Hi everyone! I’m hoping to start buckling down more on the healing stories, so I will attempt posting updates on a weekly basis rather than a monthly one. They will be shorter updates, but in the long run I should be able to get through this “volume” of stories more quickly that way. That is the plan at any rate! For now here is the first part of healing story 4, which makes Cossette the viewpoint character once more. I will try to have the rest of the story up in a week or so. (Also, I will make a page for healing story 4 once it is complete.)
Healing Story 4 — A Sick Bee
* * * *
It was a lovely summer afternoon when a strange new menace flew into Cossette’s life.
Lectures had ended for the day, and Cossette felt like going for a walk around the island for some fresh air. Also, to get away from Lien for a bit. Her conceited roommate had become rather clingy lately for some reason. Always asking her what she’s up to, wanting to know all her plans for the day, and so on. Didn’t Lien have anything better to do? Cossette had several projects to finish by the end of the month.
She sat at the bench overlooking the cliff at the north side of the island, and silently gazed out at the sea. The waves far below pushed and pulled against the rocks in a smooth and steady rhythm, calming Cossette’s nerves a little. It wasn’t long before she found herself breathing in deeply the warm, salty air at the same pace as the sea.
Cossette was almost in a peaceful trance when the peril descended upon her.
The frantic rumble of what sounded like a dilapidated monster train approached behind her. Cossette’s heart leaped to her neck. She immediately spun around onto her knees, wide-eyed, hunched over, and gripping the back of the bench.
About ten meters away a creature at least the size of beach ball flew by at some breathtaking speed. It weaved between trees, lurched over rocks, and dive-bombed a couple figure eights for good measure before drunkenly zig-zagging its way in Cossette’s general direction. The near-deafening rumble of the approaching beast knocked Cossette’s senses back into her just as it adjusted its course to fly straight for her face. Cossette violently pushed herself back from the bench, landing on the ground behind her with her head and shoulders.
The wild thing rushed past directly above her, and Cossette had to inelegantly finish her sloppy backward roll before she could get on her hands and knees and try catching another view of the assailant. She at least felt relieved nobody was nearby to see that embarrassing display, but the more pressing issue at hand was the monster’s whereabouts and motives.
She looked out to the clear light blue sky ahead, casting quick glances to the left and to the right, but not finding the noisy thing anywhere. Had it bounded back toward the academy? Cossette wondered if she needed to hurry over and warn everyone of the strange invader. Her brief glimpses of it didn’t offer much for her to describe it with though—some kind of fat dark bird? It had to be a huge bird, but Cossette didn’t notice any considerable wingspan.
The voice of a young girl or boy called out from the distance. “Busby! Busby, wait up!”
Back on her feet, Cossette looked in the direction of the voice to find three figures running toward her: a man, woman, and child. The child at the lead turned out to be a six or seven-year-old boy, who continued to call out for someone named Busby. It took Cossette a few seconds to piece together that the three strangers were searching for the creature that had just passed her by.
Another burst of noise erupted behind her. She turned around to find the round beast had returned, ascending from below the cliffside as if launched by some unseen trebuchet. Fortunately it passed far above Cossette this time, but she still instinctively flinched back to the ground as it arced overhead. She watched cautiously as it dove back toward the earth, not far from the three visitors.
“Watch out!” she called out to them. “A wild, angry bird!”
But instead of flying toward any of the people, it shakily bounced about in haphazard directions, until if finally crashed directly into the center of a wide dark tree trunk. The creature rebounded backward and landed on its back, its thin black legs twitching about violently.
Cossette recovered her breath and hurried over to the creature, reaching it just after the three newcomers. And before Cossette could say anything at all, the boy wrapped his arms around the beast and hugged it tight.
The thought This is the child’s pet? passed through Cossette’s mind the same time she realized what the creature was exactly, which made the whole situation all the more painfully surreal.
It was a giant honeybee. Over half the size of the boy holding it, but still… it was definitely a bee. Six long legs sticking out of its furry chest, a glossy abdomen striped black and yellowish brown, a large oval eye on each side of its head, two panicking antennae, and four huge and nearly-transparent wings.
