Glad you could join us for the next fair episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
“Be at ease, Madam Duggla,” the King said, “I only wish to speak with you.”
Wiggling in a vain attempt to loosen her arms from the grip of the Knights who’d brought her, the old crone eyed the King with sullen suspicion. “Then send your jailers away,” she growled.
King Arnie nodded once. The Knights released her and retreated to their posts just outside the entrance to the Audience Clearing.
“Would you join me in a snack?” the King asked, lowering his bulk from the Throne Rock to the leaf-littered floor. Without waiting for her reply, he galumphed over to a log that had been laid out with a succulent collection of berries, pond grass, dried gnats, and candied midges.
At his elbow, Madam Duggla eyed the spread. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful,” she grumped, “but I prefer my food on the wing or on the run.”
“Ah, a connoisseur!” He tilted the lid from a covered platter just enough for one fat fly to escape.
Taken by surprise, Duggla the Crone’s tongue snapped on empty air behind the fleeing morsel.
King Arnie’s own tongue shot over Duggla’s head, stuck to the fly and brought it back to lay it belly up before the old woman.
She watched it spin in a buzzing frenzy for a moment before nabbing it. Mashing the tidbit with begrudging relish, she swallowed and turned to the King. “You’ve made your point. What do you want?”
“I want to thank you for your act of responsible citizenship in bringing your King exactly the help the Kingdom of Bog needed today. I want to offer you a practical token of the Kingdom’s appreciation.” He locked his gaze on her eyes. “What would you choose if the choice were yours?”
Her golden orbs betrayed a hungry glint as she squinted them. “I want my old Council title back and unrestricted access to your ear.”
“Hmm,” King Arnie rubbed his chin. “I’m sure we can come to an arrangement that serves us both. You may rejoin the Council, not as Chief Advisor, but as Advisor at Large, and your access will be no greater than any other Council member’s. You will promise to contact our allies only at my behest, and you will make your list of associates — all of them — available to me.”
Her wide lips pursed in thought. “That seems like a steep price,” she said, scratching her neck. “How about this? I contact my friends who can help only when you ask me to, but my list stays private, and I show you the greatest respect whenever anyone else is around.”
She may have lost her mind, Natural Arnie said to his Kingly Self, but she hasn’t lost her cunning.
King Arnie the Former extended his hand. “Done. We have an agreement both of us will honor upon pain of punishment for our failure.”
“But I thought the Marauders were in the South,” Elliot objected.
Connie’s relief that these two were the snails she was looking for was turning to irritation at having to further discuss Barry’s message. “That may be the case as well, but I saw them myself on my way to find you.”
Elliot and Cassandra exchanged glances.
Connie tapped one toe on the mushroom cap. “I have to get home. Are you going to Fen or not?”
“Of course we’ll go.” Cassandra assured her.
“Can you give us directions?” Elliot asked as Connie flittered her wings and lifted off.
“Just keep heading east. I’m sure you can find help along the way,” she called back over her shoulder.
Elliot sighed. “I guess we’d better get started. I’m sorry our life together has to be postponed again, my sweetest desire.”
Cassandra smiled. “Nonsense, my brave hero, this IS our life — an exciting quest, the adventure we’ve always wanted — and it’s perfect because we’re together.”
A moan drifted from the undergrowth beside the trail. Elliot and Cassandra turned as one to find its source.
To be continued…