The Black Mana War
Francis "Frank" Beard
Nationality: Dual Citizen UK & USA
Born in the US to a British mother and Texan father.
Family moved to the UK shortly after his birth.
Raised in the lap of luxury and educated in the best schools Britain had to offer, Francis was destined for an extraordinarily easy life.
When the Texas oil fields that kept his family rich ran dry his father diversified into European energy companies, less volatile than the Middle East, he thought. For a time this seemed to have worked out for them, but when the ‘war’ broke out, all of those safe ‘AAA’ stock holdings went up in smoke.
His parents didn’t survive the war. The hard times were too hard on them and they just gave up. Francis was very close to doing that too, but the privilege and the sense of entitlement he’d held since an early age kept him going. He wasn’t going to let the world steal from him what he was entitled to!
Francis always had a stroke of good luck about him. He used to joke that he ‘made his own luck’ but he was aware that nine times out of ten, when the chips were down and he needed to flip a head, the coin would land heads up. So he started attending the small, underground casinos and gambling dens in London and its surrounds. The sorts of places that crop up, almost overnight, when the economy has gone to shit and everyone is desperate enough to let it all ride on a roll of the dice.
He made enough to survive. Not as much as he wanted, but these places were small time. He knew the big money was in the nastier parts of Europe. But travelling in the middle of a luke-warm war wasn’t exactly his idea of fun.
It wasn’t until his luck turned and he was beaten half to death by debt collectors that he realised he wasn’t in this for fun. He used the last of his cash and bought a ticket to Moscow.
It didn’t take him long to win back all he’d lost but Francis saw he had a chance here, despite the oppressive government and constant military presence on the streets, to rebuild the life to which he was entitled.
As it did before though, his luck turned.
Before he was dealing with a group of Welsh loan-sharks, violent but not psychopathic, they were business men. Now he was dealing with Yuri. A slimy weasle of a man with a reputation of cold and calculated violence. He was a sociopath. And Francis owed him a lot of money.
It was at this point, with Francis at his lowest, at his most panicked, that he noticed the person following him.
Francis was running the numbers in his head, trying to see his current situation from as many angles as possible. It was while he was doing that that he noticed the tall, skinny guy, pale with slicked back hair. He looked like a snitch from those old Bogart films, except taller.
This didn’t seem like something Yuri would pull, from what he’d heard Yuri was much more ‘hands-on’. Francis figured another loan shark, one he owed but couldn’t recall loaning from, was after him as well.
One night, on his way home from a successful poker game, he’d won enough to finally get out of town, he…felt…that the guy was following him again. This time, rather than just keep walking he stopped and turned. He figured his luck was turning back in his favour, and he was sick of feeling trapped.
He turned to face this person that kept following him and in front of his eyes the alley he was in became a garden, the walls transformed into a hedge, and the man…the…thing…stood silently, slowly growing and changing, until in it’s place stood a tower…a massive tower.
He felt like he no longer had control over his body. At the same time, he felt like he was more in control than he had ever been in his life. He strode toward the tower, pushing aside thorned off-shoots from the hedges to either side of him, and touched the tower’s wall. As he touched it’s almost flesh like surface he ‘willed’ his name onto the tower’s surface. A marking glowed where his hand touched. Not Francis Beard, no, this was his name. Unique and special. He turned back, moving to leave the alley behind, and in so doing, Awoke.
He took the train to Roden Vast. He preferred travelling by train, it took longer but there was always someone up for a game of cards or dice, and he preferred to take things easier since all the threads of time and fate started playing through his mind every-time he needed to make a choice. Better to take the slow boat and have time to sort through all the threads of possibility than to rush in.
He figured Roden Vast was the best place in Europe to lie low until Yuri and the other Russians he’d pissed off got tired of looking for him. That’s what he told himself at least. It was easier to justify that in the daylight than “He had a dream that all hell was about to break loose and if he wasn’t there to stop it the world was going to end”. No, he was going to Roden Vast to lay low. Make some money. Should he happen to end up in the way of an apocalypse…well. That’d just be his luck.