Disclamer: I don't really own much and nothing you might recognize. Only Emile, Kel and Shadow.
She watched the knights train in the courtyard as she held the water jar for them. Emile was a tall woman but these knights towered over her! She wished she wasn't here and she was back at her own court and not here on this mission for Emile was Queen of the rouges of Briton. She wished passionately that the rouge king Oisin had never instructed her to rob these Sarmatian knights! She prayed frantically to Mithras god of thieves to protect her from these killer knights. She sighed as she watched Galahad the youngest throw the knife at a target and miss miserably. She wanted nothing more to unsheathe the dagger hidden in her dress and land it in the middle of the bulls eye. She settled for sweeping her eyes over the knights within the courtyard. Arthur wasn't there she hadn't met him. He was to busy. Besides she had no time for Christians.
My eyes landed on Dagonet. The giant of a man who was as gentle as he was tall. The knight's healer. He wasn't complicated and yet I found myself liking him without even knowing him. He carried a huge axe and I knew he knew how to use it but I also knew how to steal it.
There was Bors. Stereotypical male always talking about woman and how well endowed he was. Always making a lewd joke. I wished she could banter with him and show her that a woman could outreach a man when it came to vulgar talk! Little did he know was that he had already unwittingly bound himself to a woman. Vanora had tight reigns on this male. It was obviously love.
Larx was swinging his sword around in endless drills. I watched as he moved effortlessly with cat grace. I smiled at him though he didn't know it. He was very handsome and would make a good rouge I guessed. He seemed to be so relaxed and easy going that it was a shock to see how deadly he was. I saw him shout out to one of the other knights.
Lancelot turned at Larx's summons. The lady he had been flirting with looked disgruntled as the good-looking knight turned to his friend. Larx must of shouted a challenge because Lancelot drew hit beautifully crafted swords in response. They started sparing and I admired the way his swords caught the sun. I wanted them desperately now. They would fetch one of the highest prices. Lancelot tried out some fancy footwork. I laughed. Lancelot was the charming show off as per usual.
Gawain had wandered over to where Galahad was losing his temper. Gawain was like an older brother to the youngest. Coaching him for hours if the boy struggled with a new weapon till Galahad became one of the most formidable opponents. They were always woman hunting together. Gawain always being the most successful.
My eyes turned to the last two. The ones I knew the least about! The silent ones. Pryderi and Tristan. Now they stood meters away from each other firing arrows at targets. I had to gasp at their skill. Every arrow landed in the center of the previous one. I only knew a little about each one due to their reserved nature. Pryderi was subdued until his temper broke and then he was vicious. He was the most violent and dangerous of all the knights. I had seen him beat a woman for spilling his drink. I don't think any of the knights liked him really. If his sword wasn't the most expensive being ruby encrusted I would not knock of his room at all. Mithras save me if I get caught!
Tristan was the younger and never revealed his emotions. He had a blood lust too but it wasn't scary. Tristan enjoyed the battle and the thrill of the fight. But he didn't touch anyone who wasn't being violent towards him and I could have sworn I saw disgust in his eyes as Pryderi beat the serving woman. His blades were high on my list to. Oriental, they were rare and special. In fact I had half a mind to keep them for myself due to their distinctiveness.
The serving woman dress was itchy in this heat and restricted movement. I longed to take it off but modesty must be preserved. I didn't want to draw attention to myself. People often ask why I steal. I explain it to them very simply. I like money! There is no moral reason. I don't have a sick brother in urgent need of the best doctors. My mother doesn't want to spend her last days in a comfortable cottage by the sea. Though I made a mental note to keep these as excuses. My reasons to steal were purely selfish and I didn't give a damn. That is what has made me the queen of the rouges. That and the fact the king finds me attractive and loves the thought of taming me long enough to bed me. It suits my purposes to let him think that way and in addition I rather like him. That is ok because I have my two best friends within the rouge. My only friends really. Kel and Shadow. Binding myself emotionally to people is not something I generally do. Not since I joined the rouge but they were friends before hand and I wouldn't abandon them now. I wish I didn't have anyone else to look out for but myself. That was my selfish nature so I usually didn't go on assignments with them; I knew that I would look out for them no matter what. But they were good rouges and on this particular operation I needed the best my dominion could offer. So far they had proved very useful. They had been the people who got this servant girls dress specially made so it would cover my tattoo. Every rouge across the world has a symbol. There was a snake and a bird. The British rouge had the lizard. Being royalty however I had the right to wear the dragon. It stretched across my shoulder. It was large and barley covered. Oisin had the dragon on his back to. His was smaller though. His was black and mine was blood red. Bors yelling out to me for water drew me out of my thoughts. I groaned at the idea of playing the meek servant again. I walked forward quickly and kept my head down. The last thing I wanted was any of them to notice I was attractive. That would be trouble. So far the only memorable thing about me was my hair. It was brown, which had been blonded by the sun as well as flashes of red. I never raised my eyes because they to were memorable. My pupil being very small so that my eyes looked entirely brown.
