"Bleed him dry," the King said.
The day was near over for most. Stores were closing and people were traveling home to rest and prepare for nightfall. The King was in the middle of a chess game with his father, when Emily ran into the office and told her father about the Prince's blood.
"Father, you can't just kill him."
"Then we'll just bleed him a lot but not so much that he dies," the King said as he got up, dressed in a woollen tunic with a wolfpelt cloak behind him. "Run ahead and send for Lasandra, Fayte, we have no time to lose."
Now that his anger had subsided, Fayte was able to see the brutality in bleeding a person dry, even if he was a Saldarian. He had apologized to Emily for his behaviour in the dungeon after they left.
"I allowed my feelings to get the better of me," he had told her.
Emily hugged him then. "I know it is difficult for you. But…"
But she did not know what to say. She did not know what she could say to make this easier for Fayte. Yet when it came to helping the Prince, Emily seemed to know exactly what to say.
"Father, you don't have to bleed him dry," Emily pleaded. "Just have him join one of the search parties."
"It's too slow that way," he said, leaving the room. Everyone followed. "Bleed him. Put his blood in different vials and give them out. The search parties will cover more area that way."
The Princess's eyes went wide with disgust.
"I am not going to kill him," the King whined at her. "What else do you want of me, my sweet girl?"
"You can't bleed him like he is some animal!" she said. "Especially not when he is here to help us!"
The King came to a stop and spun around.
"If he was here to help us then he would've given us that information in the first place," her father said, his mood darkening quickly. "Our discussion ends here. Good job getting that information. Now go back to your room, Emily. Frendon."
"Yes, your Majesty?"
"Escort the Saldarian to my throne," he commanded before turning to Fayte. "Send for Lasandra and have Langton prepare the necessary tools."
"Father you can't--"
"--I can and I will," he said, glaring at her now, fast losing his patience. "I love you, my precious child, but I will hear no more of your insolence. Go to your room."
The father and daughter stared at each other. The King was fuming and Fayte prayed that Emily could see that. Then again, it mattered not if she could or could not see her father fuming. Emily was too stubborn for her own good.
"Father, I will not--"
"--YOU WILL DO AS I--"
Fayte and his father reached for their swords, but when they saw this motley of colours running towards them, they put their hands away and stepped aside. One day he is going to have his head cut off by accident.
"My Princess!" Mailer exclaimed, running up to Emily. "Where have you been all night? Is it true, is it true? Huh? Is it true that you went to the DUNGEON?"
"Yes, Mailer, I--"
"--AHHHHHHHHHHHH!" he screamed with his 'OH NO!' mask on and marotte in his hand. "But the dungeon is soooo dirty and creepy!"
The King gestured for Fayte and his father to follow, leaving Emily behind with Mailer who held her back and kept her from following them. Fayte did as he was told and passed the message to a mage to bring the magical mirror and notify the Archimage before he searched for the Administrator.
It took about a half an hour before the preparations were ready. Aerial search parties were in the midst of being organised and told to wait at their respective cities for the blood vials. Administrator Langton assembled the necessary tools - a blade, towels, basins of water and a lot of vials - and had them sent to the throne room. His father had Lady Feralina gather her men and order them to wait in the throne room for the vials. They were to take the vials away once they were filled with the Prince's blood. His father on the other hand went straight to the dungeon where he brought the Prince - and only the Prince - up to the throne room.
"Kneel," he said, shoving the Saldarian onto his knees before he went and took his place beside the King.
"You intend to take my blood?" Prince Rinmar said, looking at the King and all who were gathered in the room.
"We will not kill you," the King said, nodding at Lady Feralina. "We only need your blood."
The Captain and one of Administrator Langton's scholars stepped forward. The woman drew a small dagger as a knight unshackled Rinmar's hands. Two other knights held their swords against the Prince's neck in case he tried anything.
"What if I told you that I lied to the Princess?" the Prince said.
"I will not believe you," said the King. "So I will just take your blood and try. In any case the search parties will have to search for this demon."
