Beware, this tale is not for the faint of heart and contains adult language, death, gore, and some sexual content. It mocks and makes light of theology, sex, politics, race, and just about any other subject of taboo nature that is supposed to be left unspoken. For those who are intrigued, join us, for we are eager to entertain. For those who would shy from such good luck to ye in what must be a drab and overly sheltered existence.
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Callahan the Falcon
Tales of Calarr
By Chris Curtin
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2013 Chris Curtin
All rights reserved.
Entearra Gharu, Game of the Gods
[Narrator] His mother, daughter to a butcher, was given to his father, a captain of the Lados guard, as payment to avoid extortion by the guard. In those days, before the rise of the guilds, the guards ran the criminal aspects of the city unchallenged. Hating her forced union with Callahan's father, his mother often sought the company of sailors and passing adventurers that frequented the inn she tended. It was suspected that one of these unions was the cause of Callahan's conception; thus, his father looked on him with contempt and disgust. A love for the drink, gambling, and women kept Callahan's father from the home for the most part. When he did happen to be home, the sight of Callahan would send him into rage. He would verbally rip apart his wife until the words were no longer enough to satiate his anger, at which time he would beat her mercilessly.
[Callahan] Yep, Mom was a slut. I say slut and not whore because at least whores get paid for it. Dad was a drunken moron who had no concept of holding on to money. Suddenly, the lack of memory and a prison cell isn't sounding like such a bad gig after all.
[Narrator] Drug down into a depressive state of hopelessness, the best she could muster for her son was setting his room in the loft of the home, where due to the confined space and rope ladder access, entry was not easily managed by a raged-out drunk. As he got old enough to gain some self-awareness and understanding, the beatings turned in his direction, so Callahan quickly learned not only how to make himself scarce but also how to scrape out an existence on the streets.
By the age of twelve, he had engineered a false floor in his loft, which provided him sanctuary when outright escape seemed unlikely, as well as a hidden rope with a knotted stick he would latch under his secured nightstand so he could drop down next to the front door and, with a quick snap, unlatch the stick from the dresser legs. A good deal of practice while his parents were away got him in the habit of being able to catch the stick as it fell, so he could enact the process quickly and almost silently.
During those years of his young life, he took an orphan boy named Selfin under his wing and started teaching him the ins and outs of acquiring what one needs to survive. During the course of his younger days, Callahan found his quick wit and knack for impressing himself upon people to be his greatest allies. Information and knowledge were key to him. He found that the shifting and acquiring of those luxuries was a far more worthwhile endeavor than petty theft and carried a less immediate threat if handled with care.
[Callahan] Selfin was a good kid. None too bright, mind ye, but a good kid nonetheless. My first real friend, he was. I remember the time I went out in the morning to find him, only to see the dipshit being pummeled by a street merchant. He had got himself nicked for snagging a loaf of stale bread. Course, he had to pick the surliest merchant on the block to steal from. I'd taught him better than that but wasn't about to let him go down on his own.
[Narrator] "Whoa, ye burly ogre, lay off that boy there!" Callahan deftly hopped from his perch on the rooftops to an overhanging sunshade, then down to the ground with a light roll.
Turning his attention to the new kid, the merchant growled, "Mind your own, boy. Caught this 'ere thief fair and square, so what I do with him is what I do with him, and I don't want to hear a word from you about it. 'Less, of course, ye want yerself a healthy dose of it too."
"While an ass whooping would be entertaining and shave more than a little time off this otherwise drab and boring morning, it would not accomplish either of our purposes." Well outside the merchant's reach, Callahan smiled his wry half smile. "I propose an offer. You want profit. I want bread and an end to me mate's ass whooping, deserved as it may be. So what I propose is ye not only give me the loaf of bread he tried to steal but a second one, and within the hour, I will return with four times the payment for both."
"Do I look that stupid to you? Don't answer that, ye little puke. Now bugger off." The merchant raised his hand to strike the boy again.
