[Author's note: I needed to find out what Jason said to Marcus and what the young man's reaction to it was so I could properly edit the next bit of Phoenix Rising. This takes place after Swollen Stream. I think Jason enjoyed confounding Marcus, then again I think he's always felt that Marcus is a 'stiff shirt more full of himself than a hay cart'. Don't ask, those are Jay's words, not mine, but a hay cart does tend to be full of hay.]
Jason had instructed the Prince to stay hidden. He wished he could make the young man help the Hopefuls put a raft together, but Marcus, and possibly some of the other scouts, would recognize him. The King had made it clear that the least number of people that knew about the Prince’s participation the better.
“No not that kind of log!” Hopeful Marcus yelled at one of the others. “Find something that will not fall apart before we even tie to the others!”
Jason stopped to watch the boy. Overbearing and as just as bossy as his father. Thankfully the fiefdom would fall to the eldest son who was much more mild mannered. Or at least he was now that he’d married Lady Angelina.
“Hopeful Marcus,” Jason stepped from where he had been watching.
Marcus spun around. “Lord Sergeant Phoenix!” He hastily bowed slightly.
“A word with you Hopeful Marcus.”
“Of course Lord Sergeant Phoenix.”
Jason sighed inwardly. “Dispense with the Lord, Hopeful Marcus. I gave up that title when I became a scout, as you too have done.”
“Yes,” Marcus swallowed Lord, “Sergeant.”
They had moved from the rest of the group who seemed relieved to no longer having Marcus yell at them.
“I believe Smith told you to talk to me.” Jason said as he led them further away from the group where they wouldn’t be over heard. “For as Smith sated she hid nothing from me.”
Marcus clearly stumbled at Jason’s use of the female pronoun. “Then,” he faltered, “then you know Smith is female...”
“And engaged,” Jason gestured with his left hand, the one on which he wore his engagement ring.
“And engaged,” Marcus repeated as his eyes watched the ring. He looked back to Jason. “But, she is female. It is not right!”
“And,” Jason smiled remembering how he had used the next phrase on his men as well, “if it was anyone other than Smith I would agree. But I have known her most of my life. She is not like any woman you have ever known.”
Marcus could not argue with Phoenix’s last statement. He stood silent for a while under the Sergeant’s gaze. How could Phoenix have known her for a long time. Wouldn’t that have meant he ought to know her After all he and Phoenix had been of equal rank before the man had taken it into his head to join the Scouts. An idea Marcus had thought was brilliant at the time. Now after three years, he wondered if it was worth it. Phoenix began speaking again and Marcus looked back up.
“I would have hope that you, of all the Hopefuls, would have treated Smith better than you have. But I do not think I need remind you that Smith can hold his own."
No, Marcus thought, he didn’t need to be reminded of that. He was glad everyone else seemed to think so. If the fact that Smith was a woman got out, he’d be in for the ridiculing of his life.
“If it comforts you,” Phoenix smiled slightly, “I believe Smith also pinned my second, Scout Mathew, until he relented.”
Marcus furrowed his brows at Sergeant Phoenix. He hadn’t been in the watching crowd had he? Phoenix chuckled.
“Smith is here to defend my honor, Hopeful Marcus, I should think he is doing it well.”
Phoenix spun on his heel, to go where ever it was he was going, leaving Marcus to ponder his worlds. How in the world did a woman defend a man’s honor? Men defended their honor. This was not right at all. Who were Phoenix and Smith to change...
“Marcus?” Michael’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“What?” Marcus growled, making the Hopeful step back slightly.
“We’ve gathered as many logs as you requested.”
“Fine.” Marcus stormed to where the other Hopefuls had pilled the logs.