- 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
“Last chance to give this madness up and go off to live a simple life as a singer in a tavern somewhere.” Geilamir’s nerves were apparent in his remarks to Alaric, a clear indicator that he was himself having second thoughts about the whole thing and projecting that upon him. All of this came about at such a maddening rate, it was only natural for them to experience cognitive whiplash. Just a week prior, Alaric’s biggest problems were finding time to dedicate to his artistic interests and maintaining a rigorous training schedule while also studying the law so that he could one day succeed his father in the Senate.
Suddenly being free of those familiar responsibilities, Alaric felt a bit of a weight lifted from his mind. It wasn’t until his arrival here at the City gate that the mental vacancy gained its new tenant – the fear of the unknown and the dangers that lie in wait for them. He knew Geilamir was being cheeky, but the idea of abandoning all responsibilities and spending his days as a simple artist sounded rather wonderful at that moment. He assured himself that once he was the head of his House, he would make sure he had ample time to devote to his artistic interests.
“That’s not a bad idea,” said Alaric to his hard-to-love friend. Geilamir had been very rough around the edges the last few days, but he was still Alaric’s oldest friend. “If you could carry a tune, maybe we could go off together and fill all the taverns with our music?” Geilamir’s face reddened slightly, but he shook it off. He was at a loss for words, and Alaric knew he had disarmed him. He decided to go in for the kill.
“Perhaps if you were to devote a little more time to get a better grasp on basic rhythmic patterns, you could write me a ballad or two? On account of your voice not exactly being easy on the ears.”
“We all have our strengths, Al,” Geilamir said after a moment. Alaric had to stop himself from reminding Geilamir that he was better at what Geilamir considered his strength, too. He figured that would have been going too far. Alaric didn’t like to deliberately hurt anyone, even an ornery friend who needed to be brought back down to the ground from time to time. Geilamir’s guarded facial expression hinted at the fact that he knew he had opened himself up for that next cut, but Alaric decided to have mercy. He simply clapped Geilamir on the back and agreed. “That we do.”
With the arrival of Fridok, all of the seven champions had arrived. Along with them came the matron of the hospital and two young trainees that would be under the tutelage of Ervig and Isidore, the oldest and wisest of the champions gathered there. The Son stood atop a block and motioned for the masses gathered there to listen. Alaric had never seen such a sizeable group quiet down so suddenly.
“Citizens,” he announced. “My brothers and sisters, may the scribes be ready to record into history the words that are said here. Today, on this the eleventh day of the Summer month of Pateria, in the year of the second consulship of Kaius Tegula and Quintus Maximilius, the 2953th year on record since the great civilization of man fell to madness and deformity, you, the hardy embers of life which have weathered adversity for ages shall wait no more to regain what was lost in that inexorable tragedy. Today, every eye and ear in attendance now bears witness to a small but mighty rekindling of the glory of Man. You have waited far too long for deliverance from the menace that keeps you jailed here, prisoners trapped when you should have been awarded the whole of the world. It was your ancestors’ dutiful adherence to the will of the Namer that spared them and everyone who came since then the wicked transformation that befell the others. But you were not yourself spared judgment, were you? You, who did what was asked of you and honored your vows to the Namer when all others had cast them aside, what was your reward? Your people were made to witness a gruesome punishment of your brothers while being locked away behind these white walls which once stood as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world of man. And worse, those Gifts from God that were rightfully yours were taken from you, stolen as collateral damage for the sins of others. I stand before you today to tell you that your deliverance has come at last! The Gifts have returned unto the world of Man, and today, you here in this, the last city of man, have answered the call to take back that which was lost!”
The audience’s excitement crescendoed and peaked at a height which Alaric had never before experienced. He couldn’t help but be inspired by the words of the Son, and only then did he begin to truly appreciate the importance of his selection as champion. A sense of duty and honor overwhelmed him, and for the first time ever he felt the incessant teachings of his father about honor and glory coming into harmony with his own song. The Son allowed the cheers to continue for a time, and then his eyes caught Alaric’s as he scanned the group who would be his companions. He continued his address to the audience, though this time it was much harder to quiet them down.
