Sea monsters were the bane of sailors everywhere.
These orphaned children of the sea gods roamed the oceans, preying on ships and coastal communities alike. The adults were more than a match for a ship's crew, and the most powerful of them could sink entire fleets. Some like the fearsome Charybdis had become so infamous, that people avoided their territories like the plague; they were the wilderness' gatekeepers, the frontier between civilization and the unexplored.
Thankfully, Kairos’ crew was strong and experienced.
“I can hit it, my captain,” Nessus said, leading the ships’ archers as they raised their bows. “But I’m not sure we can break past its scales.”
“Can you confront it in the water?” Kairos asked Andromache.
“I will survive,” she replied, confident in her invulnerability. “But the beast can break your ship with its tail, and restrain me with its maw.”
As the captain suspected, there was no way to end this easily. He used [Observer 3] on the sea monster’s fin, in case he could glean information even that far away.
Legend: Bloody Sea (Hero).
Race: Abyssean (Cetus).
Class: Monster (Maneater, Shipwrecker)
“An Abyssean,” Kairos cursed. “And a Cetus at that.”
His [Leadership 3] skill prevented the crew from panicking, but the worrisome silence that spread through the ranks said it all.
These mighty sea horrors ruled the darkest trenches of the Sunsea, fighting an endless war with the Merfolk for control of the depths. The Cetae despised all surfacers and relished in exacting tributes from coastal communities, demanding the flesh of virgins in exchange for mercy.
“Can you talk to it?” Cass asked, as the fin approached. The monster would close the gap with the Foresight within minutes.
“I can try, but I doubt it will work.” If it had been a mere animal, Kairos’ [Monster Lure] Skill may have pacified it, but Cetae were hostile to all surface life. They didn’t hunt ships to feed or to defend their territory, but because it made for good sport. The Travian reaver trusted his social skills, but not enough to think he could convince an ancestral foe of mankind to spare them.
The captain quickly considered his options and elaborated a strategy.
“We engage,” Kairos decided, before barking orders to the crew. “Rhadamanthe, signal the fleet to sail for the island, where the shallow waters will favor us. Engage the beast at range, I will redirect the winds so it carries the fleet forward.”
“On it,” the minotaur replied, immediately starting to spellcast.
“Thales, you prepare the ballistae and poison our projectiles with our hydra venom supply,” Kairos continued. “Cass, bring out the fire rods. I wanted to keep them for the raid, but we’ll test them out now. Nessus, you and the archers focus on debuffing the beast.”
“Y-yes, sir!” Though inexperienced, fear motivated Thales as he took over the projectile weapons. Nessus readied his bow, while Rhadamanthe’s magic caused colored light signals to form in the skies, relaying orders to the pirate fleet.
“Andromache, you will engage the creature in melee,” Kairos ordered the Scylla. “Force it to the surface, and if it can harm you, retreat and harass it from afar.”
“It will do me no harm,” the witch replied before casually throwing her clothes away. She leaped naked into the sea, her body shifting back into her true form.
“You heard the captain, everyone to their post!” Cassandra shouted, as the crew immediately moved as one. Kairos walked behind the sail and raised the [Anemoi Spear], the winds bending to his will.
A powerful gust pushed the pirate fleet towards the island, led by the Foresight; the faithful Rook flew above the ship, as if to guide it. Thankfully, the other pirate captains followed Kairos’ lead in an orderly fashion instead of dispersing, and decided to fight as a cohesive unit. Travian captains might often bicker, but they knew better than to do so during a battle.
As expected, the Cetus pursued the Foresight at an alarming speed. This was no animal cautiously defending its home, but an ambush predator hungry for blood. Thankfully, instead of an easily spooked lamb, the beast had picked a fight with a well-armed wolf pack.
As Kairos had asked, Cassandra started distributing six rods among select raiders, chosen for their high [Perception] stat. These weapons felt warm to the touch, the wood smoldering with embers. Magical formulas written in Greek shone on their surface.
