*Two shadowy figures are facing each other in a dark room. Papers on the table separating them suggest they are signing a contract hidden from the public*
?1?: Do you accept the contract?
*The second man looks at the pictures attached to the contract. One was a young woman*
?1?: Is 5 000 gold coins not enough for the job?
?2?: I want 10 000 gold coins, your majesty.
?1? -> King: Fine, but only if no harm is done to her.
?2?: You must be desperate to not even argue with this price rise.
King: … She is the most important thing I have in this world.
?2?: Don't worry, you chose the right mercenary for the job.
King: I do hope so, Mr. Felix.
*In a cave, next to the main road, Two men are guarding their treasure, waiting to make a trade. The air is humid and the ceiling is filled with bats. Once in a while, a few drops of water fall from the forest of stalactites that paves the roof. On a giant wood pole, The bandits' leverage is attached with rope. The girl has long pink hair, braided on the right, eyes of emeralds. With her rich looking robe, it is clear that she comes from a rich family. She seems to have a bored expression on her face.*
Bandit 1: Something is wrong chief!
Chief: What do you mean?
Bandit 1: The princess, she seems too calm about her kidnapping.
Eleonore: If this scenario happened to you at least once per week, you too would find it less traumatizing.
Bandit 1: Wh… what do we do chief? I feel bad!
*The rope was starting to loosen up. After so many times of being captured, the princess managed to develop some new skills, like how to escape from some simple rope*
Chief: Don't let it phase you, my friend, we are bandits, not heroes. All that matters is to get the ransom money and get out as fast as possible.
Bandit 1: It's been awhile since they received the message, you think they are gonna come at all?
Chief: Do not worry, the king would do anything for his daughter.
*Just as the princess manages to break free, a cloud of dense smoke invades the room. Blinded, the princess tries to use this opportunity to run out of the cave. She hears the sound of two arrows whizzing by, followed by the sound of broken bones. She then suddenly felt like someone was pulling her arm. She knew, due to the gentleness of the pull, that she was in safe arms. When she was able to see again, she was in a carriage, right at the entrance of the cave. She was next to a young looking man, bright red hair, looking like he just started adulthood, eyes of crimson. He was looking out the window*
Felix, without facing her: Feeling ok princess? not hurt?
Eleonore: Do not worry, sir knight! The bandits could not afford to damage their leverage. But tell me, why the smoke? If I heard correctly, you used your bow to kill those criminals. Were you not risking to hit me if you could not see your target?
Felix: Rest assured milady, that your safety wasn’t in any way compromised. I simply wanted your eyes to avoid witnessing the bloody spectacle of their lifeless corpse. I can assure you that my shots were precise despite the little-added handicap.
Eleonore melancholically looking through her window, just like Felix: *sigh* An unneeded attention, sir knight. I already witnessed more than once the gruesome sight of life quitting their physical receptacle. Blood and death, I'm already used to the terrific sight.
*The princess' words spiked Felix’s curiosity. He finally moved his head to the direction of the princess. She was only 16 years old, but already used to such atrocity?*
Eleonore: You should run away before it is too late.
*Back in the secret meeting room, Felix and the King are once again facing each other, contract on the table.*
King: You did as I asked, thanks for saving my daughter. Here is your reward *hands the bag of gold*. May I ask what are you gonna do next?
Felix: Isn't obvious? The contract is still active if I recall.
King: You… you knew? And you still accepted?
Felix: The fact that the end period of the contract is only “until the princess is safe”? Meaning the period of time is undetermined? Yes. I also noticed the low amount of guards in the castle. You use these contracts to trap mercenaries in protecting the princess... indefinitely.
King: They… were all assassinated… the guards… the mercenaries… we are running out of protection.
Felix: She seems really… “popular”... the princess.
King: I am a dying man, and my daughter is the only one left that could rise to the throne. Without us, it would be fair game for anybody! Nobles, kings in search of more land… And she looks like an easy target for everyone.
Felix: Have you taught her how to use a weapon?
King: No… I didn't want her to bloody her hands.
Felix: And she can’t defend herself, depending on others to defend her… *snark* smart.
Felix: I shall take my leave.
King: Please. I beg you, you are our only hope! I shall keep paying you!
Felix: I know, it is also in the contract. I just need to prepare for the ball, I heard that you were organizing one tonight, am I right? You WILL need my help.
King: Th… thank you! The princess will surely be happy to know you're staying for her!
Felix: I never said I was doing this for the princess…
*Felix and Eleonore are both in luxurious garments. The princess looks particularly beautiful in her Jade robe, filled with layers of silk. On her head, her royal silver crown, with at its centre, a medium-sized emerald. Felix is back on the wall, with some sort of tuxedo. While the vest looks elegant and appropriate for the event, his gabison is still clearly visible under his attire. Eleonore approaches Felix while she is checking the guest list. They are both in the preparation room, while the servants are preparing the guest entry*
Eleonore: Are you ready sir knight?
Felix: I am no knight milady, only a sword-for-hire.
Eleonore: You have been officially employed by the King as my personal bodyguard, so you are now my knight Mr. Felix.
Felix: Fine… But there is one thing that I don’t understand…
Eleonore: What is it?
Felix: This ball, it's basically suicide! It’s the best opportunity for anybody to attack you! Why not cancel it? Do you really believe in my capacity that much?
Eleonore: We don’t have a choice, the situation is critical. This ball is used to soften the tensions with the neighbouring kingdoms. Without it, it would be war!
Felix: And why do people want you dead so much?
Eleonore: *sigh* They believe this kingdom is an easy target. My father is old and I am only 16. We are also the last people with royal blood of the kingdom, so without us, almost anyone is fair game to claim the throne. They can't risk sending troops or they would risk breaking the truce in place since the great war...
