Chapter One

Mama Annie was fifty four when the Conqueror visited her home. She was digging for potatoes in the small field beside her cottage when the freezing wind picked up ferocity. Shivering she clung tighter to her shawl and coat, meanwhile cursing the winter beneath her breath, she continued to stab her spade into the damp soil.

"Pardon me, Mother." Said a polite voice from behind.

Mama was not used to visitors this far from the Hollow. She turned, a word of warm greeting on her mind, when she gasped and forgot the very words she had just been thinking. Before her stood a creature, vaguely humanoid, nearly seven foot tall with a face insect like in nature. Two large eyes looked at her from the sides of the thing's head.

"Back!" She warned the beast, lifting her spade in defense.

The creature lifted a pale white seven fingered hand, "Wait hear me out Mother. I mean no harm to you."

She glared at the creature whose manners struck her odd. Mama would give it a chance to explain its situation then if it seemed to be lying she would bash it to death with her spade.

"Go ahead." She taciturnly spoke.

"Abydoss Mesele'tru Nezerium is what I am called in my homeland."

Annie shook her head.

"That is no good. You'll be needing a new name in this land."

She eyed Abydoss Mesele'tru Nezerium and thought about a new name for the weird man.

"Mes. That is what I will call you while you are a guest in this place."

Mes lowered his head in agreement.

"I am honored that you have decided to not murder me."

Mama Annie stuck her spade into the ground and offered her hand in greetings to Mes.

"I wouldn't have gone through with it. My bones would've given out in the effort and I do not feel like shaking Father Death's hand today. Would you like some tea perhaps? Maybe you can tell me how you came to be this … way."

Mes agreed and followed the old woman inside her home. It was a cozy home, dried herbs hung from the walls and thick quilts were laid over the furniture. It smelled of sage and lavender. Mes inhaled deeply and was reminded of his own home many miles away.

"Sit and rest Mes." Mama Annie put a copper kettle on the fire and placed some tea herbs into the kettle.

"Want some food?" She inquired of her guest.

"No."

"Course you do! Even bugs get hungry and you look famished. While I prepare our supper you can tell me your story. Don't think about fighting me on this one Mes."

She eyed the insect sitting at her table.

Mes raised his hands in surrender.

"Some things cannot be solved through strength of arms. Consider the Virgin Queen for a moment she is barely five foot tall and appears to bend when the wind blows yet she has a mighty force within her. Mama I think this is the same for you."

Mama was pouring the tea into two cups. She placed the kettle down and brought the cups over to the table. She sat in her chair and took a sip of her tea.

"You've met our Queen?"

"Indeed it is how I came to be this way." Mes explained.

"I have ridden the steppes of the far east with hordes of fierce men and conquered many kingdoms. I forged a road through wilderness across an entire continent. Yet for my pride the Virgin Queen transformed me in a second into this bug."

A sadness flickers in his eyes.

"I have been broken by her and now can only dream of the steppes of my homeland."

Mama laughed at Mes's sorrow.

"You expected anything besides this from a child? She transformed you into one of the children of the earth."

"A what?"

"Potato bug. They live in the muck and eat dead vegetation. They are pests that eat my potatoes."

The realization struck Mes dumb for a moment as it sunk in the subtle humor of his new form. He opened his disfigured mouth and released a throaty laugh.

"The cruel humor of a child with power." Mes said to Mama Annie before drinking some of his herbal tea.

They finished their tea and Mama made Mes dinner. She showed him the spare bedroom and gave him a quilt to keep him warm. The Bug thanked her for her kindness and retired for the night. Mama was exhausted from the day and cozied up warmly in her bed for the night.