Midday on our journey, the glorious rays of the sun leads us to the end of our path – a dead end blocked by a thick cover of tall grass, shrubs, and a sea of trees. Rocky and his crew of burly men show off their capability by mowing down most of the offending obstacles with their crude weapons, showing that their sheer will to start a new life is sharper and brighter than the chipped rusting edges of their blades – the men has effectively carved a pathway for us women and children, thus allowing our expedition to at least advance in the pace of a crawl.
Not enough, the inconvenience of having to deal with the minor problem clouds my mind. The devil whispers to my ear doubts about Julius’ real intention – did he set us up in the wilderness to die? With a quick swing of the bat, I vanquish the devil into the clouds.
The fact, I will eventually deal with similar hardships and better I experience it now while I have much support, the blessing of the heavens or the interstellar gods that I end up with such talented companions to rely upon in situations of need. Though the pace is slow, the rough and tough nature of the former pirate men relieves my worries.
But there’s one thing that agitates me, the silence of the grunts – they look smug and conceited as if they know exactly how to handle the situation. As I’ve read from books about this world, wild animals and dangerous beings of the supernatural inhabit the wilds. I hope they be a little more cautious in exploring the area. For once I agreed with my inner demon of doubt, complacency is the enemy.
“Aren’t you a little too confident? Can’t you be cautious, just for a change?” I ask Rocky.
“Worry not, boss. This territory is familiar. We camped here before.” He answers, justifying the oddity.
“And the monsters? For what I know, this region is inhabited by giant wolves?”
“Oh, those? Man, they’re delicious. I hope they come back.”
What little concern I have for the men should be reserved for the monsters – hungry people are far more tenacious. Their survival skills explain well how they are able to set a dwelling inside of a cave, but also tell of their motivation to raid villages as hunting game isn’t a stable solution.
Rocky and his men complete their work on the path leading to a section of the forest with little growth of grass and wild vegetation. He remarks, “Well, I guess this is the spot. I suspected we’ll end up here.”
“Oh, nothing, just a coincidence, this exactly is the site we settled in for a while to gather and hunt food.”
“Then that really helps. Hmm… Let me see. I’ll put on a plan. Meanwhile, tell your men to hunt some food.”
“Roger!” Rocky tasks the men to gather food, while I work on the village plan.
The rest of the congregation, women and children, gather on the spot and watch me draw on the ground the grand plan of my pirate village to be. With a stick, I carve on the soft soil the canvass, the boundaries of the village. At center, I draw a circle marking the village square, with another structure coupled to it to the south, the pirate school. And to the north of the square, I carve a big square marked with a cross, which I designate as the headquarters, the village hall. Next, I carve little squares neatly around the square, marking the residential areas.
The strategy I used in planning the village is historically used by conquering empires to organize uncivilized societies – all the dwellings must be within reach of the sound of the church’s bell, the school bell rather in this situation. In case of emergency, villagers will be gathered in the square, which is in close proximity of the hall and the school – the institutions will work together to brief the people of the situation. Pretty neat, ei?
School rather than the church, because I don’t know exactly what traditions work in this world and this age. Literacy will be useful as I assessed that only a handful of people know how to read and write functionally. And developing work skills, too, is important to raise youngsters that will aid in the functioning of the village in the future. The school will also teach mythology, folklore, and literature, which is important in tempering the youth’s spirit and character.
Next to the school, I plot a laboratory, southeast. The youngsters and workmen must have a place to allow knowledge learned in theory to work. I envision an army of smiths and craftsmen from these folks. Machineries necessary for the future I envision is only possible with much labor from men of craft, much like the late friend of mine, the lord of nuts and bolts, the inventor of the light bulbs and electricity, Deomel says.
And next to the hall, I place a granary, which will always be within my and my most trusted men’s reach, making the central more like a command center – no work, no food. This setup is the part that I like the least. I wanted people to work on their own accord, but in this situation, the savages within them must be tamed and civilized by the whip!
Lastly, the least priority, I place storehouses for finished products at the corners of the village. It will take some time for the village to produce much yield, so this may also be put on hold to conserve lumber, speaking of which, where do I get some? I ask a few workmen for ideas and their answer is to harvest the trees around, which would not only prove difficult but time consuming – not very bright.
