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The Betrayers Disciple - Chapter One

Hilary Datten
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Chapter 1

Homeward Bound

I was standing in the City of Judgement. I remembered consuming the souls of my companions. Okku the bear god; Kaelyn the Dove, whose soul tasted of honey and felt like silk; Safiya, who tasted of spice and lightning; and Gann, with the taste of the fresh smell of the sea. A long way off I could feel my soul in torment. But the power that flowed into me, with its sweet twisting purity – I had to have more, and more.

But I couldn’t understand. Something felt wrong. I heard a voice saying “Once, you refused this gift. But you have been given a second chance, for what a God has done once, another God can do again. And this time you will not be able to refuse. Your only choice will be to be willing or unwilling. But if you are willing - see what power will be yours”. A beautiful ring appeared in front of me. As I reached for it, I could hear their souls cry out in torment. And then I saw that the ring - the ring held their souls. And I knew that only I could have put them there.

The city dissolved into a bedroom in a tavern. And I could hear someone screaming very loudly. I heard two quiet voices close by. And I smelt spice and lightning and the smell of the sea. It was too much. My body revolted against the memories of the taste, I doubled over and started being violently sick. And with that the screaming stopped and I realised it had been me.

For a long while I felt nothing but a pair of hands cradling me and someone wiping my face. And all the while words of quiet comfort. Eventually my body settled, and I started to focus. There was a small fire in the grate. It illuminated a small room which didn’t look quite right somehow. The sword of Gith was lying on the floor. My eyes followed the hands that were cleaning and cradling me to two familiar faces.

“Gann? Safiya? I.... I thought I had consumed your souls. I thought you were dead and I had consumed your souls. Where are Kaelyn and Okku? Are they alright? Are you alright?”

“Shh, shh, it’s alright. You are back with us now, not wherever you were. You are safe now. You haven’t consumed anyone’s souls.” said Safiya. “You were cured of that awful desire when you retrieved your soul from the Wall of the Faithless”.

“It wasn’t a dream, or I would have been able to see it. So you had a vision from a god of sorts, or something very close to a god” said Gann. “It clearly wasn’t a particularly nice one. We heard you cry out and rushed in here. And in future, I don’t care what people might think. We camped together in Rashemann, and we can stay in the same room in taverns or we can’t get to each other quickly in an emergency. And someone doesn’t seem to like you very much”.

“I love you too” I said.

I managed to struggle back to a sitting position and surveyed the room. I remembered going to sleep in a small, fairly tidy room. It now looked as though a major war had passed through it. I was now sitting on

the floor beside a bed that had been turned into firewood. The door was intact but two of the walls appeared to have been blasted to pieces. The debris was still smoking.

“Before I talk about the vision, or whatever it was, do you think you could explain the state of the room to me so I can explain things to the owner of this place, before he sends in the debt collectors?”

“Oh!” said Safiya. “Well, the bed, I think must have been you. When I got in you were standing in the remains of it, holding the sword of Gith in front of you, staring far far away. Then you dropped the sword. But we did the walls. I thought it’d be quicker than unpicking the lock on your door -” “I’ve just done that, mistress”. “Thank you, Kaji. Anyway, I imagine Gann must have felt the same way”.

“Something like that”, he agreed.

“Oh dear”, I smiled at them. “I think I had better go and calm the landlord down. We must have made a terrible din – my throat is feeling rather sore”. I stood up, took one step, and came straight down again. “Ouch. Gann? Do you think you could find a healing potion in our packs? Pretty please”. “Yes, my lady”. “And Gann?”. “Yes, my Lady”. I tried to growl but it hurt my throat. "Watch it", I said.

There was a brief rustling noise and Gann came over with a potion. He sat down by me, cradled my head and held the potion to my lips. I sipped it. “Gann?”. “Yes?”. “That tastes truly disgusting”. “The pleasure is all mine”.

I felt better, and stood up. I sang a little and my voice sounded back to normal, and so I sang a bardic tune. “How much is this going to cost to repair?” I asked. “I can’t see this coming cheap”. Safiya shrugged. “The school was built to cope with destructive spells, so we never really had to repair much, sorry”. Gann thought a bit and said “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. It’s mainly wood construction. Three or four hundred gold should cover it”. I headed for the door.

“HILARY!” they both shouted. “What?” I said. “If you go out like that, there’ll be a riot!” said Safiya. “Put some clothes on”.

“Oh. Sorry”. I found some presentable stuff in one of the packs, and headed towards the door again. “Err, could you two come with me – I still feel a bit shaky after that vision. I seem to be forgetting minor things from time to time”. “Like clothes?” asked Gann. “Yes, I think we can manage to keep you out of too much mischief”.

I opened the door. The tavern seemed unusually dark. But I could hear some rather worried breathing in the distance. I engaged my dark vision and saw one very worried looking landlord and some cronies heavily armed and crouching behind some tables. “Excuse me”, I called. “Do you mind if I get some light out here. I had a nightmare, and there’s been an accident”.

“How do we know you won’t cause more ‘accidents’ out here?” said the landlord, somewhere between nervous and aggressive.

“I can start with a little white light so you can see me and my friends first, and then allow it to illuminate the rest of the room” I said, “so you will be able to see us at all times. I mean no harm”. I thought about pointing out that the 3 of us could have reduced the tavern to its foundations if we’d been in a mood to do so, but thought that might upset him.

“OK, but very slowly, and we’ll be watching you”.

I cast a light spell on the 3 of us and let them look for a minute or so. When they seemed a bit calmer, I cast another spell on the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, which made it look rather pretty.