"Swear to me upon whatever ye hold dear that ye won't hit him again. Give me the loaf he tried to steal. I will go on me own and, as I said, return with four times the profit for two loaves. If I cheat ye, ye'll still have me friend to pummel on, and all ye'd have lost is one loaf of stale bread. If I don't cheat ye, then yer up a healthy profit, and ye don't have to go bruising those soft, lovely hands of yers." Winking to Selfin, Callahan removed his raggedy old cloak as he spoke, then tossed one end out next to his friend. Selfin, catching the hint, snagged the loaf he had tried to steal from the dirt, where it had fallen, and dropped it on the end of the cloak.
Pulling the bread quickly to his grasp, Callahan grinned again. "We have an accord, then. As I said, look for me within the hour." Bolting off with calculations running through his brain, Callahan figured twenty minutes' travel to Horuce's guard station, eight minutes for negotiation, and twenty minutes' return time left him more than ample room to err.
Taking to the rooftops, Callahan smoothly traversed the distance to the guard shack, placed more as a guide between the noble sector and the middle class than as an actual position of danger. His father placed his most unreliable guards at this post, and Callahan delighted in the dependability of Horuce's stupidity. Horuce was his father's least favorite employee and often wound up on duty at this particular station.
"Sleeping yet again, ye lard-ass lout!" Bouncing the stale loaf of bread off Horuce's head to land it in his lap, Callahan grinned wide at Horuce as the large man tried to stir himself to attention. "Last time me dad caught ye wasn't lesson enough for ye, eh?"
"He only came out this way 'cause you ratted me out, you little pissant, and if I heard right, what cost me a month's pay and a lashing cost you a few weeks' worth of beatings. So thanks for the bread and the memory to keep me laughing." The fat man took a healthy bite out of his bread, still snorting contemptuously at the boy before him.
"Ye cheated me on my due when I completed our deal. I brought ye yer flask of wine and some fresh cheese to go with it, and ye refused to pay me. Said, if I remember right, 'Thanks for the drink and food. Now go get a job, you oversized sewer rat.' So I told me father ye would be sleeping later that day, and bugger me if yer big dumb arse hadn't drunk all the wine and dropped yerself into a stupor. Just bad luck that noblewoman happened to overhear him yelling at ye, and me dad's image was tarnished because his guard was asleep on duty." Callahan's grin spread to a wry half smile as he watched the fat guard cram another bite in his mouth. "Ye do make a fine argument, though."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Bread crumbs sprayed at Callahan as Horuce spoke.
"Means I did pay for turning ye in by getting beaten for a few weeks. So debt stays unsquared for when ye tried to stiff me on me pay. Price just got larger for that bread you're munching and my silence about ye sleeping on post again." The smile upon his face remained unchanged.
"Listen here, you overblown shit wad, I am not giving you a copper, so fuck off." Horuce returned Callahan's unwavering smile with an exaggerated one of his own.
"Right, then, I've a deal to keep this morning, and yer delaying me far too long. One of two things is about to happen. One, ye give me yer coin purse with all its contents and we part friends, or two, I turn ye overto me dad, miss meeting my deal this morning, catch a beating from a merchant, a month's beatings from me dad, but not before watching yer bloated arse bounce off the ramparts swinging from a noose." His smile remained solid, but the look in Callahan's eyes became undeniably stoic.
"Give you my coin purse? Bah, damn near a gold's worth of coins in it. I'll be damned if I give that to you." Horuce's voice shook as he feigned confidence.
"Look me in the eyes, dear Horuce. I like ye despite our past squabbles, and so I don't want to see harm come to ye, but a deal is a deal in my world. So ye can fear damnation all ye want, but look again at my eyes. Test me, please. Come, Horuce, deny me what I ask that ye can meet yer gods. I'll take each beating with the image of yer bloated corpse hung aloft to ease my pain, and ye know the depth of truth in my words, so please, test me. Dance with me." Callahan deftly caught the hefty coin purse none too gently thrown in his direction. "Good, I see we can part friends. By the way, Tavinicus carries on him a favor from me father's favorite whore. He's been cavorting with her short of my father's blessing. Do with that tad bit of information what you will, makes no never mind to me."
