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Having dug a shallow burrow in the Bower’s floor, Miranda tucked her little ones inside. “I’m just going to watch them sleep for a few minutes,” she told the Princess. “It’s the only time they’re all quiet. Then we can sit outside and have a bit of nectar.” But moments later, exhausted from bearing the weight of parenthood alone, she, too, succumbed to seductive slumber.
Princess Cassandra smiled. Soon that will be me. She stepped into the pale starlight alone.
“Good evening, Cyrus,” she greeted the young bee standing guard outside her door.
“Good evening, your Elegance.” The flap of feathered wings brought him to attention. “Who goes there?”
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“You wanted to see me, your Greatness?” Elliot panted, out of breath from racing to answer the King’s urgent summons. I’ll have to remember this whenever I send for anyone, he thought as he willed his heart not to explode.
Smiling from shoulder to shoulder, King Arnie announced, “I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m going to be a grandfather!”
“Congratulations! That’s amazing! How did—“ Noticing his father-in-law’s arched eyebrow, Elliot blinked. “Wait a minute. Does that mean… Are you saying… Am I going to be… a dad?”
“That’s right, son!” The King slapped him on the shell. “I just got the news from the Runner. Congratulations to you.”
Elliot turned to leave. “I should be with Cassandra.”
“Of course that’s up to you,” King Arnie said, “but she did send a message. She said to tell you she’s fine and she knows how important your job here is. And she’s hoping you’ll find some time to set up a house with a nursery — she said that would make you the greatest hero ever.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do,” Prince Elliot the Faithful father-to-be declared. “I can’t believe it. I’m going to be a dad!”
With visions of fatherhood fuzzing up his brain, Elliot zipped out the door to share the news with his friends, trailing an exuberant, “Wooooo-hooooooooo!” behind him.
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Finding Vernon, Queen Lilian’s Liaison, still awake, Lady Lucy delivered her passengers to him just outside Princess Cassandra’s bower.
“Can I have a word, Vernon?” the elderly bat asked.
“Certainly,” he answered. Addressing the refugees, he asked, ”Would you please excuse us for a moment?”
Vernon and Lucy moved away from Cassandra’s door.
“The Prince’s Knights captured General Hai’s messenger in the Freelands.” Lucy’s whisper carried as far as a fully hearing person’s normal speaking voice. “I think he followed the Prince there, but he saw me, so I have to get back to the Arids before the General finds out. I’m sure there were more spies than just that slimy Stinger.”
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“Plummeting is not an altogether unpleasant sensation,” Elliot thought as they fell into the chilly night. “If I didn’t know how it has to end, I might be enjoying it.” He was beyond panic, and the sight of Cassandra tumbling beside him left him feeling only regret.