- 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
“Easy now, you know I’m good for it. You wouldn’t doubt a friend of the Son, now would you?”
ART, after pulling his tunic sloppily over his sweaty, sticky upper half, reached down to the ground to pick up his belt that was discarded prior to this present acting out of his prurient interests. The whore lying next to him was far better looking than Art could afford in regular times, but this was no regular time, for Namer’s sake. The fact that Art had the option to run away at all if things got out of hand was a great anomaly for Art’s life. Up until the present circumstances, he had been living in alleyways, forced to beg or steal just to make it another day because of the debilitating handicap of missing both of his legs. But that was the old Art. This Art had gotten better.
“You said you would pay me today,” said Sabrina- or was it Septima? Art couldn’t recall. It mattered little, however, because there was simply no way that he was going to be able to fetch the kind of coin that he would need to pay her in such short notice, let alone for future endeavors. She’d catch on to his game, realize he wasn’t good for it, and by the time that realization hit her he’d already be long gone. The City was a pretty big place, after all, with plenty of spots for a spritely Daoine Farraige man like Art to hide.
“Well, naturally, I will,” Art assured her, inching toward the door after fastening his belt. “I’ll just be off to grab my purse and I’ll come right back!”
“You said you had the money on you, what happened to that?”
“Did I? No, I wouldn’t have said that. What I said was, I’ve got the money. That doesn’t mean that I’ve got it on me. Do you even understand how full my purse would have to be to hold the kind of coin that you charge? Do you think that I’d risk walking around this district with all the shady fellows eyeing me?” It was one of the nicest neighborhoods of the City, and crime there was particularly low.
“I really think you should consider finding the money, right now,” she said, pulling up her dress and shifting her legs to the side of the bed. If Art gave her any more time to get out of bed, she’d have a good shot of chasing after him and he knew it. He had to make himself scarce, promptly. After all, she had a good many years of practice with her legs on him, and that simply wasn’t fair.
“Oh yes, absolutely. Wait right here! I’ll just be one moment–“
Art slipped out the door and turned left without checking his surroundings. There was a little crowd of people walking along at that time, and Art was able to slip right among them. He still wobbled a bit like he was drunk, something that he was trying to work on but failing in his early attempts. He’d get there, eventually.
The City had never been so accessible for Art as it was after he was given another shot at having feet. Places that had taken Art hours to get to and from prior to the miracle, now only took him a matter of minutes, depending on how fast he walked. His running looked more natural than his regular walking, so he had been doing a bit more of that today. He had been running for an hour or so when he had gotten the bright idea of using his new status by affiliation to gain access to the higher quality whores in this district. Little did he realize that with higher quality escorts always come brawny, violent bouncers just a short ways away.
His neck and head suddenly came to halt, sending his legs sprawling forward while his head was dragged backward. It was like he had just ran directly into a tree branch, with the added benefit of suddenly being asphyxiated. The bouncer’s meaty forearm and bicep squeezed his neck so tightly that Art quickly became light-headed and felt his awareness slipping away.
An indeterminate time later, he awoke to his face scraping against the cobblestone walkway. He was being dragged by the feet back into the house where he had just performed the act with Seema, or whatever her name was. He covered his face with one hand, so that, at least, he wouldn’t be scuffing up his boyish good looks any more than what had already afflicted him. He wanted to pull away and get out of there, but he knew that the rockhead had too much of an advantage on him to be able to escape now. So, Art did the best he could to keep the bouncer thinking that he was still unconscious while protecting his face as best he could with his arm.
He was dragged back inside and his feet were thrown down on the cold stone floor. His poor, precious new feet took quite the hit, but he was thankful he could feel them at all. Ever since the event that gave him a new shot at walking, he kept thinking that he would wake up and the shiny new legs would be missing again, like some kind of horrible joke. It wasn’t until he felt his family jewels crushed by a swift kick from the most esteemed lady that he realized his ability to feign unconsciousness was not going to be among the survival instincts available to him in this particular arrangement.
“Namer!” he shouted, his boys deeply retracted up into his guts. “Holy f-“
“You bastard!” the woman shrieked at him as she went in for another kick. “Farraige pumpkin, you pathetic imbecile! Vappa! You think I do this for fun? This is my work! You can’t disrespect me like that!”
