Wilson was examining the vial.
"A youngling," he said, returning it to Fayte when he saw that the Dragon Essence was drawing too much attention. "Nonetheless, it is powerful and will likely turn the tide of the battle to your favour."
To consume Dragon Essence was to consume the soul of a dragon already passed on from the living world. Fayte would be granted great power in return but he would also inherit the dragon's memory. The older the dragon, the more powerful its essence would be. But an older dragon would have more years in memory, and that increases the risk of damage to his mind.
"Only if I get the chance to drink it first," Fayte said.
"You drink it only if your life depends on it," Wilson warned him. "And be timely about it as well. Once you consume it you must move onto the offensive. If the assassins are as skilled as the Underlord's agent would have us believe, they will likely be prepared for such a scenario."
The innkeeper frowned at them at they went upstairs. John was still asleep, hugging his sword like a pillow with his drool staining the sheet.
"I still don't understand why we were told to bring him along," said Wilson, pouring them some water.
Fayte sat himself down and took a sip. "If he has any relations to the Templars, we will surely find answers in our next stop."
There was a knock on their door and Commander Reyner stepped in. Lady Feralina was right behind him. The both of them were dressed in their armour and shields by their sides. Wilson welcomed them and poured them water, gesturing for them to take a seat.
"The agent has spoken with you?" Fayte asked the Whiteguard.
He nodded. "Your father will not like this new arrangement. Dontoros and the Underlord. They are not exactly allies to our Order."
"Nor are they enemies," Wilson pointed out. "Neutral parties who now see more benefits in aiding our cause."
"How soon before that change I wonder," Commander Reyner mumbled. "You are off to Eres Star City then?"
They were. Without further clues to take them elsewhere, the only course of action was to resume his pilgrimage. Only now they had agreed to continue without Fayte's escort. At least then they could expect the assassins to strike in a city or a town.
Commander Reyner shook his head. "Your father will not like this."
"We were informed that the Underlord gifted you with an item of great value," Lady Feralina said, prompting Fayte to show them the Dragon Essence. "Guard it well. Use it at the right time and it could save your life."
Again, Fayte wondered if he would even have the time to use it.
"Will you return to Rondiar now?" he asked them.
"Aye," said the Master-Knight. "Your father requires my assistance with the preparation for the wedding. My uncle will be returning to the Princess and resume his duty."
"I've sent word out asking for her whereabouts," the Whiteguard said, glancing at John when he started snoring. "You do not intend to attend the wedding."
"No I do not," he said, seeing no reason to deny the statement.
"The Princess expects you to be there you know?" Commander Reyner told him, his tone softening. "At least, she hopes you'll be there."
"My apologies for disappointing her royal Grace then," Fayte said officially. "She will understand, I am sure. Just as she join hands with the enemy to protect Hylan, I will miss her wedding for the same reason."
Commander Reyner was silent but his gaze was unsettling. The Commander of the Whiteguards was a highly revered man. Fayte could not hold his gaze for long before he looked away.
"I know she doesn't want to marry him," Fayte admitted. "In fact, knowing her, she might even regret the decision already. But with the King's Council agreeing that this is the best course of action, and the fact that she is too stubborn to admit she is wrong, Emily will see this marriage through."
"When she first told you of the marriage, did you try and persuade her otherwise?"
Did I? Fayte could not remember. He only recalled being angry at her. And when she explained to him why she chose to marry Rinmar, even though she did not love him, Fayte found himself at the losing end of the argument. She was doing a noble thing, sacrificing her happiness to safeguard the kingdom that was hers to protect as a member of the royal family.
"I could not," he said.
Commander Reyner sighed, giving Lady Feralina a look before he raised his cup to his lips.
"Your father entertains thoughts of leaving the Order after the alliance is settled," she said. "Are you aware of this?"
Fayte scoffed. Even Wilson was dismissive.
"Lord Frendon will not lay down his shield willingly," Wilson said. "Nor will the King allow it."
"Lord Frendon will not kneel before a Saldarian," Lady Feralina said in return. "And King Rinmar will allow it."
Once again Fayte had failed to consider his father's feelings. To watch as the Princess of Hylan join hands with the Prince of Saldara was one thing. To kneel before the man whose nation murdered his wife and daughters was a whole other.
"He is torn, that is clear enough," she went on. "He swore an oath to defend Hylan and surely another to avenge his family. Now he can no longer fulfil one without breaking the other."
"I think your father blames himself for choosing duty over family when he left for the War of Darkness and Light, though no one could have foreseen what happened to Zywedior," Commander Reyner said. "Leaving the Order will be his choice of family over duty this time around."
