Through the years Namlas had forgotten much of the days before the blessing. And for the most part, he was glad things were this way because those days of old—had one asked him—were best forgotten. But memories had always been his worst enemies; he couldn't control what he remembers any more than he could control what he forgets. And some nights such as this past one, enough threads of the convoluted sea of thoughts that was the his collective memory randomly weaved together into a pattern—one that caught the attention his wandering subconscious. Though he fought during his waking moments to forget that part of his life, he was powerless to steer the destiny of his dreams during slumber. And it was in that unrestrained theater of the mind, he was once again a captive audience of these vignettes of his former life.
There were those who were content with simpler lives. Namlas knew them well, as he lived among them for the longest time. They were the fortunate ones, he often thought with much contempt, for they were at least born with limited ambitions to match their limited means. They did not yearn for—and even if they did they would find distractions that steered them away soon enough—anything that were beyond the immediate sphere of their daily lives at Issnur Isles. And this place, he thought, a remote farming community far south of the island, was the perfect backdrop for such sedentary lives. These lives has no place for exploration of distant lands, of untapped riches, of forbidden knowledge, and of the potentials of life itself. While the quiet isles had a tranquility about them that relaxed the mind and may even be a place of rest others sought, it became monotonous almost as soon as one was old enough to know what monotony was. And Namlas had learned of that feeling long ago.
Up until that first fateful night, Namlas was excited perhaps once or twice per year when the primary harvesting season finally arrived. After rotating, the secondary crops did not demand as much attention as did the main stable, so he had the free time—and the means now that he sold his harvest—to travel a bit north to the bustling Kamadan to savor a bit of the exciting sights and sounds of the capital city of Istan. He enjoyed the various festivities and, most of all, the people, he met at the capital: the merchants with their enticing goods, the tales told by travelers to and from lands afar, and most of all the enchanting women. He typically spent—or squandered according to his family—most of his golds earned during the year by indulging in juniberry gin and imported rice wine and encircling himself with wealthy diners and travelers with tall tails of explorations and conquests and lifestyles that he couldn't afford. As he saw it, he worked hard all year tending to crops with nothing more to show for than the rough hands that resulted from labor and a few platinums. If he didn't reward himself this way, he would have wasted his life. At times he wished he would drink himself to the Mists, for at least that would have been some adventure.
The other reason to take these leaves to Kamadan, of course, was to escape the increasing vexing smothering from his family. Initially, the wife's and child's overzealous and misplaced concerns for his well being were minor annoyances at worst. Ever since they found out about the Sunspears' rejection of his enlistment application seasons ago, their constant consolation became patronizing and only reminded him of his failures, his inadequacy, and his ultimate inferiority.
“Sub-average mental constitution and questionable virtues,” he remembered the Sunspear evaluator telling him. He wasn't bright, he knew. But he wasn't an idiot. He could wield the scythe better than anyone he knew. He was a hard worker, but if there was an easy way, he was smart enough to take it. He knew the intricacies of the weather and wind condition that foretold the coming rainfall in the days ahead, which was more than what he could say for these Sunspears. And yet they turned down his application over some irrelevant questionnaires. For a group of overrated security guards, they lionized themselves beyond reason and had grown too arrogant for his taste.
So once again Namlas was enjoying himself with his newly found friends from Vabbi over some spirits. He was significantly disoriented by the alcohol, but he reveled in the experience. The world around him spun more than usual, and he could hardly stand without wobbling. The unpredictable glee flirted with his senses. He felt like he was the king of the world. He would bellow out incoherent declarations of love for his fellow men and receive likewise from others around him similarly intoxicated. They would then collapse onto the ground in laughter as he rolled over on his back and followed the swirling stars in the night sky above Kamadan with his eyes. He remembered how he used to do that with his wife when they were younger and didn't have to go to bed early in order to rise early the next day to work on to the farm or to tend to the child's needs.
“You like to travel and see the world?” asked one of his newly found friends as he drank from his cup. He was a cheerful enough fellow. Sufficiently intoxicated, he let down that worn head wrap that he normally wore to rest on his shoulder during the cool night, revealing a middle-aged man with a full set of beard. Signs of gray in his hair and beard were consistent with the developing wrinkles around his eyes as he smiled. “I belong to a band of traveling men. We don't have tests for our members to pass before we would welcome them,” he said as if he had read Namlas's mind. Or perhaps he just paid attention earlier during their conversation. Collapsing onto his back and looking up at the same night sky as Namlas was studying, he tilted the cup to quaff down the rest of the gin. Of course, the liquor then spilled over and rolled down the side of his face onto the ground, a few drops seeped into his beard.
