The days passed uneventfully.
News came from Saldara that more tribes had surrendered and pledged allegiance to the Emperor once more. Skarm's Shadow grew weaker by the day and the Saldarians had taken it upon themselves to remove the remnants of the once mighty tribe. Harmony returned to the kingdom of Hylan. There was great cause for celebration, for there was now peace between Hylan and Saldara. The war had ended and their beloved Princess was getting married. With all the attention focused on Emily's wedding, Fayte had expected only a handful of people to turn up on the day of his departure.
He could not have been more wrong.
This early in the day the sun was yet out though it was close to dawn. Fayte rode atop Whitesong with his father on his mount next to him. They rode silently up the path. Wide plains spread out to both sides, with hills to the east and mountains to the west. Above them Sera watched with a full moon but her eye was red like a cloth stained with blood. How fitting…
There was a sorrow in the air that weighed down on him. Fayte could not bring himself to smile when his father smiled at him. He only shook his head as they approached the ruins of what was formerly a great city. The city of Zywedior. A place he once called home.
Not a single person was here to send him off.
"Great," Fayte said, riding up to four gravestones.
They dismounted and walked up to the gravestones. Fayte and his father each placed a stalk of white rose on each of the graves. Then they kneeled together and for a long while, prayed in silence. He heard his father sniffing a few times, and Fayte found his eyes damp when he opened them after they were done. He walked up to his mother's grave, touching hers first before he went along the line touching each of his sisters' graves. To everyone else this place was a quiet place, a silent place where the dead would rest peacefully forever. For Fayte, however, this was a place where his mother's and his sisters' screams drowned out every other sound.
I'm sorry… was all he could say to them. I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…
Fayte left first, Whitesong following behind, just like before whenever they visited. He went down the path away from the graves, just walking and walking until the screams softened for they would never cease. On this day however, as the screams in his head began to soften, a different noise overwhelmed him. He looked up from the ground and saw a large group of people gathered in front of him. Slowly, torches were lit and spheres of light floated into the air. He could hear cheers and whistling, people shouting his name. When he saw the people who had come to see him off, for the first time in a very long time, Fayte began to laugh on Zywedior soil.
"Lord Jacob," he said, hugging the man. "Lady Linda. What is this?"
"What's tis ye say?" Lord Jacob repeated. "I say tis be a proper send off!"
Melanie ran up to him and hugged him, even planting a kiss on his cheek, wishing him luck and reminding him to take care of Whitesong. Martin, the gate watcher who had warned them of the undead attack, hugged him and wished him well. Renee was here as well with her father, Jayden, the tavern keeper. Then Aunt Silvia came up and shook her head disapprovingly at him.
"Look at you all grown up," she said, slapping him across the head before she hugged him. "Safe travel, my boy."
"Thank you, Aunt Silvia," he told her. "I'll take care of Wilson. And speaking of which…"
Wilson was grinning at him. He put Amelia down and the little girl ran up to Fayte, her box of flowers slung over her shoulders and rattling behind her. Fayte went to his knee and Amelia jumped into his arms.
"Are you here to send me off too?"
"Of course!" Amelia said, holding up a miniature white rose which she kept in a corked vial. "This is for you! It's the last one I have left."
"Last one?" Fayte remembered how he and Wilson had gone and searched for this particular white rose. "Tell you what, why don't you hold on to it for me first. I might lose it if I take it with me."
Amelia wasn't sure so she turned to her brother who nodded. "Alright!"
The sweet girl gave Fayte a kiss on the cheek before she got off and ran to Aunt Silvia.
"You were supposed to meet me at Ironsville," Fayte said, clasping his hand with Wilson's before they pulled each other into a hug.
"I believe that is why they call it a surprise," Wilson said.
Preston came down from the sky and landed on Fayte's shoulder with an eager yelp and a breath of fire. The little whelp had grown stronger judging from his flames. That was when Fayte saw a little boy standing next to Lady Linda. He stood out from the rest of them because of the clothes his wore. While others wore cloaks and tunics, this boy wore a robe with sleeves so large they dangled just inches from the ground. There was also the fact that the boy was busy reading a book, until he felt Fayte staring before he looked up.
