Magic trumps sword.
His father could do nothing as the enormous ice glyph flared alive. An instant later what was formerly his father was now a block of ice. The crowd gasped. This was the first time they had seen the Lord-Knight imprisoned in a spell. Even the royal family was surprised by the turn of events, with the Queen taking the King by his arm and Emily bursting to her feet.
"FATHER!" Fayte yelled, failing to notice that not one of the Whiteguards seemed disturbed.
The sorceress waved and her tome shut itself before it froze up and shattered into nothingness.
"The Lord-Knight is unharmed," the sorceress said, walking towards his father before she turned to address the King. "Your Majesty, if you would do me the honour of declaring me the winner, so as I may quickly release the Lord-Knight from my spell and apologise to him, for a revered man such as he should not have to suffer such a humiliating--"
--the block of ice exploded.
Shards of ice flew in all directions and the sorceress narrowly threw up an ice wall before she was hit. When the shards had settled, she thought herself to be safe only to have her wall of ice crushed from the outside by an immense, nigh unstoppable force. There was nothing she could do but yield when she found herself engulfed in a glaring light. The sorceress fell to her knees when she saw the immense angel wings on the Lord-Knight's back, now slowly fading away with the light that bathed her. The tip of his father's glowing white sword was now underneath her chin.
"I thank you, young sorceress," his father said, a picture of ease, "for cooling me off with that spell."
The crowd burst to their feet and went wild with cheers.
"Did you see that?" Wilson said, his eyes filled with wonder.
"Uncle Frendon can fly?" Amelia asked.
Fayte laughed and shook his head. "Well, I don't know actually, but Uncle Frendon is the most amazing person I know."
"Do you have wings too?" she then asked while Preston looked at his own wings.
"No," he told her, watching his father leave the stage. Perhaps one day I will.
The arena was filled with excited chatter. Few people had ever lived to say that they had seen the Seraph Wings before. Bishop Tydon claimed that only the purest of heart and those who had met the White Dragon God herself before could summon the wings. His father dismissed it as an old priest's rambling, saying he had never met Sera before, and that no single man or woman had a truly pure heart. Sometimes Fayte wondered if that was the truth. He had always known that his father could summon the Seraph Wings, but this was the first time he had ever seen. Now he wondered why his father chose to resort to the wings. He should have known to take out the largest threat first, yet he chose not to. His father was not one to toy with his enemy, that much Fayte knew.
He did it for my benefit, was the answer he ended up with as Fayte made his way down for his final match. The wings were for my benefit.
The hour neared noon and sweat drenched his inner tunic under his armour. The air felt warm and his helm was stifling but he wore it still. Fayte stood under the sun as he watched his last opponent step onto the stage. They looked each other in the eye as the knight in the centre checked that they were both ready. Shields held steady and swords gripped tight, both squires nodded.
"You have both fought hard and have come very far," the knight said. "This shall be your final duel as a squire against another squire."
Fayte glanced at Emily to see her sitting on the edge of her seat.
"I will enjoy this, Kaywin," Jason said, with that smug look stuck on his face as he strode towards Fayte. "You got lucky during your fight with Jeremiah. Sera has smiled upon you for that match."
Their swords met as both lashed out at the same time. Fayte swung harder than he intended, yet it was only just enough to parry Jason's blow. He is stronger than when we last duelled.
"Now Sera smiles upon me."
"I only need one lady to smile at me," Fayte told him. "Her name is Emily."
He charged Jason with his shield, clashing into him before he stabbed out with his sword. Jason ducked and rolled before swinging his blade at his leg, but Fayte had already moved away. He waited for Jason to rise before he attacked again. Their swords met and the sound of clashing steel hurt his ears.
"The Princess favours you but it means nothing," Jason said, droplets of sweat falling from the tip of his nose. "She is but just a girl now with her little crush on you. When she comes of age she will see with her own eyes that I am the better man."
"Which is it?" Fayte asked. "Is it the feud that you are obsessed with or the Princess?"
"I am Jason of the Paven family," he said, an intensity in his eyes that Fayte could not see reason for. "I will bring honour to my family as a knight of Hylan. Then I will win the Princess's heart and she will see that you, Kaywin, are nothing more than just a farce."
This is his chance to reclaim the honour of his family's name. Fayte shook the sweat from his brows that threatened to sting his eyes. The honour they never lost but insisted they did.
"I will avenge my lord grandfather for the insult your great uncle had spat on him."
Fayte was sick of this.
