"Oh blacksmith! Come on out and face your judgment!"
The village was bustling with activity, everyone rushing to get home to their families. Landon stood in the street outside the blacksmith's shop, sword gripped at his side. His voice was loud and mockingly sweet. The villagers began to gather; curious and worried about why the Lieutenant of the Guard was calling out Phoenix.
"Come on out here and face me like a man, you no good hell spawn!"
Phoenix strapped his sword to his belt and started towards the door. If he was going down, he would go down fighting.
"You do not have to go out there Phoenix." Owen's hand on his shoulder was firm. "There is no shame in keeping yourself alive."
"You do not think I can take him?" Phoenix smirked.
"I am sure you could, but that would be treason."
"Landon is a tyrant! He needs to be taken down a peg!"
"And what about Noah? It will break his heart to watch you thrown in the dungeon!"
Phoenix sighed. "I know. I need to go out there, but I will do everything I can to avoid a fight."
"Be careful my boy." Owen squeezed his shoulder one more time before moving away. As worried as he was about this boy who had become like a son to him, he knew this was something he had to do. Phoenix was stubborn and prideful. He would never allow someone else to shoulder the burden of his actions. He would also never deny his love for the young prince, even if it meant giving up his life to do so.
"There you are. I was beginning to think you had snuck out the back."
"I am no coward Landon."
"That is Lieutenant Landon to you." The guardsman snarled. Phoenix's only reply was a smirk. "You are being accused of treason and crimes against the crown. How do you plead you worthless sod?"
"Treason? Is that what you are calling it? I would never betray the crown, your accusations are unfounded. How have I betrayed the crown?"
"You used the young prince's trust in you to manipulate him. Everyone knows you were behind that kidnapping, that is why you were the only one who could find him. You set it all up! That way, once you brought him back you would have the influence to have your roguish miscreant father's banishment lifted!"
"What!? That is ridiculous, you fob!"
"But the King was too smart, he saw right through your ploy! But the Prince is naïve, he believed in you. And you used that. You are taking advantage of him to turn him against his own father!"
Phoenix gripped his sword, his knuckles turning white. He could feel his body shaking in anger. Not only was Landon accusing him of treason but he was also insinuating that Phoenix was using Noah to do it, that he was faking the feelings. The only way for Phoenix to defend himself would be to refute the statement, to claim his love for the prince in front of everyone. Admitting their relationship would land them both in serious trouble. But if Phoenix did not defend himself he would be held for investigation. Landon was a lot smarter than he looks and he had Phoenix caught in a no win situation.
"What? Nothing to say? You have been discovered traitor!" Landon raised his sword and pointed it at his chest, "Will you come quietly?"
"You, Landon, are the lowest form of scum. Do you have any idea what you are doing?" Phoenix's voice was low and strong as he stepped closer to the guardsman. The point of his sword a hair's breadth away from the blacksmith's chest.
"I am getting you out of the way and when I do, Noah will be mine."
"So that is what this is about?" Phoenix laughed but there was no mirth. "You think by throwing me in the dungeon Noah will fall into your arms? You think this will make him love you?"
"I do not particularly care if he loves me. Once you are out-of-the-way, the Prince will be so distraught he will not fight when the King gives him to me, as promised."
Phoenix's sword jumped up from his side, clashing into the metal against his chest and throwing it to the side. The sudden force of the attack had Landon scrambling to recover. Phoenix raised his sword and took a defensive position.
"I will kill you before I let you touch him!" His voice was no longer a low whisper, but strong and steady. The villagers that were watching anxiously began to whisper.
Landon smirked. "Bring it on Blacksmith."
As the boys rushed together there was a large commotion down the street. People were shouting and running, smoke filling the street. Distracted Landon glanced towards the noise, his sword dropping slightly. Phoenix slashed and caught the guardsman across the face. Blood welled in the cut that was running through his eyebrow and down to his cheek. Landon jumped back and yelled in anger. A loud bang rang out and the street was filled with black smoke. Landon began slashing blindly, almost desperate to get at the other man. Phoenix felt himself being dragged away, into the blacksmith shop. He struggled and fought, yelling at his captors to let him go. He needed to protect Noah from that lout.
"Phoenix for Christ's sake chill the fuck out!" Grayson's voice cut to his ears and Phoenix stopped struggling.
"What the hell you doing Grayson?" He glanced around; Grayson and Frank were the ones who had pulled him out of the street. Aurora and Ms. Sarah were nearby as well.
"Alessandro and the Twins did not blow up all those carts so you could rush back out there and get yourself killed! You have to get out of here before the guards realize what is going on!"
"You want me to run?! Did you hear what he said? He is after Noah! I have to kill him, I can not let him..."
"Phoenix! You can not kill him and you can not protect Noah from the dungeon! Do not think of it as running; think of it as a strategic retreat." Aurora's voice was tight with panic but her logic was indisputable.
"If you kill Landon you are still going to end up in the dungeon. Come on, do it for your Prince. We have a bag of provisions packed and Will and the twins will be covering your esc...strategic retreat. When things calm down you can come back for Noah."
"And while I am gone?"
"You have lots of friends Phoenix, and we all know the truth. We will look after him while you are gone."
Phoenix sighed; he knew his friends were right. "I can not even say goodbye can I?" He was almost ashamed at how broken his voice sounded.
Ms. Sarah put a gentle hand on his arm. "He will understand Phoenix. The thought of you in danger has eaten him up inside. As much as it will pain him for you to be gone, he will be relieved you will no longer be in danger."
"Could you... tell him for me... could you tell him...I am so sorry, and...fuck" Phoenix was fighting to hold back his sobs. He would have to leave Noah behind and he had no idea when he would be able to return.
Ms. Sarah smiled softly. "It's okay Phoenix, I understand."
"Tell him... I love him." Ms. Sarah nodded. The noise in the streets grew. They could hear Landon screaming for the guardsmen to find the blacksmith who had seemed to disappear. With one last glance back at his friends, and a deep breath, Phoenix slipped out the back door and sprinted to the forest. He didn't know where he was going to go but he knew if he wanted to survive to see his Prince again he had to get out of there.
I suck at responding to reviews so I just wanted to say:
Thank you everyone for your good feelings and support! :)
I'm so glad people are enjoying my story.
Updates are going to be a little farther apart because the next couple chapters haven't been written yet.