I stood at the edge of the road pondering thoughts about Lady Kindeily for a while. Finally I resumed my run. There was a couple of detours where I stopped for something to eat and to take a break in a small wooded plaza. Eventually I had gotten bored and it was getting latter in the day. I headed back through the streets toward the Loyal’s base. I approached where it had been before but when I looked around for it I saw nothing.
‘Do you see it. The ward must be preventing me from identifying it.’
‘Yes, I see it. However you should wait a moment. Somebody is coming out to greet you.’
‘Alright.’ I resisted the strong urge to nod. Instead I looked back and forth scanning the area. Eventually I saw Undir where previously there had been nobody. Noticing her I moved in her direction and when we were finally close to each other I said, “So the place was warded. I thought that might be true when I left. Somebody would have noticed if that wasn’t true.”
“Yes, I’m sorry for not telling you. Had you returned with a bunch of the Betrayer’s soldiers then it would have been a good protection.” She said.
“Well, since I did I suppose that makes me safe?”
“Maybe.” But she smiled, “There have been a couple of people who did turn out to be the Betrayer’s spies so we had to take measures to prevent them from infiltrating our ranks. We are reasonably certain that you are safe but we can’t afford to take chances.”
“Don’t worry, I understand. If it is to stop the Betrayer then I’ll go through as many tests as I need to earn your trust.”
“Good because it looks like you are going to have too.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Itina has returned. She has told us a little information about the mission and you have been assigned a difficult role.”
“What sort of role?”
She looked both ways before saying, “Come inside and she’ll tell you. However I’ll say that you have the most dangerous role partially to test your loyalty.”
We walked in one direction and after a few moments I found myself right in front of the door leading into the Loyal’s base. It had just been there where previously there was a different house. Undir opened the door and we stepped inside. Then I said, “To test my Loyalty?”
She nodded, “Yes, although there may be other reasons too.”
“Then I’m the decoy role?”
“Yeah, Itina will explain the rest of it though.”
We walked to the meeting room and we entered it together. The rest of them were all there. Risgar glared at me like he disliked me. Undir took one of the chairs and I took the other. Itina was at the head of the table and she cleared her throat before saying, “I have already mentioned it but since Nick is here I will say it again. Tonight there is going to be a coup attempt tonight.”
My eyes widened. “A coup, against the king?”
“Obviously.” Said Risgar.
Itina however just nodded solemnly. “Yes, one of the major nobles as well as several minor nobles are going to combined forced to out the king and take over the government. I do not know that all of them are servants of the Betrayer but at least some of them are and the others are unknowingly manipulated. The kings armies are still fairly large and normally it would be unlikely that even a coup like this would be successful however there seems to be an unusual amount of Apostates gathering on our enemies side.
She continued, “Those are almost certainly all followers of the Betrayer. You all know how much damage a bunch of Apostates can do if nobody interferes with them.”
We nodded and then I asked, “Doesn’t the king have Apostate’s working for him. He keeps them hidden but some of them were at the battle of the Demon’s Road and would have returned here with the rest of the king’s forces.”
“He has Apostates however the orc invasion was well planned. Many of the king’s secret Apostates were revealed during that battle and during the last couple of days one by one they have been killed by the Betrayer’s agents. We have managed to prevent a couple of these assassination attempts but only a few of the king’s Apostates still live and that won’t be enough to prevent attack.”
“So what is the plan?” I asked.
“It is likely impossible to stop the coup at this stage but we can help ensure that the king is the victor. We are going to dispose of as many of the Betrayer’s Apostates as we can before they can fight against the king’s army.”
I gulped before saying, “And how many Apostates do we think that there is going to be?”
“At least 10.”
There was a silence in the room. That was twice our number. If Itina didn’t fight then it was even higher than that. Those seemed like pretty bad odds when stacked against Apostates. “Ten…” I said, “That sounds difficult.”
Itina nodded, “Certainly. However if we can do it right and get them by surprise then we should be able to take out at least four of them before they know what is happening. Six against four is much better odds in our favor.”
Better odds, that was incredibly dangerous. And ten was the best case, if there was fifteen of them then it would be eleven to four after we took out the initial four and that seemed impossible odds. If there was a mistake then we would certainly die. “What is your plan for dealing with them?” I asked, not certain if I wanted to hear the answer to it.
