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The pent up worries he’d been nursing since diving into the tensions of Bog and Fen rinsed off with the scent of motion sickness. Elliot’s solitude absorbed the peace of the Lilian Pond while the muffled music of the larger public bath beyond the bushes infused his thoughts with joy.
As unpredictable as it had become, his life was full. Life isn’t scary, he thought, it’s an adventure. I’m not weak unless I give up.
Counting the obstacles he’d overcome, even when he’d needed help, he smiled. He had strength. He had friends. He had love.
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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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“Arturo, son of Miguel and Valeria, regarding the charges that you are responsible for the return of the rebels and the devastation they spread throughout our people’s homes in the Freelands, we find it is possible the rebels would not have come back if they had achieved their goal to begin with. Therefore, we find you are inextricably connected to the massacre.”
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Standing tall before the solitary ant, Arturo said, “Out of respect for the living, we ask you to leave.”
Boldly facing Arturo’s size and stinger, the ant’s voice pierced the air. “Respect for the living brought me here. My people need to eat, so we serve the world by giving purpose to its dead and decaying. This place smells of death, so I am here, and I must tell them what I’ve found. When we return, we will give thanks to honor the life that was taken from one and shared with others.”
Arturo dropped to one knee. “Is it too much to ask that you wait to give thanks until the life is truly taken?”