CHAPTER 12

Fayte was famous.

That much Estelle made clear to him as they continued on their way to the statues. He had long been favoured by girls in the Order of the Elements, and across Hylan as Estelle would believe, even before he saved Emily. A marriage with the son of the Lord-Knight would please any parents. And it helped that Fayte was a talented squire bound to end up at a position of high ranking within the Order. Sadly it was also a known fact that he and the Princess were on close terms, so close in fact that everyone expected them to join hands one day.

How delighted these girls were when word came that the Princess was now betrothed to the Prince of Saldara.

"Happy that you are no longer taken, I mean," Estelle added. "I don't think anyone is happy with her new betrothed."

Fayte could see why Wilson enjoyed the attention and wondered how Jeremiah had remained so passive towards all these swooning girls.

Many whose hearts will be broken if something ill was to befall you, my friend, he thought with a prayer for his safety to Sera.

"Ah, you, yes yes, an enchanted trinket for you, young squire?" a merchant called.

They were in the market district, Fayte guessed, with all the stores and merchants shouting. The day was still early so Fayte approached the man with the long silver beard and beheld the trinket hanging from his hand. It was a silver locket bounded to a chain.

"Enchanted you say?" Fayte said, noticing the man's blue eyes. "Wait. You look very familiar."

The merchant grimaced before he burst out laughing. "Me? Familiar? No, no, I am not! I am from the East Kingdom, yes yes, but familiar? Oh no no. But ah yes, this locket here has been enchanted with a ward that prevents-"

Estelle snatched the locket from the merchant.

"Hey!"

She brought the silver necklace close to her eye and tapped it with a finger. Satisfied, she tossed it back to the merchant. "My eyelash is more enchanted than that flimsy bauble."

The merchant's smile twisted into a sneer immediately. "If you have not the coin for it then be gone!"

"You're that merchant who got outsmarted by the High Sage!" Fayte remembered now. "My-aching Poong?"

"MA-IK OONG!" The man was quite outraged. "You Hylanders have not the tongue for such an exotic name! Be gone now, be gone!"

The Order should have this man sent back to the East Kingdom, Fayte thought after they left.

"Are there such things though," Fayte asked. "Enchanted trinkets I mean."

"Yes, but nothing like the sort portrayed in plays." Estelle tapped on the single gemstone set in her necklace. The accessory was worn like a loose bracelet around her neck. "Gemstones can hold mana depending on its grade. However it is rare to find a gemstone that can hold enough mana for any practical use."

"Does yours hold any enchantments?"

Estelle answered only with a grin.

"The gemstone of Icildix, the staff of Archimage Lasandra, is no ordinary sapphire. Some say it is made from the eye of a frost dragon from beyond the Northern Gate, but it is known within the Order that the origins of her staff is, well, unknown."

"Unknown?"

"Passed down from one mage to another, the history behind the staffs are lost. At least that's what our teachers tell us. For all we know these magical staffs were stolen from the lands beyond our kingdom." Estelle shrugged and opened her hand to create a yellow earth glyph. The glyph flared and in its place now was a dark leather tome. "Most of us prefer not to concern ourselves with it. You can count the number of magical staffs with a hand or two. The rest of us cast spells with our tomes, as you've surely seen before with your friend, Wilson Sayde."

She squeezed on her spellbook and it crumbled like one of Amelia's dried mud pies.

Girls and boys were following him still, men and women as well who knew why Fayte was here. The city square was large and spacious with old trees standing stalwart and bushes blooming with flowers. Buildings stood over four stories high with the walls painted beige and fabrics of myriad colours hanging from balcony to balcony.

Fayte descend the steps into the city square. The Mystic River was gushing through a deep fountain drain on his right, its waters running swift into a pool in the centre of the square. There were no carts or vendors here and in their places were seats and tables. The scent of breakfast made his mouth water.

It reminded him of Jayden and his tavern as he walked by the tables. Fayte made his way to the pool where in the middle stood four statues with their backs to one another. These were the four heroes said to be the founders of the Order of the Elements, each one presumed to represent one of the elements.

"Does Grand-Rosia have only two statues?" he asked, for Rondiar had all nine rather than the three which represented the Order of the White Shield.

Estelle nodded. "Rondiar is the capital city of Hylan, thus statues of all nine heroes were erected."

Fayte shielded his eyes as he looked up.

The four statues were no different than the ones in Rondiar. Four figures hooded with their heads unseen. Legends they were and some even doubt the nine heroes truly existed. But the Light of the Spirits was enough to convince Fayte of their existence.

A couple, two mages, watched him as he sat down next to the pool and removed his boots. He glanced around himself from time to time, noticing that more and more people were turning their attention towards him.

Just have your breakfast and leave me be, he thought, setting his footwear aside neatly before he stood up on the rim of the pool.

"I will only be a moment," he told her.

"Take as long as you need, I'm going to get some food."

The water flowed around the pedestal that the statues stood on, but the pool was at least forty yards wide so the water had slowed enough for Fayte to step into it easily. His trousers became wet instantly with the water coming up to his knee. Fayte had to be careful. He was standing on a narrow bridge of the sort and in truth the pool was much deeper than it would have one believe.

