Pale bees buzzed around the tree, a y-shaped ash whose trunk was as thick around as a woman's thigh, and whose leaves scattered the sunlight into dappled shades of white and green on the surrounding sea of reddish moss and ferns. At the elbow where the trunk had split, the fur-covered remnant of a creature hung, eyes and lips long eaten away, so the bare fangs hung out from exposed skull, skin dried and taught against the bone. In general outlines perhaps it had once been human, but the head had the long cast of a muzzle, and a carnivore's teeth.
"What sacrifice is this?" A voice broke the silence. She stepped into the bower, a black-suited woman with dark sunglasses that hid her eyes. Dark freckles fell in a thick band across her nose and cheeks, but her skin was an unhealthy olive like virgin oil, and her hair was muddy red. Shiny black leather shoes crept through the undergrowth, hands held out in front of her, twitching like the whiskers of a cat.
"Why, it must be an offering to some pagan spirit that dwells in this glade, an echo of some classic worship of ancient days, maintained in degenerate form by the inbred inhabitants of this desolate locale." she whispered aloud, drawing ever nearer as the bees buzzed and hummed in their strange dances. "And yet might there be some primal power yet held in this carcass, imbued as it is with terrible blind faith and ceremony? Aye, and some power that a skilled necromancer might be able to take!"
With gentle strength she touched the faded fur on the corpse, her fingers sinking in to the rancid flesh, and as the buzzing rose to a fervent pitch she wrenched, bone and fur coming away in sticky gobbets to reveal the crimson honeycombs within. "What strange nectar is this!" she whispered, drawing forth a handful of sticky black comb studded with shiny red cells, on which pale grub-like bees clambered in confusion. "No doubt distilled from narcotic blossoms, and used in the profane rites of the cult for secret initiations into the nigh-forgotten mysteries! Now I too shall join in on this secret communion!"
So saying, she stuffed the scabbrous honeycomb into her mouth, teeth crunching and sucking at the sickly-sweet stuff, until her cheeks bulged and her face and hands were stained with the dark crimson remnants of her profane feast. Behind those black glasses, her pupils dilated into vast pools, and within her skull she felt the throbbing at cardinal points as tumorous chakras resonated in communion. A bloody froth arose at her lips as she collapsed into the crimson grass at the base of the tree.
In the hollow of the fossil titan's chest, pale humans scraped out hexagonal chambers from the calcified bone. Hovering above them vast pale insects danced and sang in eternal communication, descending now and again to regurgitate from its orifice a red stream into the open mouth of a starving parishioner, or to guide a thin and aging worker into one of the finished cells, which was then sealed with red wax.
One of the older cells bulged and sagged, then cracked and broke from within, vomiting forth a thin figure in a black suit and sunglasses, mud-colored hair in disarray. She looked up at the distance sky, tracing out the great spine, and the manifold ribs of the titan, the interplay of humans and monstrous pale bees in their eternal dance and labor. She smiled and scuttled forward, clattering over dry bones stripped free of flesh and desiccated carapaces sucked clean of their juices, for she found herself at the peak of a great morbid mountain of remains, and surveyed the workers above and below.
"Aha! A posthuman settlement." she murmured, nails idly scratching sigils on the cone-like elongated skull of a little girl. "No doubt in ancient days the bees once served men, and then in some atomic apocalypse the tides of power shifted, and all the weight of centuries of hubris fell with terrible irony on those who had crafted these great insects. Or perhaps again this is some prehuman survival, a remnant of those hoary days before the rise of Sumer and Acchad, before benevolent gods recreated the universe in their own image, and the stories of elder lore were handed down only by hidden priests that degenerated, generation after generation, into simple magicians whose illicit brewing of narcotic mead was the only remnant of their service to the pale buzzing masters..."
As she spoke, a drone began to descend from the endless dance, buzzing in zig-zagging flight towards her.
"Ahh! I am discovered! Forgive me, oh buzzing insect-god, for trespassing on your terrible domain! Strip not my flesh from my bones!" So saying she threw herself prostrate, but so unbalanced herself that she began to fall down the pile, precipitating a general avalanche of carved ribs and elongated skulls. The great clatter echoed throughout the fossil titan's thoracic cavity, and when at last she came to a rest, she sat up amid a great plume of bone dust and swirling dirt, cough, sputtering, and her black suit painted grey and white. He sunglasses had been lost in the fall, and she squinted against the light.
Looking back for her buzzing pursuer, she saw that the pile had half collapsed, and revealed beneath the massive pile a low cathedral, carved into the titan's ilium.
"A hidden fane!" She said, as she stumbled toward the irregular entrance to the weirdly Gothic structure, whose fluting lines were carved to resemble skeletons and corpses in relief. "No doubt the original temple of the humans, before they were impressed by their rebellious creations, and perhaps still to contain the secret of their nameless rites! I will enter this shrine and discern the lore with my esoteric learning, and come to be the mistress of this place..."
The entrance was a rough rectangle, but irregular, the carving uneven of depth and quality, as if the original structure had been carved and carved again over generations, worn down over the centuries with decade after decade of elaboration by skilled but blind hands. The entrance itself led to a short tunnel, where she ran her hand over murals of strange cannibal feasts and necrophiliac rites, one leading into the other, now with bees and now with humans, pale buzzing forms metamorphosing into thin human wiggly grubs and back again. Past the tunnel was a chamber, where massive mummified insects stood guard around a central plinth of carven ivory. She smelled a sickly-sweet scent, a strange incense of copper and burnt sugar, and crawled forward on her knees, hands blindly treading over carven histories that bordered on the pornographic, bees and men and women locked in carnal congress, underage nymphettes sucking off bearded priests with compound eyes, the off-shoot sect of lesbian drones, locked forever in their pseudo-mating dance of parthenogenesis and murder... The top of the plinth itself was a shallow bowl, filled with a thick liquid covered by a thin crystalline scab.
"What holy nectar is this...it can be nothing less than the royal jelly, the salve of transformation, the true grail from which all these blasphemies have sprung. I must sup from this chalice if I am ever to divine the full mysteries of this place..." And so saying through herself face-first into the bowl, catching a glimpse in only the final instant a glimmer of her reflection in the bloody liquid, the compound eyes wide, the beginning of proboscises forming along her jaw...
The red-cloaked druids struggled to nail the sacrifice to the sacred tree, her pale olive skin contrasting against the brown ash-wood. Her foul curses came out as a burble, bloody froth foaming at her lips as her head lolled back and forth, and she did no more than shake as the ash-wood stakes were driven through her flesh, between the bones of her forearms, to pin her to the tree. Stripped of her strange black garments, she was decked with garlands of crimson flowers, the narcotic dust of which covered their fingers, their hands, and painted her breasts with the strange rows of parallel scars. At last the archdruid came, bearing with him the black chalice of old, and they pierced her tongue with a holly thorn so the blood flowed down her chin and fell among the blossoms. Removing the lid from the chalice the softest of buzzing filled the sacred grove, and with great care he removed the pale, fuzzy form of a queen nymph, and placed it upon her bloody tongue.
Unnerved, the archdruid removed his fingers quickly. Though life must surely be fleeing quickly from her form, still she was smiling.
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