The black mist threw the Prince away.
He hit the ground hard and rolled away. Fayte watched as blood spewed from the Scygard mage's neck. The dark mist made it hard to see but the man dropped to his knees as blood spilled to the ground. When Rinmar's uncle fell dead on the ground, Fayte saw that the man had been laughing as he died. He was not shocked that his nephew had betrayed him. It was as though- he wanted Rinmar to spill his blood.
The ground began to rumble. Fayte ran up to Captain Resfield, quickly now, he took the vial that Wilson gave him and emptied it into the Captain's pale lips. He may be too late but he had to try.
"Emily, are you all right?" he asked.
The knights had brought her over after Rinmar left her side.
"I'm fine," she said, though she looked nowhere near fine. "What's happening? Why is the ground-"
The roar of a monster sent a shockwave across the inner courtyard, hitting them with a gust of wind. A massive column of black mist erupted from the crimson glyph and shot to the sky. It began to grow wider and wider, consuming the body of Rinmar's uncle first then the plants and the trees and everything that it came into contact with. Dust and leaves were swept into the air by a torrent of wind, stealing their voices and slowing their limbs. They moved away towards the castle, not noticing that the mist had ceased growing. By then it had already taken up a third of the courtyard. The column that went to the sky shortened to the height of the castle. The five storey high castle.
Sera, please do not let that be the size of Ra'gelor.
Two massive horns emerged from the top of the mist and Fayte glanced at the sky, shaking his head. A massive leg stepped out from the mist, feathered with the shade of night-blue and grey, with talons like Ye'Jou but several times larger. After the other leg emerged, two titanic arms swung out scaled with the gold of desert. One of them tore away a portion of the castle's wall by accident. Five massive claws hung from the demon's hands, each one coated with the red of blood and edged with a malicious sharpness.
Fayte looked at his own sword. His claw is longer than Whitesong from head to tail.
"Time to go," he shouted to Emily, not wanting to wait for the head to emerge.
"No!" she said, fighting him. "We have to get Rinmar!"
Fayte turned to where Rinmar was. It was hard to see with all the dirt being swept into the air, but he was dangerously close to Ra'gelor. Kamille was there with him, trying to pull him to safety.
"Kamille has him, we must go!"
"NO!" Emily told him. "He saved my life, Fayte! I won't abandon him!"
At that very moment Fayte wanted to scream at her. He wanted to scream at her that he had been the one who was fighting so hard to find her. He was the one putting his life at risk to rescue her. He was the one who eventually saved her life. But he didn't utter a single word to her.
"Get her to safety." He pushed her away to one of the knights. "Now! Go before-"
Black mist enveloped the knight, pulling the woman away as she tried to fight it and free herself. She may as well have been fighting air. The demon reached out with its hand and seized her before putting her to its mouth. Ra'gelor had a long head much like a dragon, with its two massive horns jutting out from the side of his head. There was no mistaking him for a dragon though, Ra'gelor was clearly a demon. Six glowing orbs were inlaid on his face, curved and glowing with a bloody crimson. His mouth was small but filled with several rows of fangs and beaked like a gryphon. And like his body that now began to show, Ra'gelor's face was scaled with the yellow of endless deserts and feathered with the grey of storm clouds.
Fayte pushed Emily to another knight and yelled for them to run before he went to Kamille. He jumped over fallen trees and debris from the broken wall until he reached them. Saying nothing, Fayte lifted Rinmar's other arm over his shoulder and together they carried him. The wind suddenly died down and though it was easier to move, he and Kamille felt a dread over their shoulders.
The demon was staring at Rinmar.
"Ra'gelor carries the memories of his host and sacrifice," Kamille explained, flinching when Ra'gelor's forked tail lashed the ground and shook the earth. "His uncle recognises him!"
The demon's six eyes were set upon Rinmar, swirling with betrayal, hatred… and power.
Kamille let go of Rinmar and did the insane. She ran forward and drew her blade to face Ra'gelor. The demon let out a mocking noise, a sound of rocks grinding together. The demon didn't even bother with Kamille. Instead, Ra'gelor turned to the fleeing knights and-
"NO!" Fayte dropped Rinmar and charged the demon but it was too late. Ra'gelor let loose tentacles of black mists and snatched three of the knights. While he had consumed the first, the other two he just flung aside before he reached back and seized Emily.
No, not Emily! Not her! "RELEASE HER!"
He pushed past Kamille and swung his sword against Ra'gelor's leg with all his might. Yet it was Fayte who roared in pain as his blade shattered and his arms seared with pain, unprepared for the impact. He lost the grip of his sword and looked up. It was futile. Ra'gelor didn't even notice him. The demon raised Emily towards its mouth and--
--a slash of light whipped Ra'gelor across the back.
The demon jerked in response and turned around to face the castle gate. A group of knights in gleaming white armour stood at the ready with their shields held up. Landing in front of them was Sir Percson, sword and eyes flaring with the Light of the Spirits. The way he gritted his teeth and how his forehead creased; this was the first time Fayte had seen Sir Percson so focused for battle.