Felix: Yeah, I remember about that war, it took place four thousand years ago if I recall
Eleonore: Yes, since then, Kingdoms tend to use more subtle tactics like assassinations, forced marriage and the like.
Felix: And the king doesn't force your hand?
Eleonore: No, he wants me to decide who I will mary in the future, and the princes are a bit too old for me. He does teach me how to rule, however, and at my father's death I might need to become queen alone one day... of course, that makes it even more tempting...
Felix: It also doesn't help that this kingdom is the one in the middle of everyone, making it a strategic position. You are aware that this ball is mostly there to push this kingdom into a corner?
Eleonore: We are aware, but our hands are tied. I can only hope that you will do YOUR job well. Between my life or the safety of my people, I choose the people.
*The ball has started, guests are swarming the room. Nobles and rich Ladies, war generals and high ranking knights, the room is filled quickly. The corners of the ceiling are filled with pink and purple streamers, colours of the kingdom. On the four sides, A giant crest with a pink rose on a purple background shows proudly the symbol tied to the royal family. One Noble approaches Eleonore, and propose to engage in a valse with her. After a few swings, the man tries to reach his dagger, but a terrible pain in his other hand paralyzes him*
Eleonore, fire in her eyes: Get out of my sight, before I break your fingers.
*She then decides to go see Felix, who is alone in a corner of the room, next to the punch. he is right next to the giant table that is as long as the size of the room.*
Eleonore, reaching for her bag: hungry?
Felix: I shall advise you to avoid the buffet, half of it is already poisoned with many nauseator and soporific, ploys to get you out of the room where there are fewer witnesses.
Eleonore: This is why I brought these *she takes out a few chocolate biscuits* don't worry sir knight, there is no chance that they are poisonous since I made them myself. What is the situation?
Felix, taking one biscuit: 3 snipers lodged in the castle walls *munch*, avoid all windows, one hired assassin, only two guards on our side and I’m at my fifth guest without a dagger in their pockets. In short, pretty grim. The atmosphere is extremely tense and a single mistake from someone will cause a fight. We must get you out of here.
Eleonore: Too late, the guards have already been swapped with fake ones. Their crests are fake, and they are ironically more numerous now.
*A scream is heard in the middle of the room, a noble cracked under the pressure and stabbed one of his competitors. While the innocent flee the room in a panic, nobles with ill intentions reach for their daggers. Now a competition of “who is gonna be the one to stab the princess” has just started, and many are fighting for the privilege. Only one old general decided to stay loyal to his princess, and joins Felix in forming a wall to protect her*
General: I never thought I would die outside of the battlefield.
Felix: Fight and make sure you go back to that battlefield!
*The general is pitted against 3 of his former recruits. Without hesitation, he fights with all of his strength, anger for their betrayal. After an intense fight, the General manages to slay the young soldiers, before falling himself to a fatal injury.*
Felix: His sacrifice might be what is gonna save us, princess!
Eleonore: How many must still die to protect me...
Felix: Don’t worry about me princess, I did a pretty good job of staying alive so far.
*Felix managed to attract the remaining nobles in the center of the room, keeping their eyes on him and not what they came for. While they might be 20 and surrounding him, their tiny daggers and lack of expertise were no match for the legendary Felix. When his final opponent finally collapsed on the ground, a slow clap breaks the silence of the room*
Felix: I was wondering when you were gonna make your move.
Eleonore: The assassin!
Assassin, resting his back on the opposite wall: I was simply waiting for you to get rid of the distractions, that would be a boring fight with all the “flies” buzzing around.
Felix: Feeling chivalrous? Funny coming from someone like you.
Assassin: For me, the gold reward is nothing compared to the joy that is brought by the tough of being the one to end your life, “legendary” Felix!
Felix: In that case enjoy that feeling well, because it won't last long “et mitterent augue”!
*The assassin skillfully avoids the fireball, but must quickly draw his blade to block the incoming charge, the swords make a cacophonic melody as both men seem evenly matched. The princess uses this opportunity to flee, but she cannot resist the temptation of staying at the door to see the result of the fight. With one last thrust, the assassin plunge his sword in the stomach of Felix, his face filled with content*
Assassin: I’m disappointed, I thought the “legendary” Felix would give me more of a challenge.
Felix, face facing down: he...he he… HA HA HA! You think you… won? Just *koff* *koff* …. wait for the adrenaline to… wear of!
*The assassin’s smile quickly melt as he cannot understand the sadistic look of his opponent. His sword still trust in Felix, he starts to feel a terrible pain as he starts to calm down. Looking down, he realizes that he is impaled by Felix’s sword*
Assassin: You madman! You let your guard down… on purpose to… create an… opening…
*The assassin slump on the ground, defeated. Felix strength are also quitting him, the princess joins up with him*
Eleonore: Any… last words?
*The princess was surprisingly calm like this scenario happened too many times before.*
Felix: Stand… back...
*Confused, the princess execute the dying man command and is horrified by what comes next. Felix takes the sword out of his chest, spilling his blood on the floor, before falling lifeless*
Eleonore: Why… why would he?
*Before she could think, flames start engulfing the corpse of Felix, burning his remains to ashes. Then, an explosion of flames erupted from the ashes, seemingly avoiding the princess. When the princess, blinded by the light of the flames, could see again, Felix was standing where he was laying just a few seconds ago, brushing off a bit of ash from his armour like nothing happened. Only a cut in the center of his armour was left to tell the fact that he was impaled*
Eleonore, hope returning to her face: You.. didn't…
Felix: I did, but I must have forgotten to tell you the “little” detail that I am a phoenix.
*Felix could see the Princess smile for the first time since he met her*