Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 01 - "The Islands"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Max's busy day, uninvited guests

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2008-09-03 - Updated: 2008-09-03 - 1643 words - Complete

Max’s busy day started early, but it was a glorious, Outlander’s Paradise day, giving not the slightest hint of the storm that would blow all of their lives off course before nightfall.

They took Angus’ ship, a two-masted schooner which was once, very aptly, called the Windfall when they first stumbled upon it, but Robert’s brother had renamed The Edge. And had outfitted to match. This was quite fitting, for Angus was the Chief of Security, as his brother often called him. Though there was no such title to be had in the Islands, out in the field it was what his job boiled down to, being on the lookout for trouble.

Short of being approached by a massive force, a very rare occurrence in Layoshan history, there was little trouble to worry about in the three larger islands, the latter two of which they passed on the way to their destination. Near the edge of Layoshan waters, the island of Kinsasha, on the other hand, had imported trouble generations ago, and the most recent inhabitants of the island found themselves still paying duties for it from time to time. For several times in its long history, the disputed island of Kinsasha had been occupied by the Cyexian clans from the islands beyond the Layoshan Chain.

No one really knew from whence the Cyexians came. According to legend, the original Cyexians came from some distant land beyond the Ocean, a once-mighty empire, that sought to be once again. Though much of this lore was lost, even among the clans of these islands. Several of the leaders of each of the feuding clans claimed to be a direct descendent of the Empress of old. It was rumored that groups of them had gotten lost all over the world, and Robert and his fellow travelers could confirm this theory, having encountered Cyexian tribes in other realms. Still, each clan was fiercely loyal to its own leader, and so the half-dozen or so of them remained, empresses of junk and pirates and scavengers.

At some point lost to history, they came to land in the island chains out beyond Kinsasha, and had been at odds with the Layoshans ever since. There had been no open war between them in over four generations— with the rise of the infamous Triangle State Authority, which was closer to them than to Layosha, these days they had their hands full protecting their own borders— but every now and then they would try to sneak into Kinsasha to steal from the supply caches.

Yet those caches were not all that lay buried there.

For the source of the most heated conflict had to do with where Max and his friends now wandered. A long time ago, the Cyexians had gained a settlement on Kinsasha, which a loose coalition of clans then tried to use as a foothold against their Layoshan neighbors, and even after they were driven out, their dead remained interred in three graveyards. The leaders of those clans hadn’t shut up about it since, and all of the clans took their turn using it as justification for trying to steal from the island. Every so often, the Layoshan Elders would offer to let them remove the bodies— once or twice even offered to throw in the tombstones, as well— but their indignant refusals only served to confirm what the Elders already suspected: it wasn’t just the bodies they wanted, but the very land they were buried on. As long as Cyexian graves were to be found on Kinsasha, the clan leaders would lay claim to the rest of the island as prime real estate.

Angus and his crew were in no hurry, stopping to pick up supplies on Makando and Shindoji. They reached their destination just in time for lunch, so while Angus ran a little errand, Robert, Max, Ron, Lance, Ian, Cleo, and the rest of the crew ate. After lunch, Robert and the others went to check on the supply caches; as the remote outpost of the Islands, such checks were something of a necessity with such troublesome neighbors.

That left Max and company an entire afternoon to play and explore an island none of them got to visit more than a handful of times. So they played hide-and-seek in the coastal village, then ran races through forests of trees whose very branches seemed droop in mourning of the dead who were still causing grief generations later. Which of course led to where they were now.

“Whoa…” Cleo breathed, “there are real Cyexians buried here…”

Naturally, this had been one of her ideas. Not that Max or Lance had made any strong objections.

“This place is really eerie…” Max looked around in the shadow of the great drooping trees, listening to the rustling noises that seemed to be coming from all directions at once. The sky even seemed to get a little darker, though none of them took note of the clouds swiftly moving in.

This was the first time any of them had been to one of the graveyards before, and none of them had any trouble seeing why these places were largely left alone.

Beyond the limp foliage hanging over them, they could see an upright slab of dark stone that was bigger than any two of them put together. As they stepped through the veil of trees, they could make out more of the large stone blocks dotting the clearing. After so many years, most of them leaned at odd angles, but all of them bore the mark of one Cyexian clan or another.

“Yeah, I wonder what one looks like if you dug it up…” Lance, like his friends, had never seen a human corpse before; as the people of the Islands buried their dead at sea, the idea of a graveyard was a foreign concept among Layoshans. He was glad Carlton hadn’t come along on this trip. Twice before, they had set out for this largely shunned place, and both times he had threatened to tell. Besides, if Carlton had come, he would just be begging to go back home now.

The stillness among those silent stone sentinels was almost spooky, and a long moment passed before anyone spoke.

“Let’s go check that one.” Cleo pointed to a most unusual grave at the far end of the clearing. Unlike the others, this massive stone was laid between two of the twining roots of an enormous, hoary tree on the embankment above.

Before Max or Lance could utter a word of hushed agreement, the stillness was broken by the sound of nearly a dozen strangers approaching the graveyard. At first, the three of them weren’t quite sure what they were seeing. But even before it clicked, their instincts, those of children, still unhindered by adult rationalizing and training, had already told them to have a bad feeling about it.

As a rule, the Cyexian burial grounds were left alone out of simple respect for the dead; though it had been brought up many times, the Elders had wisely chosen not to provoke the clans. The small band that now approached the graveyard bearing power rifles and shovels, though, had come to challenge that wisdom. Clad in what looked like a mixed bag of wardrobes, for these newcomers were more accustomed to stealing what they needed than making it themselves, and there was something about their wary and unfamiliar approach that immediately struck the three of them as out of place.

Max barely stifled a yelp as he realized who they had to be, little noticing as Cleo and Lance did likewise. At first he thought he was seeing the ghosts of those buried there, but now he was sure that the figures he saw were flesh and blood. From all the descriptions he had heard all his life, the half dozen or so women, and several shovel- and pickaxe-bearing men, could only be Cyexians.

He nearly cried out again when Lance grabbed his shoulder, and the three of them quietly retreated deeper into the woods, out of sight and hopefully out of earshot.

“Now what?” Lance hissed. If those Cyexians were doing what he thought they were doing, then it looked like he might get to see a Cyexian corpse yet. Only now he just wasn’t quite as excited about it as he was a couple minutes ago.

“We’ve gotta tell Angus and the others,” said Cleo. Eleven of them she had marked, at least that she could see. The three of them were downwind of the graverobbers, but she was still afraid of being overheard. “Let’s go. If we’re not careful, they’ll catch us here.”

“Right.” Lance very nearly lost his wits upon understanding their situation; though he may be older, he was glad she was bolder.


The two of them turned to see Max peering through a gap in the foliage.

“Max, what are you doing?” Cleo demanded. “We can’t fight them.”

“I know,” Max replied, “but one of us should stay back and watch, see what they’re up to. You go tell my dad and Angus.”

“Max!” Lance hissed.

“What if you get caught?” Max asked. “If you do, I can still run and get help. Maybe I can help Dad if I know what they’re doing.”

“Fine.” Cleo could also see the reluctant agreement on Lance’s face as the two of them turned to sneak away. “Don’t do anything, Max. Promise me.”

“I promise,” Max told her. “I’ll only watch.”

Cleo took one last look over her shoulder, seeing him as she would always remember him after that day, his reckless, devil-may-care smile and Be Right Back wave a mockery of eternity itself, then took off with Lance.
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