Authors: Jordan Baugher
Tags: #dragon, #longknife, #madra, #magick, #maximagus, #novanostrum, #wizard, #zanther
written by Jordan Baugher
Copyright 2010 Jordan Baugher
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Zanther isn’t what you’d call a prodigy. He
isn’t heir to the throne or destined for greatness. What he does
have is that rare combination of brute strength and cleverness. A
combination so rare that his kind is actually fairly prevalent.
Where he excels is that attribute called ‘dumb luck’. When it comes
to luck, he has crapsacks of that.
So our hero, our protagonist, this ‘Zanther’
character, he’s sitting at the bar, drinking a pint of Dragon’s
Leg, the cheapest beer in all of Claustria, when he realizes that
there are an awful lot of Darrinians patronizing the pub
Your average Darrinian, he’s stocky and
hairy. Doesn’t cause much trouble. Toils and troubles, takes his
pay, diddles his portly wife, and procreates. Pretty much all they
do. But these Darrinians, they aren’t what you’d call ‘normal’. For
one thing, they aren’t clothed in burlap shirts, they’re attired in
fine black silks. And wouldn’t you know, they keep stealing
admiring glances at Zanther.
But Zanther isn’t all that pretty.
Our hero, he rolls a cigarette, lights it,
and before he can exhale his first drag, a half-dozen stools are
overturned and katanas are drawn. No stranger to a fight, Zanther
reaches for his trusty longknife and the hilt comes off. Holding
just a rusted hilt, he ducks between katana slashes and cogitates
about his next move.
It’s here when things get sketchy: his vision
becomes altered, the color is drained out of his surroundings and
everything is black and white and blue. All he can see are the
veins of his aggressors, pumping angry blood, but…it’s slowed down.
Time itself has slowed for Zanther.
Now, like I said, he’s not some child of
destiny. This isn’t how things usually go for him, but an advantage
is an advantage. He sees a mop in a bucket a few steps away and
grabs it, slamming it into the face of the nearest Darrinian and
splitting it in half, sending wooden shards flying. He’s left with
a pointed wooden stick, which he promptly jabs into the blue heart
of the next Darrinian, adding a new splash of color to his
time-slowed palate: red.
Zanther then snatches the katana from the
hands of this Darrinian and, in one deft swipe, manages to
decapitate a few more of his enemies.
Time regains its normal fluidity and the
remaining non-murderous patrons stare, mouths gaping at the carnage
Zanther has left. The katana clanks on the floor as he drops it,
and he then reaches into the pocket of one of the headless corpses
and produces a few coins, which he drops onto the bar before
stepping out into the night.
In this world, there are good kings and bad
kings. A good king spends all his time in the palace, cutting
babies in half and solving other disputes, while a bad king dons a
disguise and walks among his people pretending to be a
revolutionary, learning about his enemies. Madra is what you’d call
. She’s among her enemies all right, but she
doesn’t do much ‘walking’. She’s charismatic in the way that only a
woman can be: horrible and easy on the eyes.
Madra’s there tonight, sitting with a Baron
at a table in the pub, watching Zanther kill and kill in all his
cutthroat glory. She isn’t smitten; the smitten ones are the
Darrinians. No, Madra watches Zanther slice his bloody path through
adversity, and she’s in love.
She wants him to use those quick and precise
movements on her, but not with his
Madra eyes the Baron, dressed in puffy silks
poofing out between his lapels, his sleeves, inflating his
shoulders. The white makeup, the fake mole, the white wig, this
prissy aristocrat is the complete opposite of a
ideal clearly illustrated not ten seconds ago by the dusty
knifesman currently making his way out of the bar.
Claustria is and always has been a democracy.
Their kings have all been elected freely by the people. While some
have questioned Claustria’s status as a democracy because elections
are only held when the progeny of a retiring king are old enough to
take his place and never have to run against anyone else, the
people always freely vote their new ruler into power.
The first time a commoner dared to challenge
the law that states that running against a king’s child is treason,
that man, Rabadan Millovich, was promptly expaled for treason, and
there haven’t been any challengers since. Thus, the freedom of
Claustria has thenceforth been preserved.
Every year, he is remembered with his own
national holiday, Rabadan Millovich Day. To celebrate this state
holiday, citizens have the choice of baking either melon or berry
Nobody has ever baked a berry pie.
There’s a third person with a personal stake
in Zanther’s exploits tonight. In a way, he’s actually the maestro,
he chose the tempo of the music and had a pretty good guess how the
notes would be played. He composed a subtle symphony of death,
using Zanther as his instrument. A puppet master? Not quite, but he
definitely gave our hero a temporal edge.
This third person, this ominous bystander,
he’s wearing a frayed black cloak. He has a stubbled chin and
He tosses a few dodeckas onto the table and
follows Zanther into the gloom, his wooden staff clicking on the
cobblestone floor with every step.