Saint Godfrey, they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he weren’t so nice. Lord o’ the Broken. Bastard Under the Bridge, though he knew who his parents were and hadn’t stayed beneath a bridge in months. Remeria’s Remorse. The King’s Nuisance. But Saint Godfrey was the usual. The title they weren’t afraid to say to his face.
Godfrey Saint rubbed his nose. Or what remained, anyway. Half had dislodged because of an unfortunate duel he’d had years ago. His opponent, the woman, hadn’t come out so lucky—he hadn’t underestimated a woman since. Godfrey snorted, hawked, and spit a glob o’ phlegm. Coughed, hawked up another bit, swirled it around with his tongue, chewing on it for good measure. He spat a second time. Worthless. Everything was worthless, and he was over it.
Godfrey smelled of dirt, sweat, and piss, which was much better than his sad regiment of men. “A’right you fuckers, hurry,” he said. “Worthless, everyone o’ ya.”
“Be nicer,” his second-in-command, Hershen, said. “Otherwise we’ll lose more to desertion.”
“We’ve already lost ‘em to desertion, Hersh. Hardly gone anywheres and we’ve lost two. Two, Hersh. Two.”
“We don’t want to lose more. We can’t lose more.”
Godfrey grunted. “Time’s are difficult, now. Leaving me’ll end in ruin, for ‘em.”
“Sometimes they need to learn that for themselfs.” Hersh shrugged and went to comfort the ragtag band o’ ugly fucks who made up their group.
Godfrey didn’t know what to call his merry group. Bandits? Mercenaries? Survivalists? Rebels? They belonged to no one, cared about no one, and were motivated by no one. They were, in essence, vagrants. The homeless, ruffians, degenerates. A band o’ brothers and sisters who’d drawn the short stick of shit during their lives. And now, with the Vessian invasion of the Camel Clans, Remeria, the country the town o’ Rivane rested within was in a state o’ panic, after being plundered, pillaged, and plowed through. Godfrey Saint despised the Remerian military for its lackluster defense, though he wouldn’t offer his services. In fact, he’d dodged several attempts at being drafted. Same as the rest of the crew. Perhaps they’d call themselves the Remerian Runners.
He itched the missing side of his nose, always expecting to feel flesh where there weren’t any, and instead was greeted by the disorienting feeling of jagged edges and scarred tissue. Godfrey gazed out at the meadow where his band camped. He met the eyes of a nasty-looking woman, replete with a dirty face and mangled claw of a hand—the result of her prior husband thrusting it into a cook fire. Gorsen was his name. Or was it Morsen? Godfrey didn’t remember. The woman, Mauve, dipped her head in Godfrey’s direction. He returned the nod and swiveled his eyes toward Rivane, the town they’d left that morning.
During a normal day’s travel, they’d be out o’ sight of Rivane. The group could clear many miles in a day; same as any healthy human could, but Mauve had forgotten her favorite belt, and Hershen wanted to steal some more supplies, and the blacksmith’s boy—Althier?—wanted to pilfer a sword from his father’s smithy while he was out for lunch. So, against Godfrey’s desire, they’d returned, which frustrated him. Then they’d spent far too long in the town, and by the time they’d left it was near dark. He’d considered calling off the whole traveling thing until the next day, but realized if he did, they’d never leave. There’d always be just another excuse. Another reason not to go. So they’d left. And now, at dusk, they camped within sight of the town they’d abandoned twice in one day.
Godfrey grit his teeth, grumbling to himself. Complaining wouldn’t fix the issue, and at least they’d gone. He stared at Rivane, the town he hated, despised, thoroughly abhorred. The setting sun illuminated the small river which wound its way through the town. It’d take less than an hour to reach the damn place; that’s how close they were. Godfrey spat, annoyed. He spotted the bridge he’d huddled under in a storm once. Lived there for several months because he’d gotten kicked out o’ his own home. Never mind the fact he’d not paid taxes. Never mind the fact his wife had left him, and his son had gone out and got hisself kicked dead in the head by a horse. Never mind the fact his asshole employer, Jeverrard Donik, had fired him and Godfrey hadn’t been able to find another job.
