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It took three days, but home was within sight at last.

The crescent-shaped island of Travia was the northernmost land mass settled by mankind after the Anthropomachia; only fools or madmen went further north, braving the eternal storm which imprisoned the dreaded Typhon. The Eye of Typhon promised only death.

Standing at the forefront of the captured ship, which was apparently named the Delphinus, Kairos felt great relief at seeing the reefs of his homeland. Even Rook yapped at the sight while flying above the ship.

Travia was a harsh land with a stony soil, and the Eye of Typhon's proximity made for a difficult climate. Few farmers managed to cultivate crops, and the forests north of the island were home to monsters. It was said that in Travia, you always had to take a life to survive. Kairos thought it was exaggerated, but only a little.

As they entered Travian waters, the Delphinus and the Foresight made a brief stop to bury the dead at sea. Kairos held a minute of silence for his uncle, as Panos was put on a small boat and burned with a volley of fiery arrows. Rhadamanthe prayed to Charon the Boatman to grant the deceased passage on the river Styx, so they may rest in peace. Cass would mourn for nine days like a widow, even if she hadn’t been married to Panos, and would raise his tombstone.

Afterward, they crossed paths with quite a few ships. Most were galleys moving south to raid or trade; others were the new longships which the pirate queen Teuta experimented with. While smaller than galleys, they were far faster and highly effective for coastal raids.

Kairos’ destination was his hometown of Lissala, a fishing port home to five thousand people. Located to the northwest point of Travia, the city was located at the junction between a river and the sea. Its terrain was hilly, with houses located behind wooden fortifications at the top while shipyard infrastructures remained on the flatlands. The inhabitants had built stone moats to prevent sea monsters from moving upstream and devastating settlements deeper inland.

But the most famous thing about Lissala was the stone temple on its tallest hill. One of the Fates, powerful hag demigoddesses of destiny, lived there and assigned Quests to those who dreamed of glory.

As the Delphinus reached the piers, Kairos ordered his men to set the ramps. Rook beat him to the dock, the griffin having landed there with a captured tuna in his mouth. He presented it to his owner, wagging his tail in pride.

“Good boy.” Kairos ruffled his companion’s feathers, while the Foresight approached.

Upon landing, the crew split the loot as per the rules. Everyone would receive an equal share, from rower to fighter; this ancient rule ensured that everyone would do their part during a raid, and that individual cupidity wouldn’t destroy group discipline. However, the captain and officers could select their prize before everyone else, with a share of the loot set aside to pay for the dead's tombstones.

As befitting of its status as a sacred ship dedicated to a [Hero], the Delphinus carried many treasures: several tons of fine food, mostly dried meat, cheese, honeyed cakes, and amphoras of wine; a small hoard of jewelry, silver, and gold, worth around a thousand gold coins; ten jars full of smelling salt, ceramic chests, and even a medal dedicated to Pelopidas; and of course, the captives, bound by chains and ropes.

Normally, the fate of the captured ship was for the captain to decide, but with Uncle Panos’ death the crew turned to Rhadamanthe for advice. Since Kairos understood Travian law as well as the minotaur did, he knew how it would turn out.

“By Travian law, as his closest kin, Kairos will inherit Panos’ worldly possessions, including the Foresight and the vessels it captured,” Rhadamanthe told the sailors. “The fate of the Delphinus will be left for him to decide as well.”

Kairos immediately received a System notification.

You earned the 2 Stars Legendary Skill [Shipbound: Foresight].

The [Foresight] has now become your Legendary Item, whose power will grow with your [Legend]: you can intuitively learn its current location at any time.

Nice. Neither his uncle nor father ever had such a Skill.

Kairos glanced at Cassandra, who didn't hide her frustration. While she had lived with Uncle Panos for years, he never married her for obscure reasons; she would be recognized as his widow by the crew, but couldn’t inherit anything. It felt unjust. “First of all, since Uncle Panos died, I believe Cass should take his allocated share and decide to take whatever she wants from the plunder first,” Kairos spoke up, trying to alleviate her burden. “Any objections?”