The moment Cossette worked this all out, she knew this bee had to have grown under the influence of some kind of magic.
“Is this your bee?” Cossette asked the boy.
The child nodded, his head rubbing against the bee’s fur—if it was right to call it that. The way he awkwardly held onto the bee really made the creature seem more like an oversized cat than an insect. Had it been a cat, she would have found the display amusing, rather than a sight that could only make her body shudder.
Cossette looked to the man and woman. “Are you the child’s parents?”
“Yes,” the woman answered. She and her husband introduced themselves as the Giles, and the boy’s name was Roger. They seemed a clean and proper bunch, and likely well-to-do given their attire.
“Is this bee safe?” Cossette had to ask. She heard bees wouldn’t attack so long as their hive wasn’t endangered, but this was obviously no normal bee. It had buzzed toward Cossette rather fiercely earlier, after all—but then again, it was possible it intended no harm.
“Don’t worry, there is no stinger,” Mrs. Giles pointed out. And indeed, Cossette saw there wasn’t one for some reason.
She thought to ask why that was, but decided it was better to just get to the matter at hand. “And you are here to have this bee taken care of, I take it. To undo its unnatural growth spurt?”
“Actually, no,” Mr. Giles said. “We’re really only concerned about its flying ability.”
The boy expounded, “Busby keeps crashing into trees.”
“It started about a week ago,” Mrs. Giles said. “We’re worried the bee will…”
She looked to her son and frowned a little. Perhaps she wanted to word things cautiously in front of him.
“We don’t know if the bee is ill, or if it’s just getting old,” Mr. Giles said. “The veterinarian in our town was too afraid to look at it, so we thought to try here. You’re one of the witches who lives here, right?”
“I am a practitioner,” Cossette said. “I can take you to see a supervisor, if you wish.” Meaning a professor, or perhaps the headmistress if she was available.
“Please help Busby,” the boy said. “He’s not happy if he can’t fly.”
Cossette looked to him and gave a slight nod, but didn’t say anything further. She couldn’t promise anything to the child, and considering Cossette knew so little about bees, chances were Busby was going to be someone else’s issue to deal with.
* * * *
That evening in Professor Travert’s office, Cossette was handed a few sheets of paper and proceeded to sign each one.
“Congratulations, Miss Noel,” the professor said. “You are the academy’s first practitioner ever assigned the task of healing an insect.”
This was not at all what Cossette expected. It turned out that nobody at Coeur Healing Academy knew much about bees, and the young child Roger was insistent that Cossette be the one to help his oversized pet. She had never dealt with animals before, nor had she ever studied much about the effects magical elements could have on them. She never had a pet growing up, and even the academy’s cat D.J. always seemed to avoid her.
Yet the task was assigned to her regardless, so there was nothing more to do but give it all her focus and best effort. Who knows, perhaps she would be able to start understanding something about magic through this unusual undertaking? Cossette hadn’t had much luck in that department with her past patients, so her hope was to finally get the ball rolling with Busby.
* * * *
Cossette only had a class before and after lunch the next day, so she spent the morning conducting a basic check-up for Busby. While Roger’s parents filled out a number of forms about themselves and their time with Busby, Cossette took the leashed bee to the medical examination room. While Busby generally would stay in Roger’s arms without a fuss, Cossette couldn’t risk letting the bee fly off as it had in their first encounter—so a thin rope was snugly tied just above the bee’s abdomen. As Cossette tugged Busby along down the hallway, the students she passed by were quick to either turn away in terror or hug the far wall to keep as much distance between them and the giant bee as possible.
The students would just have to get used to the bee, if it was going to remain here until it was healed of whatever magical ailment was keeping it from flying straight. Cossette had initially assumed its shift in size would be what was needed to be corrected, but the Giles wished for the bee to remain Roger’s beach ball-sized pet. The bee appeared in Roger’s life three years ago apparently, and its difficulty with flying was only a recent development.
