CHAPTER 11

This was not Hylan.

The tower was connected to a larger building where Estelle brought him to the roof. Fayte had preferred to head to the ground level and leave this building to explore the city. They could just as easily find a tower later for a better view of the city. But the moment Estelle led him out into the sunlight, Fayte felt as though he had stepped into a whole new land.

Azure sky with wispy clouds claimed half the landscape. Beneath the sky to the distance was a great field lined with the forest that granted a natural barrier for the City of Learning. And all else that Fayte could see was wonders beyond his imagination.

A city built on the face of a mountain.

Below he could see the roofs of buildings, white and tiled, with towers and great walls dividing the city neatly. Elemental guardians stalked the walls, fire lions, ice hawks, earth behemoths, and shimmering forms that made Estelle smirk when he pointed them out. Some of them even crackled with lightning. Trees and gardens and bushes of flowers painted the city with colours much like Harvesria. The city levelled out near the base, four, maybe five levels down, with more buildings and there even more gardens and patches of green.

Above he looked, shielding his eyes and turning around, was the Crystal Citadel, home to the Order of the Elements. The citadel alone was larger than Castle Rondiar and Iredis was no doubt larger than the capital city. Standing stalwart around the Crystal Citadel were four towers, each a colour of the four elements, guarding a palace of white. There stood also a fifth tower coloured with white and black. The White Light resided in that tower and it represented the two divine elements of Light and Darkness.

"You remember the Citadel I hope?" Estelle asked.

Yes, but this is a different view entirely.

It was not the first time Fayte had visited Iredis. Part of their training included visiting the home city of the other two Orders, to learn more about their ways and those whom they would go into battle with. Grand-Rosia no longer took visitors ever since the War of Darkness and Light, but Fayte had spent an entire week here in the Crystal Citadel.

"A full week confined to the walls of the Crystal Citadel," he said, feeling the wind on his back. "It was… an eventful stay, but I should like to see more of your city this time."

Beneath the Crystal Citadel and outside its walls was the Mystic River, its sprays joining hands with the sunrays to cast a great rainbow across the waterfall. The brilliant water rushed down and disappeared from sight before it continued its course through a gaping cavern further down on their level. Fayte knew what that spot was, the place where the waterfall ended.

"Did you get visit the Cavern of Knowledge when you were last here?" asked Estelle, to which Fayte shook his head.

The Cavern of Knowledge was a library. Its collection said to challenge even that of the Arcane Scholars' beyond the Northern Gate. Many secrets were kept hidden in the Cavern of Knowledge, including those of the Orders of Rondiar, along with the history and the vast knowledge gathered over the centuries in Hylan. And it was a cavern for good reason.

"If ever Iredis falls and the secrets of Hylan and the Orders of Rondiar are at risk," Estelle said as she stepped forward to lean against the railing, "Ancient spells that lie dormant within the mountain will be activated."

"Destroying all enemies," Fayte continued, "and burying them with our secrets forever."

This was why even the secrets of the Order of the White Shield and the White Rose were not kept in their own cities. Iredis was a city built to withstand all threats. It was a city where the very citizens were wielders of devastating mystical arts. Fayte had little doubt that Iredis was a much better defended city than Rondiar, but it was not safer for the city held too much that tempted too many.

Especially now with the city holding Ra’gelor as prisoner.

"You asked about the four statues when we ate." She turned and led him to the other side of the roof. "They're over there. All the way down there…"

At the very base of the city.

Fayte couldn't help but glance at the sky. This felt very much like a jest on Sera's part. Still, with all the wonders in the city, Fayte found himself eager to make the slow trek down to the ground level. The roof they were on was connected to the upper tier of the sixth level where they were at. Estelle nudged him on the arm and led the way.

Iredis was filled with life, men and women, old and young, animals and elementals. Few people wore tunics with trousers, most wore robes for here in Iredis most were born with the birthright of magic. But even with robes alone, Fayte could tell who was well-off and who was poorer, for some wore robes of silk while others wore that of wool and cotton. And just when he thought he could tell who were the nobles, for they were often the richest, he saw those whose robes were sewed with intricate runes that seemed to glow and hum even in the daylight.

The runes on Estelle's robe were just… shiny.

"I am a Mage," she said when she noticed him comparing their outfits. "Along with an Acolyte from the White Rose, you could say that we are of the same rank as Squires. Pages in your Order are the equivalent of Novices in mine."

"And Initiates in the Order of the White Rose."

Estelle nodded. "You have your Knights, the White Rose their Priests, and we our Wizards and Sorceresses depending on your gender. But on a whole those of my Order are usually known as just mages."

There was little fear of misrepresentation between the ranks of the mages though. Wizards and Sorceresses were usually older and the robes they wore were much more elaborate. They walked past a group of girls, mages, with their simple robes of various elemental colours. The girls giggled and pointed when they passed them.

"How far along are you on your pilgrimage?" Estelle asked as they went by another group of mages who became hushed and whispered amongst themselves.

"Not very," he said, noticing others who stared while some giggled and pointed when they passed them. Fayte had seen girls behaving like this before when they swooned over Wilson. This might be the first time he was experiencing it himself. "Is there a reason why so many people are curious about us?"

Estelle looked at him, wondering. "You mean you really don't know?"

"Don't know what?"

She shook her head. "Fayte Kaywin, son of the Lord-Knight, the squire who bested Jeremiah Vladertz in the tournament."

He kept himself from frowning at the mention of his friend.

"You are famous enough without rescuing the Princess from the Saldarian demon. When word came that it was through your actions that saved our kingdom, no one could stop talking about you. Even the jealous boys mumbling how a mage could have gotten the job done all the same."

