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When mortal heroes overthrew the old gods during the Anthropomachia, the cosmos collapsed into chaos and a great flood drowned the Earth. Only those who had fled to the mountains survived, their sanctuaries turning into islands.

Now, the endless ocean called the Sunsea blanketed the whole world, save for a few islands. Most of it remained unexplored, even to this day. The Thessalan Sea, the part belonging to the Thessalan League, covered the Northeast part of the known world. Its waters were peaceful, as was the weather. The Thessalan people knew nothing of tempests and storms.

They were woefully unprepared for the Foresight.

Standing at his ship's bow, Kairos looked at the peaceful sea. The hydra flag proudly floated above the Foresight’s sail, while Cassandra prowled the deck, checking on everyone. Rhadamanthe, meanwhile, wrote down information on a scroll map with a feather. According to the minotaur, it would take them two more days to reach the Scylla’s lair, and they would have to stop onshore to forage food and fresh water.

Rook appeared beyond the horizon, before landing on Kairos’ shoulder. The raider petted him on the head. “Found something?” he asked his trusty sidekick.

“Ship,” the griffin replied. Kairos was happy to understand him better now. “Ship!”

“Where?”

“There there!” the young animal pointed east with his beak. “Easy prey!”

“What does he say?” Rhadamanthe asked behind him.

“He noticed a ship east of our position,” Kairos replied, loud enough for the crew to listen. “He says it’s an easy target.”

“The wind does not favor that direction.”

“It will,” Kairos raised his spear, before turning to his soldiers, “What will we show the Thessalan?!”

“Victory!” His crewmates raised their weapons with furious roars.

As the raider expected, some crew members had left after he announced his intention to track the Scylla of Scheria. Kairos bid them farewell and then used the remaining funds to hire their replacements.

He had overseen the recruitment process alongside Cass and been extremely selective. Kairos refused anyone below level ten; forced recruits to sign an extensive code of conduct; and only took in people who had survived one raid already and been recommended by another captain. Anyone who couldn’t meet these criteria didn’t have a place on the Foresight.

Some complained that his standards were too high, especially for a new unproven captain, and the Foresight still faced a manpower shortage. But Kairos was optimistic. Although it would take a few battles to shape the new recruits into a disciplined unit, they had the potential to become a fearsome crew. The tips of their weapons had been drenched in hydra venom, like the fangs of the hundred-headed serpent, and this first raid would be the opportunity to test their strength.

While Rhadamanthe steered the ship and Cassandra organized the warriors, Kairos moved behind the sails. He pointed his spear at them and unleashed a powerful gust.

Through practice, Kairos learned to produce wind with the [Anemoi Spear] with a thought. The weapon was its own source of magic, one that seemed bottomless. However, the pirate captain could only unleash wind from the tip, not summon a tornado at any spot like Pelopidas. His [Elite] rank didn't grant him full access to the weapon's capabilities.

“I wonder why Pelopidas didn’t use it to outpace our ship,” Kairos asked Rhadamanthe, as the artificial wind pushed the Foresight in the right direction. “Mastery of the winds is a tremendous asset in a naval battle.”

“He was rich in strength, but poor in wits,” the minotaur replied.

“What did the stars tell you about our current enterprise?”

“The future is ever-changing, like the tides,” the navigator said. “But fortune rewards audaciousness.”

Why were seers always so cryptic?

The enemy ship quickly came into sight, a trireme merchant galley. It immediately tried to steer away upon noticing the Foresight, but the wind didn’t favor them and the pirate vessel quickly closed the gap.

“This is Captain Kairos of the Foresight, slayer of Pelopidas!” Kairos shouted, his voice echoing over the waters as the ship came into range of his spear's magic. “Surrender, and you shall be spared from all harm! Resist, and we shall taint the waters red with your blood!”

He sent a blast of wind towards the ship with his spear and shook the hull. Rook let out an excited screech at this spectacle.

“We’re ready to board,” Cassandra said, having put on her armor. “Do we really give them no quarter if they fight back?”

“If they're smart, they will surrender and we won't find out.”

