I’m having a bit of a day where I’m not really sure what to write about, so I figured I may as well do another look at a Serpent in a Cage character. These posts tends to be mostly just me babbling to myself, but I do rather like writing them. Today we’re having a look at Locke and Gilferen’s mentor and foster father, Knolan Rszbeki.
Art by James Lara, many moons ago, and not by me!
The Rszbeki family had been with the nomadic group of marauders, the Battaracks, for generations. Their skill, strength, and intelligence had served them well; it was very typical for a man or woman with the Rszbeki name to be close at hand to one of the Battarack leaders, and Knolan was no exception. Especially after his brother Blade left the group, stating a distinct dislike of the path they were going, he got close to the youngest son of the current leader, a boy names Mandrake Battarack, who was very close to Blade’s age, becoming a powerful brotherly substitute for Knolan. As they grew, they became nearly inseparable. Knolan was a strong leader and Mandrake’s best friend, and he was certain a romance was blooming between himself and the daughter of Mandrake’s oldest brother, the lovely and intelligent Serene.
Unfortunately, Knoaln was not the only one getting eyes for Serene, and his niece wasn’t the only thing Mandrake wanted, either. Despite Knolan’s protests that his intentions were pretty much insane, Mandrake went ahead and pulled a coup to take over the Battaracks, since his status as third son allowed him nothing. Knowing Serene’s father would never approve of their marriage, he killed him. Knowing the rest of his family would not approve of this, he killed everyone else, and, with no one left, he claimed the leadership of the group, which was too shaken with shock to really argue. Most of them soon left, diminishing their forces significantly, and Knolan started to wonder if Blade hadn’t been right. He stayed by Mandrake’s side, if not out of dedication to his old friend, then merely for Serene, so she wouldn’t have to go through this alone.
It wasn’t long after the birth of Serene and Mandrake’s son, Locke, that the end of the Battaracks finally seemed nigh. The Army of Gynnocota, a long time enemy of the group, had found out where they were and descended upon them, creating a veritable massacre. Knolan fought his way to Mandrake and Serene’s tent, only to discover that it was too late for Serene but perhaps it might not be too late for her child. She gave Knolan the order to take the boy and flee with him, raise him, keep him safe, and then disappeared to meet her death by sword as any Battarack woman would be honoured to do. And Knolan kept his honour, taking the child Locke into the woods, away from the carnage and into supposed safety.
It turns out that Serene wasn’t the only woman concerned with the security of her offspring; just when Knolan thought he and Locke were away from it all, he discovered a woman in the last breaths of her own life, who begged for Knolan to take care of her son, and died before Knolan could really refuse. There he was, his whole world burning with two babies in his arm, and not a clue what to do about it.
But he did what he could and though they had to do a lot of stealing and thievery to do it, they managed to get by. Every day, Knolan heard Serene’s voice in his head, a disapproval of the way he was forced to raise the boys, but what choice did he have? But soon, it would get better; he kept telling himself that it would get better and, one day, young Locke started babbling on an idea of building the Battaracks up, and he would be the leader, like his father. Knolan tried hard never to speak ill of Locke’s father in front of him, and the boy started to get ideas of grandeur. After a while, Knolan started to wonder if Locke might not be onto something, though their force of three was hardly even a shade of the army that had been defeated years ago. They tried to consider recruiting others into their fold, but struggled to find anyone except mercenaries who soon left after jobs were completed; the only one that stuck around was a young man named Jaxson Devoii, whom Locke despised, but Knolan appreciated for his experience and expertise.
Things started to get more complicated when this mini-Battaracks accepted a job to cargo some fruit across the ocean to the continent of Kassir, only to discover the job had been a complete bust that left them stranded. In their efforts to get back to Kyano, Knolan is reconnected with a woman named Taluin Sera Cohl, a woman he instantly recognizes as Serene’s best friend. Memories start flooding back, and he is also astonished that, after all these years, there are other survivors of the massacre. Their being in Kassir seems to take on an almost serendipitous note, especially when Taluin explains to Knolan that she is an Ana’ay’Asyentai, a scholar of the prophesies predicting that there will be six individuals who will rise to power across the world of Aryneth to bring the gods back after they were sealed away ages ago. And it turns out that the same person Locke was talking about going and rescuing from a stronghold for ransom is the same person Taluin hopes to find as the first Asyentai!
Forces are joined, rescues occur, and it’s a new era for the Battaracks. Taluin believes that Locke may be the next Asyentai, and so they return to Kyano to not only reclaim the Battarack throne, but also to uncover more about Knolan’s past. Locke almost believes that Knolan could be his real father, but Knolan must admit that, as much as he loved Serene, such a thing would have been impossible. Through their journeys, he begins to have feelings for Taluin, but Taluin is concerned that he is only tansferring his feelings for Serene onto her, since she, like Locke, is a reminder of her. Heartbroken but accepting, Knolan puts his focus into following the prophesies and helping Locke take over the Valley of the Swallow and become king of a land that was once ruled by Battaracks in a time so long ago, it exists mostly in legends. He becomes Locke’s military adviser, training the soldiers of Battarack into an army to defeat any foe that may attempt to defeat them.
The most likely foe for this would easily be Gynnocota, once more the Battarack’s enemy. There are surprises waiting there when the Battaracks take a hold of their corner of Kyano. Not only is the Majani serving the prince the long lost sister of Gilferen, the other boy in Knolan’s care, but she is working closely with none other than Blade Rszbeki, Knolan’s own brother who left before things started going downhill. These coincidences seem promising in bridging the ancient gap between the two nations, but Calliana Allok’s unexpected assassination burns that bridge in one fell swoop. Blade is unable to forgive the nation of Battarack, who he blames for her death, and wages war upon them. The brothers meet in battle, where Knolan is victorious, but he does not get out of it unscathed: he is heavily wounded, both bodily and emotionally, and realizes he must give up the sword.
He still serves Battarack to a certain capacity; he oversees military operations and is a constant adviser to Locke, who grows to be an impressive leader and a stronger man, and even names his first son after his foster father. Eventually, his old age gets the best of him, and he dies peacefully, albeit feeling very alone, despite the fact that he is surrounded by people who love and honour him. He is never quite certain he has ever been fulfilled since Serene’s death, and he carries his doubt that he had done her well after it, though anyone who ever heard him utter such a thing would just shake their heads and insist he was being a deluded old man.