Once in the medical examination room, Cossette tied Busby’s leash around the width of the raised bed so that it wouldn’t fly about the room while she ran her tests. As the bee twitched about on the bed, Cossette drew a rough sketch of it and labeled all its parts based on notes she took from a book about bees. The bee’s furry chest was called its thorax, and the long tongue that sometimes flicked out from its mouth was its proboscis. The creature also had not two, but five eyes. Between its two large eyes were three tinier ones in the center of its face.
Cossette proceeded to get all of Busby’s measurements and weigh the creature with a kitchen scale. It was a light animal despite its size, but there didn’t seem to be any health problems that Cossette could readily recognize. After writing what she could about Busby’s general behavior, she decided to tie Busby’s leash to one of the legs of the bed, allowing it to fly about if it wished. There was enough slack to the thin rope that the bee would be able to reach any part of the room.
The bee quickly accepted Cossette’s offer, and began hovering about from one corner of the room to the next. Its buzzing was unnerving, and Cossette couldn’t help but duck each time it flew anywhere near her. But after a few minutes of observation, Cossette felt she had pinned down at least a couple things about the way Busby flew. Every second or two, there was a brief pause in the flapping of the bee’s wings. The way it leaned upward as it flew also felt a bit off. In general there was an air of confusion to how the bee flew around, but it was possible the bee was simply fretful about its new environment.
Once she wrote down everything she had noticed about Busby, she walked to the end of the leash in order to untie it and return the bee to Roger and his parents, who were presumably still at one of the professor’s offices. As she reached for the rope though, Busby swooped down right in front of Cossette’s face. She let out a tiny scream and stumbled backward in surprise.
The door to the medical examination room flung open, and in leaped Lien.
“Princess Cossette! Whatever has…” She turned her focus to the giant bee buzzing about above the bed.
Lien let out a dramatic gasp. “A monster!” And without missing a beat, Lien pulled a long metal needle from each of her sleeves and rushed forward.
“Stop, you idiot!” Cossette yelled. She jumped in Lien’s direction, taking Lien by surprise and stopping the rash roommate long enough for Cossette to wrap her arms around Lien’s stomach. The collision likely would have resulted in Cossette tackling Lien to the ground, had Cossette been a bit bigger or Lien a bit smaller.
Once the two had caught their breath, Cossette took Lien’s hand and calmly dragged her out of the room.
Cossette maintained a reposed expression. “Lien, please knock before entering the medical examination room.”
Lien looked flustered for once, but only for a fleeting moment. “But the beast! When I hear the cry of my beloved roommate in danger, I am duty-bound to intervene.” Lien took one of her melodramatic stances, bending back a bit, raising her left arm in front of her chest, and holding her right arm high in the air. The smug look on her face as she looked down upon Cossette was almost enough to push Cossette over the edge.
She knew how to not let her ridiculous roommate—or anyone—get the best of her though.
“That bee is my patient,” Cossette said. “Now if you will excuse me…”
Cossette walked back to the medical examination room and silently shut the door behind her. From the other side of the door she could hear a pompous huff.
“A bee, is it?” Lien said in a raised voice. “I shall leave bugs, snails, wooooooorms, frogs, and the like to you then! I have a much higher calling to attend to. OH! Ho ho ho ho!” And off she stomped.
Good, she’s gone, Cossette thought. Perhaps she needed to get something worked out with that roommate of hers, but for now she had to focus on this bee.
* * * *
A couple days passed, and Cossette spent most of her free time observing Busby and the ways it interacted with Roger. The bee never flew off to gather nectar or pollen, but this turned out to be a non-issue for a number of reasons. For starters, Busby was a male bee—a drone whose main purpose is to mate with a queen bee. Based on Cossette’s crash course on bees, it was only the female worker bees who did all the gathering, as well as all the stinging. But more significantly, Busby apparently didn’t even need to eat nectar or pollen. Curiously, and worryingly, this giant bee ate meat.
