Gone

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Queen Madalena bided her time till the next night that Andre was on guard duty at the entrance. When he saw her, he stiffened to attention.

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Taking Control

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Photo credit: Steven Falk

The days that followed were full. Clifton and Sam spent their mornings training stinging Fliers, and their afternoons being trained by Bog’s Knights and Fen’s Aero Squadrons in other forms of combat, weaponry, and tactics. After dinner, they met with other recruits who had created new moves, and worked into the night perfecting those skills so they could teach them the next morning.

The Sergeant joined them for breakfast each day.

“You’ve done good work,” he said between bites at the end of the week. “These green volunteers have become a real army. I’ll be proud to serve with all of you when the call comes, but for now, the trainers from Bog and Fen are going home. You’ll be working with the Freelands Forces, keeping them sharp, ready for what’s ahead.”

“Thanks, Sarge. We couldn’t have done it without you,” Clifton said. “It was genius to tap Sam’s gifts.”

“A sign of leadership is recognizing leadership in others. I suspect Killer’s even better at that than I am,” the Sergeant allowed.

“What makes you think so, Sarge?” Sam asked.

“You saw it in Clif, didn’t you?” he laughed.

Clifton felt the compliment and took the ribbing with a grin.

Kýrios the Most Revered, Queen Madalena’s eldest councillor, landed on the grass beside them.

Still smiling, Sam greeted him. “Kýrios! What brings you to the Meadow?”

Glaring at the three of them in turn to stop on Sam’s face, he said, “The Queen is gone.”

To be continued. . .

Previously, on Elliot’s Adventures ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Next time . . .

Training the Troops

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“I’m pleased you’ll stay with us, Recruit,” the Ambassador said when Sam and Clifton reported back at dusk. Smiling, he added, “Be sure to let Sergeant Stubbs know before you retire or he won’t be able to sleep.”

~~~

The sergeant rousted them out of bed long before dawn, shouting, “Open your eyes! Up and out! Breakfast waits for all of you who survive till sunrise.”

“But how are we supposed to fight if we haven’t eaten first?” asked a cottontail named Jared, one of the plumper trainees.

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Now You Know

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The few times Clifton had seen his aunt Lilian’s Innermost Chamber, it had been packed with advisors and attendants, and vibrating with activity. He wasn’t sure she had any place this spacious and quiet in the Hive back home that she could call her own.

Queen Madalena stood apart, warm but aloof. “Samantha tells me you’re from Fen, and Lilian’s nephew. How is she?”

“You know my aunt? I mean, she’s well, thank you. I… I’m just surprised you know her. Sam… Samantha didn’t mention the Hiverarchy had any contact with Fen.”

“We don’t,” Sam stated, fixing her mother with a stare that demanded an explanation.

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Queen Madalena

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“Wait out here, Clifton. Let me talk to her first. And you —” Sam glowered at her half-brother, “you better hope she doesn’t make me stay here, because you aren’t gonna like me if I have to stay here.”

“What makes you think I like you anyway?” Andre retorted, but Clifton saw worry and a hint of doubt in his eyes as he left them at the entrance to the Innermost Chamber.

~~~

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Sergeant Stubbs

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Sunrise had arrived before night was done sleeping, and, although they were excited now, most of the recruits had shown up for roll call bleary-eyed and yawning. Not Sam. She’d been awake and ready before the last star faded.

Happy to be assigned to the same Stinging Fliers group as Queen Madalena’s daughter, Clifton thought he’d been eager to start training; Sam was rabid to begin. Clifton was pleased to be the victor in nine out of twelve partner exercises with twelve different partners; Sam never lost.

By mid-morning, their training officer, Sergeant Stubbs from Fen’s Hive Elite, asked her to help him demonstrate each new maneuver; by noon she was creating her own techniques.

Taking their lunch break together, Clifton and Sam fell into a discussion about the Ultimate Sacrifice. The Alliance army’s official policy discouraged suicide attacks unless absolutely necessary. Clifton thought this was eminently reasonable.

“But what’s the point of having a stinger if you aren’t going to use it?” Sam’s frustration mounted with each word.

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Greetings

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Dawn danced across the Meadow where the Knights of Service had prepared the training ground.

Thousands filled the field. On the ground, mammals and reptiles, amphibians and crawling insects, all in high spirits, called to friends, shouting victory to come. In the surrounding trees, fliers with feathered or gossamer wings twittered and tweeted, flittered and buzzed, vibrating the air with an electric hum.

The Lieutenant leaped to a highpoint. Silence fell.

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