The Apostate Saint: Chapter 11 – The Art of the Sword

Nineteen years later

Fridok had thrust a fate worse than death upon a man who was simply trying to do what he thought was best. Vitus Malleator was one of Alaric’s men, a young and upcoming guardsman whose one sin was his enthusiasm. He should have known the danger of attacking a man wielding a Soul-arm; these weapons were the main factor in why so many demons were able to be slain by the Crusaders. A Soul-arm’s power was drawn from the realm of the spirits, and thus they were able to destroy both the body and the soul. Now, that which was left of Vitus Malleator was reduced to ash and not even the echo of his being would continue on into the hereafter. There would be no salvation waiting for him, the promise given to every living being at their birth. It was Fridok who bore the blade that cut him down, and nothing would change that fact.

His heart raced, something he hadn’t experienced since his final excursion in the Crusades. The veteran dismounted at a plateau a quarter of the way up the narrow mountain path. Normal horses and men would find the same journey too treacherous and too steep to follow. The only possibility of anyone catching up to Fridok now was an empowered Alaric, but Alaric had not utilized the power of Daemonore like Fridok had used his nameless sword to gain the energy that fueled his mounted ascent. Along with the fact that he was far ahead of any pursuers, darkness had fully enveloped the land and made travel too dangerous to continue. Fridok allowed himself to stop and rest, now that the burst of soul energy had nearly worn off.

Fridok threw his sword onto the ground nearby and it landed with a heavy thud. Part of him wanted to discard it entirely because of the mortal sin it had just enabled him to commit, but he knew that he would be easy prey for a starving demon if he did so. The spear that Fridok had stolen from the Son, however, demanded more respect. This unique Soul-arm was distinct from the ones that Fridok and his compatriots had created; this spear did not destroy the demons, but rather it rendered them entirely immobile for a time. The Son had used it to disable attacking demons from a longer range than his blade, but then always followed up with a finishing blow from his sword. It was an important tool he would be certain to use in his last crusade against the demons, but Fridok took it primarily to send a message.

Fridok debated starting a campfire. This elevation in the night cast upon him a chilly breeze, but Fridok didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention from his pursuers or demons which might be prowling nearby. Instead, he pulled his cloak about himself a little tighter and braced for another cold night alone.

Fridok took note of his discarded sword a few feet away, which forced upon him a flash of the new burden upon his mind. He turned away.

He considered that sword, and what it used to mean to him. When he had created it with the help of the Daoine Farraige man Art, he could imagine no greater possession than a sword such as this. He knew that it was only through Art’s pain that he could create it, but he still went through with it because he simply had to have it. After all, he had earned that sword through years of his own sweat and anguish. It was to be his salvation. By slaying enough demons, he must be able to overcome his station in life. It was to help him fight his life’s true war- to make things better for those not born into wealth and power.

The sword never did those things, no matter how many demons he killed with it. He could cleanse the land of the blight of the demons, but no object, no matter how powerful, could cleanse the corruption that had seeped into the hearts of man. Certainly not after the Great Savior had since embraced the system he had sworn to change.

Fridok could have carried on with his life even despite all of that, but the part that hurt the most was how easy it had been for Alaric to abandon Fridok and the plans they had made to change the hearts of their people. Now, Alaric was the lord of his House and Fridok was just as estranged as he had ever been. The only difference after the Crusades was that he no longer believed there was any reason to hold out hope for a brighter future.

Fridok watched as the twinkling torchlights in the distance returned to the City where they were born. He was now truly free – a lonely speck rising into the night sky before vanishing forever. No one would hear his final words, nor would they ever truly understand the reason for the theft he had just committed.

He resigned himself, allowing the cool night air to pass by him as somewhere in the distance a solitary wolf howled, longing to be met by another. Fridok, it seemed, was destined to fade away.

Then, the silence was broken by an oddly familiar voice.

“Is this how you treat an old friend?”

Fridok, startled, turned to see who had spoken, but there was no other man anywhere around him. He grabbed the Spear and held it close to his side with both hands.

Perhaps a demutator? Fridok had encountered only a few of those types of demons before – things that could take the shape of other demons at will. They were very stealthy and knew no boundaries but for the White Walls themselves. If one of these demons had located him, then he would have to be on his guard, at least until the morning.

“Come out where I can see you!” Fridok said, lowering the spear in preparation for the inevitable attack. He scanned all around but still saw nothing moving, not even a shadow.

“Are you daft?” the voice chided him. “I’m right here, you hairy sod.” Fridok frantically approached his discarded sword, as he now was firmly confident that he would need it in the fight that was about to take place.

“I warn you, demon,” Fridok said. “I hold in my hands two weapons of immense power. Not only your life but your whole being is forfeit should you choose to engage me. If you value your soul, you had better retreat now.”

Nothing moved. Fridok considered the possibility that the recent trauma might have caused him to experience auditory hallucinations. It wasn’t far outside the realm of possibility, but he couldn’t give up his guard, even for a second.

“Oh, would you cut it out and settle down, you filthy bastard?” the voice said, as if it was spoken directly in front of his face. He couldn’t believe it, for it seemed that the voice had come from… his sword. He held the blade up for further inspection.

“What is it with you,” the sword glowed very slightly with each word that was spoken. “First, you throw sheathes everywhere and now you even pitch valuable swords on the ground. Do you have any respect at all for your possessions? Namer’s sake, man.”

Fridok, stunned, realized exactly to whom the voice belonged.

“…Art?” he said, doubting himself as he said it.

“Hello, arsehole,” the sword greeted him lovingly.

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