CHAPTER 7 - TO PLEASE A PRINCESS

The council was adjourned with the Archimage and the Bishop returning to Iredis and Grand-Rosia. Archimage Lasandra intended to seek council with the White Light, while the Bishop said that he would look into the topic of holy weapons. If the Black Army was going to attack Hylan again, they would require all the demon-slaying spells and light-enchanted weapons that they could lay their hands on.

Black Army or Saldarian army, Fayte thought as he ascended the spiralling steps up the tower to the roof, there is little difference I can make as a squire.

The High Sage was a genius but many felt that the boy should read more children's stories and spend more time with puppies and ponies. Stabbing Princes in the heart and foretelling the doom of Rondiar was not something a child his age should be doing. Snatching the Princess’s birthday present did, however, seem more along the lines of being a child.

"So has Kestel returned the books?" Fayte asked after emerging from the door.

"No!" Emily exclaimed. "He has already finished reading half of them but still he refuses to return any to me. He said he needed the entire collection for referencing to check if the information is consistent."

Fayte shrugged. "Wait for him to be done then."

"He said he will take at least a month, Fayte," the Princess told him. "An entire month!"

They were at the top of the castle at one of the eastern towers. The two sentries that stood guard there were sent off by the Princess so that she could be alone with him. They came here all the time and the guards always appreciated a free hour or two to relax at their quarter. Only a sleeping gryphon by the corner of the roof accompanied them. Emily leaned on the edge and stared at the distance to the north. The wind swept through the curls in her hair and the amber rays of the setting sun made her skin golden. She was beautiful; perfection in his eyes… and Fayte felt creepy staring at her like that.

He shook his head and joined her.

"If Kestel thinks it is necessary then it is necessary," Fayte said. "After all, Saldara is still an enemy. The information in those books could very well be fake. He needs to be sure."

"I know…" she conceded. Emily turned and looked at him. "Hey."

"Hmm?"

"We didn't get a chance to talk after what happened on my birthday."

Fayte turned to look at the setting sun.

"My father and I have discussed the matter before," he admitted. "War is a cycle of death. Vengeance breeds vengeance. It was something that my mother always told us before she…"

Fayte pressed his lips together. Before she was slain along with my sisters.

"If Saldara wants an alliance," he said after a deep breath and a smile at her, "my father and I will not stand in the way of it because of our history with them." For we are men of the Order of the White Shield and the Order serves the Kingdom.

Emily smiled. He knew that was what she wanted to hear.

"But we disapprove of the alliance for other reasons," he then said and watched as her smile fade away.

"What do you mean?"

"We don't trust them," he explained. "Saldara has wanted to rule us for so many years. When they first came to your grandfather and demanded that he bow to their rule, your grandfather laughed in the messenger's face and told the man to relay his laughter to their Emperor. Zywedior happened soon after. Since then our two kingdoms have been at war. Why then would they want an alliance now?"

"Because they know that they cannot hope to defeat us," she said. "They know that we are too strong after that one battle after Zywedior. They saw how strong our Orders are united, so now they want an alliance. To end the bloodshed."

Fayte scoffed. The blood that they made us shed.

"You said your history had nothing to do with this!"

"And it doesn't," Fayte told her. "If it had then I would've killed that Prince there and then."

She looked into his eyes, trying to see if he meant his words. Fayte didn't look away, he knew he meant his words but he did not know if he would have actually done that. Killing an undead was one thing. Killing a person was another.

"There's nothing wrong with them wanting an alliance," she said, turning away.

"Everything about it is wrong," he told her. "You may not know but there were talks of an alliance long before that Prince came to our land. It happened before the messenger came when your grandfather and the previous Lord-Knight first heard about Saldara."

Emily looked up.

"Needless to say it didn't go through. Saldara wanted no alliance. That is why we are suspicious." Fayte looked at her, hoping that she would understand. "Why are you so convinced, if I may ask?"

"Because of Rinmar," she said.

Fayte knitted his brows, thinking hard.

"Rinmar the Prince?" Emily said, rolling her eyes.

"OH…" Now he remembered. "What about him?"

"Rinmar would not have risked entering our kingdom if he hadn't believed in his cause. He knows that peace is the only end to the war and he is trying very hard to convince his father of that."

"Trying very hard?" Fayte said. "You barely spoke to him and now you speak as though you know what he is doing this very moment."

"I-I just… Well I just think that he was sincere when he said what he said," she told him. "He really sounded like he wanted things to change and so do I. How is that so bad?"

It isn’t bad… if it was true.

She sounded defeated and frustrated and it didn't make Fayte feel good. He sighed and looked to the northern-east where Saldara was. Emily had always been the cleverest amongst the three of them. She always was that ray of sunshine, the one who saw only the goodness in everyone's heart, and would always argue against a person's flaws even if she did not know that person herself. She would rule out every single possibility before she would say that a person was bad.

And she was stubborn. That might be because she was raised as a royal and had always gotten what she wanted. This time however, what she wanted would affect hundreds of thousands of people. It would affect an entire country. A cute smile and sparkly eyes would not melt her father's heart and get her what she wanted. If she felt so strongly about this alliance, Emily was going to have to fight for it. And the least he could do as her friend - as someone who wished to be more than a friend in the future - was to not stand in her way.

"I will talk to my father," he said, and that made her look at him again with a glimmer of hope. "If my father agrees that an alliance is best for our country, he may convince your father to forget that debt of blood so that Prince Rinmud may-"

"Rin-mar."

"Rin-MAR," he corrected himself, laughing with her, "may focus on convincing your father that he is sincere in his offer of peace."

For a second there he couldn't quite make out how Emily was feeling. She was smiling so that had to be a good thing, but her eyes were teary so that could mean-

Emily hugged him.

"Thank you," she said, her voice muffled with her mouth pressing against his shirt. "I knew I could count on you."

When she looked at up him with those little eyes and pink lips, Fayte felt an urge to tell her once and for all how he felt about her. Their parents may have said more than once before that they were to be wed in the future, and they themselves had always been very close, but a true betrothal would need more than just words and laughter. A part of him believed that she was well aware of his feelings, but that was just the part that was too timid to confess to her. It was time he became brave.

"Hey, there's something that I've been meaning to--"

"--your Grace."

Fayte turned and glared at the idiot who just interrupted him. It was one of the two guards who were supposed to stand guard here.

"Administrator Langton asks if you are free to join him at the Library now," the guard said, his spear held upright in his right hand. "He mentioned something about the chest of books the Saldaran Prince gifted to you. He says you may begin with the first book if you wish to, but you will have to do so in the Library."

Fayte watched her ran out of his arms like how the female lead always did in the stage plays. He could only hope that it would end the same way with the Princess marrying the knight in shining armour. He shook his head. It wasn’t just that Emily had run out of his arms, but it was that he had allowed it. Even if the guard had not interrupted them…

I love you… But I will have to first become a knight.