CHAPTER 35

They stayed the night at the village's inn.

Fayte and Wilson were walking through the rose bushes that night, a sphere of light following them. They were picking roses for Amelia, trying to find the miniature breed that the villagers said would grow amongst the grass. Followers of the Order of the White Rose were highly esteem in Roseville. They were given a small feast back at the inn and the innkeeper would not take their coins for the rooms. Wilson was even told that he could help himself to as many roses as he liked, but Wilson asked only for a handful.

"That wyvern spoke to John," Fayte said. "If it's even a wyvern."

"It looked nothing like a dragon," said Wilson. "And yes, I'm quite certain it spoke to John."

Neither of them were having any luck with the rose. They found a few but most were still young and yet to bloom. Those they were asked not to touch for it would serve nothing but to wither once plucked.

"What do you think it said to him?"

Wilson was searching intently. "Wyvern legends are older than even the Nine Heroes and the Templars. I doubt most of what we know are even accurate. But if the founders of the Order of the Eres Star used to be wyvern riders, then the wyvern might have recognized John's blood. It could have been a simple greeting for all we know."

"So it recognized John?"

"Either him specifically or his bloodline," he said, waving his hand to make the light brighter. "John is likely the direct descendant of a Templar, the Greyblade who broke his oath. He has the blood of someone who was blessed with the power of Might. What we saw in Eres Star Temple has spoken much of his lineage. Sera has her plans for him and it seems we are only the ones guiding him to the path that she has chosen for him."

Fayte plucked at the grass bitterly. "This is my pilgrimage…"

"You can't always be the hero," Wilson told him, laughing with a pat on Fayte's back. "Besides, you were commanded by the King himself to investigate-"

"-the assassins."

Both of them looked up at the man who appeared from nowhere.

"We meet again, squire," said the agent of the Underlord. "Good priest."

The young agent wore a new leather jerkin on this night, one that wasn't torn and cut. His wavy hair had been cut shorter and now the man wore a sash tied around his forehead. His grin was sly and playful but Fayte had seen this man take on more than one Scygard and walked away unharmed.

"The Underlord stole the bodies of the assassins who attacked me and Rinmar." Fayte stood up but made no show to reach for his sword. "The Order of the White Shield does not appreciate the interference."

That made the agent laughed. "You speak as though you are a knight already, squire. "

Fayte held up the royal seal.

"Fair enough," the agent noted. "I bring word from the Underlord. The two assassins are men of Eronaxe."

Mercenaries?

"Archers, the both of them and good ones as well." The agent reached over and plucked a stalk of rose. "They were trusted by Dontoros and the guildmaster had sent them to Saldara on several trips."

"For what reason would Eronaxe send men into the desert nation?" Wilson asked.

The agent smirked but did not say. "We believe it was during those trips that these men were bought."

"By who?" Wilson asked.

"We do not know, but we suspect the Underlord in Saldara is involved."

"The Saldarian Underlord is protecting an enemy?" Fayte said. "Then kill him."

"It is far more complicated than that, young squire. Underlords are not friends. They thread on thin ice when dealing with one another and so plenty of respect is given. On top of that, the Underlord in Saldara is not exactly recognized as one of them. What we do know is that they were likely part of a group that exists solely to oppose the marriage."

"And in Hylan there is another group," Wilson went on for him. "One that also opposes the alliance."

"We already know that," Fayte said.

"We had our suspicion before but now we have facts," the agent said, pointing out the difference. "And then there is a third group and they hail from the Kingdom of the East."

It was the East Kingdom who concerned King Eardon the most. The rebels in Saldara and Hylan were expected and will be dealt with in due time.

The one who killed Jeremiah. "Are the three groups working together?"

"Fortunately for us, they are not even though attempts have been made to join their forces."

"And you know this because…?"

"Because I have tried to broker an alliance between the three."

Fayte said nothing for the agent must had his reason for doing so. "And why were you trying in the first place?"

