He was a young drone, not more than twenty-four or five, with no hair on his head and about an inch of beard covering his face. He used to wear the black robes of a priest in Galdurin's Church, but he had no staff to lean upon as he used to walk down the path that led from the white marble palace where the High Priest lived toward the city. The air was very cold for this time of year with snow flurries drifting lazily through the quiet morning sky like frozen fireflies. They were only visible because they hovered above the trees to either side of the road and did not sink into it like clouds do when rain falls.
Only yesterday, he was a priest everyone respected and admired. It happened so quickly that many bees didn't realize what had happened until they saw him being escorted away from the palace by soldiers who wore red cloaks and helmets decorated with skulls. The people of Bees' kingdom gathered around them talking among themselves, shocked at how their friend could have been turned out of the palace by such a strange group of drones. The guards marched him off toward the city gates and then watched as he disappeared into the masses who stood outside the great archway, waiting for the High Queen's orders. There were smiles all over the crowd's faces; some even shook hands with the ex-priest. Yet, none looked at him more than once. The priests in the palace were still trying to figure out what had just happened.
The young drone was holding onto the necklace that he always wore under his robes. He thought of it now as a gift from his father, though he never told anyone that. The necklace was made up of small pieces of ivory carved into the likeness of birds flying together on one branch. On the other end of the chain hung a small silver disk inscribed with an ancient symbol for truth.
A lucky charm enchanted with the parental love of the Priest's family. Or something else entirely…
Reaching the final destination, the soldiers with red cloaks and helmets brought him to a tall building with two giant doors set within its walls. They forced the young drone to step inside and locked the door behind him. No one tried to stop them, perhaps because of the fear that they might be next.
When he pushed open the heavy oak door, the first thing he saw were rows of bookshelves filled with books and scrolls. Each shelf was lined with dozens of jars containing dried plants, seeds, and fruits.
"Haruniel, the young priest with great knowledge of chemistry and herbs. The Queen ordered you once before to create for us... a drug, is that correct?" A short thin drone wearing a long green robe spoke while reaching for the last item on the bottom shelf. He took it out carefully and placed it atop a nearby desk. "Do you remember how much we paid you then, Haruniel?"
There was another drone sitting at a table near the shelves: a scholar wearing a dark blue cloak. His eyes were covered by a pair of lenses attached to the sides of his head. Above each lens rested a small metal plate engraved with symbols. He studied Haruniel's reaction to the mention of the word drug.
"I recall," Haruniel said, smiling. "It was a fortune."
"And it has yet to be earned again, I'm afraid. We need your wisdom once more, Haruniel. Can you help us? For old times' sake?"
As the drone finished speaking, a thin, yellow liquid dripped out of a tube and fell on top of an orange-coloured powder. Both substances were mixed easily together into a thick paste.
"What do you want me to make here?" Haruniel asked, using his fingers to stir the mixture.
"A poison that will kill our enemies, Haruniel. The birds' kingdom never stopped its hostility toward the bees living beyond the mountains. The humans are in league with their leader now, which makes things worse. Our new weapons are not having the desired effect. If you can do anything—anything!" The thin drone closed his eyes as if to push away the memory of what happened lately.
Haruniel knew better than to ask what happened to him. Something terrible is going on, he thought.
Things weren't always this gloomy and dark in this place, he remembered. In fact, they were quite colourful, especially when the town's citizens came to see him at work. He would sit on a chair, his legs crossed, leaning back against the wall. Children would come up to him and wave their hands above his head as if asking for a blessing. Then, the children would run off to play with the priests who sat across from him.
If only those days could return, Haruniel thought wistfully.
Unfortunately, things turned out for the worst since the last month. Now, no one ever came to visit.
The long building which used to be a lab for research purposes is now like a prison.
Haruniel was well aware of his situation. He was not there because they needed him. If so, why did they have to use force in the first place to bring him there? It was clear that the king was not pleased with him.
Even the soldiers didn't try to hide their displeasure.
Sitting in his dimly lit chair inside the building behind a desk coloured with a myriad of chemical elements and herbs, he remembered how he got into a heated conversation with the Queen Bee before leaving the castle.
He never created a poison in his life. He's a priest, after all, he reminded himself.
Healing others was what he always did, and that's exactly what he wanted to keep doing.
But when he heard the queen say that they are preparing for their third assault on the neighbouring kingdoms, he couldn't simply obey the orders.
Since that night, the young priest had been thinking about it every day. Should he really create a poison? Is this the only way they can survive on these cold days? By taking other proper lands by force?!
If the winter just ends, people can start framing the land to grow crops. That will give us food. And then, if we wait, the spring will bring flowers, the trees will blossom, and the wildlife will return. This is the time when life comes back, he thought, quoting the words of the Prophet.
