The Dragon’s Den. It was a small tavern deep in the Arkhosian slums that not many knew about, and that didn’t care about attracting newcomers. From the outside it was unimpressive lot accented by smoke damaged windows and a sign that only read in Draconic. Though the thick scent of sulfur always hung in the air in Arkhosia it smelled particularly putrid around this establishment as the noxious fumes blended with the odor of cheap liquor to form a truly heinous stench. The company seen hanging around the bar were no more inviting either as shifty dealers and vagabonds passed by looking for any unfortunate mark to catch their eye. It was this low down den that Canna found herself drawn to having decided that she should dive head first into the belly of the Arkhosian beast. The meager coin she entered the city with was almost at an end, and before long she’d be sleeping on the streets though the prospect of that outcome only served to excite the wild eyed idealist. She wanted things to be challenging so there would she could claim no regrets after crossing over the wall, but now was the time for one last luxury.
Canna boldly stepped into the tavern without any reservations as to whether she belonged there or not. A few patrons turned their attention the fiery haired new comer and a few snickered about the young human girl who must have gotten herself lost, but Canna paid those detractors no mind. She marched straight up to the counter where a hunched topaz-skinned dragonborn was pouring a drink from a half-empty bottle of “Dwarven Gut Crusher”. As the attractive young woman approached the bar the tender scoffed and grumbled under his breath. “We don’t serve any wine here, Miss.” The tender gave this strange new customer an intimidating glare in an attempt to scare her early, but Canna paid his attitude little mind once she reached the counter.
“Give me a glass of Stonecrag Whiskey, no rocks, and don’t make it a bitch.” Her order was concise if not revealing as the bartender flashed a jagged, toothy grin at her before shaking his head and attending to the drink. After a few moments he returned with a small glass of whiskey finely crafted to specifications, although the glassware left a lot to be desired in cleanliness. It didn’t matter much to Canna though as she slapped what remained of her funds on the table and took a swig of her brew. The Stonecrag Whiskey was a drink with a vicious punch that could level any unsuspecting drinker if they aren’t prepared. Even long time enjoyers like Canna still had their lips quiver just briefly when the proof hit their tongues, but it was only for a moment before the intensity leveled and the whiskey’s spicy blend left its impressions. It was a unique drink to enjoy, and probably one Canna never would have discovered were it not for it being forced upon her by old drunkards she paid for the simplest lessons of the sword. It was an oddly nostalgic drink for her as it pulled her back into those desperate memories of nights spend begging former mercenaries to show her how to lunge. In the moment those evening were miserable as she had to spend hours endearing herself to weak willed losers who’ve lost their way in the world, but she drew a strange comfort from being in a bar surrounded by strangers and knowing that in this room there were just as many people who probably felt as alone as she felt.
Beside her Canna sat an orc—the first she had ever seen. He was a tall, muscular fellow with a dim gray skin tone and thick black brows. His arms were knotted trunks restrained barely by leather bracers wrapped around his wrists and his broad chest clung tightly to the thin green vest he wore. His bulky digits were wrapped tightly around a mug of ale and from the vacant expression in his narrow eyes you could see he was already deep into his evening. Periodically he’d grumble something under his breath but he seemed to be relatively stable. However after a couple minutes passed his attention seemed drawn to a particular smell. His head tilted into the air and he began to sniff his surroundings through the narrow slits in his flat nose. He grunted with each passing second and the putrid fumes grew stronger until his focus turned to Canna. He paused on her, inhaling and grunting a few time before speaking in his inebriated bass.
“Human…” He let his voice--drenched in contempt--trail off for a moment. “Human, you reek. All humans smell like garbage. You stink of weakness.” He muttered, his breath filled with the distinct odor of dragonborn ale. Canna returned the glare back towards the mighty orc as her right hand started to clench.
“Yeah? Well you smell like a mixture of caked urine, cheap liquor, and failure but you don’t see me judging you.” A few patrons found themselves quieted as the situation started to escalate. No one expected a human to come to this bar, much less engage in a fight with one of the biggest men in the room. For these regulars it had been too long since they watched a dimwitted newcomer get bounced out on their ass, and there were looking forward to seeing it happen again. One lanky Dragonborn even encouraged the encounter shouting “Don’t take that from her, Gallius!”
The orc, Gallius, huffed as he processed the response. He had enough sense to stay true to his sense of honor otherwise this mouthy rookie would have already taken a stiff punch to the jaw, but gender aside he would not allow himself to be insulted so freely. “Watch your tongue, human, or I’ll rip it out and you’ll have to crying back to your mother’s teat mumbling like the dumb.” Even with his eyes glassed over Canna could still pick up on the orc’s hostility, but she hadn’t traveled all the way to Arkhosia just to be sent home by some lummox who can’t handle his high. The lithe bruiser placed her whiskey down on the table and rose from her chair. She clenched her right hand into a fist and puckered her lips without losing eye contact with the brute. She was going to make it very clear that if he wanted a fight, he would get one.