They filled their cups and drank. Tristan wandering over and sharing a few words with Galahad about his knife throwing. Then he turned to me. His tattoos on his cheeks added to his ferocious look. I wasn't scared of him but I felt like those eyes could pierce through me and read my mind. That was a quality Pryderi didn't poses. They were both silent and deadly but Tristan was silent, deadly and observant. Larx and Lancelot thanked me and I bowed my head behind a curtain of hair. I took this as a dismissal. I walked past Pryderi and even knowing his malicious behavior I wasn't prepaid for this. He stuck out his foot and tripped me so that I over balanced with the water jug. In three seconds I made a calculation. I could roll out of this fall. But then I would be remembered as the servant girl who knew evasive techniques. Or I could fall and take my risk of a bumps and bruises and a damaged ego. The knights would remember me but it would only be for an hour and only for being clumsy. I shut my eyes and took the fall. Water spilt everywhere and my cheek impacted sharply. I winced and cursed to every god and goddess I had heard of to smite Pryderi down. Then I slowly got onto my knees and started gathering the broken pottery. Something was put under my face. It was a hand full of broken pottery. I looked up into the face of Larx.
"Are you alright?" He was inquiring as to whether I was fine or not. I nodded and looked around and almost burst into laughter. All the knights were on their hands and knees helping to collect the scattered pot.
"That was a nasty fall," Gawain added as he placed the pottery in an empty bucket.
Pryderi wasn't helping; he had a scowl on his face as he sulked in the corner. Tristan was nowhere to be seen. My hair still hung around my face obstructing my vision. I tried to get up but when I had fallen I had hit my anklebone making it tender. I staggered and fell on my behind. My hair was flicked over my shoulder. There was a reaction to my face. Not a notable gasp, I wasn't that gorgeous. But there was an all round acknowledgement of my looks. I let my head move forward redirecting my hair to surround my face again. Concealing it from view. It was too late though. Dagonet moved forward and pulled me up smoothly. He took my weight for me.
"Do you need help getting back to the servants quarters?" He asked in his deep voice. I knew then that if I had said yes he would have carried me all the way, examined my ankle and returned everyday this week to make sure I was in good health such was the man Dagonet was. But not the kind of consideration I needed.
"No I am well but thank you kindly," I inclined my head to the knights in general. I moved towards the bucket full of the water containers wrecked remains.
"No leave that, we'll take care of it," Lancelot added with one of those charming smiles. I didn't nod or indicate I had heard him I just went to leave. I added a very slight limp for authenticity. I was walking down the dark corridor when I heard someone fallowing. It wasn't a hurried pace as if the person wasn't trying to catch up or over take me. That filled me with suspicion. I was a rouge after all and my first thought was that this person didn't want to be seen. I turned suddenly and came face to face with Tristan. He was handsome under that hair I realized. My mind went into over drive as to what he could possibly want. If he didn't want to be seen or heard then I had no doubt I probably wouldn't have noticed his presence. His scouting skills were legendary as was; I regret to say Pryderi's. I didn't say any thing just gazed at him.
"Your dress is ripped at the back," he said simply and turned and walked away. I looked after him in confusion. Then it hit me. My tattoo. It would have been revealed. I was pretty sure that none of the knights would know the symbol for the rouge if they had even heard of us but such a large tattoo it was an obvious recognizable mark. I felt like crying. This would be a very big problem. I couldn't afford to take risks. I ran into the kitchen feigning sickness to the cook who liked me but wouldn't remember me in a year or two later. I barged into my room straight into Kel and Shadow. They saw my stricken face. There was no point trying to hide my emotions around these two they knew me to well.
