It was the dead of night. Wind howled through the crumbling building, needing no effort to find the creaks in the walls to cover the people inside with its chilling cloak. It didn't matter if you sat outside or in - the weather was the same.
Maybe I should fix those walls, Lennard thought, while his hands were busy drying jugs with a towel. Experience made him do that with such efficiency that his mind hardly needed to pay attention to it. He let his eyes wander away from his chore and explored his surroundings. Dust formed the floor's carpet, mould acted like cement for the crooked walls and the windows... Maybe it was better not to mention those. He always joked that he had stained glass - stained with dirt, that is.
No, the Gryphon's Nest was not the best of taverns - but at least it was his.
The wind squeezed itself through the holes in the walls again, sending ripples through the once-white net curtains. He shook his head.
Then again, a bit of draught fits this place rather nicely.
He wasn't just talking about the tavern itself - he included the people who were crazy enough to go here too. He didn't care about a man's background; as long as he could pay up for his drink and didn't cause any trouble, you could claim a barstool here. One of his shady customers was still sitting here, lying face down on a table in one of the dark corners.
'Oi, Aarie!' He shouted, 'didn't you hear the bell? I'm closing up!'
Aarie, nothing more than a pile of ragged clothes surrounded by empty jugs and a half-empty plate, didn't move a bit. The tavern owner put down the mug and towel and marched towards the unresponsive man. One look at Aarie's face told him enough.
'Always the same with that guy... Doesn't know when to stop touching strong liquor.'
If it had been liquor. You could pour in cleaning chemicals for this guy and he would drink it like it was water. It wouldn't be the first time that happened.
The tavern owner wrapped his arm around the comatose man and threw him over his shoulder. It still surprised him how easily he could do that. He was getting older after all. He had lost his hair and gained some wrinkles, but his arms never lost their strength. If he could only say that for his midsection; the muscles there had slowly been replaced by an impressive beer belly.
Aarie wasn't cooperative though. He let his arms drag over the table, as if he wasn't ready to let go of it - completely oblivious to the fact that the table wasn't empty, of course. The howling wind suddenly became smothered by the sound of shattering pottery, covering the floor with left-over drinks and what seemed to be a half-eaten chicken leg.
The tavern owner stepped away, not wanting his shoes to be covered with the muck. He turned his head towards the kitchen.
'Moppie! Clean this up!'
He didn't need to shout. A howl could be heard from behind the bar as soon as the jugs and plates made contact with the floor. A big, brown hairy thing spurted towards the crime scene. Its face was more wrinkled skin than anything else, flanked by long ears that swiped over the floor while the creature feasted on everything that seemed remotely edible.
Lennard smiled. 'Good dog.'
He walked towards the front door, ready to let Aarie out, but when he opened it he saw a little figure blocking his way. Two blue eyes were staring back at him from below a mess of blond hair that would do so much better as a bird's nest. Two long, tufted ears pricked up high with enthusiasm.
'Lennard! You are still open!' the guy said with a grin from ear to ear.
'Not really - just showing my last customer the way out.' He walked passed the little sentrin towards the ditch next to his tavern. He threw Aarie in there like he was a bag of potatoes. 'You'll know the way home from here,' he said to him. Maybe Aarie was already home; Lennard wouldn't be surprised if the man had spent more time in that ditch than in his own house.
His attention returned to the sentrin. The man was skinny and way too short for his race; but his eyes twinkled with joy. The guy was up to something, something not good - Khorrek was a thief, after all.
Lennard took the sentrin inside and sat down on one of the barstools. Moppie came to greet the new customer, drool dripping out of her mouth like rain in a western storm now she had had her little late-night snack. Lennard looked at the trail of saliva-puddles that his dog had left behind.
Good, that should clean the floor a bit.
His gaze went from the floor to his new customer. 'So, what brings you here this time?'
Khorrek settled himself on the bar - not a barstool, the bar - as if being small gave him permission to sit on high things as some sort of compensation. The wood creaked in protest, but Lennard didn't do anything to put him down. It had encountered so much worse than bearing a vertically challenged sentrin. It would survive.
'I've got you a little something,' Khorrek said.
'Something that didn't start off as yours, is it?'
'Eh... Yeah. Maybe. But let's get to the tedious little details later, shall we?'
He took something out of his pocket, but only after checking the place was clear. It wasn't a quick check too; Khorrek let his eyes rest on every single window. Lennard frowned.
You are never that cautious...
Then Khorrek opened his hand. Whatever it was he had, it was wrapped in a handkerchief. Slowly, he folded away the fabric, like it was a flower that needed a little help spreading it petals. Delicate petals - the sentrin was holding the thing as if it was made of thin glass. Lennard could feel his heart beating faster with every second that passed. He wasn't a very curious guy, but Khorrek's careful behaviour gave him second thoughts about his own personality traits.
