CHAPTER 13

By midday it became clear that Estelle was also quite famous herself.

"You have many friends," Fayte noted, smiling at the couple before they left after having a short conversation with her.

"Acquaintances," she said, leading him down the street to another store. "My mother is a noble and she often brings me to social gatherings. It's tiring but she insists we keep up appearances despite being mocked behind her back for marrying a peasant and taking his family's name."

Fayte did not recall her introducing herself as being of the noble Lowell family. It was not unheard of but sometimes men and women do give up their nobility by choice after marriage. Fayte could understand a little how Estelle felt. His father is often invited to such social gatherings, but likely not as often as Estelle's mother due to his job as Lord-Knight. He recalled attending such gatherings before but he always felt out of place.

"Let them laugh and whisper words behind your back," his father told him one night after leading him away from a group of noblemen's sons. They went out to the balcony and joined the company of the moon. "They are just boys who know only of silk cushions and overpriced grape juice."

He was crying that night. The boys had said that his father only became Lord-Knight because Lord Iyden gave his life in the war. And that he only became the Master-Knight in the first place because he was friends with then Prince Eardon. Fayte wanted to hit them but his father pulled him away before he could.

"I don't like it when people talk about you that way," he said. "It's not true what they say."

His father smiled at him. "I care not for what little boys have to say of me."

"They say that it is their fathers who told them that. They say it’s their fathers who told them that we're just filthy peasants who lucked our way into nobility."

"I am not surprised." Fayte watched as his father leaned in closer to him. "But imagine now how much it must irk their fathers to bow and smile and call your filthy peasant father, Your Lordship, and then shower me with pleasantries and expensive food all throughout the night."

That got Fayte smiling again.

His father straightened up and stood with his chin held up like the Lord-Knight he was.

"My son, men who find their hands idle will often end up wagging their tongues. Be honest in your ways and do good whenever you can. Your conscience will be your shield against such people."

Estelle paused after hearing him share his father's words.

"Your father is a wise man," she said. "Thank you. I will remember that. Now allow me to introduce you to another wise man."

A chime rang soothingly as Estelle pushed through the door. Fayte stepped in behind her and felt a shift in the air. It was dry in here but the temperature cooler. The scent was that of old pages from the thousands of books waiting on the rows of shelves before him. Directly ahead of them on the other side of the large room was a counter. Behind it sat an old man, his hair thin and white, curly like a wisp of cloud.

The storekeeper gazed at him for a moment before he revealed a familial smile.

"My, my, we meet at last."

The old man set down the book in his hand and hopped off his high stool, disappearing behind the counter. Estelle gestured for him to follow and led him through the rows of darkwood shelves. Hundreds of books surrounded him here with hundreds more waiting on the second level. The shelves stood humbly. Each of them held knowledge from a hundred minds and together this book store housed the knowledge of generations.

He wondered who this man was but the lure of the books was too great. No doubt Fayte would have already read many of the books here already, but he was just as certain that there were many more new to him. New adventures awaiting in each one.

"A bright noon to you, Master Fengoth." Estelle bowed while the old man nodded.

"A bright noon to you, Estelle. And to you as well, Fayte Kaywin."

A wizard? The man stood with a walking cane and though he did not hunch he only came up to their shoulders.

"Fair noon to you, Master Fengoth," he said.

His joy showed through the wrinkles on his face. "I believe an introduction is necessary here. I am Fengoth of the noble Yonus family. Former Headmaster of the school of fire and now the owner of this humble bookstore."

A relative of the High Wizard then.

"Think of our headmasters as the Captains in charge of the different regions in Hylan," Estelle explained to him. "Or the Fearsome Five guarding our border to Saldara."

In other words I am in the presence of a very powerful fire mage. Fayte nodded. "It is an honour to meet you, Master Fengoth."

"As is mine to meet the squire who saved our kingdom." He sighed. "You will forgive me for saying this, but you have your mother's eyes."

Fayte was taken aback. "You know her?"

Master Fengoth nodded slowly. "Your mother was quite a horrible girl."

They were both caught unaware by his words as he gestured at a table by the window. Fayte felt like he should be offended but was too confused to be. They each took a seat by the window where a small garden kept the noise of the bustling street at bay. Master Fengoth smiled at them and waited.

Estelle rolled her eyes. "Master, you were saying his mother was a horrible girl?"

"Oh yes, yes, horrible girl that Pecilia was. Always searching for adventure and playing pranks on me when I was but a wizard."

Fayte was very confused. "Mother? Pranks? Wizard? Mother was a mage?"

"Oh no, of course not. That girl hadn't a drop of elemental magic in her." There was a look in Master Fengoth eyes now as he peered into his memories. "No, she could not cast a single spell, but she was quite magical that one."

It got awkward again when the old wizard just kept staring into distance. Estelle knocked on the table and brought her Master back.

"She was studying in the Crystal Citadel to become a Historian. Your mother loved history and archaeology trips were her favourite. Of course she did step on a few priceless artefacts during her early days, but that did nothing to dampen her passion."

All Fayte knew about his mother was that she was a loving woman who took care of him and his two sisters. She was loved by her husband and while he took care of the kingdom she took care of their home. Her mother was the last person he would imagine being the sort to play pranks or go searching for adventures.

"The boys were all smitten by her," he went on. "And the girls hated her. She wasn't a mage but even the most talented of our initiates wanted to win her heart. It got so bad that the teachers had to step in. The boys were spending more effort courting her than studying, while the girls' plots to mock your mother were getting far too out of hand."

Master Fengoth gave Estelle a knowing look then.

