"A solid fantasy story from this first time author."
The clatter of the lock’s tumblers rang out like church bells, and Varan hoped his crouching frame went undetected on the sage’s porch. With his remaining eye, the thief peered over his right shoulder at ghostlike shadows cast upon a vacant street. Cautiously, he swung open the door and, after easing into the shop, he gently returned it to its frame. A shaft of moonlight pierced through the shutters as the lurking thief investigated a dusty interior. To his left, shelves of musty books, with their worn bindings, all stood erect by ornately carved bookends. In the near corner, to his right, a large silver‑blue sphere, dimly glowing, sat upon a heavy wooden pedestal.
Varan quietly moved across hardwood planks toward the rear of the building. A disturbing creak from one of the floorboards froze the young man in place. Varan stood in the center of the shop, holding his breath as he looked about. The moment of gripping fear gradually passed, and again, he crept.
On the back wall, above the counter, was mounted his long sword. A weapon handed down for generations by the Scathrins ancestors and recently lost in an ill-conceived wager. In silence, he reached for its jeweled hilt, as the moon’s rays illuminated the finely crafted blade. With the weapon removed from the first of two mounts, Varan heard a noise that chilled him.
Hinges from a door that led to the living quarters behind the shop shrieked with alarming volume as it mysteriously drifted inward. The thief gazed that way as his chest tightened and a bead of sweat ran from his forehead.
He could see nothing, yet the door continued to open. In a nonchalant manner, a black cat sprung onto the counter, causing the startled thief to jump back and rap the weapon’s point against the wall. Fearing the thump would wake the proprietors, the Scathrin abandoned his regard for stealth.
Seizing the weapon, he bolted for the door, as the feline’s golden gaze traced every fleeing step. The soles of his boots hit the dirt road leaving a trail of dust behind him.
He charged down an alley and into the back door of a nearby inn where he was staying. Once reaching his room, the winded man quietly closed the door and fastened its dead bolt.
With a heavy sigh, he leaned against the door to catch his breath and regain his composure. The snorts and stammers of horses soon shattered Varan’s moment of peace. In nearly complete darkness, he went to the window and peered through the slits of the shutters. He could see the porch of the shop, where stood an old Eacye man with a balding head and beside him a young woman with fair complexion and dark wavy hair. In the middle of the road, on a mammoth gray and white steed, sat an Eacye warrior with wild black hair and decked out in bulky armor.
Varan had little respect for warriors and their way of life. It appeared this militiaman was in charge as the others around him diligently searched while he periodically barked out a command. The man dismounted his horse and knelt, investigating the ground at the base of the steps.
“My tracks,” Varan mumbled. “He’s looking for my tracks.”
Meticulously the warrior scanned the area and eventually proceeded along the Scathrins' route of escape. Varan’s breaths became shallow and his heart quickened. With concern for his well-being, the Scathrin instinctively considered his options. He watched the warrior, accompanied by another, move toward the alley.
The second militiaman had a baldhead and bushy mustache. Noting characteristics was a strong point of the Scathrins’ and, in this case, he didn’t want to forget a single detail. To Varan’s relief, they stopped short of the alley and with a disgusted scowl, the huge warrior headed back for his horse. His partner, giving his discouraged boss a pat on the shoulder, returned to speak with the older man.
Moments later, Varan saw the bald man enter the inn and after another moment, he returned to his horse. Making his way to the dresser, where a bottle of liquor waited like a lonely friend, Varan listened for approaching footsteps, but heard none.
On the chest of drawers sat a large lantern, which he lit, brightly adorning the chamber’s decor. Furnished with a large comfortable chair, a bed, and an oak armoire, the humble features of the room were all he required. Feeling the heat of the muggy night, the young man splashed fresh water on his face, from a bowl provided by the inn.
A couple of shots of this potent brew should do the trick. Varan poured the sharp smelling liquid into a small glass.
As the first couple of ounces seared his throat, Varan decided to drink more than a couple shots. After he consumed the bottle, he stopped pacing and lazily leaned against the armoire. As he looked at the remaining ripples in his glass, a slight grin adorned his face. A fleeting memory, of a rare warm moment with his father came to mind.
Red-skinned demons, scoundrels and pirates were how people referred to his race throughout the majority of Kantania. Veshnarin they called themselves, professional thieves of high esteem. The Veshnarin stole not so much for money as for pride. They would display and defend items of significance so all could see what a master they were at the trade. Varan’s father, Varell, was such a master.
As he finished his glass and the liquor completely gone, the Scathrin became aware of his image in the mirror across the room. There was a time when he wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a gander at his debonair features but now he hid behind a thick beard and long brown hair that shadowed his face.
