The Apostate Saint: Chapter 8 – A Lively Feast

The feast was already in its early stages about an hour and a half after the final competition had completed. The Son had extended the invitation to dine to all immediate families of the day’s competitors. Even though that cast a wide net for a potentially integrated crowd, the audience still looked an awful lot like a typical elite gathering in the City. Everything from the servants offering fresh fruit and libations to the entertainers scattered throughout the gardens where the event was taking place screamed upper class private gathering. At least there was music. Alaric would have preferred to be among the musicians rather than being overwhelmed by all of the well-wishers and social climbers now bombarding him with niceties.

Alaric had lost track of the runner-up Fridok as soon as they arrived. The way he had been able to slip away from all of the commotion without being accosted made Alaric feel somewhat jealous. It seemed that being a Solumian did have its perks, even though they were likely few and far between. Perhaps the Son would attempt to rein in a new status quo, one that would remake the City to be more like the utopia society of old, when the City was ruled by a fair and gentle leader and every man woman and child ate their fill. If that was the case, he would be fighting an uphill battle. The Primisian class was not one to simply relinquish their power for any reason. The fact that the Senate was allowing all of this to continue unobstructed came as an absolute shock to Alaric.

A great host of servants came forth carrying large trays of food, splitting the crowd. Alaric found his seat, the chair right next to where the Son would sit, whenever he would arrive. He was certainly an intimidating fellow, but a man of few words. The way he already commanded respect from some of the highest ranking officials of the City elevated that mystique to levels Alaric had never seen in his short life. The republic had no leader, yet already many were calling for him to ascend to his father’s throne. Most unsurprisingly, the loudest voices supporting him were those of Senators who never quite made it to the top of the hill by way of their own deeds. It was clear that they saw opportunity in this man, and they aimed to take it.

Sitting two seats away from Alaric was Geilamir, who gave Alaric a friendly pat on the back when he found his seat. “I don’t know about you,” he said. “But I’m starving.” Alaric agreed, fully aware of how hungry the afternoon’s events had made him.

Seated in the other places of honor were many faces that Alaric recognized, each the winners of their respective competitions. Sitting next to Geilamir were Euric Alcamora and his cousin Bulgar. It came as no surprise to Alaric that these two had won the archery competition – their rivalry was well known throughout the City, and there was no one who could even come close to either one of them in target shooting. Next down the line were Ervig Lacertian and Isidore Maritium, the victors of the spear and lance competition. Aside from the Solumian Fridok who was missing, all of the winners of the competitions were well known to Alaric. While Ervig and Isidore were older than the rest, they were still regular faces at the training grounds where Alaric spent most of his time outside of the home. The two of them were actually some of the earliest trainers Alaric had for swordplay, before he graduated.

The thing that continued to bother Alaric about the whole day was that the sword fighting competition was by far the most dangerous event. Sure, the spear competition had a jousting tournament that provided considerable danger, but nobody died in that event. There had been six casualties in Alaric’s event, and four of them were people that Alaric knew personally. Among the dead were Crassius Lomen the second son of Senator Caldeus Lomen, Senator Minimus Brutus Mortimer the head of his house, Palodius Sixtus the kindly middle-aged groundskeeper at the training grounds, and Tommus Grelian the crotchety old ex-Senator who never married, always saying it was because women and children were a distraction. All of them were now dead, trampled under the weight of ambition. The veneer of Alaric’s victory had been splattered with their blood.

“Looks like it’s just six who were so unlucky,” Geilamir said, too casually for Alaric’s liking. It was odd that he said that, right as Alaric was considering the dead. “You think they’ll add any more to the roster, or is this it? Seems a bit too low for my liking.”

“What are you talking about?” Alaric said. “How can you say such a thing? Have you no respect at all for the dead?”

“Well, they won’t really be able to lift a sword in their state, will they?”

Alaric simply couldn’t believe the audacity of his friend’s statements. He understood that it might be too hard to face the reality of the situation, but it was a bit too soon for crass humor like this.

“The competitions are finished,” Alaric said. “Why would there be any more need for bloodshed?”

“Oh, there will be bloodshed. Just hopefully not mine. I thought you knew what you were signing up for? Where’s this confusion coming from?”

“You asked if I thought anyone else would need to die,” said Alaric, annoyed at his friend’s childish behavior. “No, I most certainly did not,” replied Geilamir. “You did,” said Alaric. “And then you said that six people dead was too low for your liking.”

Geilamir gave a look to Alaric like he was a complete idiot, then a smile stretched wide across his face.

“I was talking about the six of us sitting here. Not the dead combatants.”