“Let it be known… Let it be known,” he said, trying to cut through the noise. When the roars of approval finally gave him an opening, he continued. “Let it be known and recorded for the ages the names of the bravest and most capable of you. Masters of the lance and spear, Ervig Lacertian commanding Xanthus Serapio, and Isidore Maritium commanding Calix Sibylla. Masters of the sword, Alaricus Caballarius, Geilamir Aurumantian and Fridok. Masters of the bow, Bulgar Alcamora and cousin Euric Alcamora. Finally, Lady Gailavira, widow of Amaliricus Agelastus and matron of the hospital. These noble ten shall be the foundation upon which a new civilization may rise. Through their deeds, mankind shall rise again! To glory eternal in His Name!”
Alaric was swept away by the excitement of course, but he couldn’t help but notice that the Son had placed Geilamir ahead of Fridok in the order of announcement. He wanted to believe that it was merely an accident and that, perhaps, Fridok wouldn’t notice the very slight gaffe on the part of their leader. However, he took note of the fact that Fridok had crossed his arms and bore a sullen look of annoyance on his face where just moments before he was nearly as excited as the others for the announcement. It only made matters worse when Geilamir took notice of it, as well.
Don’t say anything. Don’t start something here, now.
Geilamir beamed at Fridok, emboldened by the sudden revelation that the Son’s choice of words had a negative effect on him. The two of them would need to learn to treat each other with civility and respect, if they were to face demons together. Right now, the chances of that seemed rather bleak. Perhaps they will work out their differences in time, like Geil and I did when we were young, thought Alaric.
Before Geilamir’s recognition of the wording bothered Fridok enough to address Geilamir’s mockery directly, another distraction averted all of their gazes. From the crowd rode forth two men on horses, the Senate-elected consul Kaius Tegula followed by Tolamirus Aurumantian, Geilamir’s father. Until this point, Alaric had wondered where the consul had been. The only thing he knew was that there had been a lot of very guarded emergency meetings of the Senate going on and, until now, the consuls had not addressed the Son directly.
Oddly enough, the second consul, the Torian Church-elected religious leader Quintus Maximilius was nowhere in sight. It was incredibly strange that the religious leader, successor to the seat of the Toriad, held long ago by the Son’s father, was nowhere in sight. All of the events, from the arrival of the Son at the gates, to the present gathering of people in the same place, happened within a small handful of days. It wasn’t completely odd that the two most powerful men in the City were not directly present for most of these ceremonies considering the short time frame. However, the Son presented a real risk to both of them, and power was not something the nobles of the City were ever apt to relinquish.
So, when the Senate Consul and Geilamir’s father, the highest ranking Senate official underneath the office of consul, both arrived at the scene just then, it gave Alaric cause for alarm. Tolamirus had already spoken out once against the Son before he demonstrated his miracles, so Alaric worried that their sudden presence was something of an ill omen. The group of guardsmen they had in tow also added to Alaric’s suspicions, and he couldn’t help but immediately feel like something terrible was about to happen that would put an end to this entire strange series of events.
Though the Son stood tall and was elevated by the stone block on which he stood, the Senate Consul, wearing his ornate gold-trimmed toga stood even taller atop his gleaming white horse, a direct challenge to the supposed superiority of the Son. It would appear that the Senate was, at last, ready to cast their judgment against who they must have felt had come to usurp their power. It was no mistake, then, that they would choose this exact moment to assert their dominance and downplay the glorious speech that had just riled up the many people surrounding them.
The Son greeted the Senate Consul with a collected, graceful nod. For a very brief second, Alaric could swear that he had seen something like hatred in the eyes of Consul Kaius Tegula as he met the Son’s gaze, but that moment passed by quickly, leaving Alaric completely unsure of what he had actually witnessed. One thing was clear, however, and that was that the Consul had come with very clear intentions and only time would tell what those intentions were.
Alaric looked to Geilamir to gauge his reaction to his father and the Consul’s arrival, but Geilamir looked just as surprised as Alaric was. Suddenly, Geilamir’s father cried out so that the people gathered there would quiet down and listen.
“Take heed! Take heed all you citizens and open your ears. The Consul shall address you on behalf of the Senate and the City!”
Fridok stood in wait, inching closer one slow step at a time. His hand rested on the hilt of his blade, and Alaric got a sense that this gathering was about to devolve into something far more dangerous. He placed his hand on Fridok’s shoulder, urging him to stand his ground but not press any further. The crowd lowered their murmuring a bit, but certainly not to the level that they had done for the Son.
