CHAPTER 37

Thousands of squires had taken this path where once the mighty Templars gave their lives to fend off the Great Evil.

Fayte began at sunset as planned. He wore his chainmail over his shirt and over it he donned his armour, sent over from Rondiar before he set off on his pilgrimage. Fayte had spent much of the day sleeping and when he rose he spent a little while sharpening his sword. He traded in his shield for a new one at the City Watch, before taking it to a smith to hammer in a slot for his dagger. This little trick was how Jeremiah forced a draw with him during their duel in the squire's tournament.

Jeremiah's dagger was now in that slot.

The royal family of the East Kingdom sent someone to prevent the alliance between Hylan and Saldara. The royal family did not specifically list Jeremiah as someone to be taken out. No, his death was an act by the assassin and him alone. Now the killer is dead. Vengeance was sought. Yet Fayte remained in grief.

Grief is never given away, only caused.

Night had fallen and the air grew colder but onward he marched.

Saldara was an enemy and there were many in Hylan who could not forget and refused to forgive. Fayte knew that he would be standing amongst those people if he were not one of the Order of the White Shield. And if I was not a friend to the Princess. Zywedior was sacked and a city filled with innocents brutally killed.

There were only two ways to respond to such an atrocity. One involved the extermination of an entire nation, for if they killed only the men responsible, then the families of those men will seek vengeance. The cycle would not end. The second way was to forgive. Both ways seemed equally impossible to Fayte.

One path sinks a person's soul to an abyss of darkness while the other opens it to a garden of light.

Sera's eye looked straight down upon him and his pack grew heavier but onward he marched.

Emily was a girl. Princess was only a title. She was a girl and Fayte had fallen in love with her. Sadly not all love will lead to a happy ending. They were not meant to be together. In this world there were bigger things than the happiness of two people. Emily was not his to love and he will not dishonour her. Rinmar, by noon later in the day, will become her wedded husband. He will take the name of Whiteart, as was the law of their Kingdom. They will have a child together and one day that child will rule Hylan and Saldara both. Fayte could only hope to be by that child's side, as a Whiteguard if not the Lord-Knight of the Order of the White Shield.

I love Emily. I will never stop loving her. But I will not dishonour her. My heart shall yearn for her day and night, and I will live with this pain just as I live with the pain of losing my mother and sisters.

Daybreak.

Fayte loosed his pack and dropped it. He stepped forward and with that step he arrived at the summit of Mount Tyrus. Nine flat stones stood on the outer rim of the summit, each of them at least two meters wide. In front of the fifth stone, directly ahead of Fayte, was a stone table. That was where the Chosen Herald had died and it was said that till this day, the stone table was still red with his blood. But Fayte could not see the stone table.

For nine men stood in front of the stones.

The three to the left were wore robes of dark velvet cloth, with loose sleeves and their swords tucked into their waist sash, and a cowl that showed only their striking blue eyes. The three to the right wore thick plates green like emeralds, with helms carved to the shape of gryphons. And lastly the three in the center wore a thick cape of deep forest green, their golden armours gleaming in the light, and their curved sword hungering in their hands.

Fayte reached into his pocket and touched the Dragon Essence to assure himself that it was there. Not yet.

"Fayte Kaywin," said one of the Gwedonian knights. "Your time to die has come."

The warriors from the other kingdoms turned slightly to look at the Gwedonian knight, as if judging his choice of words.

Fayte lifted his chin and showed no fear.

"You will die today," he went on and the Gwedonian knights drew their swords. "And your death shall spur forth the end of this unrighteous rule by the false King."

So that confirms the Magister-Lord seeks to usurp the throne.

"My death will mark the end of nothing," he told the Gwedonian knight. "All it will do is save that fat Magister-Lord Raymius from feeling the tip of my sword piercing through his heart."

"King Raymius is the righteous ruler of Hylan!"

"If anyone from Gwedoniar should rule it should be Commander Darius."

"Darius is a spineless and unnatural man. A coward who is too afraid to seek glory and honour, too weak to right what was wronged."

"And Raymius is stronger?" Fayte laughed, wondering what the knight meant by unnatural. "The weakest squire I know could best that man."

Without a doubt now for that squire recently became a knight.