Ra'gelor… Fayte wondered if this demon had any connection with the Great Evil that once threatened the whole of Hylan.
Two mages stood behind the Prince, both had their wands at the ready. A single ice glyph glowed on the ground, spinning slowly and ready to burst to life upon command. The knights held their swords steadily with their eyes set on the Prince.
"The demon will not react to just a vial of my blood," he said, looking at the scholar who held his wrist with the dagger pressed to it. "I must be there in person in order for it to sense me. It is not just the blood. It is my very presence."
"Then we will tie you to a gryphon once we are done drawing your blood."
At that point, Queen Remilda began to have second thoughts as did his father.
"Your Majesty," his father whispered to keep Rinmar from hearing. "Perhaps we should reconsider this. Bleeding him like this seems a little… barbaric."
"This is not barbaric, Frendon," the King said aloud for all to hear, crossing his arms, eyes locked with the Saldarian. "The slaying of an entire city is barbaric."
That was enough to silence any further protest.
King Eardon nodded at the scholar. "Proceed."
The doors to the throne room burst open and Emily fell onto the ground. The soldiers waiting in the room rushed to her at once, but they stopped when the person who dropped her lay a curved blade by her neck.
"Release my Prince," Kamille said, armoured in gold carved with vicious curves and draped in a cloak of sullen green. Her face was concealed in the shadow of her helm by there was no mistaking his voice. "Or the Princess dies."
I should have known!
An ice glyph appeared beneath her feet.
"I would think twice about that, mages," she said, holding up a vial of green liquid. "Any sudden change to the temperature and this antidote will become useless."
Fayte drew his sword and stepped forward with the King and his father.
"What did you do to my daughter?" the King demanded. "Speak!"
The Princess was laying on the ground, barely breathing and otherwise motionless.
"Saldarian scorpion venom," Kamille said. "Release my Prince and you shall have your antidote."
The King did not bother reasoning with her. He snatched one of the knight's sword and brought it down on Rinmar's leg shackles, freeing him before he grabbed him by the neck and flung him to the ground with little effort.
"The antidote," he then said. "Now."
Not being able to see Kamille's face made it difficult for Fayte to judge when he should strike. He could not tell if the girl was nervous, or if she was calm as how stories about Scygard always described them. Calm and without emotion, that was how a Scygard made his kills.
Rinmar got onto his feet and hurried to Kamille. He stood beside her and looked at Emily worriedly, somehow he seemed genuinely concerned. Perhaps he was just worried about their situation, seeing as how there was no way they were going to be able to escape. Sera, forgive me, for I cannot forgive this girl.
"Remove the glyph, mage," Kamille then said and the glyph faded away the next moment.
"I will find the demon," the Prince said and his words made Fayte lower his sword for just a moment. What lies are these now? "I will slay it and remove this curse. Then I will return and you, King Eardon, can decide my fate."
For once the King remained silent. Fayte had expected him to lay out his judgement now, but no, it seemed that even the King was surprised by the Prince's words. Assuming that the Saldarian really could escape, he would be escaping death. Why then would he still seek to return if his purpose here was not really to negotiate an alliance?
"You really want this alliance, don't you?" his own father said, lowering his sword.
Prince Rinmar looked at his father straight in his eyes.
Kamille tossed the antidote into the air and at the same time she dropped something onto the ground beneath their feet. Smoke enveloped them as Fayte dashed to Emily while the mage caught the antidote with a spell. The soldiers present charged straight into the smoke to chase the pair but right after they dashed in, Kamille and Rinmar emerged from the smoke and made towards them. Emily was still being held hostage by the Scygard.
They should be heading out. Why are they approaching us?
An ice glyph formed on the ground again only to be interrupted by a blast erupting behind them.
Commander Reyner and Sir Airagon pulled the King and the Queen to the ground, shielding them with their bodies. His father swung around and without any hesitation, charged forward with Lady Feralina. The blast came from the Prince's roc. Lady Feralina was the first to reach the beast, leaping into the air straight at the beast's head. Yet before she could reach the bird, it spun and smacked her with its left wing, knocking her to the ground.
