CHAPTER 5

Fayte flung his shield to the other side and deflected an arrow.

The bandit leader attacked at the same time but Fayte drew a dagger hidden in his shield and stabbed him in heart. It was reassuring when the bandit leader crumpled to the floor. The last time Fayte stabbed someone in the heart, the man laughed it off like he was being tickled.

He slipped his sword onto his feet and kicked it up into his hand before turning to the vagrant-

"Woah."

The two men who held the vagrant were laying on the floor with their swords embedded in each other. A third body was on the ground not too far from them, the arm severed from the shoulder. Fayte watched as the vagrant swung his sword and viciously cut down the fifth bandit. When the last bandit realized he was outnumbered, he turned to flee only to run right into Whitesong.

She whinnied at him before proceeding to trample him into the ground.

"Good girl," Fayte said, sheathing his sword as he went over to the bandit. "Now, tell me who sent you?"

The bandit looked from him to the vagrant. He could see that he was surrounded. There was no way out for him. And just as he dropped his bow, the bandit's eyes rolled back and he fell over. Dead.

"Hey." Fayte tapped his face. "Hey, get up. What's wrong?"

The vagrant came over just as the bandit began to foam in the mouth.

"Poison," he said, leaning on his sword. "Seems his boss dun' want him spilling any secrets."

Fayte set the man back down and turned to face the vagrant. "Who are you?"

The vagrant smiled confidently. "I am a Templar of the Eres Star. See the sword?"

Fayte reached for his own sword.

"Alright, alright!" he said. "I'm just a wanderer! I used to be a mercenary, it's how I learn ta fight."

"Is that sword yours?"

"Yes!" the man said. "Used to belong to ma papa and his papa, and his papa as well as-"

"Enough," Fayte said. "It was handed down. I get it."

Papa… He rarely heard that word, in fact, the last time Fayte heard someone use that word was more than six years ago. Back in Zywedior. "So you have the bloodline of the Templars?"

He shrugged. "Dun' know, dun' care. Makes no difference."

Those whose ancestors had been a part of the Templar Order were said to have the bloodline of the Templars. It had been observed that people from these families tend to excel whether physically or magically. If this man had the bloodline of a Templar, then it would explain how he managed to dismember a man with a blunt sword.

The vagrant noticed him looking at the dismembered arm. "I used his sword to do that if you were wondering."

That would make more sense than his blunt blade, Fayte admitted. "What is your name?"

The vagrant scratched his chin. "John. Or was it William? Hmm, Wilson?"

This man is beginning to remind me of Mailer, who was the court jester in Castle Rondiar and perhaps the most irritating person in the whole of Hylan. "Let's go with John, alright?"

John gave it a thought. "Sure!"

The man seemed harmless enough. In fact, once Fayte assured him that he would return his sword when they reached Oaksblade, John had no trouble giving it up. Fayte almost felt bad for lying to the man. They made their way to Oaksblade, Fayte on Whitesong while the man walked beside her.

"You know, we’d be there much sooner if ya just let me ride with ye."

"You're still my prisoner," Fayte reminded him. "Just be glad I didn't have your hands tied again."

John said nothing more until someone approached them. "Hey, look it's the priest!"

Wilson had switched to a fresh horse and was galloping fast down the path. When he saw them, Wilson slowed to a halt next to Fayte where he was punched in the face.

"By the light!" Wilson nearly fell off his horse.

"That's for leaving me," Fayte said.

"They could have hurt Amelia, Fayte!" Wilson yelled back but his temper subsided when he saw that Fayte was barely even mad.

"I know," he said. "It's why I've forgiven you already."

Wilson scoffed. "Great, I think you cracked one of my tooth. We can't heal broken teeth you know?"

Oaksblade town was about twice the size of Ironsville but three times the population. Stepping into the breezy town, it was easy to think that there were a lot more people living here. However most of the people on the streets were just travellers passing through as Oaksblade was a flight hub in this region.

Wide open lands covered with verdant grasses surrounded Oaksblade. The two stables were especially large, housing the many horses that travellers hired after their gryphon ride. Travelling by air was costly because while horses were happy with grass and hay, gryphons needed to be fed with meat. Not to mention that gryphons took much longer to train and were more temperamental.

"The town is as busy as always," Fayte said, following behind a carriage in a line leading into Oaksblade.

Flight hubs were mostly similar in that they were always crowded and filled with inns and taverns. Travellers outnumbered townsmen and pickpockets were aplenty. The wooden houses stood neatly in a row, but the streets were narrower than Rondiar City's making it difficult to get around during the day. Their first stop was to the town watch, a double-storied building with a white shield of the Order hung on the face.

"Fair noon to you, sirs," Fayte greeted the two guards posted outside. They each stood with a pike in their hands. "I'm here to report an ambush about half a league to the north-east. You'll find six bodies there."

"Ambush?" the guard said. "And whose bodies are those?"