An lame old dirty fellow steps forward, limping, to which the congregation jeers at, hurling insults one at a time. “Lame Gordon, what good do you have? Want sum lumber to replace yah bad leg? Hahahaha!” Laughter ensues to the expense of the old lame fellow who shrinks in shame for the insults he receive, but I’m not laughing.
With the help of my cumbersome weapon, I pound the ground, demanding silence. “Silence! I want to hear the man speak. What’s your name?”
“Gordon Fahrenheit, good sir.”
“Do you have anything to suggest?
“Yes sir. I’d just like to inform you that we have our old boats by the bay. The lumber would be useful for construction.”
The congregation chatters loudly at the lame man’s idea. Nobody has thought of that, not even me. What a bright fellow. So I command the grunts to procure lumber from the boats they used. In addition, I order some of the skilled men to process fresh lumber. The boats are provisional – they won’t last long.
So all day, the men toil with all their strength. It’s a relief how physically gifted they are as works that require manual labor are done with ease. The downside, several of them can’t do skilled works, but luckily Gordon and his crew of workmen can.
Apparently, the lame old man knows carpentry and probably even more. He commands his men to work in these areas. I notice the men he at work, most of them if not effeminate are handicapped to some degree.
Chatting with the man, I learn more about his life in the crew. Gordon used to be a swordsmith apprentice in the village razed by Papa Smith’s pirate gang. Rocky rescues him and his daughter from the ruins and adds him to his crew of pirate men. To the benevolence of his mentor, Gordon continues life, supporting Rocky and his crew of fighting men by doing all the dirty work of repairing and maintaining their boats, their dwellings, and their arms with the use of their carpentry, simple crafting, and some minor metal working skills, the reason the crews’ chipped edged blades and other miscellaneous weapons maintain their sharpness.
Sadly, Gordon is held in low regard by Rocky’s crew, even though they wouldn’t function as a group without his valuable support. Evidently, the ill treatment of Gordon and his crew of workmen stems from their physical handicap. Unlike the other stout and burly bodied men in the group, they can’t join battles. On the other hand, I’m relieved to find out that I didn’t have to fight and kill such a valuable person. I’ll put his labor to use by having him teach all men to work.
Having selected for the special task I assign him, the old fellow’s eyes shines brightly, and his face glows in enthusiasm. He busies himself and his crew of workmen, laboring productively under the heat of the sun, which to their eagerness runs scared and hides itself on the horizon, ending the day.
Shame, even the devils laugh at me for a simple lapse in judgment, where do we spend the night?
“A place to sleep? Worry not. The cave’s close by. Let’s go.” Rocky leads us back to the cave, their spooky little dwelling, which to our fortune is still equipped with the accommodations the pirate men have set in place. The dwelling is intact, but far from ideal. Layers of itchy dried straw make our beds, which provide little protection against the icy the winds that blow from within the cave. But I can’t complain too much as beggars we are not allowed to choose.
Eventually, my crew of men and even myself succumbs to the exhaustion of the long work day. Like dead logs we lie down asleep.
Blowing from within the cave, the chilly winds bring with them a suffocatingly foul and rotten aroma of eggs. To the stench I jump off my bed, waking up irritably. I have gone to the dirty kitchen to pick up a pot of iron and a ladle, which I strike repeatedly to the ears of Rocky and his men, waking them up from their peaceful slumber.
“Uhhm… so early… what’s wrong, kid?” Rocky yawns, rubbing his eyes.
“Don’t you smell that?”
“Ughh! Rotten stench!” With his large fingers, Rocky covers his mouth and nose, followed by the disgusted squinting of his eyes.
He grabs a torch and accompanies me following the source of stench deeper in the cave. The deeper we go, the stronger the unpleasant aroma grows and wraps itself on our clothes and our body – I already feel the need to take a bath, which my crew of men seldom does or even care about. Finally, we chance upon the source, an area littered with foul smelling rotting bodies peppered entirely with black shifting dots.
“What on earth?” Inching a step, the swarm of black shifting dots, apparently flies, fly and scatter in all directions, stirring up an incredible foulness in the air as they uncover a pile of rotting, liquefying, and mangled carcasses on the ground, wrapped in white sticky secretions.
