“Your new ‘friends’ have fed you on lies and half-truths. They point to the monsters that corrupt Makers unleash upon the world, and tell you that is all the works of the Makers. They point to the newly Made, or those fashioned by the slothful, and tell you that those mockeries are all the Made. I Made Dawna for you the day after you bared your soul to me, but it was a month before she was ready to meet you. I Made her clever, honest, and above all loyal—but her story, her life history, that took longer—and like the free will that the Born are naturally given, I gave her the free will to choose you or not. If I and my champion live the night, I will do the same for him.”
Inspiration struck me, as it often does at odd moments, and I fed it to the newly Made. The champion spoke again: “I am Chell, of the Seven Guardians! I have sworn to protect all those, Made and Born, who suffer injustice!”
“I have always trusted you, Zand.” Matos’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “Why did you not tell me?” He lowered his sword and reached for Dawna; ever loyal and intelligent, she took his hand. “Did you not trust me?”
I bowed my head. “Matos, I have sinned against you. I did not reveal myself out of cowardice. You know how it is with Makers. Where your new friends do not hunt us, we are shackled by the mighty to Make them even more of what they already have. Or among the poor, we are mobbed to Make the very stuff of life. One wrong word at the wrong moment, and I would be dead or captive, or overwhelmed by the needs of the moment, or on the run. As I may be this night, if my—if Chell must fight while I flee.
“You must choose, my friend. Will you renounce the Cult this night and embrace Truth? Or… or choose the other way?”
“Perhaps they themselves are misled? They have not seen the whole truth?” Matos looked uncertain once again.
“I suppose it possible, but unlikely. But if so, do you think that you could convince them of their error?”
He laughed. “I have never seen them uncertain of anything. No, they would not—they do not—” He paused for a long moment, then fell to his knees in the dirt and refuse, flinging his sword behind him. He drew a long breath. “Matos. Dawna. You have not sinned against me. I have sinned against you. I have—I have thought of you as Evil upon the world, both my dearest friend and my wife.” He began to sob.
Chell stepped forward, sword sheathed, as Dawna and I knelt on either side of the man we loved. “Matos, the Seven Guardians are both Made and Born,” said Chell, kneeling as well. “That is how it must be, for the Creator of all things has made this world for us both. There is a place for you among us, a chance to be part of something greater than ourselves.”
Matos laughed. “A legend that springs from nowhere? Or perhaps, from the dirty backside of a tavern?”
“Why not?” I said. “This is the world we live in: one where, as you say, legends spring from nowhere. Yes, some Makers create monsters to terrify the world, or Make obscene amounts of wealth for themselves. But most of us simply Make what is needed to help our friends or neighbors.”
“So I would become the second of the Seven Guardians. An honorable career, although not a path to riches.”
Dawna laughed. “And when have riches been our great desire?”
Matos gave his wife a happy smile; we stood together once again. “You speak wisely, as always. My beloved.” They laughed together, then embraced. “So we are two of the Seven Guardians, Chell and I. What of the other five?”
“Oh, they will be known as they are needed,” I laughed. “Two more of the Made will join you when they are ready. The others will be of the Born.”
Matos looked past me, perhaps toward a makeshift temple where he had spent entirely too much time lately. He took up his sword and sheathed it. “Yes, my friends, I renounce the Cult. The lies they have told me condemn them. And there will be a reckoning.” He gave us a smile, grim at first, but then turned genuine. “Our new life begins tomorrow. But tonight, let us four find another tavern, one where I have not made a fool of myself, and drink toasts to love and friendship.”
“A toast always worth drinking!” Chell laughed. We made our way around the side of the tavern and away.