- 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
Time and space shattered in a blast, as if He had been hit by one of the war machines of old that had seemingly been forgotten in the time and place where He now found himself. Father… Where have you gone? The time before His exile was out of reach to Him, and this new world He had awoken to find was barely reminiscent of the world where He had spent the entirety of His life. As His thoughts meandered and splintered into a thousand directions, He allowed them to do so with nothing but the passionate pleading of an unfamiliar feminine voice to underscore the deconstruction and reconstruction of his thoughts. Where was I? A vision of the Eternal Flame still blazing atop the Pearly Stair after millennia of decay came to the forefront of the theater of his mind. The Pearly Stair.
He grounded His memory to His most recent trip up the Pearly Stair, His birthright. Who are these people who claim authority to deny me entry? An old man with white hair stood atop the stair, unblinking, daring to stand in the place where His father belonged. He may have had vast disagreements with how His father ran civilization from atop this temple in the past, but He never once thought that another man might be better suited for the job, not even Himself. The world had fallen away and this man had apparently taken His father’s place – He didn’t need any more confirmation about flagrant mismanagement than that.
The man’s face didn’t betray his authoritative confidence, but neither did it display any hint of a warm welcome. This man understood well that his supposed place here at the top of society could be threatened by His return. He prepared Himself for the conflict that would likely ensue, but He hoped that He might be able to also find answers to all the questions burning in His mind. This man may very well prove to be an adversary, but he was an opponent whom He needed alive, at least for now.
The priest at the top of the temple spread his hands wide and then clasped them at his center, his posture taking on a level of confidence that he should not have had, considering the challenge He posed to his position of power. As He arrived near the top of the stair, the man said absolutely nothing for a time. Not wanted to be the first to speak, He gazed into the priest’s eyes and penetrated them, demanding answers without speaking a word. To His surprise, the man matched His intensity and didn’t break.
It was their first battle for superiority, and it was silent and lasted longer than it would have taken a child to recite the alphabet three times. At last, the priest, a man well beyond the years of his prime, addressed Him with a cold and slow cadence to his voice.
“Who is the man who has come knocking with such violence that he has forced his entry into this citadel and dares to ascend to this most sacred of places?”
A politician. He hated politics of all kinds, for it was politics that forced Him into exile. It seemed that even after the entire world had changed around it, politics had remained the same. Such a pity that this, the worst brand of human behavior, should not have been lost to the world along with all else that had fallen away. Fine… If I must. He took a breath, choosing his words like a gladiator chooses a weapon.
“Take one look in my eyes and tell me who it is that you see.”
The priest scoffed at the remarks but denied the request. “You understand the importance of the chamber standing before you, I hope?”
“Better than you can fathom.”
“Then you know that I cannot risk having an outsider whose intentions within it are not stated past this point.”
“I am no outsider, though you see me as such.”
“Truly?” the priest said. “Then state your name that I may send for the record of your birth.”
“There will be no such record in your repositories, for my birth predates bureaucracy.”
“Is that so?” the priest said, laughing slightly.
He knows more than he lets on. Asking my name was no mistake.
“And who is he who stands in my way?” said He. “What is your name?”
“My name is no secret,” said the high priest. “I am Quintus, of the Maximilii. I am Mystic Consul of the City, the protector and keeper of this Sanctum and its mysteries.”
He speaks his Name openly. He is either very foolish or he is lying. The temptation to use his Name against him was almost too great, but He hesitated, as that was still one of the oldest High Crimes.
“What is this consul business?” He said, taking a step back from the combat to seek clearer answers. “The City has never employed nor needed the services of a consul. Where has He gone? Where is my father?”
The consul’s visage darkened, as if he had been dealt a slight setback in his posturing. Perhaps he was starting to believe Him? Rather than give in to the demands, the consul regrouped his defense and continued the parley.
“I cannot confirm anything for you, until you provide me with a name.”
He knows something. This is the second time he requests my name.
“You know who I am.”
“I cannot say that I do. You will have to be more specific.”
“You know of me, I can see it in your face.” He nodded, more sure of the priest’s understanding than ever. The consul shook his head, continuing the charade. “Enough. You will step aside and permit me entrance. I will have answers to the questions I seek.”
“I will not.”
He found himself reaching for Glory, his Soularm in the form of a sword, convinced that saber rattling was the next correct play.
“So quick to resort to violence,” the consul said, low and sternly. “Shame.”
“It can end here, if you move aside and cooperate.”
