Getting to Know Her Friends

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Photo credit: Burrard-Lucas

Relegating her new worry about Cassandra’s safety to her trust in King Arnie, Queen Lilian faced her duty to interview the Alliance leaders she had requested to visit her. Too many lives depended on their secret plans for her to trust Fen’s fate to leaders she didn’t know.

“Commander Torlex of The Arids’ Rebel Army, Sirehta of the Viper Brotherhood, I invited you here to share your plans so that we may coordinate our strategies.”

Chuckling deep in his throat, rain dripping from his protruding chin, and his eyes thoroughly bloodshot from lack of sleep, Commander Torlex turned to Sirehta. “It was your brilliant idea, I think you deserve the honor of sharing it with the Queen.”

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When the Storm Breaks

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Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht

“I remember the process you’re talking about, Arnie.” With her eyes closed, Queen Lilian gazed at the pointed end of a memory that still cut into her heart. “We haven’t used it since Mother died.” She opened her eyes and willed her face to smile.

King Arnie asked, “Could we use it for Randall?”

“Of course. We’ll prepare a work area tonight, and they can bring his body in the morning.”

“Thank you, Lilian.” The King looked at his feet. “I tried to keep him safe, and I failed.”

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Dancing In the Dark

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Photo credit: Suhaib Ayaz

Beneath the Wildlands’ Hill, Commandant Marabunta sensed insistent vibrations in her sleep, and woke to bits of soil from the dormitory’s domed ceiling pelting onto her head.

“What the…?” The source was localized, stationary, and relatively small. Nothing to worry about, she concluded, but too annoying to ignore. Rousting herself from the comfort of her bed, she never even considered sending a scout.

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Casualties

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Image credit: SD Zoo/Aussietrev/wallup.net/S.T. Ranscht

Bog’s army had arrived in time to help push General Hai’s troops back across Fen’s border, at least for the night. Now, at the end of a day filled with conferences, bad news, and tough decisions, Queen Lilian heard the same remorse in King Arnie’s apology that she’d expressed to Vernon earlier.

“No one saw it coming, Arnie.” she said. “What’s important is that Bog’s army is here now, and Commander Torlex has taken the Arids’ Alliance Army across the northwestern corner of Fen to cut through the enemy.”

“Torlex is a cagey one,” King Arnie confided. “He’s hinted he has a secret attack plan that’s going to take the General by surprise, but only his army knows what it is.”

“Do you trust him?” Lilian asked.

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Her Story

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Photo credit: Paul on Flickr

Sini and Viola watched Commander Torlax’s forces advance into the night until the vibrations in the ground faded to stillness.

Smiling, Viola picked up one of the Leftenant’s wings. “Tell me how you did this.”

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Commander Torlex

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Sini followed Viola to the salty playa where the Nocturnals of the newly formed Arids’ branch of the Alliance Army stood ready to deploy south to join the Freelands’ forces.

“—and my brothers will continue to coordinate the Alliance’s covert missions while the forces of Bog engage the enemy from the west,” Cahret said. Nodding toward the dignified iguana on his left, he indicated the next speaker. “Commander Torlex of The Arids.”

The Commander raised his chin, accentuating his underbite. “We who live in The Arids are tough. Our lives are hard, but we don’t abandon our homeland looking for something easier. Our ancestors handed us a history filled with scarcity and endurance, strength and survival.” He scanned the faces in front of him.

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I’ve Been Through the Desert

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Photo credit: 3DRivers

“Man, maybe we should give Sam and her mom some privacy to work out their feelings. What about those snake guys King Arnie sent to The Arids on a secret mission? How’s that going?” You might be thinking.
“All righty, then. Meanwhile, out in The Arids…” Me, accommodating as ever.

~~~

“I hear you’ve been looking for me.” Girdliz’s soft, fuzzy voice drifted down from the boulder through heat-shimmered air onto Sirehta’s back as he slithered past over the relentless dust of The Arids.

Raising his head… his neck… his body to cock an eye at the stony little lizard, the viper nodded like a drowsy sunflower in a summer breeze. “Yes. I understand you are no friend of the General.”

Scrunching his forehead to scrape its scales together, Girdliz jittered from foot to foot. “He’s scary,” he confided. “Scary and mean.”

“And your fear makes you helpless?” Sirehta asked.

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Drago Galadeen

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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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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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