Glad you could join us for the next thunderous episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
The Runners left and Lilian sobbed into Vernon’s chest. “How could this happen? They were under my protection and I failed them!”
The Queen’s fiancé held her. “Bog’s finest healers are working to keep the King alive. Lieutenant Terrance continues their search for the Princess, and Hive Elite teams are helping. They’ll find her. We’ll get her back.”
The Queen’s Guard announced, “Deputy Minister of the Alliance, Freelands’ Ambassador Arturo, requests an audience, your Magnificence.”
Stepping back from Vernon, Queen Lilian sniffled and wiped her eyes. “Show him in.” She squeezed her Liaison’s hand.
“Your Magnificence, Vernon,” Arturo bowed, “I’m happy to see you both. I bring good news. The Wildlands’ Ants have agreed to fight for the Alliance and are on their way to the front right now.”
Vernon stepped forward. “That’s excellent news. How many strong?”
“Commandant Marabunta counts them in the tens of thousands.”
“Great news,” Lilian agreed.
“But I have to tell you,” Arturo confessed, “I’ve just come from the Alliance camp. I’ve heard about Cassandra’s abduction and the attack on King Arnie. I am truly sorry, and I want to help in anyway I can.”
“Thank you, Arturo.” The Queen held out her hand. When the wasp reached for it, she pulled him into a hug. “You’ve already saved Cassandra’s life once. I hardly feel that I can ask you for anything more.”
“You don’t have to ask. Besides, she saved mine, too,” he reminded them.
Cyrus blew into the room on a chilly gust. “I beg your pardon, your Magnificence,” he said, bobbing his head at each of them, “Prince Elliot just left the Bower to search for the Princess. Alone.”
Shooting toward the door, Arturo instructed, “Show me which way he went.”
The path, no longer slippery, sucked at Elliot’s foot. Dimples in the thirsty mud surface in front of him might be footprints. If those are the Assassin’s tracks, then he must have come this way after I met with Hai.
Further on, a hint of dawn tinged a dark splotch spreading from one side of the trail to the other a dirty maroon. It looked as though someone had spilled something. Leaning to take a closer look, he didn’t want to touch it.
A rain-and-thunder scented breeze prickled his face as he straightened up. It shivered even the skin inside his shell and carried sounds from up ahead: a croaking toad, a chirping Hopper… and someone screaming.
Elliot raced forward.
He stopped when voices wafted toward him from just around the next bend. Creeping forward, he faced an incongruous rock pile. Lieutenant Terrance’s body lay beside a boulder in front it. His heart fell.
“Unnng-ghaAAAGAH!” exploded out of the chamber like a punch in Elliot’s gut. Cassandra had never sounded so primal. Or dangerous.
“Stop screaming,” a second voice hissed. “We have to leave. Now.”
Elliot had never heard the Assassin so close to losing control.
“Shut up, you pompous ass,” she ordered. “I can’t go anywhere right now.”
“You think not?” he asked.
“Let go of mee-eeEEEAAAAAHH!”
Elliot bolted into the rock pile. The Stinger’s claw clutched Cassandra’s throat as his clawless arm tried to lift her off the ground. His tail lay stretched out behind him.
The Prince stiffened all the way to his eyestalks. “Get away from her, Anthony, or I’ll kill you myself.”
The Assassin froze. “I don’t believe it. Daddy’s here. Now it’s a party.” Setting the Princess down, he turned to face Elliot. “My instructions are to bring her to the General, alive, although I’m sure he’d be just as happy to have an infant to trade instead. And he doesn’t seem to have any need for you at all.” His tail began to rise.
I know, this is a terrible place to stop, but dawn is here and we need to make a quick trip to the Freelands. Me, without apologies.
To be continued. . .