CHAPTER 14 - BETRAYING A ROYAL

The roc swooped over the river at the very last moment and dropped both the knight and his mount into the water. Fayte spat out a mouthful of water and looked back. It was a slow running river. Both the knight and his mount would make it but the gryphon's wings seemed to be wounded. An intentional act to keep them from pursuing. Once out of sight from the knight, Rinmar directed his roc to a nearby forest and found a small clearing where he dropped Fayte and landed.

Both he and the Scygard eyed each other.

"I no longer have need to tolerate you, squire," she said, holding out that malicious weapon at him.

Above them, the sky was a swirl of faint purple and deep blue as Sera cast the final rays of her setting sun. Fayte took a look good at a Scygard for the first time in his life. The rounded full helm encased her whole head, leaving only a visor that sliced down to her chin, fanged at the end to provide some protection to the user's neck. Her cloak was thick and heavy, held by a brooch of gold inlaid with rubies. Underneath it was more gold, armouring her with a breastplate, a pair of bracers and shinguards.

"Kamille," Prince Rinmar called her, helping Emily down from his roc before he went over to the Scygard. "We are all friends here."

"I've said it before," Fayte told him. "I am not your friend."

"Nor your enemy," the Prince said. "Trust cannot be asked for. It must be earned. That is why I will not ask you to trust me, but I shall ask that you give me a chance to earn it."

"Never in-"

"Fayte…" Emily stood beside the Prince. "Please…"

You should be standing next to me. "Don't get me started on you. Do you have any idea-"

"I do," she told him. "And I do this for the sake of Hylan."

"I am not questioning your intention," Fayte said, pacing about as he glanced at his surroundings. Frewe Forest. But which part? "It is your method that I take issue with!"

"A squire taking issue with a Princess," the Scygard said, amused. "You know little of respect."

"Kamille Pe'nu." Now Prince Rinmar was mad. "Must you be punished to tame your tongue?"

Fayte grinned. "Listen to your mother now, little girl."

"My mother is long dead, you sandroach!"

"And so is mine!" Fayte pushed past Emily. "By the hands of your kind!"

"Scygards only kill warriors and harm no child or woman!" She raised her curved sword again. "Mayhaps I should give you a glimmer of honour and call you a warrior, so that I can kill you where you stand!"

"KAMILLE!" the Prince yelled. "You have tried my patience long enough!"

"Scygards have no honour," Fayte said.

And that struck a nerve.

Kamille screamed and turned her blade into a swivel, slashing at Fayte who was unarmed and without his shield. He could hear Emily scream but Fayte had spent some time examining this Scygard now. The blade came from his left so he dodged to the right - and he kept circling right. Your armour does not fit you well and the helm you wear is too big for your little head. A helm must always be worn tight. It was the only piece of armour every squire was allowed a new one.

That much shadow covering your face- He ducked to avoid another slash and spun himself to throw a kick to the side of the Scygard's body. -your vision is narrowed, Scygard!

One kick was all it took to knock her off her footing. Kamille stumbled in her heavy cloak and Fayte tackled her to the ground from behind her. He grabbed and twisted her arm until she dropped her weapon before he got off from her and kicked the golden blade away. Fayte waited and he waited until she rose to her feet.

"Fayte, stop it!" Emily pleaded. "This is not like you! You're scaring me!"

"This is me avenging my mother," he said, bearing with the pain in his left arm. "This is me avenging my sisters!"

The roc nudged him with its head.

Fayte dropped to the ground immediately and hurried to his feet, but the roc lazily nudged him again and he fell once more. He tried to get up again but the roc sneered at him, warning him to stay down.

"I will have no more of this fighting," Prince Rinmar said. "Ye'Jou, come."

The roc squawked at him before it turned and went back to its master.

"Kamille, ask for forgiveness."