Who was this man to dare shame Me? He inched Glory out of its sheath slightly, so that the white light of its blade would draw the consul’s attention. The consul looked upon it, fascination trumping his castigation. He smiled, then did a quarter turn, just enough to reveal that His father’s vestments were not the only things this man had assumed by taking on the mantle.
“You have no right to bear that blade,” He said, horrified to see His father’s Soularm, Creation, being worn by a mere man. “And if you are wise, you will not seek to antagonize me any further.” He stepped up at last, off of the stair and on to even ground with the consul.
“You really don’t know anything, do you? Wake up.” The consul turned back to face Him, apparently satisfied with the reaction he caused Him to make.
“Take it off and hand it here,” He said, extending his arm out forcefully, temptation to swipe at His father’s Soularm nearly overtaking Him.
“No. It is mine to bear by right. Your father is gone. When He left, He split what remained of his kingdom in half. To the Senate He gave the charge of caring for the physical well-being of those who were left after the Fall. He assigned the care of their souls to us, His Church. The Senate is the shield of this City, but I… I am the Sword that lies in wait should the forces of evil breach these hallowed grounds. This Sword belongs to me. I bear it by right.”
He didn’t know what to think. If what this man said was true, then He had no legal right to claim ownership of the Soularm or the Sanctum, His father’s house. He turned around and studied the City, a vastly different place than what He knew when He departed. Everywhere He looked, he saw ruin and decay, a poor comparison to the City at its height.
“The City…” He said, thinking carefully about His words. “It is dying.”
“You see it wrong,” the consul said. “For this City is the last vestige of light on this planet. Everything else has fallen. We are all that is left. Your father’s vast kingdom lies in ruins. The unfaithful have become demons. The Gifts that powered the Great Ages of the past have been taken away from even those loyal to God, but we still stand despite overwhelming odds against us.”
“But… why?” He didn’t understand how such a great civilization might have collapsed. It didn’t seem possible, yet His eyes were as sharp as ever and the truth was naked everywhere He looked.
“Because we failed to do the one task which was asked of us for too long, and God spared no one from His punishment except those who remained here in these walls. The Great Cities beyond these borders are no more. Nothing out there is worth saving now, for all of it is already lost. Wake up.”
He considered everything the consul had said. It was all so much to take in. Where did that leave Him? What place in this world was there for such of the likes of Him? What was there left to protect, if all had been so lost? As He gazed on the people amassed below, a calmness overtook him.
“What you said,” He muttered, “may be factually correct according to your histories. But it is not the truth.”
Consul Maximilius raised an eyebrow at Him.
“The Gifts may have been taken away from you, but they have not been taken away from ME.”
The Consul’s eyes widened, endless possibilities crossing his mind.
“Quintus Maximilius, you will sanction my request to hold a tournament. From this competition, I shall muster the greatest champions this City has to offer and we will go forth into the world and reclaim it, inch by inch.”
The consul locked eyes upon Him, shaking uncontrollably, drool coming out of his mouth. He didn’t want it to have come to this, but His mind had been made up and no politician would stand in His way. It was the beginning of a new day for this world, and now all that was left was to…”
Gasping for air, His body contracted and lurched forward out of his sleeping position. The world of His mind faded away as He was brought back to reality. He was surrounded by champions, all of whom had proven Him right – they could, indeed, survive against the denizens of darkness. One day at a time, they could whittle away at the forces of the demons. If this victory was possible without even one casualty, than anything was possible.
Yet, it was too soon to celebrate the idea that there were no casualties. For, writhing in agony at His side was the lady Gailavira, the secret Soularm knife He had given to her lying unceremoniously on the ground, the hint of a fragment of a Soul gleaming upon its edges.
No. Not against you. It never should have been used on yourself. He gazed into Gailavira’s face, the light fleeing from her eyes as she had opted to use her soul as fuel to revive Him. She muttered, weakly, “wake up…” too far gone to realize that she had been victorious in her attempt to awaken him.
He called out at once for His horse, for He knew it by name. As soon as it arrived, He placed Gailavira upon it and mounted it Himself. As soon as everyone realized He was leaving them, He heard the boy Alaric call out to Him.
“Where are you taking her?”
“To the Sanctum atop the Temple!” He pressed forth back upon the road to the City, not even caring that He had left the Spear, His other Soularm behind with his Champions. He only had so much time before her soul would be broken and she would lose her chance at eternity. Glory and faith would be the only protection He needed for this trip home.