CHAPTER 40

Emily held the sword by her side and gestured for him to kneel.

"For bravery and valour, I knight you," the Princess of Hylan raised the sword with both hands and carefully, she tapped him first on the right shoulder, then she whacked him in the head by accident, and tapped him on the left shoulder, "Sir Fayte Kaywin, Knight of the Order of the White Shield."

Commander Reyner smiled. "Now you have him-"

"And Commander of the Whiteguards," she went on, going back to tap him in the right shoulder while taking care not to hit him in the head again. "After Commander Reyner is too old to play with me. And Lord-Knight of the Order of the White Shield. After grumpy Iyden falls asleep… and never wake again."

"Princess!" Commander Reyner called but she ignored him.

"Oh, oh, and eternal protector, personal knight, and best friend, of the Grace of Hylan, me, Princess Emily of the Royal Whiteart family!"

And then she hit in the head again by accident.

"Are we done?" Fayte complained.

The little Princess looked up at the Whiteguard. "Are we?"

Commander Reyner made a disapproving noise. "Quite so, my Princess. Now, all you have to do is tell him to rise, go ahead."

"Get up, Fayte."

"Properly," he said.

Emily stuck the wooden sword into the ground because it was heavy and tiring her arms out. "Rise, Sir Fayte."

And so Fayte did, beaming as he rose and felt a few inches taller than before he knelt.

"That, my Princess," Commander Reyner said, "is how you will knight your friend when he returns from his pilgrimage after receiving Sera's blessings."

Fayte walked past Captain Windon without a word and said nothing to Wilson as well. He said nothing when asked if he was hurt. He said nothing when asked what happened, though Jeremiah was quick to fill them in about the crisis. He said nothing in the City Watch when the page asked if he would like breakfast while the others made preparations. He said nothing when John came by, but the man kept talking anyway.

"Tis will be farewell, Fayte," said John, standing at the door to his room while Fayte lay motionless on his bed. "I think I should be thanking ya, fer helping me find me purpose. I've uh, I've lost my purpose for a long while now. I just kept wandering and wandering, drinking and then wandering, then I drank some more and I kept wandering some-"

Fayte made an irritated noise.

"Yeah, I didn't know what I should be doing with my life. But meeting you, meeting you made me think real hard. Haven't think so hard in a while, but meeting you made me do that. And I know what I need ta be doing now. That map I saw, the one in the cave, I took it."

That got Fayte's attention, but he did not say anything.

"Nothing happened so, I guess it's not a bad idea to be taking things." The man grinned, waving the rolled up map in his hand. "I'll be using this to find them other caves, find all of them Templar stuff. Your Order can have what I find, I don't need them. But uh, at least I got me some directions now, places to go, things to do. I say that beats wandering around all the time."

There was nothing that Fayte wanted to say to John. He could not even find it in his heart to be glad for the man. All he wanted now was for John to leave him be.

"I thank ya, Fayte Kaywin. If you ever need me help, I'll be there. And as for Sera's blessing… well, I don't know what all the fuss is about, but I've been doing fine without it my whole life!" He laughed, awkwardly, and quickly fell silent. "Take care of yeself, Fayte. Goodbye."

He heard John's footsteps, but somehow the footsteps sounded like they were coming closer to-

"Sera works in her own ways, boy," John exclaimed, bending over the bed so that his head was now over Fayte's. "But whatever she plans, just know that you are more knight than any of them other knights I've come across. Good luck in Harvesria!"

With that, John gave him a slap on the arm and left.

When it came time for them to leave for Harvesria, Wilson dragged him down to the ground level and sat him down by a table. Captain Windon sat down with Fayte.

"I've sent word to the towns around Harvesria and nearest cities to send reinforcements." The Captain noticed that Fayte had not touched any of the food brought by the page. He also noticed the absent look in Fayte's eyes. A hopeless gaze. "Spearfort will send the most soldiers, but we're expecting help from the capital itself as well."

Fayte nodded tiredly.

"Sera has decided that it is yet time for you to become a knight. You will be blessed with the light in good time, Fayte. For now, you are still a squire of the White Shield. You have a duty still. Your kingdom needs you now."

No response.

The Captain glanced at Wilson and Jeremiah who were both watching from afar with Julin in their company. Wei Ling was seated at another table enjoying a drink.

"You spoke too highly of this Fayte Kaywin, Jeremiah," said Wei Ling, sipping her drink.

Wilson glared at her. "You best speak something highly about this outsider too, squire."

"Forgive her, good priest." Jeremiah turned to his friend. "Shush. Failing one's pilgrimage is a grave matter. I too would be inconsolable if it was me."

"You said his family was killed by the Saldarians," Wei Ling went on, enjoying her drink. "Is failing his pilgrimage a graver matter than having Saldarians invade his home?"

Fayte turned to look at her.

Captain Windon grinned but remained silent. He gestured subtly for Jeremiah to do the same.

"In my country we have a saying in our language." Wei Ling lowered her drink. She held the old wooden cup gracefully with both hands, one gripping the side while the other lifted the base, like it was an ornate object made of glass. "Failure is the mother of success. I trust it explains itself."

A simple enough lesson. Failure is but a stepping stone to success. Learn from each failure and improve. Never give up.

"Jeremiah says you can try again." Wei Ling got up and begin to leave. A knight stood waiting for her, tasked to escort her to the Northern Gate, but in truth it was to ensure that the East Kingdom warrior left Hylan. "I imagine your second pilgrimage would be much more difficult if this Raymius gets his way."

Jeremiah left with Wei Ling to see her off, just as a soldier entered the barracks and informed the Captain that the gryphons were ready to leave.

"Harvesria cannot wait," Captain Windon said, rising to his feet in his full armour. "If your path to become a knight ends here today, then stay. Otherwise, you had best grab your meal for the ride. We have Saldarians to kill."

The flight to the town of Harvesria gave Fayte much time to ponder. All those years he spent training and preparing for his pilgrimage. Everything he had worked for came to naught atop Mount Tyrus. He resented Sera for denying him the Light of the Spirits, but he knew that this resentment was surely one of the reasons why he was denied. Yet who could be judged unworthy and yet still accept the judgement? Fayte was guilty, for he wondered why someone like Julin could be deemed worthy yet he not.

Julin deserves to be a knight, Fayte told himself. I am his superior in swordsmanship, but perhaps nothing else it seems.

"Trust in Sera, Fayte," Wilson told him as they soared across the vast sky. "The time will come. That time may not be now, but it will come."

"You don't know that."

"But I do."

Fayte looked at the back of his friend's head. "How?"

"For I have faith in Sera."

"Faith is just blind belief," he said, and he hated himself for it. "An empty hope. A false hope."

Wilson was silent for a moment. The roaring wind was loud in their ears as the gryphons kept a steady pace. They needed to get there fast but rushing would only exhaust the gryphons. How fast they flew will not matter if they cannot even reach their destination.

"There are times when what we need is hope. False hope can be made true in the right hands, with the right amount of determination. True or false, hope gives us strength to continue moving forward. And so long as we move forward, there is progress and with it comes opportunities. You will go on another pilgrimage and when that time comes I will be by your side once more. The day you are blessed and knighted, I will be by your side, my friend. That I promise you."

A wave of warmth caressed Fayte from within his chest. The heat was soothing and invigorating. Wilson's words inspired him much but Fayte suspected that this was a remnant effect of the Dragon Essence. Regardless, the warmth and Wilson's words left him renewed.

Fayte straightened his back and looked forward.

Keep moving forward, he thought. I will keep moving forward.