The Book of the Twelve:Part Nine
IX-I. Tradym, the Sailor
Tradym was the best sailor known to Neopian kind in her lifetime. Hailing from what would become Swamp Edge City, she took to the seas and used her mastery of magic to calm waves and get favourable winds. She used her abilities to travel to the far corners of Neopia, discovering many ancient cultures that have since been lost to the sands of time. She often brought back souvenirs of her travels as proof of her claims, once returning with Polmith, the Giant, as her new friend.
When the Great Empire was founded there was no better choice to head the nation’s navy. Tradym became Admiral, overseeing the production of the biggest maritime fleet that had been seen since the days of the Kayannin.
The young Cybunny kept her magical textbooks close to her chest as she boarded the ship, worried she might fall off the gangplank and into the docks.
This was only going to be a short voyage across the bay of the Summer Sea from Meadow Vale to Kal Panning, but she didn't need to start it by becoming a laughing stock. She knew all about the famous sailor sense of humour.
“Tradym,” the stout Ruki Captain called.
“Yes,” she answered. “That’s me.”
“Cabin three,” he said.
He went below deck and found the cabin. There were already three other people inside, claiming their hammocks. Tradym managed to secure one with a good view of the cabin’s only porthole.
“This your first time sailing, girl?” a Grarrl across from her asked.
“Yes, yes,” she admitted. “I’ve always wanted to, but I could never pluck up the courage. They say the roads to Kal Panning are dangerous these days though.”
“The seas ain't much better, girl,” the Grarrl said. “Don't you worry though. Captain Ajax is a fine man. He’ll see us to. Kal Panning safe as anything.”
She hoped he was right. She settled herself into her hammock as the ship left port and began to read one of her textbooks. Before long, she had drifted off to sleep.
She woke some hours later to a sudden jolt that made her fall out of the hammock and hit the deck hard. Somewhere above her there was a scream and the noise of cannon fire followed.
She looked about, all of the other hammocks were empty. Out of the porthole, she could make out another ship close by, but the sea was rough. Great waves kept crashing up and down, obscuring her view.
While being tossed from side to side, she made her way up to the deck to find out what was going on. She emerged into a scene of chaos. The ship appeared to be caught in some sort of storm. Rain lashed down on them and Tradym was soaked within an instant.
A cannonball flew over her head, fired by the other ship she had seen. In the darkness, it was difficult to see, but she thought she saw it waving a pirate flag.
People were running about, trying to keep the sails from flying away or roll the ship’a own cannons into place. None of them appeared to be crew, Tradym noticed. In fact, she couldn’t see them anywhere.
She grabbed the Grarrl from her cabin as soon as she spotted him.
“Where is the Captain?” she asked.
“Gone!” he cursed. “The whole crew jumped ship as soon as they caught sight of the pirates. Must be a right. Fearsome lot, and by the looks of it the storm’s against us, No outrunning them, so they cut their losses and ran. If I ever catch up with them I’ll sure be giving them a piece of my mind, and a couple of my fists, that’s for sure.”
“Gone?” Tradym gasped. “But then, who is steering the ship?”
“No one!” the Grarrl answered, pointing up to the ship’s wheel which was spinning wildly. “If you think you know how to, by all means, girl.”
Tradym certainly had no plans to die on that ship. She made her way up and grasped the wheel firmly, trying to steer. Them away from the approaching pirates. The ship fought her every inch, the force of the storm. Keeping them exactly where they were.
She glanced back at the pirate ship. It was much larger than them. If the wind was on Tradym’s side then they would have the faster ship and escape would be possible.
Suddenly, she thought of her magical textbooks down in the cabin. She was a wizard of some skill, though she had certainly not tried anything on such a scale before.
As she continued to fight. With the wheel, she focused her energies outward to calm the storm around her. She felt it was working as soon as the rain stopped hitting her face. The wind changed, and Tradym guided it, changing the air currents so that the gusts carried the ship forwards instead of fighting against it. She felt the wheel free under her grip, and suddenly it was as if the ship were skating on ice, speeding away from the pirates who still remained trapped in the storm.
Tradym had saved them. Her heart was beating so fast that she barely even noticed the shouts of joy from the other passengers. The magic she had just performed, it was so exhilarating.
A few miles later they came across Captain Ajax and the crew in their row boat. They locked them in the brig, to await judgement in Kal panning. It was unanimously decided that Tradym would be the new Captain.
That was how she got the ship. She never lost it.
Tradym walked through the street stalls, tasting spices and sampling fabrics. It was market day in Kal Panning, traders from across Neopia converged on the bazaars to sell wares from the far flung corners of the globe. She should know, she helped ferry a lot of it there.
The scared girl who had ventured our from Meadow Vale had grown into a seasoned Captain. Her ship — she had renamed it the Airix — had carried her on voyages around the world for the best part of a decade. Songs were sung about the might of Tradym, who could control the waves, and who dealt with the pirates of the Summer Sea with a firm hand.
Her crew were on shore leave. But there was no rest for Tradym. She was at the markets on an errand.
The Aisha she was there to see was waiting at the fountains in the heart of the marketplace.
“Faleinn,” she greeted her. “I got your message.”
