Monday, September 6, 2010

Character spotlight with Greythorn

Who are you?
Greythorn is my name. I am a former Ruins dweller and inhabitant of the Brizarian forest. However, I am now Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin to Rhyka Hawk-Wing, lord and master of Protectorate Marutchi. Who am I, you ask? My enemies would say a coldblooded killer, dedicated to protecting the interests of my Protectorate. Others might call me their saviour, but I’m guessing that is a matter of perspective, whether you’re looking down the blade I hold or up at it. You may read of my infamous rise to serve my current master throughout Book I, The Rise of Rhyka Hawk-Wing, Scavenger Lord and later, in Book II, Artefact War, The Rise of Rhyka Hawk-Wing. As best I can recollect, I’ve seen some sixty summer’s come’n go since I was born in the ruins east of the city of Brizaria. Fifty years of warfare have battered and burnt me into what I am today. I wasn’t such a pleasant fellah in Book I as I am now, but you’ll have read them both to judge for yourself. You can find me at .

What makes you special?
Well now, that would an ability to decipher the underbelly of the Brizarian Empire, especially the city itself. I know what makes it tick, just like a well-set water clock. For a Ruins dweller, I hold a special affinity for that city. I breathe its air and sift its smells in ways most Brizarians cannot understand. I can smell a plot and hear intrigue a kilometre away and I can kill an opponent just about anywhere I choose. I personally know every wharf rat, guttersnipe, thief of any repute, pickpocket, conman, sleazy tavern, stand over merchant, sly grogger, thieving money lender, corrupt priest, bent watchman, bordello madam, horse thief and killer worth his salt in the city of Brizaria. Know how I know them? I’ve used most at one time or another in the interests of my previous and traitorous master, Todor Roth of Roth-Tar.

What are you doing right now?

What I’m doing right now is torturing a Scavenger in Book III. Sneaky bastard’s a spy, you see. Thought he could sneak in here tricked up like a Dargeman and report back to Todor Roth on Marutchies secrets, he did. But he’s not as good at this game as I am. I picked him for a Scavenger warrior the second I set me eyes on him staggering around the deck of that darge. Here, have a go at this—

Without uttering a sound, Greythorn dragged a small wooden table into the circle of light. His prisoner faltered to a nervous halt, swallowing apprehensively at the juddering the spindly wooden legs made scraping across the floor. He watched the table magically appear. Then without warning, Greythorn let go of the table. As it clattered to halt, he stepped rapidly into the light, but remained behind the prisoner, well out of sight. He grabbed the spy’s head expertly in the crook of his arm and tilted it back. As his prisoner parted his lips to yell, Greythorn deftly inserted a pair of blacksmith’s pliers snatched from the table into the man’s mouth. After much wrenching, swearing and gurgled screaming on his victim’s part, Greythorn extracted a healthy eye-tooth. Holding his glistening trophy up for his groaning captive to see, Greythorn stepped smoothly away. Only the bloody tooth lingered in his prisoner’s line of sight in Greythorn’s extended hand.
Greythorn’s disembodied voice rang out, this time his tone while resolute carried appeal and resignation, “Gods above, son, save yourself some pain. No mortal can hold out against the methods I am about to apply to you. You have one thin sliver of hope. Grasp it. Do not waste time protecting the integrity of a filthy merchant like Todor,” he appealed to the Scavenger in him as he dropped the pliers holding the tooth onto the table. He hauled the table to his prisoner’s opposite shoulder. Instruments rattled with an eerie sound. Serrated tongs, razor sharp daggers, a nail-studded boxers’ mitt, a hammer, nails and numerous other devices well known to torturers held his captive’s bewildered gaze.“First, let’s start off with something simple. Like y’name?” Greythorn’s tone hardened as he settled down on the stool. His hooded frame was visible only as a dark shape hovering over the small table of instruments. Without raising his voice, Greythorn rotated his cowled head slightly toward the prisoner. “I know that you’ve the guts not to dishonour your ancestors by begging for mercy. But I promise, if you accept my offer, I will get independent word to your clansmen through the crew that you died with honour. Refuse me and I will pay them handsomely to spread a tale that you left this world bleating like a sheep in a slaughter yard. They will have stories of you begging for mercy and pissing your pants spread across your protectorate, seconds after they drop anchor. To make certain they tell the story with some authenticity, before they weigh anchor, they will know in no uncertain terms that the only reason they are allowed to depart Marutchi is to spread a tale of your cowardice.”

I expect that Book III may be ready for release around December, but nothing is certain yet.

