Pt. I, An uneasy nightEdit
The skies were filled with heavy clouds. The stars and moons all hidden away, and the night dark. The wind howled through the trees of the wetland jungles.
In the dark a high-pitched scream startled the wildlife. Within the thick undergrowth a young druid ran for her life. Her ornamented garments were badly torn, and her arms and legs scratched and bloody. Not far behind her three wild tribals of the deep jungles were closing in their kill.
A bright flash ripped through the skies, followed by a thundering explosion and heavy rainfall. The young druid, in an attempt to leap across a river, fell into the water and was carried away by the strong currents. Her pursuers bitterly gave up their hunt as they saw their dinner disappear down the flooding rapids, and made their way back into the deep jungles.
Violently pulled beneath the surface, the druid desperately tried to escape the grip of the current. Calling upon the undergrowth on the river bottom to aid her, the young druid managed to drag herself to the muddy banks. In a last effort of willpower and strength she climbed a tree and passed out on a thick branch. Beneath her the river rapids raged on.
In a bay somewhere along the jungle's southern shores, obscured by thick vegetation, a pirate ship was docked. The crew were all asleep, safe inside their quarters from the raging storm. The ship was badly damaged from the rough weather.
The only one awake was the captain. He paced back and forth in his cabin, contemplating the next move on his current campaign of piracy. Maps and notes were scattered all over the floor, pointing out places of interest deemed suitable for pillaging. The ship wasn't designed for leprechaun sailors, so the tables and chairs weren't put to use much.
The captain kneeled at one of the tattered maps. "If we were to sail east," he thought to himself "we could eventually take the rivers up into the wetland territories, pillage and steal whatever we come across, and have the storages full of loot by the end of the month." He smiled briefly. The captain knew that scenario would be the most positive outcome.
He also knew that they could easily run aground or get lost along the narrow rivers of the wetlands. They could get caught by pirate trackers, or perhaps worse by the cannibal tribes.
The ship rocked heavily in the wind. The captain was pacing back and forth in his cabin once again. "For now," he thought "we'll stay docked in this bay, hidden away, and gather food and supplies in the jungles. Maybe even raid some villages." He started piling up the scattered maps and parchments. "When the ship is repaired and our pantries are full, we'll set sail east."
The skies began to clear up just as the sun rose over the jungle canopy. A young leprechaun, out on a traditional walkabout, stepped out of his small tent. He stretched and yawned in the sunlight. After having eaten a quick breakfast he packed up his tent, readied a pipe, and climbed onto the shell of his turtle.
The young traveler whistled cheerfully as his turtle surfed safely down one of the many rivers of the jungles. He had been on traveling foot for almost eight months, and had grown quite accustomed to the adventurous life.
As he rode down the river he kept an eye on the jungles surrounding him. He wasn't exactly sure where he was, and didn't know which tribes controlled these parts.
Something in a tree caught his attention. What looked like a piece of cloth on a branch, perhaps a banner or sign of territorial boundaries of some sort. The young traveler steered his turtle towards the river bank.
The tree was quite high, and the young traveler thought it would be perfect to climb and get a look of the surroundings. He also thought he'd take a look at the banner and see if it belonged to any tribe he knew of.
The traveler leaped off his turtle, tied it to the tree, and began climbing.
As the traveler climbed higher and got closer to the thick branch, where he thought he'd seen a flag, he realized it was no such thing. On the branch he saw a young leprechaun in torn druid's garments passed out.
The traveler climbed on to the branch and approached the unconscious druidess. Judging by her appearance, the young traveler figured she'd had quite a rough night. He kneeled down beside the druidess.
"Hey." he said and gently shook her. "Wake up, would you?"
The druidess opened her eyes and immediately pushed away from the traveler. "Stay away from me!" she screamed.
The traveler took a step back. "No, hey, wait! I won't hurt you or anything." he said. The druidess stared him in his eyes. "I promise." He smiled. "My name is Davhin, I'm from Vahrs, and that down there is Ari." He pointed at his turtle. "I thought we could offer you a ride to where ever you're going." The druidess remained silent. "I promise I won't hurt you. I was just passing by, and thought I saw something in the tree here. It turned out to be you, and you seem to be in sort of a bad shape. I want to help out. And I kind of need you to say something." Davhin looked at the druidess.