Fortunately, once they realized they couldn’t outpace the Foresight, the enemy crew stopped their vessel. Kairos quickly ordered a full boarding, the warriors using grappling hooks to climb the other ship. The pirate captain was first on the Thessalan deck, followed by Cass, Rhadamanthe, and a few other warriors. Instead of resistance, they faced a bunch of sailors and merchants raising their arms in surrender. Most suffered from the [Terror] ailment, too frightened to act.

Thankfully, it seemed the crew had decided against fighting the pirates. No blood would be shed today.

“Wise,” Kairos told the sailors in Thessalan, as his men gathered them at the ship's front. The raiders confiscated any weapons or gold they found, but otherwise didn’t mistreat the captives. Rook had climbed down from his friend’s shoulder, looking at the prisoners as if ready to pounce on any runaway.

“That lance,” one of the Thessalan whispered in horror, upon recognizing the [Anemoi Spear]. “So it was true… this is Pelopidas’ spear.”

“It was,” Kairos replied, raising the weapon at the man’s chin. “Now it is the spear of Kairos of Travia, and the crew of the Foresight. Remember that name, even in the underworld.”

If he was to develop his legend, the raider better spread the word as often as possible. Hopefully, the Fate System didn’t look down on self-promotion.

“The cargo was meant for the fighting pits and gladiator arenas of Lyce,” Cass explained, after interrogating the captured crew. “Criminals and prisoners of war, to be sold in the Republic’s markets.”

“We took the gold and provisions,” Rhadamanthe said. “What is left is the cargo below.”

The cargo. What a harsh term to mean people. Still, luck had smiled on them today. “Alright, round up the specialists, especially boatswains and carpenters,” Cass barked orders. “We will press-gang them and—”

“No,” Kairos cut in, as the captive crew panicked. “Belay that order. No one will be taken.”

Cass frowned, taken back. “Why?”

“Because I said no harm would come to them if they surrendered peacefully,” Kairos reminded her. “They did.”

“I thought that only meant sparing their lives,” Cassandra replied with a frown, before guessing Kairos’ intent. She whispered into his ear, too low for the others to listen. “Ah, I see. You want to develop a reputation for mercy, to make our targets surrender without fighting.”

His first mate understood him perfectly. “A wise policy, wouldn’t you agree?”

“We have a crew shortage, especially in specialists,” she pointed out. “But it will pay off in the long run, yes. You want to inspect the prisoners next?”

He nodded, the sailors letting out sighs of relief as the Foresight’s crew left them alone. Kairos knew the people below decks would be more promising recruits anyway.

The young captain walked down the deck alongside Cassandra, to inspect the slave hold. Dozens of people were chained down there, separated into small compartments leaving them little room to move. The place’s stench of feces and urine was almost unbearable, the prisoners forced to relieve themselves where they slept. The sight made Kairos regret sparing the slavers above, but pragmatism trumped his moral concerns.

Most of the captives were humans stripped naked, but the hold also carried a contingent of satyrs. These masculine creatures had a human torso, alongside the cloven hooves, tails and curved horns of goats. Kairos had rarely seen any in the past, since these nature spirits preferred forests to civilization unless wine and women were involved. They must have belonged to a tribe captured by Thessalan slavers.

One of them caught Kairos’ attention though; something in his gaze and the way he carried himself breathed of strength and confidence. Unlike his kindred, who tended towards being lean, this satyr's upper body was built like a mighty pit fighter. His hair and beard were crimson, and his blue eyes shone with interest as he gave Kairos a devilish smirk.

He was also well-hung, and eyed Cass with lust, much to her annoyance. Kairos immediately used [Observer] on him.

Nessus the Horned Hunter

Legend: None (Elite)

Level: ???

Damn, he should have upgraded his [Observer] Skill. Kairos glanced at the others, satyrs, and humans both, and most turned out to be [Commons] with levels between eight and fifteen. All of them were [Fighters] or [Rogues]. A shame. The pirate captain had hoped to recruit a [Spellcaster] or [Crafter].

Kairos first interrogated the [Elite] satyr, who grinned widely at the raider. “What’s your name?” the captain asked in Travian, and when he received no answer, he asked again in Thessalan. “What’s your name?”