"But one whose fire burned for the knowledge of the past cannot be stoked by elaborate spellworks or gemstones and sweet words. The greatest treasure to be found from history are not the relics and baubles, but the lessons that we can learn. Adventure and stories. Those were the things that a young squire visiting our city used to win your mother's heart."

"Even today we still hear of how the peasant squire took on five noble mages," Estelle said, "claiming victory with a broken tourney sword and just a few strands of singed hair."

"Though brats they were, your father claimed victory over mages who knew their elements well. I should know for one of them is my nephew who will one day lead our Order."

It took a moment. "Father defeated Lord Quxtin Yonus when he was just a squire? When he was yet to be blessed by Sera?"

A nod and hearty laugh was what he got from Master Fengoth.

"But of course my nephew was no High Wizard then and only a mage blinded by jealousy."

The fact that Estelle was sent by Lord Quxtin to show him around the city bothered him now and she was quick to notice it.

"Fayte is now wary because of the task Lord Quxtin gave me," she told Master Fengoth.

"Ah, then you should know that Lord Quxtin has found his partner in life. He and your father share nothing more than just a healthy dose of rivalry now. I am sure if my nephew has any motives then it would be that you would fall in love with one of our younger mages. For example, Estelle here."

"Master!"

"Now, now, child, you should be honoured if Fayte Kaywin here fancies you. Marrying the son of the Lord-Knight will make you the envy of every girl in Hylan I believe."

"That is not my point, Master!"

"Is that why you're being so kind and showing me around?" Fayte teased.

"Tease me further, Kaywin, and I will bury you," she warned, but the way she shifted in her seat and her cheeks flushing told them otherwise. "Besides, I would not be wasting my time with a mere squire. The Whiteguards are much more charming."

"Enough, you are both young and have many years ahead of you for love." Master Fengoth moved to get up and Estelle went over to help him. "Come, Fayte, I have some books for you."

It was a slow walk around the store. Master Fengoth had Estelle fetch books off different shelves. When his assistant returned from her noon break, he had her retrieve a few more from the second level. They returned to the desk with a stack of dusty tomes.

"I want you to have these novels as a gift from me," he said, pushing a stack of four books to Fayte. "I knew your mother personally. She was a student of mine for a few classes. These, I know, were some of her favourite stories. I thought to send them to you but certain things are best done in person."

They were novels of which Fayte had read two. His father gave them to him for the same reason Master Fengoth gifted him with these books now.

"May the stories within these page bring you closer to the mother you have lost."

Fayte accepted them and nodded his thanks.

"As for these, they are yours and you will surely find them useful for they are stories of leaders and warriors from ages past." He watched as Estelle placed the sixth book on the other stack. "It is common knowledge amongst bookkeepers that both the Lord-Knight and his son hone their minds as much as their swordsmanship."

The book Estelle set down was written by a man named Duriel Emerald-Talons. A leather tome dyed green and spined with silver. Emerald-Talons was once a royal family before Hylan was united.

"During times of war the Gryphon King Duriel Emerald-Talons led his army as Sky-Master," said the old wizard. "He will try to convince you the need for cruelty in war. I myself am left unconvinced but he made me see reason in his actions. Now I find myself sympathetic with the man, though I do not condone his actions. Learn from the past as your mother did, Fayte Kaywin. Let these men and women long passed be your teachers through their deeds."

Fayte turned the cover over.

"Thank you," he said, noticing scribblings on some of the pages. Paragraphs circled and words underlined with notes scribbled by the side. "The novels I will accept as gifts but the rest I will pay for them."

That was when Master Fengoth and Estelle exchanged a look. The old wizard nodded as he set down a pouch of coins on the desk, before he pulled out an old envelope from within his sleeve.  

"As I said, these are yours, my dear boy." He handed the envelope to Fayte and had him open it. "The letter came, I believe, some time after you left for Rondiar to join the Order of the White Shield. I never intended to sell any of them. They’re all there. Sadly I never got the chance to deliver them to Zywedior."

Master Fengoth watched as Fayte read the letter. When he saw Fayte begin to blink away his tears, the old wizard turned and began to leave. Satisfied and relieved having fulfilled a task that fell into his responsibility many years ago.

"Come, my girl," said Master Fengoth. "Let Fayte here have a moment with his mother."

Fayte fell onto the chair clutching the letter.

Dear Master Fengoth,

I hope my letter finds your flame burning as ever strong as when we last met.

You should be pleased to hear that my second child, Primrose, has shown signs of magic. We are not yet sure but if so then I can only imagine the look on my son's face, to hear that his sister is a mage and will no doubt best him in combat until the day he is blessed with the Light of the Spirits. Then again, Frendon had no need for the spirits. Perhaps it will be so for Fayte as well.

Rest assured that we will come visit should my daughter's path be bound for Iredis. Oh imagine how wondrous it would be then if my baby Priscilla was to be a priestess? My very own Orders of Rondiar!

I am excited and so I have digressed. I write to you seeking a few of my old possessions.

Many years ago I left with you a few books of mine which I thought myself no longer having a need for. I fear I had been mistaken. I should like to purchase them from you again.

My firstborn, Fayte, has joined the Order of the White Shield. It is my wish for him to receive them the day he leaves for his pilgrimage so that he may read them on his journey. He is but a page now, I know, alas I am impatient and I worry you may have already sold my old books. In such an event I shall have to make do with a new copy instead. Enclosed is a list of the titles I am seeking and a pouch of coins for them.

May your flame continue to burn bright and light the way.

Sincerely,
Lady Pecelia of Pranks

P.S. Those really are coins in the pouch. No trickery here. Please do not discard them.