"Your grandfather was a whole fifty when he sought to steal my great uncle's lady for himself," Fayte told him not for the first time nor the third or the fifth. "He brought shame to himself, never to your family."
"Your great uncle paraded my lord grandfather in the streets of Haimesfort!"
"Only because your grandfather tried to--"
--a painful screech silenced him.
Before the terrible sound came to an end, more joined it and Fayte watched as the few white dragons sitting amongst the spectators arched their heads high and screeched aloud. He turned around and found Preston doing the same. Wilson was at a loss and Amelia had her hands on her ears. The look on Preston's long head was almost savage like the dragons beyond the--
He felt the blade of Jason's sword come down on his right shoulder. Blunt steel would only ring upon steel plates, but sharpened steel tore through rusted metal as it did right then. Fortunately the armour slowed the blade just enough for Fayte to move. He spun away to save himself from a severed arm and escaped with just an open wound.
This fool is using a real sword!
"For my Princess," Jason said and he charged.
The referee yelled for the match to cease as the ground beneath their feet began to rumble. Children were screaming and men were shouting. Knights drew swords and elemental glyphs flared to life, but all Fayte heard were the words that Jason spewed. For the words came with an intent that struck Fayte to the depths of his heart. And a rush overcame him.
Jason spun and moved swiftly - amazingly - slashing at Fayte with fierce but tamed movements. He spun into a slash and lunged with a stab, pushing Fayte closer and closer to the edge until the tip of his sword left a scar on Fayte's shield. Jason rushed him with his shield right then. His plan was not to outfight him. All he wanted was to win this match and so all Jason had to do was throw him off the platform. Fayte was evading his attacks not because he was frightened, no, he dodged for he had to watch. The final rush that Jason came at him with, Fayte had saw coming from the start. All he had to do was drop his sword and scream. Jason was easily distracted by unconventional fighting - no warrior would drop his sword in the middle of a fight - and once Jason was distracted Fayte needed only to use Jason's momentum against him, and this match was his to claim. But this was no longer just a duel for Fayte.
"For my Princess," Jason had said.
This was now a fight for Emily.
Jason came at him with his shield and Fayte met him head on. Their shields crushed against each other but the force behind the Kaywin was stronger. Fayte sidestepped and shoved again, pushing Jason off his footing, but the boy did not manage to make it so far without skill. Jason hopped. And as clumsy as it was, that move kept him on his feet and allowed Jason to follow through with a stab. His movement surprised Fayte but Fayte did not beat Jeremiah on sheer luck either. He raised his shield arm and inched himself a side. Jason barely missed the left of his chest. He quickly pulled his sword back as he moved but not before Fayte dropped his shield and grabbed Jason's sword by the hilt.
The look on Jason's face was that of disbelief.
Fayte jabbed the pommel of his sword on Jason's hand and disarmed him. He tapped Jason's shield with his own sword, leaving the Paven confused as Fayte swivelled his sword back and dipped it behind Jason's shield, hitting his elbow hard enough to make him drop his shield. Without shield or sword Jason stood stunned before him until he fell to his knees.
"I…" Jason couldn't believe the outcome. "I… yield…?"
Chaos surrounded them.
The sound of people screaming for their lives finally got through their adrenalin. Men and women with children on their arms and backs were rushing down the grandstand. Knights were carrying those injured and the few white dragons present took to the skies with babies and smaller children on their back. Ice glyphs burst to life and seized the grandstands with frozen vines as cracks shot up the support beams.
"FAYTE!" his father screamed as a royal gryphon took off from behind him.
I… I… I need to- Fayte dropped his blunt sword and grabbed Jason by the arm. "We need to get out of here!"
The royal viewing box was empty save for his father. Emily and her parents had taken to the sky out of harm and safe from danger. Fayte bit his lips as the afterthought of his father being left behind sank in. It was, however, his father's duty to stay as it was Fayte's duty to help the others.
"Jump!" he said.
They leaped from the platform and landed in a roll, bursting to their feet as they bolted for the nearest exit. It was utter chaos and the stench of dirt was so strong it stung his eyes. At first the ground only rumbled and shook but now it began to split and tear open. Fayte grabbed a lady by her hand and held her steady when she tripped slightly. He rushed to aid a group of men who had pressed themselves against the side of the grandstand to keep the section from falling, allowing others to run past them and escape from the arena.
"Lady Sera, help us," the man pressed against the wall next to him said, a noble lord by the garments he wore. "Lend us the strength and courage and wisdom to see this through, although a mage would do just as well."
