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The water was cold, but fish didn’t seem to care. They were dancing in a colourful pantomime, no sound to be heard by a Homin’s ear. Each of them seemed to know exactly where it had to be or go, their ballet always a thing of grace and beauty, as if repeated for centuries. Young Bremmen O’Derry was watching them. He had always been a proud Tryker, and a fierce warrior with his weapon… but he had never discovered anything more beautiful than the natural spectacles such as the school of fish to be found in his beloved lakes.
Little waves rippled across the surface, and the fish turned to flashes of colour as they darted from sight. He looked the other way, and saw a patrol of Trykers swimming incredibly fast. He recognized them immediately: they were the Corsairs who often patrolled in Liberty Lake, never afraid of swimming to reach farther islands where they had many interesting, and useful tasks to do… At least was it what Bremmen believed. His father had always told him about his own past, when he was younger, in the tribe of Corsairs. It had shaped him, both body and mind; it wasn’t far from a kind of tour of duty in fact… apart from the fact that they weren’t officially offering their services to the Federation.
By the time Bremmen looked back to the lake, the Corsairs were already disappearing into the distance. He jumped up and dived into the water. He had to follow them; he wanted to follow them and to join their tribe. So many young Trykers already had… and they filled him with longing to emulate them, only two or three years older, yet they were respected by everyone. But it was not long before he was so out of breath that he was unable to continue. The patrol, meanwhile, had failed to notice him and continued on its way. Lost in the middle of the Lakes, Bremmen tried to reach the first island to regain his breath. His lungs were burning, like the very day when his grand father offered him to smoke a pipe.
- “I want to try!” Bremmen said to his grand father.
- “Sure, try it” he answered, offering him the pipe.
He got the pipe between his lips, took some smoke in his mouth and spit it out.
- “Not like that! Breathe!” Bremmen’s grand father said.
He tried once more, breathed in and coughed immediately, choking on the acrid smoke. His grand father roared with laughter and Bremmen never tried again… But today, he was feeling as if he’d smoked and coughed for hours. Corsairs were really good swimmers. Certainly the best of Atys! He couldn’t see them anymore. The fish had retaken their places, and once again resumed their silent dancing as if nothing happened.
Bremmen stood up again, and climbed up a steep cliff in the middle of the island he had found. From the top, he had a panoramic view of Liberty Lake and the island which he now rested on. On the West side, he saw something that made his eyes light up! It was less than 400m away from his position, but too far for him to see exactly what was happening. He looked up at the sky, and smiled. According to his calculations, it should be the Corsairs camp!
Bremmen ran down the western face of the cliff and reached the beach. Only a little swimming time separated him from his aim now. He took a deep breath, and dived in again, and began swimming quickly in the hope that it would make a good impression on the corsairs.. Unfortunately, he kept his rhythm for less than 250m, and by the time he reached the beach he was as red as some of the fish he had observed earlier, gasping for breath.
He stared at the floor, an attempt to hide his shame from the scrutinizing look of Codgan Be’Yle. He was relieved when he looked up again, and saw that nobody had noticed his presence… It had taken him so long to catch his breath they all had moved on to other tasks…
Bremmen quickly combed his hair with his hands, and walked at an assured pace toward the nearest Corsair he had seen.
- “Hi!” He said to the welcomer.
- “Hi young boy” The welcomer answered.
- “Young boy? I’m not a young boy anymore. I’m a young Homin now, brave and bold”
Bremmen shifted the weapon strapped to his back, so the welcomer could be awestruck.
- “Brave and bold homins do not take five minutes to catch their breath when they swim slowly and only a short distance... Anyway, my name is Codgan Be’Yle. I’m the Corsairs’ welcomer. What could I do for you? Try to sum it up quickly, for I have a lot to do”
Bremmen’s cheeks turned bright red. But it was his only chance, so he quickly answered Be’Yle.
- “My name’s Bremmen O’Derry. I’m Arty O’Derry’s son. Do you know him?”
- “No” replied the welcomer.
- “But, he was in the Corsairs, some years ago”
- “You know, boy, there are so many young Trykers who come to serve our cause everyday and who finally leave some years later… I cannot remember everyone”
Bremmen restrained his anger when he heard Codgan calling him “boy” again.
- “I came a long way, from the city of Fairhaven, to meet you and to serve your cause. My weapon is yours, if you agree to enrol me”
- “Well, try to find Derren Be’Lauppy then. He surely has some tasks to give you. Come back after you’re done and maybe I’ll think about giving you something else to do”
- “Ok! Who is he?” Bremmen asked, looking at the homins in the camp.