Then Khorrek pulled away the last bit of handkerchief that covered his precious item... And Lennard stopped breathing.
What?! How could he, where did he... How? How?!
None of these half-finished questions left his lips. Instead he grabbed his dirty towel, and threw it over Khorrek's hand. He was pretty sure they were alone, but still - he didn't want to take the risk of being seen with that. Then his hand flew to Khorrek's goatee and he pulled the guy's face right in front of his. Lennard's eyes narrowed to slits. He stared so intensely at the sentrin that his gaze could burn all the way through Khorrek's head.
'By the One's grace... You are going to get in so much trouble for this,' he whispered slowly.
'You think? I'm sure no one saw me.'
'That doesn't matter; this is not something you can get rid of easily! People will know it's missing. What kind of fool would buy this?'
The sentrin's eyes showed a twinkle when they stared straight back at Lennard's. The big blue saucers were demanding something, but making a bit fun of it as well. Then a sudden feeling of self-awareness crept over the tavern owner.
Me? He wants me to buy this?!
He let go of the sentrin's beard and pushed him away, making him slide over the bar. 'Get lost Khorrek!'
The guy didn't listen, of course. 'It's worth five hundred goldlings,' Khorrek continued on his happy tone, as if Lennard hadn't said anything threatening.
'Don't make me even angrier! Get away from here with that bloody thing, now. Besides, I don't even have the money, or the interest.' Lennard cracked his knuckles - he was ready to beat the guy out of his tavern, if he wouldn't make his way out all by himself.
'I know - which is why you can get it for one hundred and fifty.'
One hundred and... What did he say?! That was a huge discount - big enough to evaporate Lennard's anger in a heartbeat. A once in a lifetime chance...
Don't let it fool you though, a more reasonable voice in his head warned him.
'And why should I accept that offer?' Lennard asked, 'It might be worth quite something, but it is useless to me.'
'Because you know people who do find it useful.' Khorrek narrowed his eyes, and his lips curled into a mischievous smile, 'useful enough to pay five hundred goldlings for it - probably even more.'
'And why aren't you contacting these people?'
'Because they do not show up here that often - I can't wait for that, I need money now!'
Khorrek was always low on money. He knew why; a big portion of his 'salary' went to his family - a family consisting of more members than was financially healthy. Lennard sighed. It would be so much better for him to live his own life and being master of your own income.
Speaking about income... Mine doesn't look that wonderful too.
Lennard had faced a lot of trouble lately. The roof of his barn had collapsed and needed reparation, a cartload of barrels were never delivered to him and of course there was this rather shady guy he owed quite some money. Now he thought of it, his situation was not much better than that of Khorrek.
'One hundred goldlings,' he said reluctantly.
Khorrek frowned. 'That's not how this works - we are supposed to meet in the middle!'
'Sorry man, it's one hundred and ten or nothing. My pouch isn't a bottomless bag of holding.'
The sentrin cocked his head. 'Not even a silver more?'
'Maybe... Some free beer then?'
That made the tavern burst out in laughter. 'Free beer? You really want to drink that ditch water I serve here?'
'I never said that! I want to sell it - as a cleaning product. The stuff unclogs toilets like a charm!'
Lennard's glee went away as abruptly as it came. His brew had been called a lot of bad things, but being a good a drain cleaner had to be the worst of insults. Beer to unclog toilets - right... Let's see about that.
'You can get one of the small barrels.'
Khorrek jumped off the bar and stretched out his hand. 'My dear Lennard, you've got a deal!'
Lennard slapped the sentrin's palm, sealing their agreement. He went to the back of the tavern, only to return with his part of the trade; a lot of coins and a barrel of beer - or drain cleaner. He put it on the bar, while Khorrek did the same with the towel and its valuable content. Normally he smiled when goods switched owner, but now his lips refused to curl up.
'Sure you can handle that?' Lennard asked when he saw Khorrek trying to lift up the barrel. He could carry the thing with one arm, but the sentrin seemed to need all his strength for it.
'Yeah, I think I got it.' Khorrek said, hugging the barrel so tightly that lovers could learn a lesson from it. 'Now where is that door...'
The sentrin couldn't see a thing with the barrel pushed in his face of course, but Lennard wasn't eager to help him. Men should be able to handle their own problems. Not that Khorrek was much of a man, but still; he had balls enough to count as one. And indeed, after pin-balling a couple of times between the tables - and knocking a few over - the short guy had managed to find the way out of the tavern.
'Have a good night Lennard,' Khorrek said before he stepped outside, 'it was great doing business with you!'
Lennard looked at his newly gained item, still wrapped in the dirty towel. 'I wish I could say the same,' he muttered.
