The remaining warriors joined the attack.
The Scygards danced together and struck in unison, the timing of their strikes and slashes a complement to the other. Fayte struggled to keep up, parrying and guarding, searching desperately for a chance to strike back.
I can't beat them together!
In less than a minute the Scygards disarmed him and the East Kingdom warriors took over. Fayte was going to raise his shield but the warriors swung their swords down on him from high above. That would force him to raise his hands to protect himself, leaving his front exposed, so he didn't. He rolled back and crouched to keep himself small, raising his shield overhead as he anticipated the two blue-eyed warriors striking him. Instead he felt a huge weight pushing down on his shield like someone had thrown himself over it.
They're lying down on me! The Dragon Essence!
"Get him, now!" one of them shouted.
The weight kept him down, he couldn't reach the Dragon Essence, and before Fayte could roll them off, he felt a heavy blow to the back of his tailbone. He screamed in pain and the weight on his shield went away. Two men grabbed him by the arms and lifted him onto his feet. He couldn't tell who with the blinding pain on his back. Fayte was helpless as the two Scygards spun and each of them slashed him across the chest. Their curved blades ripped across the exact same spot and sliced through his chainmail.
The third Scygard ran his blade into Fayte's chest.
"You are strong," the Scygard said, tearing out his blade and splattered blood all over the ground. "But you are only a squire."
They released him and Fayte fell onto his knees. His vision began to blur. The pain was excruciating and soon it would knock him out, but he refused to die like this. He would not fall. Not yet. Not when help was flying straight at him.
"Is that one of yours?" the Scygard asked.
A gryphon was soaring towards them.
"Nay," said one of the gryphon knights. "That breed is used for travelling over great distances. It should be headed for the city. Why is it flying at such a height?"
"Because it's not headed for the city." The Scygard turned back to look at Fayte before looking to the men standing behind him. "Remove his helm and take his head. Let us be gone before that gryphon can reach us."
Fly faster… he thought to whoever was coming to save him. Sera, a bolt of lightning now would be great.
They pulled off his helm and tossed it aside.
The gryphon knight who spoke earlier crouched in front of him and took off his own helm. Fayte recognized him. He was one of the gryphon knights he fought in Gwedoniar City. One of the bad ones.
"Wishing you'd killed me then, aren't you?" The man grinned at him before he stood up and lifted his sword. "This is for the mockery you made of me then, you piece of white shield squire filth. For the Gryphon King!"
There was a gust of wind. Followed by an ear-piercing screech of metal being torn.
The gryphon knight screamed before falling to the ground in front of Fayte, his hands covering his face where blood flowed freely. More gusts of wind followed and the men behind them screamed as well. Fayte felt his ears and cheeks stinging and he could even hear scratches on his armour.
"I thought she was taken care of!" one of the East Kingdom warriors yelled.
"REELIS!" another gryphon knight screamed. "REELIS! Come to me!"
A massive gryphon slammed down on the ground and its shadow engulfed them.
"Take down that other gryphon! Go! Kill it and the girl its carrying!"
The gryphon screeched and took off again.
"Take the boy's head already," one of the Scygard said to another. "We leave at- NO! STOP HIM!"
Fayte raised the vial over his mouth and consume the Dragon Essence.
The burning liquid seared its way through his throat and scorched his tongue. He screamed in pain but also in fury and might as energy raged through his entire body. The gaping wound in his chest burned but the pain caused by the Dragon Essence overpowered it and at the same time it empowered him.
"On bended knee, under Sera's watch, I take this oath," Fayte said, opening his eyes to reveal two flaring orbs. "To swear loyalty and faith to the Order of the White Shield."
The clouds above them began to part as all three Scygards turned to come after him. They didn't get far. The ground in front of them was suddenly torn up by the wind, keeping them from reaching him.
"To defend and to guard, never to grieve or shame," he went on. "With my sword as my honour, I wield it only when I must."
Fayte could feel the burning energy as the Dragon Essence searing its way through his body to the very tip of his fingers and toes.
"To protect the weak, the innocent, and the oppressed," he spoke the words, picking up his shield and sword. "With my shield as my life, I rest only when peace is kept."
The wound in his chest began to burn and he winced and bit his lips as he bore with the pain, for he knew that the Dragon Essence was healing it as he felt the wound mending.
"In the face of despair, under the blitz of blows," one of the Scygard drove through the wind, his armour screeched with scratches, and he surged on charging straight at Fayte, "with the memories of my loved ones as my strength, I stand unwavering."
Fayte braced himself to meet the Scygard head on, but someone landed right in front of him. With a shield in his hand, the newcomer met the Scygard and kept him from reaching Fayte.