- “He’s not here. He’s a scout. You should be able to find him in the Winds of Muse”.
- “The Winds of Muse? But that’s very far! And dangerous, isn’t it?”
- “Surely not for a brave and bold Homin such as yourself. Did you really think I would tell you “welcome to the corsairs” simply because you made from Fairhaven to our camp? Now go, and don’t come back until you proved you are useful.”
Bremmen stared open-mouthed. A test, of course… Or maybe the welcomer was too busy to deal with every young Tryker that came this way… Either way, Bremmen prove himself and go find the scout.
It had been three days since Bremmen had left the camp. He had reached the Winds of Muse the night before, and met many Trykers there… All silt sculptors… none of them were however able to tell him where he could find Derren Be’Lauppy… but at least he could sleep in a tent rather than lying on the cold sand that he had been forced to endure on his travels. His trusty weapon was proving very useful in converting the prowling cloppers to food.. His thirst he quenched from the water of the lakes. Still convinced that he had to impress the Corsairs, he continued to look for the scout in every possible location.
He spent five days this way. The sixth night saw him thoughtfully consulting his map, and drawing the last crosses… He was sure that he had looked absolutely everywhere and he was starting to believe that Codgan, the Corsairs’ welcomer had played a nasty trick on him and he was deciding whether to walk and swim back to the camp and give him a piece of his mind. He made his way slowly through the many Cloppers, holding them off with his weapon. He had improved greatly in this discipline almost without realizing it from all of the cloppers he’d encountered in his searching. Emerging from the cloppers, he spied a man he’d never met, just behind a herd of Ragus. He was peacefully wandering around, and taking down notes as he rambled. Could this be the scout he was looking for? He ran toward them and began to speak:
- “Hi! Would you be Derren, by any chance?”
- “Hi young Homin” replied the strange Homin, agreeing with a grin.
Bremmen was so excited that he couldn’t even ask Derren where he’d been the last few days but in a flash Bremmen realized something. This Homin was a scout, and a scout isn’t supposed to stay in the same location. They walk the ways of Atys to observe the fauna, the creatures’ behaviour, the outposts, the groups of travellers… Bremmen introduced himself and explained why he was looking for Derren. They chatted for nearly an hour. Derren was sympathetic, open-minded and very happy to help anyone sent by Codgy. Derren gave Bremmen a quest to fulfil: observe the Cutes around the area, and mark the location of their groups on his map.
Our young Homin began to patrol the area and tried to locate the Cutes. He had improved so much in holding creatures off with his weapon that his task only took him three days. Finally, the sole place he hadn’t visited was Windy Way. He had kept this area for the very end, since he knew it was the most dangerous. Fulminating Ragus were a plague, and he hardly managed to survive the last time he went there. He hurtled forward, ducking through the crowds of Gnooffs. He lay low, crawling between plants, controlling the wind’s direction to prevent predators from smelling him, trying to get closer to the southern pools where it would be safer.
Finally arriving, he glanced around the area, and noticed some other groups of Cutes. He went forward to examine them, camouflaging himself in the flora to write down their location. He was staring at one of them, studying its behaviour, when a scream froze his blood; another Cute was returning to the group and Bremmen was exactly in its path. He took out his trusty weapon, and shot several times, enduring the cute’s assault without a word. Less than a minute later, our Tryker had managed to kill the attacking cute, though sustaining grave wounds in the process.
Danger was still present unfortunately, as he turned back to the group he spotted very big Cute advancing towards him. It looked different form the others, but Bremmen didn’t hesitate. He sprinted for the water, escaping the Cutes claws with a dive into the welcoming lake. The Cute stopped at the waterside. Bremmen looked at him. “Like the Ragus”, he thought. “It is afraid of water, so it must be closer to creatures than to Homins.” Bremmen stepped out on the opposite side of the lake, and made his way back to Derren. He had all of the Cutes’ locations, thus completing his task, so he was certainly eligible to join the Corsairs, now!
Just a few minutes later, he met the scout.
- “Hi Derren!” He said.
- “Hi Bremmen!”
- “I’ve marked every group of Cutes on my map as you requested”
- “Well, that’s impossible young Homin. You’ve only worked for a few days, and the groups will move with the seasons… Come back in one year” Derren concluded with a big grin.
- “What? You must be joking!”
- “I am!” He said laughing. “Give me your map and I’ll add your information to the ones I already gathered.”
Derren took the map, and looked at it.