"Emily!" Fayte yelled at her. "Emily, can you--"
--a shimmer of white charged at Kamille.
Rinmar met the Whiteguard with his dagger but Sir Percson made quick work of him. He disarmed the Prince and kicked him so hard that Fayte thought he had killed Rinmar. The Prince rolled across the ground and came to a stop, coughing blood as he grabbed his chest. Sir Percson stormed towards the Scygard, his visage masked in the shadow of his helm.
"Keep away!" Kamille warned him, pressing the dagger against Emily's neck. "You too!"
Fayte tried to take her from behind but Kamille was no fool. The soldiers behind Sir Percson could nothing either, standing behind the Whiteguard looking completely helpless. Rage surged in his veins. His family was massacred by the Scygards and now his love and best friend was being held hostage by one. It did not occur to him that Emily would not be hurt as long as the Prince still wanted the alliance. All Fayte could think about was the hatred he had for the Scygards. That hatred was now being directed at this single warrior.
"UNHAND HER!" he screamed.
The roc charged them, forcing the Whiteguards to drag the King and the Queen away. Luminous lines appeared around Administrator Langton as he began to cast his spell, but like the mages, he too had to withdraw and dodge the charging beast. Fayte did not see his father anywhere until the roc skidded to a halt and swung its head violently. His father crashed to the ground and hit the wall before the soldiers rushed to this aid. The roc picked up the Prince and Kamille quickly before it went back to where it entered from.
"Don't mind me!" the King yelled, shoving the Commander of the Whiteguards away. "Stop them!"
Not Emily! His mother screamed in pain. You will not have Emily! His sisters cried for him. I won't let you take her!
A tiny flicker of light pierced through the chaos and caught his eyes. He looked to the door and saw someone standing there with a shiny object in his hand.
"First think ahead," Kestel said, emotionless, seemingly careless of the situation. "Then act swiftly."
Fayte paused to think.
I cannot hope to catch up with the roc. Once it's out of the throne room it will take to the sky and I will lose Emily forever. Think ahead. I need a gryphon. "And I need it now."
Kestel raised his hand and from it dangled a medallion of white gold. As Fayte ran out of the room, Kestel tossed it to him and he caught it before stuffing it into his pocket, headed straight to the stairs. He heard the roc screech and the sound of ice glyphs being activated. The anger was subsiding but the desperation was still there. Fayte quickly became confident that the Prince would not hurt Emily. Hurt her and your country will burn, Saldarian. He ran up the steps as quickly as he could, ascending to the rooftop of the tower.
Fayte half expected the roc to be long gone but when he arrived and peered over the ledge, he saw the roc crashing down to the courtyard below. His father rolled away after taking the beast down with him. Now he battled alone against it under a starless night. His father was a blaze of white, roaring and slashing at the beast, driving it towards a wall.
He's trying to keep it from taking off. Fayte pushed away from the ledge and ran. Father is trying to buy enough time for me… enough time for me to do this.
"FLY!" he yelled, leaping onto the gryphon that was watching the battle below curiously. "The Princess is in danger! Fly!"
The gryphon turned his head around to look at him. Then he turned back to look at the more interesting sight below.
"I promise you will be given a treat when-"
The gryphon snapped his head back and stared at Fayte's face before sniffing him from head to waist.
"First you fly," he told the gryphon again. "Then you will get your-"
The gryphon flew.
The majestic animal pushed himself off the ledge, spreading his wings in mid-air and took off to the sky just as the Saldarian roc below flew. Fayte had flown many times before but only as a passenger and not as the actual rider. Thankfully this gryphon was smart and he knew what Fayte wanted, so he went straight for the roc, beating his wings hard to catch up as the roc soared straight up towards the clouds. Once the roc bent forward and took off to the south, his gryphon made an arc and gained speed. Fayte drew his sword as they caught up and flew over the roc. With the air rushing against his face it was difficult, but he forced in a deep breath.
