The Verdict and Breakfast, Too

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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.”

Arturo closed his eyes.

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Breakfast Is Not Served

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“Hey! Watch it, up there! Prisoner down below!” The indignant cry exploded from the Hole as Elliot clung to its edge, grabbing for anything secure to keep from slipping into the abyss.

Time stopped.

“Cassandra?” he ventured.

“Elliot…? Is it really you?”

“You there!” yelled the guard zipping back to his post from a brief trip to the bushes. “Step away from the Hole. Who are you and what is your business here?”

Drawing up to his full height and dignity, Elliot countered, “I might ask you the same thing.”

Cassandra’s advice drifted up from the depths. “I wouldn’t, Elliot.”

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The Arena

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The further they went, the thicker the droning streams of wasps that passed overhead, all hastening in the same direction.

“Where is everyone going?” Cassandra asked her escort.

He looked grim. “To your friend’s reckoning.”

“Reckoning? What do you think he’s done?”

“Quiet!” the leader called over his shoulder.

“But we don’t even know why we’re here!” she shouted.

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Confronting Apocritans

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Sometimes you must go back to catch up. She who is unnamed.

“How could anyone be so barbaric?” Cassandra and Arturo had helped his family cleanse their nest, and were once more on their way to Fen.

Arturo shrugged. “Spike was angry and bitter. It’s no excuse, but all he wanted to do was cause as much pain as he felt. D’Arc — well, he’s cold evil. He actually enjoys terrorizing and killing. When the leaders of a group are like that, they get two kinds of followers: people who feel the same way they do, and people who are afraid they’ll be the next victims.”

“They’re bullies,” Cassandra insisted. “We need to stand up to them.”

“That’s what my parents did. Look how that turned out.”

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Sylvia

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Sylvia’s lament crumpled as she looked up at her brother. “Arturo? You’re alive?” Flying to hold him close, she sobbed the news. “Rebels came early yesterday to take me, and when Father and Mother tried to drive them off, they attacked the nest and killed all the unborn. Then they said we would never see you again. We thought you were dead!”

“How are you still here?” he asked in wonder.

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Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

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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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Mister D’Arc

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“Well, Mr. D’Arc,” Queen Lilian began, “what is your master offering?”

“Ahfering? I tink you hahve misunderstood de situation. De Commahnder issues a wahrnin’.”

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