Authors: A.L. Issett
The Mage Breaker
Tanner finished his morning workout then took a seat on the ground and let the cool breeze play over his skin. In a little while he was to go into town to sell the hides that were just about done and hanging in the small tannery near his house. Tanner had grown up with his uncle, who had taught him everything he knew about sword play and his chosen profession, tanning hides. Tanner had never met his mother and father, his uncle was in fact not a family member but a soldier in the Ket army, pressed into service to fight the failed war against the Tavorian army. The wizards of the Tavorian army proved to be too strong and inevitably they won. On the way back to Kol, the village where his uncle’s house and business was, he stumbled upon a dead man and woman who had a crying child trying to wake them. He took the boy who he named Tanner and anything the couple had of value which amounted to plate armor, a sword and shield and continued traveling home. Unfortunately last year shortly after Tanner’s 15
summer his uncle had fell ill and he had died leaving Tanner alone.
Fortunately for Tanner he was well past the age of apprentice and was a quick study. Tanner really excelled at his craft of tanning hides and all that entails. Tanner was a master hunter and trapper, during the last year before his uncle died Tanner was doing the majority of the work anyway. The animals he slaughtered would provide hides he could either sell or make into clothing and their meat he often sold or gave away to the less fortunate in the small village of Kol where he lived on the outskirts. He had already made enough money during the winter and spring that he didn’t have to work at all for the rest of the year if he didn’t want to. He had smoked enough meat that it was unlikely he would hungry either. The people his own age looked past all of that though; the only thing they noticed was his smell.
Tanning hides was a nasty business with all the rendering animal fats and the smell of death normally associated with butchering the animals. Tanner often had wolves and other such predators, who he had an uneasy alliance with prowling around his home hoping to get the entrails of whatever was on the menu. The animals did not mind the odor of death, they did hate the odor of the chemicals he used to treat the hides, it smelled retched although thanks to his long proximity with the chemicals Tanner was virtually immune. He knew others weren’t though, he was often teased by the other boys in the village somewhat and he knew the village girls were not fond of it either. They were the main reason the last time Tanner had visited town he bought some special soap off of the merchants that often traveled through on their way to larger towns. Tanner would go wash up in the stream with this soap and take out the nice clothes he had stashed quite a ways away from his smelly home in a water proof leather sack filled with wild flowers. He would smell good this day and probably stay the night with his friend Golden.
Golden was one of the more popular people in the town, second only to Todd Greenley, the only son of Baronet Greenley. Whereas Todd Greenley was known for having magical talent and being wealthy, at least compared to everyone else in town he was a short, fat boy with greasy black hair and beady eyes. To Tanner it was obvious the only reason girls went for such a person was because he was someone destined to be powerful and could provide a life of luxury, if they could get past his womanizing ways. Todd Greenley was known to visit brothels in the large town of Daum, two days walk or one days ride to the south of Kol. In addition to that he had slept with any girl foolish enough to believe he wanted them for a wife, as such there were quite a few girls in Kol whose prospect for a husband dwindled significantly since they were no longer pure and it was unlikely Greenley would marry a peasant. Golden Diamondson couldn’t be more different from Todd, it was because of this many in the small village had often tried to persuade their daughters to catch his eye.
Golden was 17 summers, a year older than Todd and built like an ox. He had piercing blue eyes and hair like his mother, so pale blond it bordered on being gray. His jaw was strong and square, his shoulders looked harder than the anvil he often worked on. Tanner was not a small man at 6 feet and 14 stone but Golden was a giant. He was a head taller than Tanner and shoulders twice as broad which tapered considerably to his small waist. He also had big muscular thighs which drove all the girls and some women wild, and that was just his looks.
