Excerpt: The Phoenix Knight
“I feel like I should be surprised, but somehow, I always suspected I’d see you again in a place like this.” Lady Fleur Bellamy sighed as she watched the woman inside the cell pick out a merry tune on her lute. Rather than answering her verbally, the woman merely glanced up at her. Mischief and amusement danced in her eyes, a clear invitation to laugh right along with her. The look was so familiar to Bellamy she could only sigh once more and turn to the guard, “What is she guilty of?”
“It appears your guards have no sense of humor, Fleur.” A husky voice rang out from the cell, cutting off the guard’s reply, and the music stopped abruptly.
“Don’t call me that.” Bellamy hated the way she spoke her name, the mocking sing song of her tone. She disliked her given name enough. Bellamy was more than aware of how little it suited her, but Silvia brought that dislike into utter hatred. “Answer my question.” She directed her order at the guard, but Silvia answered instead.
“I apologize, Lady Bellamy.” If she thought Silvia mocking before, it was nothing compared to now. Silvia merely smiled when Bellamy gave her an angry look. “I told the guards I needed to see you and they demanded my reasons.”
“Why do you need to see me?” They’d said all that was necessary between them three years ago. Rather, Silvia had let her actions speak for her since she had simply disappeared. There were a few other choice words Bellamy would have loved to have added, but they hardly seemed appropriate. Especially in front of an audience.
Silvia’s smile was wide, “Why, I’ve been sent to kill you of course.”
Bellamy could only roll her eyes while the guard spluttered in rage, “Again?”
Silvia laughed and stood, securing her lute against her back. Nothing had changed about her it seemed. She was lithe still, her tunic and leggings fitting her form perfectly. Bellamy couldn’t see her knives, but she knew they were secured in her belt, the same as they’d always been since Silvia was never without them in her easy grasp. Her hair was longer now, the dark green strands around her waist even when pulled up in a high ponytail to display two pointed ears. Her skin was the same tanned brown that made Bellamy think of oak trees. And the smile, the teasing smile, was exactly the same.
Wood dryads were rare. Ever since the war against magic and the creatures that magic had created eighty years ago, they had been content to leave the cities for their precious forest. But Silvia was hardly the normal dryad. Even if she hadn’t confessed to Bellamy that her powers were rather weak, she was far flightier than her more rooted cousins.
Silvia came to the bars of the cell, her hands wrapping around the bars as she leaned against them. “You really must stop making everyone so angry.”
Bellamy stared at her for a long minute before turning back to the guard, “How long can you keep her here again?”
“So cruel.” Silvia complained. “No wonder they keep sending me to kill you.”
“If you want me to free you, reminding me that you’re here to kill me is not the way,” which made Bellamy wonder, “Why are you really here?”
“I really have been hired once more to kill you, but you are correct in your assumption.” Silvia’s expression grew as serious as Bellamy had ever seen it. “I need to speak with you about something.”
Silvia glanced over to the guard, who by now simply looked confused. “I need to speak with you in private.” She put emphasis on that last word.
Bellamy frowned. Silvia might have been an assassin, but she kept her word. Bellamy wasn’t afraid she would try to kill her. Especially not after what had happened the last time she tried. “Release her.” Bellamy stepped back from the cell.
“But milady, she’s a greenling.” The guard argued, using the more derogatory word for dryads. He imbued in that word the same disgust that might have been used to describe a rat that had crawled free from the sewer.
Times like this, Bellamy missed the order the most. It didn’t matter what rank she had attained in the King’s guard, her father’s guards were still more likely to treat her as a delicate lady of the house than with any sort of respect. “That was an order.” She put the same authority behind it as she would have her order to a new recruit. “And the next time you display that hateful behavior in front of me, I will ensure that you can never raise your head without shame.”
It seemed even her father’s guard was not immune. Stammering, he hurried to comply with her wish. Silvia stepped calmly from the cell and directly into Bellamy’s personal space. Bellamy knew she was tall for a woman, taller than at least half of the recruits to the castle, but Silvia was a scant few inches shorter than she was. Their eyes met for a moment before Silvia laughed and moved to the side, out of her space.
“It seems your captaincy suits you.”
