A second horn was blown, the signal to retreat.
"Fayte, get Raymius out of here!" Captain Windon yelled, fending off a flood of dark mist with his shield. "NOW!"
"Move," Fayte said, dragging the Magister-Lord with him as they both gaped at the rising wall of dark mist.
Lormio La'ou appeared at the base of the mist. His eyes seething with crimson as large tendrils struck at the Captain. The rangers took shots at him but the black mist consumed every arrow fired at it. Captain Windon fought back with the Light of the Spirits. At first Fayte thought he was holding the mist back successfully, but Fayte realized it was only because Lormio La'ou's attention was not on the Captain anymore.
"KAYWIN!" the Scygard mage called with a voice no longer his, but the unnatural shriek of a demon. It was the voice of Ra'gelor. "KAYWIN!"
"Wrong Kaywin!" Fayte yelled, making a run for it in the direction opposite of where the possessed Scygard was coming from.
"Fayte, over here!" It was Wilson and a band of rangers with a path cleared for him.
Fayte turned to Wilson and ran with Raymius, pulling the man along with him. Escorted by the rangers, they made their way through the town of Harvesria. The town famous for its natural beauty with the scent of flowers in the air and the calming sight of greenery all around was no more. Now the air was filled with the stench of smoke and dying men was all they saw. The sound of battle surrounded them and Saldarian soldiers appeared at every corner.
"Get on the gryphon," Ranger Tessa said when a few of the majestic beasts landed in front of them. Two of the gryphons swiped at the Saldrian soldiers on the other side, while the other gryphon lowered itself so that they could get on. "Hurry!"
"What about the rest of you?" Fayte asked as he helped the Magister-Lord on.
"Our work here is not yet done." She put arrows between the eyes of Saldarians as they spoke, keeping them from getting close. "May we meet again, Fayte Kaywin. Now fly!"
The gryphon took off at her command, taking Fayte and Raymius into the sky. Just like the last time Fayte was here, he flew off with battle beneath his feet and men seeking to bring him down. Wilson continued to throw blessings at the rangers, empowering as many of them as he could before he was out of range. The other gryphons carried town folks and both White Shield and Gwedonian knights, leaving only the rangers behind.
From high above Fayte could see how futilely outnumbered the rangers were, but it would take more than numbers to defeat the Rangers of Hylan. With Tessa leading them, the group of elite soldiers banded up and took to the roof, scaling walls with ease to reach the top before making their way back to the town square.
"Could you sit properly?" Fayte said, feeling the Magister-Lord lean his entire body weight on his back. "We're not out of danger yet."
"Fayte!" Wilson yelled from behind.
"Listen, squire, I don't think I'm going to last long…" Raymius sounded very weak and his breath stank like Captain Yonus's. "The royal family… they're in a danger…"
"He has an arrow in his waist," Wilson said, flying next to Fayte. "Land quickly. I need to heal him."
Fayte rushed the gryphon, urging it on to fly swiftly back to the forest.
"Form a perimeter and watch for movements from Harvesria," Fayte ordered the soldiers as he helped the Magister-Lord down from the gryphon with Wilson. "The rest of you do what you can for the injured."
The farmers and people from Harvesria scowled at Fayte and at the injured Magister-Lord. They did not blame Wilson though as he worked to remove the arrow.
"You have a plot to kill the royal family," Fayte told him, crouching next to Raymius. "We know. We've already sent word ahead."
The fat magister looked dazed and his eyelids were fluttering. He had lost a lot of blood.
"Good…" Raymius said, his voice raspy and he could no longer lift his head with his thick neck. "Tell the others… tell them to stand down…"
"The others? You mean the rest of your men in Gwedoniar?"
"Tell the Talons to stand down…"
"By the light!" Wilson had removed the arrow but he tossed it away and got away himself. A flash of light burst forth from his hands and it continued with a few more pulses. "That arrow was laced with poison."
Damn Saldarians. "Is it lethal?"
"You, dagger." Wilson called to a soldier, catching the small blade with his left hand. He proceed to stab the palm of his right hand, drawing blood from the wound. "Judging from his symptoms, yes, very."
Fayte wanted to rush to his friend but Wilson shook his head.
"I am safe, do not worry. This is just a precaution. The magister though, I am afraid his fate is sealed."
"Tell them…" Magister-Lord Raymius exhaled and his chest began to sink. "I failed… Tell them… I am… s… sorry…"
Yes, you failed. Fayte got up and stepped away from the corpse. And many died in vain because of you.
"Squire!" one of the soldiers Fayte sent to watch the town called. "Captain Windon approaches by air."
Fayte stood over the dead man and looked upon his face. A single man had caused so much grief and destruction. If not for Raymius the Saldarians would not have been able to get so deep into Hylan. Even if he hadn't been poisoned, King Eardon would surely sentence him to death for treason.
Harvesria remains captured. The townsmen were huddled together in the distance, watched over by the soldiers as Wilson tended to their wounded. But at least we saved some of her people.
There were the other gryphon knights as well. Captain Yonus had taught him a humbling lesson. Whichever side these men were on, there was no denying that the blood of Hylan ran through their veins. They were men of Hylan and as a member of the Order of the White Shield, Fayte had sworn an oath to protect them.
"By the light," Captain Windon said when he saw the Magister-Lord's body. "What happened?"
"The Saldarians got him with an arrow laced with poison," Fayte explained.
The noise from the other injured men and women drew the Captain's attention. He looked at them, at the few people they managed to save. His gaze returned to the Magister-Lord and in the end he sighed.
"Yonus was a good man," said the Captain. "He was always so intense even when he was a squire. I could never stand him. It was your father who taught me to see the good in Yonus. He was good with the sword and his integrity was unquestionable. The Order has become lesser without him."
Captain Yonus had reminded Fayte an important lesson. He had been so clouded by his hatred for the Saldarians that he had forgotten his oath. He had condemned the gryphon knights just because they worked with the enemy. He was ready to cut them down without a second thought. Perhaps that was why Sera denied him her blessing at the summit of Mount Tyrus.
"We needed Raymius," Captain Windon explained. "Without him, the gryphon knights in Gwedoniar City may not stand down. There will be more unneeded bloodshed."
The rest of Captain Windon's knights joined them in the clearing. They had ridden out to Harvesria when the fight began, signalled by the rangers most likely. But it was a short fight and the horn was blown for them to retreat before they could even join the fray. Fayte nodded at Jeremiah and Julin who both stood behind the knights.
"Fayte, that Scygard I fought…"
"He is Lormio La'ou, uncle to Prince Rinmar. Clearly he still has some leftover magic from the demon."
"As I suspected." Captain Windon nodded. "Jeremiah, take a gryphon and fly for Rondiar. Make sure the Lord-Knight has been informed of the plot against the royal family. Report to him of what has happened here. Fayte and Julin, return to the Order and end off your pilgrimage. You will be redeployed soon enough after the royal wedding."
The Captain turned to the rest of his men.
"We will setup camp here and await reinforcements. Start drafting requisition orders for supplies from nearby villages. We are not leaving until Harvesria has been liberated. We are not leaving until every single one of those green-eyed bastard on our soil is dead."
Fayte turned away and joined his friends as they left.
Every single one except for the one marrying our Princess.