CHAPTER 8

Iredis was built at the base of a mountain with a river cutting through the magic city. Beyond the city walls the river splits into four other rivers, each of which connected to a village named after the four elements. Estelle brought them out of the fire village through the north exit, following a path to a lake.

"This is where Orwell fishes with a few other men in the village," said Estelle. "The surface may appear calm but the currents below are strong. The Mystic River feeds this lake and carries on out from there. You would have passed it when you crossed the bridge to approach our village."

Fayte nodded. "Mystic River?"

"The river that flows through Iredis," Wilson explained, approaching the lake with Preston on the ground next to him. "They say the waters are enchanted because of all the magic in Iredis."

"There is no more truth in it than the Wyvern Claw mountain range being actual claws," Estelle added. "I was in the city when the Queen of the Water Nymphs sought my assistance. It was near sunset when I got here so I had planned to investigate at daybreak tomorrow."

They had the same idea as well but clearly time was not a luxury they could afford.

Dark elm trees pressed upon the lake all around. Fayte found the place unnerving but Estelle appeared completely at ease here. She must had memories in this place having grown up in the village. Fayte had fond memories playing around his home as well, only this lake was untouched while Zwyedior lied in ruins.

Preston snarled and uncurled his wings.

"There's something down there," Wilson said, unlacing his boots.

"I'm the stronger swimmer," Fayte told him, taking off both his boots before Wilson even got one off. "I'll go down."

Wilson laughed. "You can't swim."

He pulled his chainmail over his head and dropped it on the floor. It was a relief to finally take it off and he could smell the stench of his sweat at once. He glanced at Estelle, embarrassed of the odour, but Estelle had her back towards him now.

"That was in the past," said Fayte, dipping a foot into the water. "Hmm."

"What's wrong?" Estelle asked, looking over her shoulder.

"The water is warm," Wilson told her. "Is it normal?"

She shook her head as she approached. "Perhaps right after sundown, but not at this hour of the night."

I hate magic. "Any idea what I am looking for?"

"It's probably glowing and quite large to have affected this entire lake, but finding it should not be your concern," Wilson said, sending a larger sphere of light over the centre of the lake for Fayte. "It is what happens after you find it that you should be worried about."

He nodded and dove headfirst into the lake.

The lake where the Queen of the water nymphs dwelled was bursting with life. Corals and fishes of a myriad colours welcomed Fayte to a world beneath land that he could never have imagined. Where one was filled with life, this lake Fate dove in was desolate and grey. He could feel the current pulling at him but Fayte had spent many weeks in the water. Swimming was an uncommon skill in Hylan for most did not see the need for it. However his first encounter with the water nymphs could have been his demise if not for Wilson. He was helpless underwater to save himself, just as he was helpless to save his mother and sisters.

He refused to stay helpless.

The water was warm and comfortable to swim in. He kicked his legs and pulled with his arms going deeper and deeper. He swam towards a faint glow, red and pulsating. It was as Wilson had said. Whatever Fayte was looking for was quite obvious, but the closer he got the smaller he realized the object really was. Laying on a bed of stones, Fayte reached for it and picked it up between two fingers.

His ears were hurting and he could hardly keep his eyes open now. Quickly, he clasp the red object in his palm and kicked himself towards the surface. The water grew colder fast as he ascended, losing heat like a fire going out. It became uncomfortable and then painful, stinging on his skin before his chest tightened. Fayte was running out of air.

Just as panic began to set in, his head emerge from the depth and he gasped a breath of air.

"Fayte!" Wilson was calling as he swam to land. "You're going the wrong way!"

Fayte was on the other side of the lake now. He didn't care, only wanting to rest and catch his breath. There was still something about the water that frightened him. Something unknown about that world where one could not breathe. He crawled onto land and sat down to examine the object.

It was small like a piece of coin, glowing a faint red that brightened and darkened like it was breathing.

"By the light, did you touch it?" Wilson yelled. "I didn’t tell you to- Fayte, behind you! FAYTE!"

"JUST GIVE ME A MOMENT TO REST!" he yelled in return, irritated by Wilson's incessant voice.

"Behind you!" Estelle said. "Someone’s coming!"

He turned around and saw a dark figure sprinting towards him. Fayte stuffed the object into his pocket and met the wanderer head on, only it wasn't John. The man had remained behind at the village. Fayte caught the attacker by the wrist and saw a dagger in his hand.

A silversteel dagger with the letters 'J.Vz' etched in gold on the blade.

Jeremiah!

Fayte looked at the man. Even with the hood over his head and the mask covering his mouth, Fayte could tell that this wasn't Jeremiah. This wasn't his friend who he had trained with for years in the Order. This man took Jeremiah's dagger from him. This man was no friend.

"WHERE'S JEREMIAH?" he shoved the man back onto the ground like he was no more than a dummy made of hay.

The man's eyes widened in shock, caught unaware by his strength. Fayte had no concern for that. He reached for his sword but it wasn't there. He left it with Wilson so he reached down to seize the man but he rolled away before Fayte could get him.

"WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?" he screamed.

The attacker steeled himself and lunged at Fayte again. Fayte caught his wrist easily once more and this time he pulled the man in and drove his fist into his nose. The attacker, clearly an assassin, yelled in pain but Fayte still had a firm grip on him, squeezing down on his wrist. He punched the assassin again, catching his leg when he tried to kick him before Fayte sent his shin up between the man's legs.

"TELL ME!" Fayte grabbed him by his robe and shook him. "WHERE IS HE? WHERE'S JEREMIAH? TELL ME OR I WILL CRUSH YOUR NECK! TELL ME! TELL ME! I SAID TELL ME!"

The man refused to say anything. Fayte realized he had to be more persuasive. He searched and found Jeremiah's dagger on the ground.

"Talk!" he said, pressing the tip of the dagger to the man's neck. "TALK! I SAID TALK! CURSE YOU, TELL ME WHERE JEREMIAH IS! TELL ME!"

Still the man was silent. No matter how much Fayte yelled at him, no matter how hard he pressed the dagger against the man's neck, he refused to speak a single word. Soon his throat was sore and his head grew lighter. The ground grew brighter and though his vision had become blurred, he could see the glow of white light from the corner of his eyes.

Estelle stepped into view and her eyes were filled with horror. Wilson showed no fear though because he was strong. He would not cry like some weak girl. Weak, as his mother and sisters were, no more capable of defending themselves than they were chasing away a stray dog. He and his father survived because they were strong but not his mother and sisters.

They were weak.

Just like this man who took Jeremiah's dagger. This man who now lay limp on the ground. This man whose neck tilted at an unnatural angle, whose face was red and filled with holes. Then came darkness as Fayte felt himself falling to the ground.