The girl pulled her helm off. "My Prince, please, do not dishonour me by-"

"You have dishonoured me by defying me, warrior!" he snapped at her before he pointed at Fayte. "He could have broken your neck but he showed honour in combat and waited for you to rise. You on the other hand attacked him when he was without weapon or armour. Do not speak to me of honour when you have done nothing but dishonour us both since the moment we set foot in Hylan, Kamille Pe'nu."

While Rinmar continued to chide his guard, Emily offered to help him to his feet but Fayte waved her off. By the time Prince Rinmar was through yelling at her, Kamille bowed to her Prince and begged for his forgiveness before she turned to Fayte.

"You are a good fighter, Fayte… …"

"Kaywin," Emily said, smiling like she was proud. "Fayte of the noble Kaywin family."

Kamille nodded. "Fayte Kaywin. I dishonoured myself by engaging you when you were without arm. I beg you for your forgiveness."

"You can keep begging- AH! AH! Stop- stop it!"

Emily was twisting his ear and slapping him on the forehead. "Say you're sorry too!"

"Over my dead- AH! STOP IT! Will you stop- Alright- fine, FINE! I am sorry!"

"And?" Emily stayed her slapping hand for the moment.

"And what?"

"Tell her you forgive her!" she yelled at him, cranking her hand back to hit him one more time.

"Alright, alright! I forgive you!"

Emily smiled and bent over to kiss him on the forehead. "Good. Now we need to figure out where we are."

He rubbed his burning ear as he got up. Emily always did that to him when they got into quarrels back when they were both just children. Then Wilson would laugh at them and he would get his ear twisted and pulled at as well. Fayte checked himself. He had no weapon on him, not even a dagger, wearing only a linen tunic having taken off his armour earlier. A pair of leather boots and brass buckled belt was all he had - no - there was also the medallion Kestel tossed to him. Fayte dug it out of his small pocket having squeezed it in.

The medallion was white gold, round, polished, and carved into one of the two faces was a shield, surrounded by curls of roses and in the centre was a downward facing sword. Fayte had seen this medallion before many times. It was a powerful thing and only few in Hylan could wield it. Thankfully he was one of those few.

Unless father has already put the word out that his Royal Seal was stolen. The Royal Seal of the Order of the White Shield. It was given only to the Lord-Knight who can then lend it to another person, granting that person all his authority as Lord-Knight. It served many purposes. Now it will serve to protect the Princess though having Emily with him made it quite redundant.

"How far west?" Emily had asked when Rinmar told them the direction they had flown. "We could be near to Oaksblade. It's a town."

"A town is a good place to acquire provisions," Kamille added, her voice no longer hollow after removing her helm. "Ye'Jou has been stripped of his belongings. We will need supplies for the journey."

Unlike her Prince, Kamille had fairer skin though nothing comparable to Emily. With the light of dusk upon her, her brown skin was light and gold while Rinmar's was dark and bronze. She was shorter than her Prince who stood an inch or two taller than the rest of them. Her eyes were thin and her nose small but sharp. Right now her hair was braided behind her, a weave of black with lengths burnt by the sun. She is fair to look at… for a murderer.

"The journey to where?" Fayte felt like he was the only one who did not know of the plan.

"Yes," Emily said, "to where?"

"You mean you don't know?" Sera what should I do with this girl? "You freed him without knowing where you're going to go next?"

"There wasn't time, Fayte," she told him, standing in between him and the Prince. "I'm sure Rinmar has a plan. Right?"

The Prince remained silent and instead looked to the sky. Fayte shook his head and reached for the grass, checking, before he turned back and tried to see as far as he could. Nightfall will be upon us soon. We'll need fire or the beasts of Frewe will take us. This part of the forest was familiar to him.

"My intention was to have Kamille approach your people and ask for places of interests in your lands." Prince Rinmar turned back to them, his hands kept behind him and his chin held high, behaving much like a Prince but looking scarce like one in that dusty robe. "When Ra'gelor struck Saldara, we found him in a valley of temples, hiding in the oldest one. Legend has it that the temple we found him in still possessed innate power from the old spellweavers of our sands."