- “The Cutes were hard to observe”, Bremmen said. “They kept attacking me when I was close to them. I’ve even seen a very big one, different looking. I almost thought it was a Homin, for one second… But it attacked me like the others”
- “Oh, you met Doren. Anyway, they only attack you when you disturb them. In fact, those creatures are more or less placid, but they feel threatened whenever you enter their hunting territory. So observe them from afar, and if you really want to talk with some of them, try to meet the Cuzans.”
- “The Cuzans? What are they?”
- “Higher Cutes. That will be your next mission: get to their tribe, and come back to tell me what they prefer to eat.”
- “Where are they?”
- “In the Lagoons of Loria.”
- “Good luck. And take care there, that region is not as safe as the Winds of Muse“
Bremmen was astounded. Having little choice if his ambition was to be fulfilled, he accepted the challenge and left the scout, heading towards the Lagoons of Loria.
Bremmen had never been as hungry as he was by the time that he finally reached the Cuzans’ camp. As soon as he entered the Lagoons of Loria, his weapon became useless: creatures there were so swift that he could barely target them. Instead, he moved slowly through the landscape, avoiding potential trouble as he had learnt to do in the Winds of Muse.
He glanced carefully around at the Cuzans. They looked very much like Cutes, after all, and might prove to be equally dangerous, so he tried to stay a safe distance from them. Unfortunately, his stomach was aching and grumbling because of his hunger. A couple of minutes later, a Cuzan approached him, slowly, holding some big fruits. What a surprise for the little Homin! The Cuzans were not like the Cutes he had met up until now. They displayed no aggressive tendencies and moreover, they seemed to be… almost Homin-like.
- “Hello Tryker” The Cuzan greeted Bremmen. “You seem to be hungry and tried, eat those fruits and come. Follow me to the camp”.
Bremmen gulped the fruits as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks… which was almost the truth. Reassured, he followed the little Cuzan to the camp. Some other creatures from the tribe gathered around him, and began to search curiously in his belongings. Bremmen walked over and picked up a book which they were all gathered round.
- “Are you interested in this?” He asked.
- “Yes. It is a book; there is special knowledge in it!”
- “Then take it, it is yours in exchange for the fruits” Bremmen answered with a smile.
- “Thank you Tryker. Eat as much as you wish of these fruits and berries. This means such a lot to us.”
Bremmen was far happier with food than with the book at that moment. He also knew that he could find the same book again in Fairhaven where he had bought the first. The Cuzans still clustered around the book, and as some tried to read it, painstakingly spelling out a word or two, an older one took it into his carefully into his keeping. Bremmen speculated to himself that this was surely the chief, but was too busy with his meal to really care.
Our Tryker stayed nearly a week with the Cuzans. He learnt a lot about them, discovering which of the different berries they liked, and identifying the ones they would not eat, as Derren had asked him to do. They were so grateful for the book that he had donated to them that they showed him many of their spots for gathering fruits and other food, replying patiently to his insistent questions about their lifestyle. Finally, when he had all written down, he decided to head back to the Corsair scout, laden with gifts of fruit.
On his way back to the vortex, Bremmen camouflaged himself to avoid as many carnivores as possible. He did it so well that that he even managed to remain unnoticed when he spotted two Matis chatting about twenty meters from him. He could hear every word.
- “Hail to thee”
- “Is everything in order?”
- “It is. They arrive in exactly one week, and we will attack the outpost on Quinteth, just on sunset.”
- “Perfect! The surprise effect will give them no chance. Farewell and good luck until we meet again on Quinteth.”
One of the Matis left, another arriving a few minutes later.
- “Hail to thee.”
- “Everything is in order. The outpost will be taken on Quinteth in one week, just at sunset.”
- “Our troops should split up somewhat to avoid detection.”
- “Those orders have already been given.”
- “Mine will come from the Winds of Muse. We will split when entering the Lagoons of Loria and half of us will head straight to the north, with the others heading south-east.”
- “May they gather at the right moment for us to be ready to defeat them. That is my sole desire, and what I am paid for.
- “It will be done as you command. For the Queen!”
- “For the Queen!”
Both of them departed, leaving Bremmen astonished. What were they planning? Where did they come from? Who were they? So many questions were remaining unanswered. He carefully noted down what he has heard, his location, and the place one of the Matis was pointing to when he talked about the outpost. This could be very interesting if he could find out whom to pass the information on to. He waited a short while longer to make certain that he would not be detected leaving cover and sprinted straight to the Vortex, as fast as he was able to manage, to enable him to discuss the matter with Derren as soon as possible.
Reaching his goal took him a further day of running and marching, but he managed to find Derren far sooner than he had anticipated.
- “Hi Derren!”
- “Hi Bremmen. So, have you met the Cuzans?”
