The flames of the blue fire danced across the girls' skin, leaving trails of goose bumps in their electric wake. There was no heat to the fire, but the power of it was tangible. The experience was quick and no sooner than the girls could comprehend what was going on, it was over. As the last flame died away, Leandra saw that they were in a large room, one that looked to be a dining hall of some sort. There was a long table near the far wall and two windows on the wall to the right. Leandra wasted no time to walk over and look through the window; she wanted to know where they were. Looking out the window gave her no clues to where she was, so she turned her attention back to Ella and the man she was talking to. Seeing his long dark blonde hair and navy blue eyes, Leandra realized that she had seen pictures of this man before. Her mom drew pictures of people that Leandra needed to know about during her daily war lessons. This man was the southern king - Avery Samra. When he turned to face her and Kel, she saw his insignia - an elegant Z, intersected at three points by curving flourishes. One half moon flourish, opening to the left, intersected the top line and another, opening to the right, intersected the bottom line. The third flourish, a long and thin sideways S bisected the diagonal. Briefly, Leandra wondered if Kel had ever received such lessons from her dad after her mom died, but seeing the confused look on her cousin's face, she was betting that she hadn't.
Ella and King Samra began approaching the girls as they finished up whatever they were discussing. Then, the king placed his index finger to the insignia on his cheek and said, "Jax." Just seconds later, Leandra saw Jax Werrington appear before them, as he stepped out of the cornflower blue flame that sprang up in the center of the room. The minute he was in the room, Jax walked straight over to King Samra and placed his fisted left hand over his right shoulder and waited for a command.
"Pike," King Samra said, addressing the creature that brought Jax into the room, "summon my Captains." Once the cornflower blue flames sprang up and swallowed the fairy, the king turned to the Messenger and said stiffly, "Get my sword."
Leandra didn't like the sound of that command. Giving the king a fierce look, she asked, "What's the sword for?"
King Samra didn't respond to Leandra at all. Instead, he turned his attention back to Ella and asked, "Which is the Flair?"
Leandra knew that King Samra understood that "Patrick's daughter" meant Kel. If he knew anything about the Deluvia family, he would have assumed that statement to be true; Leandra was a carbon copy of her mom.
"Did they say anything about her abilities?" King Samra asked the fairy, gesturing towards Leandra.
"Give me your sword when Jax brings it back," Leandra said in a tone much lighter than the words that followed, "I'd be happy to show you what I am able to do with it."
Astonishment was plain on King Samra's face. Ella was not as amused, however. Giving the king a tired look, she said simply, "They said she inherited Nolan's tenacity."
Astonishment melted into amusement and the king let out a booming laugh. As it echoed around the large hall, two things happened - Jax returned with the king's sword and two more fairy flames erupted before dying away to reveal two fairies and three humans.
The humans were the three Xamalian Captains. Leandra had learned a lot about the way that Xamalie set up its armed forces from both of her parents, but it was her dad that went into the greatest amount of detail with her. Nolan had actually told his daughter that there was talk about replacing Captain Evans with her dad in ten years or so. Captain Wranges and Captain Reynolds were the other two Captains in the army. The Xamalian army was broken into three main divisions. The first one was headed up by Captain Evans. The strongest and deadliest Warriors fell somewhere in that division. The second division was headed by Captain Wranges. That division was typically the older troops that only had a few more years left on their military service. Captain Reynolds was in charge of troops that were on punishment orders. If a person messed up, broke a law, did anything that King Samra or Ella disliked, the person would be reassigned to a punishment squadron. Those squadrons were the ones that had the most dangerous assignments in the war. Leandra's parents said that of the three Captains, Captain Reynolds was the most immature, but since he was also the newest, they hoped that he would settle in to his relatively new role within the next couple of years.
Once they were all in line, the three officers stepped forward and saluted the king, waiting for further instruction.
"Gentlemen," King Samra began, "it appears that the Deluvia brothers have been able to pull off an extraordinary feat. Standing before you are Leandra and Kelly Deluvia - their daughters. If it weren't for the fact that they were able to shield the fairies from knowing about their daughters' existence, I would be demanding how the three of you could let this happen. However, since Ella has confirmed that even she did not know of the girls' existence until about twenty minutes ago, you are off the hook for that faux pas, at the very least. So there is the next question - what should we do about this? The law is very clear that any attempt to keep a child out of the army's grasp is punishable by death, but given the fact that one of the perpetrators is Nolan Deluvia, I am extremely uncomfortable with that solution."
"Wouldn't the deaths of the daughters be an appropriate punishment?" Captain Reynolds asked.
"Yes, normally, but there is a complication with that punishment, Captain," King Samra said lightly. "Patrick's daughter is a Flair."
"Are you certain?" Captain Evans asked skeptically. "Commander Deluvia could have been bluffing."
A flash of light about ten feet behind her cousin caught Leandra's eye. Seeing her uncle step out of Pike's cornflower blue flames, she watched, stunned, as he threw a large dagger at her cousin. It all happened so quickly that Leandra was unable to do anything to warn Kel to watch out, but she didn't have to. In the blink of an eye, Kel was standing and the next thing Leandra could see was her cousin crouched on the ground and the blade sailing past where she had been. Once Kel realized that she was missed by the dagger by mere inches, she whipped around, almost as if she were going to take on her attacker. When she saw that the attacker had been her dad, though, her face wrought in a confused look once more.
"Dead certain, Captain," Patrick confirmed, turning his attention to Captain Evans.
"That does complicate things," Captain Evans responded lightly, talking more to the king than Leandra's uncle.
For a few moments, nothing was said as everyone thought about what to do. After a time, though, Captain Wranges broke the silence. Turning to face Leandra's uncle, he asked carefully, "Does anyone else know about the existence of your daughters, Commander?"
When Patrick's face dropped into a tight line, Leandra realized that the answer was going to be "yes." When her uncle confirmed that someone did know about Kel and Leandra, Patrick's niece began wondering who that might be. Her mom had told her about pretty much every human that meant anything to her family in the war, but she hadn't said anything about someone that should make her uncle so mad.
"Another complication," the king sighed, putting his hand to his head.
"Not necessarily, Sire," Captain Wranges said quietly, carefully avoiding the heated glare that her uncle was giving him.
Giving his officer a curious look, King Samra asked, "What are you getting at, Captain?"
"Xamalie currently only has two Warriors capable of training a Flair," he said, turning to face the king with full attention. "We used to have three."
Something about that statement rattled Leandra's uncle, because Patrick actually grunted after that statement was made. Both Leandra and Kel turned to look at him and were startled to see his how tense the muscles in his face were. He was trying to keep from bursting out of his silence so hard and the girls had no idea why.
"Why not train the girls in Baz?" Captain Wranges asked the king. "Surely this solution would serve as proper punishment for the Deluvia brothers while still benefitting Xamalie."
Understanding filled the eyes of the other captains. They nodded their support of Captain Wranges's solution.
"Very well," King Samra said, his voice satisfied. "Ella, take the girls to Baz. Sebille, return the captains to their posts. Cy, return the commander to his squadron. Jax," he said, returning his gaze to the Messenger who was still holding the broadsword, "you may return my sword to its sheath; there will be no executions today."
There was no time for a last goodbye to Patrick, for immediately the girls were once again pulled into the depths of a heatless blue fire.