- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 1 – The Spear and the Sword
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 2 – The Candle
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 3 – The Stones
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 4 – At the Foot of the Stairs
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 5 – The Price of Entry
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 6 – The Grand Melee
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 7 – The Broken
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 8 – A Lively Feast
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 9 – Hospitality
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 10 – A House with a Big Hole in it
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 11 – The Art of the Sword
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 12 – The Bearer of Bad News
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 13 – A Farewell to the City
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 14 – The Leader of the People
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 15 – A Dark Place
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 16 – Into the Abyss
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 17 – The Deadlock
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 18 – The Art of the Deal
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 19 – What Was Seen in the Darkness
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 20 – Graveyard of a Thousand Unburied Demons
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 21 – In the Twinkling Stardust
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 22 – “Ass Water”
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 23 – Crossing the Line
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 24 – The Tables of Death
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 25 – Waking the Son
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 26 – Arrival (Part 1)
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 27 – Arrival (Part 2)
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 28 – Departure
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 29 – Two Arms!
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 30 – Something Foul in the Air
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 31 – Chaos and Order
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 32 – Dal Segno al Coda
- The Apostate Saint: Chapter 33 – And Then You’re Gone
The Day the Crusade Began
Fridok still couldn’t believe the sword he held in his hands was truly his own. The Soul-arm he had created through the will of the Son and the support of his new Daoine Farraige friend Art had captured Fridok’s interest more than anything he had ever seen. It was long, much longer than the gladius he had purchased and lost in the melee, and it had a dull but noticeable glow at the tip and down the length of the edges of the blade. It had neat indentations all down the face of the blade that resembled a neatly laid stone wall, a feature that likely stemmed from his many years working for the stonemason. The blade was curved on both sides, similar to his gladius, but it was much, much longer. The most confounding thing about the blade for Fridok was how it seemed to have different weights depending on whether he was holding it in one hand or in both. In both cases, it was perfectly weighted and perfectly balanced for either one handed or two handed combat.
The hilt was the only part of the sword not of Fridok’s design and was unfamiliar to him, something that he assumed was due to Art’s influence. It bore the likeness of a kind of many-armed sea monster. Its pointed head served as the pommel, its body was the handle and its tentacle-like arms served as the guard for the blade. It was quite the remarkable sword, and Fridok had never seen a sword, even those made by master craftsmen, that rivalled it – aside from the blade of the Son and the one that Alaric had created the night before with his mother’s help.
Fridok had gotten a particularly poor night’s sleep, partially because of his fixation on the new blade, partially because of nerves that came with knowing that he was about to embark into untamed reaches against masses of demons, but mostly because Art simply would not stop chatting. And he was up even before the sun rose in the morning, making sure Fridok was greeted for the day much the way he had ended the previous night.
“You’re going to be late, you know,” Art said. “Look at you, sleeping like a wee baby. You sound more like a dying cow though, with all that awful snoring. You should try sleeping on your side more, and less like you’re trying to cover every inch of your mat with your arms and legs. Nobody’s going to try to take that sweat-crusted thing away from you. By the way – have I said enough about how nice the beds were at the manor?”
“More than enough,” Fridok said, recalling how much Art had enjoyed his brief time being pampered and attended to, after he had temporarily lost his strength enabling Fridok’s creation of the sword. “It was the softest thing I ever laid on, I swear to ya,” Art said. “Felt like I was back in me mother’s womb, or atop a cloud or something. I recommend being filthy rich, it’s definitely got its advantages, I tell ya’.”
Fridok hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep to deal with this much energy so early in the morning. Art pulled himself up from his bed mat, legs wobbly as he gained his footing. For only having his legs restored for a brief time, he was really doing quite well reacclimating to walking. It would probably still be a while before he had a more naturalpoise in his gait, however.
After Art had recovered enough from the effects of the Son’s ritual, the two of them decided it was in everyone’s best interest to take their leave of the place. Even though Alaric insisted they stay, they knew their already tepid welcome had run out. So, the two of them found their way back to Fridok’s much more humble apartment after the others had retired for the evening. Alaric had his hands full attending to his mother, so Fridok and Art sneaked off without so much as a goodbye.
Art stood above Fridok, steadying himself while leaning against the wall. He held his fist against his hip and looked down at Fridok with stern, judgey eyes that he had no business giving him.
“What are you, my mom?” Fridok said, annoyed. “Son,” Art said, mimicking a woman’s voice with no hesitation. “Get your hairy arse off the floor and get ready to go off to your little war.”
Fridok gave a deep disapproving growl, but then arose after much protesting. He wasn’t much of a morning person, even on better sleep. Not since he started sword training long into the evenings, anyway. It made things even worse that Fridok was hung over from entirely too much wine the night before. This was not at all how he imagined himself starting his great adventure.
He packed what he could in his worn-down sheepskin satchel – basic survival items like a skinning knife, flint, a waterskin and some cooking utensils that had seen better days. He hung the sack upon a long stick he had picked up on the way home the night before to keep his balance. With that, he was ready to be off.
Art accompanied Fridok down the street toward the main gate where the Son had called his Ten to meet. Typically the mornings were not very busy until about an hour later in the day, but this morning the streets were abundantly filled with all sorts of people who had come to watch the procession out of the City. Fridok didn’t have a proper sheath for his new sword, but he did wrap it in a patchwork cover of rabbit furs tied together with twine to keep it safely out of the elements. Perhaps that was why nobody seemed to recognize him or care that he was there, as they passed him on the way to the main gate.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, idjit!” Art shouted at a man who had nearly run into them along the way. “Don’t want to be hitting a bona fide hero, now do ya?”
