by John Karnay
This is a sample from a fantasy novel I am about midway through the manuscript on.
Part 3 of the Atlantis Chronicles
Ages will pass, Kingdoms will fall, but heroes live on forever…
-Ambrose the Cunning-
Uncounted years passed and the city of Tartessos became the doorway to eastern culture. Many ancient, never before seen cultures and religions crept into Atlantis’s eastern brother. Ghettos filled with eastern immigrants, formed on the outskirts of the city. Quadrani, Kahitian, Nubian and many other cultures brought their own traditions, corruption and virtue to Tarshi. The center of the city became a giant market place for anything and everything, both legal and not. Men of strange nationalities walked side by side on the cobble stoned streets of the City of Lies. All manner of undesirable elements made this port city their home, refuting their former Atlantean oppressors and seeking refuge from crimes and religious persecution. Guilds of thieves and assassins came into power and marked their territories for extortion and crime. The once great monuments to Atlantis’s gods crumbled slowly into disrepair. The pervasive elder gods of the east found a new home in Tartessos. Never having the power to overcome his evil, the wicked Irlking manipulated these gods, making new alliances from old enemies. Together the gods of old had turned Tartessos into a den of filth and villainy.
Within these ghettos the human races were constantly at odds. Race, and religion skirmishes were common. However, no race was more ostracized than the Nethermen. The Nethermen were a rare crossing of breeds. Their origin was uncertain. Inherently prone to crude and wicked behavior, it was widely believed that Nethermen possessed the worst qualities of goblins and men combined. Neither procreating race cared for their kind. Some historians speculated that they were created in the same manner as the Druas, directly from the seeds of the Irlking himself. Others thought they were a magical creation of the Arch Mage Califaux. All that is certain is that no race, be it man, Sidhe or Goblin kind is more widely prejudiced against than the Nethermen. In their short-lived lives all that Nethermen can depend on is their clan, without it survival is almost impossible.
Born into the second age, the Netherman, Scar Headbringer was an exception to this rule. He was left without a clan shortly after birth. A raiding party of goblins from the Mire Dark wiped out his kin. Barely escaping with his life, the young nether child limped, crawled and skulked through the unnatural and haunted realm of the Irlking. Hiding from enemies when he could and feeding on anything that would sustain life, Scar did all he could to survive. Swamp rats and swell maggots became the staple of his diet. His supernatural fortitude and desperation brought him to Tartessos where he became an urchin of the streets in the City of Lies. The gutter was his home, and many a boot heel in his ribs was the reward for the persistence of the young nameless whelp. At age ten, he was neither large nor small by human standards. His black and dark green mottled skin was unwashed and sinewy. His stench was deplorable to any civilized creature, but did not faze the child. His young, scrawny but muscular shoulders were unclothed, carrying only a small sack of the few possessions he could manage to protect. His hair was long and held in a topknot. It served as a better home for insects than Scar had ever known in his short life. When his destiny found him he was in an alley of the Quadrani portion of the ghettos fending off six men from a loaf of bread with nothing but a chimney brush. It was at that time he met the legend that would become his mentor.
Although I have heard the tale of their meeting many times from very different perspectives, I believe that the truth of the matter is closest to my telling simply because I have nothing to lose from the truth. As his companion, I have always had the knack and responsibility of keeping Headbringer both humbled as well as honest. But in the case of Deth Addar, it is Scar who humbles himself. In this matter, I try to merely ensure that Scar lives up to Addar’s legacy because he is truly “The Demon’s” only heir.
Officer of the Clan of One
Death Addar appeared at the entrance of the long shaded corridor of the Quadrani shantytown. He was a tall and well-muscled Druas that carried a small arsenal of hand-to-hand weapons. His silvery white hair was loose and wild like the look in his eyes. His coal black skin contrasted the white of his reverse colored pupils. For the few familiar with the Druas dialect, his name meant “Son of the Demon”, but to all of Tartessos his reputation and deeds truly reflected his moniker.
“Stand down from the Goblin pup,” he spoke in a guttural monotone, “or I promise what you lose will be more costly than bread. Is your Lotus worth your lives?”
Scar lay crumpled in the corner, naked, bruised and thoroughly beaten. The guards had held him against the walls and cut him with their daggers as he desperately tried to protect the precious loaf in his hands. Deep wounds covered his face, chest and back. His first vision of Addar terrified the child for a brief moment. Scar feared that this white haired demon before him was some other worldly entity coming to drag him into the afterlife.
He had no idea that the loaf of bread which he had stolen was stuffed with black lotus flowers. The three carts of bread against the walls of the alley smuggled the powerful and addictive hallucinogen of the Quadrani culture. The highly illegal substance was banned in its homeland. Addicts of the drug were called the lotus-eaters. Huge masses of these soulless addicts sit and chew their dark drug in their desert home abandoning their lives for the visions of the lotus. Some say that the dark entities command these stupefied fools to a higher purpose. All that is certain is that the ever profit minded Quadrani sell the drug on the black market in Tartessos where the leaves from a single pure flower can fetch twenty gold coins.