“And you came so soon,” the leader of Kal Panning’a council replied with a smile. “Thank you. I love market day, Tradym. The sights and sounds are different every month. So much new discovery these days. But, I suppose there isn't much here you haven't already seen, yes?”
TRadym thought of her voyages. To the frozen north, where strange creatures slept in ice. To the Island of Roo, strange fellows who claimed to be less serious offshoots of their brethren in the Desert of Roo. People and colours from all corners of the map.
“I believe, though, that there is a place you have yet to see,” Faleinn said.
“One of our fishing vessels became lost in a storm several weeks ago,” Faleinn said. “Without knowing it, they sailed for hundreds of miles in the wrong direction. They eventually righted themselves, but before they did, they saw an island on the horizon. With smoke rising from it. Smoke, to me, means people. And people means trade.”
“Or a volcano,” Tradym supplied.
She still remembered the one on the far side of Neopia that belched lava into the ocean. She had looked down into the mouth of it, and saw no bottom.
“Or a volcano,” Faleinn admitted. “But even that would mean valuable minerals. Fertile soil. Things we could use. This island they saw. The Island of Mystery, I would have someone chart it. I know of no one more capable than yourself.”
Tradym smiled, because Faleinn knew she had already sold her on the voyage.. The promise of the unknown was always enough. But, for the show of things, she had to seem reluctant.
“That would make me a privateer in the employ of Kal Panning,” she said. “And for that, my crew would be demanding a certain wage.”
Faleinn mirrored her smile.
“A wage they will get, along with a bonus if you come back with anything unique.”
Tradym didn't know it then, but she would return from Mystery Island with Polmith, the Giant. Unique was hardly the word.
IX-II. Tradym, the Pirate
The key to the success of the siege of Kal Panning was the two pronged attack the Empire’s forces used. After initially bombarding the city with cannon fire from the sea, Tradym transported Polmith’s forces to the Chia Spur so that they could come at the city from the north while Gyn-Marg’s forces distracted Kal Panning in the south.
After their victory, Tradym turned pirate, raiding cities up and down the coastline and plundering the spoils. Disagreements with Polmith eventually reached a head, and the two fought, costing both their lives.
Tradym stood at the wheel, the wind in her hair and the dark skies of Kal Panning ahead of her. In the dark night around her, lanterns were lit on the ships. Near enough fifty, the bulk of the Neopia City fleet. The largest fleet seen on Neopia’s oceans since the end of the Kayannin. In comparison, Kal Panning’s ships were mostly retrofitted fishing vessels. No challenge to the warships that had been constructed under Tradym’s orders.
She wore her Adrimal’s hat now, her mark of office. A tricorne thing. It never suited her and she never liked it. Now, away from Neopia City and the bustle of court, she began to miss her old hat and the old ways before the Empire. The freedom of the sea. She still had the Airix under her heels, but it was more figurehead now than working ship.
She moved over to her own lantern, made the signal with the light so the other ships could see. Time to get into formation.
The ships spread out, forming a line several miles long. A chain with which to bind the city. When they were all in position, she gave another signal. Cannons roared on each of the ships. All told, perhaps two hundred of the things were trained on the city, firing in unison. Tradym watched with delight as on the horizon, Kal Panning lit up with the fire of the explosions.
With any luck, this would be over by sunrise.
It wasn’t. They rained down cannonballs until they had no more to fire. Kal Panning still stood, well provisioned and ready for a siege. Some of the crew suggested heading back to Neopia City to result and try again, but Tradym refused. She knew her part was played, it would now be up to Polmith and Gyn-Marg to break the Kal Panning defences.
And as she sat there, waiting for the battle to begin, she grew more and more embittered. She had spent years building this fleet, and for what? Kal Panning withstood it. The only naval threat the Great Empire faced had shrugged her off. The ports of Meadow Vale and Sunny City were little more than piers these days. If what Polmith said about Geraptiku was true, then Mystery Island too would never be a threat.
What then, would the Empire need her for once this battle was done? To be nothing more than a glorified ferryman. Polmith’s warnings about the end. Rang in her ears. She knew, if she didn't leave the Circle soon, they would cut her away by force.
When the cards fell as they did, with the imprisonment of Jahbal, the disappearance of Oberon, and the fear of Mastermind’s retribution, it was hardly a surprise to Tradym. In some ways, the breaking of the Circle felt like a relief. A weight had been lifted and Tradym was free to return to what she loved best — sailing.
But now, the great cities were in ruin. There were no trade routes to follow. Nor were there any enemies to vanquish. Tradym reached a conclusion quickly. In order to justify her lifestyle, she had to become that enemy.
She would become the pirate.
Together with Polmith and the crew of the Airix, they raided towns on the coast and amassed great treasures. With each victory, though, the giant Skeith’s presence reminded her of what had been lost. Gradually, she began to resent him, and as the one who handed out the gold, that ended up being reflected in his pay.
Some part of her hoped for the showdown, when it came. She wanted the release. The end to it all. And she knew that it had to be Polmith to do it.
As the storm and Polmith’s rage ripped the ship apart, she smirked with a grim sense of satisfaction.
A Captain always went down with her ship.
To be continued…