Varan slowly moved towards his reflection as his right eye gazed upon the gaudy patch covering his left. A viscous wound delivered by his older brother Varcain, cut so deep it not only severed their relationship, but the bond between Varan and his father as well. From that day, he would have to bare this scar and garner this covering, reminding Varan of his disturbing past. Though it happened over ten years ago, the feeling of hatred and vengeance he harbored, raged on.
In a fit of frustration, the Scathrin tore the band of black from his head, staring wildly into the gaping socket. He stared deeply into the affliction, watching the veins pulse with each beat of his embittered heart. The young man reared back to strike the object before him when common sense set in and he restrained his trembling fist. The crash of shattered glass would surely pique their curiosity of those around him.
The next morning the young man awoke to the sound of a busy street and to the stench of rancid drool that had settled under his chin and soaked into his vest. His head pounded and his joints ached as they had many a morning after a night of drinking. Varan sluggishly made his way to the large bowl of water, and splashing the cool liquid on his face, he became more alert. How much lower can I sink?
Reeking of strong alcohol, he exited his room in a state of dazed apathy and headed for the bathing area. On his way, Varan passed a young woman who moved aside and, with an appalled glance, placed a silk hanky over her nose. Soaking in an oversized barrel, the young man’s spirits lifted slightly as the grime of days past, washed away.
Varan headed downstairs to the Tanner Inn’s pub. The young man wore his finer set of clothes, consisting of richly colored loose garments. A trademark of the Veshnarin’s, the apparel displayed their bold attitudes and casually covert ways. For Varan, the baggy clothes had a second and more useful function, in creating a little deception when covering his slim frame.
Before leaving his room, he carefully wrapped the elaborate hilt of his sword in soft leather, securing it tightly with thin cord. Varan didn’t want to take any chances that someone might recognize his sword as the one stolen last night.
The windows of the pub were open letting in the warm breeze and brazen sun, which drove the swaggering man to a shaded corner of the room. The aroma of fresh bread and pig fat sizzling on the skillet, careened throughout the room. As was his room, the eatery’s decor was simple, sending forth an air of hospitality to all those who dined. Varan sat alone at a small table with his head in his hands, as the late morning crowd loudly conversed, having no mercy when dragging and shoving their chairs across the wooden floor.
Out of the corner of his eye, Varan saw the server, a young girl with short brown hair, who wore a brown short dress and white top. Her brown leather boots shuffled from table to table as she enthusiastically did her job. With the color of her hair and hazel green eyes, it appeared to Varan most likely she was a local Eacye girl.
The young man ordered strong coffee and dry toast. With a cheerful smile, not returned by Varan, the server came back and placed his request before him.
“Um, If there is, ah… anything else you need sir,” she stated awkwardly while trying not to stare at the reeling man, “just call for me.”
Varan stuffed a crust of bread in his mouth, not acknowledging the girl. As the young man consumed his modest breakfast, he saw a huge brown‑skinned man enter the pub. It was the militiaman from the night before and, in the sun’s light, he looked even more menacing. One facial attribute of this nearly seven‑foot tall man, caught Varan’s eye over his dark goatee and square jaw. As the breeze lifted strands of his long black hair across his hardened expression, the warrior took in the room with eyes that were not Eacye, but Savashod. That would explain his tremendous size, stature, and lack of intellect in his expression.
In the Scathrin’s opinion, the Savashod was a race of overgrown green‑skinned imperialist with barbaric demeanors. Like a warmongering wave from the north, they would storm down wreaking havoc over the mainland. If it were not for the Ryore, another massive people but of good nature, this city of Magniowa would be under the rule of the green hoard. One of the features of the Savashod that differed from other races was their eyes. Unlike most, the Savashod had light colored pupils and dark retinas. This warrior’s green eyes possessed that difference.
Wearing a welcoming smile, the bartender waved the militiaman over, as others in the hall cordially greeted the warrior.
“Sergeant Maus!” he bellowed, pointing at a large tray of assorted foods and a pitcher of grape cider. “Why don’t you join me?”
The militiaman lumbered toward the counter, however before reaching his destination, a perky server and a few of her lively friends intercepted him. It was evident that this hulking figure of a warrior seemed extremely disorientated when talking with females. The stern expression the Sergeant held when he entered quickly melted away, and became a series of half grins and subtle nods. The girls buzzed around the man as if he were their idol.
I guess it’s good to see the law enforcement getting such respect. Varan thought as he drank from his mug.
One of the skills the Veshnarin’ were particularly proud of was the ability to discern and store information, then if confronted in the future; they could use the knowledge to their advantage. Quite innocently Maus turned the Scathrin’s direction with their eyes locking for only a moment, a moment that was entirely too long for Varan. The sword at his left side grew in weight, as he became immensely aware of its presence and the chance of Maus spotting it. Varan, in casual surroundings, was a cool character when sober, giving the militiaman a slight bow of the head while continuing to eat.