What’s life in Brizaria like?
So, its advice on life in Brizaria you’re looking for? Well now, you’ve come to the right person for that. First off, you’d best understand that the ruling class, the Scavengers, are a people of their word. Haughty, some would call ‘em. But by the god’s they’re fiercely loyal to their clan members and are the bravest fighters I have come across. By the grace of the sacred Earth Mother, I am now proud to call myself one.

Once, while investigating a suspicious death in Book II, my greatest enemy, Rha-Knor described me as— Well now, best you judge for yourself while you read the excerpt below.

Rha-Knor’s green eyes slitted dangerously, “You filthy, venomous old spider. You’ve a bad habit of turning up to inject your poison into Todor’s head when you’re least wanted. Know this, my master trusts me completely to investigate such matters, more so since you’re raggedy old bones disappeared. I can confidently say that Todor has no reason for involving you in this affair. Now get out!”

Before I was made Neckar to Marutchi, most Brizarians shied away from me like I had the plague or something nasty was hanging off my face, which, ironically, I do now though. You see, I was born a Ruins dweller and, like all Ruins dwellers, I wear my skull scars with pride. I escaped that hell-hole when I was just twenty-one to live in the city where I worked my way up from a humble caravan guard to the position of Neckar, Master Spy & Chief Assassin of Roth-Tar. But now I am Neckar to Protectorate Marutchi and a Scavenger in my own right. Now, matters are different. All manner of people seek my advice, which I offer freely of course. Scavengers are a respectful race, it is their code of honour that binds them to traditions over four hundred years old. When I worked for Todor at Roth-Tar, he controlled every move I made. As Neckar to Protectorate Marutchi, I have a free reign and am trusted implicitly to support the interests of my master.

Below is an excerpt from Book II as Gorsug the Trog explains to Rhyka some Trog history. It offers you a sliver of insight into how my world was remade by angry gods and savage men.

“Once, Trog’s were just like you, human in our form. But that was long ago, in a time before that, which you call the Great Disaster. It was a sad time for the Earth Mother and humans alike. Powerful warlords formed tribes, called Corporations, had stripped Her of all mineral resources. They ripped the forests to shreds, killed almost every animal and sucked the rivers nearly dry. Corporations enslaved humans by controlling water. Mind you, the water was so polluted that it could not be drunk unless blessed by priests called Hydrologists. Those humans who could not pay a priest for drink, died of thirst, or sold themselves into slavery for water rights. The land the ancients walked upon bled and oozed pools of chemicals so deadly that to stand down wind of one was a death sentence. Oceans covered in floating cities, surrounded by filth, could no longer produce fish to feed a starving population. Even the land under the oceans was laid waste in the search of ore, gold, tin and copper. So poorly was the Earth Mother treated those humans were forced to settle a new world called Mars. I have read in our chronicles that this Mars was a red desert world devoid of air, water and clouds. Freezing cold at night and so hot in the day that the sun would strip the flesh from your bones. Despite this, humans settled there and constructed cities in deep canyons, which they covered with this stuff.” Gorsug rapped the floor with his knuckles.

Book III offers you a little more of Brizarian history of. Listen to the voice of Magpie Eyes, a Ruins dweller and Healer to the Staffud’s tribe as he lectures Mugly, an amnesiac captive.

“Well, at least that’s a start, listen hard now to the miracle of Ice-Eye’s. It was the last powerful artefact dying alongside its owner that finally brought a semblance of peace to this place of unstoppable violence. Artefacts were plentiful and mighty dangerous in those days. Legends say that all a fighter had to do was pick the right one up, point it and a series of blasts would chop anything in their path to shards of meat. Most Ruins Dwellers were scared to touch them, but there is always an exception. A warrior who possessed one, made life a living misery for anyone they came into contact with. Lucky for most, they fought amongst themselves with the artefacts. But when they had eliminated the competition, well now there was one particularly nasty street thug, who went by the name of The Slicer. Now this son-of-a-bitch had been terrorising the Ruins for quite some time. The Slicer was a loner. The murdering SOB would move into an area and subjugate the inhabitants with his relic and then just to prove what power he had, he would start having his fun. Now, he didn’t get the name Slicer from carving ‘roo meat, that’s for sure.

