CHAPTER 16 - THE NEED FOR PEACE

The horse rubbed its head against his face affectionately.

"Go back," Fayte told it, letting free of its rein. "Go to Melanie, back to home, go."

He patted the animal on its body and it ran off. Melanie had trained all her horses to be able to follow the road home as long as they were not too far away. Only she could accomplish something like that. Whitesong was a gift from his father and Melanie was the one who helped trained the girl. Fayte wished that Whitesong was here with him now. Then he would have no need to rely on this guy.

"You can stop glaring at me like that," he told Rinmar as he walked up to the Prince and his roc. "You need me as much as I need you."

"I have no need of you," the Prince said from atop his roc.

Ye'Jou clattered his beak and shook his wings menacingly.

"My father is Lord-Knight of one of the three Orders of Hylan," he told him. "You have much need of me, Saldarian."

The Prince said nothing in response but he did nothing about the glaring.

"Where is Kamille? Was her leg attended to?"

"Bandages and some healing salve," he told him, standing a few feet away from Ye'Jou just in case the bird decided to attack him. "She will receive no healing from the Order of the White Rose."

"Then she is well. Kamille has endured worse without your holy Order."

Fayte scoffed. "She won't be for long."

As they soared through the sky, Fayte told the Prince what had happened after they arrived at Ironsville. He explained slavery in Hylan and Rinmar told him how slavery was a common sight in Saldara. It was how some paid for their crimes, not so different from Hylan.

"It is not something I agree with completely," the Prince said with Fayte seated behind him. "But it is better than losing a hand or their life."

Seeing Hylan from such a height gave Fayte new perspectives. The lands seemed so peaceful and the sky so serene with the moonlight painting calm over the landscape. This high up the air was thin and chilly but Fayte managed. Rinmar was having a much easier time of course, no doubt used to flying though the wind stung his eyes without his goggles.

"This Underlord of yours," Rinmar said, glancing back at him. "Yes, I do believe his influence snakes into the sands of my country as well. There is a man in Saldara much like him."

"They say the Underlords together have influence over the entire world, each of them controlling a different area." Fayte had heard stories of the criminal from both citizens on the streets and soldiers who claim to have crossed paths with him. "I sometimes wonder if the Underlords even exist."

"Believe me, they do exist and they are very dangerous. The Underlord of Saldara can take on an entire tribe of men on his own. Two hundred men poisoned to their deaths while asleep. My father had learned from that event to not make the Underlord his enemy."

"So he is a friend then?" Fayte shrugged. "King Eardon will have nothing to do with our Underlord."

"The Underlord is not our friend," Rinmar told him. "But we make certain he is not our enemy either. If Kamille and Emily-"

"Princess Emily."

Rinmar paused a moment. "If Kamille and Princess Emily reach your Underlord, I fear we may never see them both again. We cannot allow that."

He is afraid of something, Fayte realized. It did not sound like concern for Kamille though it should have been. This was about Emily. If he failed to return Emily safely to King Eardon… I see.

"You can forget about peace if Emily is hurt."

"You would like that, I know."

Fayte sat up but held on tighter to the back of Rinmar's leather saddle. "I desire no war between our countries."

"Then why do you oppose my intention so much?" the Prince asked. "Do not say it is because of the massacre."

"It is because of the massacre!"

"If that is then what you desire, squire Fayte, is vengeance. What you desire is retribution on those who killed your people. Your family."

The night sky flared alive with a flash of lightning. Ye'Jou banked right and dipped, startled by the sudden lightning though no thunder followed.

Sera disapproves. The White Dragon God could only disapprove what was real. "Blood for blood."

"And both grass and sand will become a sea of red." Rinmar patted Ye'Jou on the back and stroked his head gently, soothingly, whispering softly at the beast to calm it. His actions reminded Fayte of Melanie and how she would talk to her horses. "You and I are both very young, Fayte. Your father, King Eardon, and my father, they are old and they have little future left. But us, those of our age, we have a whole life ahead of us. Do you wish for your future to be filled with war and bloodshed, Fayte?"

I wish for my future to be with Emily. To be happy with her. War would never allow that to happen, Fayte knew, so he said nothing to the question and posed his own.

"Why do you wish for peace so badly?" Fayte asked. "Is it because you fear us? Is it because you are afraid that we will storm your desert and destroy your country?"

Rinmar shook his head. "Do you wish to hear the truth, Fayte?"

No, I would prefer if you fed me lies and treachery. "If you are capable of it."

The Prince lifted his chin and sighed. "My father never wanted war with your country. It was not he who destroy your city, Zywedior, yet it is he who suffers the consequences of it for he is the Emperor."

"You told Emily that your people do not weep for us," Fayte reminded him of what he said in the dungeon. "And that your people saw your actions as dishonourable."

"I said people, I did not say who specifically."

Fayte did not understand what the Prince was trying to say. If people does not mean Saldara, then… then Saldara is not a whole. "Your people are fighting amongst yourselves. Saldara is facing civil war."

Ye'Jou rolled aside.

Fayte lost grip of the saddle and slipped off. He tried to snatch at Ye'Jou's but he only hurt the creature, pulling out a handful of white feathers. When he saw streaks of fire flying past him, he held up his shield and turned to defend himself from below. The flaming arrows and fire bolts missed him mostly. Their target was clearly the big flying bird in the sky.