The Scathrin finished his meal and, after tossing more than enough copper pieces on the table, he departed. As he walked through the double‑doors, Varan unconsciously clasped the hilt of his weapon, being uncomfortably aware of the Sergeant’s presence behind him.
Still dealing with the lingering effects of alcohol, Varan decided to walk it off while scouting the multi‑racial city of Magniowa. With the melting pot of cultures and peoples, the common language of Kantania was necessary, and a tongue in which the Scathrin knew well. Having already procured the item he came for, he would turn his attention to more lucrative ventures and, in a city this size, the potential was limitless.
As he walked the busy streets, Varan stopped to take in the magnificence of the fortified palace, with its tall shrubberies and gray rooks boldly towering into clear blue skies. Its drawbridge lay across a shimmering mote with the building’s stone reflecting off the water.
People of all types littered the main street that ran from the city gate to the palace and held the majority of Magniowa’s shops. In the distance, he saw the towering gates of Magniowa, which remained open during daylight hours. There were establishments of all sorts, and any need or desire could be filled somewhere within their ranks. Vendors selling a multitude of various goods crowded the middle of the road, calling out to those who passed, inviting them to sample their wares.
Besides the taverns, Varan enjoyed visiting the alchemy shops, where the young man hoped to find alternate forms of intoxication.
A bell above the door announced his presence as the air of fine pipe tobacco enveloped his sense of smell. Tall shelves on the sidewalls and one in its core held hundreds of unique substances and it wasn’t long before the Scathrin located the items he was looking for.
A middle‑aged Eacye man came out from behind a counter, positioned in the rear of the shop. With a sturdy wooden pipe clenched in his yellowed teeth and a pleasant expression, he approached Varan.
“Scorcher today,” the clerk said, padding the sweat from his balding head and shuffling his feet. “What can I get for you?”
“Blood rage,” Varan replied raising his brows.
“We have that. It’s in the back,” the man stated with vigor as he turned away.
Varan anticipated the clerk would keep that item out of reach and as he disappeared into the back room, Varan stuffed a box of fine smokes into his vest pocket.
“Never mind,” Varan bellowed as he walked toward the front door. “I seem to have forgotten my coin pouch,” he added with a pat of his vest pocket, where the smokes rested comfortably.
Varan heard the man’s footsteps and gazed back to give him a parting smile, when the little bell over the door chimed once again. The Scathrin’s disposition changed dramatically when he looked upon the two that entered.
The first was a hefty Ryore Commander with full armor that displayed his rank and countries crest. On his back was a great axe, its thick handle swaying, while casting its long shadow on Varan’s small frame.
The Ryore were a heavyset race with lazy extended ears and wrinkled faces, possessing an elongated snout that supported ivory tusks. This man was bald, and like all male Ryores, had two such tusks protruding up from his thick gray hide. The second, upper and smaller horn bore a slight crack that looked to be a battle scar. Right behind him was a female Ryore lieutenant with stubby hazel hair and, like all female Ryore’s, she had one tusk jutting up from the crest of her snout. She also garnered weighty armor displaying her rank. By first impression, it seemed they did not intend to yield the Scathrin passage.
To Varan, the Ryore was a highly unattractive race and seeing the predicament he was in at the time, they were growing uglier by the second. His stomach churned and his head became light, but the Veshnarin remembered his lessons well, maintaining a relaxed demeanor. Making the moment all the more claustrophobic, the old man closed in from behind Varan. “Good day Commander Rusard, sure is a scorcher, is it not?”
“And a good day to you as well, fine sir. You are quite right,” the Ryore replied.
Inspecting Varan with piercing blue eyes, the Ryore tugged at his belt to secure his girth. Varan, without displaying his fear, began to walk toward the door as the Ryore Commander went to meet the shop attendant. However, the female Ryore did not budge and, with a sharp aqua gaze, she stared down at the Scathrin while wearing an expression of discontent.
“As much as I would love to stand here and drink in your infinite beauty, I really must be going,” Varan stated sarcastically with raised eyebrows and a smirk. “So if you don’t mind.”
Varan attempted to go around the woman, only to be cutoff.
“You took something unlawfully, did you not?” the portly female asked with cynical tones, as she leered at him, seemingly challenging his calm posture.
Varan’s mind weeded through several responses. The Scathrin was confident in his skills and did not believe they saw anything. “Don’t you think your prejudice is getting the best of you?” Varan asked as he took a step back.
Before the woman could respond, the Commander spoke up and ordered her to move aside, allowing Varan to exit. Varan knew the Commander didn’t trust him either but the Ryore were honorable people and the young man knew how to manipulate their strict code of justice.