“His favourite trick was to round up twenty or so Ruins dwellers, pick several at random, stake them out in the sun and slice off their limbs, one at a time while swigging from a goony. Well, Ice-Eyes figured out how to kill him without losing a limb. Legend tells that as a nine year old, he snuck up top of a tall building and lay in wait for The Slicer who had rounded up thirty or so victims and herded them out onto an old street. He was about to settle down to an afternoon of his two favourite past-times, goony swigging and limb slicing. Stupid bastard always sat in the same spot, so Ice-Eyes lined him up and dropped a slab of broken building onto his head, killing him instantly. When everyone looked up, there was Ice-Eyes, whooping and hollering and dancing on the edge of the old structure like there was no tomorrow. He climbed down and smashed that artefact to splinters before some dumb bastard started off what The Slicer failed to finish. Even as a child, young Ice-Eyes understood the old prophet’s words better than anybody else. He could make sense of a situation where others saw only confusion. Ruins dwellers came from far and near to consult the boy on all matters. Instinctively, he knew artefacts had to be destroyed, all of them, or they would lead humanity straight back to a past of greed and misery that ruled the ancients. Don’t get me wrong, son. When I say, people settled down, it was not in digs as good as these. I mean a family or two got together to protect a water supply or guard a shelter that offered protection from the elements and enemies. Young Ice-Eyes was marked for a Spin Doctor’s life, but as soon he was old enough, he formed a core of tough street fighters about him and set about establishing unity among warring factions of Ruins dwellers.”

What is the most interesting thing that happened to you?
Well now that’d be being made Neckar of Marutchi? You see before lord Rhyka found me, I was languishing in the underground with the Trogs. My career as an assassin and a spy was over. Todor had cast me aside in favour of Rha-Knor. But in reality that was a stroke of luck. Now I am Neckar, a Scavenger and I command an army of spies the envy of the Brizarian Empire.

The Lord High Recycler unwrapped the cloth with a frown. Positioning the book in his lap, he opened it and read slowly. His eyes widened and he looked up at Lizet with a question in his eyes. When Lizet nodded, he beckoned to a nearby scribe to approach. He stood close to Jaggan’s right shoulder, listening to him talk. Together they re-read the pages in the book. Jaggan whispered again and the scribe began to copy down his words on a scroll. Meanwhile, Jaggan heated a wax stick over a candle flame. Shortly thereafter, Jaggan sealed the scroll and Lizet’s open book, which he closed, then returned once the wax was dry. As the scribe departed with the scroll under his arm, Lizet approached and kissed the Lord High Recyclers’ signet. She remained kneeling, head bowed until he had departed.
When Lizet and Virinia swept back into the room, Greythorn looked at his Ti’cher with a crooked smile, “That went well, Ti’cher.”

Lizet’s violet eyes sparkled with humour as she said, “Better than you might imagine. Come here, Greythorn.”
The old spy shuffled forward with a question in his eye. Sergeant Bufield laid the book down and opened the muslin wrapping. It was the Book of Marutchi, a record of all the clan’s business transactions, births, deaths, marriages and important events. He could smell the fresh ink, vellum and rich wax. Lizet opened it to the last written page, pointed, then stepped back a pace.

Leaning on his walking stick, Greythorn cocked his head to read. He expected to follow a record of Etol-Vos’s fealty. Instead, he read a modified version of the words normally spoken by the head of a clan to declare a newborn Scavenger child’s entitlements…

Clan Marutchi welcomes into its fold the child grown to manhood known as Greythorn, born sixty-one years ago in the ruins to an unknown mother.
I, Lizet, Ti’cher of Marutchi, grant to Greythorn his birthright and name him, his heirs and successors as Scavenger clansmen and women free to take up any of the pursuits of a Scavenger.

Henceforth, Greythorn, warrior of Marutchi and Co-Ber to Lord Rhyka & Ti’cher Lizet is clan Neckar.
Ti’cher of Marutchi
Lord High Recycler of Brizaria

As Greythorn read, he grunted loudly, as if he had been struck a blow. He almost fell onto the book, but caught himself on his walking stick with one hand and the edge of the table with the other. His breath expelled in a controlled hiss as he read the words again. When he looked around with one misty eye, Lizet, the Sergeant and Virinia were leaving him to his thoughts.

Did you do anything special after your first adventure?
Aye that I did, I saved the life of a lowly slave who held the key to controlling Etol-Vos, a neighbour and avowed enemy of my master. Actually, it was no key. Rather several scrolls containing certain nefarious deeds carried out by Etol and a certain greasy Banker who goes by the name of Luftor Dista. Etol is a notorious gambler and womanizer, who has a bad temper, mean disposition and a nasty streak that cuts clear through to his whelp of a son, Etrol-Vos.

