Perilous Artifacts: Vernise Bees
Pieter called up from below her, “I’m in position. Shall I pull you in closer toward the hive?”
“Aye. But when I say, ‘Tie up,” I want you to secure the rope to that bush directly below the hive, and then I want you to ascend to help Harry.”
“But then you’ll be stuck here alone,” he protested.
“I will not. When I have the honeycomb, I will descend the rope and untie it, and wrap the comb in canvas sheeting. At my signal, Harry will pull it up and you will help him stow it safely in the steamer. And then you may return to help me gather vegetables and fruit in the rest of the canvas sheeting. When Harry sends the rope down again, we’ll send the parcels up to him to secure.”
“Are you sure?”
Muttering to himself, Pieter headed back to the ladder as Olive sized up the honeycomb. The hive hadn’t been there long, yet the bees had been very busy! In the few short days it had taken Olive to return, the honeycomb had expanded from three-quarters of her height to several times her height and nearly as wide as her shoulders.
One of the worker bees landed on her gloved hand. She held it up, observing the perfect brown and butter-yellow banding on its plump abdomen and the distinctive purple-brown “V” between its wings.
“V for House Vernise—“
Vernise bees! She groaned under her breath. These were a special breed. No wonder they’d managed to grow this honeycomb so expeditiously large. House Vernise might already be looking for their escapees. While the Academy had a clear right to any produce from their assigned plot, she’d better hurry if this honey was to benefit the Academy instead of being confiscated. Wrapping the rope around her left arm and right leg, she reached out and grabbed the honeycomb with both hands, breaking all but a foot of it free of the rock.
The bees swarmed madly around her.
Quickly she slid down the rope to where Pieter had knotted it, and jumped clear. Running to the bottom of the garden terrace dissuaded the majority of the bees from following. A few minutes later she was able to return to place the honeycomb on one of the canvas sheets while encouraging the last of the bees to move on. She wrapped it up, folded it in half, and gave a tug on the rope.
“Produce coming up,” she called as she peeled off her gloves. Removing the netting swathing her hat and head, she tucked them away.
Grabbing another canvas sheet, she formed it into a carry sack, and headed for the rows of beets, carrots, and cabbages.
Harry and Pieter joined her. “Right then. What should we pick?” Harry asked.
For the next installment (available next Tuesday), read Perilous Artifacts: Unexpected Arrivals, where Olive realizes that Pieter knows more than he’s said.
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