"You think Ra'gelor is somewhere that has power." Emily nodded, it made sense. "Mount Tyrus."

Both Kamille and Prince Rinmar turned to her after hearing how sure she was. And Emily was right to be confident. Fayte agreed that if the demon was residing at a place of power, it would be at Mount Tyrus. That was where the Chosen Herald had called for the nine heroes to defeat the Great Evil. It was also where his pilgrimage would end.

Hide there. Let the spirits of the nine take care of you themselves. "We can discuss this further later. Right now we need to set a fire for the night."

"No fire," Emily said. "We cannot risk being found. We will wait for nightfall and fly under the moonlight. The search parties will only be sent in the morning to look for me."

Fayte scoffed. Even Rinmar shook his head.

"Your father believes that I have kidnapped you," the Prince said.

"King Eardon will have the whole of Hylan searching for you," Fayte continued. "White dragons will aid the search from the sky. Knights and soldiers will ride from all cities and forts to scour the forests. And mages will have their elementals supporting both. Your father will not wait for sunrise."

The way Emily frowned told him that she disagreed. She was being stubborn. This time however Emily recognised sense when she heard it. "What do you suggest then?"

"We-"

"We go with your plan," Rinmar said. "Night still gives more cover than day. We will fly out of this forest and make the rest of our way to this Oaksblade on foot. Ye'Jou and Kamille will meet us outside the town once we have replenished our supplies."

Fool.

"Sounds like a plan," Emily said and turned to Fayte. "Right?"

I'd sooner have Amelia lead me to war. "No."

Kamille opened her mouth and managed only that when Rinmar glared at her.

"We are nowhere near Oaksblade," Fayte told them. "His bird landed us at the northern side of the Frewe Forest. The closest town is Ironsville."

"Wilson's hometown." Emily paced around them. "We should have Wilson join us."

It will not come to that. A plan was forming in his head. "I'm fine with that."

The Prince did not seem so sure.

"Wilson is a good friend of ours," Emily assured him. "He is a priest so I believe he will be of aid to us against Ra'gelor."

"I see," Rinmar said, nodding. "Very well. We shall make for this Iron town and replenish our supplies there."

They flew only to get out of the forest as decided. For the rest of the way they rode on Ye'Jou who was not so large as to let the four of them stay mounted on without squeezing. Fayte volunteered to walk and not wanting to lose out, Kamille chose to go on foot as well so they each walked on a side of the roc. The Scygard had taken off her oversized armour and bundled it up in her cloak, tying it to Ye'Jou's saddle. It was slow travel and Fayte had to put up with Emily and Rinmar chatting with each other. The Prince told her about his home in Saldara. A great city built in the middle of the desert named Urudom. Hearing about his people and the way they lived, the food they ate and the games children played fascinated Emily. To see her like this made Fayte happy, hearing her gasps and seeing that glimmer of excitement in her eyes. What ruined it all was how close she was sitting to the Saldarian.

They grew quiet after some time. Only twice did Ye'Jou, a male roc as Rinmar informed them, have to move off the path and hide when another traveller passed them. Fayte did not know when but Emily had fallen asleep and the Prince did something that surprised him. He jumped off his mount to walk with him.

"I see the way you look at us," the Prince said, waving Kamille off when she insisted he rode and rest himself. "You dislike it."

I hate it. "Men and boys of Hylan are taught to respect a lady's modesty, especially so if the lady is not a friend or kin."

"You do not think your Princess and I are friends?"

"You are a guest in her country," he said. "That is all you are to her." And lesser to me.

"Is that so?" Prince Rinmar smiled as he looked at the starless sky. "Mayhaps I will become more than just her guest in the future. When our countries are allies."

The King may pledge allegiance, but the people of Hylan will never call your kind our friend. "Fix this curse. Then we shall see if ever that becomes a possibility."

He had his eyes on the road but he could feel the Prince looking at him.

"This Zywedior…" the Prince started. "Tell me, what do your people know of--"

--Fayte stopped.