"The same reason the High Sage offered alliance to Skarm's Shadow," the agent said, nodding to himself. "A smart move I must say. The Underlord was impressed and adopted the strategy. If the three groups had accepted the alliance, I would have called for a meeting with all the leaders."

"Where you will promptly arrest all of them," Wilson said.

"Arrest may be a little too… slow, for us."

He would have killed them all.

"The Underlord has spoken with his contacts in the East Kingdom," the agent then said, turning to Fayte. "We do not believe that the East Kingdom intends to invade. Even so, the alliance poses as a threat to them thus their actions are just them trying to safeguard themselves from the future threat of an invasion by Hylan and Saldara combined."

"But we do not intend to invade them," Fayte said. "At least not that I know."

The agent nodded, leaning in to smell a rose. "The intention of the King does not matter. What matters is that the combined strength of Hylan and Saldara makes the East Kingdom nervous. That is why a single assassin was sent from the East Kingdom to put an end to this alliance."

"A single warrior?" Fayte scoffed. "Whoever sent that assassin thought too highly of his ability."

"The royal family of the East Kingdom did not expect their assassin to meet someone enraged by an ancient demon," said the agent very clearly.

The assassin was sent by a royal family? By the King of the East Kingdom?

"Tell the King to send word that Hylan has no intention of invading them. Have him play politics and hopefully this will soon be an issue no more. The Underlord will speak to his counterpart in the East Kingdom as well to help-"

"No," Fayte said firmly.

"No?" the agent repeated, twirling the rose in his hand.

"Whoever sent the assassin and got Jeremiah killed will be met with justice," he said. "This doesn't stop becoming an issue after the King sends a letter and a basket of fruit."

"Our information points to an Emperor being the one who sent the assassin," the agent said gravely. "Your vengeance ended with the death of the assassin. Be satisfied with that for few who lost a friend even get that satisfaction. The affairs of Kings and nations have no time for a little boy's vengeance."

Not even a King or an Emperor lives above the law. His father had told him that once.

"No."

The agent shrugged. "Then tell your King what you wish. We chose to have you pass on the information for the Underlord respects the role that you play in this. If you insist on being childish about it then so be it."

Fayte knew he was right. If the East Kingdom had only meddled for they were afraid of an invasion as well, then this was a matter for King Eardon to take care of. As much as Fayte would like justice, only a fool would go to war for the life of a single squire.

"There is still the matter of the groups from Hylan and Saldara," said the agent. "We will see to the Saldarians. As for the Magister-Lord, we are certain he is the mastermind behind the Hylan group. But what escapes us still is his intention for killing the squires."

"To draw attention away from the wedding," Wilson said.

"There are more notable figures to assassinate to serve that purpose. And many would make for an easier kill." The agent shook his head. "No. Squires are their targets and we do not know why."

Neither did they. Every squire on his or her pilgrimage reported being attacked. Be it a boy or a girl, the child of a noble or a servant or a merchant, they were all attacked. The agent was right that squires were specifically being targeted here. Is the Magister-Lord trying to put an end to the Order of the White Shield?

"Too ambitious of a task," the agent told him. "If the aim was to destroy an entire Order, we would have heard whispers of it already."

"What if that was the aim?" Wilson asked. "Only you haven't heard whispers of it."

"I assure you that is not possible." The agent turned and began to leave. "This is your job now, squire. I wish you luck."

"Emperor or not, killing the man who sent the assassin will not bring Jeremiah back," Wilson told him softly after the agent left. "You have avenged him, Fayte. Spilling more blood will do no good for anyone."

"I know," he said.

He knew but his heart was not agreeable.

On the next morning Wilson led a prayer with the villagers and took the time to bless them all. He also saw a few people who were ill with the coughs, and advised the local herbalist how she could improve her medicine. Later towards noon, the villagers led Fayte to the reason why he came to Roseville.

"This isn't exactly official," he said, looking up at the statue of the two hooded heroes. "Is it?"