If the winter ends, this land will spring in prosperity...
On the first day, the young drone sat on his chair behind that desk for more than ten hours without moving. The walls seemed to shrink in size. His mind was filled with thoughts of the war in the north. The enemy forces were growing stronger and larger. They are already too large for us to fight them! There must be something else we should be doing to protect ourselves. Haruniel was sure of it.
The second day was another day wasted. He spent most of the morning in deep contemplation. On his table, he saw the same mixture of chemicals; however, instead of mixing them together, he looked at the yellow substance and thought hard about the past. As he stared at the vial, his brain went blank. His mind wandered through the memories of his childhood. When he was still a child, he often felt lonely. The days when he played outside with the other kids in the city were gone.
Keeping the necklace around his neck was a constant reminder of the past.
That's why he wore it. Every day.
Another day passed by and the fourth dawned. Haruniel stood up from his seat, stretched his arms upward, and took a deep breath. It was time to begin.
Snow covered the whole land. Thick clouds hid the sun once again.
Humidity hung in the air, making everything feel damp. A chill wind blew over the barren fields and brought tears to the eyes of anyone who tried to leave their houses. No one dared to venture out in such weather. Except for the poor soldiers...
The imprisoned Haruniel was slowly losing hope.
How could this possibly end well, he wondered.
Perhaps, the only way out of this mess was for him to die.
Just the thought of being unable to leave the lab made him feel suffocated.
Months went by...
From the building, the sky had grown black, and the moon was high in the sky.
Haruniel sat alone on his chair, staring at the herbs before him. Most of them had dried up. The others were about to go bad. But there was one plant that remained.
It was called the "lover's vine."
The plant looked like a green stalk with purple veins and tiny white flowers. Its leaves were thin and small. The flower petals were white, and the centre was pink.
"It's been 2 months since I put you on my desk and you're still fresh," he said aloud as cut off a piece of the stem.
Holding it between his fingers, Haruniel started laughing.
"To think that all this time the solution was sitting on my desk right under my nose!"
He had forgotten about the plant altogether. After all, he was consumed with worry over the war. His mind was occupied with the problem of how he would save his countrymen.
When he held the plant in front of his face, he remembered that day two years ago.
Cold weather had set in. Snow covered the entire northern lands, and it was impossible to see even a few feet in front of your face. Since then, winter had never left this place.
"With this, not only we can end the war, but also make our lives better than ever," he said.
As he gazed at the plant, he thought about the countless nights he spent in the laboratory. Many times, he had thought his efforts would fail and that his young life was about to come to an abrupt end.
Through it all, he kept searching for answers. Could he find some other way to live? Was there any way for him to escape death?
This plant, which he had lost sight of completely, was the answer.
"I can't do many things for this country," he said. "But I can save its people."
Haruniel grabbed the vial with his hand and poured the liquid into a pot. He added water and cooked the mixture for several hours. At last, the potion was ready.
He stirred it with the wooden spoon. The pale-green liquid glowed under the candlelight.
Seconds later, the guards outside the building were surprised to hear his screams of joy.
"Praise be unto Him who has given me the ability to serve Him!" he shouted. He couldn't contain himself. His body shook violently. "O God of Mercy! How could I have ever doubted You?"
The guards nodded, still confused.
While Haruniel was in ecstasy, the vial suddenly shattered and fell to the floor. The liquid spilled onto the ground and evaporated.
Haruniel dropped his head in shame not realizing that he had just saved everyone's lives.
By the next week, the snow melted away and the sun rose above the horizon. The first rays of the sun were greeted by a new world.
The grass in the field grew taller and the leaves turned green.
A soft breeze blew through the air, bringing with it a sense of peace and tranquillity.
The liquid spilled onto the ground had reached the roots of the sleeping flowers. They had been waiting for so long to wake up. Soon enough, they cracked their way through the layers of snow speeding the melting process. The temperature quickly began to rise.
The flowers had finally woken up.
Then, a ray of sunlight pierced the dark clouds and lit up the land.
And as the plants bloomed, a swarm of butterflies emerged.
They soared over the skies and circled above the trees.
Soon, beautiful creatures filled the air.
Their wings fluttered in perfect harmony.
At last, the butterfly came down to earth.
Dancing in the air, it landed on a single flower and flew off again, leaving behind a trail of pollen.
The flowers burst open, releasing their delicate fragrance.
Above the green hills, the butterflies swirled and danced together in the sky.
After the freezing temperatures, spring was finally here.
There was no sign of war or bloodshed anywhere.
On every street corner, birds chirped.
The city was alive and buzzing.
All the bees were enjoying the spring except for one drone, Haruniel, who didn't know that spring had arrived.