"Who are you?" Joren asked with narrow eyes.

The Phoenix smirked and Shinko's heart sank. "When you knew me, Joren of Stone Mountain, I was called Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl to be allowed to try openly for her shield in nearly a century."

There was a collective gasp as they each came to realize what she meant with those words. She was Keladry of Mindelan, the Girl, even when she had disappeared her parents had remained silent about her whereabouts. Now it all came to light about where she'd gone.

"Do you wish to know why I left, Joren of Stone Mountain?" She asked with a sneer. "I left because of you and those like you, whose prejudices blind them to all reason, that despite the fact that no matter what you did to me I fought through it. And now, your king has been denied the service of one more knight and no one in my line will ever serve a Tortallan because Tortall is no longer my home."

Again everyone in the area was aghast. The king himself was shaken by her words. He had allowed this to happen. "Is this why your parents no longer claim you as their daughter and they no longer speak of you?"

"They do not claim me because I am not theirs to claim." She said with a look at the king. "If I was do you think I would come flanked by the finest warriors of the Emperor or would bare his crest? I no longer belong in or to Tortall?"

"Since when?" Lord Wyldon asked.

'Kel' turned completely around to look him in the eyes as she answered. "The day I was denied my right to try for my shield, the day I was sent away from the palace in shame."

Lord Wyldon's eyes widened and he took a full step back in shock at her statement. It had purely been his decision to send her away, to deny her as he had. He had made the king leave that to him and he had chosen wrong. It was his fault she now belonged solely to the Yamani Emperor and that it was to him that she had sworn allegiance. Her hate was rightfully directed at him and, of course, King Jonathan. Now here with her men-at-arms she stood as a possible threat.

"Rest assured, I mean no harm to Tortall or her king. I am merely here to guard the Princess Shinkokami until she is wed. Until that time I will have to wait to return home and will have to live in the place that crushed my dreams."

"Chinatsu, be polite, they are our allies. Your Father would not be pleased with this show of force or anger." Prince Eitaro said.

They all jumped at the name and her at the mention of the Emperor's dissatisfaction. "Of course Uncle (1), forgive me." She said her eyes down cast. A small smile twitched at her lips and when she looked up it was almost bitter. "After all," she added, "were it not for them I'd be a lowly squire now and the youngest daughter of a Baron."

"Why did you just call him Uncle and what did you mean by what you just said?" Lord Raoul asked speaking up. "Earlier the guard said something and I thought perhaps it was directed at Prince Eitaro but it was to you wasn't it, Your Imperial Highness?"

Her bitter smile widened. "That is correct. In the Isles I am known as Princess Chinatsu of the first rank(2), the Emperor's Phoenix. Had it not been for my rejection I would not be here as I am today."

"How is it someone like you has titles such as that, you are a Nobody?" Joren yelled.

The newer guard moved to attack but he was stopped by Kel. He stepped back into place with a growl. Eitaro shook his head at the squire's antics. "This one will never learn will he?"

She looked back at him. "Do you remember when we used to speak of my time training at the palace in Corus and the senior page that hated me for being there?" She gestured at Joren. "As I was saying, I should be thanking each of you, thanks to you I am the Emperor's prized daughter and one of the most feared knights in the world, certainly one of the most feared in the Isles. Now, Uncle, if I might have a word, there is something I must speak with you about?"

The Prince stood, his ancient joint creaking, and followed her into the night air. A member of her party move to follow as a guard but she waved him off and set him to other duties. At first neither of them spoke but she broke the silence. "I was sent with a message from my father. He wishes for you to send reports of the Princess relationship with her future husband when you can. As I said I will only be staying till the wedding after that the Tortallans will have to take over and by then I will have plenty to do in the Isles."

"Are you sure you will not be staying, she takes much comfort from you. You were childhood friends, were you not?"

"Yes, we were and still are, but I cannot spend all my time here. There are rumors about, nasty ones that give rise to rebellion and it is my job to stop them. Both my father and my brother will have use for my sword back home and I must be there when called."

"Of course," the prince said lowering his gaze. Though she had spoken lightly of the situation he knew that it would be grave, for anything to reach all the way up to her ears must mean that it was a true threat to the Emperor and his heir.

They made their way back to the pavilion side by side in silence. There the prince bowed to Kel and they parted ways.

"I must see to my company's camp. Did I hear correctly that the Raven was here? I will have to see him."

"Yes, do as you must, Princess." Eitaro said grimly.

She nodded and walked off to where her company sat waiting. Eitaro went and reclaimed his seat next to the king thinking over her grave news. They noted that she was leading them away from the main camp site and that one of her men was pointing off toward the other end of camp. They all tried to think of why the man had pointed there and then when she passed by later, out of her heavy armor, they realized she was heading for the tournament courts where the Yamani squires trained. Eitaro said not a word of anything to anyone for some time after the talk he'd shared with the Phoenix.

Let me explain: One person replied to my question saying they thought Eitaro was the Crown Prince of the Yamani Isles but in the book he was really old and didn't have many titles. So I have created a small family tree. Eitaro is the Emperor's brother making him Kel's Uncle and Shinko her cousin. Prince Hideyoshi is the Emperor's son and heir making him Kel's older brother and one spot ahead of her in line for the throne.

Shinko is a Princess of the Second Rank; this refers to the fact that she is the Emperor's niece and technically not in line for the throne. Kel is a Princess of the First Rank; this means that she is the Emperor's daughter and in line for the throne. Any other members of the family are ranked as that those related to the Emperor's children (their children, his grandchildren) would be ranked down the line as 3rd, 4th and so on. After Shinko's generation her family would no longer hold any such title because the second rank is only for those who are niece or nephew to the Emperor.

Send me any questions. Reviews are always welcome.