When I woke up it was not very comfortable. I was laying on a bed but it was lumpy and small. I sat up and glanced around the room. It was small and sparsely furnished. There was a small window that let in dim light, I must have slept through most of the day. Somebody had changed my clothes and I was wearing plain cotton clothing like a commoner would wear.
‘Where do you think we are?’ I mentally asked the Slayer. There was no response. I waited for a minute before I realized what the problem was. I didn’t have my golden signet ring on me. Of course she wouldn’t be able to talk with me if I didn’t have that. I felt a bit defenseless without the ring too. I didn’t know if she could sense anything without me in contact with the ring so she might just be waiting for me to regain it.
I got off the bed and walked over to the wooden door. I reached up and knocked at the door. It was a woman’s voice that answered. “Come in. We have been waiting for you to wake up.” It was a quiet mysterious voice. I opened the door and stepped inside. The room was as plain as the one I had just left with a simple wooden table and a few wooden chairs.
The woman was sitting on one of the chairs. She was beautiful but there were lines on her face which implied that she was starting to show her years. There was nobody else in the room. Had she been waiting here for me or did you know when I was going to wake up. I took a seat on one of the other chairs.
“So do you want to go first then?” I asked the woman.
“We have some questions for you. We want to know what you were doing getting assassins coming after you?”
“That is a rather vague, leading question that was deliberately void of any information.” The bad habit of being a politician was rearing it’s head. “However since I want us to have a cordial relationship I’ll answer. I attracted an assassin because Eyyo, the last of the gods, wants me dead. Is that sufficient?” I told her.
Her eyes widened, “That is something very dangerous that you have said. Do you have any idea what might happen to you if you said something like that to most people. You would certainly end up at the end of an assassin’s blade again, assuming anybody believed you in the first place.”
“But you believe me. I know it is safe for me to tell you because otherwise that wouldn’t have saved me from that Apostate. You know about Eyyo to which is why you are being so edgy about asking your questions. Is that not right?”
The woman eyed me quizzically. “You seemed to know an awful lot.” She reached into a pocket in her skirt and pulled out a golden ring, “Then you know what this is right?”
“Since two people saw me use it I assume you already know. It is a golden ring that functions as a conduit for Zillk the Hope Ender. I was either lucky or unlucky when I gained the powers of an Apostate when I was first attacked by one of Eyyo’s assassins. The ring is also coincidentally the signet ring of Lord Friddnick of Korfield, which is strangely enough also my name.”
“An accidental noble Apostate that is being hunted by the assassins of a supposed living god named Eyyo and you expect us to believe this.” She sounded skeptical but I could tell that it was just an act.
So I made a small gamble. This situation seemed a bit unusual already. I was being interrogated by a single woman who was just holding my ring in front of me. The whole thing felt unusual. “Yes, of course I expect you to believe me. I think mainly you are worry that I am a spy for Eyyo. Otherwise you wouldn’t personally be questioning me personally. I’m not certain how important you are but I do know that you are an Apostate.”
She spun the ring on the table less then a foot away from my grasp, “You are very clever. You are much more direct then I expected, nobles tend to try and hide the truth a lot more then you do. I still don’t know for certain that you aren’t a double agent but you seem to be trustworthy.”
“I blame that on Zillk. The power of the Hope Ender isn’t very pleasant and I fear it might be effecting me personality a little bit.”
She nodded, “It happens. Such effects usually wear off the longer you are away from using a god’s power. She stood up and moved toward the other door out of the room. “Follow me.”
She had left my ring sitting on the table. I reached out to grab it then I held myself back. Instead I stood up and left the ring sitting there. I knew that the Slayer was waiting for me but I needed a moment. A moment to think through and see things for myself.
“You’re not going to take it?” Asked the woman.
“Not for now. Since you’re not planning on taking it from me it should be safe for me to leave it there until I need it again. And weren’t you the persaon she said that time away from them would make its influence over me fade?”
“Indeed I did. It is good to have somebody listen to me. Far too often a new Apostate abuses their power and begins to lose control of themselves. The powers of a god wasn’t designed to be used by a human, keep that in mind. You may have been keeping it close at all times because you were worried about protecting yourself. While understandable I don’t recommend you continuing doing that. Even if it is more dangerous it still help you retain control.” It was an instruction tone, similar to the own that the Slayer used with me.