"For I am Fayte Kaywin," he said. "Knight of the Order of the White Shield."
Light engulf the summit of Mount Tyrus as Sera answered his call. Fayte felt the energy of the Dragon Essence continue to surge in his veins, but he did not feel anything from the light. Perhaps it was because of the Dragon Essence, but when the light was gone, he felt no different. Strong and unstoppable, but that was the effect of the Dragon Essence. The light did not affect him at all.
"Who are you?" the Scygard called just as another person landed behind the other Scygards right in front of the stone table. "Name yourself!"
The spirits did not answer me, Fayte realized, as he stood up and looked upon the familiar back of a man whose hair was long and tied into a tail, who held a white shield in his left hand and a knight's sword in the other. It wasn't me the light came down for.
"I am Jeremiah of the noble Vladertz family," he said, raising his shield. "Knight of the Order of the White Shield."
"How did you survive?" the Scygard asked, no doubt as shock as Fayte was.
"That would be me," said a girl who stood in front of the stone table.
I know this girl.
Her dark hair was long and tied into a tail like Jeremiah. She was fair and had a fierce beauty much like Lady Feralina. Her clothing was queer but familiar and Fayte realized that Administrator Langton and Kestel wore clothes much like hers, though her sleeves were short and she wore a wide leather belt and a leather vest over her pale green robe. The first time Fayte met her, he did not know what it was that she carried on her back, for it was long and resembled a box. Now as he looked at the weapon in her hand and recalled the gusts wind that had been protecting him, he was surprised by his discovery.
Fans, he realized, as he met eyes with Wei Ling, the girl from beyond the Northern Gate.
Two armoured gryphons flew over them and landed behind the gryphons knights. Fayte turned to face them, his heart pounding and his entire body shaking uncontrollably. It was the Dragon Essence causing this, pumping him with so much energy that he felt like exploding.
"I'll take care of them," he told Jeremiah, right before a gust of wind swept by and opened the two East Kingdom warriors from neck to waist. They bled out in an instant. "What did I just say?"
"They are the reason why she was sent to Hylan," Jeremiah explained. "Let's just say she is a very efficient person."
Now there were three gryphon knights of which one was blind while the other two had their gryphons with them. Fayte wasn't concerned with the men. It was the gryphons that posed the greatest threat, for they were large and fierce and heavily armoured.
"Finish off the Vladertz," Fayte heard one of the Scygard said. "We will try and hold off the Red Wind."
Try and hold off? It was rare to hear a Scygard admit that he could not best another person in combat. Who is this girl?
"I'll explain everything later," Jeremiah said. "Are you fit enough to fight?"
The roar of a dragon rang in his ear.
Fayte burst from the ground and leaped into the air, higher than he had ever jumped, and crashed down on the first gryphon knight. Fayte bashed him in the neck with his shield, once, twice, and cracked his neckguard on the third before breaking his neck. The gryphon rammed into him. His shield took the blunt of it and he let the force throw him back, rolling onto the ground until he was right back onto his feet. He laughed and he laughed madly for the sensation was beyond anything he had ever experienced before. He laughed so loud that the gryphon knight hesitated.
Once more he heard the dragon's roar.
The sunlight caught the face of his blade and it danced across the air with the gryphon knight's sword. They would trade blows and parry each other's attack, but every now and then the gryphons would rush in and try to catch him off-guard. Fayte was small and too fast for them though. He ran circles around them, jumping over them and even onto them when he realized that there were gaps in the gryphon's neck armour.
Fayte drove his sword into the opening and the gryphon wailed.
He leaped off just as the other gryphon flew over and tried to tear off his head. But his leap was not just to dodge the other gryphon, no, Fayte leaped and he came down on the blind gryphon knight. There was a blast of light and in a surge of energy, Fayte swung his sword and beheaded the man with a single clean cut.
"BROTHER!" the last gryphon knight screamed. "NO! NOOO!"
His screams were filled with so much agony that it stunned Fayte even in his state of rush. The pain in his voice reminded him of his own and of his father's. It brought him back to the day he found out that his mother and sisters were dead. On that day Fayte screamed and cried until he could no longer, and his father was mad with fury until two wizards and a sorceress had to bind him with their magic.
The gryphon knight charged him in a mad rage and Fayte snapped back to reality. He flipped his sword and knocked the man out with the flat of his blade. This man will surely deny the crimes placed before him and the Magister-Lord, but Fayte trusted the Underlord to have ways to make him speak.
Vengeance breeds vengeance, he thought. One day this man will seek to avenge his brother.