“Lord o’ the Broken, what are you thinkin’ ‘bout?”
He narrowed his eyes at the nickname, but recognized the voice and didn’t reprimand her. Mauve had lived her life married to a man who knew nothing other than yelling. And a bit o’ hitting. Godfrey knew a bit more wouldn’t phase her. “Just wishin’ we’d got an earlier start, is all.”
“Aye, ‘twas me who’d ruined that plan.” Mauve patted her belt. “Couldn’t leave this jewel behind, ya know?”
Godfrey glanced at the frayed belt. In its center rested a rusted lion’s head belt buckle. He grunted, not wanting to offend.
Mauve stuck her reddened claw out at him. “I know it ain’t look like much, but I wear it as a ‘minder ‘bout the past.”
“Your husband, ya mean.”
“Aye, Morsen, the damned prick.” She giggled. Godfrey knew why. After Morsen stuck Mauve’s hand in the flames, she’d grabbed a pewter candlestick and rammed it into Morsen’s testicles. Then she’d beaten the man in the face with it, shouting and screaming louder than a cat in heat. When the local guard showed up, she was covered head-to-toe in Morsen’s blood and still beating his body. Mauve had been a wealthy gal, never wanted for anything. Except a bit o’ respect, maybe. She’d lost everything and claimed she’d never been happier. Godfrey weren’t sure that was true, but didn’t argue. Mauve had become a valuable asset, and fit in well enough.
“Ya want some food?” she asked.
Godfrey grunted again. Didn’t feel much like talking. Especially to her. Or Althier. Or Hershen, even. Anyone who’d delayed their escape from the town who’d rejected him.
He narrowed his eyes again. “I told ya not to call me that.”
“Ya like Bastard Under the Bridge better?”
He clenched his jaw, grinding his teeth. A couple more weeks like this and he wouldn’t have any teeth left.
“So Lord o’ the Broken it is.”
“I should call ya Morsen’s Murderess.”
Mauve grinned. “Ya act like I wouldn’t enjoy it.”
Godfrey closed his eyes. He was no saint, and yet he was. Have to keep it together, God. Have to lead your people to a better place. Godfrey called himself “God” sometimes not because he felt he was a deity, but because he thought nobody else had what it took to get things done. Only a superior being could conjure this rabble into something useful. Something that’d change things for the good and hardworking folk. Get things done the proper way, that is. If he were to be completely honest, Godfrey had an elevated opinion of himself. He knew he shared this attribute with plenty o’ people in power—the same people he despised—so he kept it secret how he felt about himself.
“Fresh bread won’t last past dawn,” Mauve said.
Godfrey waved her away, and she retreated. He admitted his surprise at the fact they still had fresh bread at all. He’d figured they would’ve eaten it on the first, and only, hour of travel they’d completed, such was the quality of idiots he marched with. You get what you can afford. Which was why they’d stolen everything they had, and he was leading a bunch o’ entitled poor people. Not that he could say much. He was just as poor, though only a tenth as entitled, he figured. Given the right opportunity, he’d work. Least, that’s what he told himself. Now it seemed too easy not to work—with the following he’d amassed, Godfrey figured he might start taking what he deserved.
“Aye, what are ya doin’, dimwit?” Mauve shook her clawed hand at Althier, who looked confused. “That’s our cook pot, not our washbasin, ya imbecile! Well, whatcha waitin’ for? Pull your filthy fuckin’ foot out, damn it! First night and ya wantin’ to make us all sick? The fuck?” Her hand rattled back and forth in the air, pronged fingers-and-thumb contorted in the setting sunlight, like a pitchfork.
Godfrey shook his head. He’d get some food, get some rest, and then figure out what to do in the morning. But first, he needed to get away from these fools.
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and there weren’t a lick o’ religion within him. He would, however, be lying if he said the amount o’ nicknames he’d gained didn’t flatter him. And, upon self-reflection, Godfrey had decided Saint Godfrey weren’t too bad a name. It had an err about it. A certain ebb and flow he enjoyed. He chuckled to himself. Ebb and flow? Now that’s thinking like an educated man.