“Hey, I’m Nessus. I’m the world’s best archer, musician, and lover, not necessarily in that order.” He whistled at Cassandra, looking her up much to her annoyance. “Is she your girl, oh mysterious stranger? You’ve got good tastes.”

“She’s my first mate,” Kairos replied with a smile, “and out of your league.”

“I concur,” Cassandra replied in Thessalan, glaring at the satyr with disdain.

“That’s what they always say until I work my magic,” the satyr boasted. “Maybe you could remove these chains, so I show you how skilled I am with my hands?”

“Why are you chained at all, Nessus?” Kairos asked.

“Because I’m a black-hearted fiend who robs people of life and loot,” the satyr bragged unabashedly. “Booze and women are expensive. The others are my merry men, but they don’t speak your tongue. Now, it is good courtesy to introduce yourself and your lady friend.”

“I am captain Kairos of the Foresight, and she is my first mate Cassandra,” the raider replied with a sly smile. “We are pirates.”

“Oh, fellow robbers?” Nessus chuckled. “If you have a few spots open and get rid of these chains, I’m sure we will get along fine.”

“You aren’t thinking about recruiting them?” Cassandra protested to Kairos. “Satyrs think with their cocks.”

“That’s wrong,” Nessus argued. “Sometimes I use my ass.”

Kairos couldn’t help but laugh at the crude joke, the satyr smiling in response. Cass’ face though, only soured further. “I’m serious.”

“He is an [Elite], which means he earned his stripes,” Kairos pointed out.

“Yes, give me a bow and I’m set,” Nessus boasted. “I may be wild, but I’m not ungrateful. Release me, oh my captain, and I’ll be the most loyal ruffian you’ve ever met.”

“I must warn you that we are currently on a quest to hunt the Scylla of Scheria. Do you still want to join?”

The satyr let out a roaring laughter, then said something in his native tongue to his kindred. The room erupted in laughs and tears. “You live a dangerous life, human,” Nessus told Kairos in Thessalan. “She is a dangerous woman, that one.”

“You know of her?” Cassandra asked, suddenly more interested in the interrogation.

“The Lady’s Light, they call her lair, because she lights the lighthouse at night. Ships who don’t know any better approach it, believing they reached a safe harbor, and then when they get too close… snatch!” Nessus mimicked a chomping motion. “Those she can’t eat herself, her harpy thralls slay.”

“You seem to know a lot about her,” Kairos said with some suspicion, noting the harpy bit for later.

“She is well-known,” Nessus shrugged, “and rightly feared. No offense, but she killed many would-be monster hunters.”

“But you would still hunt her with us?”

“I always say, if you have to die, do it for a pretty face!” the satyr mused. “If you ever want to chase Queen Persephone herself, we’ll follow you all the way into the underworld.”

Kairos listened, then turned to Cassandra, addressing her in Travian so the captive didn’t understand the conversation. “What do you think?”

“He’s lying through his teeth,” Cass replied bluntly. “He and his men will escape at the first opportunity. However, I do believe him on the Scylla part. We should milk him for information and then drop him onshore.”

“Or…” Kairos trailed. “Make him swear an oath before Rhadamanthe.”

This made his first mate blink. Even if they had applied harsh standards to the crew, they didn’t force anyone to make such a vow. “You think he will?”

“Well, if he does, his loyalty will be assured,” Kairos pointed out. “He seems skilled and his cohorts have decent levels. It would be a shame to let him rot in a cell.”

“Even if he is loyal and skilled, I will say it again, satyrs think with their cock,” Cass said with a sigh. “Do you want a musician that much?”

“That’s...“ Kairos frowned, before realizing she was only teasing him. “I admit I would like to have one, yes, but I’m more interested in his strength and that of his men. As for their lust, I don’t think they have ever seen Travian women.”

“Oh, we will tame them,” Cass said with a bright smile. “There is no debate about it.”

“So, oh my captain, what will it be?” Nessus asked in Thessalan, clearly eager to leave the chains behind.

“Call Rhadamanthe, please,” Kairos told Cass, his first mate leaving for the deck while the captain continued the interrogation. “If you want to join my crew, you will have to sign our code of conduct. That includes no rape, no desertion, and a few other obligations.”