"Okay." she said.
"Great." Davhin answered. "Okay what?"
The druidess got on her feet. "You could offer me a ride."
Davhin smiled once more. "Well, okay then. Come on over here and I'll help you get down."
"Thank you, Davhin." the druidess said. "And my name is Idra, by the way."
On the isle of Kohr, in a small fishing village, two pirate trackers are sitting by the shore enjoying the pleasant day. One looks old and seasoned, and the other young and inexperienced. The older one is drinking a large brew.
"So what you have to keep in mind is using different names, kid." the older one said. "Because nowadays, any tribal lass from nowhere-isle travels about, and word spreads quicker than you know it." he drank from his brew. "If you don't go about with different names, you'll end up like me; stuck with three families to provide for, all in different parts of the damned world."
The young tracker laughed. "I agree, you really are a sorry old bastard."
A courier approached the pirate trackers. "I have a letter for you two." He handed it over to the older one. "Thank you."
"Is that from the Triumvirate?" the younger one asked. "What does it say?"
"It's another target. Let me see." he mumbled back. "What is believed to be a human ship operated by leprechauns has been seen along the shores of Durad. The ship was last seen four days ago raiding a few villages in the westpoint territores, before sailing south." The older pirate tracker folded the letter and looked at his partner. "What do you think, kid?"
"I think it sounds like our vacation is over." he answered and smiled. "I'll ready the turtles."
The sun shone brightly over the bay on the coast, where the pirate crew had just woken up. They were loudly enjoying their breakfast when the captain's first mate stormed into their quarters.
"Quit your jabberin' and listen up." he barked. "The captain want you all on deck in five minutes. Two of you, Tomrayn and Bannir, come with me." The first mate pointed at the pirates. "Me and the captain need some help in the storages. Let's go."
The captain stood in the weapons storage, counting the crew's blades and crossbows. There was enough weaponry to outfit a smaller legion of soldiers.
"Captain Jerryd, sir." The first mate and the two pirates stepped in to the room.
"Good, good." said captain Jerryd. "Each of you grab a crate and bring it up on deck." he said to the two shipmates. "Siros, you help me with this one." Captain Jerryd grabbed a side of a large crate and Siros the other. "On three, mate." Jerryd said. "One, two, three."
Five minutes later the ship's crew were all gathered on deck, waiting for their captain to speak up.
"We are in a shitty situation, men, and I'm sorry for interrupting your merry breakfast." Jerryd began. "The ship's hull is badly damaged, and our food storages are running empty. Last night in the storm I steered us into the safety of this bay, where we are hidden away by the trees and bushes." The captain looked to his first mate. "I have decided, and I'm sure Siros agrees, that we hold up here until we've repaired the ship and restocked on food and supplies." First mate Siros nodded. Captain Jerryd looked to his crew again. "So I want half of you men to grab weapons from those crates and go out on a hunt for food, and the other half to grab tools and begin the reparations. We have no time to waste."
Siros turned to captain Jerryd as the crew got to work. "You and I should look at some maps on the surroundings. There might be villages worth plundering here." he said.
Pt. II, Making friendsEdit
A week later, inside the maze of rivers, the young leprechauns Davhin and Idra were gliding over the waves upon Ari the turtle's shell. Rays of sunlight were slicing through the jungle canopy.
"So how old is Ari?" Idra asked.
"She hatched just shortly after I was born. I have had her ever since." Davhin said and stroked Ari's shell. "She's thirteen years old, same as me."
"You've known her your entire life? That's lovely." Idra said. "I can tell you share a special bond. It's not unusual between leprechauns and their animal companions to be connected on a spiritual level."
"And what of you then, Idra?" Davhin asked. "We've traveled together for a week, but you never talk about yourself."
Idra sighed slowly. "What of me then?"
"I take it you're a druidess. Are you doing research for the Teoth Denon? Is that why you're heading south?"
"I'm not with the Teoth Denon anymore." Idra answered. "But you could say I'm going south for research."
"You 're still not saying much, you know." Davhin said. "What are you researching?" he asked.