"A mirror. Where's a mirror," I all but yelled in a panic. They both looked confused.
"When did you get so vain?" Shadow asked in curiosity. Kel didn't say anything just got the small mirror in the room and held it up for me. I turned around and stared back over my shoulder. I groaned. There were flames billowing out of the dragons mouth and over my uncovered skin. The whole tattoo wasn't revealed but it was enough.
"Oh no, Em" Kel said simply.
"We have to do it tonight. They'll be a the bar tonight. Celebrating they're big training session. I'll knock of their rooms then."
"Why do we have to?" Shadow asked, "what I mean is, what chance is there of any of the knights knowing the symbol for the rouge." She indicated her own shoulder where a green lizard lay under her dress.
"Kel? What do you think?" I implored.
"It's a risk. I don't think any of them know but they could find out easy enough. We need to move tonight." I nodded. I respected Kels opinion. I looked at Shadow to see what she would say. I esteemed her opinion as well.
She just lowered her head in assent; "we'll have your escape route ready. Highness."
I laughed at her use of my royal title. We joked about the informalities all the time but when it came down to crunch time I had the final say.
All the knights were getting slightly drunk by now. Kel had sent word that she had seen them all down there. Drinking away and womanizing. I had already been into all but two knights rooms. I had a heavy bundle of weapons. Some would be shocked that I could carry such weapons but all the years at the rouge had developed them. I could be a fighter but I was more of a runner. Run now and live to steal another day that was my motto. I was in Larx's room now. Staring at his weapons. I couldn't help but remember his kindness this morning. I had the same delay in Dagonets room. Thankfully years at the rouge had ensured that I barely blinked when doing something wrong. However I had learned it was easier to offer you conscience a compromise! So I had left Dagonet his axe and would leave Larx his sword. Everything else went. Only Tristan's room left. I peered out of Larx's door and checked that the coast was well clear. If I didn't have the bulky weapons I would have gone in through the window. But I had them and didn't feel like knocking out any one. I slid a thin knife up the side crack. I felt it hit the latch so I pushed that little bit harder. I could hear someone coming though. I pushed with all my effort. The latch gave and the door opened. I used all my strength to get the weapons inside then latched the door again. The room was dark but I had used these past two weeks well. I knew exactly where the weapons were in Tristan's room. I ran towards them taking the bag with me. My muscles ached from hauling them around. I couldn't wait to get to the cart Kel had got ready. In went the daggers and the arrows and the bow lay on top. Now for the oriental sword. That was going straight in my weapon belt. I was wearing traditional rouge clothes. Black pants and another black garment on top. It was slightly revealing moving into a V shape at neck and it revealed a lot of skin, including my tattoo. But it wasn't a protective garment. It was silent and easy to move in. And almost indistinguishable at night. Now where was that damn sword?
I found it. But not like I was hoping to.
I looked down at the sword pressed against my throat. I identified the oriental writing and let my gaze wander down the sword into Tristan's eyes.
"The tattoo was a give away."
I just looked at him in shock. He couldn't have found out so quickly about the symbolism, he must have already known. I gazed into his eyes and then launched into action. I lept backwards. I did a back flip on my hands but instead of letting my feet move around I remained balanced on my hands for a second before lowering my self to the ground. In a snake like movement. I landed on my stomach and looked up as the sword swept through where I once was but Tristan was already reaching for his dagger with his other hand. He was fast. I was a good fighter but fact's were there. He was better. I did the quick reckoning thing in my head and I decided I was stuck here but I was going to get Shadow and Kel home to the rouge first. I used my legs to sweep his out from underneath him. When it came to unarmed combat I had the slight advantage. I was more used to it. Tristan went down and I ran to the window, grabbing a bow and arrow as I went. When I reached the window I let put an ear splitting roar and fired the arrow. That was our signal. If that happened I had been compromised and Kel and Shadow were to go back home and report.
