An hour later I was seated in the meeting room of the Loyal’s base. My injured arm had been properly bandaged and I was nursing a light ale that was helping me keep my mind off the pain. I had changed out of my bloody and mud covered clothes and had put on something clean, although not as fancy as the old clothes had been before they had been in a swordfight. In the chairs around me were the other members of the Loyal. They were watching me, waiting.
“Was the mission tonight successful enough?” I asked to begin the conversation.
Risgar glared at me but Itina answered the question. “Yes, it should be. You all kill or scared away enough of the rebel Apostates that the army will likely disband. If it does not then the king will have enough Apostates to quell the assault. Likely those in charge of the rebels will realize that and pull their armies back now. They kept their identities secret enough that the king will likely not be able to do anything about them. Those that do get found out will probably blame it on the Apostates taking over and running the army. That story will likely be accepted.
I nodded, “Good enough I suppose. We held back the Betrayer’s schemes and disposed of many of his Apostates. Win all around I suppose.”
“Indeed. However there is one thing left to be dealt with and that is the matter of what you did at the camp. Risgar claims that you broke your conduit and it exploded. Then you preceded to use the powers of an Apostate without a conduit and beat a seasoned Apostate without trouble. What would you like to say about this.” Said Itina.
I lifted the mug of ale and took a sip before I said, “That sounds like a pretty adequate explanation of events.”
Drarak waved his hand which also had a mug of ale, “Even if that was a good explanation of what happened we would like you to explain exactly how you did it and how. What you did definitely wasn’t normal and it was like nothing that I had ever seen before. The sky changed color and the earth quaked. Would you please explain how this happened.”
“I suppose that I did say I would tell what happened. However it might take a while to explain everything because I only partially understand it myself. You know how the power of an Apostate feels? Some people might think it is just the remaining power of the gods but that isn’t all there is to it. While the gods may be dead the remnants of their personality still linger in their power and those that use it become more and more like the god the more they use the power.”
They nodded in understanding and Undir said, “Yes, we know that. It is one of the reasons it is important to avoid using the powers of an Apostate when you do not need the benefits.”
“Exactly. I’ve also been thinking for a while how I would be able to beat the Betrayer. The power of an Apostate is not enough by itself to beat a real god. The easy option would be to take in all of a god’s power and essentially become a god yourself. With that might power you would be able to beat a god. But become a god sort of defeats the point of killing the last of the gods and there is no assurance that I wouldn’t become just as bad as what I was trying to defeat in the process.”
Itina raised her hand and I left her speak, “Wait, let me get this right. You are planning to kill the Betrayer by yourself? Are you insane? The loyal have fought for a hundred years against the betray and have been unable to actually kill him or even get close to killing him. What makes your think that you have any better chance of killing him then the Loyal have had these years.”
“Because I was an Apostate of Zillk. One of his roles is the ferryman who watches those die and pass on. One hundred years ago it was his blade that killed the Slayer. And since then the Slayer’s spirit had been waiting for the right person and the right opportunity to support somebody trying to kill the Betrayer and I just happen to be that power.”
Itina stood with her chair falling backward. She was angry, more then I had expected. “To think I expected something from you. You have a little success and then you think you can claim that the Slayer is guiding your actions. Your arrogance knows know bounds. To defile the Slayer’s name like that is… is….” Her face was getting red.
“Treating me like a god pathetic.” I head the Slayer speaking and thought nothing off it. However the others seemed to have a different reaction. Itina just stopped talking her mouth hanging open aimlessly. Drarak had dropped him mug of ale and it was seeping across the floor. Risgar was just staring wide eyed and Undir has jumped visibly. No quite making sense of their reactions I turned and looked over my shoulder. There behind my is a transparent gray wearing the dark black cloak was the Slayer.
I worked my mouth for a second before finally putting together the words. “I don’t know if you know but you seem to be visible to everybody.”
“I, I am?” She too sounded a little bit surprised and I had thought that nothing surprised the Slayer. She reached up and tugged at the clasp of the cloak that she was wearing, “Then I suppose that this must be responsible. The Key of the Ferryman is indeed mysterious.”
There was a silence around the table before I finally tried to break the confusion, “I would like all of you to meet the ghost of the Slayer. I have already introduced her to you after I meet you but this is your first time meeting her.”
