Deeth woke with start to the sound of his beeping alarm clock. After smacking the device to shut it off, he sat up and stretched his arms over his head. With a quick yawn, Deeth stood up from bed and dusted his shirt off.
“Friday’s here again,” he said through a yawn.
It was seven in the morning, the same time he’d gotten up every morning for the last ten years. With tired eyes Deeth walked to his dresser to pull out his work clothes. It took him ten minutes to sort through the scattered disarray of shirts and trousers. After that, he was off to the bathroom for a quick shower.
Once Deeth was reasonably clean, he stood before the bathroom mirror and looked himself over to shave. Deeth had a bit of a gut, but was otherwise skinny. He brushed his dark hair out of his face, revealing his sparkling blue eyes. Bit by bit, he cut the ebony stubble from his chin. He winced in pain as he cut his upper lip. Deeth wound up making similar cuts around his face.
“You’d think I’d get the hang of this by age twenty-four.” Deeth sighed and reached for tissue paper to wipe himself down.
Once that was done, Deeth put on his work uniform. A big, shiny logo for “Genn & Eric’s Pizza” was valiantly emblazoned on the back of his red button shirt. After adjusting his visor in the mirror, Deeth went into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal. While he was eating, a great loud rumbling came through the open window of the living room. A powerful, thunderous bellow rang in the air. Deeth was compelled to dash to the window and open it up. A shadow was cast down from high in the sky; The shadow of a dragon.
Dragons weren’t an uncommon sight in Majinchi. In fact, the island nation was built almost entirely around the very nature of dragons. Majinchi was two hundred and eighty square miles of urban sights, broken up into four districts by three rivers. The roofs of the many apartments and towers were super-reinforced to withstand the weight of dragons when they landed. There were three lanes on every street; the left and right sides were for vehicles, while the middle landes were for dragons to land and take off from.
Deeth shut his eyes and took in a long breath of air. The smell of sea-salt tickled his nose. It’s been said that no matter where you go in Majinchi, the smell of the ocean always follows you. Deeth had almost gone into a trance of relaxation... when he realized he had to go to work.
“Damn.” Deeth muttered as he shut the window and ran to get ready.
Deeth’s apartment wasn’t the biggest or most extravagant. He lived on the tenth floor of 6011 93rd street. He had few material possessions; mostly just books kept on a single shelf in the corner of the living room. But for the most part, Deeth was satisfied with what little currency he had.
Deeth was heading out the front door in just a few minutes. He inspected his wrists and pockets.
“Wallet, keychain, watch, keys.” Deeth said as he inspected his wrists and pockets in turn. “Yep, that’s everything.” He walked out the door with a nod of satisfaction.
Moments later, Deeth was on the ground floor heading out the lobby. He stepped down the front stoop in time to see the local garbage pickup roll by. Out hopped to garbage men... or rather, out hopped an orc and a halfling.
The pair couldn’t be any more mismatched. The orc towered over Deeth by at least a foot, while the halfling barely passed over Deeth’s thighs. The halfling moved almost faster than Deeth could blink as he gathered up garbage bags. Meanwhile, the orc snorted around his nose ring as he hefted bags into the back of the truck.
This was yet another common sight to Deeth. But judging by their funny looks, he was a strange sight to them. Deeth couldn’t blame them; after all, humans weren’t a common sight in Majinchi. But Deeth just shrugged it off, rounded the corner, and got into his car.
Deeth drove down the road to work, turning on his radio at a red light. He sighed in satisfaction as a soothing song came on. He nodded his head in time to the calm beat. It was the most therapeutic way to wake himself up for the morning commute. Unfortunately, it did little to deal with the oncoming traffic. It wasn’t long before Deeth was surrounded by the many cars of the people of Majinchi. The chorus of honks and shouts were soon to follow. Deeth turned up the volume on the radio and tried to pretend he couldn’t hear the swearing.
After fifteen minutes (which felt like fifty), Deeth parked his car besides Genn & Eric’s Pizza. It was a quaint little pizzeria that sat on the corner of Basil Street and Baker Avenue. A cartoonish logo hung over the door, with an elf and dwarf smiling over their respective names. A bell jingled as Deeth walked inside. His nostrils were immediately greeted by the scent of baking dough and tomato sauce. A dwarf with an apron was standing behind the wooden counter, wiping it down with a wet rag.