That left Fayte wondering why he still remained in the Order. It made him wonder why he was even on this pilgrimage.
"I tell you this only because I wish for you to understand what your father intends to pass on to you," Lady Feralina told him, noticing the look on his face. "He does not think himself strong enough to kneel before Rinmar and call him King. No one can blame him. But he hopes that you, his son, will have the strength to, out of the love that you have for Princess Emily."
Fayte looked up from his hands and met eyes with her. "My love for her will fade eventually."
Lady Feralina smiled knowingly and got up. "You let me know when the day comes."
They woke John after the two knights left. Shaking him didn't work so Wilson emptied the jug of water over his face, startling the man into thinking he was drowning again. After they forced him to take a shower, they hired two gryphons and set off to the west towards Eres Star City.
"I wonder what happened to them," Wilson said from behind Fayte after a long hour of silence as the wind grew bitterly cold. "That family of travelling merchants we met."
Fayte was wrapping himself in a thick wolfpelt cloak, clasping a brooch carved to the likeliness of a white shield to keep the cloak from falling. He thought of the family as he pulled on his gloves. During his quest to save Emily, he and Wilson were headed towards Eres Star City without proper gear for the harsh cold. They ran into the family and their wagon on the road, and gladly accepted warm clothes when offered.
However the city had been overtaken by Rinmar's uncle at that time, and the knights and soldiers of the city were replaced with mercenaries. The family's wagon was illegally confiscated and the last Fayte saw them was in the inn where they sought shelter in.
"I am sure Lady Bianca would have set matters straight for them," Fayte said, glancing back at Wilson to see his reaction to the name of his aunt.
"Will you be paying Captain Resfield a visit?" was all Wilson said.
Fayte nodded, though he didn't look forward to it. They would surely speak about Jeremiah.
"I intend to take him along," he said with a jerk of his head towards John who flew a few meters away from them. "Let him have a word with the Captain."
"It will be too dark for us to make the ascend up to the temple once we arrive," Wilson told him, for even now the sun was taking leave from the sky. "We will spend the night at the same inn. I will have a room prepared for us while you take John to the Captain."
"Do you plan to visit the herbalist?"
"I do, once I have unloaded our supplies."
Their first trip to this city had been an entirely unpleasant one. False knights terrorizing the people, agents of the Underlord killing men in daylight, and not forgetting a demon that smashed the courtyard of the Magister's Court. And so it heartened Fayte when he saw that even at night, the streets were crowded, torches were lit, and even though the cold was harsh, the people were happy.
When Fayte handed the merchant some coins for the steaming potatoes, the man didn't let free of the snack, leaning closer as he stared at Fayte.
"You're him," he said, a wide grin slowly emerging. "Sera bless you, Fayte Kaywin. Ye done our city a great deed."
"I only did my duty, sir," Fayte said quite humbly, but still the man refused his coins.
Further down the street they went and every so often someone would recognize them. Most of them approached Wilson, for he had spent much of his time healing many of the citizens during their last visit here. Some held his hands and thanked him, while others wept softly and told Wilson that he had done his best. The children played with Preston, a group of them bundled up in many layers, screaming and laughing as they did.
Soon the soldiers and knights noticed them and many nodded to acknowledge him. To the soldiers Fayte smiled warmly in the return, but to the knights he nodded solemnly, for he had fought alongside them to save Emily and many of their fellow knights gave their lives in the process.
"Fayte Kaywin," a knight said from atop her mount. Her left leg noticeably missing from the knee down. "Eres Star City welcomes you with open gates."
Lady Bianca Sayde wore her hair down, long and brown, dried from the cold. Her cheeks were flushed and her smile youthful and proud, though it faded when she met eyes with Wilson.
"Hello, nephew," she said.
Wilson turned away from her. "I will see you at the inn."
He took his leave without a word to his aunt.
"I will speak to him," Fayte said.
"You will not," was her answer, though her tone was not harsh but appreciative. "He copes with the loss of his parents by blaming me. That is the least that I can do for him."
Fayte nodded, knowing not what else to say.
"Lady Bianca, this is John. I would like to-" Fayte slapped John across the arm. "Stop staring!"
"Her leg is missing," he whispered not very softly, like it was the queerest thing.
"Would you care for yours to be missing as well?" she asked.
John froze at her words and quietly positioned himself behind Fayte.
"I am under command by a greater power to bring him on my pilgrimage. I wish to know why and I believe Captain Resfield might be able to tell me more." He gestured for John to show her his Templar sword.
"A greater power you say?" Lady Bianca was intrigued but she didn't pry. "Has this man lost his memory?"
Fayte looked to John who only shrugged. "It would seem that way."
Though I am inclined to believe he is hiding something from us.