Destiny and Decision
By EM Malachi
Destiny and Decision
The Queen’s chamber was never silent. The gnawing and gnashing of the worker-sisters filled the cavern, as they consumed vegetation and meat to produce the royal jelly that sustained the colony.
The drone still remembered the complex taste of the jelly from its hatching. It was given to all larvae to make them strong, but a Myrmidex’s role determined how much was given. Less than a week after hatching, drones and workers were forced to consume lesser foods. Warriors grew large from a month of royal jelly consumption, and the sole queen, mother to all, subsisted entirely on the nutrient mix her entire life.
The Queen sat in the center of the chamber, appraising her latest cache of eggs and deciding which showed promise or defect. Through the membranes, the drone could see the larval forms of the Swarm-Family. When the Queen had decided the fate of each egg, workers carefully carried them down various tunnels to be hatched and developed. When she was finished, the Queen gave her attention, “Drone-child, tell me what you have seen.”
The drone chittered through the details of the Silver Gate and the warrior humans. When it was finished speaking, antennae were touched to share the taste-memory of the incident. If the Queen was doubtful at all, the sour taste of magic confirmed the drone’s story.
The Queen issued several sharp commands, causing workers to scatter down a dozen different tunnels. A worker-sister placed a large membrane filled with royal jelly in front of the drone, and the Queen ordered it to drink. As the drone consumed the rare gift, several workers dragged a giant crystal into the room. The artifact thrummed with power, filling the room with a terrible taste. Beyond bitter magic, there was the scent of insects like the Myrmidex, a thousand variations and mutations removed. The drone backed away from the crystal.
The Queen coaxed the drone back, “Do not be afraid. You are to be rewarded, drone-child. You will lead the Swarm-Family against this new enemy.”
The small drone considered the much larger warrior Myrmidex guarding the chamber and gave the Queen a look of confusion. It was not grown for war.
“The Crystal is of the Oppressors. It is what changed and controlled us. We took it from them when we drove them away. You must leave this carapace behind. You cannot lead as the drone you are, but as the soldier you will become.”
Geoffrey watched as the builders repaired the palisade on Drum Hill. The latest strike by the Myrmidex had come very close to breaching his camp’s defenses. With each attack, the swarm grew both in number and tactical competence, and the situation was desperate.
The Myrmidex were now led by a giant insect warrior that the Barrab called Chizzztl: “the Fury of Eodon.” While the Myrmidex were normally hostile to all humans, Chizzztl seemed to recognize the value of the Barrab as spies and scouts. Too many from the ally tribes had been led into ambushes before this was figured out.
The only good news Geoffrey had had in weeks was of an erratic deployment by the Myrmidex. In the middle of their siege of the Urali settlement, half of their forces had pulled out, all moving toward the same spot in the dense jungle. The scouts sent to investigate had found nothing but charred carapaces. Geoffrey wondered if this was connected to reports of a strange man wreathed in blue fire.
The knight returned to his tent and looked at the map of Eodon. Too many pins radiated from the Myrmidex nest, striking at his camp and the settlements of the ally tribes. Containing the Myrmidex had failed, and if it became a war of attrition, humanity would lose. Nothing could be gained by delay. Geoffrey picked up a quill and wrote a short note to Britain: “Send all that you can spare. We will strike the nest itself.”