CHAPTER 30

Emily rushed down when word of the attack reached her.

They were surrounded by the strong scent of herbs and spices outside the shop. The herbalist's neighbour, a florist, came out after hearing the commotion and was shocked to find the Princess out in the cold. She offered her shelter but Emily refused. Then she offered her hot tea and a chair which Commander Reyner subtly indicated for her to accept.

"Are you sure you're fine?" Emily asked again as she sipped her tea.

Fayte nodded as lumastones were slowly lit around them with torches carried by soldiers. They were on the roofs of the surrounding buildings as well, securing these places in case there were more assassins waiting to strike Fayte, or worse, the Grace of Hylan herself.

It made sense that if the squires were being hunted to disrupt the royal wedding, precedence would go to taking out the Prince or the Princess themselves if the opportunity presented itself. Those assassins were sent after Fate. Likely they were not expecting to find Rinmar there with him. If these assassins were from the East Kingdom, having Rinmar killed on Hylan soil may even spark a renewed war between Hylan and Saldara.

If only that damned Scygard hadn't killed them both.

"Oh m-m-mighty wizard." Mailer was shivering next to Emily. "P-p-perhaps you c-could start a f-fire, yes?"

The wizard glanced at Commander Reyner who gave his approval before starting a small flame in front of Emily. It grew warmer and Sir Percson fed a few firewood into the flames while the wizard set up a defensive spell around the area. A knight with a missing leg joined them soon after, riding a horse with soldiers accompanying her. Fayte noticed Sir Percson bowing his head slightly when he saw her. A humble gesture of respect.

The lady knight greeted the Princess and introduced herself.

"I am Lady Bianca of the Sayde family, your Grace, second-in-command of the Eres Star City Watch." Wilson's aunt dismounted and was about to kneel before Commander Reyner waved her off. "I am sorry to hear of what had befallen your betrothed. The City Watch has failed our duty. We will accept any punishment that Your Grace finds fitting of our failure."

"Death would be fitting," the Scygard murmured, but his words were clear in the quiet night.

"Death would be a tad excessive," Sir Percson answered.

"Were travellers not screened and checked?" Commander Reyner asked.

"Not on other days, my Lord," Lady Bianca said. "But they were three days since before the arrival of her Grace and will be until her Grace's departure from our city. My men had reported nothing suspicious of the nature."

"What goes of the investigation?" he then asked. "I believe the Captain is leading it?"

"Aye, we have ruled out the assassins of being from Saldara or the East Kingdom. They appear to be Hylanders, Commander."

"Could they be men who oppose our marriage?" Emily asked.

"It is still too early to tell, my Princess." Lady Bianca shot a fleeting look at the back of the Scygard who now stood stalwart outside the herbalist's door. "We would have been able to find out more if the assassins had not been silenced."

Emily caught the insinuation and did not like it. "Zabior is a trusted friend. I do not appreciate your veiled accusation, Lady Bianca. He was without choice when he killed those men in order to protect his Prince, himself, and Fayte as well."

"Actually…" Fayte cut in. "He did have a choice."

The Scygard, whose name Fayte finally learned, turned around and met eyes with him.

"Fayte, I do not wish to argue with you about this again." Emily thought this was about his hatred for the Saldarians. "He saved your life. Be grateful."

"I admit that he saved my life," Fayte said, truthfully. The same way I saved Rinmar's life. "For that I thank you, Zabior. But I had overpowered one of the assassins while the other was clearly no match for you. There was no need for you to kill them."

Unless you are afraid of what they might say should they be caught alive.

"Believe what you will," Zabior the Scygard said, turning away. "I killed those men for they are dishonourable men who fight from the shadow. It my duty to exact punishment upon such dishonourable men, and I chose death for they had been foolish enough to make an attempt on my Prince's life."

It was a recurring belief with all the Scygards Fayte had met. Their zealous belief in honour. If Zabior was part of the plot to prevent Hylan and Saldara from uniting, he could have accomplished it since the day he became Rinmar's personal guard. No, as much Fayte wanted it to be, Zabior was innocent and he was allowing his hatred to cloud his judgement once again.

Commander Reyner ceased further discussion of the matter until Captain Resfield returned with a report. Lady Bianca was to remain on behalf of Captain Resfield but Emily thought otherwise.

"I do not wish for you to be here," Emily said, not even looking at her. "Your words have offended our friend from Saldara and you have embarrassed me as host. Leave us."

And so Lady Bianca left, but not after Fayte whispered to her that he would watch out for Wilson. The air was tensed after she left. Commander Reyner stood stalwart behind Emily in a thick fur cloak with his helm on while Sir Percson patrolled the area.

"Bianca, Bianca," Mailer went after a long silence. He was sitting on the ground, rocking back and forth next to the fire. "Now where have I heard that name before? It sounds quite heroic. Bianca!"

Emily was staring into the flames. "Lady Bianca Sayde was a hero in the War of Light and Darkness. She was part of an escort leading a group of healers from the Order of the White Rose through enemy grounds. They were ambushed and after the rest of the escort were killed, she alone held off a horde of Darklings so that the party of healers could escape. That act of bravery eventually led to hundreds of lives being saved. And Lady Sera commended her by helping her make it out of the war alive."

But two from the party did not, Fayte thought.

"I was wrong to send her away like that." She turned to Sir Percson. "Could you ask her to return please?"

"She is a knight, my Princess, not a hound," the Whiteguard said but not harshly, smiling as always. "She was making an insinuation, no doubt, still you should not have been petty by sending her away. But you are a Princess and a Princess is decisive. Speak to her when you can on another occasion and treat her in a manner more befitting of her renown then. Do not show weakness by changing your mind after a moment's thought."