He’d slept a few hundred feet away from the group, with his own fire, own space beneath the twinkling stars, and his own food. Asides, plenty o’ room for all of us in this field.
“Saint Godfrey, how’d ya sleep?” Hershen asked, thumping over with heavy footsteps.
“Better’n you lot, I’m sure.”
“Aye. Lots of complainin’, but I’m sure ya-”
“Hersh, what do ya think about ‘ebb and flow’?” Godfrey asked.
“Sounds like some shit a rich woman in silk might say when she gives herself a twirl.”
Godfrey nodded. “I can’t disagree.”
“Just ponderin’, is all.”
“Ya sound like a man of clutcher.”
Godfrey blinked. Surely Hershen weren’t that foolish. “Culture.”
“Aye, that’s what I said. Clutcher. Git yer ears checked, Your Lordship.”
“Get everyone ready. We’re a leavin’ when the first breeze chills my nose,” Godfrey said.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It’s just a sayin’.”
“Strange sayin’, Godfrey.”
“It’s a new one. Just get the men ready.”
“Aye!” Mauve’s shrill voice echoed from behind Godfrey. “Who says I’m a man?”
Hershen left to get the bastards ready, while Mauve made her way over.
“It’s endless, ain’t it?” Godfrey asked himself, but knew Mauve heard.
“Nothin’s endless, everythin’s final,” she said.
He squinted his eyes, trying to figure that one out. Itched his half-a-nose with his middle finger, peered at the rabble eating their morning meal, packing up supplies. Ultimately, he settled on a grunt.
“Not comin’ up with a response?”
“Not a clever one, anyway,” he said.
“Fair enough.” Mauve pointed at the people with her claw. He knew she did this on purpose. Weren’t afraid o’ showing it to people. Considered it a trophy, rather than a curse. He wouldn’t have done the same. “You got a group willin’ to die for ya, Saint Godfrey. Time’s are a changin’. And it’s good to be on top o’ the change. But we need to figure some things out right about now, I figure. With the capital under siege, courtesy o’ the Camel Clans, we have an opportunity.”
Godfrey reached down, picked a dry piece o’ stalk, and popped it between his teeth, chewing on it. A grassy, earth-tasting juice started forming in his mouth. “You’ve been with me since the start, Mauve.”
“I’m not disputin’ that, Lord o’ the Broken.”
“Can we stick to something a bit more favorable? Nobody’s gonna want to be called the ‘Broken’.”
“I didn’t think ya liked the King’s Nuisance much. Or Remeria’s Remorse.”
“Perhaps we’ll just stick with the familiar. Saint Godfrey.”
“Aye, you want the peoples to worship ya, don'tcha?” Mauve pointed her three-fingered hand at him. “They're already doin’ what ya want.”
“They need something to believe in, Mauve.”
“They’s here, ain’t they?”
“Something more than just ‘being here’. We’re all here. Something to look forward to. More than Hershen’s empty head, or your wagglin’ claw in the morning.”
“Ya mean you.”
“Well, if it motivates them…”
“Ya just tryin’ to cement your legacy with a name.”
“Is that upsetting?”
“No, but if you’re gonna be Saint Godfrey, I want a name, too. Like ya said, I been round since the beginnin’.”
“How about Red Mauve? Ya know, after… that.” Godfrey pointed at her hand.
Mauve looked at her hand. “You wanna name things after body parts now? I’ll be Red Mauve and you can be Bony Smallcock. How’s that?”
“How can a cock be bony?”
“Does it matter? Ain’t what ya want to be called, is it?”
Godfrey shook his head. “No, Mauve, it ain’t.”
“Wonderful. I don’t want to be Red Mauve. What kind o’ name is that? A color and my name? Pathetic. How about the Red Duchess?”
“So ya like ‘red’, eh? Ain’t that name just a color and a title? Not much different from Red Mauve.”
“Call me Red Mauve, and I bring Bony Smallcock back to the group.”
