The despair of the little Bee gave way to determination. She remembered again that she was a Bee.
“I’m whining as if I have no brains and can do nothing. That’s not how I honor the bee colony. They’re in danger, and so am I. If I have to face death, I might as well be proud and brave and at least try to save my people.”
Even though she had been away from home for a long time, Maya felt one with her people. There was a great responsibility on her now that she knew of the hornets’ plot. “Long live, my queen!” she sobbed aloud.
“Silence, please!” The hornet sentry came by on his evening round.
As soon as the sentry was gone, Maya made the gap through which she had been peering larger and wormed her way into the hall. There was loud snoring. A dim blue light shone in. She saw the moonlight, and in the distance, a glittering star shone. She heaved a deep sigh. “Freedom!” she thought. She started crawling toward the exit.
“If I fly now,” she thought, “I’ll be out in one go.” Her heart pounded as if it was about to burst. But there, in the shadow of the doorway, stood a sentry, leaning against a column.
Maya was rooted to her spot. All her hope of escaping was gone. She might as well go back now that there was such a hefty sentry. He was staring at the moonlit landscape, and his armor gleamed in the light. Something about the way he stood there moved the little Bee.
“He looks sad, but also proud with his beautiful shield. He is always ready to fight or die,” she thought. Oh, how often had the goodness of her heart and the beauty of something made her lose all sense of danger. Suddenly, a golden arrow of light shot out from the sentry’s helmet.
“Goodness gracious,” whispered Maya, “this is my end.” But the sentry said calmly, “Just come here, child.”
“What!” cried Maya. “You saw me?”
“Of course, you made a hole in the wall and crawled through until you got here. Now you lost your courage. Am I right?”
“That’s true,” said Maya, trembling with fear. The sentry had seen her all along. She remembered how keen hornets’ senses were.
“What are you doing here?” he asked cheerfully. But Maya still thought he looked sad. His mind seemed to be far away and not concerned with what was going on.
“I want to get out, and I’m just scared. You looked so strong and handsome with that armor. But now I will fight you.”
The sentry smiled in amazement. Maya was enchanted by him.
“We will not fight, little Bee,” he said. “Your bees are powerful as a people, but we hornets are stronger as individuals. You can stay here and talk for a while, but not too long, because I have to wake up the soldiers soon, and then you have to go back to your cell.”
Maya was filled with admiration, and with great sad eyes, she looked up at her enemy and followed the impulse of her heart: “I have always heard bad things about hornets. But you are not bad. I cannot believe that you are bad.”
“There are good creatures and bad creatures everywhere,” he said seriously. “But you must not forget that we are your enemies and will always be your enemies.”
“But must an enemy always be bad?” Maya asked. “When I saw you in the moonlight, I forgot that you were dangerous and cruel. You seemed sad. I always thought that sad beings cannot be bad.”
The guard said nothing, and Maya continued bravely, “You are strong. You can put me back in my cell and I will die, or you can set me free, if you want to.”
At this, the guard stood up. His armor rattled and the arm he raised shone in the moonlight. “You’re right, I could do that,” he said. “But my people and my queen have entrusted this power to me. No bee that enters this fortress will leave it alive. I will remain loyal to my people.”
After a pause, he added softly, “I learned through bitter experience how disloyalty can hurt, when Lovey left me…” Maya was moved by his feelings and his words. Love for her own kind, loyalty to her people. Everyone did their duty, yet everyone remained an enemy of the other. Lovey was a beautiful dragonfly who lived on the shore of the lake among the water lilies. Maya trembled with excitement. Here was perhaps her salvation. But she was not entirely sure. So she said cautiously, “Who is Lovey, if I may ask?”
“It doesn’t matter, little one. She’s not your concern, and she’s lost to me forever. I’ll never find her again.”
“But I know Lovey,” said Maya as nonchalantly as possible. “She’s the most beautiful of them all.”
The guard’s attitude suddenly changed. He jumped to Maya and cried out, “What! You know Lovey? Tell me where she is. Tell me right now.”
“No.” Maya spoke calmly and resolutely.
“I’ll bite your head off if you don’t tell me.” The guard came dangerously close.
“That’s going to happen anyway. I won’t betray Lovey. She’s a good friend of mine, and you want to lock her up.”
Maya saw that the guard was struggling and having an inner conflict.
“Goodness, it’s time to wake up the soldiers. No, little bee, I don’t want to harm Lovey. I love her with all my heart. I would give my life for her. Tell me where I can find her.”
Maya was smart. She hesitated deliberately before saying, “But I love my life.”
“If you tell me where Lovey lives, I’ll set you free.” Maya saw that the guard was having a hard time saying these words.
“Will you keep your word?”
“I give you my word as a guard,” he said proudly.
Excitedly, Maya realized that she might be able to save her people in time.
“I believe you,” she said. “Lovey lives in a cove of a large lake, under the lime trees near the castle. You’ll find her there every day, at noon when the sun is high in the sky, among the white water lilies.”
The guard had both hands pressed against his pale forehead. He seemed to be struggling with himself. “You’re telling the truth,” he finally said softly. “She told me about a place with white flowers. Those must be the flowers you’re talking about. Fly away now. Thank you.”
He stepped aside, freeing the way out. The day broke.
“A guard keeps his word,” he said.
He did not know that Maya had overheard the meeting and believed that a little bee, more or less, made little difference.
“Goodbye,” Maya called out, breathless with haste, and flew away without a word of thanks. There was no time to lose.