"Stand down," he told the two gryphons. "I do not wish to harm either of you."
The two gryphons charged at him.
They too were driven mad with fury over the loss of their companions. When Fayte leaped into the air to avoid them, he was rammed into the ground by the third gryphon. He hit the ground hard and felt his left arm break. But he did not lose his sword so he stood up and faced the ferocious beasts. The third gryphon was covered in blood and had pieces of its armour torn off. Unfortunately it seemed that the gryphon who brought his saviours here did not survive the battle.
Even with the Dragon Essence, three Gwedonian gryphons were too much for Fayte. These were not men. Fayte was used to fighting men. These were great beasts, ferocious and now mad for blood over the deaths of their companions. The right tactic would have been for him to take them out first, but Fayte got carried away. Three gryphons were too many for him.
I need the Light of the Spirits.
"Jeremiah," he called, wincing as the bone of his broken arm snapped back into place, healed by the Dragon Essence. "I need help."
The gryphons took off into the air and circled him, diving at him with breakneck speed that forced Fayte into a series of rolls just to dodge them. There was no way for him to strike back. They were too fast in the air and too powerful to stop. He glanced at Jeremiah and saw his friend disarming the Scygard before running his sword into the Saldarian's neck.
Jeremiah's eyes were flaring with the Light of the Spirits when he turned to Fayte. The sight of the three gryphons circling in the air took him aback. Fayte could tell that his friend wasn't sure what to do. He did not blame him. Fayte was at a loss himself as well. All he could do was roll and dodge until finally he was caught and the gryphon pinned him down. That was when Jeremiah jumped in and bashed the gryphon in the face with his shield to chase it away. He pulled Fayte up and the both of them face their backs to the other.
"And now we're both trapped," Fayte said. "Great."
"Wei Ling!" Jeremiah yelled. "A little help please!"
The girl was now wielding a sword and held a fan in her other hand. She was fending off both Scygards and every now and then a gust of wind would shoot out from her fan, leaving a gaping wound on the ground.
"I believe your friend requires our aid as well. By the way, do you know she works for Dontoros Eronaxe?"
"She doesn't. I'll tell you more later."
All three gryphons dove in at the same time. It was sheer madness. At this speed they would break their own necks ramming into each other, but it would surely spell the end of the both of them. This proved how deep the bond was that a gryphon knight shared with his companion. The end of one meant the end of the other. Fayte wondered if the gryphon knights would take their own lives should their gryphons perish in combat.
Sera, help us.
"GET DOWN!" the girl screamed.
Suddenly there was a gale blasting over their heads. Jeremiah took Fayte to the ground with him and covered their heads with the shield. Fayte could hear metal tearing off from the shield, and he could feel his legs getting scratched all over like a thousand knives running all over them.
When the gale finally stopped, they looked up and found the girl bent over on her hands and knees. The gryphons were gone and the ground around them was covered with tears. Fayte watched as the wounds on his legs began to mend, but Jeremiah was wincing in pain for his did not.
That was when they noticed the two Scygards on the ground right next to them.
"By the light-"
Fayte rushed to his feet just as the Scygard did and parried the attack. They were at each other's throats again, slashing and parrying each other's attack until suddenly, the Scygard's blade snapped into two. Fayte would have won right then but unfortunately, his sword broke into pieces as well.
The Scygard raised his hands and reached for his neck, but Fayte drew the dagger from his shield and plunged it into the visor of the Scygard's helm. The Saldarian went limp instantly and dropped to the ground dead. Behind him, Jeremiah was finishing off the Scygard whose legs were bloody red.
"Don't," Fayte said.
"Fayte Kaywin telling me not to kill a Scygard?" Jeremiah scoffed, holding his blade to the Scygard's neck. "I do not believe my ears."
"We will learn more with him-" The Scygard impaled himself with the sword. "Alive."
For a while they just observed their surroundings. Dead men lay all around them with the ground soaked with blood. Wei Ling was fine, leaning against the stone table as she breathed heavily to catch her breath. Jeremiah seemed well too considering that he was alive.
"You all right?" Jeremiah asked him.
Fayte nodded, holding up the dagger. "You?"
His friend had an eye patch over his right eye. "Alive and well, my friend."
Fayte nodded again, dazed, and still staring at the dagger. "I thought you were dead."
"I know," Jeremiah said, looking at his dagger. "I am sorry to have caused you grief. The ruse was necessary."
Fayte was still nodding as the energy from the Dragon Essence began to seep away.
"I'm glad you're back," Fayte said at last, returning the dagger to its rightful owner before they embraced each other. "Thank Sera, you're alive."