"And what role you play in this, men of the East?" Fayte asked them, for their blue eyes left no doubts. "Hylan has no intention of invading your Kingdom. Your Emperor is courting war out of false fears!"

"Just kill the boy already," said one of the East Kingdom men.

"They do not represent their puppet Emperor! These are the true men of the East Kingdom and they only wish for the rightful ruler to lead Hylan," said the gryphon knight, "so that our nations may at last be allies."

They're not with the Emperor? Puppet Emperor? Fayte found himself with more questions after that revelation. They will likely kill Raymius as soon as he takes over, assuming he succeeds.

"I won't even ask why you three are a part of this."

The Scygards remained silent. They were disciplined warriors. They had only one task here and it was not to strike a conversation.

These Scygards are not with Rinmar or his father. The situation was clear enough. Magister-Lord Raymius had found friends to help him overthrow the Royal Whiteart family and seize the throne for himself. The Scygards were expecting a reward of some kind, perhaps a seat of power or even the title of Emperor in Saldara. As for the men from the East Kingdom, it would appear that the Underlord's information was inaccurate. Just as they were when the agent said that these men were not working together.

"There is one thing that I have yet to understand," Fayte said. "Why kill the squires?"

I need to buy time. Someone must have seen these men come up the mountain. Sera, I could use a friend now.

"Jeremiah Vladertz," said the gryphon knight. "Grandson of Tyden Vladertz, Lord of-"

One of the East Kingdom men shook his head and drew his sword, prompting the two others to do the same.

"You Hylanders talk too much."

The men from the East Kingdom moved when no one else did. Fayte drew his sword and raised his shield, meeting them head on. They leaped into the air and surrounded him, but Fayte rolled and dodged and blocked their attacks, easily wounding one of them with a cut across the cheek.

Fayte did not stop then, the face of his dear friend in his mind, he surged at the same man he wounded. Fayte unleashed a flurry of slashes and stabs at the man, forcing him to go on the defensive. He took care of his rear but none of the other warriors were coming at him, so he swung his shield and feinted, catching the warrior off-guard and ending him with a slash across his neck. Blood spewed from the wound as the East Kingdom warrior who first drew his sword fell to his knees and collapsed.

Fayte turned around and faced the rest of them.

Eight more to go.

The two blue-eyed warriors looked absolutely shocked, while the gryphon knights seemed disturbed by what they had just witnessed. Only the Scygards remained composed, their expressions hidden in the shadow of their helms.

"Tyden Vladertz is the Lord of Castle Vladertz," he finished what the gryphon knight was going to say.

That was when Fayte remembered what Jeremiah's grandfather had said.

"If it were not for that man you call King sitting there, my grandson would be a crowned Prince!"

"You killed Jeremiah because he was heir to the Vladertz crown?" That is a downright stupid reason. "There are still hundreds of other Vladertz out there!"

"Hundreds who are not the heir," said the gryphon knight. "Hundreds whose claim is weak. Weaker than the Magister-Lord of Gwedoniar City. The people of Hylan will side with the Magister-Lord, or rather, his son, Raylus Emerald-Talons."

Fayte thought for a moment that the Magister-Lord was a member of the once royal Emerald-Talons family. However the man was not and neither was his son.

"No one will believe that!"

"Who shall question his claim?" said the knight. "Not Darius or his family. Dead men cannot speak."

"You kill them?" Fayte tightened his grip on his weapon. "You killed Commander Darius and his family?"

"How I wish I could have that honour." The gryphon knights drew their swords now. "Darius is dead by now but not by my hands. You though, you I get the kill."

Commander Darius was a friend and now the man was dead along with his innocent family. And the attacks on the other squires were just a diversion. Fayte noticed the large shadows circling on the ground. Three mountain gryphons were flying overhead. I can't win this fight.

"Why am I still a target?" he asked, hoping to draw this out until help arrived… if help was even coming. "To wound my father?"

The gryphon knight lowered his sword and laughed. "You-"

"End this," said the Scygard in the middle as he turned away.

Fayte was startled by the speed at which the other Scygards came at him. The East Kingdom men barely turned around before the Saldarians over took them, launching themselves at Fayte and began their assault on him.