Watching the pixies zipping back and forth amongst the wildflowers Zoe leant against the smooth trunk of the mushroom she was hiding under for shade from the noonday sun and let herself smile.
“This was a good call,” she mused to herself as the pixies carried on doing whatever it was they were doing to the flowers.
She’d never asked, the big black bug preferred to keep herself to herself but it was a pleasant thing to watch. She’d tried living a normal life amongst humans, but they always freaked out eventually usually after she hiccuped and burped green flame all over the garden lawn
Or lost her temper because they were being noisy, or rambunctious or annoying or just because she was in a grumpy mood. This glade deep in the forest was so different though, fairies, the fey they didn’t judge, didn’t question why you looked different, they were all different!
From the tall, willow thin elves or dryads, fauns and centaurs to the small folk, the wee ones like the brownies, pixies, surmelles, will o’ wisps and others. They were a chilled, relaxed lot, occasionally boisterous but never panicking and forming a mob waving torces. Picking up her basket full of fresh fruit Zoe left the wildflower patch and headed back toward the trees. The world at this height was surreal, everything looked so very different yet similar at the same time. It was a marvel, peaceful, quiet, with fairly predictable party times at the full moon or solstice and equinoxes which were easy enough to avoid. Pausing outside the door to the hollowed out tree she lived in Zoe looked around furtively then hurried inside.
She paused by a pool of water to refill the canteen in her basket and for once took a moment to just enjoy her reflection. Her carapace was black, long flexible plated neck and chitinous thorax with glowing green plates along the underside of her abdomen. Her wings were bright luminous green same as her four beautiful bug eyes. She had two two legs and four arms all of them segmented in multiple way giving here svelte body an incredible amount of flexibility. She could use her lower arms as legs when she wanted or needed to scuttle and shift and move quickly. Letting her antennae twitch up and flicker as the cool breeze blowing over her head off the pool.
It was cool out of the sun and the black bug quickly clambered into the basket and grasped the pulley. Just before she got underway another figure sauntered in and upon seeing the basket hurried over to hop into it.
Zoe bit back a groan and smiled politely at the orange and cream furred critter, it was one of her neighbours, Ritmico. She was as surmelle, a short, weasel/rat hybrid, at half a foot high she was a head shorter then zoe’s miniscule bug body but she was a lot thinner.
She had small round ears, thick rich fur, two tones of orange across the majority of her body except for a cream coloured muzzle and chest. She had a short spiky mohawk that covered her head and a thick ruff of fluffy orange/brown fur around her neck.
She was one of the more enigmatic members of the fey species. Wearing a blue headband, gloves and some sort of sheath slung over her back. It looked like a sword but Zoe knew from experience it was her instrument, the dreaded Xylotar. A wooden framed device that used different sized metal keys to produce music. She also had a whole bunch of nuts tucked into the pouch that covered her stomach, somewhat like a kangaroo pouch just as far as Zoe could tell it had nothing to do with storing the young. It was literally just a pouch for popping things in, both male and female surmelles had them and Zoe was quite sure they had enchanted, fey magic properties.
“Hello Ritmico,” Zoe said as she started to haul on the rope, moving the basket up toward their level of the great hollow tree.
“Oh Zoe hi there, gosh it is so good to see you, you’ve been hiding away in your apartment for over a week, you should come out with me and Nelli tonight we are going to join Vanran’s band for a night of partying and dancing under the moon.”
The bug offered a nod to the surmelle, “I… don’t think so Ritmico, I just want to nap in peace,” she hefted her basket, “Make something nice to eat, I don’t do parties.”
“Well ok Zoe, won’t force you of course but you got to join in with us sooner or later,” Ritmico chittered away, her buck teeth and fangs clearly visible as she talked and waved her hands around enthusiastically, “It is such a good idea to get out and about and join us, I bet you sing good.”
“I don’t sing,” Zoe grumbled hauling on the rope to pull them level with their apartments and lock the basket in place, “I certainly do not dance.”
Hauling herself out of the basket Zoe nodded to Ritmico and tried to hurry off but the chirpy surmelle lady followed her, chattering away about how good the party would be and how she was happy to teach Zoe how to dance or sing. Stopping by her apartment door Zoe looked down at her and shook her head firmly.
“No thank you Ritmico,” she growled then slammed the door in the startled surmelle girls face. Sighing Zoe rubbed her muzzle then strode into her apartment and put the girl out of her mind. She popped her fruit and water in the kitchen space then opened the door that led out onto the small balcony.