As Callahan started his rushed jog back to the merchant, he could hear Horuce belly-laughing and calling after him, saying, "You blighter, how in the fuck can you manage to damn near get me hung, rob me blind, and leave with me still loving the shit out of ye?" The fat man crammed another oversized bite of stale bread in his mouth, smiling and releasing his stress in an exaggerated sigh. He knew that small piece of information was his ticket back into good graces and, thus, worth far more than the coins it cost.
[Callahan] That fat sack of useless crap actually used that info to get Tavinicus hung from the ramparts. This, in turn, did put him back on me father's good side.
[Narrator] Withdrawing a silver piece and stashing the remainder of his coins in a thin multipouched roll of cloth he had devised to silence jingling, which was hidden under his belt, he returned to Selfin and the merchant, displaying the silver piece proudly. "Selfin, did he hold to accord?" A quick nod was his answer." Good then, here ye are, mate. More than ample pay for two loaves of bread."
"A silver. Bah, I charge ..." The gleam in his eyes and surprised response that he had quickly hidden would've been enough to dispel the truth in his haggling had it not been for Callahan's impatient lack of care.
"Shut up. I'm done bartering with half-wits and knuckle-dragging primates this day. A silver is well more than what is owed. You and I both know it. I've more than met our time frame, and to top it off, I'm going to toss ye a bone due to my generous mood. Two blocks east, three blocks north. That's where yer gonna move yer little stale bread cart so ye can actually make sales. Right 'ere, yer one block from a fresh bakery and two blocks from a well-stocked inn. Where I told ye to go is a frequent meeting spot for guards who want quickies with the cheap streetwalkers and where a commune of those said streetwalkers spend their days." Helping his friend to his feet and then removing a loaf of bread from right next to the merchant, Callahan flashed his wry half grin and, without further verbal exchange, walked casually away.
Out of the merchant's sight and earshot, Callahan slapped the back of Selfin's head. "Ye blighter! What in the fuck is wrong with ye? Damn near got yerself killed there. Couldn't wait a bit longer for me to show up, could ye?"
"Just wanted to get us some breakfast. He wasn't paying any attention. I almost—" Selfin cringed as another shot echoed off the back of his skull.
"Almost is an epitaph! Ye don't almost shit! Ye do it, or ye don't. Besides that, since when did we become common street bums stealing bread? I mean, who the fuck wants to eat this stale, bland excuse for food?" Callahan held up the loaf he carried for emphasis.
"I'm really hungry. I could really use some of that. I don't care that it's stale." Licking his lips with longing, Selfin leaned slightly in toward the bread in Callahan's hands.
"Forget it. This is to pay Hemrick. I know ye haven't eaten since last night. So don't worry, I'll get ye a veritable feast if ye just give me a bit of time. This morning's unfortunate circumstances have led to our good fortune. Just trust me, OK." Callahan patted his friend on the shoulder as they hurried on to find the ever-starving bum, Hemrick.
A few moments later found the two boys standing before a ragged older man sitting in the shade of an alley next to a foul-smelling pile of old burlap sacks. "See, yer as odorous as ever, my good friend. So what have ye to earn yer breakfast with this fine morn, mate?" Callahan displayed the loaf to the man.
"Ugh, well, um ... the nobles be getting together in the next week or two to select our next governor." Looking hopefully, Hemrick feebly reached out for the bread.
"Bah, that bit of well-known trash isn't worth a bite of this bread after me and Selfin have done and recycled it." Callahan pulled the bread well outside the bum's reach.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Forlorn Hemrick's eyes refused to leave the bread.
"If yer not smart enough to decipher when I'm ridiculing ye, then ye should just take it as gracious compliment that I'm endeavoring to expend the vast amount of effort necessary to indulge ye with my presence." Callahan flashed his wry half smile. "Now clear the shit out yer throat and give me something worthwhile, or ye can watch as me and Selfin here enjoy yer breakfast."
"Right, um, well, 'bout an hour past, I heard a mage and one of those Malaki scholars pass on by talking 'bout some magic trinket they had on 'em and some other gibberish. Said they would talk more this afternoon at the inn called King's Grace." A smile lifted his matted beard as he greedily dove into the bread Callahan tossed to the ground before him. "Thank ye, thank ye."