“Hi, Dad.” Deeth waved as he walked by.
The dwarf looked up and smiled. “Ah, Good morning, my boy.”
All dwarves were stout and muscular, and Eric Acciai was no exception. His hair was greased back, while his beard was tied in braids. He trudged back and forth behind the counter, usually muttering to himself in dwarfish as he cleaned off his beloved counter-top.
When Deeth arrived at the back room of the pizzeria, he saw his mother Genn sitting at a table. The elf woman spoke to someone over the phone, her idle hand fidgeting with her pointed ear. She wore an apron over a thick blouse. Her face was young, but her grey hair betrayed her age.
Deeth decided to sneak up on Genn while she chatted on the phone. But right as he was about to surprise her, Genn turned around and stared at him.
“Nice try.” She said with a raised eyebrow.
“How’d you know?” Deeth asked, feigning amazement.
Genn tapped her ear. “I heard you walk in the front door, you goof.”
Deeth couldn’t keep himself from chuckling. He wrapped his arms about Genn’s shoulders in a light hug. “Morning, Mom.”
“Oh, get to work, Deeth.” Genn waved a hand in the air, though Deeth could see her smile. He nodded yes and clocked in.
Anyone with half a brain could guess that Deeth was adopted. He’d been a member of the Acciai household for over a decade. It never bothered him that much; he was surrounded by all kinds of fantastical people for years. As for his true parents... Deeth tried not to think about them.
Deeth’s day became a blur as he helped his parents run the pizzeria. Eric handled the up-front counter purchases, while Genn handled phone calls and finances. Deeth’s job was whatever he was needed for the most. Sometimes it was maintenance, other times it was spill clean-ups, and occasionally he’d make the pizza himself. It wasn’t the highest-paying job, but he loved every minute of it. What could be better than working the family business, right?
Deeth clocked out from work at midday.
“Are you heading back to that apartment?” Genn asked, her voice filled with concern.
“Of course.” Deeth said. “I’ll see you guys on Sunday morning, alright?”
“I hope so.” Genn said, her brow furrowed. “We didn’t see you last week.”
Deeth scratched behind his neck. “Come on, I already apologized for that. I’ll definitely make it up to you this time, okay?”
“It’s alright, dear.” Genn’s face relaxed. “It’s just that this particular Sunday is an important one. And you spend far too much time alone in your apartment. It would mean the world to me to see you this Sunday.”
“It’s fine, mom.” Deeth gave her a hug. “I’ll see you at the temple Sunday morning. It’s a promise.”
The elf nodded and reciprocated the hug. She then motioned towards the door to send him on his way. As Deeth walked along, he passed by a family of halflings who sat in a far corner. Deeth smirked as their little girl played with a stuffed toy; a little blue dragon. She seemed ecstatic about pretending it could fly. She tried to land it on her slice of pizza, much to the annoyance of her bickering parents. The girl came close to knocking her plate onto the floor, but Deeth rushed forwards and caught it just in the nick of time.
“Thank you, sir.” The halfling father said between breaths of relief.
“Don’t worry about it. Deeth chuckled. “Kids do the darndest things, eh?”
Deeth put the plate on the table and kept walking as the parents scolded their daughter. Deeth turned around in time to see a young man with floppy yellow hair enter the pizzeria. With a grin, Deeth snuck up on him as he ordered some pizza. Once the young man had the pizza in his hand, Deeth patted him hard on the back and shouted, “What’s up, Dardy?!”
The man gasped, dropping his wooden staff onto the floor and the pizza slice onto his blue robes. He looked down and muttered in frustration before glaring at Deeth. Eric witnessed the spectacle and only shook his head with a groan.
“Good to see you, Dardarax.” Deeth smirked.
“Deeth!” Dardarax shouted as he adjusted his glasses. “How many ties to I have to tell you not to do that?!”
“Sorry...” Deeth struggled not to break out into laughter. This was his routine for greeting his best friend.
Dardarax Muirin was a few inches shorter than Deeth, but by contrast was noticeably chubbier. Though Deeth wasn’t one to bring up Dardarax’s bodyweight, considering what he was capable of with that staff.
Dardarax picked the slice up off his robes and looked down at the stain with a sigh. After putting the pizza on a plate, Dardarax lifted up his free hand to his robes and pointed his index and middle fingers outwards. He focused with a deep concentration for a moment, until a shimmer of blue light surrounded his fingers. A burst of water flowed out of the crack between the fingers and surrounded the stain. After wiping them on the stain for a moment, he washed all the grease away. With a flick of his wrist the water faded away, leaving his robes fresh and clean.