Art braced himself for another kick, but the woman withdrew toward the bed, furious but holding back from hitting him again.
“What do you want me to do with him?” the bouncer asked, drawing out a long, crude blade with large, noticeable dings in it – the kind of dings that only come with much misappropriated use. Art took instant notice of the dried blood all over the edges.
She didn’t hesitate. “I want you to make him pay!” The bouncer looked at her with confusion, most likely as confused as Art was about what, exactly she meant by that. Did she mean she wants me to pay her, or did she mean she wants this guy to dole out punishment?
“I’ll pay! On my honor, I swear I’m good for it! Like I said, I’ve got friends in high places who I can–”
“I don’t care about the money anymore. I want you to pay with your life. I want you to bleed and hurt and cry and beg for your life and then die when you just can’t take it anymore.”
Oh, that’s what she meant by making me pay.
The bouncer pressed him hard against the floor, rendering him immovable with his big meaty foot on his back. Art felt the tip of the blade pressing against his neck.
“Haven’t you ever heard that people who end all conflicts with swords are more likely to end up on the other end of one?” Art couldn’t help but be cheeky; he had been in countless life-threatening situations before and he was tired of death continuing to flirt with him. It wasn’t that he thought he held some privileged position over death; it was more like he always thought the peace of death would have been preferred over his lot in life, and thus him continuing to survive countless precarious situations was but one more way that the Namer had continued to screw him over.
“Are you really threatening me? In your position?” Art felt the blade dig deeper, with enough force now to draw blood. He expected to feel the warm wet sensation to cover his neck, but it didn’t happen for some telling reason.
“Just get on with it then,” Art said, betting that the bouncer was bluffing. “I’m tired of waiting. Just do be aware of the balding brawny guy with the beard and the big shiny sword when he comes back from his stroll through the countryside. It’s just that I’m supposed to watch his place and he’s got a bit of anger problem, you see. Might be sad if his beloved pet fish doesn’t get fed, you know. Would hate for him to find out that you were responsible for little Skippy turning belly up. He doesn’t have a lot of family, you know, so that fish means quite a lot to him. Hello? I’ve noticed you’ve kind of laid off the pressure of your sword. It’s just that you’re going to really need to mean it if you’re going to commit to killing me. I’ve spent most of my life with half of my legs, I’d hate to spend what remains of it with half a neck.”
“Shut your damn mouth,” the bouncer warned him. “What are you doing?” the woman demanded of her hired hand. “Don’t let him talk you out of it! For Namer’s sake, just get on with it already, you worthless matula!” To Art’s surprise, the bouncer relented entirely. He didn’t even draw blood. Art hated to admit it, but the woman’s forcefulness was beginning to turn him on. Again.
“Suppose he’s right?” the bouncer said. “What do you think they’d do to me? I saw the man he’s talking about fight. He’s merciless. And that was with a normal sword… I can’t compete with the magic thing he’s carrying now.”
“Then give it here!” she said, fed up with all the theatrics. The bouncer just had money on the line – Art could deal with that fairly easily. The woman’s honor, on the other hand, was not something that Art was going to be able to convince her she didn’t need. What was that saying about a woman who had been derided?
Sure, Art was really beginning to feel bad about what he had done. He hadn’t exactly been thinking with his top brain when he solicited the broad, knowing full well that he’d never been able to afford the cost of her services, but she should have realized just by looking at him that he was not good for it. Yes, he had sweet-talked his way into it, but come on, did she really think he had that kind of money just because he knew somebody famous?
“Take it easy,” the bouncer said, keeping her back with one hand while holding the sword away from her. “We can turn him in to the guard and press charges. Then he gets what’s coming to him and we won’t be held responsible for no soldier’s beloved pets dying.” His reasoning didn’t deter her; she was too far gone with rage to simply forgive Art for what he had done. She swung her arms wildly around him, until he was backed against the wall and the sword had nowhere to go but down.
Art seized his opportunity as soon as it came up. Jumping to his feet, he brandished the sword at the unsuspecting lot.