Fridok shook his head in disapproval, and told Art to stop, but Art ignored him.
“Not only did you almost hit a hero, you almost hit the great man’s companion as well!”
“Cut it out. I’m not a hero of anything, yet.”
“You? Who says I was talking about you?” It took Fridok a moment to realize Art was assigning the acclaim to himself instead, and that was another moment he realized he truly enjoyed Art’s company. He would miss him, even though the two of them had just become acquainted.
When they arrived at the gates, it was genuinely difficult for Fridok to get past the crowd that had amassed there. None of them, it seemed, had any inkling of who Fridok was, nor did they care.
“Excuse me,” Fridok said, trying to maintain some semblance of good manners as he attempted to push through. After no one budged, he spoke louder but didn’t lose his temper. “I must get through, pardon me!” He felt like a complete fool, realizing that he was now going to be late to get to the meeting place because he didn’t arrive as soon as the rest of the excited masses. The fact that no one seemed to notice and no one seemed to care who he was or why he needed through made Fridok regret ever risking his life to win the competition.
“Are you going to do it, or am I?” Art said to Fridok, after watching him fail to impress anyone. Fridok shook off Art’s question. He didn’t need whatever help Art was offering. He was a tough and muscled career stoneworker – he could simply force his way through if needed. Something stopped him from doing so immediately. He thought, perhaps, that someone who had received his most recent accolades should perhaps act with more dignity and grace. Art, however, was not beholden to such ideals.
Before Fridok realized what was happening, Art reached down and grabbed hold of Fridok’s sword. Being taken completely by surprise, Fridok didn’t react in time to stop him. There was also the fact that Art most likely lived on sleight of hand where generosity of passersby failed him. Either way, Art now had Fridok’s sword and before he knew it, he had held it high in the air, removing the hide cover in the process.
“Hey, move it!” Art shouted. “Out of the way! Don’t make me slap you with the broad side of my sword, Peter-lily, here – that’s right move it!”
To Fridok’s surprise, people actually listened to Art. They scurried out of the way at the sight of Fridok’s sword, the one that most definitely wasn’t named Peter-lily.
“That’s enough,” Fridok said to Art in embarrassment, as the two of them made their way through the human barrier that had opened for them. “And don’t ever call my sword that again.”
As they neared the clearing, it took Fridok a good few seconds to realize that Art had lost his step. Fridok almost didn’t react in time to catch him before he collapsed. Thankfully, Art held onto the sword despite his sudden weakness. Fridok safely caught them both.
“What was that about?” Fridok asked Art, perturbed. Art’s face had gone pale suddenly and he was at a total loss for words. Fridok saw the blade had changed somewhat. Rather than its typical light glow, it was covered in darkness, and almost seemed to cause everything in a few meters radius to turn dark as well, as if it was sucking the light from the surrounding area. Fridok took the sword firmly back into his own hand and guided Art safely onto the ground.
Art looked around, confused as if he had suddenly regained consciousness after fainting. He looked up at Fridok with a face that said he had no idea what was going on. As he tried to assist his friend, he made a silent vow to himself that no one but he would ever be allowed to handle his sword.
“Is he alright?” Fridok heard a familiar voice ask from nearby. It was Alaric, dressed in the finest armor Fridok had ever seen. He quite resembled one of the many figures carved from marble that lined the Hero’s Park. Alaric knelt down to assist.
“What happened to him?” Alaric asked. Fridok saw that his sword had almost fully gone back to normal. “He stumbled,” Fridok said. “When he grabbed the sword, it was like he lost all control over himself.”
“Not all control, mind you,” said Art, weakly. “I didn’t shite meself.”
Alaric and Fridok exchanged glances. Both of them had to refrain from laughing.
“Well, when you’re ready, let’s head up there,” Alaric said kindly after Art’s characteristic liveliness and strength began to return to him. Fridok and Alaric picked up Art and the three of them began to walk forward to meet the Son and the others who were called upon to join the journey. Each and every one of them was better armored, better dressed and certainly more prepared than Fridok. He couldn’t help but feel like he was far out of place, being among those fortunate children of the City.
Just before they met up with the group, Art suddenly fell behind. Fridok and Alaric turned back to him and he seemed to be healthy. By his best estimation, it seemed that Art had simply refused to go any further.
“What’s wrong with you now?” Fridok said to his friend, who had began to wear an expression of regret.
“This is far as I go,” Art said. “I got you here, I did what I could. Now it’s your turn to get on with all of those rich folk games. Go on, cut up some demons real good for me. Bring me back a trophy. An ear or a snout or some ballocks or something wicked. But go. I’ll keep your shithole nice and… Well, I’ll make sure nobody messes with your stuff, anyway.”
It was bitter-sweet, but he was right. This wasn’t Art’s battle to fight. Fridok nodded at Alaric and the two of them went to join the war party.
Fridok only looked back one more time at Art, who happily shared a rude gesture at him as a sort of well-wishing. It was nice to see him on his feet, anyway. As he continued on, he just happened to catch a glimpse of another familiar face.
It was the man that took Fridok’s signature to join the melee – the one that Fridok had promised to give his sword to if he didn’t come in first place. There was certainly nothing that Fridok could do about that now – his old sword was in pieces and he had lost track of it after the chaotic events of the tournament. He certainly wasn’t going to give him his new sword. That man would just have to accept his losses and move on, like anyone who had made a bad bet.
Fridok was a part of something bigger now. He had no time for petty squabbles and debt collection. He had something far more important to think about now. And he was ready, even if he didn’t feel it, and certainly didn’t look it. This was his time to prove his worth to the whole City and the world.
The Son smiled at Fridok as he arrived, and the party was now ready to depart.