“Point taken. How’s about the Bloody Duchess?”
Mauve grinned and stuck her claw in the air. “Aye. I like that better, Saint Godfrey. I see great things for us, methinks.”
“What about Hershen?”
“What about him?”
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he weren’t yet dead. Godfrey couldn’t recall ever meeting or hearing of a Saint who hadn’t already died and been forgotten by most. He’d be the exception, o’ course. Aided by the Bloody Duchess, Saint Godfrey and his group of Saintmaritans as they started calling themselves—he hadn’t had a say in that one—had marched for several days, subjugated a village, claimed plenty of loot and food, and overall, had a very high morale. Bloody Duchess earned her moniker as she’d cut the throat of an unruly farmer’s wife who wouldn’t stop shrieking and bleating like the sheep in her pasture. They didn’t kill the sheep, though. Well, asides the two they took for food. Or was it three? Saint Godfrey weren’t keeping track. That was Hershen’s job.
In an hour or two, assuming Althier was correct, they’d come upon a small village called Riverwash or Wetgove or something. Back in the hamlet they’d already passed through, Beaver’s Damn, the Saintmaritans had gotten their first taste o’ victory, and a small smattering o’ blood. Saint Godfrey anticipated his flock becoming more zealous, more hungry for more war crimes. Couldn’t say he blamed them. Remeria hadn’t taken care of its civilians. Fuck King Sedoa. Alondo Sedoa, King o’ Remeria. A blight on the land. A curse of man. Remeria's truest Remorse, Godfrey figured.
Saint Godfrey marched at the front of the Saintmaritans, brandishing his recently acquired hatchet, hacking away at various tall reeds and bushes. Weren’t his favored weapon, but it was a weapon, and everyone knows they needed more o’ those.
“I see it!” Althier said, pointing at the distant hamlet. “It’s Rainclover! It’s Rainclover!”
A cheer passed through the Saintmaritans upon hearing the news.
The Bloody Duchess and Hershen both made their way over to Saint Godfrey.
“What are ya thinkin’?” Hersh asked.
The Bloody Duchess—she refused to be called Mauve anymore—gestured with her claw toward Rainclover. “Aye, we subjugatin’? Killin’? Thieverin’? Could use a fair bit more recruitin’, too, if’n you’re lookin’ to rule the lands.”
“I’m not looking to rule. I just want a fair shake, is all. Enough food and money to last a comfortable lifestyle, is all I please. But the kings and queens and dukes and duchesses all wanna hoard it to theirselves.”
“Aye, but not this one,” the Bloody Duchess stabbed herself in the chest with her marred thumb. “I believe in sharin’. Problem is that the people with everythin’ don’t. Sometime methinks we should kills ‘em all. Time to show ‘em how pleasin’ to the heart it can be. To share, that is. With us.”
“Ya can’t just make ‘em share, Beedy,” Saint Godfrey said.
“Beedy? The fuck ya sayin’?”
“Shortenin’ your name. It’s a long title. Gets repetitious-like.”
“If I wanted a short name, I woulda picked a short name, ya know? When ya address me, use my proper name. Otherwise, no point in havin’ it, wouldn’t ya agree, Saint?”
“A’right, I get it, Bloody Duchess,” Saint Godfrey said. For God’s sake, there have to be rational people out there who can become reliable officers.
Just then, a cheery song started, encouraged by Althier:
“We’re the Saintmaritans,
We’re the Saintmaritans!
Led by Saint Godfrey, the king’ll be sorry,
It’s time to claim our stake!
Follow the Bloody Duchess, the only noble who’s like us,
She’ll help remove the fake!
We’re the Saintmaritans,
We’re the Saintmaritans!
Saint Godfrey is lovely, he’ll start recovery,
Time to bring down the king!
Loyal and un-royal, we’re about to get joyful,
As we’ll take over by spring!
We may not be the smartest, gonna try our hardest,
We vow to march the furthest!
We’ll kill our ungrateful king!
We’re sick, we’re tired, we’re old and inspired,
Remeria’s gettin’ retired!