Covering my nose and mouth to prevent flies from entering them, I then ask Rocky in a muffled voice, “Haven’t you noticed this the first time you went here?”
Muffled, he replies covering his mouth and nose, “Nope. It’s only now I noticed. Besides, it’s strange. These animals don’t live in caves. Surely, they don’t die in caves. Something must have pulled them inside.”
Bling! Minute blood red orbs, numbering about eight, glitter in the dark, growing bigger and brighter by the minute.
“Wooaahhh, Mommy!” My heart springs out of my chest and falls. A monster of ginormous proportions crawl out of the deep, equipped with eight eyes, eight long thin bronzen hairy segmented legs, a fat, round, hairy and gigantic abdomen, and a pair of sharp steel fangs that leaks of venom. The black monstrous spider approaches steadily, alternating its sharp long legs to pierce the soft soil like a sewing machine does to fabric, faster and faster. I reckon that would be useful for agriculture, for plowing the soil!
“Bloody hell, kid! Move your legs!” Rocky pulls me by the hand, dragging me, running as fast as he can afford and distancing us fairly from the eight legged freak. Impressive for a monster of its size, the wicked seven foot spider rides the wind and accelerates its pace, catching up to us an inch at a time. And in no time, we reach the dwelling, which amenities serve as obstacles to the giant. We grab our weapons with haste and call everyone capable to aid us in our fight, flight rather.
“Run!” The women and children exit the cave.
“OOOWW!” Rocky charges holding tightly to his massive black axe, swinging it at the giant spider. The giant creeper jumps back and evades, yet its pair of forelegs gets caught in the attack, grazed lightly by the axe blade. Landing a few yards back, yellowy goopy juices leak from the injured appendages and darken the soil. The monster halts and generates a loud reverberating screeching noise comparable to the grinding of a train’s tires to its tracks, hesitating to come back at us, so we encircle it with our crew of men, cornering it.
All of the sudden, the creature rises up on its hind legs, bends its abdomen down and forward and fires from its rear a thick sticky white thread. “ARRGHH!” It misses me and Rocky, but hits and binds some of the men stuck on the ground and on the walls of the cave. The spider jumps and hangs from the ceiling and rubs its forelegs together as if to thank the gods or the devils for the good meal of humans to encroach its nest, but no, it appears to weave itself a nest to secure its place in the den.
Rocky looks at me with widened eyes, reflecting the torches’ fluttering amber flames, igniting a sudden brainwave within me – spider threads do burn easily. “MEN, TORCH THE THREADS. CAREFUL NOT TO BURN YOUR COMPANIONS ALIVE!” The bright spark the idea brought illuminates the men’s faces with hope. Like a swarm of ants, able bodied men pick up torches and run courageously to their ensnared companions, cutting them loose, burning the threads with ease.
The flames blaze quickly and races its way back to the giant spider, burning its web and engulfs the wicked creature in a blanket of fire and smoke. It drops from the ceiling and struggles, throwing its legs in the air alternatingly while the flame does its work, cooking it alive. Icy winds from within the cave fan the flames and smoke in our direction, filling the atmosphere with the mixed smell of rot and burning rubber – the growing flames threaten to set our temporary dwelling ablaze.
The spiders’ struggle die down eventually and the crew, women, and children alike help extinguish the flame, dousing it with fresh cold stream water. The flames die down, yet the noxious smell from the cave remains, to which I task several men to clean. A few moments later, they come back running, followed by a swarm of spiderlings only a little smaller than a dog – they crawl the walls of the cave completely, painting them pitch black.
“SCREW IT! TORCH THE BEDS AND THROW IT AT THEM!” I hesitate a bit, but seeing how futile the situation is, we may as well let go of our beds tonight. Gordon and his men can probably make something better for us tomorrow.
“OOUUHHH!” The men cheer as they set their beds alit, piling them up, using them as a barricade against the wave of incoming spiderlings. Some of them throw, pound, and ram burning wood against the critters that make it through the gaps, but are overwhelmed by the greater and greater numbers. To their rescue, Gordon’s men dash forward, armed with makeshift torches, wooden mallets, and wood splitting axes. The men who seemed unfit to fight battles squish and torch the spiderlings with their construction gear, inspiring capable men and women to join the fight, starting an uprising of chipped crude blades, pitchforks, rakes, and even weighty cooking implements.
