The Final Name: a story in three parts
Dryden: A spoiled prince that has done his best to shirk any responsibility finds himself learning about a genocidal plot formed by his own family. He can either stand against his own kin or disappear into obscurity.
Astanava: A snow elf raised in the shadow of human dominance and forced into an occupation of lust witnesses a tragedy that awakens an ancient magic within her. Now she must learn about her new power if she is going to use it to herald a reckoning for all her kind.
Fane: An orc that managed to escape the orc prison, also known as the city of Angkor-Toll, to settle into a new peaceful life. However, his destiny has caught up with him and a promise of violence is forcing him to confront his terrible past and assume the mantle of leader to a long awaited rebellion.
These three characters find destiny pulling them together but will it also drive them apart? The fate of the kingdom hangs in the balance!
Inferno Dawn, Chapter One
It was a beautiful night, just like every other. The sky was perfectly clear and sparkling with a thousand stars, but the ground was damp. A light early fall rain had washed through the town. Just enough to dampen the ground and move on. The air was clear and cool and held the calm quiet of the small town of Osh. Fane took a deep breath and filled his lungs with the crisp night air.
The road stretched out in front of the sheriff’s office, lined with shops and inns. A few windows glowed dimly with candlelight, and a couple others shined with a soft, electric radiance. It was mainly the inns that had electric light. Most tourists demanded it nowadays. The windows above the shops were where many locals lived, and they still preferred candles. The lanterns along the street were still lit by candles as well. The quaintness drew many to this town, but of course it wasn’t the main reason.
Fane sauntered down the wet street. He had a wide gait and strong build, which wasn’t unusual for an orc, but he only had one tusk. His right tusk had been broken nearly twenty years ago. Now all that was left was a jagged stump. The right side of his face felt naked for months after it was broken, an odd feeling for a face, but now that missing tooth was a reminder of where he came from and where he hoped to never return: Angkor-Toll, the city of orcs.
Nearly six and a half feet and well over 200 pounds, he walked softly. He scanned the empty street as he strolled. It was a few hours after supper. Usually shops closed just after sunset and visitors returned to their inns. The entire town had one tavern, It’s Destiny, and it was connected to an inn, but even that closed before midnight. It was a peaceful town. In the eight years Fane had been sheriff, he could count on his fingers and toes the number of times he’d had to use the cell in his office. And most of those were simple overnight stays by rowdy drunks. He hadn’t seen a murder in more than ten years. In Angkor-Toll there was death every week, and a good deal of that death was of his own doing. But that was in the past. A distant past now, and one Fane rarely thought about.
A soft breeze touched his face, and a woman’s giggle slipped from an inn window. The curtains were drawn and glowing yellow, but the shutters were open. There was another giggle as Fane passed. He adjusted the chest strap holding the axe at his back. It was an ancient battle axe more than 500 years old and one of the few enchanted weapons still in the kingdom, which made it illegal. If royal authorities found out it existed, it would be confiscated, and Fane would probably be thrown in prison, or worse, taken back to Angkor-Toll. Of course, as an orc he wasn’t supposed to be outside of Angkor-Toll anyway, but the people here didn’t seem to care. In fact, Osh was unique in that way. In a town of about 200 families, most were human, but there were elves, a handful of orcs, and even a couple of goblins that owned a woodshop at the end of Main Street. Fane could see it now. The lights were off. They were always asleep early and awake early.
Again he adjusted his strap. The axe had a tendency of sliding low on his back, making the handle difficult to grab. It was an old sheath, and in truth Fane had no idea why he still wore it every day. He had used it only a half a dozen times in this last decade: five times to cut wood, and once to kill a wolf that had gone rabid and was attacking people near the temple. That was was by far the most exciting day he’d had in this town. The tavern even threw him a party that lasted until half past midnight. It was a wild day indeed.
Main Street came to an end at the forest’s edge. To the left was the goblins’ woodshop and to the right a road to the airport, but just in front of him a small path continued forward. The ancient path wound into the trees and away from the town, leading to the reason why so many visitors came here every year. At least once a week, Fane liked to walk the path and check on the guardians. Two centuries ago these guardians would have been fierce warriors with enchanted daggers that only the bravest foe would dare challenge. But today there were only three, and none of them were younger than seventy.