Bellamy tried her best to hide her sigh of relief that Silvia had moved aside without incident. “That it does. Test my kindness and you’ll find out just how much.” Silvia shrugged, but held out her hands to show that she was not armed. It was her way of showing that she had peaceful intentions.
“Milady, should I request a guard to accompany you?”
Bellamy could still remember the disgust he’d shown Silvia. “Not at all.” She turned, clearly dismissing him as she walked from the jail. A glance to the right confirmed that Silvia walked beside her.
Silvia breathed a sigh of relief when they stepped outside. “It was torture being in that cell.” Silvia stretched, the thin tunic clung to every curve. Bellamy turned her eyes resolutely forward.
“I can only imagine. Whatever you need to speak to me of will have to wait. I only stopped by the jail on my way to another task.” And that thought brought her back to where she’d been on her way to in the first place. And somehow verbal sparring with Silvia was far preferable to returning to her room and having to face the fact that she would not be returning to the Order.
“What sort of task?” Silvia asked.
Bellamy made a sound of annoyance, “I must speak with my father. Then my fiancé.” She hated that word. She hated even more the lack of choice she had in the matter.
It took her a few moments to realize that Silvia was no longer beside her. When she did, she stopped and turned. “That’s new.” Silvia managed.
Bellamy shrugged. “I have not yet met him.”
“And you’re marrying him? But you’re a warrior, not a wife.” She said it as if it were an understood fact.
The truth of that brought Bellamy’s earlier unhappiness back. “Like my mother, I must learn to be both, I suppose. Now let us go. I dislike being late.” She started once more on her way.
“Of course.” Silvia muttered as she hurried to catch up with her. “And what,” she asked in a more normal tone, “am I to be doing while you attend to your new fiancé?”
“Hiding?” Bellamy asked herself. “No, you would stick out far too much.”
“There are many dead men who would tell you that is not at all the case,” Silvia grumbled. “Most people tend to think I blend in quite well. And then, well, they don’t think much at all.”
“With that face?” Bellamy asked doubtfully. “You’re far too striking, far too…,” she paused to search for a word, “unique.”
Silvia looked surprised by her words. “That’s an oddly flattering description. Thank you.” Her smile sent a fluttering response through Bellamy’s stomach.
“It wasn’t meant to be flattering. Your ears would have you caught in a moment.” Bellamy frowned at the guard who held the door for her as she stepped into the castle. When they made it to the stairs she finally commented, “Is it poor manners to remember that there was a time I could have held a door for myself?”
“I’m the last person you should ask for advice on manners.”
When they made it to her bedroom, Bellamy breathed a sigh of relief at last, turning to study Silvia with a critical eye. “You need to change.”
“Change?” Silvia swung her lute off her back and set it to lean against Bellamy’s wardrobe. “All I need is a few minutes of your time. That seems just a bit extreme. I could just talk to you while you change your clothes.”
“I rescued you from prison and I have yet to give in to my urge to stick the pointy end of my weapon into you. You can spare a few hours.” Time. She was running out of time. She should have made Silvia sit in that cell for another few hours, but being that far from earth was torture for a dryad. As much as Silvia annoyed Bellamy, she didn’t actually hate her, unfortunately. With a frustrated noise, she reached into the wardrobe, yanked out something resembling a dress, and threw it at Silvia.
“You can’t be serious. I’ll look ridiculous in this.” Silvia held up the dress and gave it a doubtful look. She raised an amused eyebrow at Bellamy when she turned to her.
“No one will care what you look like, but if you need my help, then you’ll put it on.” Bellamy wasn’t ready to admit that the truth was she wanted a familiar face with her. In her time at the castle, she had only seen Prince Etienne from a distance. He always seemed quiet and withdrawn. When her father had informed her of the Prince’s request for her hand, she had been caught by surprise. But she wasn’t in a position to say no.
“I don’t have quite your assets.” Silvia used her hands to gesture what she meant.
Bellamy flushed. “Change your clothes and be happy your head is still attached to your neck. They would have dragged you out to La Guillotine before long.”
“They would never have gotten me to that horrid device.” The guillotine sat in Center Square, a relic from older, more barbaric times. Old blood still rusted the sharpest tip as a reminder of the cruelty the kingdom had once offered.
“I would have taken you myself, if only to see proof that you were at last out of my hair.” But they both knew she didn’t mean it.