With the sun past its zenith it was warm and cool and there was a refreshing breeze so Zoe settled herself into the chair just inside and lay back to nap. She had no plans for the afternoon, it was peaceful and pleasant and… then Ritmico started to play!
Growling Zoe glared at her neighbor's balcony and shifted in her seat. Normally she didn’t mind when Ritmico was playing, her Xylotar music could be quite soothing. But something about this song was grating on Zoe’s nerves… it sounded like the surmelle was teaching herself something new.
Every other second there would be the plonk of a missed note, she’d stop singing and then try the same section of the song again… and again… gritting her teeth Zoe stood up and stalked over and shut the door. She had been hoping that’d cut off the sound but no… Ritmico could still be heard! Plonking and plunking and fumbling her way through the new song.
Stomping back and forth the black bug shook out her wings and tried to focus on cooking. She had fresh sun ripened fruit, she had…
“Uggghhh” Zoe turned and glared at the wall as her neighbour flunked out of the song again. Stomping out onto her balcony Zoe launched herself into the air, wings buzzing as she flew across. She landed with a thump on Ritmico’s balcony and stomped inside.
“Will you shut up with that infernal racket,” she bellowed, her chitinous wing coverings slamming into the door, partially knocking it off its hinges.
“What.. Zoe,” Ritmico started, “I have to practice…”
“I told you I was going to nap,” Zoe raged, she knew her anger was getting the best of her which was bad but she didn’t care. “First you wouldn’t shut up about that party, now this racket, some of us are trying to sleep.”
“Yea…” a slow, drawling voice grumbled from one corner of the room, “I am trying to nap Ritmi…”
It was Nellico, the green and white furred surmelle was Ritmico’s lover… boyfriend… boy-toy… Zoe had no idea what his relationship was to her. But they were certainly cuddly and affectionate and he was sprawled out on a beanbag, eyes mostly closed. Zoe glared at him then span and pointed a claw at the orange weasel, rat thing.
“See we both want to nap, can it with the noise!”
“Look Zoe, I need to practice this, you never normally…” Ritmico was cut off as Zoe snatched her Xylotar. Holding the wood and metal instrument out at arms length she took a deep breath, feeling the rush of green flame flickering into life at the back of her throat and around her jaws. But she clamped down on her overactive saliva, fire could get out of hand when you lived in a tree.
“No!” Ritmico shouted but Zoe swung and shattered the frame of the xylotar with an almighty CLANG of bending keys. There was also an almighty explosion as whatever fey magic was built into the instrument detonated. The blast threw Zoe backwards, she crashed through the balcony doors, toppled over the railing and fell out of the tree. Tumbling for a moment the black bug flapped her wings and rose up until she was level with the apartment again.
“Practice now!” she shouted, flame still dripping from her jaws before with a buzz she flew back into her apartment and slammed the doors. Drawing a breath, getting her flames under control Zoe flopped on her back and groaned, closing her eyes.
“ I really shouldn’t have done that,” she sighed, “Oh well, I’ll… apologise later… maybe….” she sighed happily and smiled, “At least it is quiet now.”
The bonfire was crackling merrily, bright orange and red flames flickering high into the night air. The fire was being fed with deadwood and fallen branches donated by the great oak trees the dryads where linked to. Ritmico always liked the fiery little tree creatures they were great fun at parties but tonight she’d been sitting sullenly by the stage waiting whilst her friend Vanran looked at her xylotar.
The brown furred faun sighed and shook his head as he plunked one of the bent metal keys, “Sorry Ritmico,” he murmured in his deep baritone, “This is well beyond a quick fix, I’ll take it to the shop tomorrow and work on on it but there is no way we can fix it tonight.”
“Well just great,” the surmelle pouted, “I was going to perform tonight.”
“You can still sing,” Nellico said with a smile, she gave him a look loaded with daggers and he smiled shyly and she let her ears lay back to show she didn't mean it. He was trying to cheer her up, her silly little mint furred mate.
“I had a new song,” Ritmico grumbled, “For xylotar, no vocals! It's all ruined now because of that stupid bug.”
“Come now lass we can still have fun,” Vanran offered, tugging at his scraggly chin tuft, “We’ll dance and drink and celebrate the spirits of the autumn and later on I'm sure you two will…”
“Vanran,” Nellico interupted with a squeak, “Don’t be vulgar now!”
“What?” the faun rumbled, “It’s not vulgar, it's natural, nothing to be ashamed of, why at the spring festival you two…”
“Don’t say another word!” Nellico shouted blushing furiously, his ears burning crimson, “People might hear!” he then scampered off around the fire, blushing furiously.