With everyone’s cooperation, our motley crew of men, women, and children prevail against the invasion of spiderlings, sparing our temporary dwelling and supplies, with the exception of the beds. I reckon that we need the cave until we have established our village, so I lead an expedition down the cave to exterminate sources of future problems. The spiderlings’ remains crunch to the victorious footsteps of my men.
Walking beyond the area where we found the rotting carcasses, we find nothing but black decaying matter and fragmenting yellow crystals, which Rocky attributes to be the source of the rotten egg stench. Recognizing the sulfur crystals, I task Gordon’s men to harvest the things. I believe that the thing will be useful for my alchemic experiments.
Initially, only women and children are tasked to clean up the mess the spider invasion leaves, but later on they require everyone’s help. The task overwhelms them so much that when the men and I return to the surface, they are only half done. The bother, it takes more time to remove the foul odor – our combined crew of men and women need the entire night, depriving us all of the much needed sleep.
As a result, we all wake up late the next day to resume the construction of the village.
In the following days, I ask more and more men and even teens and able bodied women to work under Gordon to carry out the construction of the village. This will give them the opportunity to learn carpentry and other skilled work. On the other hand, some men, the fighters especially, are skilled in the art of hunting and fishing, thus I commission them to the task of providing food for the community. However, I don’t think that hunting alone will hold out for us in the long run, so I plan to establish a farm, which historically is attributed to the civilization mankind.
The construction of village aside, free men, women, and I myself put effort in preparing the land for agricultural use. The club of death works well as a farming implement as its spikes and weight plows naturally through the soil. And Rocky and his crew of axemen kill two birds with one stone harvesting timber as well as to clear the site. I set on fire the stumps and other organic materials they left to provide nutrients for the soil. Even though the slash and burn method is attributed in the 21st century for much environmental damage, the ancients know better of its benefit for their crops, thus I thank them for the knowledge now that I’m of this hostile and wild world.
To provide water for the plantation, we go deeper westward to look for an available source. Rocky leads me to the treasure trove, a gentle yet stable stream between the rocks. Following that, I discuss with him the plans to develop a waterway and a waterwheel for the irrigation and milling of the crops. He nods, recommending a several men for the job. I tell him also the possibility of building a dam in the future. The infrastructure will not only provide a staple supply of water to all houses, but will also generate power for machines to use.
To make my vision more comprehensible, I snatch some writing implements from Julius’ study, and with them I write and draw manuscripts all day and all night, showing them a day later to Gordon. Being one of the few literate people in the pirate crew, I trust that with his knowledge, he’ll appreciate the plans I have for the village.
“Good lord, sir! I don’t know what to say. Are you really a kid? Really? Genius! Not even my former teacher can contrive marvels of this complexity. These things are beyond my imagination. I don’t know even if I can build these.”
“That’s fine, you have years to develop techniques to build them. That’s the reason for building the lab.”
“But too much, sir. It’s beyond me. I need more capable men.”
True, we need more capable people to run this village into something more 21st century like. So not to overwhelm Gordon any further, I busy him with the task of gathering literate people.
He gives me a list of only five men out of the hundred, remarking that the rest of the crew scores dumber than a box rocks in the literacy scale. Blushing, he confesses that even their captain can only read a few letters and numbers, and to compound our troubles, doing simple arithmetic to these men is out of the question. Holy mackerel, our worries are great indeed!
“Yes Gordon, I understand very well the state of things. So for now, I hand you the task of becoming the school’s principal. With the manuscripts, teach all of our men how to read and write. We’re not rich, but we have much time to fix things.”
“It’s difficult if not impossible, but I’ll give my best.” So Gordon now teaches our men not only skills in trade but in literacy as well.
And to help him educate the villagers, I gather the entire congregation in the square every night, telling them stories about the 21st century, inspiring them.
“Kewl! Horseless carts and talking to people who are leagues away, that’s sorcery!” a boy utters while the crowd chatters.
“But don’t you like to have them? They’re not bad?”
“Oh, I’d love to see them.” These people don’t show stigma against sorcery and things they do not understand, good.
