This story is the sixth one to my Squish-Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds Prompt Call.
This story is Fae Apoc, BeeKeeper – it is set before the Beekeeper series. Sorry Momerath, I was being a bit of a brat (I prefer not to write continuations of extant long series as part of a prompt call. 🙂 )
What you need to know about the setting/story: Mieve is a hermit who can talk to/control insects; the apocalypse is rather recent; most trade right now is in barter.
She hadn’t left the clearing in almost six months and, as she walked around the market, Mieve remembered why.
Not that she didn’t always know why – people. The one bonus of the end of the world, in her opinion, was that it let her be a hermit without it being all that weird.
But she did like things she couldn’t make on her own, and so here she was, wandering around the market, being stalked. They were being pretty subtle, but they weren’t being good enough for Mieve’s paranoia-heightened senses.
Slavers? They couldn’t Keep her – not when she had a Kept back at her cabin – but only about a third of the slavers bothered with that sort of thing. Most of them just collared and hoped for the best. Worst, rather.
Worse than slavers, who at least had a fucked-up business model, were free-lancers. A run-in with a group of those – “wife-hunters,” they called themselves – that had sent Mieve to her clearing in the first place.
She bought a couple pairs of pants and a couple shirts, anyway. They were good stuff; they looked like they were made from pre-apoc fabric stashes, durable and comfortable. She bought a scarf of light filmy stuff – definitely pre-apoc, it even had a tag – for no reason than she thought that Jordan, waiting back at the cabin, might like the way it looked on her.
The whole time, trading her good honey for their good fabric, picking up some cheese and some yeast and some really good-smelling sausage, Mieve tired to catch a glimpse of her stalkers.
Only when she was finishing up the trade for the sausage did she see them – three of them, burly guys wearing camo, never a good sign. She considered them, considered her already-worn-out-car, and considered the distance between those two.
When she went to the slave markets to pick up a new Kept, she felt her skin crawl – not just because of what they did there, but because there was too much chance they’d take her goods and take her too. But this – the market, it was supposed to be neutral ground.
She considered her Words and her time, considered what she could do that wouldn’t out her as fae, and considered the man selling her sausage.
He looked at her, wrapped the sausage, and gestured surreptitiously under the counter. She traced the direction of the gesture; yeah, he was warning her about the men in camo. She nodded, catching his eye.
“Come around back of the stand,” he told her. “I’ve got some spices you might like. Going a little stale but they’d do good in a stew with this.”
It was either a trap or a way out. “Sounds good.” She headed around the back of the shop while he walked through his stand. It was just enough time to murmur a series of Workings.
Her bees weren’t here, but there were stinging insects everywhere. Everywhere.
Mieve called on all of them, pointed out their targets, and suggested that those people in specific – none of the others – were a danger to the hive, to the family, to whatever structure those insects had.
She rounded the corner as the buzzing began in earnest, only to find that the man selling sausage was grinning at her, too.
He made a gesture, seeming to be suggesting she look around his corner, so she did. So far, she had no reason to distrust him.
There, the bees were attacking the men, but they were also being – being attacked by vines?
The Word for plants was not one of her good ones. But the man selling sausage was grinning at her.
“The squash around here are awfully aggressive,” he commented lightly. “I blame something left over from the war.” He pressed a couple small plastic jars of spices into her hands. “Looks like the flies and wasps are, too. Funny that, nature seeming to know, isn’t it?”
He winked at her, a little broad and obvious, but nobody was actually looking at them.
“Funny that,” she agreed. She had a feeling she’d be buying a lot of sausage in her trips to this market.
Sausage, and squash. “Thanks again for the spices,” she added. “I’ll see you next time I’m in town.”
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