CHAPTER 15

The Flaming Sword.

A tower that was neither aflame nor possess a sharpened edge. The tower looked dull and it was located near the edge of the city where there were no shops nor sights to be seen. Fayte found the quiet street more appealing than having a crowd follow him around. And the Flaming Sword was hardly dull. Not when Fayte realized the purpose it served.

"A watch tower for the Order of the White Shield you say?" Fayte said, nodding at the two guards who stood outside the entrance with noon sun beating down on them.

They seemed sterner and more serious than most guards Fayte had come across. This was likely due to a certain someone's presence within the tower right now.

After the incident last night, Sir Percson personally escorted him back to his quarter. They spoke little. Fayte had yet to fully recover from the corruption and the fight strained his body further. The wound on his back did not help. He was exhausted and sought only to rest.

"Would you like to postpone your meeting with the Princess tomorrow?" the Whiteguard had asked at the door to Fayte’s room. Wilson had joined them.

"Yes, please," Fayte had said.

"No you will not," Wilson told him. "Sir Percson, if you would be so kind as to reassure the Princess that Fayte will be there at midday tomorrow."

Fayte had little desire to see Emily. Especially since she was here with the Prince. Wilson would not allow him to avoid her though and so the Whiteguard bade him a good night’s rest and left.

"I will wait for you at the tavern," Estelle said, glancing at the guards. "You can find your way back to the main street I assume?"

"Aye, I'll see you at the tavern."

The Flaming Sword was a tower for the knights and soldiers stationed here to aid the defence and peace of Iredis. It was more of a guard post than a City Watch barrack. Fayte was expected so he passed the guards without trouble. Stepping into the tower and onto the wooden floor, he could feel the sudden rise in temperature. It was warmer in here and the lack of windows made it all the worse. It was small, this tower, with a door on the ground level that led to an office. Above him the stairway spiralled to the top of the tower.

Fayte sighed and began his reluctant ascend.

Sir Percson had no means of locating the Underlord for the Order of the Elements. He was however able to call upon the aid of High Sage Kestel who determined the cause of death.

"Cursed to death," said the High Sage, poking the dead man's cheek with a twig. "Not Hylan magic."

Administrator Langton and the rest of them watched as the High Sage stood up.

And proceeded to leave.

"High Sage," Master Skion called, confused by Kestel's abrupt departure. "We have more questions- High Sage!"

The only answer he got was Kestel's yawn and a tired bark from his dog as he climbed on and left. Administrator Langton apologized on his behalf and elaborated.

"Hylan magic would include the element of Darkness which means that this was not done by the Dark Lord."

"Are you saying they were killed by someone beyond the Northern Gate?" Sir Percson asked. "Or perhaps the Saldarians?

Despite the cool blue hues casting on his face, the Administrator looked grim when he nodded. "Killed, yes, but silenced would be a better word. Please have the bodies sent to the Crystal Citadel, Master Skion. The High Sage and I will investigate further on the morrow."

The Flaming Sword seemed abandoned, with little sunlight shining through windows near the tower's roof, and the wooden steps creaking underneath his feet. In fact there was a layer of dust on the railing and the torch holders on the walls had cobwebs hanging from them.

Near a third of the way up, Fayte came upon a balcony where the light of the sun poured through. A glimmer of white caught his eye in the shadows and when he squinted, Sir Percson's visage appeared.

"The Princess awaits," he said, remaining just a footstep from where the sun touched the floor.

Fayte nodded and stepped into the balcony. The skin on the back of his neck prickled and Fayte spun around all of a sudden. No one was there yet he swore he sensed someone behind him. It was not the Whiteguard. There was someone with a very deadly intent focused upon him.

"You are not imagining things," he heard her voice. "I've caught sight of them twice already on my trip so far. They watch me from the shadows on orders from either my father or yours. That is all I know of them."

That sounds an awful lot like the Underlord.

He turned and though the magnificence of the City of Learning was before him, all Fayte saw was a girl draped in white silk and silver jewelleries. The coronet, carved in the shape of four dragons, sat gently on her head catching the light of the sun. It did little to distract him from her eyes, shimmering with innocence and wide with ambitions. Emily brought her hands together in front of her, her cloak of white lace tied to her wrists.

"Hey, Fayte," she said, her tone soft and her smile softer. No longer energetic and eager as they once were for many years. Not since he lost her. "Are you all right? I heard about the attack last night."

Emily took a step towards him as he considered answering her.

"Squire Fayte Kaywin, offers my noon greetings to Her Grace," he said, kneeling and holding his shield out in front of him, his head held low.

For a while Emily was silent.