“Good, then study how to read and write and you can make it come true. You can ask my father, the great Julius of Solus, about how much I read his books to know this much.” There again, I put great emphasis on literacy, and in the future I plan to do so with every speech I make.
“I will. Everything the Wizard Master says must be true.” Since then, all the boys and girls in town call me the Wizard Master. They are the most active listeners of my stories. What an odd nickname, not that I don’t like it. The following days, I also told them stories of virtues derived from the classics, which should temper their character. To my surprise, even the older men like listening to the stories, especially to the great epics which tell stories of their heroes’ great wit, strength, and virtue.
A few days later, I turn to Julius for help. Though the demon of doubt tells me to be wary of him, I don’t have anyone else that can help me solve the complexity of my problems. The grandiose narrative of the village’s merit aside, I hand him the manuscript to save me the trouble of having to explain in detail everything.
Looking at them, he scratches his stubbly chin, surprising me by his remark, “My boy, what great plans you have! It’s beyond my realm, but if you say you can do it, I believe you can. I’ll give you my full support.” Who else can say such a thing but a father? I’ll stop doubting him, for now.
He hands me a few letters and recommends a few men who can help solve my problem. Then he pushes me to see the nearest one in town, Gregory the farmer, the agriculture guy. He lives in a shack a mile away from home.
Hunched back, the old man reads the letter. “Well, I can’t turn down a request from the young Julius. Let me help you, boy.”
While I give him a tour of the village under construction, I hand to him the manuscripts for the farm. “Holy mackerel! Such complexity, did you do all of these alone? Are you really a kid?”
“Yup, I believe you’re aware that my father made me seven years ago.”
“Ekhe, khe, khe, khe! Don’t know about that! But what a great gift to humanity you are. It seems you know more about agriculture than I do. It doesn’t mean I don’t have nothing to contribute. I’ll show you the crops you need for this farm. I have the seeds. Ekhe, khe, khe, khe!”
Since then, Gregory visits the village often to teach planting techniques and to give counsel and seeds. But it isn’t for free – he takes great interest in my plans, so from time to time I let him observe my work. As a great friend to our village, Gregory immediately earns my trust. I often impart to him bits of 21st century knowledge. And to give him respect, I bestow him the title of the agriculturist, the village’s agriculture teacher.
Next on the recommendations are the people who can help solve problems related to technology. Faye Bismarck, according to Julius, is a trader who can help in the procurement of materials necessary for my plans, while Richmond Bluth, the renowned dwarven swordsmith, can supply us with the much needed crafting knowledge and expertise.
The issue, these men live far away from home. They live in the capital, the port city of Nexus. So I’ll park that for now to give way for the construction of the village, which currently takes the shape of a 16th century village. All squared, the village already looks civilized. And in about four months, the construction halts, with most of the necessary infrastructure already in place. The crops in the fields as well look good, thanks to Gregory’s great assistance.
“Boss, won’t you give the village a name? It has been ages!” Rocky grunts.
“Alright, let’s call it Scientia.” Thus, the village of Scientia is born.
In half a year, I supervise the operation of the village, the school especially. In real time, I provide them with modules to learn from. It’s difficult as it takes endless days and nights to write them in a manner that even the dumbest of the bricks plastered on the wall will understand. In the end, I’m satisfied with the result. I write enough manuals to leave Gordon and the crew with enough activities for the next six months. In addition, the grains, tubers, and farm vegetables are ready for harvest, which secures the community food for the months to come. The villagers’ eyes shine, seeing their first harvest.
With the village management ironed out and its development on the plateau, it’s time to face the real challenges. I ask Gordon to recommend a person to accompany me in my journey. I tell him that I needed a guy who’s not only tough but literate, but he blushes and hangs his head upon hearing the request.
“Well, sir…” The man fiddles with his fingers.
“Well?” I cross my arms.
“Most of the tough guys are as dumb as a stump. They don’t do literacy, maths, and crafts. Well, I don’t know about this…” He scratches the back of his head, apologetically. Behind him, a lad hides, holding a mallet in his right hand. By the wrist, the good old man grabs and pulls him out. Don’t tell me?
“My daughter. She inherited my smarts in literacy, maths, and crafts, but not the grace of her late mother, but tough, I think she qualifies.”