We’ll kill our ungrateful king!”
A loud cheer came from the rebels.
Saint Godfrey held his hand up for silence. The Saintmaritans quieted. He knew this weren’t because they respected him—they only trusted him this far because they’d found food, money, and victory—but he enjoyed the illusion. “Saintmaritans, we’ve conquered a hamlet.” Cheers. He smiled, itched his half-a-nose, held his hand up for silence again. “This here’s village’ll have more supplies. We’re taking everythin’ we can get our hands on—food, weapons, clothing, people. Aye, that’s right; we need recruits if we’re to kill a king.” Another round of cheers. “Fuckers have been robbin’ us blind all our lives. It’s time we put a stop to it. Time we had a voice! It’s time Remeria freed itself from nobility. Whatever happened to charity? Whatever happened to equality? We’re gonna take it all and redistribute it! Show ‘em nobles how it feels to be us, for once, I say!”
The crowd hooted and yelled in agreement.
“You tell ‘em, Saint Godfrey!”
“We’ll piss on the king’s face!”
“I want ‘nuff to feed my children and me’s wife!”
Althier thrust his father’s sword into the air. “We’re with ya, Saint Godfrey! We’re with ya all the way!” More cheers of agreement, though Saint Godfrey weren’t sure he believed ‘em. Thought it was more so the hype than reality. He grinned regardless o’ what he thought.
The Saintmaritans continued their march toward Rainclover.
Hersh shook his head. “They’re a happy now, but wait ‘til things don’t go as well.”
“Ain’t gonna happy, Hershen,” the Bloody Duchess said. She pulled a knife out with her good hand, pointed it at Rainclover. “Good thing’s’re about to happen. A legend’ll birth today.”
She was correct.
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he was beginning to embrace the change. He weren’t upset watchin’ the Saintmaritans waltz into Rainclover like they owned the place. A buck-toothed, cock-eyed peasant greeted them at the fence gate surroundin’ the small village.
“Greetings, neighbors! Where are you all coming from?”
The Bloody Duchess was first to approach Bucktooth. “Here to appraise the goods!” And just like that, the Bloody Duchess drove her knife into Bucktooth’s stomach. Ripping the blade sideways, she spilled his innards all over. Then, to Saint Godfrey’s amazement and disgust, the Bloody Duchess reached inside the screamin’ Bucktooth with her claw and pulled out a handful o’ muck. Cackling with glee, she raised her bloodied and withered hand above her, lettin’ the blood and gore drip and spatter all down her face and chest. Not missin’ a beat, the Bloody Duchess slit Bucktooth’s neck wide open and kept on stomping and hollerin’ into Rainclover, clawed hand contorting and dancin’ in the air above her the entire way.
“We’re gonna have to have a talk with her, ain’t we, Hersh?” Saint Godfrey asked, turning to Hersh. But Hershen weren’t there. He’d joined the crowd, crowbar lifted high and ran on in, ready to kill.
“Surround by idiots, o’ course,” Saint Godfrey muttered, but he gripped his hatchet tighter in his fist and followed the Saintmaritans.
It took a few moments for the people o’ Rainclover to figure out what was happenin’. By then the rebels had already slaughtered a dozen of ‘em.
Saint Godfrey turned the corner of a small hut, saw a woman crouched in the building's shadow. He grimaced. Ain’t no kindness in rebellion, though. “Got anythin’ useful?” He cleared his throat, embarrassed. Saint Godfrey had forgotten his manners. “Ma’am?”
The woman shuddered and bellowed out a cry.
Ain’t gettin’ anything outta her. Saint Godfrey sighed and dropped the hatchet into her forehead. Specially not now.
Blood and glory. That’s what they thought they’d wanted, that’s what they got. The Saintmaritans killed half the village before the good people had enough sense to scream “I surrender!”, so they didn’t harm ‘em. They were only civilians, after all. That was an unwritten rule for the Saintmaritans. Saint Godfrey had spoken it once, though.
“And who might ya be called?” the Bloody Duchess asked a groveling man on his knees. He stared at her feet like he might dip down and give ‘em a kiss.