“That never ceases to amaze me.” Deeth grinned.
“If you like magic so much,” Dardarax said as he picked up his staff, “you should just learn to cast it yourself.”
“Eh, it’s never been my thing...” Deeth shook his head and shrugged.
“Cute little display, kid...” Eric muttered, having been silent up until then.
Magic. It was as much a part of everyday life in Majinchi as eating and breathing. Though some were more talented at the art than others. Entire schools were dedicated to training people to become wizards. Though most wizards in Majinchi ended up just teaching at the schools for the rest of their lives. There wasn’t much of a market for weapon enchantments or summoning spirits anymore.
“If you’re done with your shenanigans, can I sit down now?” Dardarax asked as he stamped the floor with his staff.”
“Yeah, man.” Deeth motioned with a hand towards a vacant table. As the pair sat down, Deeth offered Dardarax a friendly fist bump, a smirk on his face. Dardarax was unamused at first, but eventually relented and bumped fists.
“So, how are things over at the university?” Deeth asked as he spread an arm out along his chair.
“They’re about as well as they could be.” Dardarax said before taking a bite of his pizza. “They school year’s almost over, and that means my rudimentary wizard training is nearly complete.”
“Good for you, man.” Deeth gave a wide grin. “you’ve made some real leaps and bounds in your skills lately.”
“Thank you.” Dardarax smiled a little. “Are you sure you don’t want me to teach you what I’ve learned?”
“Nah.” Deeth shrugged. “I already told you Dardy; magic’s just not my thing. I’m better off sticking to what I know.”
“If you say so...” Dardarax turned his eyes to a wall-clock. It was a quarter past twelve. “Is that the time?” He turned towards Eric. “Mr. Acciai, do you mind if I turn on the news?”
“Sure, go ahead.” Eric picked up a long wooden stick and tossed it over the counter. Dardarax caught it and held it up. It was a magic wand, designed for activating the picture-box that sat in the far corner of the pizzeria, up above the patrons’ heads. The picture-box was a black box made of metal. It was magically attuned to supernatural forces that mortal eyes couldn’t see. With a bit of magic, images taking place in real time in other places in the world could be shone on the picture-box at a smaller scale. But there usually wasn’t anything interesting to watch.
“Activate!” Dardarax exclaimed. Deeth moved to the other side of the table as the picture-box roared to life.
“So what’s so interesting about the news today?” Deeth asked.
“There’s supposed to be a report about the delegations between Majinchi and Tajirid.” Dardarax said. The two watched as flashing lights and music played on the box. A human man and halfling woman were sitting at a long desk before a mural of the city. Both wore fancy suits and had slicked-up hair, as is typical for any news show.
“It’s the Midday Chronicles, with Sir Arden Fisc and Nissti Highbelly!” The announcer exclaimed.
“Good day, friends and loved ones.” Arden said as he picked up a scroll from the table. “During the last few weeks, Ambassador Karae Terren has attempted to negotiate a truce between the our fair Majinchi, and the kingdom of Tajirid. Sir Terren has hoped to establish peaceful terms to allow the Riders of both kingdoms to unite on The Sovereign Island.”
“I think I’ve heard about that guy.” Deeth said with a nod. “Karae fought in a few wars back in the day.” Dardarax nodded, barely paying attention as Nissti spoke next.
“So far, things haven’t taken a good turn for Sir Terren. King Durante has so far refused to allow his Riders anywhere near Majinchi, and he shows no signs of relenting any time soon. There’s word going around that Sir Terren will attempt more delegations at a summit later this month.”
“He’s barking up the wrong tree, if you ask me.” Deeth shook his head. “Dwarves aren’t known for giving in very easily. Just ask Dad.”
It’s true.” Eric shrugged as he pulled a pizza out of the oven and transferred it into a box.
Dardarax sighed unhappily as he shut off the picture-box. He put his head in his hands and groaned. “Darn it all.”
“Hey, relax man.” Deeth grimaced. “It’s not that big of a deal, is it?”
Deeth grimaced when Dardarax gave him a funny look. But before the scholar could say anything in response, the newscasters continued, drawing Dardarax’s attention.