One cloudy afternoon, Cossette was outside the academy again with Mrs. Giles, watching Roger play catch with Busby. The boy would throw a small rubber ball as hard as he could, and if Busby was in the mood for playing at that particular second the bee would attempt catching the ball with its six dangling legs. Every now and then the bee would succeed and bring the ball back to Roger, but most of the time it would miss. It took some time, but Cossette eventually managed to tell which times Busby failed due to flight error, and which times it simply didn’t feel like bothering.
“One more throw, Busby. Are you ready?” Roger called out. The bee was hovering around the top of one of the few trees in the area, seemingly oblivious to the boy. Roger threw the ball. As if awakened from a daze, the bee darted away—then spun around, straight for the projectile. The ball collided directly into Busby’s face.
Fortunately it seemed Busby wasn’t hurt, as the ball bounced away and the bee kept flying about without reacting in any way. Given the way Roger often grabbed and wrestled with the bee, Cossette gathered that it could handle a little roughhousing.
“It doesn’t act anything like a bee,” Cossette said. “Has it ever tried to leave Roger to return to its hive?”
Mrs. Giles shook her head. “It has flown off from time to time, but never very far. Once we had fed it a couple days, the bee became an obedient pet, always to return home once it grew hungry again.”
The Giles had shared all the details they could about the first day the giant bee appeared. One quiet evening they found the oversized insect sitting on the floor with Roger, who was trying to ride on its back like a rocking horse. A panicked Mr. Giles forced the creature out the window (to Roger’s dismay), but it wouldn’t leave the area outside. It was then only a matter of time before the boy and bee were reunited and the Giles had to concede the insect was harmless.
It really wasn’t a lot to work with. Roger couldn’t recount any specific details about that evening, and the Giles weren’t certain what the boy had been doing at the time of the bee’s arrival. Perhaps playing with blocks or a bilboquet, or reading one of his picture books. Whether or not the bee was its current size before encountering Roger was another complete mystery.
What drew the two together in the first place? Cossette wondered. It all seemed so random… But then, this was magic she was dealing with.
The bee began flying in a sort of figure eight, with the second loop on the left always smaller than the first one on the right. Roger pointed at the bee and looked back to his mother.
“Do you have any sausages?”
“Back at the inn, sweetie,” Mrs. Giles said.
Cossette realized Busby must have performed a bee dance just now. According to her research, bees were capable of communicating the location of nectar, pollen, and water sources by waggling about through the air in certain patterns. Busby had adapted this ability for his own purposes, it appeared.
“Does Busby fly like this to let you know it’s hungry?” Cossette asked.
“Yep,” Roger said. “Busby wants sausage. If he wanted chicken, he’d fly like this.” Roger moved a hand up and down, slowly to the left and then to the right. “And if he wanted pork, he’d fly like this.” Roger moved a hand to the left, then up, then diagonally down to the right, then in an arc back to the starting point.
Cossette smiled at the thought of Busby’s tastes dictating its entire language. “What if it wants foie gras?”
Roger laughed. “You’re a funny witch.”
“I try to be, from time to time.”
“Will you use your magic to help Busby?” the boy asked. “He used to love playing catch, but now he doesn’t even try lots of the, many of the time.”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.”
* * * *
It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was something. Once Roger and his mother left to take Busby back to the inn they were staying at in town, Cossette headed to her room to get straight to work. She had a lot of sewing to get done tonight.
Cossette opened her door and was immediately ambushed by a noisy greeting.
“Roommate Cossette! You look delightfully exhausted. Too many aching thoughts built up in your adorable little head? You are nearly at the point of total collapse, and require the proper care that your esteemed roommate alone is capable of providing at this solemn hour.”
“Please, Lien. I have work to do right now.”
Lien stood up from her chair and gasped. “The situation is even worse than I imagined. Cossette!” Her eyes turned grossly serious. “Listen to me very carefully. Take off. All your clothes. Right. Now.”
Cossette opened her mouth a moment, but fell back to a simple frown and head shake before responding. “What is wrong with you?”