- “Yes, and I wrote everything here on this parchment.
Bremmen gave his notes to Derren who began to look at them as he continued to speak.
- “I have other, stranger news, Derren. As I was travelling back, I overheard some Matis who were talking about invading an outpost in the Lagoons of Loria.”
Derren dropped the parchment immediately and stared at our young Tryker.
- “Pray tell me more!”
- “I have written everything down here. I thought someone might be very interested in this information.”
- “I am sure that the Corsairs will be. I, however have to remain here. Run to Codgan, as fast as you can and give him as many details as possible.”
- “The welcomer?”
- “No. Codgan Ba’Nakry, our current leader. Hurry up now!”
Bremmen left the scout quickly, and headed to the Corsairs’ camp, instinctively aware that the outcome would depend on his speed.
Codgan hadn’t really listened to the young Tryker. He’d just taken a look at his notes, and asked him if he was a fighter. Bremmen wasn’t sure of his answer, but nodded and thus, he found himself in possession of a shiny new set of armour in the Corsairs’ colours, moving swiftly in company to the Lagoons of Loria. Five days after the meeting between the Matis, the corsairs reached the vortex between the Lagoons and the Winds of Muse. During their travel they had come up with a plan of action.
First, they would spy on the group of Matis travelling from the Winds of Muse, and then attack each part of the Matisian army after they had split. Following this, they would sweep the area to ensure that no other Matis were present, ensuring that any attack on the outpost would be so weak as to not stand a chance. Every Corsair seemed to know exactly what he had to. Bremmen had been asked to use his weapon on magicians, and preferably to target their head so as to stun them.
They established a camp just south from the vortex. A scout had been sent to the Winds of Muse to locate the Matis and ascertain their numbers. During the period of waiting, Bremmen collected some fruits and mushrooms while the better fighters went hunting for meat. They ate together, and talked for a long time around the campfire, narrating tales of the old land. Bremmen could hardly believe he was sharing so much with the Corsairs. Definitely his heart belonged to them. They slept well, taking shifts on guard duty, with someone always to make sure that the carnivores kept their distance from the camp.
At sunrise, the scout returned. He gulped some food before making his report. There were sixteen Matis on their way, so they would certainly split into two eight-people groups once they had passed through the portal. They would arrive at noon. The Corsairs decided to attack them right at the vortex: as they were far more numerous and would have the element of surprise. Time was of the essence as they also had to stop the other group coming from Verdant Heights. So they headed north, and camouflaged themselves with mud to blend in with the surrounding environment.
The sun was at its zenith when the Matis came through the vortex. Their black armour stood out easily against the yellow sand of the beaches of the Lagoons. They stopped and were awaiting the order to split ranks when the call to attack was shouted. All the Corsairs sprang up and began to move in on their target. Bremmen took his weapon, and hit a destructor right in the middle of his head. The magician didn’t fall, but was completely stunned. Then he aimed at the healers. The warriors were closing in on him, but the two healers were quickly stunned and surrounded by other warriors from the Corsairs. Bremmen was going to flee, but the Corsairs were able to overcome the remaining warriors. It took less time than expected: the Corsairs were indeed good at warfare; their opponents had stood no chance. Some of the Corsairs looted the bodies, taking anything of value.
They healed their wounds… they had very few in fact, and not one of their ranks had died. But their time was counting down. They sent three scouts to explore the Lagoons of Loria, and moved to the outpost targeted by the Matis, to establish a defence. No creature dared attack them, and they arrived at the outpost in a couple of hours. They examined their surroundings, and established a strategy for the final conflict.
Night fell on the the Lagoons of Loria, and they camped like the night before. The next morning at first light, two of the scouts had already returned. Two groups of fifteen people had been located. There were both coming from the North, but one group was ahead of the other and would doubtless stop and wait to combine forces for the attack on the outpost. The dune selected by the Corsairs would surely be the one they would choose to assemble at due to its view of the outpost.
They guessed right. They saw Matis warriors coming from the horizon, fifteen of them. They were heading right for the dune the Corsairs were hiding behind. The Corsairs, camouflaged again against the vegetation, lay still and awaited their prey. The Matisians arrived and were quickly overcome by the Corsairs. Some Corsairs looted the opponents’ bodies then all returned to their position only to see two other groups of fifteen people arriving at the outpost, one from the north, and the other from the south. This time, the battle would be much harder. But Bremmen quickly turned to the leader of the Corsairs with a plan.
- “That’s dangerous and very risky for you. Are you sure you want to try it?”
- “I am. And this way only one of us takes a risk. If it works then we’ll have no trouble defeating them”
- “Try it then, take these clothes, and good luck!”
