Frob led the way. “This is the forest where we lived before things got bad. Be careful of the trees, they have all become unfriendly now.”
“It’s too quiet,” Megette said.
She was correct. They all listened, but the forest was a void of even insects. The trees weren’t even rustling with the wind. Then again perhaps the trees decided not to let their leaves rustle. It was dark and a bit difficult going, but they had to make up some time and needed to put some distance between them and the Sphinx, once the other creatures, and perhaps other caterwaul showed up from its scent.
They came upon a beautiful open glade full of flowers illuminated entirely by moonlight. The colors of the petals glowed brilliantly. Khamet was acutely aware of the similarity to how things looked in the Tarot.
Megette was in the lead. Frob suddenly shot forward calling for her to stop and blocked her way.
“What is it?”
“I don’t…” Frob was staring out at the flowers. “I don’t know. It’s quiet.”
“So the entire forest is quiet,” Megette said.
“Yes, but the flowers aren’t speaking. They aren’t singing or humming. It is very quiet.”
“What does that mean?” the Jack asked stepping forward.
Frob was obviously agitated. “Either something’s made them quiet or they are quiet on purpose. The flowers were changing before we left. They were getting aggressive. They started speaking more than they were singing. It was bad. It was wrong and I still remember…”
Frob’s eyes stared far away and Khamet looked intently at the beetle. Then Khamet looked out at the glade and began speaking. “It was quiet and we were flying in a small swarm through the forest scavenging for food. The little insects that crawl along the gardens are what we eat. We moved into the glade. It was bright and sunny and bathed in a warm yellow glow. It looked truly… a welcoming, golden afternoon. By Rublick, it was beautiful. Then one screamed out from one side of the glade and I looked up.”
“Is it a game? Are we playing?” Frob asked.
“Yes let us play,” one of the beetles called out.
One of them rose up from a petal, “Hey there is no singing. Why isn’t there any singing?”
From the other side of the group there was another scream.
Frob saw one of the beetles look down and descend into the flowers calling out to another. The large beetle silently disappeared from view. A moment passed, then another, and then there was a scream followed by silence.
“Is it a game?” another beetle asked nearby, but the expression and tone said they knew it was not. The beetle turned and shot across the flowers fast. Suddenly something reached out from the flowers and snatched the beetle right out of the air. It was fast and it was gone.
Frob flew down from the tree to investigate, “Are you all hiding?” he asked, for they had played games similar to this before. Though the screams were a different touch and the snatch out of the air was quite brilliant.
Frob stopped when he saw a set of beetle wings on the ground between two flowers. He hovered a moment. Movement from the side had him turn. A thin vine was shooting out from the bed and coming right for him. Frob dropped low. It slipped past him and Frob was gone across the bed of flowers.
A thick bud rose up before him and split open to reveal the great open maw of a flytrap. Frob had never seen a flytrap so large before. He spun and shot around the thing. It snapped shut on one of his legs, but Frob didn’t stop and the leg was torn off. He swerved and spun in flight avoiding another flytrap that was opening. Once around it he shifted direction straight up in the air.
Below him the flowers were writhing like mad. The Dandylions were growling and scratching so fiercely that they were shredding the pedals of nearby flowers. The flowers turned on the Dandylions and it became chaos below him. From high above the bed he began to call for the other beetles. Several feet above he looked down and saw the result of what happened to them.
Had the bed been taken over by weeds, or had it just turned bad? Frob wondered. As if an answer to his question, a large red Rosebud, called from the center of the bed. “Come back little Vespa come back, we won’t harm you.” The Rosebud cooed and began to sing.
The song was so beautiful and complete that Frob began to slowly descend towards the flower.
The Rosebud continued to sing as he approached.
“Hey don’t do that,” someone called out. Frob looked around. He saw no one. He was entranced.
Something flew past him and struck the flower bed followed by a frustrated grunt. It happened again as Frob continued to descend to the bed. He was quite near the Rosebud now and could make out her face. It was smiling at him while still singing the most beautiful song he had ever heard.
Suddenly an enormous glob of mud dropped right out of the sky on top of her and she was gone.
Frob was instantly broken from the trance and began looking around.
“Fly up! Fly up! Get out of there boyo, come on.”
Flytraps were rising all around him. Gnomes were calling out to Frob from the edge of the bed jumping up and down and slinging mud at the flytraps. The flytraps were going after them as well and they were fighting them off with sticks and mud.
“Come on!” someone shouted above and Frob looked up at another gnome climbing fast through the tree leaping from branch to branch carrying a bucket he had dumped on the rose. “Fly you boyo, fly now!”
Frob flew straight up spinning around as he did so to avoid the Dandylions who had come out to join the flytraps. The little man in the tree waved and pointed in a direction and then was himself off, running to rejoin the party so they could all make their way out of the bed.
Frob landed near the group of gnomes.
“You are a Vesper Beetle.”
“Yes we are?” Frob said.
The gnomes looked around at each other questioningly.
“We saw what happened. We’re sorry.”
“Yes thank you. The flowers were trying to eat us,” Frob said. “But we all made it.”
“We got you out,” one of the gnomes tried to help him understand.
“Yes,” Frob said and nodded all around him at nothing. “And we thank you.”
“The gnomes took Frob to their burrow and that’s where he remained until the caterwaul came. The gnomes who protected him were slaughtered by the caterwaul that left no trace of them.” Khamet finished. He stepped back from Frob, Megette and the Jack who were all staring at him.
“How did you do that?” Megette asked.
Khamet hadn’t realized he had been speaking and had told the rest of them everything that was in Frob’s head. He had told his whole story. Khamet looked at Megette and the Jack, “I don’t know,” he said.
Before them the glade seemed so inviting. The flowers glowed in the moonlight. It all looked and smelled so sweet that one could just walk right through it, just to be part of it for a second.
“We’ll go around,” the Jack said.
Megette approached the bed slowly and watched as the nearest flowers began to twitch as if there was a breeze, but the air was calm. She stuck her sword out and watched as the nearest pedals began to caress the blade. Slowly they began to wrap around and creep up its length. With a sudden yank she pulled the blade free. The flower she had cut was still clinging to the blade and it suddenly came to life with a ferocious scream. Megette swung the blade at a tree crushing it. The flower dropped to her feet with a plop. “Yes,” she said. “Let’s go around.”