[Callahan] Malaki, god of knowledge and neutrality. His followers believe in learning, study, and complete apathetic indifference to all manner of conflict. They refuse to side with anything or anyone, abhor violence in any manner, and believe the pleasures of the body such as sex, alcohol, and smoke detract from the strength of the mind. Absolute drab, head-in-the-sand morons, if ye ask me, and if ye don't ask me, it still doesn't negate the fact that they are oblivious to a little fact called reality.
[Narrator] Just as Callahan turned to go, Hemrick spit bread crumbs as he made a gross attempt at a whisper. "Hope there is something good in it for me. Yer always generous to dear ole Hemrick, but I got a spot of info I know ye'll love."
"I might have a copper if ye hurry up. Yer stench and mannerisms are making me lose my appetite." Callahan couldn't help but look a bit eager. Hemrick rarely disappointed when it came to discovering rumor and gossip.
"Word in the underground, whispered among those in the know, says that the crown is becoming quite angry with the Lados nobles and their lack of compli ... complem ... com—" Stuttering and stumbling over the words, Hemrick continued to make a horrid attempt at whispering.
"Do ye mean compliance, ye illiterate lout?" Callahan interjected, stemming his frustration.
"So the king issued an offer of amnity, er, amer ... uh, ye know, the thing where he doesn't lop off 'is 'ead." Hemrick still bumbled.
"Amnesty, ye tit! Now out with it. My patience is running a bit dry." Callahan impatiently tapped his foot in the dirt, producing a slight cloud of dust around the bum.
"Whatever, as to what I was saying, the top-shit king offered it to the pirate Namion in return for him doing no more or less here in the city than he does out to sea." Hemrick's eyes shot wide as saucers as he looked at the silver piece dropped before him. "That's a bit more than I'm used to. Not that I am not grateful, but I am mighty curious as to what ye be wanting."
"For services past and future, me dear friend. Selfin and I will look into the mage and scholar. I just want ye to keep yer eyes and ears open and find out all ye can on this corsair. I think ye might be uncovering a gold mine with that one, mate, and I don't forget those who don't forget me." With a wink and a skip in his step, Callahan guided Selfin on to their next stop: the King's Grace.
[Callahan] Many who would read this might ponder how a twelve-year-old boy could adapt a level of articulation that most likely far exceeds their own in a medieval fantasy realm devoid of any formal education. I, my dear friends, am an autodidact, which most likely explains nothing to most. I acquired the ability to learn, and I then refused to let it go.
I saw as a youth that those who had, read and wrote. Those who had not, did not. So I, with great frustration and effort, taught myself to decipher words, and from there, once I knew how to read, I did so. In my exploratory endeavors into the many residences of Lados, I started to borrow manuscripts and books. Many were the candles I burned through in my little loft.
[Reader 1] Our heroes walked into the King's Grace, where the young large-breasted blonde barmaids immediately indulged them in drink and fellatio.
[Callahan] Whoa! I'm twelve in this story, not even sure I knew what a hard-on was as yet, much less the workings of oral pleasure. On top of that, don't ye think these women would have done and been nicked fer blowing off wee ones? Even in our world, that's not OK. Furthermore, I'm in no definition of the term a hero, and Selfin is a lackey at best. Finally, alcohol dulls cognitive thought, and at this point, I endeavored to spy upon presumably intelligent individuals, so I required clarity of thought.
Excerpted from Callahan the Falcon by Chris Curtin. Copyright © 2013 by Chris Curtin. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Entearra Gharu, Game of the Gods.................... 1
Chapter 2 The Falcon.................... 34
Chapter 3 Life during Wartime.................... 76
Chapter 4 Aftermath and Wanderings.................... 110
Chapter 5 The Tribes.................... 141
Chapter 6 Un Naga Frueh.................... 165
Chapter 7 Homecoming.................... 185
Chapter 8 Falcons.................... 210
Chapter 9 Avians.................... 238
Chapter 10 The Order of Chaos.................... 256
Chapter 11 The Chaos of Order.................... 277
About the Author.................... 297