The Druas realized that five of these six men were Tartessian Militia, hired mercenaries of the lowest moral fiber. The city guard could be bought as easily as anything in the market place at the city center, as long as the price was right. The last man of the group was a large Nubian bodyguard hired to ensure the delivery of the goods. Doubtless, Addar knew that the Quadrani merchants had paid Prefix Dupree, lord of Tartessos to secure the militia escort. No doubt also from his formidable size that the Nubian had cost extra. Nubians were hearty dark skinned humans reputed for their battle prowess, strength, and honorable sense of allegiance. This one seemed uninterested in the spectacle, preferring to lean against his assigned cart and not participate.
The first two militiamen failed to recognize the Druas by sight. His size and stature were not nearly as imposing as his reputation. Drawing their weapons they began their advance.
“Good another Mire mutt to play with.” the solider snickered, not yet realizing his fate.
In a flash of ebon skin and a crack of leather hide moving faster than the speed of sound, the first guard fell to his knees as Deth Addar’s bullwhip entwined around his neck and pulled him forward. His second hand, unsheathed an ornately designed, one and a half handed bastard sword from his back with an almost supernatural ease.
The sickly gurgle of his cohort, as his weapon dropped from his grip, froze the second guard. Blindly the second militiaman charged forward at Addar, his short sword high above his head. In one deft maneuver the Druas, spun to the left yanking the whip and spinning it around his waist like a spider. The choking guard’s neck snapped as he was lifted forward from his knees and collided into the back of his partner. In the same motion, the “Son of the Demon” continued his deadly pirouette bringing his sword around and slicing the head from the now misbalanced militiaman. As the maneuver completed, two bodies were left lifeless at his feet.
One of the guards gasped and another yelled,
“You bastard!!! You’ll die in the Donjon for this, black elf!”
Again the guttural voice spoke,
“Come join your friends…” the Addar spat.
The remaining three men faced down the Druas, unmistakably frightened but having no way to exit the alley except through this Demon before them. The first lunged sloppily with his hand axe. Addar dropped his whip and smoothly dodged the attack, then powerfully twisted his wrist causing the blade of his bastard sword to slice up and through the wrists of his attacker. The blade howled sickly like a ghostly wolf and the guard’s axe flew into the air, his hand still attached.
The next attacker closed and swung wild and high. Again the blade cleaved through the second Guard’s midsection. The third man ran forward screaming, hoping to unnerve the “Son of the Demon”. Addar charged forward meeting him, allowing the dagger’s blade and the arm of the attacker to pass between his ribs and left arm, trapping it there. Then using the momentum of the charging attacker, Addar slammed his forehead into the nose of the guard breaking it. As the militiaman staggered backwards, the shimmering bastard sword howled again as the blade tore open his neck. Hunched and grimacing, Addar slowly cocked his head to the right, looking at the large Nubian man standing against the cart.
“Is your life worth more than bread, Nubian? Or shall we continue this dance?”
The large, bald, hulking human stood with his massive arms folded at his waist. He glanced down the alley to the Netherman child and back at the Druas. His voice was quiet, powerful and sincere.
“Corto wants nothing to do with the Black Lotus. I was hired to protect food for the hungry. I am a gladiator earning my passage to Atlantis to fight in the arenas. May the Quadrani choke on their poison! The nether pup is yours to do as you wish, Addar.”
Deth Addar’s reputation had preceded him. The Nubian looked at the corpses with sincere distaste, spitting on them as he slowly and proudly walked towards Addar.
“You know me, then?” Addar inquired, concerned that his identity might be sold to the authorities.
“I know the tales of the Druas demon of Mire Dark and his bastard blade, Mourn. So deadly a blade, that when it cuts through the air, the voice of the wind cries out in pain. I know the Deth Addar,”
Addar’s sword hand flexed waiting to make a move.
“But seen him today or any other, Corto has not.” the Nubian finished.
Deth Addar raised an eyebrow and sheathed his sword. As the Nubian exited the shantytown alley, Addar walked forward approaching the pup. Stepping between the bodies like a cat and unfastening his whip from the neck of the dead guard. He stared blankly, through white pupils at the goblin child. Reaching over his shoulder into his shoulder sack, he removed an ornate flask. Plugging the spout slightly with his thumb and shaking it, a thick and gummy liquid sprayed over the contents of two of the three carts. Reaching into his belt pouch, he produced a small, dry twig of a yellowish tint. Then Deth Addar deftly snapped his gloved fingers, producing an alchemical spark from the twig. In turn, the twig ignited the oil on the carts and they burst into flames. Leaning low to face the hunched and cowering half goblin, Deth Addar smiled.
“Well, what are ye waiting for whelp? Strap on the harness of the cart not yet in flames and follow me to the market place. It seems that today, my disgusting little pup, your life changes…”