Tristan may have thought I was going to go out the window. I was defiantly not suicidal and that would have hurt way to much. I could see from the window the knights leaving and I realized they would be coming soon. Suddenly a hand grabbed my weapon belt and chucked me on the ground. I did a roll out of it and landed on my feet. He had my way out blocked on both sides. If I tried to get out he would slay or injury me. I was a coward in direct combat and I knew I was beaten. I back away from the sword. His bed was behind me. I sat down sharply on it and put my hands in the air. He stopped. Pryderi would have sliced me open but Tristan, despite his battle lust, didn't kill surrenders or woman if he could help it. He nonetheless didn't trust the thief in me. He bound my hand and feet and stepped back. He however still raised the sword to my throat. I looked out the window as if completely preoccupied. I started humming hoping to unnerve him. I failed miserably. I heard shouting and running in the corridors. The knights had noticed their missing weapons and were coming to find out if every one else had been robbed. I looked at the bag of weapons wistfully. Then back at Tristan. Suddenly I didn't want to be caught. What would they do with me? With my bound legs. I kicked Tristan in the groin. He was all man I found out and doubled over in pain. I lept up and grabbed a dagger and went to cut my bonds when in walked Galahad and Larx. They took in the situation. Galahad tackling me as soon as he figured it out. Larx followed putting his sword to my throat. Tristan had finally got up again. His face still had no expression but I knew right then and there that we just made a silent truce to be enemies.
Pryderi ran in took one look at me and grabbed Larx sword. I would have been done for if Larx and Gawain who had just arrived hadn't held him back. Lancelot and Bors entered the room. Bors laughed. He actually laughed! I smiled at him.
"It's not funny," Pryderi screamed at Bors. He broke free of Gawain and Larx's grasp and took another swing at him. Dagonet had arrived to and he plucked the sword out of Pryderi's hand. I looked at him for a second then decided I was here I might as well cause trouble.
"You are one insane male!" They all looked at me. I had let my voice relax to a note lower then when I was their serving girl. Bors didn't dare laugh this time. Lancelot and Larx walked forward. I eyed them both.
"Why did you steal from us, woman?" Lancelot asked. They wanted a good reason. They didn't want to have to keep a woman captive and I didn't want to stay there. So I decided to give them my moral motivation.
"I have a brother," Lie, "he's ill and we can't afford a doctor," Lie, "so I thought if I stole and sold your weapons we could have the money to get the best healer," LIE!
Larx smiled, "now the real reason. You are obviously very good at this sort of thing." Damn, damn, damn! Larx blue eyes looked into mine. He didn't have the piercing quality of Tristan's but had more honesty to them. It was a rare thing for me to look into someone's eyes and see honesty. Dagonet had similar eyes.
"Uh my mother is dying and wants to send her last day in the house my father died in. but we sold it and I have to by it back." There that was convincing.
"She is lying," Came the soft reply. Everyone looked at Tristan and I shot him a murderous look.
"She's a professional. The tattoo on her back symbolizes the British rouge." He said all this in nonchalant voice. I wanted to hit him and scream shut up. Lancelot moved around to see the blood red dragon! He whistled when he saw it! I knew it was impressive, The swirling red lines and the flames weaving there way up my back.
"What's your name?" Dagonet inquired from the shadows, preferring to let someone else be the spotlight.
"Isolde," I replied. It wasn't my name but it would sure as hell do for now. Rule number one. If caught use a fake name so if the capturer decides to make queries after you, your real name won't lead them to the rouge. My mistrust of human nature had led me to take a step further. Even the rouge didn't know my name of Emile. They knew me as Highness now but my thief name before had been Messiah. It still was I suppose. A bit of a arrogant designation but it served my purpose.
"Well... Isolde what do we do with you?" Larx asked. Then he did a strange thing. He untied the bonds around my feet. I looked at him strangely!
"Isn't it obvious," Pryderi yelled, "We kill her." I don't know what possessed me just then. Maybe I felt safe with these knights around me but I did something that could have been incredibly stupid.
I stood up, "no stupid that isn't the obvious." And I flicked him on the nose. He roared in anger and Bors, Dagonet and Gawain moved to restrain him.
"I guess you think the obvious is to free you?" Galahad pointed out.
"No, not at all I love being your captive. In fact I want to be your prisoner for all eternity!" he just looked at me like I had lost my wits. I sighed,
"Sarcasm is wasted here I believe."
"We'll just have to take her to Arthur." Dagonet said!