“Daughter, where?” I’m mystified by the man’s odd remarks.
“Here, wizzy!” the teenage boy replies in an unusual high pitched voice.
“You don’t have an invisible daughter, Gordon. Even the Wizard Master has not heard of anything like it.”
BONK! “OUUCCHHH! YOU BRAT!” The brat strikes my head with his wooden mallet.
“NINA! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU NOT TO BE RUDE?” For the first time, I heard the ever so calm and timid Gordon raise his voice.
“Hmmp!” The boy turns around and snorts.
“Are you alright? Forgive me, sir! That boy or whatever. That’s my daughter of fifteen.”
“Huh! Huh?” I inspect her. She has a small face, big round blue eyes, and blonde hair that’s neatly tied up. Her clothes, from top to bottom, all baggy work clothes. And she looks healthy enough, except for the absence of those fatty womanly parts on her chest, which I find odd, considering she’s fifteen. What a waste. She’d be as gorgeous as a doll if not for the tacky outfit.
In a subdued voice, she mumbles “uhm, uhm… sorry… i’m nina fahrenheit… nice to meet you.” She shyly gives her hand to me.
I return her the handshake, squeezing her warm callous ridden palm and fingers, which is not exactly a pleasant experience. “Nice to meet you too. Tough as nails, Gordon.” I look at the man, whose face flushes bright red, holding his head low still.
“But we’ll meet monsters. How will you fight them?”
The wind brushes the lass’ bangs of gold and gentle sunlight pours from the windows, blessing her eyes with the luster of a brilliant sapphire gemstone. Even though she can’t speak it, her eyes alone tell me of her strong determination. “Don’t worry, Wiz.., Sir Linus! I’m a marksman. I can shoot my crossbow well.”
“Boss, I’m sorry. This is what I can only come up with.”
“It’s okay, I need literacy more than strength. Pen is mightier than the sword after all. Hahaha, hahaha!”
“Pen is mightier than the sword… That expression rings nicely in the ear. I’ll write that down.” Gordon gets a sheet of parchment.
Something warm creeps down my cheek. Blood!
“BOSS!” Gordon screams and catches me from my fall. My vision fades to dark.
I regain consciousness shortly, waking to the lass, crying. “Are you okay? I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
I realize I’m using her soft warm lap for a pillow. I stand up immediately not to be accused of taking advantage of the delicious stimulation, I mean situation. “Cough! We have things to do. Better pack up. We’re going.”
She wipes her tears. “Okay, Sir.”
Late at night, I lock myself in my private quarters, preparing for the journey, concocting a mixture of sulfur, crushed charcoal, and other chemical ingredients. Delicately, I wrap them in balls of precious parchment, though I feel that paper is more appropriate, which I currently do not have – I wish to find paper in the cities I’ll visit. Though I do not hope to encounter monsters, I feel that these newly developed devices could be of great use. Nice, I’ll have a nice nap. Good night!
Then the next day, with Nina I head home to Solus to meet Mom and Dad.
“Julius, our baby… Waahhh haah! He’s leaving us to live with a, a, a girl!” Lina cries a river as her sharp eyes immediately spots the oddity of a girlboy I brought along. How could the villagers not find out and how did Lina figure it out in an instant? Ah, there are not enough women there in the village and certainly, those present are not womanly at all. Womanly women’s intuition is scary!
With glittering flowers projecting from his back, Julius replies handsomely, “Honey, we can make another one if you want.” The cheeky bastard kisses her in the cheek. With glittering eyes, Lina holds the bastard’s cheeks and gives him a coquettishly look.
“Just what? WHAT!” The devils laugh and my heart falls and breaks into a thousand minute fragments and gets sucked in the deep, deep vacuum of space, pulled and stretched in the gravitational force of a black hole, shredding the thing to its very core.
“Hahahahaha!” The couple lets out a shrill laughter at my reaction, bullies!
Julius pats me in the shoulder, smiling handsomely. “Son, take care.”
“May the great River god bless and protect you in your journey. We’ll miss you.” Lina tears up and hugs me tightly.
“I love you, mom, dad.” I receive more warm hugs and kisses from the two.
And so, we commence our journey.