Raniss finds out drinking and wenching can have its pitfalls. Sometimes the most gorgeous women can be the most dangerous, especially when magic is involved.

Character Series: Raniss, 1

Group Series: no group series

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Chris Wilkins

    Raniss looked at the twinkling lights through the rain. Pictures of roasting meat danced through his head as he smelled the iron-smoke of cooking. It had been a while since he had a hot meal and slept indoors.

    He grabbed the hilt of his sword and loosened it, felt for his throwing knife hidden in his boot, and kicked his horse forwards. Tildy took a disheartened step and plodded towards the village. Its hooves sloshed into potholes full of mud and swishing water.

    “C’mon, old girl. We might even find a stable for you tonight.” He patted her sodden neck.

    The trees thinned out as the horse squelched towards the lights. The houses were typical for a rugged and hilly region; long with at least three levels where Raniss knew three or more generations lived together, big thick doors to keep the warm air in, and high roofs because of deep snowfalls. It also showed it was a prosperous area, far more so than the mud-covered hovels he was used to seeing in flatter countries.

    He guided his horse up the main street towards the loudest noise of people talking and laughing.

    Tildy knew where to go and stopped outside the only pub in the village, the only source of entertainment. It was longer and larger than the rest of the houses, with four stories. The chances of getting a room for the night were good.

    He dismounted, wiped his boots and pushed the door open. A wall of hot air hit him as did the wall of silence. Twenty pairs of eyes swivelled his direction and bored into him.

    Don’t stop, that’s the way, he thought to himself. Act like you’re supposed to be here.

    He strode in, expecting to see a bar, but there wasn’t one, something he still wasn’t used to in the mountains. He looked for an empty table, spotted one in the corner on the opposite side of the room and walked over to it as the army of eyes tracked his move like a swarm of flies. He knew they were looking at his sword and rusty chain mail. Although it had seen better days, and gave the impression it was poor quality, it said here was a man who had money.


    No one needed to know he had stolen it from Lord Hincer when he deserted.

    He slumped into a chair and closed his eyes, letting out a relaxed sigh. But then strained his ears for the sounds of blades being drawn from their sheaths and of quietly moving feet. He heard nothing as the hub bub of conversation started up again. Heavy footsteps came towards him.

    “What can I get you, love?”

    He opened his eyes. A woman stood before him. She had long thick braids of dark hair, enormous breasts trying to burst out of the top of her red woollen dress. It dragged on the ground and did its bit to sweep the floor as she walked along.

    “Pint, thanks. And some of whatever you’re roasting with a plate of vegetables.”

    “Ohh, healthy one, are you?” She twirled about and moved off towards the kitchens out the back.

    Raniss glanced around. No fighting men in the pub. Good. Should be no trouble then. There were plenty of nasty looking types that he was sure would slit his throat if they thought they could get away with it, but a well armed man usually scared such rats off.

    Slowly he dried out and his fingers stopped throbbing from the cold. The maid came back and put the food on the table.

    He put payment on the table plus an extra coin on the table. “Can you make sure my horse is stabled? It’s out the front.” She scooped the money up and left. The beer tasted great after his long cold ride.

    Strange place, he thought, tucked away in the mountains. He imagined not a lot happened here. But he noticed more and more that somehow the people were prosperous. Their clothes were new and bright, everyone wore new boots with gleaming leather, and there were even some silver belt buckles. And the fixtures of the pub were all either new or well maintained. All that cost money.


    Now and again he saw someone looking at him, then quickly turn away when he looked back at them.

    He shrugged it off. There were plenty of ways for communities to be wealthy. Good harvests were one, though how they could do that being high up and having more rock than land Raniss didn’t know. Perhaps there was a tin or copper mine somewhere, though wouldn’t that be owned by the lord rather than the people, he thought. He assumed there was a lord that owned the village and lands. It was possible the locals were free holders but it was very rare.

    He bent to his plate of food and took a bite out of the roast. It was good.