“Stay back!” he warned them as he tried to balance himself. He really needed his new feet to listen to him now, but they just weren’t used to the kind of movement he had been putting them through. Shaky-legged but determined, Art side-stepped toward the door as he threatened to cut either of them if they should attempt to approach him.
“It’s been a pleasure, lot. Really, I didn’t mean nothin’ by any of this. Tell you what, for your trouble I’ll return here with your payment and a bonus on top of it. I told you I’m good for it, so I’ll still make it happen. Of course, I’ll be deducting a portion of it for the lousy handling on your part… You, I mean, fella. I think the lady had very nice handling and if she’s up for it in the future I think we may be able to make a better deal at a later date once this business has been squared away.”
The look on her face said it all. There would be no second date.
“So, just wait here and, as I said, I’ll be back as soon as possible. You can even have your sword back once we agree the matter has been settled. For now, I’m afraid Miss Sybilla, you’re just going to have to accept credit. For now, slán leat!”
Once again, Art found himself sprinting at full speed away from the house. This time, he knew better than to leave himself blind to any pursuers, so he kept turning around to see how much ground he had put between himself and his debtors. Of course, he should have just kept his eyes facing forward, because he really hadn’t practiced this kind of running ever, and he easily got disoriented. He slammed himself directly against a brick wall, once again finding himself face to face with the ground.
In the shock of the collision, he had lost the sword. Once he was cognizant enough to look for where it had landed, he attempted to dive for it. As soon as he did, he felt the bouncer’s big fat foot slam his wrist down, breaking his hold on the weapon. Painful as that was, it paled in comparison to the onslaught that the woman brought down upon him. She once again put her long legs to good use, stomping him everywhere it would hurt the most. As if that wasn’t enough, she bore down upon his exposed chest and face with her lovely, well-manicured fingernails. She probably would have even bitten him, had patrolling guards not intervened, just as Art was really beginning to get turned on.
“What is the meaning of this?” one guard demanded, as he restrained the woman. Another guard, pulling Art to his feet, held his arms behind his back and bound him. “He has cheated me out of my fee, and was attempting to flee without paying. This man is a no-good scoundrel and deserves to be put to the sword!”
One of the guards grabbed Art by the chin and forcefully inspected every corner of his face.
“Easy there fella,” Art said. “As you can see, I’m a bit torn up at present, on account of the bird’s talons. If I weren’t a gentleman, I’d file a formal complaint.”
“This him?” the guard said to the other, showing him Art’s face. “By the church, it sure is,” said the other guard. “Hey,” the guard holding his face said. “Thanks for making my job easy for me. The Magistrate will be happy to know we’ve found you.”
“Excellent!” Art said. “I’m happy to be of service, of course. Now, if you gentlemen could escort me away from all of this, that would be right proper of you and I’d be ever grateful. And do give the magistrate my regards.”
“Oh, we are at your service, lord,” said the guard, tightening the knot on Art’s constraints. “We’ll make sure you’re very comfortable all the way to the magistrate’s office.”
“On second thought,” Art said. “Maybe we can work out a deal. You see, I was already on my way to retrieve the payment for little Severina here, perhaps I can persuade you to redirect our stroll to someplace less… ominous?”
“It’s Sabia, you donkey!” said the woman, as Art was being led away. “Sabia!” Art said. “That’s your name. I’m really terrible with names, you see. Just glad my parents gave me a three-letter name or I’d have forgotten it myself. Well, Sabia, it’s been fun. Let’s do it again sometime!”
“Keep it down,” warned the guard pressing the pointy end of his spear at Art’s back. Art blew a kiss to Sabia as he rounded the corner, just in time to barely catch her spit the biggest wad of saliva he had ever seen coming from a woman’s mouth in his direction. He was smitten.
“Gotta keep them laughing, you know,” Art told the guards, who clearly were not sophisticated enough to fall under his pure, yet unrefined, charisma. What in the world a City magistrate could possibly want with Art was a complete mystery to him, but it certainly was not something that Art was eager to discover. After all, Art’s past had not exactly been filled with the most law-abiding ventures. Just which one of Art’s misdeeds had finally caught up with him, he would simply have to wait to find out.