“All we need is someone that handles his own and help out others when needed,” he continued after tossing the now empty cup aside. “When we get loot, we share.”
“Sounds better than all the pious brotherhoods I've heard so far.” Namlas grunted, followed by a bitter laugh.
And on that fateful night, Namlas joined the local band of the Corsair.
The following months were just as intoxicating for Namlas as the gin that night. He worked initially mostly as a deckhand on one of the ships. They took him to various ports and shorelines of Istan and Kourna on their raids. As time went on, with some sporadic training, he learned to wield the scythe as a weapon instead of a farming instrument. He was now in control of his life and destiny, he felt, as opposed to being controlled by a patch of crops and the expectations of those around him. He went places and explored the furthest reaches of the island, places that he had not heard of before. And for once, he commanded the respect and instilled fear in others. For once, he was at the other end. He wondered why he didn't do this sooner.
The loot enriched him handsomely in the forms of new and luxurious clothings, precious rubies and gemstones, as well as the intangible luxuries that had so far been out of reach for him: respect and admiration. Not because they were of his family and done out of obligation but because of his achievements. He felt good arriving to towns in rich garments to be greeted by eager merchants showing him the latest and best stock on hand, and he felt good about no longer having to worry if the next merchant in the next town offered the same item at a lower price. He could buy what he wanted at a whim and know that he still had more platinums left. He loved living the lifestyles of the wealthy, and for once he could afford to. And occasionally, he thought of the family back in Issnur.
As time passed, he also got to participate in raids. He was eager to do so because the share of the loot was significantly larger. He was also uneasy about the actual operation initially. He felt his sweat and pounding heart and his hand squeezing on the handle of his scythe as he rushed on shore when they made landfall. It was his third raid, he remembered, when he first took a life. He reminded himself that it was unintentional whenever he recalled the event. As expected, not all were quick to relinquish their gold to the demands of the Corsairs. This one villager was a proud man, Namlas could tell. He was probably a local leader, as he seemed like he was the head of a group of men of similar size wielding makeshift weapons—homemade spears and clubs. The typical response was intimidation to try to break the men's wills, perhaps inflicting some pain to make an example of a few of them. But the thing with chaotic close quarter conflicts with sharp blades is that one never really had total control on the situation. In the course of the fight, Namlas swung the scythe one bit too heavily onto the villager's spear as he held it up to block the attack. The blade split the handle of the spear easily enough, and it went further down to slice through the thin cloth, skin, bone, and split the man's chest and heart. It was a cool night, but Namlas felt as if he was being burned at the stake. The man went silent and fell on his stomach. As he thought back, Namlas was thankful the fallen man's face was buried in the dirt. He wouldn't want to stare into the man's eyes. The other villagers saw their leader fall and, instead of cowering and giving in to the Corsairs' demand, were fueled with blind rage and lust for vengeance. At the same time, the other Corsairs also joined Namlas in fighting off the attacking villagers. It was lucky that they did, for Namlas had been frozen in place, staring at the man's body and the widening pool of blood around it. Being mostly fishermen and dock workers, of course, the villagers did not last long. And the ground was soon covered by the villagers' bloodied bodies. Namlas remembered seeing the reflected moon that night from the puddle of blood. It was dark, but he could make out the red tint from the dark liquid. He approached it and then saw in the reflection not his own face but a dark silhouette of his head under the head wrap, safe a slit from which his eyes peered out of. He wasn't sure if he saw himself or one of the other Corsairs.
Things had gotten easier with time. The initial hesitation was replaced by an almost professional form of apathy. The rules were simple: announce the demand for platinum to the villagers. The villagers were to give them what was demanded or they would take the loot by force any way. If they had to kill or maim to get what they wanted, so it was. They were to leave women and children alone unless they got in the way. Other than a few conflicts every now and then, things in general went well. The platinums kept coming, and the town merchants were ever happy to see Namlas. Every now and then he continued to think about his family back in Issnur. But he knew they would be doing fine. Nothing bad would happen there. Nothing ever happened there.