat, assenting to telepathic communication if that was what she was more comfortable with. I tried to explain that the communication worked better with ideas and concepts, then “introduced” the queen, worker and soldier castes. He decided that he would leave communication to me, since I clearly had practice, asking if I could let her know that he was the lord of this land. That, I admit, had me stumped, entirely unsure how I could explain the concept of a male queen. I suggested that an offer of somewhere to build a nest would probably go down well and he suggested a corner of the castle, before turning his attentions back to the injured Nadya.
Aoibheann appeared from somewhere, for once, not afraid, but then, she has met Kzzz before also. She tried to offer help to Nadya, but Cristof warned her off, explaining that she was in severe pain and could well frenzy. I doubt that Aoibheann knew what that meant, but I did, remarking that being frenzied upon was no fun at all. Communication was getting a little heavy, as I was picking up on the queen and, through her, the others. It didn’t help that she was also trying to link with Aoibheann, and I got some backlash from that.
Then, everything went, as they say, pear-shaped. Nadya had gotten herself upright and staggered out of the tavern. She was clearly terrified of the queen and her brood. I could tell that, even without the fear I was picking up second hand through my link to the queen. Suddenly, she was raging and attacking. I think the phrase – the red mist came down – is a very apt one here. I could now feel anger and rage as she launched herself, fists at the ready, at the queen.
This was not a good idea. She managed to get a punch in, but then the queen was off into the air and it was soldier’s turn to do her bit. She swung at Nadya with what I presume is a sting. Fortunately for her, Nadya managed to dodge the blow and, with no apparent thought for her safety, launched a roundhouse kick at the soldier. Cristof explained that this was what a frenzy looked like, asking me to try to deal with the insects while he tried to restrain Nadya.
I tried, projecting “Halt” and “Call her off” at the queen, but the imagery was too confused. It was not helped by sensing that Aoibheann was in the link too, adding her fear and pain, and, it seemed a slight sense of being on the soldier’s side. I guess she really doesn’t like Nadya that much. I felt a surge of power from Cristof as he tried to command Nadya to sit. It seemed to be a vampiric power, as I have only ever experienced that feeling with him, Brigitte and other vampires. I felt it, I recognised it, but did not know otherwise what it was, beyond some kind of command. Nadya fell, briefly, but again launched into attacking. Again, I tried projecting at the queen, to take her soldier and get away, but she was not having any of it. I caught a backlash of the scene I had witnessed when she was in the infirmary, of her ship under attack, and this time, there was no question of retreat.
Cristof, meanwhile, had resorted to trying to physically restrain Nadya. He yelled at me to use my powers, which would be wonderful, IF I knew what they were. I yelled back at him to knock Nadya our or even put her into torpor, reasoning that might resemble death enough to end the battle. He managed to grab Nadya, but that put him in the way of the soldier, taking a nasty blow to the shoulder. Or so it looked, but he seemed to be unharmed. I tried to communicate with the queen again, but damn it if Aoibheann didn’t start screaming into the mind link, adding more fear and pain and confusion. That disrupted my concentration, and the next thing I knew, the soldier was going for me.
Let me tell you, the sight of several hundred pounds of insect trying to get the drop on you is not a sight you want to repeat. I have no idea how or what I did, other than I felt that surge of vampiric power again, this time, it seemed, my own, and I managed to roll out of the way with a speed that surprised me. I wasn’t about to complain, thankful that I wasn’t squished like a fly losing an argument with a newspaper. Meanwhile, somewhere to my side, Cris was banging Nadya’s head on the ground while she was trying to bite him. I had no time to worry, trusting that he was big enough and ugly enough to handle himself. Worker was coming at me, and I had not time to think, nor any real physical defence. For some reason, I thought of the advice I had read somewhere about dealing with bears, and the thought came that I should try to intimidate it, be big and scary. Again, without understanding what I was doing, I felt that surge of vampiric power, still not knowing what exactly it was, but I felt as though I was 10 feet tall, big, majestic, awesome. This power, I realised I had felt before, albeit a milder form, way back in Legacies, when I had tried to stare somebody down in a fight. Whatever it was, it worked. The soldier stopped, watching me, so far as I could tell, but staying back. This was something I was doing, and not anything to do with the telepathic link.
