Glad you could join us for the next official episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
As the sun touched the horizon, they followed the dry staccato of an ancient cough and found the venerable leader of Freelands’ wasp community plucking dinner from a stalk of grass.
“Honored One,” Elliot called, “please forgive us for interrupting your meal. Thank you for inviting us to continue our conversation about creating an alliance between the Freelands, Bog, and Fen.”
“Elliot?” the creaky old wasp squinted at him. “Elliot! It’s good to see you and your friends, young sir. We didn’t expect you until tomorrow. Here, join me — have a bite to eat.” He held out a wiggling morsel that Barry’s tongue found almost before the invitation was extended.
“Thank you,” the Prince laughed, “you’re very kind. Knights, you’re free to spend the evening as you choose. We’ll meet again in the morning. Except for you, Barry, you’re stuck with Clifton and me, I’m afraid.”
Grinning, Barry nabbed another ant. “Hangin’ wit’ youse is always an adventure.”
“Where’s that well-spoken young lady?” the wasp asked as he descended to join them on the ground.
“Princess?” the old one blinked.
“Yes. I apologize for having to keep that from you when she was here. Even her father, King Arnie, didn’t know. Very few did. We hoped it would keep her safe. But she’s well. We’re married and—”
“Married! Well done!” The old one’s joy began as a laugh and turned itself inside out, deepening to a hollow wrenching hack. He held up one hand till it subsided and he could smile again. “I suppose I should call you ‘Prince’.”
“Thank you, but that’s not necessary,” Elliot said.
Puffing out his chest, Clifton announced, “His granted name is Elliot the Faithful, and his working title is First Minister of the Alliance.”
“My, my. Been to the Ancient Forest, have you?”
“I have,” Elliot confirmed. “My companions are Fen’s Ambassador, Clifton, and Knight of Service Barry from Bog.”
“Well, Elliot the Faithful and companions, let’s go see the Freelands’ Ambassador. He’ll be happy to share his progress.”
Leaning on Barry’s arm, the ancient one led them to Freelands’ Central Meadow where representatives from most of the diverse cultures living in the region were engaged in spirited debate.
“You remember Arturo,” the old wasp said, clearing his throat and pointing past the encircling torches to the young wasp leading the discussion.
“Of course,” the Prince responded. “He’s the Ambassador?”
“He and his deputies have accomplished much since the effort began. But he can tell you about it with more authority than I.” Catching Arturo’s eye, he beckoned him to join them.
With a wink to Elliot, the ancient one greeted Arturo. “Ambassador, our honored guests, Prince Elliot the Faithful and company are here to check up on you.” Nudging him in the chest, he added, “Take whatever help they offer, and maybe the Prince will send his charming wife, Princess Cassandra of Bog, next time. I’ll be off. Past sunset is past bedtime for me.”
As the leader of the Communal Hierarchy of Wasps hobbled away, Arturo grabbed Elliot in a boisterous hug. “You and Cassandra have already married? I was hoping for an invitation. It would have been my first official celebration as Ambassador.”
Following introductions, Arturo took Clifton by the arm as he led them to the meeting. “You might have noticed there are no bees here. Maybe you can help us with that. You see—”
Scrambling noises erupted outside the meadow. Lady Lucy soared low to flap frantically overhead shouting to someone beyond the light.
“He’s over here! The Prince is over here!”
Four dark shapes came out of the shadows.
To be continued. . .