The Apostate Saint: Chapter 7 – The Broken

Just like that, the only thing in Fridok’s life that mattered to him was gone. He held the pieces of the blade in his hands, staring at them in disbelief. The registrar was right – Fridok was sold a poorly made weapon. What a fool he had been. All of the coins he had starved himself to stash away for so many years might as well have been thrown over the wall. The blade had failed when he needed it most. He lost, and now, despite the fact that the Son had taken pity on him, his inclusion was a consolation and nothing more. He was a warrior without a weapon, and outside of charity, there would be no way for him to afford another.

Fridok dropped the pieces of his weapon and wandered slowly and aimlessly through the crowd. He needed to be away from this, to escape from the overwhelming noise of the mob that had swarmed the competitors. As he made his way through the people, his foot caught on something on the melee grounds. A body. One of the competitors who didn’t make it through the melee. His dirt-covered face remained twisted in pain, a reflection of his last moments of life. Fridok considered this man, what things might have been going through his head as his life fled from him, what he must have felt, dying in such a needless way. Although Fridok didn’t kill this man, he, in some ways, envied him. At least this man didn’t have to live with his own failure like Fridok did.

He made way through the endless masses there, drawing himself further and further from the commotion. Fridok didn’t know where he would go or what he would do, now, but he knew that he didn’t belong there. He should have felt some pride in himself, he knew it, but that was far from the case. All he could think about was how fragile everything was – his sword, the lives of the men who died in the battle, his own pride. His ego hurt more than anything.

He was so close to being vindicated after all of his struggles, but now he was simply destined to be a footnote in the grand scheme of things. Everyone would remember the great swordsman Alaricus, and how he triumphed and brought honor to his House. Nobody would remember Fridok in the same way, nor would they glorify his name. There was no House for him to elevate, nor would he raise himself out of obscurity by being almost the best. He didn’t even have friends with whom to celebrate, or to lean upon to help him come to terms with his loss. He was as hopeless as he had ever been to bring himself out of the darkness.

Fridok simply left that place, numb and not caring at all what he was likely giving up.

He made his way in a blur through the streets. The further away from the melee grounds he got, the emptier and quieter it became. He wanted nothing more than to be alone with his thoughts, uninterruptible and incorruptible by pleasantries. He knew the hard truth about this failure; no starry-eyed noble with a charmed life handed to them on a silver platter would convince him otherwise.

Fridok unconsciously clutched his sheath. The hollowness and empty weight of it further rubbed salt in his open wounds. He untied it from his waist and, in a fit of rage, hurled the now-useless object as far as he could throw it. It deflected off of a wall and landed with a clank on a metal sewer cover. He thought he had been alone, but a vagrant, a Farraige man looked up from his place nestled in the filth just inside an alleyway.

“Hey, prick!” the man said, in the accent and manner common to his people. “If you’re trying to hit me, you’re going to have to get better aim. Arse licker.” The Daoine Farraige people were not well-liked here in the City; they were the only outsiders who had managed to get safely inside the walls prior to the Fall of Man. Their ancestral home, the Isles far to the northwest of the City, had fallen alongside every other major hold in the land, but not before a large group of their people emigrated to the City, driven here by a dire premonition that ended up being true. Though they were safe from the devastation that reigned everywhere outside of the White Walls, they were lower in stature than the Solumians, the social class made up of everyone else who wasn’t a Primisian – the noble class of the City. If Fridok was hopeless for a better future as a Solumian, then the Farraige people were better to not even pollute their minds with the idea of hope.

Fridok, being low-class himself, bit right back. “You think I meant to hit you? No- If I meant to hit you it’d be square in the chin and with something heavier to give you a right good morning.” The Farraige man spat right back. “You knob. Your aim’s twice as bad as you look, and your face is like trampled horse shite. I thought I had a bad lot in life, and here you are making me look right blessed.”

“You want to stand up when you insult me, or would you have to focus too much of your brain on not falling down, you sodding drunk?” Fridok said.

“Who says I’m drunk?” the man said with an overly offended tone.

“It would be a first for your people if you weren’t.”

“Oh, right. That’s assuming an awful lot, don’t you think? Like, me, being able to actually afford a drink!”

Fridok couldn’t help but crack a smile at the self-deprecation. He quickly resumed his sullen expression, not willing to give up his anger at himself that easily. Everything was just too raw right now.

“You think you have it hard?” Fridok said, approaching the man just to see what would happen. “Try working for years for something and having it all come crashing down on you in an instant.”

“Oh no, I would know nothing about that. You poor baby, are you gonna be alright? Do you need daddy to kiss it?”

“You can kiss my arse, is what you can do. But that would require you to actually do something productive, wouldn’t it? Is there anything more terrifying to a Farraige than that?”

“Waking up and having a mug like yours is the top of my list!”

Fridok got within striking range, ready to really let the man have it. Instead of fear, the man looked up at Fridok with indignance rather than fear. Fridok knew he was an intimidating man. He had worked very hard for a very long time to make sure his physical appearance reflected his ambition. Some good that had done.