Cris complimented me and suggested that I needed lessons. That I could agree with, as I had no idea exactly what I had done. I risked a quick glance and saw that he had succeeded in knocking Nadya out. I projected at the queen again, “It’s over, she’s dead.” That time, I think I got through, as I felt the aggression of the soldier lessen. The queen landed, gathering her companions to her, but then started approaching Nadya’s body, with the clear intent of food in her mind. I projected a very strong no, visualising that there were rituals to be done for our dead. At Cristof’s suggestion, I tried to explain that Nadya was out of her mind. I had no idea how I might convey the idea of frenzy, instead, projecting images of Nadya being injured, in pain, running around without her head to convey the lack of mind, attacking without intent. I think I got through, as I got an impression almost of amusement. Again, I projected the idea of the lack of intent, the lack of intent to do harm. It seemed to work, but I was having difficulty convincing her that Nadya was not food. Cristof said that Nadya would be alive again within a few days. I tried visualising again – the same mourning rituals, Nadya’s body on a bench under a shroud, that shroud shrinking down, then rising up again to the full shape of Nadya, her body getting up and walking again. The queen countered with images, images from her spaceship, but a different room, some sort of vat into which deceased soldiers and drones were being dropped, being digested, and making new food for the hive. I repeated my visualisation and eventually the queen backed off, but clearly puzzled by what she saw as waste of good food. Cristof attempted to demonstrate by slashing his hand with a knife and healing it. This appeared to puzzle the queen, who did something similar to one of her limbs, but in her case, just stood there, dripping yellow blood. I think she was trying to explain that she didn’t heal as easily.
It was almost a relief to hear Gwyn’s voice beside me, wondering what was going on. My head was aching from all the telepathy, so I answered her rather glibly, telling her this was Kzzz and that she was from another planet. She responded with some comment about a big blue box appearing and the doctor coming to save everything. I was a little confused, but I vaguely remembered her making similar references before, and it being about a fictional time-traveller. She didn’t elaborate, seeming more concerned about acquiring some soap. Cristof told her she should make some, which didn’t go down entirely well. I suggested that Nadya probably knew how, but that would have to wait, adding I knew only that it was something to do with boiling wood ashes with fats. Then I remembered that I had some soap in a travelling soap dish that was almost certainly still in my bag. I told her this quietly and went to fetch it for her.
When I got back, Cristof had dragged one of the bins from the tavern kitchen and offered it to the queen. I couldn’t see the appeal of a big pile of half-rotted vegetables, meat and bones, but the queen showed no compunction, diving in with apparent relish. That was fine until she started regurgitating food for her brood, at which point Gwyn threw up. At this point, sanity having been sort of restored, I suggested we go inside to get a drink. She was happy enough to do that.
As we were going in, a girl around Wren’s age turned up. I remembered her from an earlier evening, as Kale’s pirate friend, Madeleine. She seems to be French, and I later learned, from around my era, as opposed to Cristof, who I learned was from the 12th century. Madeleine was very grubby and also more concerned with being able to wash. I offered to show them the pool that Sophia had used, as soon as I learned where it was, and offered her the use of my soap also.
Aoibheann turned up again, looking very much the worse for wear and complaining about the state of her dress. I can understand that, especially now that her new one is likely to be delayed by Nadya’s state. This was the point at which she noticed Nadya, and got all upset, thinking it was a dead body. I tried to be kind and explain that she was in a coma. Cristof went straight for telling Aoibheann it was torpor, which I doubt meant much. Either way, Aoibheann seemed to calm a little.
I had finished my drink by now, so I got up and asked if anybody was going to help me carry Nadya to her wagon. Oddly, of all the people there, it was little Madeleine who offered. She was most insistent that I didn’t call her a little girl and that she was quite capable. I told her I wouldn’t dream of doing so and added in French that 12 years old was hardly a little girl. True to her word, she managed perfectly well taking Nadya’s feet. Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, given Nadya’s preferred profession, the wagon was locked. Madeleine tried to pick it, apparently something she is quite experienced at, but to no avail. Then I had her search Nadya and we found a key in a cleverly concealed pocket. Why I didn’t try that first, I don’t know. Soon we had Nadya safely on her bunk and covered with a blanket. We ran into Padishar on the way out, who seemed somewhat concerned as to what we were doing in there. I gave the short-form explanation – she got into a fight, lost and got torpored, not wishing to implicate Cristof, however that worthy also turned up and gave a more detailed explanation. That seemed to settle matters satisfactorily and he thanked me. I thanked Madeleine in turn and told her we made a great team. I would have gotten her something to drink and eat at the tavern, but she scuttled off to wherever she hides out.
So, that was my excitement for the day. I think I’ll pass on arguing with Kzzz’s soldier in the future. I only hope she holds no grudges. I don’t think the soldier will. I doubt it has the brain capacity for that. Now, I really must see if Cristof can come up with a bed and maybe a desk. This hut is quite cosy, but the floor is a little hard, even for me.