“Is that OK?” I asked. “I’m very sorry for disturbing your rest. Only. Well, I think you’d better have a look at the room and tell me how much it’ll cost to repair, or alternatively to turn into a large suite. I am really so sorry”.

The landlord went into the room and went white and gray. I was still on edge and started to sing. Gann caught hold of me and whispered “It’s OK, it’s alright. He just can’t believe 3 people could wreak that much

havoc. He hasn’t met you before”. I wondered if I should be cross with him but it felt so nice where I was, I thought I’d stay there for a bit. I could always be cross with him later.

The landlord came out of the room. It was interesting watching him work out if he dared to ask me for enough to cover the damage, in case we got upset and did some more. I decided to put him out of his misery.

“Do you think 500 gold will cover the repairs? Here, please take it”. Ah, he was starting to breathe again “Yes m’Lady, of course m’Lady, and if there is anything else m’Lady would like?”. “Do you think you could send a large bucket of water and a mop please”. “Of course, m’Lady”. “And her ladyship would also

like you to draw her a nice hot bath and some mulled wine” said Safiya. “Yes, ma’am” said the landlord, and hurried off. Safiya burst out laughing. “Come on m’Lady, let’s get you properly cleaned up and comfy”.

They sat me down on Safiya’s bed and we talked of nothing in particular for a while. I couldn’t settle on any topic, the I could still feel the vision, lurking. Trying to talk to the landlord had kept it quiet for a bit, but I could feel it waiting, watching. Then there was the welcome sound of kettles and pans and water. Safiya guided me to the tub and helped me in. A little maid with dark hair and dark eyes started putting flower petals in the bath, “for the pretty lady”. I must have looked confused, because she added “for you” . Then she gazed at the scar where the shard had gone in, and then recently come out, and patted it gently, before taking my hand and examining that. “Now I am going to wash you” she added in a brooks-no-nonsense fashion.

Someone held a warm cup to my lips and Safiya said “Drink this”. With the smell of the flowers and the warmth of the drink and the bath, the room started to lose focus, and I could feel myself drifting. Suddenly I felt an awful pain somewhere that didn’t exist. I cried out but hands held me and supported me. Then the pain went away, and I slept without dreams.

When I woke up, the sun was high in the sky. I was in Safiya’s room and she was sitting on the bed beside me. “Welcome back” she said. “You made quite a hit with Althyria last night”. “Who?”. “The girl who bathed

you last night. She says she’s going to wash your hair today”. I struggled to an upright position. “I don’t think I can argue with her – she’s definitely a power to be reckoned with! Where’s Gann?”. “He’s out checking the lie of the land round here. He’ll be back soon. Do you think you’ll be up to talking about

last night when he gets back? I think we need to.” “Yes,” I said, “but can I have something to eat first”. “Ah, good, the patient recovers”.

Safiya helped me dress and took me down stairs. She said something to the innkeeper and he took us to a small room. A short while later, a breakfast that looked as though it would have fed all at Crossroad Keep

arrived. “Did you order breakfast for a pack of starving giants or something?” I asked. “Oh well, at least now I don’t have to worry about the childhood rule of eating all that is put in front of you. I’d explode”. Safiya curtsied and said “I apologise m’Lady”. “Any more of that, and I’ll start calling you Beloved Counsellor” I said, and stuck my tongue out.

I made what inroads I could on the food. Gann turned up after a little while and sat down. “Ah, just in time for lunch” he said. Well, that helped to explain the quantities of food. And my stomach took the

opportunity to point out that it had missed one meal and lost another, and would appreciate some care. So I ate a bit more. And then a lot more. And then I had to apologise to Safiya because she had got the right amount. She smiled and gave me a hug.

I settled back down beside Gann, and pushed him around a bit to make him more comfy. “Right”, I said. “I suppose we’d better start with last night. I really am sorry. It was an awful dream”. I told them of what I had dreamt, and even the telling of it left me feeling shaken and queasy. “It was not a dream, my love” said Gann. “If it was a dream, I could have found my way to you. It was a vision, a sending”. “I wouldn’t – I couldn’t. I - ” Gann just held me till I could talk again. “I remember you saying something like that

last night. But before you put me in the bath, I remember it still being there, watching and waiting. But it seems to have gone now”. “Yes,” Safiya said. “It was something very strange. But I think I have been able to work out some of what happened. I think that when your soul was torn from you and placed in the

Wall of the Faithless, and then later when you tore it back out, the connection between you and your soul was injured, scarred. I am so sorry for what I, my mother, the Foundress have put you through. “. “Safiya”, I interrupted, “I forgave the Foundress. Seeing her beloved’s soul being tortured like that for so long. And there is nothing to forgive you for. Please. Do not be sorry. Come over here beside me”. She did, and it was my turn to hold her for a while.

After a time, she continued. “The scars have stopped your soul’s complete reunion with your body, and it was possible for some being of sufficient power and knowledge to interpose something in that gap. Fortunately, last night, the warm bath, the wine, and, strangely, the flower petals, all combined to heal your soul and your body slightly. We managed to free you of that – curse, vision, compulsion – I’m not sure - , but it did not want to go”. “That was the pain I felt, then”. “Yes, I had hoped for to avoid that, but it

was strong. Almost alive. Fortunately, your soul and body seem rather attached to each other and, strangely, seemed to be aware of what was going on. It is outside all the experience I have had at the School. Anyway, the whatever it was is gone, but there are still a few scars, a few places that haven’t yet fitted back together. It will be more difficult for whoever did this to repeat it, fortunately, but not impossible”.

“And who would have had the power and knowledge to do that in the first place” I asked, pretty sure of the answer I would get. Safiya nodded. “Only a god”.

The Betrayers Disciple - Chapter 1 © Hilary Datten

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