In preparation for the raid, Kairos had put Andromache’s magical expertise to use. The Scylla witch had crafted rods imbued with her explosion spell, allowing the user to unleash it on command even if they weren’t spellcasters. Anyone with a D-rank in Magic could wield these weapons; however, the rods had a limited amount of charges to exhaust, after which they lost their power. Alongside their limited range, it meant every shot counted.
Nessus, thanks to his alarming accuracy, launched the first arrow. He hit the fin, but the arrow didn’t manage to pierce the scale nor did the beast slow down.
“Either I don’t have a high enough Skill Rank to harm it, or it’s immune to debuffs!” the satyr warned the crew.
“Kairos, what about your [Legendary Skill]?” Cassandra asked her captain.
“I can’t attack and focus on redirecting the winds to keep us out of range,” the [Hero] replied with a frown. He doubted he could take out the Cetus in one shot even with the ballista, but the sea monster would sink the vessel if it came close enough. If Kairos was the only one onboard, the reaver might have taken the gamble, but he couldn’t risk his entire crew.
Kairos glanced at Thales, who finished installing a poisoned metal barb onto the ballista. “Nessus, since arrows don’t work, you take over the ballista,” the captain ordered. “Thales will help you reload. Hit the eyes or throat when the creature surfaces!”
“Right, right!” the satyr replied before taking over the weapon.
Waters suddenly splashed around the Cetus’ fin, sending waves in all directions. Kairos guessed Andromache had engaged the beast in melee, and was soon proven right as they emerged from below the sea.
As Rook had warned, the Cetus was larger than the Foresight, and probably reached forty-five meters in length. The creature reminded Kairos of an eel in its serpentine shape, but also included body parts from other animals; the shark-like fin on its back, six long tentacles flailing the sea like whips, and two rows of three green eyes on each side of the head. Its jaws had three rows of barbed teeth, each as large as a spear, and its blue scales looked as strong as steel.
The much smaller Andromache had assaulted the creature in close-combat, her hound-heads biting the Cetus’ tentacles while the larger creature’s jaw closed on the Scylla’s human torso. The monster’s teeth failed to pierce through the invulnerable witch’s skin, while her attacks caused green mucus to flow out of the Cetus’ wounds. Even Kairos couldn’t help but appreciate this vicious spectacle.
Nessus finally seized the opportunity and fired the ballista, the pirate fleet imitating him. A rain of arrows, javelins, and projectiles fell upon the two monsters. Most bounced off on impact, whether because of Andromache’s invulnerability or the Cetus’ thick scales.
However, Nessus’ poisoned projectile managed to hit one of the Cetus’ eyes, causing it to scream in pain. A strident sound echoed across the sea, as the Foresight continued to move towards the island.
Thanks to [Beast Tongue 3] translating it for him, Kairos quickly realized his mistake.
It wasn’t a scream of pain, but of fury.
“Oh great, now it’s mad,” Nessus quipped, though his humor couldn’t hide the tension in his voice.
The Cetus let out a fearsome roar and tossed Andromache aside with its mighty tail, before swimming towards the Foresight. The creature’s scales shone with blue light, and its speed doubled. The very waters seemed to glide on the monster, no longer slowing it down, but carrying it forward.
“It used a Skill!” Rhadamanthe warned, and unfortunately, it allowed the creature to move faster than the Foresight now. Instead of only the fin, the beast now kept its head raised above the waters. “It will ram into us!”
“At this speed, it will break the ship in half!” Thales panicked, as he struggled to reload the ballista quickly enough. Andromache and the rest of the pirate fleet pursued the creature, but the Cetus quickly outpaced them.
Soon, the Foresight and the Cetus left everyone else behind; the ship carried forward by Kairos' wind and the panicked oarsmen, and the sea monster fueled by fury. The battle had turned into a duel.
“Cass!” Kairos shouted.
“I’m on it!” His first mate organized the rod-wielding reavers in a line on the ship’s left, and had them point at the beast’s direction. “At my signal…”
The Cetus let out an inhuman, high-pitched roar, as it prepared to ram its ugly head against the Foresight’s flank.
