- 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 splitting headache that accompanied Alaric’s return to consciousness was simply overwhelming. The weakness he felt in his joints and muscles was another low note in an already unpleasant awakening. The last time he felt anything near this amount of discomfort, he had spent the entire night cavorting to excess with the actors, singers and artists down in Pravus Alley. On that occasion, Alaric’s father must have figured out where he had been all night because he woke Alaric up before the sun and forced an extra training session upon him. As horrible as that hangover was, the way he felt this morning was significantly worse.
Luckily for Alaric, he wasn’t the only one being punished for the previous night’s events. Not only was he joined by his companions in their shared misery, he was under the careful eye of a dedicated physician.
“Alaric is awake,” said Calix to Gailavira, who was busy portioning out something from a flask into smaller vials. She had a determined look to her, one that said that though she may herself be tired, she held her duty to the well-being of the company sacred and no lack of sleep would be able to get in her way of fulfilling that duty. Her years of running the hospital must have shaped her and prepared her for this kind of work.
Gailavira spoke not a word, but handed Calix a small vial and returned to her task. He took it and immediately came to Alaric’s side kneeling down and lifting Alaric’s head gently. The contents of the vial were bitter and cold, which almost caused him to wretch right then and there. Luckily, the bulk of the liquid found its way all the way down, but it was thick, so he knew it would linger in his mouth and throat for quite some time. So, now he ached something fierce in his whole body, he was beyond parched and his whole throat burned with the repulsive after-taste of the liquid he had just been given. To make matters worse, his stomach reminded him with a loud gurgle that he had gone to bed hungry.
“You’ll feel better soon,” Calix told him. “It should only take a few minutes.” Alaric surveyed the camp and found that he was not the only one who was awake. Euric was sitting up against the log. He waved at Alaric, then pointed to his throat and pantomimed a disgusted reaction, letting Alaric know that he, too, had experienced the joy of whatever potion Gailavira had mixed up for them. Sweating, Alaric turned to the other side to see that both Geilamir and Fridok were still fast asleep. Amazingly enough, however, Isidore stood looking out off in the distance, seemingly unperturbed by the same effects that Alaric now suffered. Considering the fact that Isidore had almost died in the battle, it simply didn’t seem very logical that he had bounced back faster than anyone. Alaric was happy to see him alive and well, regardless.
Among the others who were slowly coming to, there was one whom Alaric fully expected to be risen already, but was not. When the Son still lie upon bedroll motionless, the alarm bells in Alaric’s head began to ring.
He is supposed to be nearly a god. Why, then, is he not getting up?
“Oh, Namer, I’m dying,” Alaric heard Geilamir say as he woke. “Correction – I’m already dead. I can’t move. Which one of the horses fell on me while I slept?”
“You think that’s bad,” Alaric responded. “Wait until you get a drink of your morning libation. You’ll wish you were dead.”
Calix scurried back to Gailavira to get a vial for Geilamir. Just as Geilamir’s moaning crescendoed, Alaric suddenly realized his own body had begun to hurt less. Even his splitting headache subsided. With the pain starting to wane, there was only the matter of his unquenched thirst and insatiable hunger.
“Psst, Geil…” Alaric said, realizing he couldn’t take it anymore. “Let me have some of that ham.”
Geilamir’s eyes widened and his face contorted in anger. That ham was supposed to be a secret and Alaric knew it. It was just that he was too hungry to not ask about it.
“What ham?” Euric said, turning his attention to Geilamir. “Are you holding on us, Aurumantian?” Geilamir’s eyes burned with rage at Alaric, realizing that the cat had gotten out of the bag. Alaric mouthed an apology and all Geilamir could do was shake his aching head in reply.
“Oh, hell!” Bulgar chimed in, awaking at just that moment and immediately joining in with the miserable choir. “What kind of sick joke is this? Ooh, dear mercy, I’ve come undone…” Bulgar tried to pick himself up but failed to do so, collapsing back upon his bedroll.