Fane looked back down the street. One last glance to make sure everything was peaceful. A few more windows had gone dark, but his own office shone brightly at the opposite end.
The path to the ancient temple was well kept. It ascended subtly, weaving through ferns and tall, thin pines. A few places had crude stone steps of vastly different heights. It was dark, but orcs had better night vision than humans and the moon was nearly full, so the trail was easy enough to see, and of course, Fane had made this journey a thousand times. He could probably do it blindfolded.
In the pale light of the moon, the temple came into view. Issik Kul was nearly a thousand years old and solid gray stone. Once there had been intricate carvings all along the walls and pillars, but centuries of rain and wind dulled the details and rounded the sharp edges. The ferns and pines that were kept at bay along the path grew freely throughout the temple. At the front of the main temple structure, a powerful pine broke through a heavy stone wall and towered into the sky. The relentless patience of nature was slowly reclaiming the stone.
Fane always found something comforting about the temple. Maybe because it was a human structure crumbling beneath the force of nature. So much of humanity dominated nature now; it was good to see nature winning this small battle.
Straight ahead was the Temple of the Book. It was a small structure made of the same stone as the rest of the temple, but unlike the main building, it remained well kept. The shrubbery had been cleared away and candlelight flickered in the doorway.
Inside sat a curious item and the main reason why so many people traveled to Osh every year. It was an old relic created by an ancient order that could bend time and glimpse the future, but they lost their power centuries ago. Drunk on money, their greed consumed them. They sold their visions to the highest bidder, unaware that once the future was known and acted upon, it was no longer the future.
King Alexander paid for a future that he took for granted and lost a kingdom because of it. In the fury that followed, he killed every farseer in the temple and burned all the books except one: the final work of the high master and a rather trivial compendium of names. Nonetheless, it demonstrated the power that once resided in the temple walls. The book, now known simply as the Book of Destiny, was a running list, thousands of pages long, of the given and family names of every person that would ever see the book, in chronological order. Any person that came to see the Book of Destiny found their name listed after the name of the last person to see it and before the name of the next person to look upon it. Fane remembered clearly the day he saw the book for the first time, sitting open in the middle of the circular room on a stone podium as old as the temple itself, and his name, Fane Ganbaatar, written neatly between two others. For him, it confirmed that he was where he was supposed to be.
“Good evening, Sheriff,” the guardian said as Fane stepped into the small temple room. The old man stood up slowly, using the podium to steady himself. His face was wrinkled, with bushy gray eyebrows and a thin beard. He wore the same white robes the ancient guardians of the farseers used to wear—a society long since abandoned except for a few old men that made it their duty to continue the tradition and protect the Book of Destiny. In other words, it gave a few old men purpose, and Fane didn’t see any harm in that.
“Good evening, Guardian,” Fane replied and reached out to help the old man up. He had told him a hundred times that he didn’t need to stand every time Fane entered, but the guardian did it regardless. “How are you feeling tonight?”
“Fine,” the man answered, pushing himself to stand as erect as possible. “And it’s a fine night out.”
Fane smiled lightly. “It is. But the rain has left a bit of a chill in the air. Would you like a cup of hot tea?” His voice rolled like thunder in the small stone room.
“Thank you, but no. The chill keeps me awake.”
Fane nodded and dropped his eyes to the book, letting out a heavy breath as he stared at it. Thousands of pages of names, and they were reaching the last one. “How many pages left?”
“Less than two.”
“What will happen when the last name has been seen?” Fane asked. The question had been on his mind for months.
The guardian looked down at the book. “I don’t know,” he finally murmured, then looked up at Fane. “But my time here will be through, and we guardians will retire our position.”
“I will be sorry to see you go,” Fane said, nodding.
“Oh, we’ll still be around,” the old man added, just a bit ornery. “Three grumpy old men without a purpose drinking in the tavern and causing a ruckus!”
Fane’s laugh rumbled in the hallowed stone dome. “Well, I’ll make sure I put a third bed in the jail cell just in case.”
“Ha!” the guardian scoffed. “Make sure you do. But until then, my duty is here.”
“Good to hear, Guardian,” Fane acknowledged and gave a slight bow. “Have a good night.”
“You as well, Sheriff.”
Fane left the small temple and couldn’t help but look back. What will it mean for the town when the names end? he thought. What will it mean for the kingdom?