Glad you could join us for the next liberating episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
“Arturo, son of Miguel and Valeria, regarding the charges that you are responsible for the return of the rebels and the devastation they spread throughout our people’s homes in the Freelands, we find it is possible the rebels would not have come back if they had achieved their goal to begin with. Therefore, we find you are inextricably connected to the massacre.”
Arturo closed his eyes.
“However, we acknowledge your connection is woven with your own family’s loss and your wish to spare your sister from a life of slavery. You are as much a victim of the rebel slaughter as anyone here.”
Arturo held his breath.
“So, because you suffered oppression as a rebel slave, and because you served both your friend and this community when you eliminated the rebel leader Spike, we will — upon your completion of a period of public service — absolve you of all guilt.”
Relief and gratitude flooded from Arturo’s eyes. First embracing Cassandra, Arturo bowed his head to the Speaker. “Thank you, Honored One, for your wisdom and mercy. How shall I serve?”
“Your young snail friend over there spoke yesterday about banding together to fight the rebel threat. I ask her first to tell us how this might happen.”
Glancing around the Arena, Cassandra’s stature seemed to grow. “Release us, and I will be happy to share my thoughts.”
Elliot wondered if they had any idea who they were dealing with.
At a nod from the Speaker, the guard opened the Box’s gate and allowed the three guests to pass. Cassandra proceeded to the ancient one’s side and addressed the people.
“You need to make alliances with the neighboring Kingdoms, especially Bog and Fen. They are strong and honorable and loyal to their friends. They will respect your lands and your traditions, but they have no love for the rebels or any other marauder, and will help you when you need it.”
The tilt of the Speaker’s head as his eyes narrowed gave a face to the crowd’s quiet murmur. “The Freelands residents have always been independent and governed solely by respect for the equal rights of all. Within the Freelands, our Communal Hierarchy addresses the needs of wasps, but no one else. We have no authority to make an agreement for any other people in this land.”
Cassandra glanced at Arturo, then turned her eyes to look directly into the old wasp’s. “Perhaps a persuasive member of your community could travel the Freelands to convince your neighbors it’s time to create a Freelands Council to represent all residents for their common defense. Someone with personal experience to share.”
A rare smile creased the Speaker’s face. He winked, nodding at Arturo. “That’s how you will serve. You will lead as many from the stricken families as want to help in the effort. Is it agreed?”
The crowd buzzed their approval.
So excited he couldn’t stay still, Arturo flew to the platform to shake the elderly wasp’s hand in thanks.
“I swear to serve all in the Freelands well. Sir, I hope she won’t mind my saying it, but Cassandra has the ear of both the Queen of Fen and the King of Bog. She’s—“ Cassandra’s stiffened eyestalks warned him to change direction. “Perhaps she’ll tell them about us, you know, let them know what happened and what we’re trying to do.”
“Of course I will,” she agreed, smiling at Arturo, “if you feel that will help.”
“You have already shown you’re a strong ally,” the ancient one said. “We would be honored to have you plead our case to your friends. Please join us for breakfast before you leave. We have much to discuss.”
Elliot smiled to himself. They have no idea who they’re dealing with.
Stomachs full, plans made, Elliot and Cassandra strolled toward Fen.
“I knew you’d find me,” she bragged.
Elliot was content. “You’re safe, we’re together, and I think that’s the most beautiful sky I’ve seen in, well, forever. What about you?”
“Hmm?” he asked from a dreamy confusion.
She stretched her eyes to look into his. “Yes, Elliot, my love. I’ll marry you.”
Their embracing kiss was sweet and warm and would have lasted days, except for the feathered streak of brown that plummeted out of that beautiful sky and came to a thudding stop beside them, extending a wingtip to the ground at their feet.
“Get on. We have to leave. Now.”
To be continued. . .