“You are under such duress—Is that the word? Under such stress, that only the gentle hands of a trained masseuse can free you from utter physical, mental, and spiritual breakdown!”
“I thought you were an acupuncturist.”
Lien placed her hands on her hips, puffed her chest up a bit, and laughed heartily. “Acupuncture is but one of my many refined and lovely skills! My grandmother taught me both the fine art of the needle, and the fine art of the hands! For years I have—”
Cossette turned around, shut the door, and left.
* * * *
Once she walked around the academy a couple times, Cossette decided the coast was likely clear and she could pick up some things from her room without Lien badgering her. As luck would have it, Lien was out somewhere else—probably looking for Cossette—and so it was an easy matter for Cossette to grab her full sewing kit and the materials she would need for her magical procedure.
Feeling a bit like an escaped prisoner, Cossette poked her head out into the hallway to glance for any sign of Lien. The wild roommate was nowhere in sight, so Cossette wasted no time in heading to the academy proper and finding an empty classroom to begin her work in.
Cossette’s aim for the evening was to create a life-size plush doll version of Busby. She began by cutting out patterns for each part of the bee: the head, thorax, and abdomen, and then six legs, four wings, two mandibles, and two antennae. Each part required multiple swaths of golden yellow fabric to sew together in order to make the felt doll look as realistic as possible.
It was a long and monotonous effort to sew it all, but Cossette didn’t find the process all that tedious. There was a clear sense of progression as she stitched the patterns together, and the passing hours gave her time to brainstorm and mull over all the possible routes she could take in healing Busby with this doll-centric healing methodology.
Cossette made sure to not sew the pieces all the way—she had to leave a hole big enough to push the cotton stuffing into each of the pieces. She turned the pieces inside out and proceeded to fill them until they felt nice and firm. She then wrapped up with the base sewing and began work on decorating each of the pieces.
With dark brown fabric Cossette cut and sewed together stripes to loop around the plush bee’s abdomen, and with black fabric she added five eyes to its face. The wings were made with a thicker and stiffer off-white felt, and Cossette decided to paint black vein-like lines on each side of the wings to give them the proper level of detail she felt they needed. At first she worried this wouldn’t look very good and she would have to start the wings all over, but when holding them up with the rest of the bee and stepping back a bit—as a whole it seemed to turn out just fine. Obviously nothing about this plush doll was going to fool anyone into thinking it was the real, actual creature. All that mattered was that it was clearly meant to represent Busby specifically, and not simply come across as a generic, cutesy bee plush toy.
It took at least another hour to sew all the pieces together and add the finishing touches Cossette deemed necessary to finish the Busby doll project. In the end, the undertaking took her almost the entire night to complete. It was a huge doll of course, but it also had to accurately reflect Busby well enough to enchant Roger.
Cossette was too tired to smile at her work, but holding it in her hands and looking it over one more time, she felt satisfied. She also had a good idea for how to proceed next in her bee-healing plan, so she went to bed with the self-assurance that tomorrow would bring her a new kind of progress.
* * * *
Before classes started the next morning, Cossette went outside to meet with Roger and his mother. And, apparently, Lien.
For whatever reason, Lien was sitting on the ground with Roger, holding Busby in her arms. She seemed to be doing something to the bee… Was she stroking its back? She was petting it like a cat, it seemed. Did Lien have to be here? Cossette walked over and exerted all her energy to keep from sighing or frowning too deeply.
“Hello, Roger,” Cossette said. “I have a present for you.” She handed him the plush doll replica of the giant bee.
“Wow, it’s Busby!” Roger said as he stood up to accept the offering.
“Magnifique, Practitioner Extraordinaire Cossette!” Lien said. She cast Cossette a huge grin, but continued to hold and steadily pet Busby. “Your ability to craft wonderful dolls is unprecedented in all of Livre.”
Cossette kept her focus on Roger. “I will need to spend some more time studying Busby, but in the meantime I’d like it if you could keep this doll with you throughout the day.”
Roger tilted his head a little. “Why?”