Rha-Knor’s eyes widened. Her face turned purple with rage. So much so that Greythorn was convinced that she was going to burst a vein.

“Look upon that scroll as your ticket to greater things, Rha-Knor. Keep it hidden and use it to manipulate Todor into carrying out your wishes.” Greythorn chortled softly as he then said, “Don’t pretend that you’ve not wanted a lever to bend him to your will, you’ve never been able to with your body. Well now, you have the means. It’s like I said, he’ll never want the contents to be made public nor would Etol-Vos for that matter. Don’t let your obstinate pride be your death, Rha-Knor. Take the gold. Divide it among those men hidden in the warehouse. As a show of good faith, I offer you the heads of a woman and her husband. They died of the flux this morning as proof of your deed.” He shrugged and grinned. “We both know that one severed head looks much like another. With them, convince Etol-Vos that you have fulfilled his orders and beaten me at my own game. Collect your reward, then return to Todor in triumph.” Greythorn dangled a ceramic phial stoppered with a thick cork in front of her. “I give you my personal guarantee that the crew of this vessel will not return to Brizaria to report on this matter.” Greythorn tucked the phial away out of sight, then held out two more bulging sacks of gold. One in each hand, he dangled them before Rha-Knor, saying, “Come on, be a sport? There’s more money here than you could earn in a lifetime and more than your thugs could drink in two.”

What other characters have influenced you?
Well now, that’d be my master and his young bride, Lizet. Treated me with proper respect they have, and raised me up to a position that not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I could attain.

If you had the chance to meet another character, who would it be and why?
I want to meet that traitorous bitch, Rha-Knor and cut her heart out. Todor’s, too, if I can get my hands on him. The pair of them have caused this land grief far beyond the tears ten thousand mothers have wept for their lost sons. Here is an excerpt from Book II, it will give you an insight of what I think of Todor and Rha-Knor, and why.

“Pardon?” Rhyka asked, surprised at the response and tone.
“Todor Roth. Slimy, traitorous bastard, cares for nothing but gold. Heard I was dead, too, the miserable little toad. When I turned up at his warehouse looking like this, all burned like. He turned me out on m’ear. Me, who earned his father a fortune and nearly put him on the Brizarian throne. That bitch slave of his said she couldn’t stand the sight of me. Made her puke, I did. Sucked right up to the Brizarian Council of Lords, he did. Gave them some pathetic story about me running a rouge operation right under his nose.” Greythorn snorted derisively, “Rouge operation, my arse. Thank the gods the Scavengers weren’t that dumb. It was his donation of two hundred tonnes of hoarded grain and fodder to the Scavenger Council of Lords that saved his miserable life, not telling porkies about me. I should have been put back in my old digs and a Healer summoned to treat my wounds. But nah, Mr. Scavenger kiss arse had his caravan guards tossed me into a canal. Used me for target practise while he and that slave-bitch drank wine and made bets on whether the guards’d hit me or not. Piss poor shots, the lot them, too.”
Greythorn studied Rhyka with a vengeful look in his one remaining eye. “How did I come to be here, you were going to ask?” Greythorn grunted as he placed both hands on his cane. His one good eye glowered madly in the reddish light cast by the blurting lava pool. “I had no other place to turn, after Todor disowned me. Couldn’t go to the Neesiens, could I? Hate anyone not of their religion, they do. Wesslanders are cut from the same cloth, they would rather split me gizzard’n talk to a Ruins dweller. If I were to go back into the ruins, they would kill me on sight. No room for oddities like me there. And, there was no way I could go back to Brizaria after the war. Too many old enemies there wanted my head on a stick. The Trogs were my last option. I suppose you heard that I cut a deal with them?” Rhyka nodded.
Greythorn grinned humourlessly. “First human in four hundred years to parley with a Trog and live to tell the tale, I am. I learned their language, too, and that sneaky little bastard sneered at me for it.” Greythorn stared at the floor, mumbling incomprehensibly.
Rhyka noticed that he had dropped all pretence at playing the yokel from the ruins and spoke Standard lucidly and fluently. At that moment, Urgul Dark Storm entered the chamber. He glanced at Greythorn, then pointed the way out with his sceptre. Rhyka watched him settle his bulk on a stone bench as Greythorn shuffled off. For what seemed an interminable period, Urgul just watched him, then he reached into a lap pouch and produced Rhyka’s binoculars. The dual viewing lenses seemed tiny in the Trog’s huge paw.

Do you think you are a superior being?
Not particularly, but I’m adept at staying alive in this land of thieving, corrupt priests and their filthy Activist dogs and that must count for something, surely?