Fayte Kaywin, he announced himself, stepping forward to the statues with the entrance to Iredis behind him and the Crystal Citadel to his front behind the statues. Here to pay my respects to four of the legendary nine who defeated the Great Evil and brought about this age of peace to Hylan.

He held up his white shield in front of him, his right hand clutching his left arm, and slowly Fayte went onto his knee, submerging the lower half of his body into the water. There he kneeled with his head held low and his eyes shut gently.

From this point on Fayte was no longer instructed on the words to say. All his father and the knights he met told him was to speak his heart and tell the spirits of the heroes the purpose of his visit, and ask for their blessings on his pilgrimage. How long he should remain kneeling was up to him.

I am a squire on my knight's pilgrimage, he told them, breathing slowly and feeling the water run gently across his abdomen. 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 on my journey.

At this point Fayte waited for a moment, hoping that he would receive a sign of some sort. Wilson had told him that this was mostly tradition so he should not spend too long waiting for any signs.

"Just say what you have to and then leave," Wilson had told him. "There is more to Iredis than kneeling in a pool of water."

But Fayte realized that he was not done speaking with the heroes. In light of recent events, he would need more than just their blessings moving forward. He could use some guidance as well.

Princess Emily Whiteart, a descendant of the family that the nine of you have chosen to rule Hylan, is to be wedded to a Prince from the desert nation of Saldara. The same nation that put one of our cities to the sword. He paused, contemplating his words. The Princess believes this to be the right move, a move to bolster our strength against the Black City to the south, where sits the Dark Lord who wields the power of darkness and evil.

Fayte struggled for a moment for the next part, but realized the folly in that and instead…

I do not think this to be the right move. There was nothing for him to hide from them. I do not think this marriage is right. But I cannot decide if I think as such due to my feelings for Emily, my hatred for the Saldarians, or that I truly believe this is not the best move for our kingdom. He was here to seek guidance so perhaps the four heroes could help ease his struggle. I seek to become a knight to protect others. Yet I fear I am allowing the girl I love walk blindly into danger. I fear that I will fail again, to protect Emily, as I had failed to protect my mother and sisters.

Those were the troubles that he had to share with them.

I seek your wisdom in this matter and I hope that you can show me a sign to guide me. And that was about all Fayte had to say to the heroes. Thank you for your deeds and I swear, as a member of the Order of the White Shield, to defend this peace that the nine of you have given us.

Fayte open his eyes and squinted as he got up. It was bright and when his eyes had gotten used to the light, he turned away from the statues and saw a Whiteguard waiting by the pool.

A Whiteguard, he thought. Is this your sign for me then? That the Whiteguards are there to ensure the safety of the Princess?

He ignored the crowd that had gathered to watch him and made his way back.

"Fair noon to you, Lady Elisen," he said, surprised to meet her here since he didn't see her with Emily earlier on.

"To you as well, squire Fayte," the Whiteguard said, her shield strapped to her arm and her helmet clutched by her side. "You took quite some time to pay a simple respect."

Fayte sat down and dried himself with a towel from his bag.

"I had… other matters that I sought guidance from the heroes," he told her. "Is there something you need, Lady Elisen?"

The Whiteguard looked at him for another moment, as though examining him or judging him. Fayte rarely spoke to Lady Elisen and they once had quite an unpleasant meeting with the Whiteguard berating him for losing the Princess and helping her fake her own kidnap. The situation was of course much more complicated than that, but that was the gist of it and Fayte could hardly blame the Whiteguard.

"The Lord-Knight had asked personally of the knights within the Princess's escort to keep an eye out for you," she said, smoothing back the loose strands of dark hair before she lowered her helm on her head.

Lady Elisen could be pretty if she smiled more and let loose her hair that she always kept bundled up tightly. Lady Feralina, for example, was fierce but the Master-Knight's looks were on par with her swordsmanship. She often said that people addressed her as 'lady' first before her name, and as such she should live up to the name. Truth be told everyone knew that Lady Feralina was just insanely competitive. She just wanted to be pretty because she enjoyed it. Lady Elisen on the other hand only knew duty and honour and nothing more.

Fayte could only imagine the two having a meal together.

"He shouldn't have." For Whiteguards were the royal family's personal guards and not that of a squire's.

Lady Elisen held out a note with his shield hand.

"The Grace of Hylan had asked that I see this to you," she said, her face unsmiling. "It seems the court jester had forgotten to slip the note to you after catching you off-guard."

That last sentence was a disapproving one.

Fayte received the note from her. "I have seen Mailer startling even my father."

"Excuses," Lady Elisen said. "Sharpen your senses or one day it will be your undoing."

With that the Whiteguard took her leave.

Fayte sighed and unrolled the note as the girls came up to him.

"My, my, I've never imagined the famous Elisen Fteor to be such a stern woman," Estelle said, holding a large and long bun the length of her arm as she watched the crowd part to give way to the Whiteguard.

"The woman rose from a slave to the honoured appointment as Whiteguard," said Fayte, glancing at her bread as he unfolded the note. "I doubt her journey had been a smooth one."

And if you find her stern now, you should see her when she's angry, Fayte thought, reading the note.

The Flaming Sword. Midday on the morrow.

- Emily