“In other news, the Scarlet Bandit has been sighted crossing the Hackinack River into the district of Vivelen.” Arden said. “Whether the Bandit has any connection to the reports of other criminal activity in the area is unknown. Regardless, Majinchi Riders have been dispatched to investigate. If you live in the Vivelen area and see anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to inform the Riders!”
Dardarax frowned. “Why would they dispatch dragon riders to hunt down ONE bandit?”
“Beat me, man.” Deeth shrugged. “I don’t even know what the Bandit did.”
“Here’s hoping they don’t rough him up too bad if they catch him.” Dardarax sat up and straightened his back.
“Meh, whatever he did to get the Riders hounding after him must’ve been pretty bad.” Deeth said. He stood up from the table and stretched his limbs over his head. “Well, I’ve been hanging around for a bit too long. I need to head back to the apartment now.”
“Okay, Deeth...” Dardarax turned off the picture-box. Then his eyes widened and he looked back at Deeth. “Say, are you going to show up at the service this Sunday?”
“YES, I’ll be there this Sunday.” Deeth rolled his eyes.
“Hey, I just wanted to be sure.” Dardarax said with a grimace. “It’s a pretty important one this week. Everyone in my family’s going to be there.”
“Alright, I get it.” Deeth turned around to face Eric, pulling his wallet out of his pocket. “Hey Dad, I’ll take a few pizza slices for the road.
“Alright, coming up.” Eric said as he worked to get a personal-sized box from the shelves. Deeth placed a few Dogh coins on the counter. Dogh was the currency of the kingdoms. The coins were made of orichalcum and came in varying sizes. Deeth counted up enough coins to equal the price of pizza and picked up the box that Eric gave to him. “Thanks, Dad.”
“You’re welcome, lad.” Eric nodded. “Drive safely when you’re out on the road, alright?”
“Got it.” Deeth nodded. He turned and grinned at Dardarax as he stepped forwards. “See you this weekend!”
“See ya, Deeth...” Dardarax said with concern.
The car ride back home was just as uneventful as it was in the morning. Luckily there wasn’t as much traffic this time, so the ride home only took about five minutes.
“Thank the Ancestors, it’s Friday!” Deeth exclaimed as he walked into his apartment. He set the pizza box on the coffee table and tossed his fake elf-ears to the side. He then went to his room to change into a t-shirt and shorts.
Deeth returned to the living room and approached the bookshelf. After scanning the almost barren book selection, he settled on one of his personal favorites; a thick old book with a green-tinted cover. He wiped off the cover and sat down on the couch. He leaned back to slip into the couch’s “groove” and propped his feet on the coffee table.
Deeth carefully ate his pizza with one hand, while holding the book up with the other one. He kept the two items as separate as possible, to reduce the risk of getting grease on his book. He paid no attention to the time as he read the stories within. Deeth didn’t have much in the way of personal property for entertainment. He couldn’t afford a picture-box, nor did he really want one. There weren’t many decent wavelengths other than the news. Most of his money went towards keeping his car in top condition. All he had... all he needed... were his books.
Eventually Deeth glanced at his watch. It was nine ’o’clock. He stood up to put the remaining pizza in the fridge. After washing his hands, Deeth walked up to a window in his living room and stared out at the skyline. The landscape was alight with countless lights, illuminating the kingdom as far as the eye could see. Conversely, the night sky was devoid of any stars, something all citizens of the kingdom were used to. The dark silhouettes of dragons flying in front of buildings were visible far in the distance, flying towards the center of Majinchi.
After staring at the skyline for a few minutes, Deeth sighed and stepped back. “I should call it a night.”
Deeth returned to the couch and stretched out on it. He tried to go to sleep, only to find himself staring at the roof.
Get up. Eat. Go to work. Eat. Go home. Eat. Go to sleep. Deeth felt something in his chest. How long had this been Deeth’s daily routine? The weekend was the only time where he broke up his monotony. And even then, not by much. He didn’t have the money to afford major changes to his life. And he wasn’t about to mooch off of Genn and Eric.
I should consider myself lucky, I guess. I have a stable job, and a decent home... Deeth frowned. I shouldn’t be dreaming of anything ridiculous or childish. He shifted to look at his green book. And yet...
Eventually, Deeth finally slipped out of conscious thought and into slumber. He never saw the dragon and rider peeking through his window to watch him.