I sat on the round table swinging my legs. Waiting for Arthur. Why the hell can't the knights just take back their weapons? What did they need me here for? He walked in and I looked him over out of the corner of my eye. He was smart this one. He hadn't made a huge display of power or over-confidence that Lancelot seemed to have in plenty. He walked like a man with a purpose.
"Tristan tells me your Rouge royalty."
"He's a smart one," how did he know that? He knew that the lizard was for the British rouge and now I find out he also knows royalty have dragons.
"I saw you as the serving girl. You were completely different then!"
"I'm also a smart one." There was a pause as we looked at each other. This wasn't an awkward silence. It was a surveying. We were measuring each other up trying to come to a conclusion. I for one felt like I was going to get a fair deal from this Christian. Too bad he wouldn't be receiving the same curtsey. I decided to restart the conversation, make it look like he had the upper hand.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to let you free," Well I certainly wasn't expecting that. I think I just lost the upper hand for real this time but Arthur wasn't finished.
"But I have a proposition for you." He untied the ropes around my wrists. I reached for my hidden dagger and brought it up. This didn't phase Arthur at all.
"How much do you get paid at the rouge?" he questioned.
"7 gold pieces."
"What would you say if I gave you 14 gold pieces a day?"
"Can you do that?"
"Rome can do that!"
"Well then I say you better keep talking." 14 gold pieces a day. That was an amazing rate of pay. I'd sell my soul and convert to any religion you wanted me to for that! I remained indifferent though and made sure my face resembled Tristan's in expression before continuing.
"You go where I want you to, enemies suspicious places and steal information, weapons and things of the like." Arthur looked at me and said it like he was asking me to run down to the markets to buy him a loaf of bread. Except you don't pay people 14 gold pieces a day for shopping.
"You want me to be a spy?"
"To put it crudely... yes."
I started cleaning my nails with the dagger. "Ok. But I have conditions. I come to you; you don't find me. I can continue to be rouge queen and I have nothing to do with that crazed Pryderi."
"It is agreed. You leave for Ireland tomorrow. Larx will take you."
"Tomorrow?" he just nodded. "Fine" and with that I got up and went to walk past Arthur. I was about to push open the door when he called my name. I twisted back to look at him
"If I had a choice Pryderi wouldn't still be here."
"Why did you tell me that?"
"So that if he tortures you, you have something to say and beg a quick merciful death." I just looked at him before rotating on my heel and leaving. I walked out the door and came face to face with the knights. I started to walk past them. As I passed Larx I said, "I'll see you tomorrow." He just looked confused! I was happy. Oisin may be my current boy but Larx was just to good looking to give up an opportunity to flirt with him. I thanked Mithras for letting me out of there safely but it seems the bastard had one last trial for me before I could sleep.
Pryderi jumped up and blocked my path.
"We're just letting her go?" he yelled. I was sick of this fool. Let him see what I could do. I delivered a spinning kick to the head and kept turning. As I twisted I grabbed two of the hidden knifes and by the time in faced him again I had them up in offensive position.
"Touch me and I will kill you!" I snarled. No one moved but I could see all there reactions. Bors had a delighted gleam in his eye and I knew he was internally daring Pryderi to touch me. He wanted him dead. The others weren't so obvious about the desire to see Pryderi lying on the floor, his throat cut. A silent wave of excitement went through the knights. Here was a woman brave enough to challenge Pryderi without the bind to Arthur. I was going to have to shatter their dreams. 14 gold pieces each day of work wasn't a wage I was going to risk losing by annoying Arthur. I could see that I wasn't going to get any more challenges even though Pryderi seethed with fury and tucked my knifes into my belt.
With that I continued on out the door. I had noticed that Tristan wasn't there. Probably off with the bird he owned. I stood outside and enjoyed the cool air and the feeling of freedom. The stars were bright and it was not raining which was nice. I headed in the direction of the rouge. Taking several false routes to mislead any followers. I had to fill Kel and Shadow in. And tell Oisin.
"I guess I'm going to Ireland then!"
AN: what did you think. First fanfic ever. I love it if you viewed with all comments including constructive criticism! What do you think of the protagonist and the extra knights I added in? Her black rouge clothes by the way are similar to that of martial arts outfit. By the way some pronunciations
Larx = (lar zzz)
Emile= (Em mile e)
Pryderi= (Pry dear e)
Oisin= (O Sheen)