"I appreciate your kindness, Davhin." Idra said and paused. She looked at the dust passing through the rays of sunlight and sighed again. "I am looking for someone, someone I care for, and I would like it if you wouldn't ask more questions about it."
"Okay, alright, I won't ask about that anymore." Davhin said. "What about your family then? You must have a family somewhere."
Idra smiled. "I have a family, yeah." she said. "Most of them are home, going about with their lives, I suppose."
"And where is home?" Davhin asked.
"Home is a little place called Chonin, just south of Chonkaan. A little village, just at the foot of the mountains." Idra answered. "Maybe I can show it to you one day."
Davhin smiled. "Yeah, maybe you can."
"And you were from Vahrs, weren't you? What's it like living under the rule of the trade prince?" Idra asked.
"I suppose it's as good as anywhere. The trade prince's mercenaries keep Vahrs safe. Our tribes are free to live as we have for centuries, and with the colonization of the north a lot of traders have started passing through the town, bringing in wealth to the tribesmen." Davhin answered. "But then again, I don't know what it's like to live under the banner of a nation." Davhin looked at Idra. "Especially not an isolationist nation like Karchayne, which is why I find it especially odd that you're around these parts of the peninsula."
Idra looked away. "I told you I didn't want to talk about that." she said. "And we should get ashore over there." Idra pointed into the jungle. "It looks like a village in there."
"What's the word, kid? Had the merchants heard anything?" the old pirate tracker asked quietly as they met up in the village centre.
"Nothing of our interest. There were highwaymen in the west, and cannibal tribes in the north, but no marauding privateers anywhere." the younger one answered. "I told you, Bos, we'd learn nothing from these people."
"Don't get clever with me. Somebody must've heard something." the older one named Bos said. "How about you go ask those two on the turtle over there, and I'll go down to the fishermen. Snoop around a little, kid, try and get some useful information."
Bos turned and headed down to the stream, where a few fishermen were hanging about. The old pirate tracker casually strutted forth and began talking.
"Any good catches here, boys? No? Great. Whatever. Me and my associate Tinnar are pirate trackers, and we're following some leads on a stolen tallfolk ship." Bos said and smiled at the fishermen. "Young Tinnar is off doing some investigating on his own up in the village, so I thought I'd make my way to the gentlemen who are the most likely to know anything of the word on the waves." He held out his hands and grinned. "So, what's the word? Do you know about this ship I'm looking for?"
The fishermen all shrugged and looked stupidly at each other. It was clear they didn't know anything.
"No?" Bos looked disappointed. "Nothing at all? Well, good luck with the fishing."
Bos marched back to his partner. "Tinnar, you're probably right. We'll get nothing from here. Ready the turtles, let's keep going."
"Yeah, I got nothing either. Just travelers passing through, who knew nothing about any pirate ship." Tinnar answered. "Where're we heading next?"
Bos stroked his beard. "We'll take the rivers south, and ask the tribes along the way if they've heard anything." He threw his pack onto his turtle and climbed onto the shell. "One way or another, we'll track down these pirates."
The captain and his first mate stood in the captain's cabin, discussing their current situation. Loud thuds and bangs ensured them their crew were busy repairing the hull of the ship.
"The men grow restless, Jerryd. They're asking for places to plunder and pillage." said first mate Siros. "And the scouts have reported sightings of villages, not too far inland. We can strike at the dead of night, and be back at the ship before sunrise."
The captain stepped up on a small stool by the window and gazed out into the jungle outside. "It's a risk we're taking if we do." he said. "Somebody could follow us back and see the ship. And if word has gotten out about our raids along the western shores, we'll surely be targeted by Karchayne or Dharlic officials."
"What do we live for, if not risks, captain?" Siros grinned. "What's there to gain if we don't?"
Jerryd looked at Siros. "For all we know, mate, there could be people trying to track us down already. You know how they are." He jumped down from the stool and walked over to a map on the floor. "But tell the men they will get their pillaging." he said and started drawing lines on the map. "We will have to be subtle about it. Small groups of five, maybe six men on each village."
Siros walked over to the captain. "Absolutely. I'll tell the men to make sure they're not followed back." he kneeled down and pointed looked at the map. "See these villages here. If we took them tonight, and these others in a few days time, we might come across as no more than rivaling tribes, raising no alarms."
