Glad you could join us for the next anxious episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
At the Hive, Captain Avery’s screeching alarm yanked Vernon from his troubled dreams of nameless shadows creeping in from all sides, and threw him into a harsh reality of impending doom and death. How Lilian had remained asleep he couldn’t fathom, but leaving her to enjoy a few more moments of peace, he flew outside to find out what the hell was happening.
The Captain of the Dark of Night Aero Squadron flapped through the dwindling spatter, stark against the lumpy sky, lit in a final blast of lightning. Spying the Queen’s Liaison, he landed on a branch above the Hive.
“Sir,” his breath burst hot on Vernon’s face, “a patrol of grounded Flyers has discovered five slain Guards right here in Central Fen.”
“The General’s henchmen?”
“It looks that way, Sir. They’re too far apart and too recently dead to believe there was only one killer.”
Vernon closed his eyes. “And Cyrus? The Guard outside the Bower?”
“I’m not certain. If he’s one of the victims, he’s been dragged away and hidden. But we found another body — an enemy’s — close to the Bower.”
“Did anyone check on the Prince and Princess?”
“No, Sir, I’m afraid not. The patrol came directly to me; I came here.”
“Send someone to make sure they’re all right.”
“Yes, Sir, but with almost all troops at the front, I’ll have to give instructions to stay only long enough to make sure they’re safe.”
“Understood,” the Liaison answered through clenched teeth.
Returning to his Queen, Vernon struggled with his urge to watch her sleep, her breathing light and delicate, her face exquisite in repose. “Lilian, my love,” he whispered, caressing her cheek, ”Fen needs you.”
A smile sparkled at the corners of her lips. “Has the baby been born?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe we can go to the Bower after the briefing.”
“Briefing? What’s happened” She sat up, eyes fully open.
“Some of the enemy may be hiding in Central Fen, the Captains and the Runners will meet us in the Audience Chamber, and I think the rain is letting up.”
“So there’s a glimmer of good news.” Lilian stood, fluttering her wings. “Well then, we’d best be on our way.”
The rain had indeed thinned to a misty drizzle that collected in droplets on their wings and skin as they flitted from the Hive to the Chamber. Already waiting, Commander Torlex bowed when they entered.
“Commander,” the Queen greeted him, extending her hand, ”I’m glad you’re here. What news do you bring?”
“King Arnie is recovering and hopes to join you here as soon as the medics allow him to travel. He’s eager to see his grandchild.”
“We are, too, but Prince Elliot hasn’t yet sent word that the baby’s arrived.”
Touching her arm, Vernon added, “Captain Avery’s having someone check on them; we should know soon.”
“What about the front?” Queen Lilian asked, nodding.
The Commander chewed his lip before answering. “We are greatly outnumbered and our losses are heavy, but our soldiers are valiant and unrelenting. We’re holding the border wherever we have troops enough to cover it, and roving Alliance patrols march the length of it twice a day. But no one watches all day long except where we fight. There are unprotected stretches we fear the invaders have violated.”
Captains Harper and Avery entered together. The Queen acknowledged them as they bowed to her.
“What have you learned from the Bower, Captain?”
“The soldier had very brief contact with the Ambassador who reported they have two Knights with them and are all well enough.”
“No news of the baby?”Vernon inquired.
Ruffling his feathers, Captain Avery elaborated, “He found the Freelands wasp outside gathering herbs. It’s likely they’re all lolling around in there drinking tea.”
Lilian glanced sideways at Vernon as he clenched his jaw and stiffened his back. “As long as they’re all safe,” she said. “What about the Hive Elite and the Aero Squadrons?”
“Fen’s Flyers were grounded during the storm,” Captain Harper asserted glaring at Avery as he clicked his beak. “I recommend they take to the air again as soon as we return to the front, if that is your command,” she said, bowing her head.
The door opened. The Guard announced, “Drago Galadon and Chloe.”
The Runners had converged on Fen from opposite ends of the Alliance, but before either could speak, Cyrus, carrying an armload of herbs, whizzed past them to stop before the Queen.
“Queen Lilian,” he gasped attempting to catch his breath, “the Arids Flyers are coming — and Creepers. They’re coming to take the Hive!”
“How close are they?” she asked.
“Only minutes away, your Magnificence.”
“Chloe, go straight to King Arnie. Have him order the Aero Squadrons in the air. Captain Harper, take the Hive Elite to overtake the invaders. If they think we don’t know they’re on their way, they won’t expect us to respond so quickly. Drago, find Ambassador Arturo at the Bower. I need him to go to the Freelands immediately. Ask him to tell the Hiverarchy we are begging for their help.”
“Your Magnificence,” Captain Avery commanded her attention, “we need to take you somewhere safe.”
“I’m going to the Hive. I have a nursery to protect,” she replied. “Cyrus, one more thing. Go to the Bower, make sure everyone’s all right, and get those Knights to the Hive!”
To be continued. . .