"The ambushers," Wilson said, his white robe of the Order of the White Rose made them straightened up when they noticed. "Send people to have their bodies collected and buried. But see if they can be identified first. If they can, send a report by sparrow to the post in Iredis addressed to Wilson of the Sayde family."

Fayte and Wilson had discussed on their way here. Those men were after Fayte specifically, but judging from their skills, they were likely just ordinary mercenaries part of something larger that they weren't aware of. If Fayte had this reported to his father, he would be worrying the man needlessly. Worse, his father might just postpone his entire pilgrimage. They decided to wait until they had more evidence.

"As you say, good priest," the guard told him. "Is he one of the ambusher?"

John shook his head very quickly.

"No, he is a prisoner from Sir Ian in Ironsville," Fayte explained.

"What are his crimes?" a guard asked, gesturing for his partner to seize John.

"Nuisance and possession of a possible stolen weapon." Fayte handed him the sword. "Be mindful, that's a Templar's sword."

The guard was intrigued, resting his pike on his chest before he held up the sword with both hands. "Doesn't look like one."

"You can tell from the craft of the weapon," Fayte told him, though he doubt the guard could see it. Fayte could tell only because he had spent time with the smiths in Ironsville forging swords for many days. "Can you take it from here?"

 "Yeh, we'll hand this to the Captain," the guard said. "Come along now."

John looked to Fayte and gave him his most pitiful frown.

"Don't worry," Fayte told him. "You'll spend a day or two doing some work for someone in the town and then they'll release you. As for your sword, the Captain will send word to Rondiar to see if anyone has reported a missing Templar sword. That might take a few weeks but you must understand, Templar artefacts are rare."

The man sighed. "Ah, alright then. I'll see ye around, boy!"

If Sera intends it, he thought.

The door to the watch swung open from inside and a knight stepped out. The man was in plain clothes but Fayte knew his face having seen him many times before with his father.

"Fair noon to you, Captain Windon," Fayte greeted formally.

"Ah, if it isn't the Lord-Knight's boy," Captain Windon smiled while the two guards were surprised to discover who Fayte was. "The Hero of Hylan!"

I must have a word with Captain Teynier and Sir Percson. "I am no hero, Captain, just a squire."

"A squire who saved Hylan," he said, rubbing his nose when he noticed a scent. "And a squire on his pilgrimage- what is that smell?"

Captain Windon turned and saw where the stench was coming from.

"Hello," John said, grinning.

"Greetings." The Captain turned to his men. "And he is?"

"A troublemaker. For the Captain," the guard said. "Erm, our Captain."

"Well take him in then," he said. "And dump a bucket of water over his head while you're at it."

"Not another one!" John whined as the guard brought him in.

Fayte remembered the recent incident Captain Windon was involved with. "Are you feeling better, Captain?"

The man knew Fayte wasn't referring to his injuries, those were easily healed. No, Fayte was referring to the reason why the Captain was without his armour right now.

"I am well," he said, nodding. "And now I must agree that a week of rest was the wise decision. Your father knew what he was doing when he insisted I took a break. Losing so many men in a single day…" Captain Windon shook his head and smiled widely, forcefully. "I am well."

They parted then with the Captain wishing him a safe journey ahead before lamenting the pile of paperwork he would be returning to on the morrow. Fayte and Wilson made their way through the street slowly, headed towards the Golden Mare Inn where they were supposed to meet with Amelia and the others.

"YOU'RE ALL RIGHT!" Amelia jumped into his arms and hugged him as tightly as she could. "Did they hurt you?"

Fayte laughed, standing up with Amelia in his arms before he made his way to a table by the window. "Hurt me? That would never happen. They were just a bunch of bandits who didn't know who they were dealing with."

Amelia wasn't convinced. There was a time when those words would have had the girl cheering and smiling again. It reminded Fayte that the girl was growing up. It would take more than fairy tales and old legends to convince the girl now.

"Did you kill them?" she asked.

"No," Fayte lied. Amelia was growing up, but some things was still best kept from her. "I had to hurt some of them but I didn't kill them. Your brother came and rescue me just in time."

Amelia turned to her brother who gave her his best smile. "I'm still mad at you for leaving Fayte! Humph!"

She pushed her way out of Fayte's arms and ran to Renee. The girl tried to coax Amelia into speaking with her brother, but she wouldn't and kept asking that they went up to their room. Most wouldn't understand but Fayte knew that Wilson did the right thing. If his sisters were still alive and their positions were swapped, Fayte would have done the exact same thing. When you've lost too much in too short of a time, you end up wanting… needing, to protect what you have left with all you've got. It didn't help that Wilson nearly lost Amelia a few months ago when she was kidnapped by those slavers with the Princess.

Fayte patted him on the back as Renee went up with Amelia.

"I don't blame her," Wilson said, his hair catching the wind the moment they stepped out of the inn. "But I hope one day she'll come to understand why I am so protective."

"She will," Fayte told him. "But you need to understand as well that you can't protect her forever."

Wilson nodded. "I know."