Reaching up Ritmico took her mangled instrument off the faun as he scratched his floppy goat ears, “What’s his problem?”
Smiling the surmelle adjusted her headband and coughed softly, “Most of us aren't so open about that stuff Vanran… you're hopeless at remembering that.”
“Oh right…” he chuckled, “Didn’t realise you fella was so much of a prude in public! Let's get him drunk and up on stage, then you two can welcome the sleep and decay of autumn.”
“Maybe another night… though hmm,” she plucked the forlornly mangled metal of her instrument, “Can I get some stage time? I've got a good focus for our autumn festival.”
That's how Ritmico wound up lurking in the shadows just off the stage as Vanran and the band brought the first song to a close. Her preparations had been a bit hasty but she'd cheated with a good helping of fey magic and by stealing a tablecloths off one of the buffet tables.
Wrapped up in her emerald green “robe” the cowl pulled up so just her whiskers where showing she swaying out onto stage as Vanran called her forth. He called her the “Bringer of Doom” which was a bit weak as spooky titles went but it set the tone. The crowd hushed and drew closer as she moved with short, gliding steps toward the front of the stage to the staccato rumble of Derek's drums.
Striking a pose she raised her voice, her words infused with a touch of fey. She intoned, her words almost a song, sonorous and marching in time to the tingling hum of Vanran's guitar.
“When the shadows lengthen and the day shorten,”
“As summer fades leaving only the memory of corn and endless warmth.”
“Dust blows and leaves fall,”
“Night falls and nature sleeps,”
“She walks amongst us,”
“She moves around us,”
“Words of vitriol to rend the soul,”
“Acts of destruction to lay is low,”
“Behold her gift!.”
“Destruction to render our celebrations death!”
“Symbol of her Gift to halt our songs!”
Nellico's flute trilled into the night air as with a flash of light and some dramatic drumming the mangled ruins of her Xylotar was raised up! Ringed by three faun’s wearing dark emerald robes made from hastily converted tablecloths they held up green burning torches to illuminate the mangled instrument.
“The Holy Relic,” Ritmico chanted,
“Zoe’s gift, Zoe's destruction!”
“Zoe, Goddess of the Ending,”
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
Repeating that last line over and over Ritmico pumped her fist in the air in time to Nellico's haunting flute refrain. The crowd started to join in as one of her stooges in the crowd started to hand out emerald flamed torches. The crowd loved it, every autumn festival needed a focus and the fey folk dived head first into Ritmico's improvised revenge against Zoe!
It was a little bit spiteful, this much fey magic focussed on Zoe on the night of the Autumn moon would have a definite effect. But their grumpy bug neighbour deserved it for being so downright mean and grumpy all the time!
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
Sprawled in the wickerwork basket chair in her apartment Zoe sighed in contentment. The chair was her favourite thing she'd picked up in the village. It was a large bowl of reinforced bamboo filled with cushions, supported by a circular pedestal base designed to hold her weight.
She could sprawl in it easily, with space for her abdomen and limbs without the restrictions or awkwardness of a chair designed for a mammal. With the doors to her balcony open there was a pleasant breeze blowing in cooling her carapace and every now and then she buzzed her wings, the delicate green filigree whipping up an extra breeze to stir the air in her room and stop it getting humid and stagnant. Off in the distance she could see the bonfire at the fey party and distantly hear the music, quiet, muted by distance and surprisingly pleasing to her senses.
Antennae twitching back and forth the black bug picked up the jug of honey mead she’d acquired on her noisome foray into the market and opened wide and poured the thick, golden, syrup like delight into her maw. It coated her segmented, flexible tongue and sent a flash of pleasure tingling down her throat.
“Ah that is good stuff,” she licked her lips and grinned, “Sweet and full of fire,” she chuckled, “Just like me,” she then snorted and cracked up, unable to keep a straight face at the word “sweet” in that statement.
Letting the mead jug hang from one hand she reached out with two others to her fruit basket and picked up a grape. Holding the luscious green orb firmly in two hands she stared into it, admiring the sleek curve of the fruit skin and the ripe, juice filled interior.
“I am going to enjoy you,” she crooned at the grape, turning it slowly in her hands. That was one of the benefits of being this size, all the fruit was super sized, which made it sweeter, more pleasing and the juice was nectar from the heavens as far as Zoe was concerned.
Opening her mouth wide she sank her teeth into the grape, biting through the thick outer skin and burying her face into the sweet juicy flesh of the fruit within. Slurping disgustingly at her grape, uncaring of the mess she was making of her thorax Zoe munched her way through the grape, devouring the sweet, delicious core.