“It gets worse,” Geilamir said, face contorting in disgust from the aftertaste of the potion sliding down his throat far slower than a liquid should legally be allowed to do. “God that’s rank,” he added.
Calix chimed in. “You’re all a bunch of ninnies, aren’t you? Some warriors you are, crying about the taste of a potion. Nobody said it would be sweet like nectar.”
“Why don’t you take a sip, then?” Geilamir said in response. “I’m sure it won’t be a problem because you’re so tough, right?” Alaric could tell that Calix was actually considering doing so at Geilamir’s challenge. He ultimately chickened out, though.
“Every muscle has turned to mush,” Bulgar piped in.
“I can’t waste a drop of it, can I? That would be quite irresponsible of me!” Calix rushed back to Gailavira to get Bulgar’s tincture as Geilamir scoffed.
“Geil,” Alaric said, quieter but still fueled by extreme hunger. “Please. The ham.”
“Oh, God name it,” Geilamir relented, tossing the pack with the ham over at Alaric weakly. Alaric scurried over with what strength he could muster and scooped it up. It wasn’t until that point that he realized that Fridok, too, was now awake, but was simply lying there staring at Alaric.
“You’ve had plenty,” Alaric whispered. “I’m so hungry I can’t stand it.” Fridok simply continued staring at him, then closed his eyes in apparent exhaustion.
“Fridok’s awake too!” Alaric shouted, calling Calix over.
No more waiting. It was time to eat.
After getting some food and water in his belly, Alaric started to feel able and willing to take on the day again. Because of the potion that Gailavira had brewed up for them, the severe pain and exhaustion throughout his body had diminished to being no more than a dull ache. The bitter taste of the potion still managed to linger in his mouth and throat, though, even after a ton of water and his food.
Everyone had managed to beat back the after-effects of using their Soularms sufficiently enough to start getting around, except for the one person who knew where they were going. When Alaric watched the grace and expertise of the Son as they fought the night before, he had questioned why he needed to involve any of the un-Gifted among his numbers. His command over the Gifts as part of his fighting style, the absolute control he had over the motion of his body as he hacked and stabbed at every demon and the way he made it all look so trivial had Alaric wondering why this man hadn’t just gone off and hunted the demons down by himself. With how much it had apparently taken out of the Son, Alaric understood why he chose to involve them.
Euric, the more enthusiastic of the two Alcamora cousins, injected some much needed life into the increasingly worrisome situation.
“Did anybody manage to count how many demons they killed last night?”
Bulgar shook his head at him, the only one of them to give any kind of response. Euric looked around for anyone to chime in, but not even the typically boastful Geilamir did so.
“Me neither,” said Euric, to Alaric’s slight surprise. “By the time I thought we might actually be able to pull it off, I had already killed too many of them to be able to consider counting. What shocked the hell out of me was when I ran out of arrows but still managed to fire at the bastards.”
Alaric looked up. In the mayhem of that fight, he never once considered how Euric and Bulgar might have continued firing without having any arrows left in their quivers.
“I had 21 arrows in my quiver – that’s my lucky number, so I know that for a fact. I shot them just like the Son told me to and found myself full of all kinds of that energy. I felt like I could shoot farther, more accurately and with far less strain on my body than ever before. What’s more, I started noticing that with every arrow I fired, a burst of energy shot out with it. By the time I got down to the last shot, I figured out that the beams of light I was firing traveled faster than the arrows themselves. So, when I had no ammunition left, I pulled back the string and fired without an arrow. Sure enough, the bow kept on firing those bursts of light at the demons and the demons kept falling over. It was the damnedest thing. Can’t get it to fire anything right now, though.”
“That’s because you don’t have any energy stored up,” Bulgar said, as if it was the most obvious thing. “I would be careful about doing that from now on. Maybe it will decide to borrow some of your body’s own energy if it thinks you’re desperate enough to shoot at something. You’d better be aiming at something you can kill, if that’s the case.”
Euric regarded his bow, suddenly fearful of the idea Bulgar had put in his head. He put it down right away, then, not satisfied with the distance he had put between him and it, he nudged it away.
