Chapter 16 - Fox

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"Of course I want to play with you." Fox cocked his head. "Why did you think I didn't want to? I wouldn't refuse the Crown Prince of Silvermark."

Felix glanced up, a patch of red appearing on his pale cheeks. His breath hitched as he mumbled a quick 'thank you' and a muffled, unintelligible sentence which contained the word 'magician'. It was pitiful—the way he looked as though he wished to crawl back into his mother's womb. Once upon a time, Fox had been this shy too when he had been but a boy. Now he was days away from his eleventh birthday, and already he felt like a real man.

Queen Cobra brushed her hand over Felix's arm. "Why don't you tell young Master Fox what you want to play, Fe?"

"Knights," he replied, then immediately added, "I saw you fight—I'm challenging you to a duel."

Fox gave him a nodding bow. "And I accept, My Lord."

As Felix reached for the silver lion-shaped hilt peeking from the scabbard on his belt, the Queen laid her hand on his shoulder. "That's no weapon for playing, Fe. Your father and I gave you that one for when bad men try to kill you again."

"You don't have to call them 'bad men', Mother," Felix grumbled, blowing strands of blond hair from his eyes as he looked up. "I'm nine. I understand our kingdom has enemies—people who want to steal the throne because they think they'll do better than Father. But it's a lot of hogpudding because nobody but Father and me and my future sons possess the divine blessing of the Gods to rule Silvermark."

Not being allowed to talk about his own princehood, Fox lifted his shirt to show Felix the scar below his shoulder. "I have enemies too," he said. "The marble merchant who used to have a cart on Main Street—he did this to me. But I killed him, and now my wound is nearly gone."

"I know." Felix returned his sword to his scabbard, his initial bashfulness all gone. "Mine is harder to heal than a stab wound, isn't that right, Mother?"

"That's right, Fe," Queen Cobra said, "but you're getting better every day."

With lumbering footsteps, the little prince got away from her embrace and approached Storm. He tugged at sword the man was leaning on. "Can I use that?"

"Wouldn't you rather have a weapon more fitting your size, My Lord?" The Air Magician stretched his arms and cracked his knuckles, then his back. All the while his blade remained standing, as though his hands had never left the hilt.

"Are you going to use magic?" Felix asked. 

Storm stretched his arm, twirling his right hand. "I'm sensing... a shortsword... roughly twenty-five inches... made of steel... blunt edges."

Felix nodded, his mouth wide open. "That one—I want that one."

Queen Cobra was smiling, looking at her son the way his own mother had looked at him whenever he had done something that pleased her. A pang of jealousy struck Fox, feeding his desire to beat the little prince. 

Since both adults had their eyes on Felix, he took a stance, ready to bend the surrounding air when the sword would come flying across the courtyard and snatch it. Of course, he would give it to Felix right away; he was no bully.

Yet as he was visualising the steady breeze around them, a quick swoosh came through the castle's door and flew across the courtyard. In his hand, Storm held a thin silverish blade, half the size of his own, with a hilt that was nothing but a black leather piece strapped to the steel. He gave it to Felix.

With no warning or official start, the first slash came.

Fox only just managed to counter the attack, stumbling over his own feet and landing on one knee. Grumbling, he rose to his feet and responded with a few swift lunges to tire Felix out.

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