His shield did little to slow his fall. The air rushed at him and Fayte kept his shield close to his face so he could keep his eyes opened. Not that being able to see helped much with his situation, but at least he knew to brace himself a little when he saw Ye'Jou diving at him. Rinmar spun with his roc with excellent control and grabbed him with both hands.

"Flee!" Rinmar yelled.

Ye'Jou screeched out at the attackers below as he soared higher and away from the area, out of range from the arrows and magical bolts. As far as Fayte could see there was still nothing but trees below them. The projectiles seemed to be appearing out of thin air.

"What magic is that?" Fayte said, checking to make sure he wasn't wounded.

Adrenaline took away pain but pain kept you informed when you were hurt.

"A mirage," the Prince said. "Illusion magic. I have seen it once before."

Ye'Jou brought them down earlier than Fayte would like. They landed beside a lake just a league away from where they were ambushed. Whoever attacked them wanted to shoot them down and since they failed, they would surely send outriders to chase after them. Illusion magic isn't one of the four elements. This school of magic was not of Hylan.

"It is not of my sands as well."

The huge roc growled weakly. Three arrows had lodged themselves into Ye'Jou's side and the wounds bled freely. Fayte remember plunging his sword into the roc's neck before but drew little blood. A natural form of defence probably. Ye'Jou curled up on the ground and lay its head on a stone while Rinmar examined the wounds. There were a few burn marks on the roc's body from the fire bolts.

Fire bolts and arrows and still it managed to stay in flight. Fayte was impressed.

"Give me your dagger," Rinmar said, holding out his hand.

Fayte just crossed his arms.

"Ye'Jou took these three arrows for you," Rinmar told him, his tone urgent. "We could have flown away and escaped with lesser harm but instead we saved you. Now give me your dagger!"

Even the Prince had a limit to his patience. It could be a trick masked under a true need, but Fayte knew when he was being unreasonable himself. Rinmar snatched it from him and began to work on removing the arrows. The steel tips of arrows were usually barbed. If Rinmar simply pulled the arrow out, the barbed arrow would tear out flesh and veins and cause further harm. That was why during combat it was better to simply break off the shaft of the arrow and carry on.

"The arrows went deep." Rinmar tossed aside the first arrow and dug a handful of dirt from the ground. He pressed the soil against Ye'Jou's wound and the roc moaned loudly. "Hush, my friend, we are not out of danger yet. I know it hurts but I must stop the bleeding. Bite something if you have to."

Ye'Jou turned and looked at Fayte.

"Try me," he said and touched his sword.

Ye'Jou gurgled spit in his throat at him before he bit down on the stone he was laying on earlier. Bits of rock broke off when Rinmar removed the second arrow and pressed dirt to it. That was when Fayte realised that he was using magic to seal Ye'Jou's wound, and of all schools of magic, Rinmar was using earth magic.

"The creatures that attacked us…"

"Earth animations," the Prince said, already expected what Fayte was thinking. "Ra'gelor came from my country. It should come as no surprise to you that we use the same magic. Believe what you want, I did not summon those animations. I have no time to convince you."

"You make it sound like I am without reason."

The Prince cursed when a stream of blood burst from Ye'Jou's wound. He quickly pressed it down with a fistful of dirt and then a second before the blood stopped flowing.

"People like you is why our countries will never have peace," he told him, stroking Ye'Jou slowly now that the wounds were healed. Sweat fell from his forehead. Rinmar had the birthright of magic, but he was clearly no trained mage. "You and others like you are obstacles that I and your Princess must overcome."

Rinmar's words took him unaware. Fayte had never considered himself to be an obstacle to Emily.

Ye'Jou made a weak noise.

"Do you have a water skin that I can use?" Rinmar asked.

"It's in the bag with the…" Fayte mumbled a curse.

"The bag that we lost when we were ambushed."

With a sigh, the Prince got up and made his way to the side of the lake. The surface of the lake glittered with the light of the moon and stars that hung around it. Fayte cupped his hands together and drank while Rinmar brought handfuls of water to Ye'Jou, back and forth. He cared more for his mount… his friend, than he did himself, making sure Ye'Jou had been quenched before he tended to that burn on his left leg.

It reminded him of Whitesong and how he took care of the girl when they were both younger. Whitesong was just a foal then, too small to be ridden so Fayte had often went walking with her. He slept in the stable for three days and three nights when Whitesong was sick. Not all illnesses could be healed by a priest. Some needed ample rest and a mixture of salves, while others required love and tender care. Fayte cupped his hands and dipped it into the lake. He brought it to Ye'Jou carefully and knelt down beside the roc.

"Bite off my hand and you can forget about getting any more water." Why am I even doing this? He emptied the water into Ye'Jou's mouth. The roc swished its tongue to catch the water, swallowing what little they could bring him each turn. Rinmar watched him and said nothing. They took turn to feed the roc in silence until Ye'Jou had enough before they both sat down and looked at Rinmar's wound.

"Can't you do that dirt thing?"

"Not worth the pain," he said, carefully dipping his leg into the cool water. Rinmar winced and dug his fingers into the soil. For a few moments he seemed to be in more pain than if he used his magic, but slowly his face relaxed and the pain subsided. "An oasis is hard to come by in Saldara."

"This is a lake," he told the Prince, feeling uneasy with so much water before them. It's not the sea but still, we should not linger here. "We should go. They will be looking for us. I am no match against mages and Ye'Jou is in no--"

--a splash.

Fayte spun around and saw Rinmar being dragged across the surface of the lake.

"HELP-"

The Prince went underwater.