Black mist swirled around Ra'gelor's body and his physical body seemed to fade wherever the mist touched it. Emily tried to fight but it was like there was nothing for her to fight against.
"Someone throw me a sword!" she screamed. "Or a rock or something!"
Emily was no damsel, Fayte was well aware of that, but now she was in serious danger. And so was he as an arm burst from the ground and grabbed his leg. Kamille was on him the next moment, cutting the earth animation down. More of the animations were summoned from the ground. Without a sword, Fayte had no choice but to retreat with Kamille to where Rinmar was.
A flash of light made them look. Sir Percson blasted into the air and collided with Ra'gelor with another slash of light. The demon roared in return and swiped at him with his claws. Sir Percson dropped to the ground and with a single spin cleared his immediate vicinity of earth animations. Once he had rid himself of those pests, he charged at Ra'gelor and leaped into the air, slashing at the demon's body a few times then kicking himself away before Ra'gelor could get him.
The knights tore through the horde of animations that Ra'gelor had summoned, but they were rising a lot quicker than Fayte had ever seen. The rate at which they reformed was terrifying too. Just seconds after they were cut down the animations were back again, taking some of the knights unaware from the rear.
"Rinmar said that your blood can defeat Ra'gelor!" he yelled at Kamille. "How?"
"Not here…" Rinmar was awake, struggling to stand. "Not yet…"
Ra'gelor's tail came lashing in their direction. They dropped to the ground but the tail collided with the wall behind them. Blocks of heavy stone came down on them but a column of white light knocked them away, saving them from being crushed. When a surge of earth animations came at them, Jeremiah leaped in and cut them down with a series of graceful flourishes and precise slashes.
"I assume that's the demon?" Wilson said, pulling Fayte up.
"We need to get Emily," he told Wilson, wasting no time. "Do you have any spells that can throw me into the air?"
"There is no need for that," Rinmar said, pushing Kamille away before he stumbled away from them. "RA'GELOR!"
The demon turned to look at him and Sir Percson slashed it across the face with his sword. Ra'gelor howled in fury and suddenly a hundred tendrils of black mist was upon the Whiteguard. He was just playing with Sir Percson! The Whiteguard was seized by his limbs and he screamed in pain as they began to tear him--
--Captain Resfield emerged from behind Ra'gelor's head.
He sank a Scygard's blade into the back of its neck. Captain Resfield too was engulfed with the Light of the Spirits, jumping off the demon's back before it could swipe at him. Sir Percson was saved, released from the black mist and landing safely on the ground. The Whiteguard and the Captain considered attacking again but one was unarmed while the other just learnt that he had been toyed with the whole time.
The Saldarian Prince tore his shirt off and exposed his chest.
"I bear your mark!" Rinmar yelled, exposing the tattoos on his chest. "Release the Princess and I will join with you! I will not resist you!"
Ra'gelor leaned in closer to them. Fayte couldn't see Emily anywhere. The black mist was all over the demon now.
"Take me!" Rinmar screamed at him. "I have the blood of the pure! The blood of Os'shiam La'ou! You need not a Princess of the greenlands when you have me! It is I who you seek!"
"What is he doing?" he grabbed Kamille by the arm and asked her.
"My Prince is trying to convince Ra'gelor to consume him," she explained, watching on worriedly. "Only then can my blood be used against the demon."
And at last Fayte was convinced of Rinmar's intention. "You mean-"
Kamille shoved him away, her eyes welled with tears. "My Prince sought death to save Hylan the day he set foot upon your land. Blood for blood, he had once said to me, for the sins we have committed. As did your King..." Her hand shook as she gripped on to her blade.
Fayte was shocked, plain and simple. Did Emily know?
"No!" Emily screamed from inside the mist. "Rinmar! No! What are you doing?"
"TAKE ME!" the Prince yelled, storming towards Ra'gelor. "Take me and release her!"
Ra'gelor blasted them with a roar, knocking all of them to the ground before he snatched up Rinmar with his claws. The demon raised Rinmar to his face and stretched his fanged mouth wide open.
"Release Emily!" Rinmar yelled over her. "Release her! RELEASE HER!"
Ra'gelor did not such thing. Rinmar screamed in pain as crimson light spewed from Ra'gelor's mouth, burning the Prince's skin to dust as the demon consumed him. Strange markings glowed on Ra'gelor's body as he consumed Rinmar, brighter and brighter, flaring until the light was too harsh to look at. When it finally faded, Ra'gelor had grown twice in size and on his back now were two massive wings, scaled and feathered and even framed with gold, as large as the castle walls that surrounded him.
"Great," Jeremiah said, backing away from the demon. "The Saldarian gave the demon wings and golden armour."
Ra'gelor's scales had become darker like sand soaked with blood. Bands of gold were wrapped around all around him, each one inscribed with fiery runes. The runes flared to life when Ra'gelor spread his wings and took off to the sky. Sera felt the wrongness of a demon in her skies, gathering her storm clouds that flashed with lightning. A grey overcast become a sky of blood as Ra'gelor unleashed his black mist in all directions, now crackling with red lightning. The black mist struck all around the outer border of the city and they felt a rumble underneath their feet.
