- 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
Gailavira lay the damp cloth across the forehead of the Son, wiping away the sweat beads that continued to coalesce there. She had already administered to thousands of mortal patients in her second life, prior to meeting the Son. She had only lived one actual life, of course, but she called the time spent after the death of her child and husband her second life because of how drastically different it was from the time when they were still alive. She had become something new, something worthy based upon her own merit, and her value was now derived from her dedication to saving lives. Still, there were times when she could not save her patients. Those were the times that bore the greatest burden upon her.
The only woman of the Son’s company had been given no medical training when she had submitted herself into the sect of the Church called Mulieres Quis Sana, the Women Who Heal. When she donned the white, she told herself that she had joined them because of her sense of duty for the people of the City. It was only through the Matron Elianora’s counseling that she was able to fully understand her true motives for seeking entry into the sect.
Her son Janus had been born with a debilitating malformation that prevented his body from gaining proper muscle mass as he grew, leaving him always behind the development of the other boys around his age and forcing him to walk with crutches. His spirit was mighty throughout all of his short life despite everything working against him. When he died after only six far-too-few years of life, he departed with far more composure than his heartbroken parents could muster. When he did finally act the way a child was supposed to behave in this circumstance and allowed himself to cry, he said it wasn’t death that scared him, rather, it was because he would miss his mother and father dearly when he went to Heaven.
Wake up. Wake up, please.
When her husband Petros hung himself shortly after their boy died, the already grief-stricken Gailavira was left all alone with great shame upon her family’s name added to her already heavy burden. In the City, there were many things that would bring shame upon a family. Suicide, especially by a healthy patron of a family, was among the greatest of all sources of shame that a family could be stricken with. It was nearly impossible to reestablish honor after such an act, and so Gailavira was left with no child, no husband and no honor.
Matron Elianora knew it all along, but made Gailavira admit her true motive for joining the order anyway. She was hiding from the weight that she bore amidst the crumbled ruins of a life once so blessed by God. It took her the better part of a year to finally understand what the Matron wanted her to understand about herself, and it took even longer for Gailavira to make noticeable progress healing her invisible but critical wounds. By the time Elianora passed away, Gailavira had mastered the application of potions, tinctures, salves, splints and bandages, among other things. She had learned through her steadfast dedication to her second life the way to address any wound, but there was still one wound which she would never be able to fully heal, and that was her own.
The day the Son came into her life, Gailavira welcomed him with open arms. When he explained who he was and asked for a doctor or nurse to accompany him on this impossible quest, Gailavira refused to put at risk any of the other healers at the Hospital. Instead, she offered herself, the current Matron of the Hospital, to join him on his quest. She told herself it was to protect the women under her care, but as soon as they left the City she began to question her own motives for being so willing to put herself at risk. Perhaps she simply needed a change. Perhaps she felt a kind of hopefulness, knowing that this man had the Gifts, a connection to the spirit world that put her one step closer to her lost family. She feared, however, that she was truly here because she was unwittingly putting herself face to face with death. If Elianora were here, she would probably make Gailavira admit she was only here so that she could face her family again without creating any additional shame in her passing.
Whatever the case, she had seen firsthand the breadth of power of the denizens of death and she had witnessed this man and his companions survive an impossible battle. This wasn’t about accepting death, at least not anymore. Gailavira’s mission was now to stand in direct opposition to death, something she now knew could be defeated even at its full strength. This revelation changed Gailavira, and though she had always acted defensively against the power of death, she had never even considered that death itself could be conquered.
And she would conquer it, with this man’s help. But first, he needed to…
She loudly and without shame demanded the Son wake from his slumber as she cradled his head, no longer containing her words or her emotions within her. The others turned their heads at this most unexpected outburst from who they must have thought meek, like women were supposed to be in their culture. She saw no reason to hide the fire inside of her anymore, knowing now what was at stake. Gailavira would revive this man if she had to set off into the afterlife herself to reclaim him.
The Son had been unconscious and hanging on by a thread since the night before, when he collapsed after expending all of his energy reviving Isidore and moving the earth around the companions. He had his Soularms, which borrowed power from the slain demons just like the other champions, but unlike the others, the Son was not bouncing back from his exhaustion. The sun would be setting soon, and the one man who should have been best prepared to deal with such an affliction was handling it worst of all.