Golden was far from a skirt chaser and as far as Tanner knew he remained a virgin, saving himself for a special lady. He had gently rebuked most of the girls in Kol and often avoided them to avoid any hard feelings. This only incensed them to try harder and they often visited under the guise of seeing his younger sister Mary, his entire family included Mary knew it was all an act of course and made a game of hiding Golden whenever they came by. Golden was a catch because of his looks and also because he was his father’s only son and stood to inherit the small smithy his father had made. While Golden wasn’t a master yet he often did most of the work, since his father had always had back problems since the war. Golden was also an accomplished blade, he learned from Tanner’s uncle also and was the best in the village, at least he was last year before his gift was found.
Golden was discovered to have the gift of magic and had stopped training with the sword but was instead given lessons on how to harness something called mana that all wizards had. He was forced to read thick books and practice by order of the Baronet. It was with this mana that wizards supposedly could light fire, cause a stiff wind or even lift objects with their minds. Golden had told him he was almost as good as the only other magic user Tanner knew, Todd Greenley but secretly Tanner doubted it.
Tanner had heard about magic but had never seen it done before, whenever he was around Golden could never reproduce all of the things he said he could do. Tanner didn’t mind though, he was going to see Golden after he was washed and dressed and both of them would ride out to Daum the next morning in time for the winter festival and also to see Golden off to wizard school. Everyone possessing the gift had to go and be ready to fight in King Tazor’s wars at a moment’s notice. Tazor was the brother of the emperor of Tavor and had assumed the throne after executing the royal family. Before Tazor there were no schools of wizardry, everyone with the gift normally learned from a master wizard, similar to other trades. The Tavorians on the other hand centralized their knowledge and because of this their wizards rolled over the wizards of Ket. Before he learned he was gifted however Tanner knew Golden secretly wanted to be a soldier, something else impossible before Tazor.
Rank in the royal army had to be bought, at least starting out it had to. Nobles enjoyed access to higher ranks and the rest of the army consisted of peasants pressed into service whenever the time for war came. The Tavorian army on the other hand had no such provisions; rank was given based on merits and achievements, nothing else. Peasants could join their army and achieve fame and riches, it was because of this their army was well trained and filled with skilled men. Like their wizard schools to join the army all men had to undergo training and only after they passed were they considered a soldier. Golden had wanted to undertake the training and see what the rest of Kol had to offer. Tanner was sure Golden would breeze through whatever training they had and would gain considerable prestige, not only was he incredibly strong thanks to his time banging a hammer in a smithy he was also fast, even faster than Tanner the last time they raced. But that dream was over with for Golden now, he was to be a wizard for two years before he could return and wizards could not join the army as regular fighting men.
Tanner finished washing up and put on the clothes he had tied up and hidden in a tree, Tanner smelled himself and could smell the faint aroma of flowers. Tanner tied the sword to his belt and went on his way to town. The walk wasn’t very long, maybe 30 minutes before tanner could see the first of the houses on the edges of town. Tanner continued his trek waving to the various people on his way to the smithy were he ran into Golden’s sister Mary along with her friend Gwendolyn.
Mary was a somewhat tall and brawny girl; her size alone meant she had to be to be related to Golden. She looked more like his father though, she had his brown eyes and hair and proud chin. Although she was sixteen like Tanner she also had the biggest breasts he had ever seen, they were as round as two ripe melons and she did nothing to prevent people from staring as she often wore blouses as low cut as her father would allow. She didn’t have anything to fear from men however, none wanted to cross Golden or his father Diamond for that matter but that never stopped anyone from gawking. Despite her assets none had really asked after her, probably because of her build, the only person he had known that was somewhat interested was Todd Greenley who she promptly turned down. Gwendolyn on the other hand couldn’t be more different.
Gwendolyn Banks was the daughter of peasants who worked on the lands of Baronet Greenley. She was a promiscuous girl, it was rumored she lost her virginity by the younger Greenley and had even bedded a few of the other boys in town. She was a plain looking girl however with drab brown hair and a unremarkable build. She often wore dresses which showed off her cleavage and often didn’t have a nice word to say about anyone. Once her father had tried to make a match between her and Tanner but she refused because she couldn’t stand the smell. Tanner didn’t mind, he couldn’t imagine being married to such a person. He was by no means beautiful but he knew his looks were at least average, add in the fact that he always had meat available, something most in the village could either not afford daily or capture and he knew he would not just settle for any woman.