What do you hold the strongest opinions on?
That’s easy to answer, ridding the empire of artefacts left over by the ancients. Useless, most of them are, unless those corrupt priests, the ones who call themselves Viro’s and their blood-eyed Activist foot-soldiers figure how to get one working. Then look out, it’ll be the Disaster Wars all over again. Those two wastes of space, Scovar Borkazee and Todor Roth, nearly killed us all with artefacts when they executed their coup. Got away by the skin of the teeth, most of us did and by all the gods in paradise, they’ll pay for that blasphemy with their lives.

What are the pros and cons to being a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
On the positive side, I can instruct any clan member to carry out any task and they’ll do it willing. I may perpetrate an act that on the face of it will appear traitorous and not be questioned by any other then my master.

How does one become a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
Under normal circumstances, one is born into a Scavenger clan and after serving an appropriate time as a soldier, an examination takes place and if one has a talent for assassination and spying, one is taken into the service of the Neckar. A new, blood oath is sworn in a secret ceremony to the lord of the Protectorate at which time, the initiate is given his first assignment. Then, after many years, if one survives numerous assassinations, state murders, kidnappings, bribing twitching Councillors and the lord is confident in the Scavenger’s skills, he’ll be offered the post. It is rare, extremely rare that anyone outside a clan is raised to such a loft position.

Describe your best kill. Why was it the best?
That’d be that fat, wine-soaked, thief, Chaka-Durg. Miserable sod had the temerity to call himself a magistrate. Ha! Bought it he did from a corrupt Councillor for an apartment in the eastern quarter. Many a Brizarian from the poor northern quarter counted himself a lucky man the day I slit Chaka’s fat throat. Made it look like a half-botched amateur job, too, just to put Rha-Knor off the scent. But I left enough clues laying about so’s she’d recognise it was me. Read what she said when she found out.

“You’re mad, you burnt, blind old-goat. Pouring coin on the ground like that—what do you hope to prove by an act of stupidity?”
Still holding the now empty coin bag upside down, Greythorn shook it and said, “Rha-Knor, you didn’t come here alone to hand the slave woman over. No, this is personal. You came here to watch our throats being slit because it pleases you. And you haven’t the strength to do that. So, I’d guess that you travelled here with at least ten toughs. Probably the same one’s you used to guard Chaka Durg’s place while you searched it for the scrolls. But Chaka was more cunning than you thought.”
“You ought to know! You murdered him to make it look like an amateur had done the job. I’d know your handiwork anywhere, Greythorn. You’re a master at the art of deception, but I’m on to you.”

What kind of abilities do you get when you become a Neckar-Master Spy and Chief Assassin?
That’d be the ability to predict the future if a certain someone does or doesn’t die at a given time, or another certain dumb someone doesn’t take a bribe when they’re offered it. Knowing when to strike, who to target and how to manipulate the after effects, now that takes wisdom and skill. Not something you’d learn on a campaign trail, that’s for certain. Oh, and knowing how to tactfully dissuade lords’n ladies from blundering into certain things that ought better to be best left alone, if you know what I mean?

Lizet sat down, asking, “What do you know of this?”
“Ti’cher, all your men talk about is the wellbeing of their Protectorate and rightfully so. It would not have been long before some entered a tavern and a conversation struck up with the locals. The Marutchi tabard has not been seen in Brizaria for some time, folks are eager for gossip and ale or two loosens the tongue. Etol-Vos’s accomplices would hear of your arrival and the rest would be history. Just from going from campfire to campfire, this is what I have learnt. I know that you plan to enter the city tomorrow at dawn to remonstrate with Etol-Vos. After which, you will parade his son before the Lord High Recycler and make an accusation of dishonour, one that could easily fall to Battle Challenge. Simultaneously, you will dispatch Sergeant Bufield to seek out and expose a certain banker, one Luftor Dista, as a liar and a thief. And this is what will happen to you. By mid-morning, Sergeant Bufield would have been told that your money was squandered on risky speculative ventures at lord Rhyka’s insistence. Forged documents will be produced to substantiate that claim, making the matter one for the Law Interpreters to decide before a Council of Lords. A lengthy and expensive process designed to bleed more money from the clan treasury. Etrol-Vos would have been set free following hefty bribes and you would be ambushed when your party left Brizaria, empty handed.”
“You have a plan, Greythorn?” Lizet asked anxiously.

1 comment:

  1. The series sounds great! I can't wait to start reading them! Good luck!