When all she had left were two handfuls of mush and the stone hidden in its centre she promptly tossed them out the window. The mangled grape sailed out of sight hopefully landing on some drunken, debauched fey on the ground. Wiping her chin Zoe shifted in her chair, pausing as it creaked alarmingly. As it settled back down she put it out of her mind and poured another good mouthful of mead down her throat.
Smacking her lips the bug then reached out for the pear! Oh she was looking forward to this pear. She’d won it at the fruit auction that morning by the simple expedient of glaring at anyone else who dared to think about bidding on it. She’d then cowed the auctioneer into having it delivered to her home as it was half her size! Gleefully she wrapped her hand around the pear and lifted it out of the basket and brought it toward her mouth.
She was about to bite into it, the sweet, sweet scent of fresh pear juice making her drool. She took care to swallow the drool, she didn’t really want to risk igniting her chair then paused as it dawned on her she was holding the bear quite comfortably in one hand!
“What the…” she started, claws involuntarily flexing and closing, squishing into the yielding surface of the pear. Looking around in alarm Zoe realised everything looked smaller and tried to sit up and bring her legs down to the ground.
Her chair made an awful noise, pieces of bamboo bent under tension sprang away as the ties holding them in place gave way. It creaked, it swayed and then with a terrible snapping sound the whole thing gave way! She sprawled on her back, crushing her wings and thumping against the floor with a heavy thud. Discarding the pear she sat up and thumped her head straight into the ceiling, crushing her antennae against the rough bark of her roof.
“What on…” she ducked her head and pulled herself forward onto all fours, crouching in her living room and looking around in shock. She was huge, there was no way she could stand up in here so she crawled forward, segmented legs and arms helping to carry her forward until she could shoulder her way out onto the balcony! She crushed her pear beneath her bulk, the ripe fruit unfolding with a splat and squishing against her carapace. Grumbling she pulled against the doorframe, wriggling and twisting her thorax until she could slide forwards and in the process her back legs and abdomen crushed her fruit basket, covering her glowing green underside with sticky fruit juice.
Pulling herself back up onto her feet she gripped the railing with her lower arms and steadied herself against the bark of the tree house with her upper arms. The balcony was creaking in an alarming manner and when she looked back she saw her abdomen was practically filling the doorway.
Frowning, trying to work out what could her caused this she twisted her head to look at the mangled ruin of her living room.
“Could it have been the fruit?” she mused, then paused as the sounds her twitching antenna where picking up finally filtered through into her mind. Slowly she turned her head to look at the party, it was illuminated by a double ring of green flaming torches and she could hear chanting!
What was worse she could feel their chanting directed at her, their voices, thoughts, power and desires. She could feel the combined fey magic pouring into her, making her antenna twitch. That is what she had been feeling and had been making her grow. Growling savagely Zoe launched herself off the balcony, thrusting her body into the air as she unleashed her wings, beating them into a frenzy in a matter of moments.
Looking back, startled Zoe saw her balcony fall, the sudden weight she’d put on the wood as she launched herself into the air had been too much for it, “Stupid, bloody fairies and their stupid magic,” she growled, biting off curses as she buzzed through the air toward the party.
Coming in low she shot over their heads then backed her wings to hover above the stage. The chanting faltered and every head turned to look up at her and Zoe took it all in. The band, the mangled Xylotar, Ritmico in the centre of the stage wearing a ridiculous robe.
“BEHOLD!” the orange furred surmelle declared, “She has come! Oh Zoe, Queen of Destruction, Mistress of Ruin bless us with your presence!”
The crowd raised their hands, torches swayed back and forth and their voices chanted her name. Zoe felt her body growing, her wings stuttered as they jerked outward to a new size. Folding them in she dropped, flattening Ritmico under her glowing abdomen and let her mouth fill with saliva. Without pause, or thought Zoe spat a gout of incandescently flaming neon green fire at the remains of the Xylotar.
Her flaming attack melted the mangled instrument and bored a hole through the stage leaving it smouldering. She turned to glare at the crowd, tall, huge, larger than anyone else present, wings, abdomen and eyes glowing with baleful green fire as she let flaming goblets of her sticky, resinous, neon burning spit drip from her jaws.
“What do you fey think you are doing!” she screamed at them, reaching down with one arm to pick up Ritmico and shake the girl, “Look what you've done to me, you… you…” throwing back her head and roaring Zoe embarked on a blistering stream of fire punctuated vociferous scathing curses to let the air headed fairies know just what she thought of their little worship party.