“You aren’t going to hit me,” the man scoffed, eyes trained on Fridok. “Nobody ever does. Not once they see me up close.”

Fridok grabbed the man’s shoulders and with all of his pent-up rage, he lifted him up against the wall. The man’s bottom half was covered in his rags, so it wasn’t until Fridok hoisted him into the air that he saw that the man’s legs stopped just above where his knees should have been. Fridok was taken aback, but the man wasted no time at all. He pressed the stumps of his legs against the wall behind him and headbutted Fridok as hard as he could. Fridok dropped the man and he flopped to the ground on his side. Both men immediately knew the headache that would accompany that maneuver.

“That’s right,” the man said, shifting himself back to his seated position. “You’ll think twice before laying a hand on ol’ Art again.” Both Fridok and the man rubbed their heads in pain. Fridok allowed himself to fall backward against the wall on the other side of the alleyway. The man who called himself Art watched him closely, also reeling in pain from the assault.

“That’s really unfair, you know,” Fridok said, after the pain had begun to settle. “You really ought to tell a guy you’ve got no legs before you start a fight with him.” “You think that’s unfair,” Art replied. “You should try not having any legs to begin with.”

Still holding their foreheads in pain for a long and cathartic moment, the tension between the men slowly eased and eventually waned.

“So, what gives with the sheath anyway?” the man said, once it was right to do so. “You finally realizing it was a bad idea to buy one without being able to afford a sword of your own?”

“I did own a sword,” Fridok said. “As a matter of fact, I just used it.”

“Well, shite,” Art said. “You better go fetch it from the body before they figure out it was you who did the deed.”

Fridok scoffed. “That’s not exactly what happened.” He looked down at the man’s stumps, one of which was exposed because of their scuffle. The man noticed and pulled his pantleg down to cover it. At once, Fridok felt the full wave of his foolishness wash over him.

“Listen, I don’t have much, but I can probably help you out with a hot meal or two, here and there.” Fridok said, making sure through his tone to let the man know he meant no harm. To his surprise, the man became defensive again.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Art said. “You can’t do that. That’s not right. That’s not fair. You don’t get to look down on me. I get enough of that shite from everyone else. I don’t need your pity. If you want to go another round, then let’s do it. But also know that I bite and scratch and I’ve got an ‘ell of a right hook.”

Fridok smiled at the man and said nothing else. The man had nothing to his name and still, somehow, he demanded respect. He was right. He didn’t need empty pity. He needed things to change in the City just as much as Fridok did.

“Listen,” Fridok said, not sure what words were going to follow, or if they would be accepted by the man. He had to be a really mean son of a whip to continue living what life he had, the way he was. “I don’t mean anything by it, and you don’t have to think of it as pity, but was just on my way back to–“

“There you are!” came a voice from the main road. Fridok turned to look, and, to his great surprise, the voice belonged to Alaricus.

“We’ve been looking all around for you – didn’t you hear? You are called to join us on the expedition!”

Fridok could see realization forming on the Farraige man’s face. He turned to Alaricus, a feeling in his stomach nudging him to believe this young man – that he meant Fridok no harm. He had never known how to trust anyone after his mother passed, so it took an awful lot of bravery for him to accept Alaricus’ words for what they were.

“I’ve lost where it mattered most, and while it is certainly kind of him to include me, I don’t believe in handouts for me. I fought and I lost, and what’s more – I’ve no sword to carry. I won’t be of much use to anyone without a weapon.”

“I am truly sorry about your blade,” said Alaricus. “It must have meant a lot to you. I know there’s no way to replace the meaningful sword you’ve lost, but I’ve been assured that not having a weapon of your own to bring with you is no obstacle. If you’d still like to go with us, know that you have earned your place. You fought bravely and if it weren’t for the faultiness of the sword’s make, you would have won. I know that for a fact.”

It was all Fridok needed to hear. He looked at the Farraige man, who appeared to have new reverence and respect for Fridok. Art turned away as soon as Fridok looked at him with that terrible pity in his eyes.

Fridok cleared his throat, to avoid choking up. “Thank you,” he said, softly. “I will consider it. Do you know when we are leaving?”

“As soon as the other competitions are complete,” said Alaric. “Once it is determined which nine will accompany the Son, there will be a feast to celebrate. We will leave within the week.”

Fridok had never partaken in a feast before. It simply was not something Solumians did. Suddenly, he had an idea. He stood up, reached out his hand to the Farraige man who raised his eyebrow at Fridok, clearly unsure of what he was doing.

“Don’t think of it as charity,” Fridok said. “Think of it more like when women have to bring an uglier friend with them to make themselves feel more confident. You’d be doing me a favor by coming.”

The man put aside his pride and met Fridok’s hand.

Fridok hoisted the poor man up, situated him onto his back and turned to Alaricus who was completely unsure of his actions.

“Alright, then,” Alaricus said. “Shall we be off?”

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