[Author’s Note: The second of the two chapters that fit in with chapters 47 through 49, “Three Women to Bind” and Parts 1 and 2 of “One Azurean to Scare” of Phoenix Triumphant.]
James was not prepared for the site that greeted him in the audience chambers. Not only was Prince Theodoso alive, but Sergeant Phoenix as well. Senior Captain Chester’s failure to kill the crown prince wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Nigiri assassin wasn’t nearly as good as his twin, York, who had seemingly vanished. But to see Sergeant Phoenix alive, when General Wholawski had vowed to kill the man himself, was a shock.
“Lieutenant James.” The King’s voice brought officer’s attention into focus. “There was a message that you wished to tell me?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Lieutenant James bowed to the Vervellean King. “Your daughter is currently safe and unharmed.”
“So I’ve been told.” King Demetrioso looked evenly at the man.
James swallowed and looked about the room. He knew now there was no way to get King Demetrioso alone. “You have Prince Hermanus in your custody then?”
“And I know that having him in custody does not secure the safety of my daughter.” The King’s eyes were steely. “So unless you have additional information for me that Prince Hermanus has not already imparted this interview is over.”
Lieutenant James bowed his head and thought as quickly as he could. As the King raised he hand to summon in the guards James’ head shot up.
“Wait.” He glanced behind him where the two guards stood at the ready. “Prince Hermanus, he is safe? He is being treated well?”
The King glanced to Sergeant Phoenix and nodded. James watched the man closed his eyes slightly before nodding back. King Demetrioso turned back to James. “Have you found yourself unsafe or being mistreated?”
“No, Your Majesty.” James shook his head. “But if he could be brought to hear what I have to say...”
“He is on his way,” Sergeant Phoenix spoke.
James looked about confused. He had heard no message be given, nor seen a messenger leave.
Phoenix smiled. “You were a only a Second Lieutenant when we last met and now you are messenger to General Wholawski himself. How does that suit you?”
James looked at the men about the room. The only one betraying any emotion was Prince Theodoso, who had a sneer upon his face. He looked back to Phoenix. “It suits my purpose well enough.”
“That purpose being?” Phoenix raised his eyebrows ever so slightly.
James noted that the King glared at his son. So there was tension between the two. His eyes flicked back to the Scout Sergeant whose gaze had not wavered. Taking a deep breath James responded.
“To relay General Wholawski’s plans to those who would like to know.”
“His plans are simple,” a young voice spoke from the door, “to kill me and take over the Azurian throne.”
There was a hint of desperation in that voice that cut James to the bone. The Lieutenant spun upon his heel and dropped to one knee. “Prince Hermanus,” he addressed the startled young man with a bowed head. “Have hope. My uncle, Lord Farquad, is gathering resistance.”
“Oh Ho,” King Demetrioso clapped his hands together.
James rose and turned as Prince Hermanus walked to stand beside Sergeant Phoenix. James started slightly as he realized his Prince was dressed like a Vervellean Scout.
“You have already been contacted by my uncle?” James was perplexed.
“No,” King Demetrioso smiled. “But the Gods work in miraculous ways. Phoenix, I expect you know what should be done.”
“Yes Your Majesty.” Sergeant Phoenix nodded. “Come James,” he strode forward and put an arm around the man’s shoulders, “and let us see how you fare against Vervell’s elite.”