She had just delivered a stinging rebuke, using her claws to shred Ritmico’s stupid robe when the booming, drum beat that had been accompanying her swearing filtered into her awareness. Without pause she turned, mouth full and launched a stream of incandescent destruction into the drum. The dryad playing it scampered to safety as Zoe methodically incinerated the whole set.
Turning back to the crowd the bug froze, the crowd was all still there, watching, judging, a hundred eyes all focussed on her. Antenna wilting under the focus of all those stares, she didn’t like being the centre of attention. Opening her mouth to make a departing remark she flinched as the crowd roared! Swaying back, almost stumbling over Ritmico Zoe starred in disbelief as she realised they were cheering. Cheering her fire and her destruction and for just a moment she preened under their approval, wings folding sleekly down her back.
Only for a moment though as she realised with every cheer, every whoop she was growing! She was half as big as she had been when she landed, damn it whatever fey magic Ritmico had woven Zoe had blundered right into it by attacking! Turning toward her annoyingly smug looking and quite tiny little neighbour Zoe reached out with all four hands and pulled the ‘melle up against her chest, thrusting her face against hers.
“What is the meaning of all this!” she growled, shifting her weight as the stage creaked.
“Just a little end of season, autumnal goddess of destruction worship,” Ritmico piped in her trilling voice, “I am sure it’ll wear off in a day or three… but that’ll teach you to smash my xylotar.”
“Ugghhhhh!” Zoe threw herself back into the air, she felt ungainly and huge and awkward. She buzzed a circle around the stage then swept down low and dropped Ritmico into the huge trifle set up on the buffet table. The satisfaction from Ritmico’s squelching landing was tempered by the way the crowd was cheering and waving their torches back and forth.
Screaming another curse at them and dousing the whole stage in neon green bug fire Zoe launched herself up into the darkness toward the trees. She had to get away from this nonsense, hide out until the magic wore off and she could shrink back down! Ugh stupid, bloody fairies!
Perched in a tree, her carapace glittering with dew drops as the horizon turned orange with the promise of dawn Zoe brooded. She was cold, she was wet and she was grumpy! She was also now a good three feet tall which was a massive difference compared to how small she’d been the day before when she’d been eye level with the half a foot tall surmelle’s.
As the sun came up Zoe cast around searching for something to eat and clambered up the tree to pull an apple off its branch. It was small and barely ripe but it was better than nothing. Settling down with her back to the tree trunk and her abdomen hanging down off the branch she considered her options.
“Right,” she murmured, licking her claws clean as she finished the apple, “I’m going to stay here. Fey are flighty and easily distracted, if I don’t turn up and smash more things they’ll get bored and go do something else.”
With her decision made Zoe settled down on her branch, folded her arms over her lap and closed her eyes. She was going to nap it out and hopefully by noon she’d be back to normal size and could go force Ritmico into fixing her apartment.
The rising sun was warm, a final hurrah from summer filtering down through the golden brown, red and bronze leaves of the forest canopy. It was quite comfortable, Zoe slept, her antenna twitching from time to time as a breeze rustled through the leaves and the sun beat down on her shady apple tree.
Legs dangling over the branch, hands spread across her smooth carapace Zoe dozed. The air was warm, her branch had grown more comfortable as the hours had passed and it was blissfully quiet. She was idly day dreaming about living in the woods like this and only going into the fey town when she needed something when she was roughly woken up when the branch she was sleeping on snapped.
Startled awake she had no time to react or use her wings as she hit another branch. Bounced off it, smashed into another which broke off and tumbled head over arms and wings down to the forest floor. She landed with a thump and a clatter of branches and half-ripe apples pattering off her exoskeleton.
“What…” she grumbled, lifting her head and looking around. She pushed a branch off her and frowned at the way her hand easily wrapped about the broken wood. Picking herself up Zoe rose up, segmented legs pushing up to support her weight, body standing tall.
Shaking out her wings, dislodging the leaves that had caught in the membranous fabric Zoe let out a despairing groan. She was huge! Over six feet tall now, no wonder the tree branch had finally snapped under her weight. Growling, cursing Zoe kicked the tree in frustration and jumped as it withered right before her eyes.
The trunk shrunk, bark cracked, apples rained down all around her to splat as rotten mush against the ground. Branches split, bark shrivelled and Zoe gasped as she felt the life, the quiet energy of the trees existence pour into her! She swelled, her abdomen grew, her thorax stretched and her neck elongated a few more inches and her broad snout grew wider! With a crack the tree trunk split and fell and then collapsed, wood rotting, mouldering, the life drained, claimed by herself to fuel her growth adding another foot to her height as it died.
