Prague is such a magical city. Strolling through the streets one evening a while back I overheard two words of a conversation in English: “Short Story”. I not only discovered a fellow countryman but a huddle of four writers discussing their latest endeavors. Levan is from Georgia (not the one for which Ray Charles croons and pines, but the OTHER Georgia on this side of the pond) and writes fantasy fiction. I suspect the entire quartet will be entering our contest (as I hope you do, too) in which you give us only your first 1,000 words to win $1,000. Details on the home page. In the meantime, here is
Hextrader: the Cinnamon Prince
by Levan Maniia
1: The King of Curses
No matter how wondrous a sight could be, it vanishes like a mirage when a person is in distress. I have learnt that a lifetime ago and the lesson haunts me relentlessly. Once forgotten, it always emerges again, clouding my ability to marvel. So, I never let it fade out of my mind, allowing that ailing wisdom coil around me. At least that knowledge never comes as a surprise.
Unfortunately for me, I was always surrounded by that said wonder. Even my birth was a thing of prophecy. The prophecy that harbored either a blessing or a curse. Among the five continents I am known as a Hextrader, for I barter the curses I carry.
As I rode into Grimminhund I was met by the curious looks of the villagers. It was not every day that a person clad in baggy garments, his head wrapped in a thick layer of cloth rides in on top of a camel covered in a tapestry of shiny and colorful glass bottles. Children would run along my steed, trying to pet him and give him snacks as he strode along the decrepit hovels.
One of the rascals tried to grab on to the blue glass bottle, but the closer his little chubby hand got to the jar, the hotter it became, till it sizzled and gave a white smoke once the skin came in contact with it. The boy recoiled back with a high-pitched wail. It was just enough for the children to show caution about me and Mafuzzail, my camel.
Even in the deepest backcountry of poorest kingdoms of the north my visage was known. As I passed the street, man and woman talked in hushed tones about the Hextrader, an undying wayfarer from the sand dunes of the south.
“I’ve heard he’s seen the fall of the titans.” one of the villagers said.
“He must be ancient!” a woman would whisper back.
“Who could tell with that cloth he wears all the time?” an elder man jumped in.
“How would you know it is a man at all?” a younger girl with golden hair would say, not even looking up from her duties.
She was cursed. I could always tell. It was a malicious one, a hex that would one day erupt and bend her faith into an abominable death. A pity too, she was not even fifteen, unwary of her grim future. It was a powerful curse that only attached itself on the young and weak willed. I could have lifted the curse in a matter of minutes, but one thing I learned throughout my travels, you cannot save everyone.
The man who summoned me was standing in front of the largest building around. I assumed it was a sort of town hall. It was also one of the more lavish looking houses. The man I saw next to the hall was of an age that any man would be surprised to live up to. His skin was so wrinkled and sagged, that when he moved, it wobbled like a turkey’s wattle. He was seated in a large wooden chair with handles underneath it. Two strong looking young men stood beside him and, judging by their wide muscly arms, they carried the chair with the old man in it.
His face was expressing profound disgust as he watched me dismount. I was used to it. For simple people I was as bad as a witch who places a curse. I have been attacked, shunned and spat on by people like him, but they could never refuse my services.
“I thought you would never show up, Hextrader. It’s been three years, since I’ve sent my request.” he said, chewing on tobacco leaves.
“I am her now, Elder.” I responded, tightening the tagelmust over my face.
“Let’s go inside.” he croaked, flicking his finger, which triggered the younger men to pick him up in his chair.
I left Mafuzzail outside, without tying him up. The beast knew better than to disobey me. As I walked in, I saw the footprints of the curses that used to live in the walls of the house. They were all minor, something a villager says when breaking his back in the fields. One or two such curses would account for nothing, but there were hundreds of them. Evil men and lords tend to accumulate a great number of hexes from the tongues of their victims and serfs.
The place itself was adorned by the tapestries of old. One of them I saw being woven in front of my eyes some three hundred years ago by the infamous seneschal Durante of the Moratorre Castle; a most shrewd man with the insatiable taste for any kind of art. It was a pity to see such a beautiful depiction of the Castle’s siege rot and fade in the middle of nowhere.
While I was captivated by the intricate stitching of the gobelin, Elder managed to arrange some scarce supper for the waning day. I was offered a seat and a meal, but I rarely ate anything I didn’t hunt myself. Even if I did, the bread looked days old, the meat reeked of salt, and vegetables dried like they were left in the sun for days. I refused to even touch a goblet with ale. I would not be surprised if the Elder spat in it himself with the black bile he had accumulated after chewing tobacco.
“I hope your travels were uneventful. These parts are teaming with brigands and vagabonds of all sorts.” he said, trying some of the ale, choking on it and giving one of his servants an evil eye. I could have sworn I saw a smirk on the face of the boy as soon as the Elder turned away.
“I met some on the road.” I replied.
“Did you dispose of them?” he blubbered between the coughs. I have always liked small talk and tried to engage in it as much as possible. Many times, such exchanges revealed concealed truths.
“Do you see a weapon on me? I am no warrior. I paid the toll.”
My name is Levan Maniia. I’m 31, ethnically Georgian, but lived in a number of countries throughout my life (Russia, Australia, Czech Republic). I currently reside in Prague with my family.
I’ve been writing my entire life, in Russian mainly, but switch to English a few years back. I’ve worked on a commission base for a few franchises, mainly based on games. That being said, I was never published before.
I work as a theatre director of an English speaking theater called D’Prompt.
Hextrader takes place in a dark low fantasy world, empty of fairy whimsy, and reminiscing a medieval Germanic time. The world has little to no magic that manifests in curses and blessing that can take form. A traveling merchant of curses, also known as Hextrader, is the only person who can swap those curses. In his travels he meets a witch, and that meeting sets off a chain of events that changes the world’s fate and the fates of the individuals. It’s a first point of view novel which plays around the idea of fate, tolerance, and redemption. It’s my first ever attempt at Fantasy genre.