Glad you could join us for the next arresting episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
The moaning had grown to groaning by the time Elliot and Cassandra found the pitiful, tattered creature the sounds escaped from. It lay surrounded by the crushed shell of its recent unborn meal. Cassandra gasped. Elliot stopped in his track.
“Excuse our intrusion,” he began, cautiously nudging his Lady behind him, “but we thought you might be in pain.”
The wasp glared. “And how is that any of your business?”
“We thought we could help,” Cassandra’s soothing tone didn’t soothe him.
“What makes you think I would want help from the likes of you?”
“Now hold on a moment,” Elliot broke in, “there’s no need to insult us. If you don’t want our help, we’ll be on our way, but if I may make an observation, you do look as though you’ve seen better days.”
“Watch it,” the wasp’s voice stabbed their ears, “just because I can’t fly anymore, doesn’t mean I can’t fight. My stinger works the same as ever.”
“Please, we aren’t here to hurt you,” Cassandra assured him again, though the evidence suggested he might not be so kind in return. “I’m Cassandra. What’s your name?”
Eyeing her appraisingly, he answered, “Spike. Mr. Spike to you.”
“Well, Mr. Spike,” Elliot’s voice quavered slightly, “if you don’t require assistance, might we ask you for directions to the Queen of Fen before we leave?”
“The Queen of Fen.” Spike spat the words at them. “She’s the reason I’m grounded. Why do you want to see that murderous b-“
Cassandra cut him off. “That is our business. Can you point the way or not?”
“Fearless, too, huh? All right. I’ll tell you where you can find her, and you promise to bring her down.”
He searched their faces for a hint of their mission, but found none. “Huh. I wouldn’t want to bet against you in a game of chance,” he stated with new-found respect. “Look for the tree with orange leaves. That’s where they all live. Not that they’ll let you in — nobody sees the Queen.”
As Elliot and Cassandra left Spike to his ravaged life, he called after them, “Wearing a shell is a good start, but you’re going to need more protection than that!”
“Just look at deeze legs!” Barry congratulated himself as he sailed over the rocky barrier to land in the back courtyard of the Audience Clearing. Sweating and panting, he stood bent over with his hands on his knees. “All da way across da Kingdom in record time, and still clearin’ hurdles.”
The flapping of many feet echoed into the courtyard, followed by half a dozen Knights aiming their pikes and spears at Barry’s heart.
“Halt!” their captain ordered the perfectly still young frog. “You are under arrest for illegally entering the King’s private property. Come with us.”
“Oh, sorry,” Barry apologized, lifting his chin to flash them a winning grin, “Youse’re right. I probably shoulda gone around, but I was in a hurry — I’ve got some important news about Marauders in da north.”
“Marauders in the north?” The captain raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Perhaps you aren’t aware of the valiant battle the Knights of Service fought and won today against the Marauders. In the south.” He jerked his head toward Barry, and two Knights laid hands on him.
“Are youse takin’ me ta see his Greatness? ’Cause dat’s why I’m here.”
They dragged him toward a locked gate to take him out of the Clearing. “Oh, you’ll be seeing the King, all right — after a night or two in lockup while we check out your story. King Arnie himself has warned his Knights of Service about possible traitors spreading rumors, trying to divide the fighting force to weaken the Kingdom of Bog.”
“Wait!” Barry yelled, “Youse gotta let me go! I hafta see da King! Waaaaait!”
To be continued…