Itina tried to sit down before finding that her chair had tipped over. She managed to pull it up and sit down. She was still in a state of shock but she mutter, “But that is impossible. The Slayer is dead and ghosts are the things of legends.”
“Doing the impossible is my specialty so I’d rather say that I’m real and that I’m here. Of course I’m dead but that is part of being a ghost. Plus I was a legend in life, why not continue to be a legend in death.” Said the Slayer.
Risgar stood and pointed at the Slayer, “Even if you are a ghost, how do we know that you are the ghost of the Slayer? Maybe an agent of the Betrayer sent to pretend to be the Slayer and then betray us once we have all fallen for your trick.”
Itina was the one who responded however, “No, if that is the ghost of anyone that is the ghost of the Slayer. There are secret painting that the Loyal keep. Records that we have desperately kept out of the Betrayer’s hands. One of those paintings was of the Slayer and this is how she looked.” Itina kelt down in front of the ghostly image of the Slayer and said, “I apologize for doubting your messenger. To think that the Slayer would return to us after a hundred years. We truly are blessed.”
The Slayer shook her head again, “No, you are not blessed, you are strong. Do not treat me like one of the gods that I tried so hard to kill.”
Itina stayed on the floor for a moment before finally looked up at the Slayer and then pulling herself to her feet. “Yes, of course, I apologize. I was not thinking.”
“Do not trouble yourself overly about it. I am nothing more then a ghost now, able to watch and advise but I can do nothing to effect the world.” She reached down and tried to pick up the mug of ale that was sitting in front of me. Her fingers were wispy and indistinct and they passed through the mug as if she wasn’t there. “It is only the Key of the Ferryman that even lets you see me at all.”
“The Key of the Ferryman? That is that?” Asked Drarak.
“Ah, yes.” I said. “I haven’t finished my explanation. We got sidetracked by discussions about the Slayer. With the Slayer’s help I want to actually kill the Betrayer. And to do that I needed something beyond just the power of ZIllk and I needed it without becoming a god myself. My idea was to change how the powers worked fundamentally.”
I continued, “So when I was pressed against the wall in the battle against the rebel Apostate I was forced to attempt doing it. My idea was to break apart Zillk’s power. So using the his power over cold I frozen the golden ring that I was using as a conduit. With the metal extremely cold I broke it.”
“But that wouldn’t effect Zillk’s power would it?” Asked Drarak.
“Now normally but I held onto his power during this entire process. When the ring broke so did the conduit that connected me to his power. It was difficult to hold onto his power while the conduit was getting broken. Then I did something incredibly dangerous which in retrospect I am very glad did not kill me. I pulled Zillk’s power through the broken shards of the conduit.”
“And that is possible?” Said Undir.
“Yes, dangerous but possible. The main problem was that to accomplish what I wanted I had to pull in all of Zillk’s power. All of it.”
“That’s, that’s insane. Holding all of the power of a god inside you. You should have died.” Said Itina.
“I almost did.” I held up my arm and rolled down my sleeve. It was still covered in broken cracks of skin which had been partially bandaged. There was also black lines in my veins, although that was caused my the river of death. “My body froze and burned at the same time and I almost burst from all that energy. Just me holding it shook the earth and caused mirages in the air. But it was worth it, by pulling all of Zillk’s power out through the broken shards of the conduit I was able to break apart and separate his power.”
I continued, “I was holding six shards of Zillk’s power inside me and once I had them all I released them one by one. These six shards are what we are calling Keys. A kind of power that is different then that of an Apostate. This is because part of what I did when I separated Zillk’s power is dispose of the remaining parts of his personality that was tainting his power. And that is the story of what I did with Zillk’s power. With the new Keys I created I do not need a conduit to access them, I just need to call out for them and they answer.”
There was a heavy silence in the room as everybody took it what I had just explained to them. Finally it was Itina who spoke, “This you power, these Keys, how do you use them. If they are no longer part of a god then you could teach somebody else to us them.”
“I believe so. After all I accidentally caused the Slayer to understand how the Key of the Ferryman. After I broke apart Zillk’s power it also broke her connection to our world so I was forced to use the Key of the Ferryman to go and find her ghost again. Using it I give her the cloak that she is wearing and somehow caused her to know how to use the Key of the Ferryman. However I do now know exactly how to teach somebody to use one of the Keys, in fact I’m not certain I understand how they work.”