It has begun. He's raising the dead and the earth animations. Fayte ran to Sir Percson, shielding his eyes at the Whiteguard's entire armour was glowing with the Light of the Spirits. He was a lot more battered than Fayte had thought. His armour was missing several pieces and though Fayte could not see it, he knew Sir Percson was wounded judging from the streaks of blood meandering across the plates of his armour.
"There are corpses buried all around the city," Kamille said from behind him. "The Prince's uncle had been preparing for this. Ra'gelor is now raising those corpses and using them to summon a horde of earth creatures. They will devour your city and use the dead to raise more. Once this city is consumed they will march to Rondiar. Any city or town in their way will be taken and turned undead, used to raise more creatures from the earth."
Suddenly the red sky bled away and the sun regained its hold of the clear sky. Ra'gelor let a cry echo across the Wyvern Claw mountain range before he flew off. Even from here they could hear the noise of the earth rupturing, of the once dead tearing their way to the surface.
Sera help us.
"He's heading for Zywedior now," Fayte continued. "To do what he has done here."
"If that man, that monster is his uncle," Captain Resfield asked, "does that mean Saldara is now marching onto Hylan?"
"What?" Kamille shook her head. "No! Saldara is not marching upon your country! My Prince would not have allowed it to happen!"
Sir Percson shared the same fear. "Yet it is his uncle who summoned this demon to-"
"His uncle is a crazed shaman, exiled years ago by his brother the Emperor," Kamille explained, her voice strained with desperation. "He wishes to steal Hylan for his own and strike upon Saldara. He seeks vengeance upon his brother for exiling him and betraying him. The Emperor knows nothing of his brother's actions! No one thought that Ra'gelor could be controlled. My Prince had never spoken a single lie to you. He is only guilty of not telling you the whole truth."
"He saw his uncle's plans as an opportunity to gain the trust of your King. His uncle never knew that Rinmar was here!" Kamille stepped away from them and whistled long and loud. "Now it falls upon me to fulfil my Prince's quest."
Ye'Jou landed behind her with a screech. She climbed on and was ready to fly but not before Fayte pulled himself on.
Then Kamille threw him off the other side.
"WAIT!" he yelled. I have to set this right.
"I do not have the time to argue with-"
"I have misjudged you," Fayte said and he said truly, clinging on to Ye'Jou's side. "You and your Prince. I had been unwise and my memories and my hatred for your people have clouded my judgement. I have not been an example of the Order of the White Shield." He spoke and he stared deep into her eyes. Sera, guide me, please… "We have our differences but your Prince has given his life so that we may have the chance to sort out these differences. I wish not to waste his sacrifice." He held out his hand. "Emily is the love of my life and Ra'gelor has her. You claim that your order, the Scygard, is an honourable order. Show me what a true Scygard looks like then, for all I know of your order is cruelty and death. Show me, as I will show you what it means to be a squire of the White Shield."
Kamille looked from his hand to his eyes, struggling with herself. Their last encounter had not ended well at all. No doubt she was remembering how Fayte had kicked her knee in outside Ironsville, and then handed her to the knights when she thought him a friend.
"Let us work together and show our people that it can be done." Fayte said, and he prayed that she could hear the sincerity in his words and see it in his eyes. This must be how Rinmar had felt when he pleaded with the King.
"Very well." She took his hand and pulled him up. "We will need your priest-"
"Here," Wilson said, already seated and waiting for them while Preston attempted a smile.
Fayte glared at him. "When did you-"
"Fayte!" Sir Percson called out. "If Eres Star City falls-"
"You cannot leave, I know," he said, understanding Sir Percson's meaning as he locked eyes with the Whiteguard. "I… I just-"
"You are without a doubt-" Sir Percson drew his sword and tossed it to Fayte. "-the most outstanding squire in the history of our Order since your father."
Behind Sir Percson, Jeremiah helped Captain Resfield to them, his wound reopened and the potion wearing off, and the Captain handed a white shield to Fayte. "You are a squire of the White Shield."
"I've come this far as a squire, Captain Resfield," Fayte said, tired of being just a squire. "So please… I…"
I've come this far... Fayte began to understand now, as a squire.
The Captain grinned. "Stop saying it like being a squire is such a bad thing, boy."
Without magic or runes, spells or incantations, or the Light of the Spirits, Fayte felt stronger now.
"Go," Sir Percson said, too wounded to fly Fayte could see now, though the Whiteguard was too proud to admit it. "We will keep Eres Star City from falling. Hylan is doomed all the same if we allow this city to be turned into an army of ghouls and walking dirt."
"I must stay and help," Jeremiah said, holding Captain Resfield steady. "My place is here."
"Eres Star City will not fall so long as I live," Captain Resfield told Fayte. "So go and worry not about us. Find this demon and kill it. As for you, girl, I too know only that the Scygards put a whole city of innocents to the sword. Do this, and perhaps there is a chance for peace."
Kamille looked to Fayte, already seeing the effect of their newly made alliance.
"Let us go then," Fayte said, slipping his arm into the straps of his white shield. "We have a demon to kill."
And my Princess to save.