In “The Alley”, Cade of Galaras, a poet and dramatist opposed to the Church of Herotus, faced a group of Holy Knights. Three warriors came to his aid: Eam, a sorcerer and ex-mercenary; Drustan, a Half-Orc Barbarian; and Sabrine, an attractive and stealthy archer. The four escaped the Holy Knights, and we now rejoin them as they relax in the comforting environs of a tavern
Two: The Bar
We sat in a small tavern, a place Drustan knew well. The owner owed him some debt, as so many did. Across from me, the man I had come to know as Galeris of the Valley and Casrid of the Feather held a cup of wine and watched me silently. Sabrine sat beside him, talking of some inconsequential event or another. She liked to prattle around pretty men.
I don’t know what I had expected of the writer of the broadsheets and tracts against the One True Church of Herotus, but the man in front of me did not meet any expectation. When I had heard that he might be in the city, we had sought him out. Sabrine had thought it a waste of time. Drustan didn’t make any comment. Both as I had expected.
There, in the theatre, after a presentation of the satire “the Priest of Wry,” the man calling himself Galeris of the Valley addressed the crowd. Most, like us, had grievances against the Church, so he had a receptive audience. Of middling height and small stature, ‘Galeris’ had the telltale ears and sharp features that marked him as not quite Human and not quite Elven. I hadn’t expected that. It didn’t change anything.
The arrival of Holy Knights interrupted the oration and precipitated a small riot. I applauded the citizens for that, if for nothing else. The problem was that we lost Galeris in the confusion. Luckily so had the Knights. No one, though, escaped Drustan for long. Even in the city, Drustan followed the trail until we found the man I then came to know as Cade of Galaras. He had some Initiates and a few Knights with him, but we had faced that difficulty before.
“So Eam said we needed to find you, see if you needed our help,” Sabrine said. “I guess you did.”
Cade’s eyes moved from me to Sabrine. “So I did, but I still don’t understand who you are.”
I frowned. “We’ve given you our names and our purpose. What more do you need?”
Sabrine waved away the question. “I think my cousin’s a little upset finding that you aren’t some wise old man who can show us the path to overthrowing the Church.”
Drustan chuckled beside me. I gave him an accusatory glance—some ally he. Truth was, Sabrine was right, Drustan knew it, and so I really shouldn’t have expected anything more. He only offered support when I was correct, so not too often.
“To help your understanding, I will introduce myself to you.” Drustan spoke from under his hood. In public places, he always disappeared beneath stooped posture, huge cloaks and hoods. He had reason to fear anyone seeing his face. “As you know, my name is Drustan of Teyrs. I was a scion of a noble branch of an illustrious tribe until the Holy Knights came. My people do not accept your Church.” He paused, then touched his palm to his forehead, his gesture for apology. “I mean the Church of Herotus. Some king or other coveted the caravan routes through the mountains which my tribe controlled. I cannot tell stories, but I will say the war was long. Then the Holy Knights came. They killed warriors, elders and waifs. They burned the sick in their hostels and those who offered to kiss the feet of the Knights’ god received the quick death of the sword rather than the pain of the flame.”
“But you survived,” Cade said. “If you faced all the Church, how did you survive?”
“I learnt that war is not glory, war is will.” Drustan placed both hands on his chest. He spoke truth. “My people fight for glory. We mark ourselves with our totems and our victories. The Knights only fight to win. They do not care for glory and they do not care for honour, they love only their god and blood. I learnt to defeat them, I must live. I can kill one or I can kill twenty, but in the end they triumph if I die. So I left my land and my tribe.”
“Drustan and I met years ago.” I tried to keep my voice even. I think I failed. “When I was younger, I marched with Alder’s Free Blades.” Cade didn’t ask about Sherasvale, as most everyone did. Maybe he didn’t know about it. Whatever the reason, I appreciated not relating once again the story of losing everyone for whom I had cared. “When I left VeBrance, I needed someone who knew these lands, so I sought out Drustan.”
“Fate led him to me.” Drustan tapped my shoulder with his fist, as he always did when marking our sworn kinship. “And I led him to his cousin.”