Stunned, Zoe just stared at the now dead apple tree then frowned, she could feel something. It wasn’t a breeze, it was like sound… her antenna twitched and for just a moment words, clear as day echoed around her.
“Zoe, Goddess of the End,”
“Zoe the Destroyer…”
“Hear our words and bring the Winter.”
Shaking her head Zoe turned back to glower in the direction of the village, “Oh hell no!” She growled, “Some bastards are actually worshipping me!”
Stomping off toward the village Zoe growled, leaving a trail of winter browned grass and mouldering fruit behind her as she passed through the forest. She stopped after the bush she had just pushed her way through shrivelled and died and she hit her head on a low hanging branch.
“I am going to kill that weasel… rat…. Fairy…. Aahhhh!” Zoe launched a gout of flame at the offending tree branch then glowered at it as it rotted away, “Ooooh Ritmico!”
Turning Zoe stomped toward the fey village, the stupid weasel-rat, hybrid… thing had started this and she was going to stop this before it went any further. It didn’t take long to reach the village, the walk or flight from the Apple Orchard should have taken a good half an hour. At nearly ten feet tall however it was a matter of minutes to cross the orchard and then she was amongst the buildings.
Fey scattered from under her feet as Zoe stomped toward the hollowed out tree she had, until yesterday called home. She looked forlornly at the broken balcony that had been hers then reached out and casually ripped Ritmico’s balcony off, taking the doors with it. Tossing the wood away she then pressed up close to the tree and brought her eyes in line with the hole she’d made and stared in at the surmelles. Nellico was sitting up from his beanbag in alarm and a sleepy, tousled fur Ritmico was standing in the kitchen area staring in dumbfounded shock at Zoe’s eye.
Showing an extreme amount of patience Zoe waited for the orange and cream surmelle to finish her initial scream as she Zoe’s giant, balefully glowing green eye staring in at her. Then the bug drew back and thrust one of her arms into their flat. The hole splintered wider and most of the content of the room got crushed. Nellico shouted and Ritmico screamed as Zoe closed her hand around the ‘melle and pulled her out.
Stepping back from the tree Zoe leant back on her abdomen, balancing herself then started to kick the hollow tree. Once, twice, thrice… wood snapped, bark splintered and the whole apartment block started to slide. Fey boiled out of their apartments, jumping from balconies, throwing magic into the air to slide to safety as within a matter of moments the whole edifice crashed into the tree next door and shattered into chunks and splinters.
Soft, squeaky, piping noises from Ritmico pulled Zoe out of her deadly rage and she lifted the squirming hybrid up to her face. Then with a malicious smirk she opened her maw wide, showing off her serrated tooth plate, and slowly, wickedly ran her thick green tongue up the wriggling surmelle’s body.
She tasted disgusting, fuzzy and mammalian and ugh but Zoe did it once more, leaving her smouldering slightly as some of Zoe’s saliva caught. Satisfied the little weasel, rat thing had got the message the big bug lifted her up before her eyes and growled.
“Wear off in a few hours you said,” she paused and watched as Ritmico clutched her ears and curled up shaking.
“Oh right…” Zoe growled in a whisper, “I’m huge now aren’t I, well whose fault is that huh! Fix it you stupid little fuzzy thing or I might just eat you yet!”
Ritmico lifted her head and stared up at Zoe with glazed eyes, blood dripping out of her nose from the shock of Zoe’s booming voice. Wiping her nose and taking a deep breath the surmelle lifted herself up onto her hind legs and stared at Zoe.
“Oh well…” Ritmico squirmed and looked around the vast field of black carapace she was now perched on, “You see I guess, things got a bit carried away and some of the villages think you really are a goddess now!”
Zoe ground her teeth together and growled, letting out a puff of caustic vapour that Ritmico scurried around trying to avoid, “It’s ok, it’s ok they all think you are a big bug beast of destruction! If you go.. Like help them out with stuff they should stop!”
Zoe huffed then glanced down at the small crowd that was gathering around the edges of the ruined apartment. About a third of them where all down on their knees, abassing themselves and singing her praises. The others were trying to help stuck fey out of the mangled apartments.
“This had better work,” Zoe whispered, her voice a rumbling growl that still made the orange surmelle perched on her hand flinch, “If not I am coming back for you.”