“Like what?”

“Article IX, ‘none shall be found drunk onboard, especially before an engagement, on the pain of punishment.’”

“You can’t get drunk?” Nessus asked, almost chortling. “Then I would rather stay a slave!”

“How did you get caught?” Kairos asked with a mirthful smile.

Nessus sighed in defeat, confirming his suspicion. “They captured us while we suffered from a big party’s aftermath,” he admitted, before adding. “It was an unforgettable orgy, even if what followed sucked.”

“You’re free to get wasted onshore,” Kairos replied, “but I expect professionalism while on the job. Also, if you want to repeal that law, every crewmate gets a vote on collective decisions.”

“So I can get voted as captain?” Nessus laughed playfully. “I jest, of course. Alright, we’ll join.”

“Good.” Cass returned with Rhadamanthe in toes. “Then, now is time to make the oath.”

“The oath?”

“The oath to the Furies,” Kairos replied with a smile, “That you and your men will serve loyally on the Foresight, follow me as your captain, and respect our code of conduct.”

Nessus’ grin faltered, his face turning livid. “An oath to the Furies?”

“Rhadamanthe here is a priest,” Kairos explained. “He can serve as the witness for the Furies.”

“My eyes are those of the gods, old and new,” the minotaur declared, judging the satyr with his gaze. “The truth will burn all lies.”

The hardened criminal said nothing for a while, a lot less enthusiastic. One did not invoke the name of the ladies of revenge, curses, and oaths lightly. “I can make a promise, but… to swear on the Furies…”

“If you are genuine, you have nothing to fear,” Kairos said, trying to test his resolve. “I would be foolish to accept a criminal in my crew without insurance.”

Nessus considered the matter with a lot more consideration now. These primordial [Demigods] had survived the Anthropomachia, although they had lost a lot of power and influence in the process. If the three Furies were invoked in an oath, then they would punish those who broke their word. None could escape their wrath for long.

“And if I refuse?” the satyr asked innocently.

“Then you can try your luck in Lyce’s arenas,” Cass said bluntly.

“I thought I was looking at a peaceful sea,” Nessus said, looking straight into Kairos’ eyes. “But I’m starting to see the hungry shark lurking beneath. I’m half-impressed, half-frightened.”

“I’m losing patience,” Kairos said, pressing his advantage. “What will it be?”

Much to his delight, the satyr came around. “Alright, alright, I will swear on the hags. Can’t be worse than the pits. But I ask for a favor in return.”

“You’ve got a lot of nerves asking favors while chained,” Cassandra declared dryly.

“Which favor?” Kairos asked with a frown.

“Once we have hunted your Scylla, I organize the celebration party, and you pay for it all.”

“Granted.” Although considering Nessus’ wicked grin, Kairos realized he might live to regret those words.

“Make the oath,” Rhadamanthe declared, his eyes shining.

“I swear an oath of loyalty on the Furies,” Nessus said, although with great reluctance. “I shall serve the crew of the Foresight, follow Kairos the Cruel even into the underworld, and obey his inane code of conduct.”

The room darkened as he spoke these words, Rhadamanthe casting three great shadows instead of one. Kairos sensed a chill pass through his bones and souls, as the minotaur’s divine magic took action.

Nessus the Horned Hunter has sworn an [Oath of Loyalty] to you and the [Foresight].

 

The effect ended as swiftly as it started. “Happy?” Nessus asked.

“Yes,” Kairos replied.

He interrogated the other prisoners, but none really stood out. A few could serve as warriors and rowers, but most sounded too undisciplined, or unwilling to follow the orders of someone as young as the Foresight’s captain. He only accepted people willing to make the same oath as Nessus into the crew, no exception.

It appeared the System took note of Kairos' efforts, for he received a wonderful notification.

Congratulations. You earned a level (total 22) and 2 Skill Points.

 

Nothing sweeter than a new level.

“Ah, freedom at last,” Nessus said as Rhadamanthe broke his chains, allowing the satyr to flex his muscles. “So, oh my captain, shall we hunt?”

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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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