Chapter 3

“My original hive called their priestesses and priests humblebees.” Joy said, settling onto the cushion in the small room. The priestess sat on her own cushion, her pheromones betraying her amusement.

“I know. The term has come up in when the deities communicate with us, as they seem to be inclined to let us decide what we wish to call ourselves.” The priestess explained. “We haven’t decided yet.”

“Oh! I just wasn’t sure if you knew.” Joy said, blushing slightly.

“Not all hives are the same, Joy. Even if your previous one appears to have been similar to ours.” The priestess said gently, then focused on her. “That being the case, it makes speaking with you even more important. We are not the only apis hive in our area, and they appear to be closer to the outside world than we are. We need to understand what the outside world is like, in case our hives end up fighting. And you need to understand what you are. The creation of apis champions is something which will change all the hives.”

Joy opened her mouth, then stopped to think. She was slightly disturbed by the news that there was another apis hive nearby, but only slightly. If they had to battle one another, that was simply how it was. Perhaps she could share the little she knew about farming with the hive… but she was most curious about the last comment. She knew she was an apis champion, but it didn’t seem to have anything to do with her job, which was very strange, and she’d never heard of one before.

“What’s an apis champion?” Joy asked, laying a hand on her chest as she continued. “I’m an apis worker champion, for that matter! I don’t know what it means.”

“Of course you don’t. You’re the first, but according to the gods, you’re far from the last. The hives will be able to deliberately raise them in the future, and the queen has already commanded us to raise three.” The priestess said, examining Joy closely. “The gods also informed us of what to expect… approximately, at least. Champions can take any job, but their true difference is in their lifespan. Unlike attendants, drones, or workers, they can live as long as the queens can. Furthermore, given the right impetus, they can become queens themselves.”

The priestess paused, then shook her head as she laughed. “Though I suspect that could be an interesting transformation for the rare male champions. Yes, they can be born as drones too.”

“Oh! That’s amazing!” Joy exclaimed, her eyes widening as delight rushed through her, and she resisted the urge to get up and dance. The room wasn’t big enough for that with two people in it, even at her size. “I thought it might just be that it made me more glittery! I noticed that my hair looked more like metal, and my armor was less yellow and more gold, but I didn’t think it’d do something like that!”

“It is certainly going to make some tasks easier. Passing down knowledge will be simpler if there is someone as experienced as the queen around to teach, and to remember.” The priestess agreed, smiling slightly.

“It would be! The Shadebough Hive had an old queen, one who was in her last decade of life, and she seemed to know so much. The other queen I met didn’t seem to know half as much.” Joy said earnestly. “And… and other species, they always seemed shocked at how short our lives were. They were afraid to let go after only a couple of years. Maybe this will make them easier to make friends with.”

The priestess paused, considering Joy for a few seconds, then nodded. “You might be right. Either way… you said you met some of the gods, didn’t you? What can you tell us about them?”

At that, Joy’s smile faded a little, and she reached up to rub her forehead, hesitating, then spoke sheepishly, a little dismayed. “I don’t remember much. I know I met Death, and a bunch of other gods, but the memories… they’re fuzzy. It’s like the time I got thrown into a wall and hit my head, but worse. There was a really crowded room with scrolls and papers, a really big, pretty room with lots of people who were all shiny, along with a human-ish man with a beard who offered me the reincarnation… and I think I remember Fayliss and another woman, who said they made it so I’d remember stuff. She had flowers in her hair! But I don’t remember more than that.”

“Drat.” The priestess said, looking and smelling disappointed, which made Joy look down in shame, at least until the woman quickly spoke. “No, I’m not upset with you. I was just hoping that I could learn more about them than what they’ve given us. I guess that isn’t going to happen, though.”

“Oh! Yes, I don’t think so. Maybe they made my memories fuzzy on purpose…” Joy replied, pausing for several seconds, then shrugged, grinning back at her. “If you want to learn more, I think you should talk to the other kingdoms! One of my friends bought a book that was entirely about her goddess, called Mother Moon. I saw a lot of books, and they had temples that had a bunch of what they called shrines to the different deities in them! They each had statues, and lots of other things… I didn’t really understand it, but I’m sure they could explain to you.”

The priestess nodded, looking at Joy curiously, then at last she asked. “Either they would, or wouldn’t. That isn’t something that is happening now, however. Since it appears you can’t answer my main questions, could you explain what you know of the people and conflicts in the outside world? We need to know what we’re dealing with.”

“Sure!” Joy said, her eyes brightening as she leaned forward. “I only saw a little of it, but I heard a lot from Cora, Brianna, Stella, and all the others we met! In my last life, the Tulip Hive was inside the Duchy of Dorma, which was inside another kingdom that I don’t remember the name of. They were part of a group called the Kingdoms of Light, which aren’t all kingdoms at all, and they oppose another group called the Kingdoms of Darkness. Someone from that group, named Alethus, was trying to release the gigantic spider that I’ve talked about, and…” Joy kept talking quickly, trying to explain everything she could. It wasn’t terribly organized, since she was explaining as different subjects came to mind, but the priestess listened closely, her attention focused on Joy, which made her feel better. She really did want to help the hive.

Chapter 2Chapter 4