Glad you could join us for the next motivational episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Cassandra picked her way off the log, and hurried to outrun the approaching storm. The Bower was darker than night. Miranda must have covered the mushrooms so the children could sleep. Not wanting to wake them, Cassandra whispered, “Miranda?”
“Shh…” came a gentle caution from a shadowy corner. A Clark-sized giggle followed.
The Princess uncovered the light closest to the door. Clark grinned at her from the arms of a crouching, one-clawed Stinger. Miranda lay crumpled at his feet.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “What have you done to Miranda?” She slid to her friend’s side. Miranda’s head was bloody and the shell over it was chipped, but she was still breathing.
“It’s all right,” Clark laughed, “Anthony knows my papa!”
“That’s right,” the Stinger crooned. “I was reminding Miranda of that very fact when she fell senseless to the floor.” He shrugged. “Emotionally overcome, I guess. I never even had a chance to tell her I’m planning to look her husband up on my way home.” A slow, heartless smile spread across Anthony’s face. “I’m thinking of taking Clark, here, with me. You’d like that wouldn’t you, Clark?”
The little Stinger twisted to look up at Anthony’s face. “Yes! I wanna go. I wanna see Papa! Can I go, Mama?” he called over his shoulder.
“Not so loud, Clark,” the Assassin reminded him, “Mama’s sleeping.” He arched one eyebrow and gazed at Cassandra over Clark’s head. “What do you say?”
The Princess’s eyestalks inclined toward them as a cramping wave rolled through her body. She closed her eyes and held her breath till she could speak. “I know who you are, and if you don’t leave immediately — alone — my Guard will arrest you.”
The Stinger peered at her out of the corner of his eye, and kissed Clark on the head. “Do you mean Cyrus? Now there’s an earnest young fellow. I believe someone sent him on a dangerous mission that could take him quite far from this lovely, out-of-the-way abode. I worry for his safety, but I thank you for your advice. If he does return, please tell him I send my best.”
Placing Clark on his back, he rose from his crouch. “Say ‘good-bye’, Clark. It’s time to go see Papa.”
Miranda’s eyes flickered open. She gasped, “Clark!”
“Clark,” Cassandra said, “get down from there and go to your mother.”
Anthony’s tail stiffened to a crook above the little Stinger as a drop of venom swelled on its tip.
“Wait!” the Princess cried. “Please. Please don’t.”
“Take me with you instead,” she offered. “Leave him here with his mother. Please, Anthony.”
The Stinger’s eyes widened in mock surprise. “We’re on a first name basis now? I’m honored… Cassie.” His claw plucked Clark from his back and held him suspended in front of her. “Yes. I know who you are, too, Princess. And I knew if I provided the right motivation, you’d volunteer and I wouldn’t have to take you by force. It’s so much pleasanter for both of us this way. Don’t you agree?”
Cassandra glared at him.
“Well, Clark,” the Assassin said as he set the little Stinger in Miranda’s trembling arms, “it looks like you and I will have to put our trip on hold for a brief time. So be good and take care of your Mama. She appears to have a terrible headache.”
Miranda struggled to get her legs under her. She didn’t have the strength to rise. “Princess—”
“It’s all right, Miranda. Stay here. Stay with the children,” Cassandra instructed. “I’ll be fine. Let Cyrus know what happened when he gets back.”
“If he gets back,” the Assassin corrected. He took the edge of the Princess’s shell in his claw. “Come along, Cass. We have a ways to go, and dark roads can be treacherous in the rain.”
To be continued. . .