Gallius, however, didn’t desire beating up a woman even if she was too lippy for her own good. “I don’t fight little girls” he said, turning his attention back to his drink. Canna had heard that argument before, but she never let her gender get in the way of a good fight even if her common sense told her to avoid the encounter for her own sake. She gritted her teeth before stomping up behind him. The tavern fell on deaf ears as Canna reached out and grabbed the back of Gallius’ vest before pulling it down. Her strength was enough to tip the bullish orc off his balance and he fell backwards to the floor crushing his chair beneath him, and spilling his drink on top of him. Gallius grunted in pain as she slowly staggered to his feet, but soon that anger was placed by rage and it quickly didn’t matter was sex his opponent was—he was going to teach her a very painful lesson.
A few tables away from this incident sat an enormous dragonborn with cobalt scales. He was a giant even among his peers standing an inch over seven feet, though he was most unique among the other customers by his stunning silver scale mail. It wasn’t so pristine that it shimmered in protest under the dim tavern lights, but it was impressive enough to be apparent among a sea of tattered cloth stained in the previous evening’s endeavors. He eyed the fight closely with an odd curiosity while his compatriots surrounding him egged on the fight just like everyone else. Cheers starting erupting from all sides of the Dragon’s Den as the bartender quickly snatched all of the glassware from his counter before the melee ensued.
Garrius may be one of the more intimidating figures in the bar, but it was clear from his sloppy footwork and poor form that his long night of drinking was affecting him. Canna, a spry, nimble target, effortlessly dodged his blows before waiting for the ideal moment to strike. When the orc’s guard was broken just slightly Canna did not hesitate to deliver a punch right to his sternum. Unfortunately, her punch did nothing to pierce the thick wall of flesh that was Garrius’ chest. The enraged, drunken brute tried to take this opportunity to grapple the frail fighter and effectively end this contest but Canna had just enough wherewithal to roll backwards and avoid the grab. The mental damage, however was already done as Canna started to contemplate how she could possibly take down an opponent who outsized and outmuscled her in just about every way. Beads of sweat formed on her brow as she narrowed her plan of attack to the three vulnerable areas she knew of: the head, the groin, and the kidneys. She ran through multiple scenarios of how to get behind the bulky bully, but she remained still for too long.
Garrius threw a clumsy right hook that Canna was slow in avoiding. Though his fist didn’t connect with anything but hair it did leave the violent vixen in his range meaning she had to take a risk. Rather than chance rolling away from another grapple Canna decided to press further in. She knew if she could slip passed his guard she could give a few strong body shots to the orc’s kidneys, but as she stepped in to attempt this maneuver she walked right into Garrius’ clothesline. His beefy, shielded forearm connected right into Canna’s neck; the force of which lifted her from the ground and caused her to flip in the air before landing painfully face down on the grimy tavern floor. Garrius smirked as his pathetic opponent tried to scramble back to her feet, but the orc placed one large foot on his foe’s back. With the nimble combatant pinned, Garrius took a moment to gloat and revel in his victory before posing to his fellow regulars.
The blue skinned dragonborn shook his head in shame before standing up and confronting the jubilant drunk. With an effortless shove he forced Garrius back, freeing the human. “It’s over Garrius. Go back to drinking your piss.” The dragonborn knelt down and lifted the young woman up to her knees with legitimate concern lacing his low roaring voice. “You alright, child? Can you feel your legs?
Canna couldn’t speak well through her heavy heaves, but she made her attitude very clear. “I didn’t… didn’t ask… for you to… for you to stop this match.” The wandering beauty’s lip was severely cut from the impact with the floor and her eyes spun around the room still trying to synchronize what they were seeing. The dragonborn grabbed Canna by her shoulders and held her still, forcing her focus on him.
“Don’t be stupid, child. He may be piss drunk right now, but Garrius will still put you back on the ground. You aren’t going to beat him. Just be on your way and cut your losses.”
“Hell no.” Canna said, pushing herself out of the dragonborn’s grasp and standing up under her own willpower. Though she had returned to her feet she still looked like a wreck after just one shot. Her hair was in disarray as it chaotically clung around her neck, and her vest was now drenched in spilled beer and decorated with droplets of blood that had trickled down from her chin. Still, despite looking like the loser, Canna’s eyes were fueled with a passion unbecoming of her appearance. “I don’t give up on fights just because they’re hopeless. You can’t change the world by accepting defeat before it happens.” The dragonborn smirked at that statement before shaking his head. He was impressed with this human’s attitude even if her maturity left something to be desired. He stood up, towering over the bloodied bruiser before heading back to his seat.
Hours later Canna woke up with a stiff pain all over her body. Her eyes fluttered open to a stining yellow light hovering over her face.. She tried to move but a sharp tension all over her body kept her muscles from responding, and instead she had to lay there, basking in the throbbing aches. “You’re up now? Took you long enough.” The voice was a low rumbling one, but Canna couldn’t twist her neck to find the source. Lucky for her however the speaker made himself clear as he bent over the battered beauty with a empathetic, yet embarrassed grin on his face. Canna tried to place a face to a name but came up blank as she let out an anguished groan.
“What happened?” Canna asked, trying to piece together memories.