“What are you all going to name your weapons?” Xanthus, the ward of Ervig, asked with an eager mind.
“Breechsoiler,” Geilamir said, heavily leaning into the sarcasm by which he had always been known. “The Holy Crapper,” he continued. Xanthus looked somewhat let down by the sarcasm. He had just watched everyone in action the night before and must have idolized them with boyish wonder. Alaric saw a bit of himself in the boy and took some pity on him. He decided take the question seriously and pick out a respectable name for his new blade, something he had never done before with any sword.
“Lightshiter” Geilamir continued. Euric must have found this humorous, as he piped in shortly after. “What about ‘Ass Swatter’?” Euric added, to which Geilamir regarded him with disgust. “Ass Water?” Geilamir said. “What the hell?” Euric burst out in laughter at the misunderstanding. “I said ‘Ass Swatter’, not ‘Ass Water’, but I think I like that one better.” His guffawing was so infectious that the rest of the camp joined in. Even old Ervig had to hold back a chuckle. Xanthus, on the other hand, found himself red-faced and alone as the single target of their series of jokes.
“I’ve decided on a name for my sword,” Alaric said, with sincerity. Xanthus looked like a boxer whose manager had been far too late to call an end to the fight. He must have felt Alaric was about to deal a killing blow. That was not Alaric’s intention, however. Just the opposite, in fact.
“Daemonore,” he said, proudly and without a hint of shame. It meant ‘Demons’ fear,” and to Alaric it was a name that would have fit right in with the weapons of the Heroes of Old. The whole camp stopped their levity, perhaps realizing just then how their deeds might also echo throughout history. The silence was broken by Euric a few seconds later.
“Way better than Geil’s,” he said. “Ass Water.”
“That’s not the real name,” Geilamir said, suddenly getting defensive as he found himself to be the new butt of the jokes. Alaric winked at Xanthus, who smiled widely back at him.
“What will you name your bows?” Alaric asked Euric and Bulgar. Euric thought for a second, apparently inspired by Alaric’s take. “Arculux,” Euric said, with a tone of danger to it. Geilamir scoffed, adding, “The bow of light? Really?” “What?” said Euric. “If Al can call his sword Daemonore, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to call my bow Arculux. What about you, Bulgar, what’s yours called?”
“Alexia,” Bulgar said, with his whole heart on his sleeve. “She would have liked to have been here with us pinning demons to the ground. Now she will be.” Alaric knew what it meant for Bulgar to name his bow after his sister. The two were not only twins, but the best of friends growing up. Bulgar had never been the same after she died. “She was a brave a warrior as anyone here,” Alaric said, and that was that.
“Well, now this is just cruel,” Geilamir said. “Next, you’re going to tell me that Fridok named his sword Magnificus or something like that.”
Alaric and Geilamir turned to Fridok, who had until this time been silent, perhaps even more so than usual, especially after how he had just seemed to come out of his shell the night before. With all of the attention suddenly upon him, he looked as desperate to escape as a cornered animal.
“It’s a sword, not a baby,” he said dismissively. “It doesn’t talk, it doesn’t get a name. That’s the way I see it.”
Everyone looked like the fun had just been sucked right out of the air.
“Alright, he’s not taking Magnificus, so that one’s mine,” Geilamir said, bringing everyone back into the moment. Alaric eyed Fridok, trying to discern what could have changed since the night before to suddenly make him so sullen again. He determined that perhaps it was better to just let it go. It would probably be a while before Fridok would feel like he truly belonged here, and one massive battle wasn’t going to change years of societal neglect.
“‘I’m still going to call it Ass Water!” said Euric.
The party camped there for the day to allow themselves to fully recover. All the while, their concern grew more and more real as the Son still failed to wake up. It was beginning to look like their crusade was about to come to an abrupt conclusion.
Little did any of them know, they were not the only ones whose bodies had taken a toll from the use of the Soularms. Back in the City, the people were just starting to awake. It wouldn’t be long before the darkest side of the soul magic weapons came to be known…