She then dropped Ritmico in the pond and stomped toward the nearest group of worshipping idiots. There was a dryad, two fauns and a collection of what Zoe thought were the household fairies known as brownies. Crouching down near them Zoe loomed above them and as she lowered herself down into a four armed, two legged squat she brought her head down level with them.
“Get…” she got one word out and stopped as they all flinched back and the brownies were bowled over. Lowering her voice to the barest whisper, lips hardly moving she tried again.
“Get up… what can I do to help you guys out?”
There was a moment of confusion, they all glanced at one another then one of the faun’s shuffled forward, “Well… my lady… the erm stage is ruined so we can’t play… it’ll take weeks to carry enough wood in to fix it.”
“Ok…” Zoe whispered, “I will get you wood, get a team together by the stage to fix it.”
Zoe started to beat her wings, she got one, two flaps in before she realised she’d blown everyone over. Stilling her gossamer… well gossamer to her green wings she walked off grumbling quietly at the idiocy of being this big in a village of tiny fairies.
Still it didn’t take her long to uproot a couple of trees and bring them back to the stage she’d burnt down last night. Setting them down near the crew of faun carpenters she lowered herself down into a crouch again. It was awkward to get her head low enough so she gave up and just lowered her antenna to pick up their voices as she whispered.
“Right so what else can I do to help?”
She moved around town for the next hour helping out. She fixed a fault with the aqueduct that fed the pond so water could flow easily once again. She realigned the blades back on the windmill so it could turn at full speed again. After that she helped clean up the mess from the apartment building she’d toppled and rescued a few of the less magical fairies who where still stuck in the wood. As the sun started to slip toward late afternoon Zoe was feeling pretty good about herself, helping out was a cathartic feeling and no one was worshipping her right now.
Standing on the edge of the village the bug held up one hand and compared it against a nearby rock. She watched for a moment then swallowed heavily as she realised it was getting bigger! Slowly but surely she was still growing!
“Ritmico!” she bellowed, her voice echoing from the trees as she stomped back into the village. She swung her head from side to side and her antenna pointed directly toward one of the small groups of fairies that were helping out near the aqueduct.
Striding right through the centre of the pond, the pond that the day before had been like a giant lake Zoe bent down and scooped the orange surmelle off the ground. Holding her up to her face she glowered at the cowering hybrid and hissed in her quietest rumble.
“It’s not working, I am still getting bigger!”
“Oh…” Ritmico squirmed and looked everywhere but at Zoe before with a sigh turning to face the bug, “See… well… I heard a few of the others saying… how nice it was that you were giving out favours….”
Flabbergasted Zoe stared at the surmelle on the palm of her hand, “Favours… they… they think I am being nice to reward them for worshipping me!”
Ritmico nodded and Zoe tossed her head back and screamed then without a care for what effect it might have she kicked the aqueduct. The wood and stone frame shattered and water cascaded across the town square washing fairies away in all directions. Roaring she closed her hand around Ritmico, holding the surmelle with enough force to make her eyes pop and stomped toward the tree line.
She had intended to take Ritmico with her into the forest and force the fairy to help her undo this. It was her spell that had caused this nightmare after all but as Zoe got in amongst the trees her vision wavered and then everything blurred and Zoe froze as she looked around, the trees were gone.
Looking down the bug gaped, the trees were not gone she had gotten taller than them! The forest clustered around her feet like a green carpet, her clawed feet creating two huge foot shaped clearings amongst the canopy, she hadn’t even felt the trees snap and break as she grew. Glancing at her hand she saw that Ritmico was gone… no not gone, that little speck of terrified feeling orange fluff clinging to her carapace was Ritmico.
Zoe opened her mouth to give the surmelle what for when her vision blurred again. There was a mountain to her right over, it was Mount Garnal and she could see clear over the top of it! This was getting out of hand, Zoe struggled to comprehend what was happening when her vision blurred again and she felt her feet leave the ground.
When the world swam into focus again it was hanging in front of her. A curving orb of rock and gas gently spinning on its axis amongst the stars, her mind couldn’t comprehend the distances involved… it would have fit comfortably atop her abdomen, she could reach out and pick it up in two, maybe three hands and it wouldn’t even tire her out. She was of a mind to do that when the planet turned sideways, her vision went weird again and her antenna stood straight up as static electricity sparked up and down them and then with a soft thud she landed on all six feet in another place.
Lifting her head she stared in awe at the plane stretching out ahead of her. Overhead was an arched dome of stars and hanging, floating gently below the apex of the dome was the planet. Stretching off in all directions was a plane of dark crystal, filled with light and flecks of shattered rainbow and standing on the crystal where other shapes.
