Take a Breath

Glad you could join us for the next restful episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

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Photo credit: Geoff Gallice

Beneath the churning web, agony’s wail rode the final unbreaking wave as it crossed the field to leave behind the silent, still shallows of death. The enemy Flyers who dared to attack its surface learned too late that the struggle to destroy it only drew the attacker further under. Those who witnessed it from above soon retreated toward The Arids.

Vernon and Ambassador Arturo waited at the web’s edge where an escaping whisper of breath hinted at the Wildlands ants’ approach. Commandant Marabunta was the first to emerge.

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Above and Below

Glad you could join us for the next tangled episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

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Image credit: mirmiran-architecture / fogdenphotos / S.T. Ranscht

The gluey silken lattices fell like a curling wave, spreading across the battlefield as the Alliance Flyers approached the Hive. Enemy land troops ran, but the smothering webs overtook them and trapped them where they stood. Arids Flyers, circling low after the retreat sounded, tangled in the ropey strands and fell, unable to escape. Webs continued to rain across the clearing, blunting the impotent struggles of the doomed, advancing toward the Hive.

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Flights of Death and Glory

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Image credit: Tomás Saraceno / Guido Limardo

The Alliance’s call to retreat rang out beneath the approaching shadow. All land and air forces, except the Freelands bees, pulled back to the Hive tree, beating away the closest attackers to defend and hold the royal residence to their deaths if necessary.

Ripping away from its parent darkness and speeding toward them, a smaller shadow became Sam and Clifton leading their company in a desperate race to reach Central Fen ahead of the growing darkness. Sweeping past the swarm still tormenting the enemy vulture, Sam yelled, “Retreat! Run! Get back to the Hive!”

“Captain,” Clifton called, “those are Freelands bees—”

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Joining the Battle

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Photo credit: Rosa Shieh

Scant hours before dawn, as the storm passed, the Freelands bees gathered in the Hiverarchy’s Assembly Chamber. Arturo, the Freelands wasp who served the Alliance, had returned to speak with Queen Madalena. Rumors claimed she would send them to fight with the Alliance, but they had no heart to die for someone else’s hive.

The Queen emerged from the Inner Chamber with Arturo at her side. “Our neighbors — our kin — in Fen request our help in the war they fight against The Arids tyrant. I believe this is not our war, but the Alliance Ambassador argues that our freedom depends on its outcome. I refuse to order anyone to fight for a cause they do not believe in, but I cannot deny the family bond many of us have with Queen Lilian’s people. I invite any who wish to speak for or against this request to speak now.”

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They’re Coming!

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Photo credit: Kimballstock.com

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.”

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Up Like Thunder

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Image credit: S.T. Ranscht

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.”

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Good News and Bad

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Photo credit: Kym Kemp

Although a mere drizzle fell when Ambassador Arturo arrived at the Alliance camp in the dark hour before dawn, thickening clouds and a brisk wind promised a brief dawn and another storm. He thought of the Wildlands Ants and resisted the atmosphere’s depressing heaviness.

Great commotion at the Medic station drew his attention, but the voice calling, “Arturo! What’re youse doin’ here?” turned him around.

“Barry!” His friend was covered with cuts. “What happened to you?”

“Nuttin’ wort’ worryin’ about. Youse should see da stitches dey’re puttin’ in Trev’s face. What brings youse here?”

“I’ve got some good news for the Alliance.”

“We could use some.” Barry looked back at the Medic tent, and spoke in hushed tones. “Da King’s in dere. De Assassin got ’im an’ dey aren’t sure he’s gonna make it.”

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Leverage

Glad you could join us for the next over-powered episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

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Photo credit: Joel Sartore

General Hai’s glowing wings flared, igniting the fumes trapped against the ceiling of the little cavern he claimed as his field headquarters. “What do you mean, ‘all the prisoners are gone’?” His icy tone shivered the hapless soldier who’d been ordered to fulfill the demand Queen Lilian had relayed through her mouthpiece.

His breath shallow and shaky, the young wasp stared at the ground and elaborated. “I’m sorry, Sir. We found the same thing at every holding area: dead guards and no prisoners.”

Melting into the shadows, Anthony was familiar with their leader’s tone. Unless this young soldier was a lot smarter than he looked, the Assassin knew what would happen next. It was always a shame to throw away one of their own, but there was no reasoning with Hai when he got like this.

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Dark Roads

Glad you could join us for the next stormy episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

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Photo credit: Yingster Z

Leaving Cyrus to watch over Miranda and her brood, the King led the three Knights away from the Bower and the Hive in the only direction that made sense to him: toward the enemy. His daughter was out here somewhere, and he would find her or die trying.

Rain beat on everything, washing away evidence of anyone passing in either direction, drowning out all sounds but its own, and obscuring to a blur anything further away than they were from each other. Even when lightning shredded the darkness, grotesque jerking shadows wrestled reality into submission.

The Assassin was just as surprised as they were when they met.

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It’s Time

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…

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Photo credit: Tammy Bergstrom

“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?”

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