“We need to draw them out of the main army to deal with them. The army waits in secret outside the city. That job is being assigned to Risgar and Nick. Your jobs is going to be to cause a commotion outside the army to draw out it’s Apostates. Since you will cause too much damage to their troops if left unchecked they will have to send out the Apostates. When that happens Undir and Drarak who will have snuck inside the camp will strike and kill as many of the Apostates as they can without getting caught.”
“And me and Risgar?” I asked.
“You will need to give Undir and Drarak as much time as possible. You will certainly be facing Apostate’s in unfair combat where they outnumber you. You need to keep them busy and kill them if you can. Hold them back for a long as you can before retreating. The more time you give the other two to find Apostate the better the king’s chances are. We don’t need to kill all of the Apostates but every Apostate we kill tonight is another one that the king will not have to deal with when they invade tomorrow.”
“That sounds incredibly dangerous.”
“Yes, you decided to stay on and fight the Betrayer. If you want to leave now is the time. Just know that if you leave here now you will never be able to find your way back. And when the Betrayer comes to kill you nobody will be there to save you.”
I half closed my eyes, “No, I’m not leaving. This isn’t something I can just stand by and let happen. Since the king is still not corrupted by the Betrayer we need to make sure that he stays that way.”
“Indeed.” Said Itina, “That is how it is. I’m glad you are staying. Even Apostate that we have raises our odds of success. Now I want us to be ready to leave by the time that the sun sets, will that be enough time for you?”
I nodded, “Plenty.”
Then I left, returning to my room. There was the ring on the table where I had left it. ‘What do you think our odds are?’
‘A hundred percent.’
‘For what outcome?’
‘You are going to win. You have to win. There is no other acceptable outcome. Therefore you should now think about any other option. If you worry about odds or the chance of success then one day you will fail and believe that it was just that time. If you always know you are going to succeed you fight and claw your way to the bitter end. The one that fights the longest is the victorious one.’
‘Yes, that is wise.’ I reached down and touched my finger against the ring. It was cold, cold as ice and winter. It didn’t bother me at all. I slowly lifted it and put it in my pocket. When I needed it I would be able to place it on my finger. That always felt like the right place for it, after all that is where a ring belonged.
‘I wonder if I will be able to use it without touching it.’
‘I’ve always said that if you try and believe then anything is possible.’
‘Denying the impossible right? I’ll do my best. I have some ideas but I guess I will have to test them in the heat of the moment.’
‘That is good.’ Said the Slayer, ‘It will give you less time to wonder if it will work or not. Desperation will do many things that training never manages to accomplish. Something that would not normally work can work when it is the only option that you have left.’
‘I suppose that is encouraging. When the only options are work or die I really really hope that it will work.’ I said.
I look at the mirror for a few minutes contemplating before I returned to the others in the meeting room. Undir and Drarak were both gone when I had gotten back. I looked over at Itina who said, ‘They need to prepare to infiltrate the rebel army. They have already left and you will not see them unless something does bad during them mission.’
I nodded in understand and looked at Risgar. He was wearing armor. Good, solid, plate mail like the set that I had back at my estate. I hadn’t been able to bring it with me because it would have been to big and heavy to bring on the ice raft. Plus it would have attracted notice in the inns and city. Risgar also have a large hammer sitting on the table next to him. I noticed that there golden inscriptions on the handle of the hammer. It probably functioned as his conduit, appropriate for Osumu, the Muse of Metal.
I had thought it would be the metal symbol of a hammer because of my research on the gods. Either that didn’t work or this was an acceptable alternate. It had gold and was in the form of the god’s symbol, that might be all that was needed to make it qualify as a conduit.
We looked at each other for a few minutes, sizing each other up. He was more well muscled then me and would certainly beat me in a fair fight. With Apostate powers he might still win. I had the air of experience the kind of person who knew their limits and strengths. He might have seemed angry when we met previously but now he had his game face on and would not let even the smallest hint of emotion or weakness into his attitude.
“I look forward to working with you.” I said.
“Don’t die.” He responded, “Most newbies die in their first engagement. Most of the rest die in their second. Keep your wits about you and always be mindful of arrows and crossbolts. You will need a swordsman coming but ranged weapons are the real weapons against cocky Apostates.”
“Thanks. I’ll try and do that.” I said. I could tell he was deadly serious.