“Hi Tanner” Mary said as Tanner noticed her face blushed slightly. This is exactly what Tanner wanted, he bought these clothes specifically to be noticed and it seemed to be working. Even Gwendolyn didn’t seem repulsed which meant he didn’t have the smell of the Tannery on him.
“Hi Mary, I was just on my way to see the blessed one” Tanner replied, a named he often called Golden which pissed the blacksmith off considerably, but what are friends for.
“You don’t seem smelly today” Gwendolyn said in what Tanner thought passed as a complement for her.
“I should hope not, I plan on getting the blessed one drunk and into a bit of trouble tonight and all of next week in Daum before he starts school. I can’t show up with a guy who looks like him while I look like some kind of bum”.
“Golden chases skirts?” Gwendolyn replied somewhat puzzled but intrigued.
“He’s putting you on Gwen” Mary replied. “Neither him or Golden has ever seen a woman naked, let alone do anything else. If they had I am sure my brother couldn’t keep it a secret”.
“Well if Golden is going to fuck anyone it should be me” Gwen stated firmly. “Your brother is one man I wouldn’t mind crossing off my bucket list”.
“Well if your finished being a whore I have a buddy to meet” Tanner replied. “Mary you look nice today, don’t let hanging with Gwen cause you to settle for the types she hangs with”.
“You still cross I didn’t want nothing to do with a smelly tanner” Gwen said with her hands on her hips. “I’d rather stay poor than live in a smelly house with an ugly smelly man”.
“You wound me” Tanner said facetiously as he held his hands to his heart. “Without your love I shall be forced to live happily ever after”.
“Fuck you, you are not even half the man the Baronet’s son is” Gwen replied.
“Aww Gwen, are you mad I insulted you first?” Tanner said laughing. “I hope you and the Baronet’s son live happily if you can land him. Wait, you are not a noble, well there is always the other boys in town. You can earn your living like you do now, working the Baronet’s fields while whomever I marry is going to be forced to live in a smelly house eating meat every day being absolutely bored do nothing but keeping house, raising children and buying nice things”.
“Stop it you two!” Mary said sharply. “Tanner this isn’t like you, what’s going on?”
“Nothing at all, this was the first time I decided your friend needed putting in her place, often I am polite and she never has a nice word to say, now she knows what I go through every time I am forced into her company” Tanner said as he spat on the ground.
“No one asked your smelly ass to be in my company” Gwen retorted.
“And I wouldn’t be in your company if it weren’t for Mary, so don’t flatter yourself” Tanner replied.
“She doesn’t want a smelly tanner either” Gwen said as she folded her arms.
Tanner just eyed Gwen for a few moments and could see the embarrassment on Mary’s face. Tanner had fantasized about the girl but deemed her untouchable, not because she was better than him, but because she was his best friend’s sister. Tanner turned to Mary and gave her a small bow before continuing to Golden’s house.
Kol did not have paved streets, fortunately the summer made the ground hard instead of muddy which kept his boots clean. The buildings were primarily made of wood except for Golden’s house which was made of stone since he had the smithy attached to it. Golden walked up to the smithy where he could see Golden already outside along with Todd Greenley and two other boys Tanner knew as his Todd’s cousins. Tanner knew Todd despised Golden, probably jealous Golden was the center of attention where ever he went. Golden had avoided Todd even during the basic, who was a year older than Golden himself and who always seemed to pick a fight. No one was stupid enough to actually fight him since they wanted no part of the Baronet and eventually Todd himself would have the title. When Golden was found to be gifted though, he was always on Todd’s radar. Tanner took a deep breath and interrupted whatever Todd was saying.