I was at Necronicom this weekend. In addition, as I said yesterday, I was overly ambitious in my blog planning. This post combines the usual Monday/Tuesday topics. Phelix is a character in The Ghost in Exile. He is the favorite of nearly everyone whose read the book, and he was a lot of fun to create. What follows is a brief snippet of his life before he meets Ahearn. Let me know what you think in the comments. If you like it, I may follow with his further adventures.
The Assassin and the Child
Phelix didn’t know how he’d ended up in a situation like this, yet again. He broken into the mansion to kill Captain Agmundr, and now he was playing Patty Cake with Agmundr’s five-year-old daughter. He rolled his eyes as he clapped hands with the child, whose name he’d learned was Frida. Phelix, when will you learn to just do your job and get out?
The child giggled as they crossed the cake with an F and put it in the oven for Frida and Phelix. A huge smile lit her face.
She hadn’t been smiling when Phelix first came across her. He’d been moving silently through the mansion, sticking to the shadows, and looking for his target. He opened one room and found Frida crying inside. He should never have spoken to her. He hadn’t made a noise, and the child’s back was to him. All he’d needed to do, all any sensible assassin would have done, was close the door and move on.
But Phelix couldn’t stand to see a child cry. He entered the room, closed the door softly, and approached the child. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?” he asked in his gentlest voice. Talking to the child was either insane or abysmally stupid. His Massossinan wasn’t good, and his accent clearly Saloynan. Besides, the scar across his cheek didn’t exactly make him look harmless.
Frida sobbed harder, but she didn’t seem afraid when she turned to look at him. “Elfa’s arm fell off.” She held a one-armed cloth doll in one hand and the severed arm in the other.
Phelix crouched down next to her. “No need to cry. If you can fetch Phelix a needle and thread, Phelix can fix it for you.”
Frida’s tears stopped. “Could you?” And before he could say another word, the child shoved the doll and its detached limb into his hands and ran out of the room.
Any sensible assassin would have disappeared as soon as the child was gone, but Phelix thought of her finding him gone and the doll unrepaired. Phelix, you are a fool! He sat on the floor and waited. He did put the doll down so that he’d be able to access his weapons quickly should someone other than Frida enter.
He’d only just began to berate himself when Frida ran back in with a sewing basket. “Please fix, Elfa. It really hurts.”
Phelix took the basket. “Phelix is sure it does.” He imagined the pain of having his arm severed as he rummaged through the basket. He found the things he needed. Phelix, just what are you going to do if someone else comes through that door? He tried not to think about it as he reattached the arm.
Having been in the military since he was a child, Phelix had had plenty of experience mending, so it didn’t take him long to sew the arm back on. He handed it to Frida. “See, it’s good as new.”
“Oh, thank you!” she cried. She hugged the doll to her chest, then threw her arms around his neck. “No one else would listen!”
Phelix returned the hug awkwardly. “Since Elfa is all better, Phelix needs to get back to his job.”
Frida broke away, and her face fell. “Can’t you play with me? No one ever plays with me.”
Those sad eyes stabbed into his heart, but he tried to harden himself. “Phelix has work to do, and your father will be most upset if he finds me her playing with you instead of working.”
“Just one game of Patty Cake.” Her lower lip trembled, and Phelix lost the battle.
“Okay, but just one game.”
The one game had become five when he heard footsteps in the hallway, two men approaching. “Shit!” he swore in Saloynan. Frida looked concerned. Frida’s head shot up. He changed back to Massossinan and whispered. “Quick, I need to hide. You don’t want Phelix to get in trouble for helping you, do you?”
Frida’s eyes grew wide. She ran to the wardrobe and opened the door. “In here.” Phelix scrambled inside. Frida had just closed the wardrobe when the hallway door opened.
“Daddy!” Frida cried. Phelix prayed put his hands on his knives and watched through a small slit.
Agmundr put his hand on his daughter’s head. The man with him wore scholar’s robes and appeared unarmed. Phelix could open the door and have both men dead on the ground before they knew what hit them. It was what a sensible assassin would have done.
Agmundr mussed Frida’s hair. “I’m going to Uppsala. Halvdan will be looking after you while I’m gone.”
“No!” Frida cried, and wrapped her arms around him. “Can’t I come with you?”
Agmundr pushed Frida away and crouched down to meet his daughter’s eyes. “You know that’s impossible. I’ll only be gone a couple of weeks.” He kissed the top of her head and straightened. “Follow me out, Halvdan. I have a few things to discuss with you before I leave.”
The two men swept out of the room. Phelix quickly exited the wardrobe. He needed to get to Agmundr before he left. Killing him would be so much more difficult as he moved deeper into Massossinan territory. “Thanks for hiding me,” he said to Frida. “But I’ve really got to get back to work.”
He started for the door, but when he glanced at Frida, tears were flowing down her cheeks again. Damn me to Hades! Phelix doesn’t have any more time to comfort children. He hurried past, but he stopped before exiting the room. Continuing to chide himself inwardly, he turned back to Frida. “What is it, love?”
Frida sobbed. “I’m so afraid he won’t come back. What if a Saloynan assassin gets him?”
Phelix gulped. “Well, . . . er . . ..”
Tears streamed down the child’s cheeks, and Phelix dropped to his knees and held out his arms to her. She fell against his chest. “Please, go with him. Promise me you’ll make him get back safely.”
Phelix hugged the child. What in Zeus’s name is Phelix going to do now?
The Ghost in Exile will be coming out in a few weeks. But there is still time to order a signed copy at the special pre-order price of $13. Go to my website, http://jamie-marchant.com/ghost.htm, for the PayPal link. Or you can order the kindle version below.