Glad you could join us for the next hazy episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
“This wasn’t the plan, Anthony.”
The Stinger shrugged. “What can I say? The General’s schedule opened up at the last minute, and he’d like to conclude this arrangement without delay.”
General Hai hovered above an assortment of Stingers, both Creepers and Flyers. Scorched spots on nearby plants testified to his touch.
Peering through the haze emanating from the smoldering wasp, Elliot asked, “How did you enter Fen without being seen and apprehended?”
“Now, now, Elliot the Faithful. Are you judging me? Isn’t it your job to be objective?” The General’s arched eyebrow mirrored his smirking mouth.
“I ask out of honest curiosity.”
“Fair enough,” the General responded. “I do stand out in a crowd, don’t I? Let’s just say I have the right kinds of people working for me.”
Elliot followed Hai’s gaze to the Assassin. The Prince of Bog, First Minister of the Alliance, mourned for any who might have paid dearly for doing their duty. Eager to be finished here, he hardened. “Shall we get to the subject at hand?”
“Of course. I want Duggla the Crone.”
“She’s Fen’s prisoner, not the Alliance’s, so you understand I can’t promise anything until I consult with Queen Lilian. What do you offer in exchange?”
“Hmm,” the General began as if he hadn’t given it any thought till now. “A number of Fen’s fine citizens are currently benefiting from my army’s hospitality. I might be willing to send one or two of them home.”
“Prisoners of war? Madam Duggla tried to murder the Queen. I think her Magnificence will say your offer weighs too little.”
The General’s brow furrowed. “That’s a steep price.” His forehead smoothed as his smile spread. “But considering they will all soon be subjects of King Hai the Supreme Ruler of Fen, I suppose I can absorb a temporary loss of capital. However, I’m sure you’ll understand that I must insist you agree I hold one until the Crone is returned. As security.”
Elliot swallowed the foreboding question rising in his throat, and inclined his head. “Since you insist.”
“Then I agree, Sir Elliot.” The General flicked his wings. “Take the offer to your boss. Anthony will be in touch.” The Assassin nodded and left their secluded meeting spot by a back passage Elliot couldn’t see.
General Hai cleared his throat and waited for the Prince’s attention. Then, without a backward glance, he flew over the Prince into the woods, trailing foul fumes through the rain-washed sky.
This time, through the whispering drops wrung from the thinning gray at the edge of night, all three of them heard it. Lieutenant Terrance looked down at the King, chill and bloody in the mud.
“His Greatness can’t wait—”
Barry lost control. “But what if that’s—“
The Lieutenant held up a hand and Barry reined himself in. “Knights, you are to deliver the King to the Medics without delay, and report to the Prince. Let him know we’re still searching for the Princess. I’ll investigate the screaming. If I’m not back at camp by dawn, ask Command to send trackers.”
Trevor and Barry lifted the King between them. He made no sound as his blood painted the trail.
Lieutenant Terrance sprang toward the new screams.
To be continued. . .