Golden walls in this palace, perpetual twilight atmosphere. Countless hexagonal windows overlooking the grand hall, overlooking the Queen’s court. Patrolling this place are the young maidens, armed with black swords, dressed to kill in the name of their mistress. They have yet to see the introduction of the male knights, but rumors abound.
In the great throne room sits the Queen Mother, goddess and matron of all. She knows them all by name, because they share one and are one. She expects them to serve, just as they expect her to ensure their survival. It is not protection they need; in the way of the sword they all by far exceed her. But she carries a divine endowment that none of them share. The spell of life’s creation.
Audience in the throne hall. The walls shiny with hard earned glory, the throne a monument to all the courtiers have ever known and worshiped. Mistress of all, queen and mother. The goddess speaks to them, beckons them closer. Black swords sheeted, heads bowed in silent reverence.
They all see the signs, and know a brooding yet inexplicable sensation of impending doom. The voice in their heads. The goddess is expecting, what joy. But there is foreboding in her ageless eyes, she knows the truth as well.
Sun in their faces as they move out, wind under their crystalline wings. Is the air colder now? Death and violence to all they encounter. Where they just recently dug for gold in the name of their Queen, they are now murdering and abducting in the name of her coming children. Word spreads like wildfire. Their prey, the commoners, try to hide, try to run. But they are the royal guard, the shield maidens of the Golden Palace. Nobody escapes their fury. And in their wrath, somewhere deep inside, they harbor a vain hope that somehow these horrible deeds will keep their mistress from dying.
Returning to the Palace, this castle they themselves helped build in their youth, the army carries with it not gold but living and breathing game. Merciless slaughter next, pouring blood in the sacred halls. No remorse in their hearts, only the Queen’s voice in their minds singing the song of righteous deeds. This will surely save her.
The screams have long since died out, no echoes between the mute castle walls. Only the Queen herself voicing her woe as she walks from room to room, preparing and reviewing each and every recess before the birth of her children. Her guards waiting silently, anxiously, for the point of no return. They cannot know what it means; they have never been through this part of the cycle. But they can feel it in their hearts, the truth of generations come before, the truth of the beginning of the end.
Queen, goddess, mistress, mother. Their sacred divinity is dying. Attending her night and day the honor guard stand helpless before the cold reality. Come autumn, the subject of their devotion will be no more.
Hate in their hearts for the new brood, princes and princesses young enough to be eligible of no odium. Nevertheless sorrow did not enter the palace until in company with them. Feasting day and night upon the carcasses brought from out this secluded haven they grow stronger and stronger. And the thing most vexing to the knightesses, apart from the explicit order not to harm the young ones, is the unignorable fact of the heirs’ beauty. Never, apart from in the presence of their matron, have they seen creatures so fair as these. Their golden hair lush with life, their dark eyes filled with death.
Time and summer passes. One little princess, randomly chosen from the lot, wanders alone in her mother’s castle. Guards everywhere, jealous, spiteful glances in the eyes of many. But the princess has grown. She is not a child anymore. She knows her mother will not outlive the sun, but who will take her place?
On the balcony, feeling the wind in her golden hair, almost blowing her away. Soldiers here, too, but no men. Why is that? Only her brothers, but they are acting strangely. Always striving to leave the palace. Not old enough yet, though. Her sisters just like her, longing for safety. But are they not safe in the palace? Something telling her it is not so. A red leaf blowing past…
Another sunrise, another dawn closer to the fall. One little prince has taken off. Just as well, says the Captain. Only misfortune in their wake. More will go soon. The little princess stands on the balcony, watching him leave. Maybe he will find what he is looking for. Will she?
Colder days, longer nights. The Queen has not much time left, they all know it. The Captain chases the remaining princes away. Some of the young princesses leave, too. One little princess goes to see her mother, but is not let in. Filth, she is, death for the Mother. The little princess runs away, crying.
Out of the palace, over the fields. The Captain said she would be killed did she remain. No wish to die, has she. Safety gone, no home and no Mother. Only the black sword that is her inheritance. An old tree gives her shelter for the rain and the darkness. Wild animals in the night, and angry spirits who wish her harm for what has been done in her mother’s name. The little princess does not remember eating all that flesh.
Dawn upon the dew coated world. Or is it maybe melted frost? A voice on the wind, singing her name. Does she really have a name? Now she does. A young man, not much older than her, climbing onto her branch. Beautiful eyes, fair hair. She sings, too. Gives him a name. A prince from a faraway land he is, and in accordance with all princes’ vows of love he bears no sword on his golden armor. Still he knows her pain. The song goes on and on; the day and summer ends.
All the way back, hastily. Time passes in a rush in the eye of bliss, almost no leaves remaining. Joy and excitement, Mother will surely want to know. The prince, the prince, has gone away. The little princess wonders where. But somehow it does not matter. In some way she feels complete now. A destiny fulfilled.
The Golden Palace ahead, but a darkness brooding. Was it this way when she left? Dark windows, dark clouds. No guards at the gate. Anxiety rising inside her.
She enters. The gold is gone, the first thing she notices. The second, the guards not on their posts. Noises. Screaming. Crying. Further inside, fear getting a grip. Now she sees it. Madness, madness. The guards have gone mad. Crying, screaming, tearing down the walls. Hatred as they look at her, hatred that she is the one responsible.
Confusion, fear. She reaches the throne room. Mother? But woe, Mother does not answer. Lying on her throne, in the golden room. Countless windows overlooking. The little princes approaches her Queen, goddess, mistress, mother. Time stops. The Queen’s eyes are empty, her body devoid of all divine spark. Tears for the princess, the mother is dead.
The guards reach the throne room, start tearing down the walls. Gold falling everywhere. They reach the throne, tearing it down as well. Princess crying, screaming, pulling, fighting. No avail. They refuse to see her, hear her. The roof is coming down. Flight.
Hearing the mad screams of the guards dying in the Palace, a little princess flies across the fields. Sun is setting on this first day of fall. Where to hide? Where to break? The sound of crumbling gold far behind her. The prince, where is he? Calling, singing, searching.
She finds him on the ground, under the tree where they first sang. Cold, dead, already partly eaten by smaller creatures. Shock, tears. The breaking has begun. Did he lie here all the time, fallen from the branch as she slept? Dead all the time after their coming together in the canopy? Could she have saved him? Selfish, selfish princess. No mother, no lover. Only one princess with a terrible, joyful secret. Nightfall.
A tree becomes her shelter as the first heavy flakes of white start to fall from the heavens. Winter, the season of death and hiding for creatures like her. Tired she is, tired of it all. Once loved, once hated. Now, no one remains to grant her those feelings. Death all around. Only sleep remains.
One little princess, randomly chosen from a brood of many, sleeps silently inside a hollow tree as the world turns white and quiet. She is not found by hostile beasts, but her dreams are troubled. In time, though, they give way for other dreams as the smaller lives inside her grow and take hold. The new dreams are of spring, of awakening to a world newly born. Of rippling creeks and sprouting seeds, of a sun returning at last to it’s rightful realm.
And on that first day of spring awakening, she dreams, a little wasp princess, hair golden and eyes black, will crawl out of her tree. She will fly high in the warming sunshine, heavy with the seeds of new beginnings given her by a dead prince, looking for a place suitable for the building of her own Golden Hive Palace.
And there, finally, she will find peace and safety – Queen, goddess, mistress, mother.