As if Sera heard him, they found themselves engulfed in light and a moment later felt frostbite on their skin. They shied away from the wall of ice that now held the grandstand, muttering a quicker prayer of thanks to Sera before they ran out. Deep chasms had opened up in the ground like the very earth was trying to get a gasp of air. His heart sank when he saw a man fall down the hole that opened underneath his feet. And he cringed when he saw a girl get knocked to the ground by someone larger. He ran to the girl to-
"Fayte, over here!"
Two ladies stopped to help the girl up before they ran off together. Fayte looked to where the voice was from and saw Jeremiah with the rest of the squires standing together in a group. Their swords were drawn and white flashes of light bounced off the polished steel. He looked to the distance and saw the crowd slowing. Something ahead of them had stopped them from leaving.
"Walking corpses," Jeremiah said when Fayte ran up to them, handing him a sword with sharpened edges. "A horde of them."
The crowd was backing towards them now as the ground continued to shake and smaller chasms split off from the larger ones. Behind them they heard the wailing crash as a grandstand crumbled to the earth and disappeared, swallowed whole by the very ground they stood upon.
"There's another horde coming from the east," Jeremiah told him, looking behind him at the twelve squires. "We will--"
"--squires of Hylan!"
They both turned back and saw a knight mounted on his horse, his sword glowing and his eyes flared white with the Light of the Spirits.
"A great horde approaches from the east," the knight told them. "The Lord-Knight has ridden off to hold it back with the mages and what soldiers he could muster. Do what you can to protect the people. Keep them from the arena and defend them. Are my words heard?"
"Yes," they answered.
The knight met eyes with Fayte.
"The Lord-Knight's son…" The knight nodded to himself. "Squire Fayte, I place you in command."
"Me?" He turned to Jeremiah. "Put him in command, he's-"
The knight was gone.
"Commander," Jeremiah said. "What are you orders?"
"I am pleased to see that you can still smile," Fayte said, no longer feeling a rumble underneath his feet.
He looked to the crowd that was quickly backing towards them. Father left for the east… why? His eyes narrowed to the distance. The castle! Captain Teynier would send his men to engage the horde from the rear. As the knight has commanded, we must hold this-
A gust of air shot at them from beneath their feet.
The ground shook and trembled more violently than before and a hole began to tear open between them. They ran towards the people as the remaining of the grandstands fell apart. Giant sinkholes emerged from the arena and more of the ground began to fall.
"How do we hold the ground when the very ground is falling?" one of them screamed madly.
"Calm yourself!" Fayte told him, running with them. We do not have time. "Break through the crowd--"
"--but the knight--"
"--BREAK THROUGH!" he screamed.
They shoved their way into the crowd, jostling through and shouting for everyone to get out of their way. Fayte was sorry he had to be so rough but time was of the essence. They needed to get out of here immediately. Once they emerged from the other side, all of them stopped immediately as a horde of shambling undead stumbled towards them, held back by soldiers with spears and swords with only three maybe four knights in the fray with them. He could hear cries behind them and people saying their prayers aloud. Many had lost hope and the situation did appeared hopeless.
Fayte shut his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose, relaxing himself and calming his mind, blowing the air slowly from his mouth. And when the breath was done he opened his eyes.
"Jeremiah, take Julin, Alanders, Petyr and Herman." He looked at each of them. "Spread out and head to the frontline, support the soldiers there. Watch the arms and beware even after they have fallen. They will crawl and drag you to the ground. Just slow the horde's progress and buy us time."
He looked around them.
"The rest of you are with me." Fayte turned to the centre of the horde's frontline. "We'll cut through the horde and fight to the middle."
"What?" Jason said, bewildered by his plan. "What good will that-"
"We cannot hope to cut them all down," Fayte explained, though he would much prefer to just knock Jason out with a punch. "Fight to middle. From there we fan out and draw their attention on us. The undeads are slow and they are attracted to the living. Keep in pairs, watch each other's back. Captain Teynier and his men will come from the rear of the horde. Just hold out until then."
Everyone looked at him, no one was sure, in fact it was clear all of them felt that this was a crazy plan.
"Alright," Jeremiah said, a look of uncertainty but nothing more. "I am with you, my friend."
Fayte could only wish his family name drew as much confidence as the Vladertz's.
"Alright then. The goal is to draw the horde's attention," he said, gripping his sword as he turned to face the horde. Fayte took a breath and nodded to himself. "For Rondiar."
"FOR RONDIAR!" they all screamed.