Cossette wasn’t sure how much to explain. Her hope was that Roger would treat the doll the same as he would Busby—or at least as close as he could manage. Saying this outright could affect Roger’s actions, however.
Lien spoke up, her smile of praise turning to one of excitement. “Roommate-in-Chief Cossette will be taking care of Busby today, so she made this Busby—” She patted the plush doll with one hand. “—to keep you company! That way you won’t be lonely.”
Roger smiled and looked back to Cossette. “Oh, thank you!” He gave the doll a light toss, then squished it into a suffocating tight embrace.
Cossette’s mouth twitched a little as she witnessed a hug that would have probably snapped the real Busby in half. She perhaps needed to say something more to counter Lien’s explanation. What Lien said wasn’t incorrect, but it gave the wrong impression of what Cossette had in mind for her magical procedure.
“So… play with this Busby the same way as you always do, okay?”
Cossette turned to Lien and held a hand out. “Now then…”
Lien was still petting the bee, and didn’t look ready to stop. Was this even petting, actually? It was more like she was rubbing a specific part of Busby—the area where his head and thorax met.
“What are you doing?”
Lien closed her eyes and held one hand up to the side of her head. “The great king bee looked tense, so I humbly took the time to massage the dear creature’s shoulders. To help him relax a little, and make it through this trying time.”
Shoulders? As if a bee had shoulders! Or needed a massage! And what was Lien doing interfering so much like this? If she were to do anything more—say, use some of her acupuncture on the bee—she would potentially be affecting the magical procedure in ways Cossette couldn’t foresee.
“You are so…” Cossette gritted her teeth to keep from saying anything more. “Never mind, just hand me the bee.”
Lien did as instructed, her face betraying no sign of even the slightest bit of guilt or remorse.
The bee squirmed in Cossette’s arms, enough that she had to quickly give up and simply hold it by the leash. Busby buzzed about in a circle above her, and Cossette had to turn along with it to keep from having the leash wrap around her body.
“Thank you very much,” Roger’s mother said. “You’ve already done so much for us.”
“No need to thank me yet,” Cossette said. “It will likely be another day or two before I can truly move forward in the process to heal Busby’s ailment. For today though, just be sure Roger keeps the doll with him. That will be a big help… for my…”
Cossette’s sentence faded as she noticed Roger and Lien a few meters apart from each other, chucking the plush bee back and forth. They were playing catch with the Busby doll!
“L-Lien!” Cossette yelled as calmly as she could manage. She wanted to tell them to stop this immediately. After all, Roger would never lob Busby around like some kind of… toy… right? But Cossette hesitated, recognizing that interfering now would affect the ways in which Roger would interact with the doll for the rest of the day. Discouraging him from playing with the bee doll would skew Cossette’s findings once the time came for her to study the doll itself.
Roger laughed as he caught the plush bee, and continued to laugh as he threw it back to Lien. It was apparently the boy’s idea to play with the doll like this, but Lien really should not have joined in so readily!
Cossette turned around and dragged the real-life bee back to the academy. Unlike some people, she had work to do.
* * * *
Most of the day went by without any more interference from Lien. And yet, as Cossette spent the hours jotting down her observations of Busby, she couldn’t help but imagine Lien was hiding somewhere nearby. Searching for the right opening, for that perfect time to interfere in Cossette’s efforts in the most annoying way possible.
Somehow, the fact Lien wasn’t there bothering her had in itself become a means by which Lien bothered her. The expectation of Lien’s intrusions was not being fulfilled, and Cossette couldn’t help but be irked by it all.
She watched placidly as Busby tore apart a hefty chunk of steak with its mandibles. The surreal image only added to Cossette’s vague and tenuous discomfort. Everything about the world simply felt off.
That’s just how it is though, with magic, Cossette thought. Nothing quite makes sense. We can never really know anything completely for certain.
Cossette spent the rest of her day juggling her studies with her watch over the giant and troublesome bee, and generally just feeling a little miffed about everything.
* * * *
(Healing Story 4 will update soon…)