    “Enjoying your food, mister?”

    Raniss looked up to see a man looking down at him. He had shoulder length hair, squinty eyes and a bulbous hook nose. He wore an expensive felt coat.

    He leaned back in his chair but moved his feet underneath his body, getting his weight underneath himself, ready to spring if necessary.

    “Yup, it’s good.”

    The stranger took a seat without waiting to be asked. Raniss flashed his eyes about the room and caught three or four locals quickly looking away.

    “So what brings you to these parts?”

    Raniss had a prickly sensation at the back of his neck.

    “Just travelling through,” he answered blandly.

    The stranger pointed at his chain mail and sword. “You travel heavy for a man just ‘travelling through’.”

    Raniss shrugged. “Maybe. You can never be too careful when travelling alone on isolated roads.”

    The man nodded at his sword. “You know how to use that?”

    “Why? Will I later meet you on an isolated road in the mountains with some of your friends?”

    Both men stared at each other. Raniss was already weighing up who would die first if they rushed him. The knife in his boot itched.


    The man smiled. “No. I was actually wondering if you had come for the gold. But don’t worry my friend. I see you haven’t.” He stood up.

    Raniss knew it was a trap designed to make him ask. And it was a good one; he couldn’t help himself. “What gold?”

    “You honestly don’t know?” The man sat back down.

    “Why should I? Plus I know that if this gold is freely spoken of with strangers then there must be a catch. Last I heard no one was given out free gold.”

    “Ah.” The stranger scratched his chin. “So you don’t know about the succubus that rules this village and valley?” The entire room went completely silent.

    Raniss looked straight at the man and then slowly around at the others. This time no one looked away but instead looked at Raniss with fear in their eyes.

    There was something else as well, but before he could put his finger on it, it was gone.

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And he really didn’t.

    “Ah. I see.” He turned and looked at several of the other people in the pub. Raniss thought he saw the flicker of a grin. The stranger turned back.

    “It is an old story. Some years ago a succubus, named Celeste, came here and took over the town. There wasn’t much we could do about it. Since then we have had to live a hard life under her. But one day we hope to be rid of her. We hope that one day someone might come and kill her.”

    “And you were hoping that someone might be me.”

    The man shrugged. “Sure.” He put out his hand towards Raniss. “I’m Delen. The Village Elder. I guess I’m asking you because it seems to be my job.”


    He took the offered hand and shook it. “I’m Raniss. If you want to get rid of her why don’t you just all gang up on her and go kill her?”

    Delen shook his head. Raniss saw that everyone in the pub was now listening to the conversation.

    “We tried that once.”

    “Came to no good,” a voice from the crowd of onlookers shouted out.

    “Hey, Zield, who’s doing the talking here?” Delen glowered at a heavyset man with a beard that covered his belly. Zield sunk back into his chair.

    “Why not? There are plenty of you. Surely you could take care of one little succubus.”

    “Sure. If she stayed put. But she has wings and she’s smart. She just flew off when the angry mob came for her. Later she came in the night. After a few people had their throats ripped out we had to let he stay.” He leaned forward. “We need someone who can get close to her.”

    “Sounds like the sort of person I should get far away from.”

    “Ahh, but there are certain side benefits to trying to kill this one.” He grinned. Others started to laugh and guffaw which turned into a torrent of noise. Raniss grinned back, not sure what to make of this.

    Delen slapped him on the arm. “You do this and you won’t regret it.”

    The laughter died down.

    “You see, this succubus is the most amazing woman you would have ever seen. She has a body the shape of an hourglass with the biggest, ripest breasts you ever did see, and skin like fine porcelain. And she really likes seducing people.”

    The room went silent as everyone looked at Raniss.

    Raniss looked at Delen, stunned. Then slowly, like the rising sun creeping along the dew-covered grass of a valley, a grin appeared at the corners of his mouth and spread across his face.


Login to keep reading.