When the door closed behind Khorrek, Lennard snatched the towel from the bar. He went to the back of his tavern, more running than walking. He took a turn and took the stairs down into the cellar. All the way down. He might own this place but even he hardly ever got there. The few things that were stored here were hardly worthy to be looked at. Moppie followed him.
'Don't say a thing about this,' he said to the dog, 'it must stay a secret.'
The dog howled softly. Lennard gave her a sly smile.
Lennard walked to the other side of the cellar. Like the rest of the building, it contained more holes then wall. He removed one of the bricks. There was a little space behind the gap where the brick had been, big enough to hide his dangerous treasure in.
'That should be save enough, don't you think?' he asked Moppie. The dog howled again. She pushed her nose against Lennard's hand.
'Okay. One last look wouldn't hurt.'
He carefully unfolded the towel, even more slowly than Khorrek had done. He had to - his hands were trembling terribly! Part of him wished that the sentrin had tricked him, that he had sold him some sort of a replica. He would have lost a lot of money, but at least he would have been safe. By the One, why did he buy this?
Because money blinded me... I'm an idiot.
When he pulled away the last bit of cloth he knew that Khorrek hadn't fooled him. Lennard looked at a small lump of metal. The seal engraved on it - depicting a crown and a moon, the coat of arms of the Holy Army - was extremely complicated and detailed. If this was a replica, than it was a bloody good one; so good that Lennard just couldn't believe it to be fake.
Khorrek had nicked a spellkeeper, an item made of sorcerer's steel that could remember enchantments. Lennard didn't know how that worked. He didn't know anything about magic - which is why he didn't want to buy it in the first place. The only thing he knew was how to recognise things like these and that they were very sought-after. No wonder: they made it possible for normal people to use magic too.
He swallowed away a gag fear - maybe he was casting a spell right now! He quickly wrapped the towel around it to stop any potential magic from doing its work, but how much would piece of cloth help?
To make things worse; this spellkeeper was a superb one, with its intricate engravings. Low quality spellkeepers were not so rare, but they could hardly do anything. This one, on the other hand, seemed to be something you would want to get back at all costs...
Lennard swallowed again.
And now I own it.
Schaduw van Kennis - deel 6
This is a short story taking place in the world of 'a State of Equilibrium', but it will not be part of the main story. I'll use this as a little example of an entry for this contest, where you have to make a character for my world! Sure, I know the place the best, so I can add details in here no one else can, but I still hope this will be a good example. I'm looking for rather ordinary characters - people like tavern owners - but having an ordinary job does not mean the character is not interesting It doesn't have to be a literature piece of course, any other type of art is welcome too.
Besides a piece of literature/artwork, I want to have some information about your character. It doesn't have to be long. Something like this is fine:
Name: Lennard Grauw
Looks: Lennard used to be a rather handsome guy when he was younger, but now he has lost his hair and gained a beer belly. He is still very muscular though, especially in his arms. The clothes he wears have seen better days, often covered with stains from some dubious beverage, but they are functional.
Age: Middle-aged (39, to be exact).
Personality: He is pretty scared in this story, but normally he is brave and tough - so if you encounter him with shaking hands, you should be pissing your pants out of fear too. He has a big heart though – especially for women. He always chooses his words wisely when he is around one, since he thinks ladies should not hear nasty curses. When he gets angry, you should stay out of his way – he can become a raging bull. He also things the law is just a set of guidelines, so he doesn’t mind if you’ve broken a few, as long as it is not so severe it will bring him trouble.
Background: Lennard has been a bouncer for years, but roughly 10 years ago he got a tavern of his own: ‘the Griffin’s Nest’, in Woldburg on one of the Islands. It’s a place where all kinds of people are welcome, how dark your background might be. Lennard is not a very clean person though and his tavern shows it; despite Moppie’s best efforts to keep the floor clean.
Profession: Tavern owner, but takes up the role as ring master during festivals, weirdly enough. He wants to get out his tavern once in a while, you see (and bark at large crowds). He doesn't mind to make money with illegally obtained goods either.
Religion: Faith of Vaden (not very fanatic though).
I love Lennard. Too bad Khorrek is a guy, the way Lennard acts around women is just wonderful Lennard pops up in my story as the ring master during a festival, but I thought it would be fun to show him in his 'natural habitat'. Well... Dealing with spellkeepers will always be unusual. Be aware that Lennard's knowledge about magic is hardly worth mentioning, so the statement 'things like these made it possible for normal people to use magic' should be read with caution. Spellkeepers are not as powerful as you might think
If you want to know more about Khorrek, you should go here:
Here is where I will dump more art involving my world:
And here is the prologue of my story:
Prologue - a State of Equilibrium
And here is the guide to my world:
Guide to 'a State of Equilibrium'
Also, sorry for stupid grammar errors and such, I made this rather quickly.
I like how you set the athmospher at the beginning of the story.
I wonder what is the spell inside the artefact...