The others followed and the sudden halt woke Emily. He raised his hand when the Scygard was about to say something useless again. Fayte listened and he listened hard, feeling the almost indiscernible vibration beneath his feet. He knelt and placed his palm flat on the dirt. Sooner than I expected.

"Another traveller?" the Prince asked.

"Not exactly. Emily, come down from there."

"What's going on? Why did we- hey." He held her hand and guided her off the roc's back. "Fayte, what's going on?"

"Get off the road," he told Ye'Jou and the roc turned to its master who nodded before he left. "And you as well, Prince."

"What-" That was when PrinceRinmar heard it. The sound of galloping horses. "I am impressed by the keenness of your hearing."

The Prince hurried off the road and Kamille was going to follow him… if Fayte had not attacked her.

"AHH!" Kamille screamed, dropping to the floor after her left knee was kicked in and broken. "You will die for this!"

Fayte held the point of her curved blade to her chin.

"Fayte, have you lost your mind?" Emily went up to her but he held a finger up to her told her to stay out of it.

"What is the meaning of this?" Prince Rinmar exclaimed. Ye'Jou spread its wings and scree--

"--do that and she dies," he warned them and Ye'Jou made no noise. "I will meet you here on the morrow, Prince. You and I shall find this demon. For now I advise you hide if you value anymore hope of earning the King's trust."

The sound of the horses pounding as they galloped grew louder. This was not the sound of just a travelling horse being whipped into a charge. The hard thumps and how quickly they came made it clear that these were warhorses - not one but many - riding towards them.

"In fact, don't just hide," Fayte told him. "Run."

At long last Fayte saw anger on Rinmar's face and his anger had such a malicious look to it. There is the Saldarian I always pictured in my head. The Prince mounted his roc and took to the sky while Kamille continued to scream curses at him. Fayte grew tired and smacked the flat of her curved blade to the back of her head.

"Such violence!" Kamille said, who to Fayte's surprise should have been knocked out. "You don't even deserved to be called a squire!"

Emily had enough. "Fayte, stop it! I command you to-"

"Lay down your weapon."

The three of them turned to the man with the hoarse voice. Three horses rushed past them and went in pursuit of the Prince. Swords were drawn but Prince Rinmar was in the sky and no horse or soldier could fly without wings. Fayte dropped the foul weapon away from Kamille and held out his father's seal with the other hand.

The knight eyed the white medallion, recognizing it, before he looked at Fayte and recognized too the son of the Lord-Knight. This knight was in his late twenties, still young but no longer green. He looked at Kamille for a moment and said nothing, but when he turned to Emily…

"Princess?"

"That I am," Emily said politely enough though she was still fuming. "How did you know that I was approaching?"

"I am Sir Ian of the Waymer family," he said.

The knight dismounted and made to kneel but Emily waved him off it. He thanked her and remained standing instead.

"Since the attack on their town, Ironsville has deployed their own scouts on top of their watchers while they await for my arrival to bolster their defences," Sir Ian went on. "I saw use for their scouts so I requested that they continued to be deployed throughout the night."

"And you knew this," Emily said to him, though it was the watchers he had been relying on. "I trusted you."

It wounded him to have her look at him with those hateful eyes. But this wasn't just an argument over a chess game.

"I will do anything to protect you and I will always be there for you," he told her and he told her sincerely. "Even if-"

"Then why can't you be here for me when I am trying to bring peace to--"

"--Even if," he interrupted her, "you continue to tear my heart apart by trying to befriend the people who slaughtered my family." I will help your Prince, but I will not suffer watching you become friends with him.

Emily softened and her eyes became just the tiniest bit teary.

"Many people lost their loved ones when Zywedior was… was…" A tear fell from her eye. "Peace is the only way to prevent another Zywedior. We can't keep killing each other, the cycle of vengeance will never stop. I must do this for my people, Fayte, you need to understand that."

"That is not what I need to understand," he said softly.

Fayte could not bear to look at her anymore so he dropped his gaze and walked away.

What I need to understand is that I will never come before your people…