“Bartlesby, My Lady. Bartlesby Flatchett.”
“What an awful name,” she said. Then she reached down with her claw, hooked his chin with that mangled forefinger, and turned his head up so she could stare him in the eyes. “Bartlesby Flatchett, ya says?”
“Yes, yes, My Lady. Please don’t hurt me. I have children.” Bartlesby paused. “At least I did a few minutes ago.”
“Are you accusin’ us o’ murderin’ children, Bartlesby?” the Bloody Duchess asked.
“Nope, no Ma’am. Never.” He gulped, swiveled his eyes around. Caught nothin’ but other Saintmaritans starin’ at him.
“Why don’t you grab what you want and leave? Bartlesby's never hurt a fly, you ugly cunt!” One o’ the other subdued men had stood, givin’ the Bloody Duchess a sneer. “You’re just murderers, gonna kill us all, anyway. So make it faster, and get it on, you cold bitch!”
Althier hopped over to the yeller, and at sword point, forced him up to the Bloody Duchess. “Here ya go,” Althier said, kickin’ the man’s leg and pushin’ him to the ground.
The Bloody Duchess pointed her withered finger at him. “State your name, pig.”
“Sashton. Leave us alone, or kill us faster. But this isn’t right. I know your accent. You’re from that stupid town to the south, you’re-”
The Bloody Duchess’s blade found its way buried in Sashton’s throat. He reached up, grabbed the hilt and weren’t able to do anything ‘bout it, cause the Bloody Duchess’s boot had kicked the knife before Sashton could pull it out. Sashton gurgled once, twice, then keeled over.
The Bloody Duchess retrieved the blade, wiping the blood off on her chest. “Anyone else have somethin’ to say? Nay? Good. I believe our esteemed leader would have a few words.” She gestured in Saint Godfrey’s direction.
He nodded his thanks to the Bloody Duchess, still feelin’ a bit o’ shock regarding her sudden bestiality.
“I’m Saint Godfrey, and this is my crew—the Saintmaritans—weren’t my choice, but that’s what they wanted, and that’s what they are. No changin’ it, I think. We’re not murderers, though I confess, might’ve overindulged when we entered this village here. I suspect an apology wouldn’t go over well, so I won’t make ya suffer the sad attempt. I will say another thing or two, though.”
Saint Godfrey took a moment to look each one o’ the captured citizens in the eye, then continued speaking. “This king o’ this country has run it like shit for the last several decades. We’re sick of it and we’re goin’ to his city. We’re goin’ to stake our claim. King Sedoa won’t continue to sit on the throne. We’re gonna kill ‘em. And when we do, we’re gonna share his gold-plated blankets and silver encrusted fruit. We’re gonna give away thousands o’ gems and keep many more for ourselves. It’s time we take what’s owed us—call it interest on what’s been a stolen. I ain’t askin’ any o’ you to join us. We just murdered many you called friends and family. I get it. If I were one o’ ya, I’d probably have stood up like poor Sashton over there.”
Saint Godfrey glanced at Sashton’s body, lying in a puddle o’ blood. He noticed the Bloody Duchess swirling a bare toe in it. He returned his attention to the prisoners. “I’d’ve gotten myself killed, too. Hothead, I used to be. Stupid, too. Now? Probably a stupid hothead. I’m just more careful where I aim it. King Sedoa’s preoccupied defendin’ the country from the invading Camel Clans. Which means it’s the perfect opportunity for us to gather some troops and go take advantage of the chaos. It’s true—I killed some o’ you. We all did. We’re takin’ most o’ your money and food, too. But consider this: if you come with us, if ya fight against the people who really deserve it, ya might end up better off. Ya might end up rich.”
They killed five more resisting prisoners before the rest were eager to join.
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he now preferred the legend he was nourishin’. His band, the Saintmaritans, swelled to round forty-five people. Some o’ them were bitter, sure, some might’ve even come along with the goal o’ guttin’ him in his sleep. He’d have to change things round—no more sleepin’ by his lonesome, he figured. It was time to establish an inner circle. He’d call ‘em the Originals.