A tall humanoid with flowing green and silver robes Zoe recognized from the altar of the temple of Artyan god of ages and knowledged. He seemed to be deep in a discussion with Garnal, god of the Earth, the forge and metalwork. Over there sprawled on a huge divan was the grey, purple and blue furred faun Terilmex god of wine, music and celebration, he was unmistakable as practically every faun she knew tried to emulate him.
Slowly standing up Zoe flinched as a huge auburn furred, four armed creature bustled on over to her. Zoe gaped at her and spoke without thinking, “Autumn!”
“That’s me dearie,” the goddess of harvest smiled and gathered Zoe up in a hug. Normally Zoe wouldn’t permit a hug to happen but she had just had the weirdest day ever and the scents of ripe fruit, dusty summer corn and endless bounty was filling her nose vent with its delightful scents so she got a bit distracted and forgot to object.
“You must be the new lass we have been hearing about, goddess of destruction and the green fire, so nice to see you made it.”
“Made it?” Zoe asked, looking around, trying to take it all in, she wasn’t entirely sure how to process everything she was seeing.
“Oh yes, most new divinity's fail before their spark can cross the threshold and join us here, their followers get bored or stop worshipping them before they transcend,” Autumn gestured at the plain, “We gather here to discuss and talk and so we can interact with the world.”
“I... thought everyone had their own home?”
“We have those too of course but this is like the central meeting place,” she smiled and stepped back, “But gosh this must all be awfully confusing, why not take some time, have a wander around, meet folks let your mind adjust.”
“Sure… what… what do I have to do here?”
“Nothing unless you want to, you’re a goddess now dearie, though you may want to keep those who worship you happy and keep an eye on your high priestess, I caught the poor dear when you dropped her but she is stuck in a peach tree.”
“Sure… I’ll think about dealing with that,” Zoe looked around and picked up a big bowl of fruit that was lying nearby then took two steps back and lay down atop a comfortable divan. The bug froze for a moment as it dawned on her that neither chair, bowl or fruit had been there until she looked for them but sod it… that was the least weird thing that had happened today!
Autumn smiled, patted her on the shoulder in a friendly, motherly way then wandered off and Zoe stretched out. This was a very comfortable divan and the idea that Ritmico was stuck in a peach tree after getting her in this mess was quite enjoyable.
Balancing the bowl of fruit on her thorax Zoe picked a huge pear and bit into it and sighed. Finally she permitted herself relax for the first time since this all began and pick up where she had left off, making a mess of herself with loads of huge fruit! She had just finished off a bunch of grapes and was contemplating wandering over to see if Terlimax was as generous as his worshippers claimed and seeing if he had any mead when she noticed the lights gathering around her sofa.
The shards of coloured light fluttering through the crystalline plane where congregating. Then without a sound they pushed up out of the surface, each one a twisting, geometric shard of light somehow made manifest and three dimensional. As they popped fully into existence they dropped a packet of papers or a stone or a glowing crystal and Zoe’s antenna stood on end as she started to pick up the words of adoration, the prayers, the fervent pleading for help and hesitantly offered devotion and gifts so she wouldn’t rain liquid green fire down on them all!
God damn it, even here in heaven she couldn’t escape this! They where still worshipping her, both those who revered her and those who wanted her to not destroy their stuff! Ugh… she was going to have to do something about this and she knew just who to drag into this mess and help! Ritmico had got her into this mess, no way she was getting out of this though… Zoe paused and frowned, it was so weird the knowledge and thoughts on how to reply to these wisps of coloured light and their packages was just there in her mind. As well as how she could commune with her “high priestess,” her tiny orange prophet.
She directed her antenna at a purple shard of light and sent it off with instructions for Ritmico and then pushed aside her fruit and grumbling picked up the first packet of letters. It crumbled into ash in her hand and a jolt of energy skipped through her body as the prayers fed into her being.
“That… was better than fruit,” she whispered to herself then hesitantly Zoe reached for another packet. No sooner had she absorbed that then more coloured lights started to whirl up out of the floor and dump more packages down around her. Her grumbling was turning into a full fledged growl of anger as she realised it wouldn’t stop, Ritmico had trapped her!
With a howl Zoe fired a jet of green fire at the planet hanging in the air but this just made the coloured lights and prayers, sacrifices and offerings flow faster! There was no end to it! Maddeningly Zoe jumped to her feet and growled, incensed beyond all rational cares and every anger fuelled reaction or reply she sent back down to her worshippers just made it worse! It was going to be weeks, days before she was left alone to relax and that just made her angrier!