Alaric suddenly realized the depth of his misunderstanding and felt completely embarrassed by the entire conversation. Alaric could see Geilamir’s stupid grin, even through the corner of his eye. Alaric tried to focus on something other than the misunderstanding that had made him feel like an utter fool. It was like his first music recital all over again.

“Seven,” Alaric said firmly, realizing after an uncomfortable moment that Geilamir was not about to let this interaction go. Maybe he couldn’t escape the fact that his cheeks were flushed with minor humiliation, but he could still fulfill his basic need to be right all the time.

“Doesn’t look like seven to me,” Geilamir said. “That Solum brute probably realized he was too far out of his element and tucked tail back to whatever hole he crawled out of. It’s better with just us six unluckies.”

“He will be here,” Alaric retorted with false confidence. He didn’t really know anything about the man, after all, aside from the fact that he could swing a sword. “And don’t forget that he beat you in the melee.”

“He lasted longer, he didn’t beat me,” Geilamir said. “From what my father who saw him fighting said, the man only made it out of his fights because everybody else ignored him. It was a fluke, nothing else.”

“Perhaps you’ll do well being far away from your father,” Alaric said. Geilamir frowned. “Just what is that supposed to mean?” Alaric wasted no time responding. “You didn’t fight him. I did. If it weren’t for his sword breaking, I’d be sitting right next to you instead of in the winning chair. I’m telling you, he earned his place here just like you did. He probably deserves it more, even. He doesn’t have the luxury of masters-at-arms and three hours of free training every day like we do. He’s tough because he’s had to fight every moment of his life to be here.”

“I think maybe you’re assuming an awful lot about the fellow,” said Geilamir. “It was just one fight. You are assuming an awful lot about his character and his skill.”

“Perhaps we can go a round after the feast, just you and me?” came a voice from behind. Fridok stood there, staring at Geilamir. Alaric had no idea just how long he had been listening to the conversation.

“Oh, sure,” said Geilamir. “But with what sword?” He must have felt so proud of that insult. “He can use mine,” said Alaric, quickly coming to Fridok’s aid. “I’d love to see what he can do with a blade quality that matches his own.”

Fridok stared intensely at Geilamir, who suddenly found other things much more interesting to stare at instead. It was a nice change of pace.

Fridok took his seat. Alaric could tell that the man was deeply uncomfortable here, and would have to do his best to make him feel welcome from now on. It was truly nice to be able to make acquaintances with someone who didn’t spend all the time keeping up airs for posterity.

“Where’s your friend?” Alaric asked. “Art, was it?”

Fridok pointed over at another table some distance away. Art saw this and responded with a very rude hand gesture.

“I couldn’t find anybody with a heart open enough to let him sit with them, so I had to threaten to open theirs for no charge if they didn’t.” Alaric felt the heat of embarrassment returning to his face.

Just what is it about this man? How wonderful.

Horns blasted a fanfare that interrupted every conversation taking place in the entire garden. Gasps and cheers filled the air as a group of men walked in a line from where the trumpets were sounding. It took Alaric a moment to realize why the audience had reacted in such a way, but when he saw it, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

Every single swordsman who had been killed in the melee was now alive and well. They wore clothing of pure white, theatrics the like of which Alaric appreciated deeply. Unbelievable, he thought. The dead walk among us!

Geilamir gagged and grasped his throat. Apparently he was even more shocked than Alaric was. In a flash, Fridok was on his feet, slamming the flat of his hand hard down on Geilamir’s back. A large grape was dislodged with tremendous force. Geilamir found instant relief, but both of his hands went to comfort the place where Fridok had hit him. Fridok sat down, gave Alaric a cheeky smile, then pulled his chair in to focus on the procession.

“Namer, you hit like a donkey kicks,” Geilamir said, coming back to his senses. He stared at the men there, being paraded around. It was nothing short of a miracle, indeed that these men were alive. It was no wonder why so many were so quick to call for his ascension.

“I killed that man there,” Geilamir said, pointing at one of the two men that Alaric didn’t recognize. “I cut him to bits, like a butcher. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon.”

“Thank the Namer then,” said Alaric.

“They can thank the Son to his face,” Fridok said. He turned to Geilamir, bringing a grape up to his mouth. “But you – you can thank me.” He chewed, slowly, and swallowed.

2 thoughts on “The Apostate Saint: Chapter 8 – A Lively Feast”

  1. Interesting! But I think I missed something… How are all of these fallen warriors alive again if they were killed in the battle? Is my dementia kicking in?

  2. I always have to think back to the individuals name when it’s been too long since I’ve read the previous post. I’m old, haha! Yet this story is still keeping me very interested in the next installment. Thank you!

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