Glad you could join us for the next rainy episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
“We’ve heard enough!” The single voice drowned in the assent that rumbled through the hastily convened Wildlands Congress of Ants.
“War breeds carrion,” another called. “It’s good for us no matter who wins!”
Commandant Marabunta banged her staff against a hollow log. “We are charged with more than disposal. The Alliance wants us to assist their side in combat. Ambassador Arturo can’t guarantee access to their enemy’s dead unless his Alliance wins. So I ask, who would march east to join with this new Alliance in battle against The Arids tyrant?”
As one, they shouted, “Aye!”
“It is decided,” the Commandant proclaimed. “Fall in!”
“The Alliance is grateful, Commandant.” Ambassador Arturo shook Marabunta’s hand and rose above them to witness a column of tens of thousands rapidly advance toward Fen. With renewed hope, he hastened ahead of them to announce their approach to the Alliance commanders.
Pausing on the Hill, the Commandant waggled a few raindrops off her antennae. “The storm has arrived.”
A pensive King Arnie sat beside the burrow Miranda had scraped into the Bower’s floor where she now huddled, trying to embrace all her children at once. He looked up as Lieutenant Terrance entered the green mushroom glow, wiping rain from his face and arms.
“You sent for me, your Greatness?”
“Yes, Lieutenant. General Hai’s lackey, the Assassin, was here. He knocked Miranda out, and when she came to, Princess Cassandra was here, and Anthony was threatening to kill one of Miranda’s children.”
Knights Barry and Trevor bounded in, drenched and dripping.
“Cyrus says de Assassin was here!” Barry saluted the Lieutenant. “Do youse want us ta track ’im an’ bring ’im back here in pieces?”
“At ease, Knight,” the Lieutenant ordered.
Barry clamped his lips together.
“Miranda,” the King’s voice was a soft blanket, “tell them what you told me.”
She looked from one to the other through tears. “The Princess was trying to save my son. She told that monster to take her instead. I couldn’t help her.” She turned to the King and broke down sobbing. “I am so sorry!”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Trevor ventured, “did he give you any idea where he was taking the Princess?”
She shook her head and clutched three of her children to her chest.
Clark’s muffled voice leaked out between his mother’s arms. “Mama, you’re squishing me!”
Beneath Fen’s cold midnight deluge, the Assassin steered Cassandra forward with a firm grip on the edge of her shell. Any attempt to wrench herself away from him could break off a large enough piece to cause irreparable damage and a slow, torturous death. Even losing her footing on the mud-slicked path could prove fatal.
But she wasn’t thinking of herself as a swelling surge rolled up through her lungs. She couldn’t swallow its voice. “Uhnngh.”
Anthony stopped to peer at her through the downpour. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” It’s time, but I can’t let him know what’s happening to me. I won’t let him have my child. “I just need to rest. How much further?”
“Around the next bend, I have a lovely, secure place for you to stay while I attend to some business with your husband, the faithful Elliot.” His twisted smile chilled her more deeply than the storm did. “It’s not far. It might even be dry. I envy you.”
Around the next bend, the Princess faced a pile of jagged rocks heaped together to create a claustrophobic interior space. At its base, the opening was only a little wider than her shell, and it narrowed sharply to a point slightly higher than her eyestalks could extend. Beside the doorway, a large rock balanced precariously on its rounded tip.
Anthony stopped and waved his clawless arm toward the opening. “Please, make yourself at home.” Releasing her shell, he stood behind her.
Staying where she was, she looked at him over her shoulder.
“Now, now. Hurry along. Mind your tail.” He pushed her shell with the tip of his claw. She went inside.
By the time she turned around, the Stinger had disappeared from view. Cassandra leaned forward to take a cautious look outside. A loud grinding noise warned her to pull back. The large rock fell across the opening.
“Oops.” Anthony’s voice trickled in through the tiny space above the rock. “I should have warned you about the door.” His chuckle taunted her. “Sit tight, Princess. With any luck, I’ll be back soon with some help to move this boulder. If not… well, I have enjoyed getting to know you.”
Alone in the dark, Cassandra met the next contraction with all the attention it demanded and all the fury she felt. She screamed and she screamed again.
To be continued. . .