Glad you could join us for the next suspect episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
“Where’s Lady Lucy?” Clifton asked.
Searching the Meadow and the sky, Barry said, “Dat’s a good question.”
“Barry,” the Prince reminded him, “she’s the one who told the Knights the Stinger was there.”
“I know youse’re right, yer Princehood, but why di’n’t she just grab him? An’ why’d she let dat udder Stinger go?”
Elliot sighed. The young Knight had a point. If the General’s spies truly had infiltrated both Bog and Fen, it would be foolish to trust anyone whose actions might be suspect.
Shaking his head, Arturo said, “We’re going to have a problem holding the prisoner.”
“Why?” Barry asked. “Do youse need more guards? I can train ’em if youse can get ’em.”
“I’m sure the new Freelands Council will be happy to take you up on that,” Arturo said,” but the problem we have is that the Stinger didn’t break any laws. We can question him tomorrow, but then we’ll have to let him go.”
“What?” Clifton and Barry exclaimed.
The Ambassador explained. “The only way the Freelanders would agree to create a joint agency to provide for a common defense and negotiate alliances with neighboring lands, was to ensure our citizens keep the same freedoms they’ve always had.”
“Do you have any laws that apply to everyone?” Elliot asked.
“Only regarding deliberate physical harm and property damage, and those apply to non-citizens, too. What the rebels did to the wasp community provided powerful motivation to work together.”
“What if youse’re afraid of what someone might do ta hurt youse?”
“You mean punish someone for something they haven’t done?” the Ambassador countered. “What if someone’s afraid you’ll kick them, Barry? I mean, look at those legs. Should they arrest you?”
Barry raised his eyebrows and flexed his thighs.
Clifton’s face scrunched with worry. “What if they threaten you? Like that Stinger did?”
“The Stinger didn’t threatened us, Clifton,” Elliot responded. “The General did. The Stinger was only the messenger he claimed to be.”
“And even if the Stinger had threatened us,” Arturo reasoned, “threats don’t harm anyone. They might motivate you to protect yourself against possibilities you might not have considered otherwise, but that’s only prudent.”
“But why should youse hafta protect yerself against somebody maybe breakin’ da law?” Barry couldn’t contain his indignation. “Why shou’n’t youse be able ta live in peace an’ not worry about what some lowlife crazy person might do?”
“Because,” Arturo emphasized, “if the law denies one person’s freedom when they’ve done nothing wrong, then everyone is in danger of losing their freedom. You can still choose not to protect yourself, but Freelanders have always been proud to shoulder the responsibilities of freedom. If the fears of the most fearful write the laws, no one is truly free.”
Clifton persisted, “Why can’t you—“
Scurrying up to Arturo, an elderly vole wrung his hands. “I’m sorry to interrupt, sir, but there’s something you have to see.”
“What is it, Theo?”
“I can’t… It’s too… Just come!”
All four of them followed Theo out of the Meadow, through the trees, and onto the gravelly clearing around the Hole. Even in the dark, there was no mistaking the scene.
Three Knights and the young vole who had accompanied them lay dead. The Stinger was nowhere to be seen.
To be continued. . .