Kaius offered Tolamirus a glimpse of honest unease which Alaric happened to catch despite the brevity of the reaction. It didn’t last long, however, and in a flash the consul had regained his stately composure. If there was one thing Alaric knew about Kaius, it was that he did not tolerate being talked over. Tolamirus knew this, too, and so he whistled loudly in a final bid to bring order to the chaos.
“My steadfast friends,” Kaius said, addressing the masses and bringing all eyes upon him. “Truly, this is a moment unlike like that which we have seen in our comparatively short lives. This visitor to our great city has come bearing Gifts. Though he has not the ability to share them, these God-granted possessions of the soul, he has demonstrated their terrible power for all of us, the commons gathered at the gate that until just a few days ago stood strong, protecting us from the dangers that lurk outside for thousands of years. He has proven to all of us that he is, indeed, a remarkable stranger capable of terrific things. The stronghold gates lie in ruin, yes, but he ensures us that this was done to demonstrate the immense power he possesses – the power which once was owned by each of our ancestors and by all means should have been inherited by you, by virtue of your noble births. He has shown us again the value of the Gifts that should have always been yours and mine, through the demonstration of their potential to heal the crippled, and even to bring back from death our brothers who have fallen. Those bravest of our citizens who were cut down in this stranger’s theater were raised from their first deaths, noble that they were, so that they would serve as a reminder of the awesome power of the Gifts that were taken from us.”
Alaric knew what was happening, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. Kaius had the people exactly where he wanted them. There was a reason he was twice elected as consul.
“Yes, I have heard the words whispered by those who would not stand in the way of the mob reveling in the excitement surrounding this outsider – words spoken of this man saying that he is a false prophet and a magician at best. They speak in fear of being swept away by the deluge that accompanied this mysterious foreigner. In many ways, I can appreciate their concerns. After all, the disruption to our great society that this man has caused in less than a week is unprecedented. However, when he crashed these gates and broke into our stronghold and demanded to ascend to the highest holy place, he assured us that it was done in good faith and with honor. Who are we to challenge someone who holds hostage the Gifts that were stolen from us? I cannot say with certainty whether this confident man is a friend or a foe to the City, as his short stay hasn’t allowed us as a people to gather enough evidence to prove anything either way. Yet, he has gotten what he came for, and who are we, the caretakers of this mighty bastion, to stand against him?”
Where the commons had just moments before sang a song of the glory to the Son and his chosen, they now grumbled among themselves. The consul’s mastery of the instrument of rhetoric was on full display now, and the masses were enthralled by the song he sung.
“No, we will not, because we cannot, stand in his way now – for we, you and I and all of us who do not have the Gifts that this stranger holds, we do not have the ability to quickly fix all of the foundational problems this man has brought to our attention. Where he has assured us he could simply touch the earth and repair the unstable ground beneath us, you and I must use what rudimentary tools we have at the expense of our own bodies. Now he takes his leave of us, stealing with him the most able-bodied men, while our time-tested and important gate lies in ruin underneath his feet. I do not seek to agree with these men who worry that this outsider’s true goal is to usurp our great republic. I am not suggesting that those who have quietly expressed fear and worry about this man’s presence are right to do so. I, personally, hope that this man is who he says he is and he is not simply what he appears to be to some – an ambitious charlatan at best. I stand with you today as your brother, always concerned about the well-being of our people, while this man who has convinced so many of his righteousness, leaves you to fight a foe we have always understood as unbeatable, while in the company of a woman and children and even a man with no estate whose struggles will yield no reward. Please, I beg you, friends. Remember that after this outsider has left us again not only with our Gifts but our people in tow, we have a lot of real work to do against real problems. There is no place for theater in the hard work that lies ahead of us, but in that, there is real glory to be gained. And we shall have it.”
Alaric could not read the reaction of the Son. He somehow managed to maintain the same neutral expression for the entire duration of the consul’s speech. The Son did not give Kaius the reaction he undoubtedly wanted. Instead, he turned to Alaric and the rest of their company and he motioned for them to mobilize out of the City.
The silent march of the ten and the Son out of the City would surely be the subject of many a song, Alaric thought, as more and more of his short-lived confidence fled with each step into the unknown.