Ervig placed a hand on Gailavira’s shoulder. She didn’t even bother looking up at him. He would have likely tried to calm down her emotions if she addressed him, the respectable and kind noble that he was. But Gailavira would not be cowed into a woman’s supposed place. As far as she was concerned, the City’s rules of etiquette and demeanor didn’t apply here in the wilderness. Here, she was allowed to be unapologetically herself. And that meant that she would not be afraid of demonstrating the full palette of emotions that were available to her whenever she so deemed them prudent. Right now, she felt like unleashing a ferocious rage.
“You’ve done all you can for him,” Ervig said. “We simply need to give him more time and see what the Namer has in store for him.”
Gailavira had heard that same line before, many times, in fact. What that had amounted to years ago were countless prayers that were indeed answered, but in a way that hurt Gailavira and the ones whom she held dearest. This time was different. It had to be different. This man was the Son of the First Man, a man who possessed the very Gifts of God, the ancient abilities that had power over death itself. She was not about to let this great man and the powers that he possessed slip away.
“More water.” Gailavira turned to Calix, letting him know that her order was for him. He got up immediately and sought the buckets lying by the campfire that Geilamir was at present trying to restart for the night.
When the boy returned, Gailavira cupped a small amount of water in her hands and allowed some of it to enter the Son’s mouth. The rest, she used to wash his profusely sweating face, like she had been doing all day. She considered all of the things she had already tried, that would typically work on patients in cases of emergency. She had placed the vial of smelling salts under his nose many times to no avail once she was convinced that his sleep was unnatural and dangerous to his health. She had tried everything from administering the various potions she carried in her pack to simply talking to him, which she had done all day long with no response. She had exhausted the resources available to her through her medical training and now all that was left were the raw emotions of seeing someone important to her slip away again.
A tear fell from Gailavira’s face onto the Son’s cheek. When she looked down through blurry eyes to wipe it away, she didn’t see the face of the Son as she expected.
She saw Janus instead.
Here, in her imagination, Janus was a man fully grown. His flesh had all of the muscles that were appropriate for a man to have. His face resembled his father’s, but had Gailavira’s cheekbones. He was as God always should have made him, as he never was. For a brief moment, Gailavira saw her own son in her arms, and then he opened his eyes and took in the unbelievable sight of his mother.
“Mamma,” Janus said to her, as surprised to see her as she was him. Overwhelmed with this more-than-imaginative vision of her son returned unto her, Gailavira fell upon him, weeping bitterly. She knew he was dead. She understood that she was simply imagining this, even if it felt real. She didn’t care. The Son had brought Gailavira’s child back to her, just as she had unwittingly hoped that he would.
Amidst the wailing and the sudden silence of the others in camp, Gailavira heard Janus speaking to her.
“Mamma, it is beautiful,” he whispered. “Heaven’s light shines on us, even though the way is closed. We have not stopped watching you carry on without us. Your burden is so heavy, yet you go on anyway. Mamma, you should know I was only able to survive as long as I did because I had your strength.”
Janus studied the tears in his mother’s eyes, some kind of understanding growing within his eyes. He reached up and wiped them from her cheeks.
“Thank you for still loving me, even after all these years.”
A moment later, Janus was gone. The face of the Son remained as it had been, nearly lifeless and barely breathing. Gailavira searched for Janus in this man’s face, but he was truly gone. She intensified her grief-stricken crying, considering every word that her son had said to her in the brief time that he had come and gone. The words that resonated with her the most were among his last.
“I was only able to survive as long as I did because I had your strength.”
Her eyes widened, an idea forming in her head that she had not even considered before.
She looked around her. Everyone was staring. She didn’t care about the things that they must be thinking. All she knew was that it was now her turn to put herself in harm’s way to protect the ones she cared about.
Gailavira reached into her pack, pulling out the secret instrument that she swore she would only use in times of emergency, when there was no other option available to her.
She, too, had been given a Soularm, just like the rest of the champions in the company. Hers, however, took the form of a small medical knife. Regardless of its size, it glowed just like the weapons of her companions. There was not a single face there among those at the camp that was not completely shocked by what Gailavira had in her hand.
Gailavira held the Son in her arm, thinking carefully about Janus’s words.
She knicked the tip of the pinky of her left hand, and was immediately met with an overwhelming burning sensation that overtook her whole body. It ran up her whole arm, blood boiling within her veins, spreading the heat outward to every extend of her person.
Even despite the immense pain she inflicted upon herself, she resolved to hold her hand out and gave a part of her very soul to the man lying upon her. Through the anguish, she waited to see if her strategy would work the way she imagined it would.
“Wake…” was all she could say before the pain overtook her and she collapsed.