In fact she reminded me of the Slayer in multiple ways. “I still don’t know who you are?”
“You are about to find out.” She lead me down the hallway and to another plain wooden door. She opened it up and motioned for me to enter. It was a slightly larger then the previous rooms with a big long table made of solid oak wood. There were a few people sitting at the table with drinks. They looked up at me and the woman.
I recognized the one of the men there. He was a skinny man with hawkish eyes. I could tell that he was the man who had pointed the crossbow at me yesterday. He as the rest of them seemed to watched the woman for guidance. She was clearly in charge among this group.
She nodded at them, “He’s alright, at least for now. One of the Betrayer’s men wouldn’t be so flippant.” The man who had aimed at me earlier laughed at that and returned to the drink that he had in front of him. The others looked over me trying to appraise me.
“And these people are?” I asked, “You still haven’t told me who your are?”
“We are the Loyal.”
“Yes, those who are still loyal to the cause set about by our ancestors. We are those who have gathered to put an end to the the Betrayer’s actions and make sure that the world is really and truly free from the gods.” The others nodded in agreement with her.
“So you are following in the footsteps of the Slayer then?” It was a bit surprising. The Slayer had said that such a think was likely true but I hadn’t really believed her but here they were.
The woman nodded, “Yes, she was the first to stand up against the gods, we hope to be the last. If we can finally put an end to the Betrayer then their reign will finally be over.”
“Are there more of you? These few hardly seem enough to take out a god.”
One of the men growled and stood up pointing at me, “You dare question our mettle. We would be all that are needed to kill some two bit god.”
The woman raised her hand and said, “Calm, he did not mean that you were not capable. These are not all the members of the Loyal. We are just one cell of members. We keep separate from each other so that if some of us get compromised that not all of us are found out. Only the leaders of each of the cells knows how to contact the others.”
I nodded, “That makes sense. I’ll not ask how many cells there are because you need to keep your secrets but I would like to be introduced to those here.”
“Yes, of course. I am Itina and I’m in charge of this cell. The angry one is Risgar, the woman is Undir, and the third is Drarak.” They nodded each in turn as they were introduced.
“I’m,” I considered their answers. Each of them had only said their first names and those might not even be their real names. Deciding to answer the same way I said, “I’m Nick. It is a pleasure to meet you.” Itina didn’t correct me even though she knew who I really was.
Instead she said, “As Drarak probably already informed all of you but Nick here is an Apostate. Each Apostate we get on our side is another step toward winning the war against the Betrayer.” She looked back at me and said, “You don’t know but generally all of the members of the Loyal have the abilities of an Apostate. It is a life that is just too dangerous for a normal person to be involved in.”
“All of them?” I asked in surprise. From what I knew Apostates were fairly rare, not many people had the talent to become an Apostate, at least as far as I knew.
She nodded, “It is kept well hidden but the Loyal and those of the Betrayer had methods of teaching people to become an Apostate. The techniques are have been kept secret by the Betrayer so they are not known to most people.”
“Teach people to become an Apostate. That is possible? No wait, I believe you. I’ve seen enough strange things that I don’t actually find it hard to believe that it is possible to train somebody to be an Apostate.”
“Yes but remember that disbelief is as important as belief. If you believe everything then you will also believe all of the Betrayer’s lies. You must not fall for his tricks because if you do then you and those that you care about will die because of it.” Said Itina.
“Of course. I’ll remember that.” I responded. I could feel the weariness creep over me again. It may have only been a short time up but I had become incredibly exhausted. I guess that I was not as rested and recovered from my dual then I though I was. “Also I’m afraid that I’m still a little weary.”
“Humf, not surprising. You pulled more power yesterday then most people use in a month. Of course you are continually exhausted. It was probably take a week before you are fully recovered.” She motioned toward the other three. “We will be fine. Go back to the bed and we can talk again when you are fully recovered.”
I nodded and walked back through the door leaving them behind. I walked down the hallway and back to the room where my ring sat on the table. This time I really did reach down and touch the ring. Instantly I could feel the Slayer in my mind again. How I could tell she was there I did not know but I could still feel it.