Before they’d left Rainclover, Saint Godfrey gathered the people who’d left the town o’ Rivane with him while the new recruits prepared to leave their home for good.
“Listen here and listen good. We’re a growin’ unit and a growin’ unit needs a established leadership, methinks. So here’s the deal. Everyone o’ ya who left Rivane with me is now called an Original. Nobody can take that status from ya. We’re the ones who began this, we’re the ones who’re gonna see it through. But with bein’ an Original comes responsibility. We need to protect one another, aye? Keep us safe at night. Who knows who’ll end up in our group, a marchin’ with us? Legends are created from names, and a name I’ve got. Bloody Duchess got one, too.” The Originals gave out a cheer.
“Aye. But with names comes problems. A lot o’ problems. I propose we create an inner circle, protected by Originals. If you watch our backs, we’ll watch yours, and the lot o’ us’ll see this plan through ‘til the end. And when King Sedoa’s body rests under one o’ our boots, we’ll disband the Originals and go back to the way things used to be. No leaders, no hierarchy, just a fair distribution o’ the wealth and power.” The men and women didn’t make a sound, so he wasn’t sure how this was going over. He’d move forward, knowing full well they’d appreciate the next part.
“With any organization like this one, we need leaders. Hershen here has been my right-hand man since we left. Aye, probably longer than that, even. But times’re a changin’, and now he’s gonna be in charge o’ security. Captain o’ the guard type deal, ya know.” Saint Godfrey glanced over at Hersh, who stared at him, openmouthed. Can’t please everyone. Sorry, Hersh. “Meanin’, we need a new second in command. The Bloody Duchess sounds a right candidate, eh?” A loud cheer for the Bloody Duchess.
She walked over to Saint Godfrey, beamin’ and raisin’ that reddened claw in the air the way she liked to. At her hip, her hand rested on the hilt of a stiletto she’d robbed someone of. “Thank ye, Saint Godfrey,” she said. “I won’t forget this.” She wiped a single tear which formed in the corner o’ her eye. Or she faked it. He couldn’t quite tell, but he appreciated the gesture.
More specifics were ironed out later. Saint Godfrey apologized to Hersh and also made it known Hersh was the only person he trusted to watch his back. He also promoted Althier to a captain, as well. The boy—really, Althier weren’t quite a man yet—had a solid grip on the Saintmaritans, and Saint Godfrey knew this’d keep ‘em better in check. Bartlesby Flatchett became the man in charge o’ introducin’ how things went to fresh recruits. He took to callin’ himself the “quartermaster” on account o’ makin’ sure they had what they needed.
The Bloody Duchess took to her new role with a passion. She’d found a felt hat somewhere, with a wide brim and wore it at an angle so she could still peer at everyone as easy as before. She’d also found a red cape she’d fashioned from a blanket or sheet or somethin’, Saint Godfrey weren’t sure—couldn’t care, either. One thing’s for sure, though, the Bloody Duchess looked a leader. She’d disappeared a few moments before the Saintmaritans were to leave Rainclover behind, delayin’ them by an hour at least, just to find these costume elements. Saint Godfrey weren’t pleased, but the crowd cheered for her, so he let it go.
Then, the forty-five men and women of the Saintmaritans left Rainclover behind.
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he was beginning to feel like a sidekick to a god after all—so well-liked and respected the Bloody Duchess had become. Things were lookin’ good. They passed through two more hamlets, near doublin’ in size, though causin’ Saint Godfrey to start feelin’ paranoid one of the newcomers were loyal to the king. The Saintmaritans argued some, fought a little, but the Originals kept ‘em together. Captain Althier taught the new recruits the Saintmaritan Ballad they’d continued to sing. Meanwhile, the Bloody Duchess just needed to walk by and tip her hat, swirl her red cape, draw her stiletto, or grasp the air with her mangled claw, and the people went wild. Saint Godfrey weren’t lyin’ if he said he’d become a tad jealous.