Captain Jerryd circled two villages on the map. "Assemble two parties of capable men, mate. Have those two, Tomrayn and Bannir, leading the raids. Tell them they can leave shortly after sundown."
"Aye, captain." Siros said and left the cabin.
The captain got back up on the stool and stared out of the window. For the first time in months, only for a few minutes, he allowed his thoughts wander to his family back home. He thought about his sisters and his mother.
The day began to turn dark. In the deep jungles, on the edges of the wetlands, leaders of several cannibal tribes were holding a meeting.
They stood around a large bonfire, dressed in bones and torn leather, and with painted grim faces. Their flag carriers banged on large drums and gongs. The leaders spoke intensely amongst each other. Occasionally one of them raised their voice and gestured savagely. They passed pipes between themselves, smoked, spat and wheezed.
From a safe distance, hidden in a tree, a scout from the nearby village of Chalen observed the obscene meeting. As it came to an end, and the cannibal tribesmen went off in separate ways, the scout leapt off the tree onto her jungle grouse and hurried back to report what she'd seen to her village's elder.
Pt. III, An easy nightEdit
"Hey, Davhin!" Idra shouted. "Come on over here." She stood on a cliff, overlooking the widespread jungles of the south. Above and in the far distance she could see the dark clear skies, the stars and moons, and the ocean, and in it the reflections of the heavenly bodies.
Davhin came running. "What is it?" he asked. But he didn't need an answer. As soon as he saw the stunning view he understood why she'd called for him. He climbed onto the cliff next to Idra.
She raised her arm and pointed towards the coast. "That's where we're heading, Davhin. To the ocean."
Davhin turned and looked at Idra. "Is that where the pirates are? Where your brother is?" he asked.
"How did y-" she began.
"I guessed." he interrupted. "When that pirate tracker asked us back in that village you seemed nervous, as if you were hiding something." he explained. Idra sat down. "And you've been mumbling about your brother in your sleep." he added. Idra laughed. Then they were quiet for a few seconds.
"Aren't you the clever one..." Davhin sat down beside her. She stared off beyond the stars. They sat in silence for minutes before Idra finally spoke again. "My older brother ran away from home a few years ago. I hadn't heard a word from him, until a few months ago, when I was undergoing studies at the Teoth Denon." she said. "I heard from one of my peers about a privateer sharing my last name and home village, who had joined with the Murain ta Arach, the pirates of the southern seas, and captained his own ship somewhere along Durad's coast."
"And you couldn't just stay there, right?" Davhin said.
"I had to go look for him." Idra said desperately. "He's my brother."
Davhin put an arm around Idra. "We'll find him." he said. "I told you I would give you a ride to where ever you were going, don't forget that."
"I'll owe you one after this all this." Idra said and quickly got on her feet. "Let's head back to camp and try to get some sleep."
The moons brightened the night. The lone watchman standing guard at his village's storage hut stood dumbstruck and mesmerized by the sky's beauty. The hope of seeing a shooting star kept him staring up yonder.
In the vegetation behind him four cloaked pirates, led by shipmate Bannir, silently sneaked up. Bannir knocked the watchman unconscious and dragged him aside. The pirates raided the storage hut within minutes, and left as silently as they'd approached.
A few miles in a different direction shipmate Tomrayn and his party were closing up on their target village. On the way they had ran into group of hunters they had to take care of, and several minutes off schedule.
The pirates were all in position. Tomrayn scouted the village with a spyglass. It seemed relatively well guarded. Two watchmen at the storage hut, and two others on patrol.
Shipmate Tomrayn kneeled at his men. "Alright, listen up." he said. "The hut is guarded by two men. They could be easily taken care of if it weren't for the other two patrolling the surroundings. So we will have to do this right. No bloody messing around." He looked at each of his men. "I want two of you to sneak up on each a patrol and take him out. I will take the other two of you and circle round back. We will approach and take out the watchmen outside of the storage hut, and then the booty will be ours for the taking."
The pirates nodded in agreement and divided up. Ten minutes later they were making their way back to their ship through the dense jungle, with supplies and riches in their bags.