None were given, Cassandra giving him a thankful nod. It was a small act of kindness, but Kairos wanted to show her that she could still count on his support.

Serras, however, cleared his throat. “Before we split the loot, I've got something to say.”

Kairos nodded at him. “Well then, speak up.”

“Panos was my blood brother,” Serras said. “I followed him, personally. Now he’s dead, and… don’t take it personally, kid, but I know we won’t meet eye to eye. We should consider disbanding the crew.”

“You want to abandon raiding?” Cass asked, surprised. Kairos frowned at the ‘kid’ part, especially since he had been the one to earn a [Legend], but listened without a word.

“No,” Serras said. “But unless we get an experienced captain I can get behind, I will find another ship.”

And here it was. The first power play.

A few voices among the crew gave their support, much to Cass’ annoyance. “We have a new [Legend] among us!” she protested, pointing at Kairos. “He can bring us to new heights, and you want to leave?”

“It is Kairos’ strategy which allowed us to prevail,” Rhadamanthe pointed out.

“By leaving his uncle to die!” someone shot back in Serras’ camp, making Cass wince. “How can you stand with the guy who widowed you?!”

“I did what I had to do to win!” Kairos snarled angrily, pointing his spear at the speaker. “You have no idea how difficult a decision it was!”

“Pelopidas killed Panos, not Kairos,” Cass replied icily.

“Yeah, don’t bring Panos into this,” Serras silenced his crony with a harsh gaze, before turning to face Kairos. “I don’t want to demean your accomplishment, and you did what you had to do. Such is life. But while you earned a [Legend], you ain’t a [Hero] yet and you’re still green. What the crew needs right now is an experienced captain with a few more years under his belt.”

“Like you, Serras?” Cassandra accused him bitterly, some sailors voicing their support.

Kairos had always known a few personalities on the Foresight had only been kept in line by their departed captain. Serras usually advocated violence and approached raiding as an opportunity to gain easy levels, while Cassandra preferred caution to glory and coins to experience. Both had built a following in the crew, but Uncle Panos always managed to strike a balance.

With his death, the rivalry was turning bitter. And although they didn’t say it out loud, Kairos sensed that Serras' followers were jealous that he had earned a [Legend] instead of them. If the crew split, the loss of manpower would hurt a lot, so the Travian Reaver considered arguing against this proposal. He could force an election for captainship, and if he came out on top, then dissidents would have to shut up.

However, Kairos hadn’t forgotten Serras’ behavior after the raid, nor his shortsighted offer to kill helpless prisoners. Serras loved blood, and he was good at killing; but if Kairos was to inherit the Foresight, he wanted to staff it with people who shared his values. Bloodthirsty brutes didn’t fit in his vision for the future.

Additionally, if left to choose his part of the loot, Serras would certainly ask for some of the captives. Kairos didn’t like the way he ogled the late Pelopidas’ concubines in particular.

“Those of you who want to leave the Foresight’s crew and follow Serras, raise your hands,” the young man asked, roughly a third of the crewmates did much to his surprise. Thankfully, neither Cass nor Rhadamanthe were among the separatists.

“I, uh, I want to leave the crew too,” Orion said rather shyly. “But I won’t raid. It… wasn’t what I thought it would be.”

Quite a few people accused him of cowardice, but Kairos understood. Not everyone was made for this harsh life. The reaver considered his options, until a scheme formed in his mind. "Then, I will make you a proposal, Serras,” Kairos spoke up. “If you and your followers forfeit their share of the plunder, I will grant you the Delphinus to do as you wish.”

Serras’ eyes widened in astonishment, people muttering between each other. “You would make me an independent captain?”

“If you and your followers forfeit their share,” the young reaver reminded him. “Since the ship is worth it several times over, consider it your severance pay.”

Serras frowned, sensing the trap, but not quite able to figure it out. Cass put a hand on Kairos’ shoulder. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

The young reaver nodded, moving afar from the group while the crew debated his proposal. It had sowed some discord among Serras’ followers, many of them unwilling to surrender loot even for independence. Just as Kairos planned.

“You’re too generous with Serras,” Cass said. “Why not make him a tributary?”