This truly is a surprise. "High Sage," Fayte said politely, bowing. "I am honoured by your presence today."
Kestel looked at him, unspoken thoughts swirling in his genius mind.
"Here to observe," he said, with no more interest than he had ever shown. "And observe only."
With that, Kestel went back to reading his book.
"I hear from Commander Reyner that you might soon become my student." A suit of white walked up to him, the man smiling as though nothing in the world could worry him. "I look forward to that, Fayte."
"It would be an honour to join the Whiteguards," Fayte said, shaking hands with Sir Percson. "I only fear that I am not skilled enough to-"
"Wait a minute, woah, no one is taking my squire away from me." Captain Teynier stepped in and pulled Fayte to his side. "He's joining the City Watch."
"That would be a great waste of talent," Sir Percson said.
Captain Teynier took offense, though not seriously. "What did you just say, white boy?"
The Whiteguard only laughed. "Fayte will be presented with options once he is knighted. When the time comes, I am sure he will make the white choice."
"Of course he'll make the right choice," Captain Teynier said, smiling at Fayte as he- "Wait, white choice?"
"You mean right choice," Sir Percson corrected him.
"That wasn't what you said!"
Watching the Captain and the Whiteguard fight over him amused them all greatly.
"Well it seems you will have no lack of openings after you become a knight," Queen Remilda said.
Woah. Fayte dropped to his knee at once. "I bid you fair greetings, Your Highness."
Queen Remilda laughed gracefully. "Rise, squire Fayte."
And he did, surprised that even the Queen had come to see him off. Fayte suddenly grew excited that Emily was here as well, but when he saw the look on the Queen's face, he knew that was not going to happen.
"I'm sorry, my child," she said, placing a hand on his shoulder after the two knights had stepped aside. "Emily is busy with the preparations for her visits to the cities."
Fayte smiled and shook his head. "All is well, Your Highness."
Queen Remilda looked as though she wanted to say otherwise, but she knew it would only dampen his mood. The Queen said nothing more, only telling Fayte that she was never here. It would be unfair to the other squires if a member of the royal family had not send them off as well.
The last person to speak to him was of course, his father.
He placed his hands on Fayte's shoulder and shook him gently. A proud smile was stretched across his tired face as he looked upon his son.
"You are the reason why Hylan is safe today," his father told him. "Your actions alone have inspired others to take action, so believe me when I tell you that you are the reason why Hylan is safe today. For that alone I could grant you knighthood now and not a single person in Hylan would dispute it."
Please don't embarrass me like that, father. Please, please, please, please-
"But I won't," his father said, knowing his son best. "You will want to prove yourself. I just want you to know, son, that many have returned from the pilgrimage without the Light of the Spirits. It is no shame nor any dishonour. Sera works in her own way. Even if you-"
"Father, I'm coming back a knight," Fayte told him, ascertained. "You don't have to reassure me."
His father smiled and shook him by the shoulders.
"Arrogant child," he said, laughing with the rest of them. "Your mother and sisters would be proud of what you have done, Fayte. I know they would."
Fayte nodded and bit his lips to keep them from trembling. "Thank you, father."
With that, his father helped him mount Whitesong while Wilson got on his own horse. They would be travelling together on this pilgrimage. All squires on their pilgrimage would have to be accompanied by a priest to guide them and keep them safe.
"Fayte Kaywin," his father called as according to traditions. "Remember your trainings. Polish your shield, hone your sword, and keep your oath close to your heart. As Lord-Knight of the Order of the White Shield, Fayte of the noble Kaywin family, I command you now to set off on a knight's pilgrimage. I bid you safe journey."
"Yes, my lord," Fayte said. And he was going to thank his father again, but seeing everyone here with him and hearing his father's words… Thank you, father.
Fayte could only manage a nod before he turned away and rode off to hide his tears. Behind him, the people he loved and cherished cheered and screamed for him, bidding him safe travels ahead.
"At long last, Fayte!" Wilson shouted, racing across the plains with him. "This day has finally come!"
I have travelled across Hylan once already to save the girl I love. But that ended in failure. Now I will travel across this kingdom once again to earn my knighthood.
And that he had no intention of failing.
The adventure of Fayte Kaywin continues in...