Glad you could join us for the next giddy episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Her quick smile when she noticed him sent an energizing jolt through his body. “Vernon!” the Queen called, waving him forward. “Excuse us, please,” she said to the waiting residents, “my Liaison has just arrived.” Taking the King’s arm to lead him away, she added with a gracious smile, “King Arnie will be happy to meet you all later in the evening.”
They entered a secluded arbor with the King’s people positioned outside to ensure privacy. Queen Lilian offered her hand to Vernon who brushed it with his lips and smiled when she squeezed his hand in return.
“Are you sure you’re well enough to return to work?” the Queen asked.
Her penetrating gaze threatened to pierce his pain’s mask, but he warded it off with an honest smile. “I’m fine, now.”
“Good, because I feared the worst. I’m relieved you’ve recovered, my friend. I don’t know how I could do this job without you.”
“Would you like me to have your guests join you here?”
“Yes. Please. I owe them thanks for bringing you back.”
He let her hand slip slowly from his and flew off to find the others.
Watching Vernon go, King Arnie raised an eyebrow. “I sense some strong emotions here,” he teased.
Eyes blazing, Lilian’s cheeks pinked. “You don’t think he noticed, do you?”
Arnie’s chuckle burst all over her embarrassment. “I meant his, my dear. But now that you mention it…”
“His? No. Surely not. He’s a loyal official and a good friend, but he sees me only as his Queen. Besides, he would never breach etiquette to approach me that way.”
King Arnie searched her eyes. “I once let someone talk me out of listening to my heart, and I’ve regretted it ever since.” He took both her hands in his. “I’d hate to see you spend the rest of your days the same way. Would Persephone want you to live with that regret? Shouldn’t being a monarch mean you can choose for yourself? Come on, you know you want to. We could hold a double wedding tonight.”
“Now you’re being silly,” the Queen replied.
“You’re right. We shouldn’t take attention away from Cassandra and Elliot.”
She laughed when he picked her up to hug her. “Would we even be friends if our parents hadn’t thrown us together?” she asked.
“Maybe sometimes parents do know best,” the King chuckled.
Vernon cleared his throat at the entrance.
Her embarrassment compounded, Queen Lilian slid out of the King’s arms and smoothed her wings. “Yes, please show them in.”
Vernon stood back to allow Cassandra, Elliot, and Clifton to enter, then turned, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped, to leave.
“Wait, Vernon,” King Arnie said. “Please stay. The Queen has an announcement she wants you to hear.”
Vernon looked from one to the other, pressing his lips together.
With an impish grin, Queen Lilian rubbed her hands together. “Actually, I have three announcements. Elliot, step forward. Elliot has just returned from the Tower of Honor where the Granters judged him worthy of a Name to elevate him to the rank of Civilian Knight, and serve him in his upcoming service to both Fen and Bog. I am proud to introduce Elliot the Faithful.”
Cassandra gasped and the rest broke into applause and cries of congratulations. “Oh, Elliot, no one is more deserving than you,” she declared. “It’s the perfect name — I’ve always known that’s who you are.”
“Cassandra, please join us,” the Queen invited. “Cassandra tells me Elliot has made a formal marriage proposal, and she has accepted.”
Again, cries of congratulations filled the arbor.
“It is my pleasure to host your wedding this evening during this eventful celebration — unless you feel a need to wait.” Her eyes twinkled.
Elliot and Cassandra stood dumbstruck, smiling at each other until Elliot stammered, “I… We don’t know what to say.”
“Say, ‘Yes’!” Clifton yelled.
“Yes. Yes!” the flabbergasted couple answered.
The Queen continued. “King Arnie has agreed to officiate. He’s also promised to help them become citizens of Bog, but I don’t believe that will be necessary.”
“Why not?” King Arnie addressed the young snails. “Don’t you want to stay in Bog? Isn’t Elliot going to be serving as the First Minister of the Alliance?”
“Yes, your Greatness, I am,” Elliot bowed, “but I believe bonding with a citizen of Bog automatically makes the spouse a citizen as well.”
The King looked confused.
Queen Lilian took the King’s hand and drew Cassandra forward. “Arnie, my dear, as Elliot, Cassandra, and I have become friends, we’ve shared many stories. One revelation brought more joy than one heart can hold. I’m honored to share it with you. This is Princess Cassandra the Secret, born to Persephone in the Deep Woods. Your daughter.”
“What? Really?” Tears rolled down his cheeks as he took Cassandra in his arms. “I felt a connection when we first met — do you remember? My one true love isn’t gone. She’s in your face and your heart. And I, a King without family, suddenly have not only a daughter and heir, but also a son!” He embraced Elliot. “This calls for a toast or two! Let’s go lift a cup of nectar.”
“May I ask a favor first, Sir?” Clifton interjected, “Would you and the Queen be willing to meet with all of us after dinner to discuss the future of our two Kingdoms? I have some ideas I’d like to share.”
Arnie winked at Lilian. “You told me he had promise. Clifton, if I may speak for your Aunt — and I know I may — we would be pleased to hear them.”
Vernon looked away and took a step toward the entrance as four Knights of Service arrived to escort them to the banquet. The Queen’s Liaison stepped aside.
As they filed out of the arbor into the sparkling meadow surrounded by the glittering woods, Queen Lilian placed a shy hand on her Liaison’s arm. “Please stay for a moment, Vernon. There’s something I’d like to ask you.”
To be continued. . .