"A leader does not have that privilege," Commander Reyner added, but his eyes were set upon Fayte for these words were meant for him as well. "So be sure to think your words through in the future."

"For you will be the one who bear the consequences," said the Scygard, though no one expected him to. "I know an Emperor who wished he had not decided to take the head of a tribe leader, for he now surrenders his empire to make amends for that mistake."

Rinmar's father lost control of his nation when he took the head of the leader of the largest tribe in Saldara. It made Fayte uncomfortable to hear the alliance being phrased in that manner. Zabior was not wrong. Saldara was now at the mercy of Hylan. For them this was a surrender dressed up nicely as a marriage.

When he saw that Emily was sulking, he thought of something to say that would cheer her up, but Fayte held himself back. It was not his place to cheer her up and make her smile anymore. That was for Rinmar to do now. Unless the Prince did not make it through the night. Strangely, Fayte found himself praying that Rinmar would be fine.

Everything would be so much less complicated if he died, he thought to himself. But then everything would be wrong.

He wondered if this was a sign that he was coming to accept the marriage and the alliance.

It was sunrise when Wilson finally came out, stretching his arms and yawning widely.

"I suppose you will kill me if I tell you your Prince is dead."

The Scygard was not in the mood for jokes.

Wilson gave him a pat on the shoulder. "He is fine. Promella has mended his airpipe and my magic has done the rest."

"This herbalist cut my Prince open." Zabior had difficulty with the notion. "What of infections?"

"Of no concern," he said, just as Preston strode out of the door.

Only then did the Scygard visibly relax. He had stood watch outside the shop for the entire night, moving not a single inch away. Emily was still fast asleep, her head leaning against Sir Percson's waist.

"What of the assassins?" Wilson asked, his eyes bloodshot and tired.

Fayte got up and tossed him a pouch of water. "They are Hylanders. We know nothing else."

Wilson nodded and as he drank the water, they heard a commotion approaching them from afar. Noises like a group of people running.

"Scout, report," Commander Reyner yelled to a soldier on the roof of the nearest building.

"Fayte-" Emily gasped after she was startled awake by the Whiteguard's voice.

"A group of four soldiers carrying a stretcher between them, my lord," the soldier answered as Emily avoided Fayte's eyes. She quickly asked Wilson about Rinmar. "It looks like a knight has been- no, it's Captain Resfield, my lord! The Captain is injured!"

Wilson sighed as he turned away from Emily. "Preston, fly to the castle and get the priest here at once."

The white dragon took off as the four soldiers came into view. They were panting heavily but there was something odd about them. All four soldiers were pinching their noses. As they got closer to them, Fayte could smell the pungent scent of waste.

"The Captain has been poisoned," one of the soldiers told Wilson, his voice nasal with his nose pinch, as he kneeled beside Captain Resfield.

The stretcher was covered with loose waste and vomit. It was a gruesome sight and Sir Percson had led Emily away once they smelled the stench.

"How did this happen?" Wilson did not shy away as the Captain hurled again, his face pale white but his hand gripped tightly on Wilson's arm.

A quick glance was enough to tell Fayte that Captain Resfield wasn't seriously wounded. If anything, only the man's pride had been wounded here. A wound that was deepened when they heard the long, drawn-out noise of flatulence and even Fayte had to turn away momentarily.

"It was the Underlord, good priest," the soldier said, pinching his nose and trying not to look away. "The Underlord came demanding the bodies but the Captain would not release-"

"Spare me the details," Wilson snapped. "How was he poisoned?"

The soldier wasn't sure so another said, "T-they fought, traded blows, but we did not see the Captain get injured."

Captain Resfield pulled Wilson to him and the priest visibly cringed from the stench of his breath.

"He nicked me," he said, struggling to keep himself from hurling again. "Left underarm."

Wilson checked at once and found a bleeding cut there. The Captain's idea of a nick was frightening. Wilson's hand began to glow as he pressed his palm against the wound. Captain Resfield relieved himself again but this time it wasn't through the mouth. A few of the soldiers groaned from the sight and Fayte found Commander Reyner making a sour face from afar.

"Do… something!" the Captain said.

Wilson laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "I will prepare an antidote with Promella's herbs. There is a danger of dehydration if I do not give you the antidote, but this poison was not intended to kill you, Captain. You are safe. Kindly take your Captain to the back of the shop."

"I will kill that man!" the grown man covered in his vomit and waste yelled as his men carried away. "Mark my words! I will kill him with my own- Oh Sera, help me."

Only after the Captain was gone did Commander Reyner came over, shaking his head but smiling still. "What a mess he has made."

Fayte did not find it quite as humorous. Had that poison been a lethal one… "Captain Resfield lost to the Underlord?"

The Whiteguard sighed as he nodded. "The Underlord fights without honour."

The Underlord won. "What honour is there in death?"

"What life is there without honour?"

The Commander's words gave him a pause. Without honour, Fayte would be no different from murderers like the ones who killed his mother and sisters. Honour was important. Very important. Fayte could tell that this was not the first time the Commander was asked this question. He was not the Commander for just skill alone.

He could be Lord-Knight, Fayte realized. Perhaps one day I will be half as wise as him.

Commander Reyner smiled at him and gave him a squeeze on the shoulder.

"Clean this up."

Fayte felt like he was just slapped across the face. "What? Me? Why?"

"Do you see any other squires around here, boy?"