"Captain Jerryd, sir." Siros said as he entered the cabin. "The first team has returned successful from their raid, with bags full of useful supplies. Shipmate Bannir, I believe it was."
"Good, mate... Good." Jerryd answered. "And Tomrayn?"
"We're expecting him within the hour or so." Siros answered. He walked over to the captain. "Good call, going on these stealthy raids. They seem to prove profitable, and the crew gets to satisfy their thieving tendencies."
"It's a temporary solution, aye." the captain said and nodded. "But as soon as we're ready to reel in the anchor we'll set sail from this bay, and seek bigger riches elsewhere."
It was just before sunrise when the scout came storming in to Chalen's longhouse. The village elder was still sound asleep, but some of his advisors were awake.
"I must speak with the elder immediately." said the scout. "I have urgent reports regarding the tribes of the deep jungle."
"Of course." said one of the advisors and hurried away. Within a few minutes he returned, followed by the elder.
"Elder Echayn." the scout said and bowed. "I bring news from the north."
"Out with it, girl." elder Echayn demanded.
"I overheard a meeting among several tribal leaders from the deep jungle. They are plotting something big." the scout said. "For a few weeks me and a group of other scouts have followed some of the leaders around, tracking their activities. They seem to be recruiting, and if we aren't prepared, this can get out of hand."
The elder looked troubled. "Thank you. You have been most helpful." he paced back and forth. "I would like for you and your friends to keep tailing these leaders. If things were to escalate I want to know about it immediately."
"Rightfully so, elder. I will be on my way." the scout said and left the longhouse.
Elder Echayn turned to his advisors.
"Elder, I suggest we begin bolstering the village's defenses and set up a security perimeter."
"Yes, of course. Give the orders right away, advisor." The advisor walked out to carry out the orders.
"And I will make sure to go through the armories and do an inventory check." another said.
"Yes, that too. Also make sure that scout and her associates are well equipped. And order the mystics to arrange for traps beyond the walls." Elder Echayn stroked his beard and sighed. The first sunrays of the day shone through the longhouse's windows. "I'm getting too old for these sorts of things."
"Idra, wake up." Davhin shook her gently. "Hey, Idra, let's be on our way."
Idra yawned. "Could I at least get some breakfast?"
Davhin went over to a tree and took a fruit. "Here, eat this." he said and tossed it to Idra. "That's all we got, which is why we have to get moving. If we reach a river we could catch a proper breakfast."
Davhin packed his tent into his bags and strapped them onto Ari. The great turtle gently blinked at her owner and lazed in the sun. "You too, Ari, wake up."
A couple of minutes later they'd packed everything up and were on their way.
"Judging by the view from the cliff up there, we could probably reach the coast before the end of the week." said Davhin. "But once we're there, where do you suppose we start looking? The ocean is large, you know."
"We'll have to see when we get there, I guess." Idra answered.
They slowly made their way through the thick jungle vegetation for an hour or so before reaching a river.
"I'm starving. Here's to hoping there's some fish in this river." Davhin said and lit his pipe. "Do your thing, Idra."
The young leprechaun approached the river and raised her staff. She muttered a few words in a low voice, and suddenly fish began flying from the water. Idra commanded the undergrowth of the river the render the fish unconscious and toss them ashore. "Ain't no fishing like a druid's fishing." she said and laughed.
Further down the very same river, pirate trackers Bos and Tinnar slowly surfed the waves atop their own turtles, with the wind gently breezing through their hairs. Bos was napping and snoring loudly, while Tinnar sat and fired fruit seeds from his slingshot at him.
"Hey, cut that out!" Bos shouted as he was hit on the nose by a seed and abruptly woken up.
"Stay sharp, Bos. That could've been a wild cannibal, coming to eat your face off." Tinnar said and laughed.
"I'll eat your face off if you won't stop firing those seeds at me. Now let me sleep. I need to be rested for the next village we pass by." Bos muttered angrily.
"Do you figure they'll know any more there than the last village?" Tinnar asked.
"I don't know, kid, maybe." Bos answered. "It's closer to the coast, so I guess our chances are better. Now let me rest." Bos leaned back and pulled his jacket over his eyes. "And keep an eye out for cannibals."