Cade glanced over at Sabrine, and I could see the interest in his eyes. My cousin was a young woman who had the strength of a soldier but the appearance of a princess. Men tended to abase themselves to her. I was man enough to see her beauty and cousin enough to bemoan it. Still, she always seemed to understand the situation better than I, so I never intervened. I waited for the day when she came to me crying and I would need to spill the blood of the man who had robbed her of her virtue.
That or she would get married and have eighteen children. With Sabrine, one never knew.
“My family came from VeBrance just after my birth,” Sabrine said. “I knew I had family there, but I had never sought them out. Then Eam came and found me.”
“Found her marching with Tersit’s Legion.” Eam held Sabrine’s eyes as they shared the memory. “A scout and spy that Captain Tersit figured was his best asset. She only had to say a word and Drustan and I had a commission.”
“Well, Drustan had a commission as soon as Tersit saw him,” Sabrine said. “I don’t think there’s a captain alive who wouldn’t want Drustan in his company. Now Eam, well that took some pleading.”
“That is all very interesting, but it really doesn’t explain anything,” Cade said. “What are you doing here? And why are you seeking me?”
Eam pointed to his own chest. “The man who sold out Alder’s Free Blades was a prelate of the Church.” Eam touched Drustan’s arm. “The men who killed Drustan’s tribe were of the Church.” Eam waved to Sabrine, his hand loose. “And Sabrine just wanted to do something different.” Eam leaned over the table. “I am sentenced to burn because I’m a heretic. Drustan is sentenced to burn because he’s apparently a demon. If Sabrine gets caught with us, she can expect pretty much the same. Do you see what we have in common?”
Cade still played with his cup of wine, though he hadn’t drank from it. “So we’re all against the Church. You seem all capable with physically confronting the Church, but that is not what I do.”
“You have skill with your blade,” Drustan said. “I could teach you to be better.”
“That’s just it, I don’t want to be better with my blade.” Cade tapped his head. “I want to be better with my head. I want to write something that will make people see what has happened, what is happening all around them. If the people don’t turn against the Church, it’ll never fall. You can’t kill the Church.”
“That’s why we’ve come for you,” Sabrine said. “Like Eam said, I’m in this because he is. Family is important to me. But I can see what the Church has done. I can see what it’s doing. Eam says you’re the man who can make people see the truth. The truth I see is that you’ll be dead long before that happens.”
“The Holy Knights almost had you today,” Drustan said. “Next time may be the day your fate meets you.”
Cade shook his head. “So you’re going to be my bodyguards?”
Sabrine guffawed, as loud and deep as any soldier. “Is that what you need? No, we’re offering you a place with us. We know people, probably different than the people you know. We figure getting the pen and sword together would be a good idea. At some point, people like you will need people like us.”
“So I continue doing what I’m doing?” Cade asked.
“And we continue what we are doing.” Sabrine said. “We just have one more horse, and hopefully one more rider.”
“How can I trust you?” Cade asked.
Eam leaned forward. “Look into my eyes, listen to me when I tell you that I live to see this Church fall. I honestly think your words can help topple the Church, so I want to keep you alive. Sabine and Drustan have deferred to me on this. That’s pretty rare, so consider that a good omen. We move a lot and we travel light, but there are people we know who can take your letters or whatever you have and deliver them where they need to go.”
For the first time, Cade smiled. He leaned back and raised his cup. “If I am to die, I will die in this company. I salute you, my new company. Not actors, not playwrights, not orators or minstrels, still a good company with hope and vision. Let us prosper.”
We all took up our cups and joined the salute. I drank deep, emptying my cup. Sabrine, Drustan and I slammed our empty cups down onto the table, as was our custom. It seemed to startle Cade.
“Your cups are loud, but mine is quiet.” Cade put his cup to his ear, as though listening to it. “I hear it whisper of a butcher in Terrisdale who runs a common house we might like to visit. His brother is a priest of the Church and passes on such interesting rumors.”
Eam, Cade, Drustan and Sabrine return in “Dramatic Entrances,” a part of Swords and A Squandering Snail.