[Author's Note: This actually takes place at the end of Phoenix Rising: Aftermath and befor From Darkness to Light. However I emplore you to read From Darkness to Light before this as you could consider this chapter to be a spoiler for that chapter. ]
Men lay about groaning on the ground. The moonlight casting pale shadows upon their pain ridden faces. Others lay still in death. Scouts ranged through them, applying mercy to those whose wounds were fatal. The same careful regard was given to everyone; Scout, Hopeful or enemy.
He saw Smith being brought in by her two Hopeful friends. She was limping, a dagger still sticking out from her leg.
“Give her a place by the Trunk,” he commanded.
“Your Highness,” Sergeant Fox interrupted politely, “there are more grievously wounded.”
“That’s a Nigiri dagger in her leg, unless you can’t see,” Prince Theodoso used every ounce of regalness he could.
“But,” Sergeant Fox began to protest.
“She’s survived one assassination let us see if she survives this one,” the he growled. “Besides she has information I want to know.”
Sergeant Fox looked to Sergeant Deer who shrugged. “Alright make room for Smith against the trunk.”
The Prince watched as her two lackeys gently helped her down to lean against the trunk. Her head flopped back as her body relaxed. The Prince quickly grabbed her shirt, fearing she’d die before he learned what he needed to know.
“The assassin,” he demanded to know, “Phoenix claimed he killed him.”
“Are you sure there isn’t more than one?” she asked.
“There is only ever one Nigiri assassin at a time,” Prince Theo hissed back.
“Okay, so this one’s taken the other’s place,” she snapped her face beginning to pale.
“Eh, eh, excuse me Your Highness,” some Hopeful disrupted his questioning, “I, I need to remove the dagger from Smith’s leg.”.
“I have just one more question for her,” the Prince dismissed him. He leaned even closer to Sarah’s face. “Is my father alive?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered back.
“You’re connected to Phoenix, ask him,” his heart pounded with the need to know, “Is my father alive?”
“I don’t know,” she repeated. “Jay, Phoenix is severely wounded, I can only presume the fight is over and that your father is alive, because Phoenix would die to defend him. But I can only presume.”
Prince Theodoso was caught by her eyes. They were sad, apologetic as if she wished she could answer his question. He felt as if she knew exactly what he was going through. As if she understood the pain of not knowing what happened to the person she cared about. Because, Theo admitted to himself, he did care about his father. There was so much his father had to teach him before he could dream of becoming a King worthy of Vervell and now…
“Phoenix,” Smith spoke again interrupting Theo’s thoughts, “charged me to defend you with my life, Your Highness.”
Prince Theo loosened his grip on her shirt knowing she couldn’t tell him what he wanted to know.
“But Marcus did that instead didn’t he?” she asked, a wry grin on her face.
“Yeah,” Prince Theodoso flopped down to sit beside her suddenly realizing it himself, “he did.”
Prince Theodoso sat against the trunk head in his hands. He could not weep. He was supposed to be the crown Prince, able to take over ruling this kingdom should his father die. But he was not ready, not ready in the least. If anything had taught him that it had been this experience. Not just the ambush, but in being with the scouts. They were their best because they had to be. And he, if he looked truly at himself, he was less than all of them. He had never put his all into learning to use his sword. He had never put his all into learning about Vervell. His father, his father had. You could ask his father any question about any part of Vervell, or even of the Areni Plains, or Azure, and he’d know the answer. Not Prince Theo, he was a failure. Wasn’t he in part responsible for sister’s capture?
“Nigiri dagger Sergeant,” the stammering Hopeful’s voice broke into his pity session, “he’s not likely to last the night.”
There was a sigh. “Shame too, Smith was turning into a fine Scout. We should consider giving him Mercy in the morning if he’s not gone yet.”
“No!” Prince Theodoso startled them as he stood up. “Smith will come back with us. We’ll carry her on a litter if we have to.”
“But, Your Highness,” Sergeant Deer looked perplexed.
“I told you she had survived a Nigiri assassination before, twice if Sergeant Phoenix and Griffon are to be believed.” He looked down and saw the dagger still stuck in her leg. “For the Gods sake take that dagger out and dress the wound. Here,” Theo ripped off one of his sleeves, “you can use this.”
Prince Theodoso walked off barely believing what he’d just requested. He hadn’t gone far when Smith’s two lackeys stopped him.
“Your Highness,” the one bowed slightly, “Did you really mean it when you said Smith had survived a Nigiri assassinations before?”
“According to Sergeant Phoenix yes,” he narrowed his eyes, “I was not there so I cannot vouch for it.”
“So we are to bring Smith back to the barracks, Your Highness?” he asked again.
“Yes, so long as we have a litter to carry her on.”
“We’ll get one made, Your Highness, right Reed?” the second man spoke up.
“Of course,” Reed responded as the other move away.
“Something else on your mind?” Prince Theo wanted to know when Reed didn’t move off.
“Smith is female then your highness?” the Prince sighed and nodded. “Who’d have thought Marcus was right,” he muttered as he walked off, “though it does make sense, but then it’s always clear skies when you look behind you.”