"You should not take the words of Sir Percson and Captain Teynier so seriously," he said, nodding at bunch of girls who started waving at him. They started flapping their hands at one another when he smiled at them. It was very strange. "I am sure they told their stories with much more dramatism than necessary."

"Of course they have," she said. "But unlike others I have seen you in action with my own eyes."

She was at the tournament? "I got lucky during the tournament."

"Perhaps. But I saw no element of luck when you fought that Scygard in the slavers' camp."

"You were there?"

Estelle nodded. "My Order had received reports of a hidden camp shrouded by magic. Illusion magic, from beyond the Northern Gate. I was in the party sent to investigate. We had been searching for days without luck until we saw fire bolts shot into the air."

That would be when Ye'Jou was spotted, the large roc that crashed Emily's birthday party. They were nearly shot out of the sky that night.

"We moved in when earth animations started rising. I saw you from afar but we were being swarmed ourselves. Only thing we could do to lend assistance was to keep more of the earth creatures from going after you." They cut through an alley and entered a house to escape the crowd that had started following them. Estelle smiled at the old lady sitting by the window before leading them out through the front. "I was sent after the Princess when we saw you engaging the Scygard. Forgive us but ensuring the Princess's safety took precedence… even though we lost her anyway."

"The Scygard mage," Fayte said. Rinmar’s uncle. "Lormio La’ou."

"Is that his name?" Estelle sneered at it. "We were taken by surprise when he used magic. Even the Whiteguard, Lady Elisen, was caught off guard."

"Well he’s dead now," Fayte told her. "We did not find his body so likely he was consumed by the demon."

"Good. Anyway, you bested a Scygard at the slavers’ camp and you managed to aid the knights at Eres Star City." Estelle smiled at him. "Give yourself some credit, Fayte Kaywin."

He had grown used to being praised and commended for his actions, but it was different hearing it from Estelle. He found more sincerity in her words than from others who did not witness his actions. It was comforting and Fayte felt his face warming when Estelle looked at him. When her eyes wandered from his and she lost her smile, Fayte frowned and turned to see what had stolen her attention from him.

The Whiteguard smiled as though nothing in the world could bother him.

All around them people hurried to kneel, setting down their baskets and goods. Most of the mages had to lift their robes before kneeling, while others wore robes that restricted their movements less. Estelle's robe was shorter in the front, a skirt lined with lace exposing her knees, and longer at the back to give the outfit some grace. As he went onto his knee Fayte couldn’t help but notice how Estelle's outfit was actually quite different from most of the mages around them. Her sleeves were slimmer and she did not wear loose bangles around her wrist, only two white gold bracelets with ruby and amber gems embedded. Even the necklace she wore was plain like her bracelets, unlike the ornate one worn by the wizard who now spoke.

"We offer our greetings to the Grace of Hylan, Princess Emily of the Royal Whiteart family," the older mage said, a wizard in his late twenties who was seemed to be the most senior here. "And to Prince Rinmar of Saldara, and to Sir Percson of the Whiteguards. We bid you all welcome to the City of Learning."

Sir Percson nodded in return, and he gave Fayte a wink.

"Rise, masters of the elements," Emily said, her eyes met with his for a moment, her expression… hurt? Fayte couldn't tell because the next moment she was smiling her Princess's smile at the crowd. "And I thank you all for having me and my Prince here in your wondrous city."

"You humble us with your words, Your Grace," the man said, speaking on their behalf. "I am but a wizard and these children only mages."

Emily nodded gracefully before Sir Percson said, "You fail to give credit where it is due, wizard. You are Lewis of the noble Reinor family, are you not?"

The wizard was surprised. "That I am, Sir Percson."

"A wizard who battled the minions of the Dark Lord alongside Captain Windon during the teleportation of the demon," the Whiteguard explained. "And also Sir Jaylen's cousin I believe."

"Ah," Emily went. "Forgive me for not recognizing you, wise wizard. I have heard of your bravery along with those present that day. Hylan thanks you for your courage."

"It is only natural for I to defend the land that which I call my kingdom and home," Lewis said, bowing.

A tall and slim man stepped forward and tapped Emily on the shoulder. Administrator Langton whispered a few words into her ears before he stepped back. He met eyes with Fayte and they exchanged a nod.

"I would love to stay and hear more of the incident, but I fear I have not the time," Emily said, touching the sides of her dessert-gold dress, lifting them as she curtsied. "Have a pleasant day ahead, all of you, and thank you once more for having my Prince and I in your brilliant city."

The royal party turned and left with Sir Percson behind laughing softly.

You have your Prince. Fayte rose and offered Estelle a hand up. Perhaps I should find myself someone else as well.

"Tsk, tsk."

Fayte flinched and half-drew his sword. "MAILER!"

The court jester, in his motley of yellow and white today, screamed in fear with his 'OH-NO!' mask on his face and marotte.

"Oh my, you loudy-loud-mouth little squire," he said, wiping imaginary sweat off his forehead. "You gave me quite a scare there, oh yes you did, you loudy-loud-mouth little squire!"

"How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that?" Fayte said, still unable to comprehend how a man dressed like that with bells on his hat could be so stealthy.

Mailer rubbed his chin with his 'Thinking-Hard' mask.

"I honestly cannot remember," said Mailer with a laugh. "Oh well!"

Laughing boisterously, the Court Jester skipped away through the crowd to catch up with his Princess. Fayte shook his head and was about to sheath his sword when he found a parchment stuffed between his sheath and blade. Quite sure that it was Mailer who did it, he removed the paper and put away his sword before unrolling it.

"What does it say?" Estelle asked.

'HELP! The Prince is hitting poor Emily every night!!!'

Fayte's eyes widened until he saw the next line.

'Only jesting! Heehee!'