Kian Shepherd's Life and Times

    Mark Stinson

    Kian Shepherd was trying his best to make a new life in Garmon...Bassot...or whatever it was these days.  He was a farmboy from Swanluke, who left home at 15 to escape his father's lashings.  He stowed away on a small merchant ship traveling from the port of Wickderry to the Free City of Garmon.  He was discovered partway through the journey, and put to work by the crew on all their least favorite labors.  He overheard the crew conspiring to keep him on the ship as a permanent crewman.  When their ship first touched the docks of Garmon, Kian leapt from the deck to dock, and didn't stop running until he was sure they could never find him.

    Life in Garmon had been hard for Kian, but at least he had escaped the beatings of his father.  He spent a year attempting to join a guild or find legitimate work, but he had no family.  No one to recommend him.  And his only real skills were in subsistance farming.  So, Kian fed himself through petty thievery for the year before Bassot appeared out of nowhere on the highlands next to Garmon.  At first, Kian profited from the chaos that ensued.  One could earn a fair living rifling the pockets of those that died at the hands of the city guard.  And people fleeing the city, presented opportunities for burglary and looting that were unparalleled.

    But, then things became orderly.  The Two Crowns put an end to the strife and chaos.  Agreements were made.  Weapons laid down.  And there was peace.  This nearly killed Kian.  No longer were there dead bodies and empty buildings to loot.  City guards were organized and unified between Garmon and Bassot.  Petty criminals like Kian suffered.  His ribs were showing, his cheeks were sunken in, and he was living on discarded moldy food and the meager scraps thrown to a begger boy in the gutter.

    Kian Shepherd

    Then Kian met Mueller Bosch.  Tall, with a pear-shaped body, and a face that probably made his own mother wince, Mueller was the first to offer Kian real hope.  He paid for a bath for Kian, his first in a year!  New clothes that didn't stink of mold and shit.  And a meal...a meal unlike any meal Kian had ever eaten.  Three different meats, pork, chicken, and beef roasted to succulant perfection.  Large healthy vegatables cooked in fresh butter.  Soft bread with a delicious crunchy crust.  And sweets...Kian had never eaten sweets before.  But, after that meal, Kian knew that there was nothing he would not do in order to keep in Mueller Bosch's good graces.

    And the strange man was simply asking Kian to take a little risk.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  There was a product called Voldare.  Some called it Grave Dust or Black Bravery.  Mixed with a little honeyed wine, this brown powder made the drinker feel like their best self.  Confident, euphoric, and brave.  One's judgement was affected only so much as utter bravery and over-confidence might change one's decision-making.  But, the user remained relatively clear-headed.  But, such was the lure of the confidence that Voldare brought to the user, that addiction was fairly quick and certain.

    Mueller Bosch knew how to make this wonderful product, but he needed young men to sell it for him.  He was not a member of the Society of Sovereign Apothocaries, so he could not risk being caught selling the drug.  But, if a gang of clever young men, with subtle judgement and careful habits were to sell it for him, everyone would benefit.  Kian would be able to afford warm bathes, clean clothes, a place to stay, good food, and sweets.  He might even be able to impress a girl, and build a real life in Garmon.  All it took was a risk.  Defy the Sovereign.  Sell the Voldare for a time.  Save up some money.  And live his life.

    And that brings us to what would be the most important night of young Kian's life.  He was standing on a busy corner in the fabric district, down by the docks.  It was his regular spot.  His customers knew to find him there...or more importantly, where to find their Voldare.  Kian had been selling for several months now.  He had put together a crew of youths similar to himself.  Desperate, but smart.  And he had put them to work for Mueller Bosch.  Ten boys in all.  

    Kian made a handoff to a fairly infamous gladiator from the pits.  He was one of Kian's most prolific customers, and his career had benefitted greatly from Black Bravery.  Kian was worried though.  A few of his crew had gone missing recently.  Two weeks ago, Marken didn't show up for his supply.  A few days later, Thed had failed to show up.  And just a few days ago, Farling had gone missing.  There was no sign of Marken, Thed, and Farling, and no amount of searching had turned up any leads.  They were there...and then they were gone.  And no one was the wiser.

    Kian put aside his worries to make an exchange with an important banker.  He was a nervous man, with a weak constitution.  Kian could only imagine the boldness that Voldare brought him in his business dealings.

    Kian felt a hand grip his shoulder, and a body pressed up against his back.  He started to pull away, but then felt the knife edge at his throat.  A voice whispered in his ear.  "Selling Voldare right out in the open, eh?"

    Kian looked at the people hurrying on their way, past him and around him, as he stood on the street corner with a knife at his throat.  Surely one of them would see his situation, and help him.  At the very least someone would alert one of the city guards.  Kian decided to stall for time.  Perhaps a guard would come.  Or one of his crew.  Or Mueller Bosch.  "I'm not selling Voldare!  Only the Sovereign are allowed to sell drugs in Garmon.  I'd be crazy to..."

    The knife slid across his throat, cutting deeply.  He felt the warmth of his blood soaking his shirt.  The voice whispered, "The Sovereign condemn you."  It was the last words Kian ever heard.  Everything went dark.

    This was the most important night in Kian Shepherds's short life.  The night he died.