A captain who captured a ship could ‘loan’ it to someone else, in exchange for a tenth of all revenues the ship earned. That was usually the best arrangement for pirate lords looking to accumulate a fleet. However, the loaner was responsible for everything the captains under his command did, and Serras would cause trouble down the line. Either he would attack someone too big for him, or tarnish his superior’s reputation.

Kairos could have made Cass a tributary and kept Serras as first mate, but the man was openly mutinous. No, better to purge the crew of its dangerous elements and then recruit people more in line with the new captain’s standards. The Lycean legions were so effective because they maintained ironclad discipline within their ranks, putting the group above the individual. Kairos’ tenure would follow the same principles.

“Cass, do you want to become the Foresight’s captain?” Kairos answered with another question. “Even if I own the ship, you would be the most legitimate candidate. The crew respects you.”

Cassandra remained silent for an instant, before shaking her head. “No.”

“Too exposed a position?” She smiled thinly, Kairos having read her mind. Cass was shrewd, and knew a captain could easily fall out of favor with his crew if things went wrong; while a first mate had almost all the power, and none of the dangers associated with authority. She had always preferred to manage the financial side of Uncle Panos’ ventures, as the power behind the throne. “Do you resent me for what happened to Uncle?”

“No,” she replied firmly, although she scowled a little. “I warned him against the danger, and you saved my life. If anything I owe you one.”

“Then we can keep the previous arrangement. I will be the captain, you my first mate; with the increased loot, we can reorganize the Foresight’s crew and hire better people. Serras will cause nothing but trouble, so we better get rid of him and start anew.”

“I see what you want to do,” Cassandra replied. “That’s a good long-term choice, but poor in the short-term. We’ll lose warriors.”

“I say quality will always prevail over quantity.” Kairos showed her his magical spear. With the fame he earned from killing Pelopidas, he could afford to pick crewmates who shared his values, instead of putting up with people who didn’t. “The only question is, do you trust me?”

Cass nodded, and both returned to face their men. Serras’ supporters had dwindled to a fourth of the crew, the same people who had clamored the loudest for boarding the Delphinus. They were hungry for glory and experience, thinking Kairos’ cautious approach would deny them opportunities.

“Alright, we agreed to renounce our share for common ownership of the Savage,” Serras said, having already renamed the Delphinus, “and a portion of the food for our families.”

“Deal,” Kairos agreed, shaking Serras’ hand before turning to his new first-mate. “Cass, as promised, you choose first.”

“I will take care of ransoming the captives,” Cassandra said shrewdly, having contacts among the Thessalan city-states. “I’m willing to support the financial risk.”

“Granted, except the slaves.” Kairos turned to these particular captives and spoke to them in their native tongue. “Our nation’s founder, Travian the Liberator, was an escaped slave. Slavery has been illegal on Travian soil ever since, which means you are now free men and women. If you have a family willing to pay to get you back, go to Cass. If not, then you will work and give me a third of your salary, until you reimburse me the freedom price: two-hundred fifty silver, or ten gold, each.”

It was a common tradition among captains, usually to bolster their crew; although Kairos heard some unsavory people usually sold back the slaves to Lyce or Alexandria for a higher price.

Only a noble concubine, taken from a Thessalan city-state as a prize of war, had a family willing to ransom her, so the other slaves would work for Kairos. Afterward, the reaver completed his share with gold and food. “Rhadamanthe?” the young raider asked the minotaur. "What will you pick?"

“I would like the smelling salt jars, Captain.”

Captain.

It sounded so sweet a title, and yet so heavy to bear.


Kairos returned home with a magical spear in one hand and a bag full of loot in the other, a hyperactive Rook leaping behind him. The griffin had kept Pelopidas’ helmet, intending to add it to his nest as a trophy.

Kairos lived in a small wooden house on a western hill, next to Uncle Panos and Cass’ own domain. Rook had made his nest on the roof, filling it with trinkets he had stolen or the bones of tiny animals. Three tombstones were erected in the garden, and soon a fourth would join them.