The ship trembled, as the rods each unleashed a fireball at the creature. Six projectiles crossed the gap between the ship and the Cetus, who immediately dived down into the sea. The projectiles blasted the waters on impact, unleashing clouds of steam and waves.
The Cetus had veered off-course, its fin slightly burnt.
Damn, the seawater had softened the blow. A direct barrage might have wounded the beast, but the burns seemed relatively superficial. At least it broke the Cetus’ momentum and bought the Foresight some time.
“One more charge, Kairos, so we have to make it count,” Cass warned with a frown, as the creature made a circle in the water and pursued the Foresight once more. Unfortunately, the beast had grown cautious, and now remained almost entirely submerged. “Do we harpoon the fin and force the beast to emerge?”
“Madness!” Thales loudly protested. “Its strength will rend the ship!”
“And it doesn’t seem like either the poison or debuffs affect it,” Nessus said, cursing under his breath. He fired another barb with the ballista, but the Cetus managed to dodge it.
Kairos considered his options, as the Foresight reached the island. The creature didn’t give up the pursuit in spite of the shallow waters, and didn’t slow down either; its [Vitality] and [Health] were probably in the A+ range, making it nigh-immune to status ailments and fatigue. Meanwhile, Andromache and the rest of the fleet were now too far behind. They would never rejoin the Foresight in time to save it from destruction.
As for the island, Kairos couldn’t see any beach where the Foresight could land and the crew could evacuate. The whole coast seemed made of red stone cliffs, one so prominent, it reminded Kairos of a fang ready to fall on someone’s neck.
The reaver immediately felt inspired.
“No, I have an idea,” the captain decided, pointing a spear at the cliff. “Sail as close as possible to it and lure the beast underneath!”
Cass immediately guessed his plan. “If you’re wrong about the timing…”
“I know, but it’s our best chance,” he said with a smile. “Trust me on this.”
“Always,” his first-mate replied, before barking orders to the men. “Point the rods at the cliff, and fire at Kairos’ signal!”
Kairos put all his focus on guiding the winds, while the oarsmen fought the current with the strength of despair. The oars rotated at a speed which the [Hero] didn’t think possible for humans, the Foresight surging through the water faster than it had ever been. Even with the crew’s combined efforts, the monster gained ground on the ship; its submerged shadow grew ever closer, as the ship took a sharp turn around the great cliff. They were so close, Kairos half-expected to hit a rock.
The right moment had come.
Six fireballs detonated against the fanged cliff, causing a vast swath of it to collapse. A colossal block of redstone crashed into the sea like a fallen star, followed by a devastating rain of smaller debris. While the Foresight was far away to avoid being crushed by the cliff, it couldn't escape smaller debris.
“Shieldwall!” Cassandra shouted, as the crewmates with shields raised them to protect themselves from the stone rain. His first mate dragged Kairos behind the protective barrier, while Rhadamanthe ducked down with Thales and Nessus.
Hidden below the waters, Cetus didn’t realize the danger until the broken cliff crashed upon its back. The massive stone crushed the sea monster against the seafloor like a hammer with an anvil.
For several minutes, Kairos gritted his teeth as stones battered the shield wall. Fragments shredded holes in the ship’s sail and shattered some oars; a large boulder even crushed the ballista beneath its weight, though its users thankfully escaped death. A cloud of dust swallowed the Foresight.
The chaos subsided as quickly as it began, with the wind sweeping away the dust. Cassandra slowly removed her shield, imitated by the others. The Foresight’s deck was covered in stones and splinters.
“Rook?!” Kairos immediately looked at the skies, trying to locate his partner. “Rook?!”
“Kairos, I’m okay!” The griffin circled above the Foresight, having skillfully avoided any projectile. “The fish is dead! The fish is dead!”
Indeed. The cliff had completely crushed the Cetus, burying the beast beneath a pile of stones. Only green blood and the tip of an enormous tail indicated the creature was somewhere below.
“Well, well…” Thales the shipwright seemed at a loss of words. “That was... something.”