“You got the piss beaten out of you” laughed the cobalt-skinned dragonborn as he took a sip from his pint. “You went back in to fight Garrius and he pummeled you harder than the first time. I’ll give you credit for staying conscious as long as you did, though your body is probably going to blame you for that tomorrow.” Canna ‘s nerves flashed as she tried to recall the fight relieving only very brief, painful seconds of a much more embarrassing story probably better left forgotten. She frowned at the realization that she had been beaten so soundly on just her first day in Arkhosia, but suddenly she became distracted by a powerful odor that swept over her body.
“What is that smell?” she said, wincing and squeezing her face.
“That smell? Probably some cheap ale. Some of the regulars tried waking you up by spilling their drink on you, but nobody wanted to waste any of the good stuff on you, so well… let’s just say you’re probably going to want to throw away those clothes.” The dragonborn laughed as Canna sighed in frustration. Slowly her senses seemed to gain more control and she surveyed her surroundings. She was enclosed in a room filled with casks, bookcases stacked high with various liquors, and thick wooden mahogany walls that wrapped around to trap the faint flickering light from the creaky lantern hanging from the ceiling. Canna didn’t know where she ended up, and see how she couldn’t move she figured it was best to figure that out now.
“So where am I?”
“Well, it seemed pretty cruel to just throw a nice looking girl like yourself onto the streets alone, so I asked ol’ Garmin to let you sleep in his stockroom tonight. It’s not a cozy nest at all, but considering what you just went through you could probably sleep on a bed of dove feathers and still wake up feeling like the dead tomorrow. Ah speaking of which, I got the impression you’re not from around these parts.” Canna painfully nodded her once with a groan. “Seeing as you’ve got nowhere to go, how about you meet me here tomorrow evening. I want to chat with you about a couple things.”
“Sure.” Canna muttered with a not too subtle hint of sarcasm in her voice. “Why not?”
“Excellent!” the dragonborn exclaimed with a laugh. “The name is Cormag.”
“Canna. Canna Corbett” the wounded war maiden replied as another surge of ache rushed over her tender nerves.
“Canna, eh? Well then Canna, welcome to Arkhosia!” Cormag said with a laugh before blowing out the tiny embers inside the lantern and leaving the injured teen to sleep her pains away in the dark.
I ultimately decided on skipping over Canna’s childhood and jumped right from Leon leaving to her teenage years thereby eliminating two parts. One entry was going to focus on Canna returned home after losing another fight and her mother’s reaction to it, and although I’ve ultimately decided to skip over that entry for the sake of brevity, I wanted to stress a byproduct of that story: Canna lost more fights than she won when she was growing up. The reason for this will be explored in much more detail at the end of this arc and into the next, but basically you should note that although Canna starts these fights she more often than not loses. If you were to tally up her wins and losses she would be a “loser”, and that was a big thing for me when writing her. I want it to be clear that although Canna acts like a badass and tries to present herself as though she’s superior to everyone else, deep down she’s vulnerable and she knows it.
In addition this is the first appearance of Cormag! As noted in the D&D stream this past Sunday, I had to rewrite Cormag’s dialogue because I wrote him as though he had a Scottish accent just because the other dragonborn in Shadowlands, Black Jhaan, also has one. I kept adding words like “yer” or “lass” then realizing those didn’t fit with the idea I had for Cormag. I didn’t want to do the entire story writing in a fucking Scottish accent. Now a Jamaican one? I can dig it. “OH ‘ello der Canna, how yo doing todaaaa~AAAAAAY?! … bombaclot” As I’ll get into with the next few entries, Cormag is a very different character than Leon, but shares a similar place in Canna’s life though the way they leave is drastically different. I will say this “arc” looks to be a bit longer as I have a lot of different things I want to cover over in this year in Arkhosia.
I do have to say that naming themes are always inconsistent for me and seem absolutely subject to my momentary whims. For example, Canna is a rewritten version of Kana from 20th Century Boys who is one of my favorite manga characters. Garrius however? No fucking idea. It’s not a reference to Garrus from Mass Effect if that’s what anyone was thinking. I just got to the portion of the entry where I needed to name him and wrote Garrius. Hell, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name until halfway through the article. It’s a weird thing I have where I read a name and recognize it, but I never speak it so when I try to remember it or pronounce it I blank. Anyone who watches Weekly Manga Recap knows that I’m awful at pronouncing names, and that’s part of the reason: I never think of how its pronounced until it’s time to say it. It’s a very strange habit I should get out of.
Anyway, I’m weird with names. Often times my names are a reference to something—usually something inspirational to me, but sometimes I just completely blank, type letters together, and decide that Warsham will be a name. What does Warsham mean? I dunno. Can you even pronounce it? Fuck if I know, but it’s the letters I wrote in succession and it looks cool, so there we go. Strangely enough I like this naming convention though. I’ve always felt uncomfortable using a name like Skye or some real life name for a character just because it’s old Latin translation means “Grand Warrior” or something. I mean, in this fantasy world those same language laws don’t apply, so presumably the parents are already naming their kids nonsense words anyway. If I want meaning in the name, I’ll put it there, but I never lose sleep thinking of a great name. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad trait to have as a writer.
That’s all from me this time. Peace!