The land was the most fortified of the district, mostly to reassure neighbors. Although she transformed into a werewolf, Kairos’ mother Aurelia chained herself in the ceiling beforehand and had never rampaged since her husband brought her to Travia. Maybe the neighbors were wary of his mother’s Lycean origins. After all, she hailed from the empire from which the first Travians had escaped from when they settled this island.

Personally, Kairos was rather proud of his maternal heritage. While he was a Travian at heart, his mother's education broadened his perspective. Enough to see the problems with his people’s current way of life.

Spot, the family’s fearsome black three-headed hound, waited at the threshold, his ears rising up upon sensing Kairos approach. The beast was a cerberi, a descendant of the legendary Cerberus, almost one meter tall and powerful enough to throw a horse off to the ground. The hound immediately moved to welcome them, barking happily at his master and licking Rook like a younger brother.

“I’m back, Spot,” Kairos said, an idea crossing his mind. He opened his stat screen and checked the changes.

 

Name

Kairos Marius Remus

Rank

Elite (2 Stars)

Legend

Travian Reaver

Race

Human (Wolfblood)

Class

Rogue (Raider, Cutthroat)

Level

21

EXP Progression

37,500/40,000

Skill Points

10

 

Health

C+

Magic

D+

Strength

C+

Perception

C+

Vitality

C

Agility

C+

Intelligence

B

Charisma

B+

Luck

B

 

Legendary Skills

Skills

Hero Slayer (2 Stars)

Beast Tongue 1

Shipbound: Foresight (2 Stars)

Brawler 1

Knife Fighting 1

Spear Fighting 1

Archery 1

Raider 1

Seamanship 1

Poison Brewer 1

Lycean Education 1

Speech 1

Sneak 1

Lockpick 1

Barter 1

Observer 1

Leadership 1

As expected, his Rank, Charisma, and Strength had increased.

The Fate System classified people into different Ranks, depending on their fame and the strength of their myth; with the Rank determining how much a Skill could be improved, the cap on leveling, and even stats. Only people imbued with the mythical power of a [Legend] could progress past the [Elite] Rank, into the realm of heroes and deities.

Now that he had become an [Elite], an individual with some renown, Kairos should be able to increase his existing Skills to their second stage; he immediately did so with [Spear Fighting 1], sacrificing one Skill point for the upgrade.

You upgraded [Spear Fighting 1] to [Spear Fighting 2]. You can now use advanced spear techniques.

 

He felt the magical spear get lighter in his hand, and ancient knowledge filled his mind. In an instant, Kairos could swear that he had wielded a spear for decades. He raised the weapon and experimented with it, quickly thrusting it in a direction. He was pretty sure his accuracy had increased too, enough to hit a target from afar at a greater distance than before. It wasn’t anything a master spearman couldn’t replicate, but the upgrade would come in handy in battle. Perhaps he should take up a Quest, in order to improve his [Legend] or earn new Skill Points?

He was a bit disappointed by the few changes in his stats. Each letter represented a 'weight class', with C being the average rank for humans, except in Magic. A + meant the individual was pushing the limits of his current classification, but not quite moving up to the higher one. The [Legend] had improved his abilities, but not by much.

Kairos also spent a point to upgrade [Beast Tongue 1], his favorite Skill.

You upgraded [Beast Tongue 1] to [Beast Tongue 2]. You can now translate and convey simple concepts when talking with animals.

 

“Spot?” Kairos asked, testing his improved ability. “Can you understand me? Can you talk?”

The dog sat, all his three heads focused on their master. The raider awaited for the next revelation; what thought would Spot put into words for the first time?

“Treat?” Spot answered while wagging his tail.

Yes, Spot was a dog.

“You’ll get some dry boar tonight, don’t worry.” Kairos scratched the hound’s three heads, who barked happily. Spot exchanged a few friendly licks with Rook, and then the two animals playfully raced around the house.

Before Kairos could knock, his mother Aurelia opened the door; a thin, steely-eyed matron with long black hair and wearing a wolf pelt. She must have smelled him approach.

“Kairos.” She smiled. “Welcome back.”

“Hi mom,” he replied while hugging her, “I’m home.”

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About the author

Void Herald

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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