"Rise, please," said Emily, her voice without cheer. "If that is how you wish things to be."

"It is not my wish for it to be as such," he said, rising. "It is how things are."

Emily was staring at the floor, her eyes glancing at his only once.

"Rinmar is at the Crystal Citadel, asking again if the Archimage would receive us now and for permission to visit the Cavern of Knowledge."

He may as well ask for a kiss from the Archimage herself. There was no chance of the Order of the Elements allowing a Saldarian into the Cavern of Knowledge. Especially not the Prince who was once consumed by the demon that was now imprisoned there.

Fayte was looking at her, his eyes focused and his expression serious, but his heart longing. "I wish him luck."

She looked up at him. "Only with words and not sincerity."

"Her Grace is wise," said Fayte. "You have my apologies."

"I don't want your apologies," she said. "I want your friendship back."

"I am but a squire and you the Grace of Hylan," he told her, eyes set forward, standing straight with his shield held by his side and his sword arm held to his back. "It would not be appropriate."

Emily bit her lips and Fayte almost lost his composure.

She was close to tears now.

"Why can't we still be friends like before?" she asked, her voice choked as she tried to hold her tears back.

Because I love you. "Because your betrothed and I share an unfortunate past that I cannot overlook."

"Yet you are friends with Kamille," Emily said. "A girl training to be a Scygard. A Scygard, Fayte. The very warriors who- who…"

Who slaughtered my sisters and killed my mother. "Kamille is different."

"Then why is Rinmar not?" she yelled. "I don't understand you, Fayte. Why can you accept Kamille and not accept Rinmar? Even after seeing what he has done for our kingdom, what he has done for me! You used to hate her!"

Because it is not her who is stealing the one I love.

"Say something!" she screamed now. "Is it because you have feelings for her?"

Fayte met eyes with her then and though his mouth came ajar, he held himself from speaking, biting back his words.

"It is none of your concern," he ended up saying.

That was when a tear finally escaped her, like a deep fear she had finally came true.

"All I wanted…" she said, sniffing, dabbing her eyes with the lace of her cloak. "All I wanted…" Emily shook her head. "I see now where I have erred."

He dared not look at her, not when she cried, not when she was hurt. But she was none of those now. Fayte looked at her, for now she bore a look of defiance… and hate. He could feel his heart being impaled with that look in her eyes.

"And where would that be?"

Emily continued to stare at him and slowly Fayte began to wonder if those were indeed hatred in her eyes. He had seen hatred before and this look, though similar, did not look like hatred.

"I thought you loved me."

At that moment Fayte wanted to just lose it. He was sick of her running circles around his head. He loved her. He love her more than anyone else in this world, perhaps even his father, his one and only kin left in this world. But she rejected him and chose the Saldarian Prince over him instead. He would not be in so much pain if he didn't love her.

Fayte shook his head. I've had enough. "There is no one else… there is no one else in this world who I love more than-"

A screech cut him off.

In an instant, Fayte saw Sir Percson appearing with his shield swung around Emily to protect her, while Lady Elisen appeared beside them with her sword drawn. The floor even lit up and Fayte found himself standing atop an ice glyph. Fortunately there was no real danger.

Preston landed on the railing of the balcony clutching a letter in his mouth. He shook it vigorously, telling her to hurry up as Emily went up to him. Once Emily had taken the letter, the white dragon curled up his wings and he turned to Fayte. There were sadness in Preston's eyes. Great sadness.

Emily gasped. "Oh no."

She turned to him, both her hands pressed to her mouth after she handed the letter to Sir Percson. As the Whiteguard read, his usual smile faded away and Emily ended up walking to Fayte, her arms spreading to embrace him in a hug.

In that instant everything came together in his head. How his father could not make time to visit him. How his father had instructed the knights in Emily's escort to keep an eye out for him. How the Commander of the Whiteguards, the man who would surely be assigned to protect Emily on this trip, was nowhere to be seen.

"Sera, why?" Sir Percson whispered.

Fayte drew his sword and Emily backed away at once.

Lady Elisen was the first to disapprove. "Sheath your blade-"

"What happened," Fayte said, his hands shaking as he watched Emily cower from him, like the very look in his eyes frightened her.

Sir Percson turned to him, looking at him with no means of smiling or hiding his sorrow.

Fayte shook his head. "What happened to my father?"

Footsteps rushed up the stairway behind him and Fayte spun around to find Wilson with Estelle panting behind him.

"WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FATHER?"

Wilson shook his head. "Your father is well, Fayte, it’s not about him."

For a moment Fayte was confused, but when it finally occurred to him, the blow struck so hard and sudden that he lost grip of his sword.

Jeremiah.