Hersh sang quietly under his breath as he marched, though nobody else was singin’ at the moment. Song stuck in his head, must be. “We’re sick, we’re tired, we’re old and inspired, Remeria’s gettin’ retired! We’ll kill our ungrateful king!”
“Captain Hersh,” Saint Godfrey said.
“Saint Godfrey. Men are lookin’ good. March is goin’ swell. Few more days, and we’ll be at the capital. Then what’re we gonna do?”
“We’re gonna figure a way to kill the king, o’ course.” Saint Godfrey hadn’t figured out how yet. There’d be a way. He’d find one.
“There’s a few other small towns between here and the capital. The Bloody Duchess is hopeful we can recruit some more from ‘em.”
Saint Godfrey furrowed his brow. He didn’t like the Bloody Duchess talkin’ about what she was hopin’ for. “What about what I’m hopin’ for, Hersh?”
“Didn’t those thoughts come from your head? I figured what the Bloody Duchess wanted, ya wanted. Don’t ya want more people to help? Can’t bring down a king without friends, I ‘spect.”
“Yes, Hersh, I want more help. I’m just worried, is all.”
“You’re gettin’ paranoid, Saint Godfrey. I swears, we’re all with ya. At least the Originals are.”
“Aye, monitor anyone you think is suspicious, Hersh. I don’t want any loyalists to the king marchin’ with us, ya know?”
“Always,” Hersh said.
At midday, they reached Beauty in the Bay, a village constructed in the bend o’ the river which split Remeria in half. O’ course, the town’s name were debated in Remeria because, accordin’ to educated folk, bays weren’t in rivers. And if they were, the bay would be at the end o’ the river. Saint Godfrey made little sense of the argument and pushed the thought out o’ his mind.
The Saintmaritans pushed their way into the village, disarming and gutting a few guards, before the villagers submitted to the takeover.
The Bloody Duchess took control over the proceedin’s, o’ course.
“We’re the Saintmaritans, and we’re here for a reason,” she said. She did that thing where she put her claw on full display. Let the prisoners see she’d been deformed. Let ‘em see she didn’t give no shits ‘bout what they thought. She was the Bloody Duchess, didn’t need no sympathy. “We’re gonna kill King Sedoa, and we’re gonna redistribute wealth and power.” She went on to proclaim their plans. Saint Godfrey’s plans.
He stood in the middle of the crowd and sulked. Everyone cheered for the Bloody Duchess. Ain’t like I didn’t think o’ all this first, though, eh?
The moment the Bloody Duchess led the Saintmaritans out of Beauty in the Bay was the moment Saint Godfrey realized he’d lost control.
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he weren’t in command no more. He knew it, Captains Hersh and Althier knew it, and the bloody Bloody Duchess knew it. Since the four o’ them shared a large tent, things’d gotten awkward. The captains took their orders from the Bloody Duchess and Saint Godfrey. They weren’t sure who to listen to. The Bloody Duchess asked Saint Godfrey questions, a ruse to continue makin’ him believe he was in charge. But he knew she knew he knew he wasn’t.
Saint Godfrey might not’ve been the wisest or the smartest man. He’d never claimed to be. He wasn’t ignorant, though. Which was why he asked the Bloody Duchess to a private meetin’.
“Ya wanted to see me, Saint Godfrey?” the Bloody Duchess asked.
“Aye. I think we both know why.”
The Bloody Duchess had the decency to look embarrassed.
“The way these things go often ends in somebody dead,” Saint Godfrey said.
“I ain’t lookin’ to kill ya, Godfrey.”
“And I ain’t lookin’ to kill ya either, Mauve. But it’s time to face facts. They respect ya more’n me. I’m gonna step down. Let ya take charge.”
“I can’t let ya go, Godfrey. Your name’s started this whole mess. Can’t do it alone.”
“I never said I’m leavin’, ya daft whore. I’m stayin’—as your second.”
Saint Godfrey they called him, though his name was the reverse, and he weren’t the reason the Saintmaritans were remembered. But he helped. And people would remember his name. Almost as much as Mauve’s.
And so began the Bloody Duchess’s legend.