"Not exactly," Wilson said. "But many from the Orders of Rondiar have visited this village, and none have reported it."

A little girl pulled on Wilson's robe. "Mister priest, I got a secret to tell you!"

Wilson got down and leaned in close so that she could whisper.

"I saw the Princess here the other night!" The girl was whispering but she was still pretty loud. "And the handsome Prince who rescued her from the scary monster!"

I was the one who rescued her from the scary monster.

"Really?" Wilson said. "Well what was the Princess doing here in the middle of the night?"

"She was visiting the heroes of course! And there was Sir Raynerd and Sir Purrson too!"

Fayte nearly laughed aloud.

"Truly? The Whiteguards themselves?"

The little girl nodded eagerly. "And the funny jester was there too. And a wizard! But he didn't cast any spells… And-and there was this other guy. He was scary. He saw me. But he didn't say anything."

At least she knows to be wary of a Scygard.

After Wilson had assured her that the scary man wasn't going to come back for her, he sent the girl running off and joined Fayte who went closer to the statues.

"Emily was probably afraid that the villagers would not welcome the Prince."

"I'm surprised she chose to be more tactful this time around."

"Commander Reyner's lady wife is one of the White Rose," Wilson told him. "I have no doubt he convinced Emily. Anyway, I will see you back at the inn. We leave for Tyrox once you are done here."

Fayte looked up at the faceless heroes and stepped forward as he announced himself, Fayte Kaywin. Here to pay my respects to two of the legendary nine who defeated the Great Evil and brought about this age of peace to Hylan.

He held up his shield, his right hand clutching his left arm, and slowly he went to his knee with his head held low and his eyes shut gently.

I am a squire on my knight's pilgrimage,  he told them, feeling the sun on his back. I seek knighthood within the Order of the White Shield, to join ranks with the protectors of Hylan and help defend this peace that was fought for and given to us by you, the nine heroes. And I kneel before you today to humbly ask for your blessings in my journey.

Just as he did when he kneeled before the four heroes in Iredis, Fayte found himself in need of guidance once more.

Jeremiah is dead. He is a friend. A close friend. He was killed and I killed the man who took his life. But the true culprit still roams free out there. And the culprit is an Emperor. An Emperor who acted in the interest of his nation and people.

Sleep helped him understand the actions of the East Kingdom, but it did not help him accept it.

I desire vengeance, yet I am aware of the cycle that I am caught in. My friend, Wilson, has helped me and prayed with me on many days and as many nights. Yet I cannot let go of vengeance. I cannot let go of hatred. Be it for the one responsible for Jeremiah's death, or the Saldarians who took my family from me.

His chest was tightening and his heart felt heavier.

I feel that I cannot let go of this vengeance until it has been taken, until the ones responsible for stealing my mother and sisters from me are punished. And every night when I go to bed and I dream of them, I hear them screaming. I hear my mother screaming. I hear Primrose screaming. I hear Priscilla crying. I hear them calling my name, over and over. But I could not help them. I could not save them. All I could do was watch as the Scygard cut them down.

He was chewing his lips and his eyes began to tear.

I feel guilty… a horrible, horrible guilt. I wish to remove it but I cannot. It reminds me of my failure and it urges me to seek vengeance, to find the ones who created this guilt and make them get rid of it. But this is wrong. Killing is wrong, for if I kill them then the people who love them will seek to kill me. And the cycle does not end.

He sucked in a deep breath and cleared his mind for a moment to steady himself.

I beg you, wise ones, to guide me and help me find peace. Because I am going to lose the girl I love. And this peace that you have fought so hard to protect is now under threat. There is a plot against Hylan and now she is in danger. I am to be her shield but I cannot. Not with this darkness inside me. Not when I fight to kill when I should fight to defend. So please, I beg you both, to help me find peace and let go of this need for vengeance.

Then he thanked them for their deeds and swore to defend Hylan as one of the Order of the White Shield.