Meda was checking the hive earlier than usual, preparing for the visit of the royal sisters and Polgara. She had not really met Anikka, and wanted to ensure that everything was perfect for their visit. Of course, she would warn both the princess and the queen to be wary of the hive, as she did not want to lose even a single worker bee.
“It is unusual for you to be up and about so early.”
Meda turned away from the hive with a smile.
Perseus stood a short distance away. Since they had spoken, he had seemingly made a conscious effort to behave himself, and while he still did not act with the decorum that Lukos did, he behaved in an acceptable enough manner. Meda had to admit she was impressed.
“Are you truly worried about this visit? I am sure everything will be to the taste of the queen, Gatherer Meda.”
“I am simply making sure everything is ready. But I would be grateful if you would see about preparing some of the herbs to send back to the palace, and store them in my quarters.”
Perseus nodded, and walked away, while Lukos came up behind her.
“Do you wish us to meet the queen today, my lady?” he asked, quietly.
“No, for she comes with the princess. Were it just for the queen, I might wish to introduce the two of you so that she might get to know both of you, but this is ostensibly an educational trip for the princess. It would be…desirable for the two of you to spend as much time on other tasks as possible, or even to go swimming.” A bee buzzed around her dress, and she let it, staying as still as possible.
“Understood, my lady.” Lukos smiled. “I know our queen is protective of the princess, and I would not wish to worry her.”
As Anikka had been confined to the palace and its grounds and placed under supervision, visiting the garden compound was a rare treat. She had been taken with the idea of Evadne, and her cloak of flowers, and she wondered what their own Gatherer was like.
When she had been informed that Molpe would be coming with them, she had not known how to feel. Still, it was not as though she could argue with her sister more than she already had, and she was not even sure that she wanted to.
But as soon as they arrived, she forgot her worries, racing ahead of the party to look around the small garden, amazed at how the plants were blooming.
It was not just the plants, either, but the lush scenery. A waterfall gushed behind the compound, and the sea was closer than it was at the palace. Should Anikka wish, she could easily go paddling, and the heavy smell of greenery almost overwhelmed her.
“Princess Anikka!” Polgara caught up with her, a smile on her face. “Princess, you must not rush off like that.”
“This place is so beautiful!” Anikka was unable to stop herself. “It smells so lovely, and the sea is so close…”
“It is very lovely. Meda and the men worked very hard on making it the perfect place to raise the plants we need. See how they are in boxes? That is so they can grow in soil, even here, and be looked after perfectly. Sand can be a good place to grow plants, but it is not always so.”
“And I can hear the bees!”
“Meda has asked us not to get too close to the bees, Princess Anikka. They do not know us, and so may be afraid. Why not look at all of the plants? I am sure they will not be so defensive.”
As Anikka ran off to do so, Polgara watched her with a fond smile.
It was not a secret that she was happy to care for her ward, and she had found her a very engaging child. To see her having so much fun felt so rewarding.
Meanwhile, Meda and Molpe were walking together, the queen now slower in her walk due to her pregnancy.
“The bees seem to be settling in well, my queen, and I do not see any sign of a rival queen yet, so we should have an uneventful summer here.” Meda smiled. “They are happily producing honey, and helping with the garden. In fact, they have taken to the change better than I could have hoped.”
“And the men?” Molpe asked, quietly.
“Much like the bees, my queen. They have settled in very nicely.” Meda smiled. “They have been a great help to me, and I know that we will bring in good harvests for the tribe.”
Molpe paused. So far as she knew, Meda had not yet formed an attachment with either man, although as an Amazon, she was well within her rights to. However, with a tribe so small, she could see why her Gatherer was more focused on her duty rather than anything else.
She smiled at Meda, confidingly.
“You know, you have not told me much of them, still. I know only what I have heard from the men in the royal compound, and they are quick to tell me that Lukos and Perseus are working hard, but not much of their personalities.”
“Well, they both work hard, and at the moment there is so much groundwork…but Lukos is very dutiful, while Perseus is slightly more lighthearted.” Meda seemed to be careful with her words, and looked puzzled. “May I ask why you wish to know about them, my queen?”
“Meda, they likely will end up as fathers one day. Getting to know them, even by proxy, will be of use to me.” Molpe stifled a laugh. “And I must admit, I want to know which you may pick. Call it entertainment, if you must, but I am curious.”
“I understand you are not thinking of it at the moment, Meda, but it is interesting to think that you may end up choosing one of them. My mother and her best friend used to place bets sometimes on who would choose which man, and I suppose I see the amusement of it now.”
Before Meda could answer, Polgara and Anikka came up to them, with Anikka excited.
“I recognised some of the plants!” she announced, proudly.
“Indeed. The princess has been paying attention in her studies.” Polgara smiled warmly. “She recognised them just from seeing them in the books, my queen, and was even able to list off some of the uses.”
Anikka seemed a little unsure, but Molpe smiled down at her. “Anikka, that’s wonderful! You clearly have worked hard.”
“I have!” In her excitement, Anikka seemed to forget her awkwardness. “We have been studying plants so that I would be prepared for the trip, and I have been learning so much! Polgara said that some of what was in the books is for Gatherers to reference, but that some plants are useful because you can make poultices for wounds out of them. She said I can learn to make some in our lessons next week!”
“A poultice is a useful thing to learn for any warrior, and yet more useful if you can find the plant.” Molpe looked to Polgara with approval. Learning to make treatments was a good lesson for any young woman, especially one who would be nearing the age where she would start to begin more strenuous training.
“Why don’t you show me the gardens?” Molpe asked her sister. “I should like to see the plants that you know, if you should like to show them to me.”
Anikka seemed slightly hesitant, but nodded, turning and walking back slowly towards the gardens. Molpe followed behind her, smiling as she looked at her younger sister.
Certainly, she seemed brighter since Polgara had arrived. Her energy seemed to have blossomed, and her enthusiasm was lovely to see, though she was still unsure around Molpe. But seeing her so happy was a delight to the queen’s heart.