Seeking Hearts and Minds

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Elliot 187
Photo credit: Ann Kreilkamp

“How did Lady Lucy die?” Clifton demanded.

“She was undercover, gathering information from The Arids, and the General found her out,” the runner answered.

His vindication washed with tears, Clifton was adamant. “I knew Lady Lucy was loyal to the Queen! I need to tell Barry.”

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Tipping the Flower

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

Elliot 186
Photo credit: Katherine Ricarda

“What are you thinking?” Arturo asked Clifton.

“It should be easy — I’ll ask to stay with the Hiverarchy while I’m here. I can talk to the workers about the Alliance, and maybe start a… buzz.” They both grinned. “Kýrios may be the Most Revered, but he’s not a dictator, he’s an advisor to their Queen. He’ll listen to the majority even if he doesn’t agree, and he’ll share what he hears with her.”

“What if he still advises against joining?”

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Kýrios

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Elliot 185
Photo credit: Steven Falk

They’d done it. The new Alliance Council had crafted an agreement every tribe in the Freelands agreed to honor. Well, every tribe but one. The Hiverarchy of Free Bees had declined all invitations to join the proceedings.

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Raindrops and Tears

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Elliot 184
Photo credit: Wallpaperpassion.com

“…and Lady Lucy is dead.” Queen Lilian repeated in disbelief.

“Yes, your Magnificence,” the drenched Hopper said as rain dripped from his antennae to the floor. “She didn’t know the Assassin had escaped from the Freelands and beaten her back to the Arids. The General caught her in her lie, gave the order, and the Assassin carried it out.”

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Drago Galadeen

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Elliot 183
Photo credit: Igor Siwnowicz

“If you know who I am,” Sirehta replied bringing his face close to the speaking crack in the wall, “you have the advantage. Come out and let yourself be seen. You will come to no harm.”

Two twitching antennae and a round little head poked out from the crevice. Locking eyes with the viper, the oversized hopper scaled the wall to rest on a protruding stone at the top, facing the snake full on.

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Just Another Chink In the Wall

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Photo credit: C. Rumarosa

Flying to hang in front of Sirehta, the General scraped a sparking red powder from his back with a rear leg, and said, “To seal your commitment, each of you will submit to marking. Allow me to demonstrate. Pietro!”

Scuttling forward, the little Stinger stopped directly below him. The wasp descended to press his foot against Pietro’s back which began to sizzle and steam, leaving a grooved scar. The General rose, scraping his back again. It was only then Sirehta noticed the youth’s carapace bore countless identical marks.

“Is this agreeable?” the wasp asked.

Sirehta waited for each of his brothers to nod in approval.

“It is,” he replied.

Lowering his head, he resisted his instinct to snatch the General out of the air, and accepted the searing pain without flinching.

So it was with each serpent.

Instructing Sirehta to remain behind, the General divided the viper force into pairs and sent each team in a different direction.

“Your first assignment is to scout to the edge of the Arids and rid the region of any who don’t belong here. Report back to me at dawn.”

“How are we to know which don’t belong?” Cahret asked.

“Residents are marked. Report back at dawn.” General Hai retreated to the cavern without a backward glance, followed by his loyal throng.

The General’s response chilled Sirehta’s blood. Alone, he watched his brothers blend into the night until a tiny voice coming from a chink in the wall caught his attention.

“Psst!” it insisted, “I know who you are.”

To be continued. . .

Previously, on Elliot’s Adventures ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Next time . . .

Sworn

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Elliot 181
Photo credit: Fallout

Incautious, the voices grew louder and more distinct the closer the vipers crept. Cahret slithered up the side of a coarse rock wall to peer over its horizon onto a bed of chattering Stingers.

“…but the bat should’ve been ours — we held her down,” one complained.

“Yeah,” another echoed, “what’d that old Crone do she should get it?”

“Not so loud!” the largest ordered. “You want the General to hear you whining? He’s not gonna keep her around forever, and after he’s done with her, who do you think’ll be feasting then?”

“So we’ll get the old bat in the end, huh?” the first one gloated. Shrieking laughter pierced the sky.

Cahret slipped over the rocks to call through the darkness. “Can you take us to your General?”

Below, a flurry of scurrying answered.

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