For Emily. Fayte jumped off the roc screaming. It was scary as hell and not to mention completely insane, but he needed to save Emily.
Emily, who was wide awake with her mouth hanging open in shock.
Suddenly it all made sense to Fayte. I am a fool. Not only did Emily need any rescuing at all, he also missed the roc entirely and was now freefalling to his death. The ground rushed towards him. His sword slipped from his hand and he found himself helpless. Thankfully Emily came to his rescue.
The roc circled back and grabbed him with its talon before it arced back into the sky.
"Fayte!" he heard her scream. "Fayte! Are you all right?"
"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" he shouted and at the same time held on the giant talon for dear life. "YOU WERE HELPING HIM TO ESCAPE?"
"I had to!" she said, leaning over the saddle to try and see him. "Father was going to kill him!"
Fayte was about to scream again when he saw a squadron of gryphon riders below them, racing through the air to chase after them. At this point he was feeling torn. On the one hand, those gryphon riders were friends and they were coming to save them. On the other hand, Emily clearly did not want to be saved and as far as Fayte knew, they needed Rinmar's cooperation to get rid of this curse. Capturing him was not going to get them that, in fact, what the Prince wanted to do now was to get rid of the curse. He did not like the answer that he arrived at but he knew it to be the right decision.
"How high can this thing go?" he screamed.
"What?" Emily shouted back.
"HOW HIGH, CAN THIS ROCK, FLY?"
"Very high!" Prince Rinmar yelled. "And it is a roc!"
It sounds exactly the SAME!
"Royal gryphons are trained for speed!" he told the Prince. "Get it?"
It was all the Prince needed to know.
The roc beat its wings and they began to ascend instead of flying forward. They flew up and they flew quickly. Behind them the gryphon squadron pressed on but Fayte could see that the gryphons were beginning to slow. The thin air and cold temperature did not sit well with the gryphons. Even he was starting to have difficulty breathing himself. Royal gryphons were intelligent and extremely swift in the air, and equally ferocious on the ground. But they were not trained to fly high like the mountain gryphons were.
Eventually the squadron had to stop and pull back, but they were far from giving up. Fayte watched as the five of them split up in different directions. They were hoping to intercept them when they eventually descended again. I was afraid they would do that. The roc might not have trouble staying up here but that was not the case for the rest of them.
"Fayte!" Prince Rinmar yelled.
He tried to look at the Saldarian and call back but the air was too thin. Fayte could barely catch a breath, he was not going to waste it shouting now.
"We need to strike!" the Prince said, sounding like he hardly had any difficulty breathing. "Emily cannot breathe up here!"
Neither can I. Fayte nodded the best he could.
The roc made a turn and sped forward again, in which direction Fayte had no idea but the roc moved fast and shot through the air. His vision began to blur and his head was past dizzy, heading into a loss of consciousness now. Just as his eyes began to shut, the roc took a nosedive into the clouds below them. Somehow the Prince had managed to track one of the aerial knight because as soon as they emerged through the clouds, they crashed into the knight and his gryphon.
The Saldarian roc was more than three times the size of the Hylan gryphon. It stood no chance. The roc seized its smaller counterpart with its mighty talons and brought it diving down to the ground with it. Fayte shook his head as he took in deep - wonderful - breaths of air, but he could not enjoy breathing for long. The knight drew his sword and began slashing at the roc.
"Stop!" Fayte shouted, then he heard himself thinking, don't hurt the monster that kidnapped your Princess! Again, he was a fool. "Don't hurt it!"
Either the knight did not hear him or he chose to ignore him, continuing to slash at the roc, drawing blood even. He left Fayte with no choice but to pull out his own sword and-
I do not recall losing my sword.
All of a sudden, the roc banked left - hard - and the sudden turn almost made the knight lose his grip on his sword, but the warrior was well trained and experienced. He managed to hold on and went on with the attack. The knight would have freed himself too… if they had not ran out of air to fly in.
They hit the surface.