Looking for carriers of Shards of Safera was like meeting assassins of unknown allegiance. Should you kill an enemy, embrace a brother, or put a frog in a man’s beer to break the ice? Until you knew for certain, it was best to keep your loyalties secret.
However, Kender hadn’t met another carrier yet, so for now it was more like being a drifter. The shard in his pouch around his neck gave him only the slightest tug, a barely perceptible buzz taking him overland to eventually join with all the carriers—good and evil alike—in the reassembling of the Safera, the Agnovion of the golden ages. When that happened they would fight for control of it, but in these early days it pulled him from city to city to mix with the locals and take it easy, enjoying the benefits of the Carmigon monk’s cowl that he didn’t even earn.
Kender bumbled through Croober Village, picking through their market to find his lunch. It was peaceful but lonely. He enjoyed the freedom, but missed playing gatterball and eating pastries with his friends.
The shard warmed and tickled his chest, disrupting his tomato selection. A carrier was near. He forced himself to continue inspecting the fruit and tried to control his excitement. This would be his first encounter of many. Friend or foe? Plunderer or protector?
He purchased a tomato and scanned the market. Vendors and customers alike were mostly townspeople, but a few outsiders mingled. An upperclass lady in a light yellow dress gripped a basket of squash and smiled at a man selling her a melon. A singing juggler with dark skin bantered with the crowd. A milky-skinned girl with black hair pulled up like a bird’s crest and floral tattoos sweeping up to her collarbone picked through some jewelry.
The girl. Her eyes were wide and she held her hand to ear. Had she turned the shard into an earring? Her rebellious look alarmed him, her leather clothing too revealing and inappropriate. Were there any woman assassins? Kender had no idea being raised in the monastery.
He edged closer to her, the shard pulsating against his skin, spreading a glow of contentment through his body. She turned toward him, fists toward the ground, scowl on her face, ready to bolt.
“You carry a shard,” said Kender.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Could she really not know? He fought his excitement and kept his voice calm and pleasant. “For weeks now you’ve felt a longing and a warmth, maybe a buzz from a precious bauble?”
“I don’t do ‘baubles,’” she said. “Nor do I entertain a scandalous boy exploring my longings.”
Kender’s jaw fell open. “I didn’t mean… I wouldn’t…”
“What do you want?” she asked.
Kender straightened himself. “It’s not what I want. We’re both drawn to the rebirth of the Agnovion. Somewhere on your person you have a piece of it. Is it your earring?”
She turned her head, hiding the ear she’d touched before, and glared under furrowed brows.
“Carriers like you and me are on the move, coming closer and closer to each other, the shards’ magic coming alive. Very soon there will be a turbulent gathering, and you’ll need to make a choice.”
“I’m choosing now,” she said. “I’m going back to my people and leaving your lunacy behind.” She walked away.
“You won’t be able to resist it for long,” said Kender.
She turned back and stepped up to him nose-to-nose. “I choose my own destiny, misborn jackass. I want nothing of this gathering.”
Kender smiled. She showed no fear and didn’t flinch. “My name is Kender. When I see you again I hope our intentions will be aligned and we can be friends.”
She blinked, and her hardened glare took on a questioning look.
Across the market came three men and a woman in leather attire like hers.
“You’re people are coming,” Kender said.
She smiled. A very amused look that seemed to laugh at his expense.
“Lana,” she said, then bolted to meet her friends.
Kender watched them stroll out of the village. How untoward she was… and lovely.