“First day on the job, huh?” Nessus said with a deadpan tone.
Kairos smirked as he raised his spear. “The beast is dead!”
“HURRAH!” The crew shouted at once as they raised their weapons.
“As long as the captain commands us, the Foresight is invincible!” a raider declared, before starting to sing Kairos’ name with others. “KAIROS! KAIROS! KAIROS!”
The captain kept smiling, though it faltered a little when he received no System notification. “No levels,” Kairos muttered.
“It was a large team effort, so the experience was spread across the crew,” Cassandra said with a smile. Everyone had received around one thousand experience points. “Don’t be greedy, Kairos. We will have a lot of crafting material to make up for it.”
She had a point, but Kairos started to realize why most [Elite] hit a progression plateau around level thirty. The experience requirements for new levels increased dramatically, when a thousand experience points would have made him progress from level one to four once. And since it had mostly been a team effort with no one distinguishing themself, none of the crewmates managed to steal the creature’s [Legend].
Though Cassandra had a point about the material part. The crew would extract anything that could be used from the Cetus’ corpse, and feed the rest to the Foresight. Kairos couldn’t wait and see how his ship would evolve after consuming such a mighty sea monster.
After a few minutes, Andromache and the rest of the fleet finally caught up to the Foresight, while ship's oarsmen emerged from below deck, attracted by the sound of celebrations above. Thankfully, none of them looked harmed.
“Congratulations, you saved our lives,” Cassandra told the men with a warm smile. “That last push at the end was incredible.”
Much to her surprise, instead of rejoicing, the oarsmen exchanged worried stares. “What?” Kairos asked, sensing something wasn’t right.
“The thing is…” One of them spoke up, clearing his throat. “That wasn’t us.”
The Travian captain froze, while Cassandra immediately asked a question, “What do you mean?”
“The oars,” the oarsman said, clearly shaken. “They moved on their own, faster than our arms could follow.”
“And the seats, they wriggled beneath us…” another added with a frown. “We heard a low sound, like a growl coming from the wood...”
Kairos listened to everything with a blank stare, before noticing Thales looked over the deck’s edge. He silently moved at the automaton’s side, and observed the oars move with unnatural synchronicity. The harpy feathers on the hull moved on their own, water gliding over them and reducing the friction.
“Fascinating,” Thales muttered to himself. “Truly fascinating.”
“Who is manning the oars right now?” Kairos asked, while Cassandra blinked repeatedly in surprise.
“Captain, I…” One of the reavers cleared his throat. “I don’t think the Foresight needs us anymore.”
Thales once asked at which point the Foresight would come to life.
He had his answer.
Kairos decided to focus on more urgent matters first. They needed a safe spot where to land and recover, then check on the Foresight itself. “Rook, do you see a beach?” Kairos asked his griffin. “A spot where we can make landfall for repairs?”
“Yes, yes!” the animal replied, giddy at their victory. “Follow me!”
The griffin guided the Foresight and the other ships along the shoreline until they reached a crescent-shaped bay. Flotsam littered the beach, while crabs walked on sandy dunes. Beyond, Kairos could see grass leading to a forest. The remains of ships were partly exposed by the low tide, trophies kept by the Cetus from its previous hunts.
An uncharted island, now freed from its guardian.
“I think this may have been a sign,” Rhadamanthe said, while Andromache swam next to the Foresight in her natural form. “The phoenix led us to a new island.”
“You think so?” Cass asked with a frown.
Kairos thought it was most probably a coincidence, but he understood the use of such a myth to bolster morale.
“We shall claim these shores as our own, and establish a new colony there once we are finished with our raid,” the captain declared. “The gods have willed it. Let us reach the beach, so that I may plant our flag for posterity.”
“How shall we call this colony, oh my captain?” Nessus asked. “Kairostopia?”
Kairos contemplated possible names, before quickly finding one.
“The name of my deceased sister, who died before her time.” The captain looked at the sun shining upon the island. “May you look at us from the Elysian Fields, Histria.”