“We will be keeping a close eye on you Varan,” the lieutenant stated quietly with clinched teeth and bitterness in her tone. “Son of Varell,” she added with a gruff whisper.
Varan left the building not looking back. The fact they were privy to his lineage only disturbed him a little at first. After all, my father was a predominate figure around the world and I’m sure his son’s names were mentioned more than once. Besides, the Ryore were more than thorough when it came to investigations or controlling their providence, not to mention that here in Magniowa they had the most prominent archives at their disposal.
A spiritual hall of records that, according to legend, has existed since the beginning of time, the archives, a two-story masterpiece of architecture, possessed all the most prestigious events on tablets, which held mystical properties.
Varan wandered the main strip until early evening and could not shake the event at the alchemy shop. The fact the Ryore knew who he was and did research on his roots, rubbed Varan the wrong way, making him feel singled out.
Varan, opting to remove himself from Magniowa’s nightly activities, retired to his room at the Tanner Inn. The Scathrin enjoyed the festivities after dusk, but on this evening, he desired to relax with his herb and get a good night’s sleep. These smokes will surely do the trick.
As he groped in his pants pocket for the key, Varan noticed the scent of sweet perfume in the air and the soft voice of a young girl in the room across the hall. The Veshnarin, with a perked ear, fought his insatiable curiosity and the urge to eavesdrop. With a turn of the key, the door eased open and Varan entered his chamber of solitude. After lighting the lantern, he saw the servant had refreshed his room.
Varan knew, with his funds running low, he would soon be sleeping outdoors as he had many a night's past, however, for this evening, that wasn’t the case and tomorrow would take care of itself.
The young man lit the first smoke. The flavor of the leafy cigarette was smooth and its effect delightful. Varan sat back in the chair and slowly indulged into a euphoric peace, as he took in, held, and blew the smoke upward. It was not long before the drug had the young man’s conscious reeling and his mind wandered from subject to subject.
The young man tugged at the brows above his good eye. Scathrins had three eyebrows that started at a point over the bridge of their nose and fanned out and upward toward the temple, like crows’ feet.
Varan reminisced about his first love and the feeling of foolish youth that came with the experience. Fallese was her name and she was the daughter of his father’s best friend or Uncle Claybius as they called him. If only my self‑proclaimed hero of a brother would have known about our relationship, Varan thought as he reveled in the secret. Now he is married to her and they have a little bastard of their own named Varell, in honor of my arrogant father. I wonder if my brother misses his sword, he concluded, looking over to the fine weapon.
The emotions he felt for his brother were pure anger. The feelings toward his father however, were that of a hurt child masked by the bitterness of years past. Varan didn’t want to once again, let the ghosts of his former life intrude on another evening and shook them free, recalling brighter memories.
The Scathrin began to dwell on his true love, the glory of becoming the greatest Veshnarin ever. However, his peers were off and running with their careers and his was at a crawl, the young man still felt confident. If he could just get a big break, or make a tremendous find, it would propel him into fame among his people.
There were three major possibilities to look into, and two of these were located in regions far away. The third was the legend of the buried city of Magniowa and the realm that was lost with its fall. According to those of faith, the city was the first and only with seventy‑seven righteous families living under the rule of a holy King and Queen. In the Magniowan archives, that now stand, sat the huge tablet of divine knowledge. Sealed within the very molecules of this great stone sat the realm of total understanding and the pure power of knowledge.
On a dark day, the wicked warlock of the underworld convinced the King and his Queen, that they would receive a revelation if they were to touch The Divine Tablet. Then they would be able to serve their beloved followers better. The story is not clear after that meeting, but the myth states the tablet exploded with portions of the holy stone falling strategically throughout the world. No one has ever discovered any of the tablet pieces, with some believing the evil master’s minions quickly gathered them up, and others proclaiming the wicked spirits were unable to touch them and time would reveal them. These same faithful who, as one, still hold true to this account, believe the races of Kantania all have roots in the first Magniowa and the seventy‑seven families that dwelled there.
If Varan could find any piece of this huge divine tablet or the submerged city, he would become a popular and influential figure. With dreams of grander swimming about his head, the Scathrin swooned with hopes. Before long, the drug hit hard and in a relaxed state, the adventurous youth bedded down, falling fast asleep.
Varan thought it wise to allow his recent unlawful act to drift further into the past before showing his face around town anymore, but at night, he would make an occasional trip to the main road, covertly appropriating some extra cash through his adequate pickpocketing skills.
During the daylight hours he would exercise his nimble frame and practice the arts of his trade in temperatures over ninety degrees. A Veshnarin’s livelihood depended on being at the top of his game and calisthenics, which honed these aspects, Varan took seriously, no matter the conditions.