Bremmen put on a set of Matis armour, and ran to the south, straight up to the group of approaching Matis, while the Corsairs went quietly northwards. Our Tryker was less than 50m far from the Matis when one of them made a sign. He stopped and shouted:
- “I come in peace. Some of your friends seem to be in trouble not far from here, fighting the Cuzans, but I cannot approach them and give them a hand alone”
The Matis leader hesitated, and made another sign for him to come closer.
- “How are they dressed?”
- “All in black armour, Sir. They’re less than 500m to the east. I can lead you there, if you wish”
- “Led by a Tryker? Somehow I don’t think so…”
- “Then I can just point to the place. Do you see that tree on the dune? Just head towards it, and then 200 meters straight to the east”
- “You are coming with us. Your kind is known to lie!”
Bremmen swallowed slowly. He followed the Matis, trying to stay as far from them as possible, but one of the warriors put his sword against his back, ordering him to walk before him. He had no choice but to obey. They reached the tree, and looked to the east.
- “So, where are they?” One of the Matis asked.
- “They should be there, but we cannot see them from so far away…”
- “Go on then!”
They walked the 200 meters, but of course, there were no Matis, and not even a sign that there had ever been a fight. The Matis glanced at Bremmen, and our Tryker began to wonder if his last hour had come…..
Bremmen was sweating abundantly. The Matis put his sword under Bremmens chin, and asked him if he had any last words. The Tryker looked at him, his knees going soft, when suddenly the Matis fell.
The Corsairs charged them from behind. Bremmen didn’t think twice and ran toward his friends. One of the Matis began to cast a spell, but he was too late: the warriors were already on them. The Matis were caught unprepared, and a few minutes later, they had all fallen. Bremmen looked at them and said: “You see, I’m not a liar, there are Matis lying here…” Some Corsairs looted the homins, and Bremmen gave them a hand.
- “Why are we looting them?”
- “That’s our reward.”
- “But… ok.”
He didn’t ask for more information, he sensed he wouldn’t get an answer... He decided to ask Codgan Ba’Nakry later on.
The Corsairs went back to the camp weighed down with their loot. On the way home Bremmen tried to understand the reasons why the Corsairs decided to attack the Matis in such haste without knowing what was happening to him. It was explained that they didn’t really need a reason: the Matis were there, and made a good target to pillage since they generally are well equipped and carry many goods and dappers. He didn’t ask for more information.
Once back in the camp, he bowed to Codgan, and began to speak to him.
- “Hello Codgan.”
- “Greetings, young Corsair!”
- “Our mission has been…”
- “I’m already aware of what happened. Go straight to your questions, I suppose you have a lot.”
- “Well I’ve been told that we had no reason to attack the Matis, other than pillaging them?”
- “Yes, but they are enemies above all.”
- “Why are they enemies? Matis and Trykers are supposed to be united.”
- “Yes, but all Matis aren’t allied to Trykers”
- “And those weren’t?”
- “You’d better assume they weren’t if you want to avoid any guilt…” he replied with a smile.
- “Sure. But if we were wrong… Maybe the Federation would be angry at us…”
- “The Federation? No, they wouldn’t. They appreciate our services, and even pay us for it. And remember that the Governor Still Wyler was our chief before me.”
- “I have been told about that. But why did he leave?”
- “Because he had higher goal. And he achieved it. He was elected to replace Beadley Nimby in 2508. Moreover, many young Trykers join us when they’re young. But as years pass on, they become less and less fiery… so less and less useful to us as well.”
- “But one thing is strange. You told me the Federation was paying us for our services… But… They believe in Jena, and we…”
- “We are loyal partisans, and play a preponderant role in warfare. Isn’t it enough? And well… many Trykers do not understand they shouldn’t trust the Karavan. Kamis are our friends of nature, but we cannot force our brothers to believe in them. Let’s wait until they realize it themselves.”
Codgan’s speech was wise, and Bremmen’s heart was touched. He understood all that his father told him about the Corsairs, all what he could learn from them. And in return, he kneeled and pledged allegiance to the Corsairs. The tribe chief smiled.
- “Please rise. You already are one of us, Bremmen.”
He was welcomed into the group and was shown to a tent he would share with two others. His new home; his new family. A few minutes later, he saw a young Tryker speaking with Codgan Be’Yle. Shortly after, the young Tryker was swimming to the Winds of Muse… and choking every hundred of metres. Bremmen laughed, and found himself something to do to help the Corsairs.
— a young Corsair, the legendary fighter Bremmen O'Derry