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In his dream, Elliot reclined on a bed of rose petals in a field of jasmine. He could feel Cassandra’s kisses on his lips.
He woke on the floor of the bower in Fen to find her wiping the last of his regurgitated breakfast from his mouth. The scent of jasmine drifted in and gagged him. Rolling onto his side coughing more violently than the ancient wasp, he caught a flashing glint of brown surrounded by feathers in the doorway.
Shifting impatiently from foot to foot, Pierce, the hawk who’d brought them back, preened a chunk of glistening, ocher something from his shoulder, and fixed a smoldering one-eyed stare on Elliot.
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With the sun warming the meadow, Vernon and Fergus took refuge in the woods’ indelible shadows.
“Tell me, laddie, what became of that fancy fella? Is he really as ahful as yer friends had him soundin’?”
“D’Arc? He was worse, but he met with a sticky end. You’re fortunate you never had to deal with him.”
“We keep ta ourselves out here — mindin’ our own business, livin’ our own lives — respectin’ our neighbors. We’ve no need fer a king or a queen ta tell us what ta do. Nivver really cared ta have anyone lordin’ it over us.”
“Did you know Spike and his rebels were preparing to do just that?” Vernon asked. “Were you ready to fight them?”
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“What about Cassandra and Arturo?”You. Wondering.
“Do you think we could rest for a little while, Arturo?” Cassandra asked. “I’m so tired I don’t think I could go any further if Mr. D’Arc himself were chasing us.”
“When he finds out you’re gone, believe me, he will be. He’s scarier than Spike.” Arturo took to the air to scan the area. He called down to the Princess, “Our only hope is to hide because we sure won’t be able to outrun him, and I’d never be able to fight him and win.”
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D’Arc’s triumphant cry so close on his tail shattered Vernon’s freezing terror of the deathtrap in front of him.
Banking hard to the left, he brushed the web with the tip of his right wing as he dove behind the smaller stickiness protruding from its center, narrowly avoiding the behemoth now skimming down a radial line to investigate the vibrations.