An Uprising of Sweepers: Part One
What now? I am sure I’ve given you all your bedtime milk. What’s that? A bedtime story?! Go sleep, the lot of you! I never put your father to bed by telling him bedtime stories. Eh? You can’t sleep if I don’t? How on earth do your parents raise you children?? Taking advantage when they’re out tonight, aren’t you? Hey, what-? Oh, very well. Shush child, don’t cry. Your grandfather doesn’t like that. A fine thing it’ll be to tell my friends that my grandchildren makes their grandfather do things he never does…
Let’s see... I don’t know much about those faerie tales you’ve heard from your mother and father, so I’ll be telling you the only story that your grandfather knows. I’ll tell you all the tale of “The Sweepers”.
What are “The Sweepers” you ask? Ah, patience; my little grandchild. That tale is about to begin … ---
In the days before the city of Altador was formed and the young king-to-be himself was still a young Lupe, there was a now non-existent small town located off the shores of the Great Ocean. This little fishing town could thrive, not only because of the favourable ground and weather for crop planting; there’s always a constant supply of fish, no matter the season. Also, it’s located on a decent trading route. However, this perfect location was marred by constant bandit attacks!
These bandits are particularly vicious and bold, in their plundering and seizing of the town’s hard-earned produce. Business is already slow and traders rarely stay to trade for fear of those attacks. If the bandits happen to attack on the day no traders are around for business (which is often), they would take away what precious little valuables of the townsNeopians. To make things worse, the bandits would seriously injure anyone who fights back against them! The last time that happened; the unfortunate townsNeopian almost lost his life, is blinded and now walks with a limp as a result of those injuries.
With such things happening, the townsNeopians knew better than to put up a fight… Except for one young fisher Wocky. Adian is one of those who would stand up for himself and others who are too weak to do so. Whenever there are bandit attacks, he always had to be restrained by his mother; who does not wish to lose her only remaining family, or anyone else she requests for assistance. Therefore, the most he could do is shout threats that he is unable to carry out.
“I could take them on, you know.” Adian muttered during dinner after yet another round of raiding and mother’s restraining for the third time that month.
“You could alright… but as a ghost! Adian, be realistic! You are capable of doing a lot of things, but this? That’s literally asking for trouble to come your way!”
“But Mother, what the bandits are doing to us; it’s not what you’ve taught me! I am sure both grandfather and father would’ve fought back!”
“They too, would most probably be cut down by those ruffians if they did what you tried to do. No, my boy,” said the weary Wocky with a tone of finality. “You may have the bravery that they passed on to you but you have not the training to be a warrior. There are some things you cannot fight.”
At that, Adian kept quiet. It was uncharacteristic of his mother to be talking in such a defeated manner. But then again, she was probably weary of just trying to live day by day and it had been an extra harrowing day with the attack. It hadn’t been easy for her, raising one young Wocky kit on her own and making both ends meet after both his father and grandfather were lost at sea during a bad storm. Feeling that she needed some rest after the excitement and terror of the day, he excused himself from their tiny house once dinner was done and went to search out Orcius, his Vandagyre best friend.
Finding his friend wasn’t home, it can only mean that he's at the eating hall of Mother Euthia’s inn for traders and travellers. There, one can get all the news and happenings of the day. So, he headed there, to find that the hall was packed with excited townsNeopians from the north, south and east parts of the town! After the earlier bandit attack, this behaviour was somewhat unusual. Only the very brave (which weren’t many) or the very foolish would dare step out of their houses, what more head out to the biggest eating hall in town.
But it didn’t take long for him to hear and to see the reason for it... There’s a stranger in town that succeeded in fighting off some bandits that attacked Mother Euthia’s inn, without even a scratch for his troubles! The stranger in question though, didn’t look as though he's enjoying the attention he garnered nor the barrage of questions coming his way. A young Eyrie who might be still a fledgling from his size; the stranger at that moment in fact, gave the impression he would’ve loved to disappear. It was a good thing the owner, Mother Euthia; a matronly Yurble grandmother of nine who is stern yet kindly, came to the stranger’s rescue.
“Enough questions for our guest! Now, he’ll rest after all he’s done today. Are you all done trading news? Leave, if you’re not going to stay and pay for more brew!”
At that, most of the townsNeopians left the eating hall like a gushing stream. With difficult times, most could afford one drink. The ones who did remain behind were the ones who just came in or were willing to spend a little more time at the eating hall. Belonging to the former, Adian espied Orcius sitting with his father among a group of older Neopians. After putting in an order for a snack and strong coffee with Mother Euthia, he went over to join them.
“The third time this month, unbelievable!”
“About the bandits?” Adian asked Orcius in a low voice as he sat himself down next to him.
“Of course… what else would be “new”, aside from the new guest?”
“Hmph, I wonder,” he harrumphed in reply before he was swept into discussion with the older Neopians about the attack that day and what losses he had from his catch due to it.
“You know, it seems as though they’ve been attacking a lot more often than they would.”
“Indeed,” agreed Orcius’s father. “It may be that times are hard, but I’ve wondered if they somehow know the days when trading and marketing is going on.”
“You might have something there! Been keeping track; these past few times they have been attacking during those days,” agreed another Neopian.
“Well, if that’s the case, how did they know…?”
“Nah, the question you should be asking is: How do we handle them when they come on? We can’t fight them back!” jumped in an outspoken butcher.
“Not likely, especially after what they did to Timos! Good thing you’re helping his son out though, Adian.”
“Back to the point! Ah, what if we get some guards in here for security?”
“Bit hard to do. We’ll have to get them from the cities. Then, we’ll have to think of paying them, which we can’t afford. I don’t think you want to pay more taxes now, right? It’ll be cheaper if they’re from town itself.”
“Well said but, do we have the Neopians with that kind of training?”
There was silence at that. “See? No, the best option we have for now would be; move away from this town and find a place less worse than this or try and do what we can when they attack…”
“Which is what?”
“Well, what if we got that young stranger from earlier to help us out?” suggested Orcius.
“Hm. That’s a thought. Why not?”
“What? But would –“
“Excuse me,” a new wary voice entered the conversation.
All turned to look and found that whilst they were unaware, the Neopian in question had come over to them. Immediately, all those around the table felt a little awkward… Did he realise that they were just talking about him? If he did, the Eyrie didn’t let on as he continued “Are any one of you here fishers?”
“I am one,” replied Adian promptly. The stranger then directed the rest of his conversation to him.
“Do you catch squids?”
“Do you have any live ones?”
“Hold on. How about both of you move the conversation elsewhere?” suggested Orcius.
“Good suggestion… How about your table?” Adian offered as he got up from his seat. The Eyrie nodded in consent and lead the way back, with Adian feeling the eyes of the other tables on both of them. As they walked, he now noticed what he failed to see earlier: the fledgling’s movements appear effortless and his physique; lean and toned… he couldn’t help think to himself that “he could’ve taken on those bad hats with no problem.” Seating themselves down, the Eyrie waited for him to start. So, Adian continued from where they left off. “I don’t have live ones in stock. Now’s not the season for them and I don’t catch these normally. I prefer to throw them back unless I’ve got orders for them.”
“I see. But, I have a need for them. I’ll pay you a good price for them, more than the market price if you want,” offered the stranger anxiously.
“I’ll do what I can. How soon do you need them? And how many needed?”
“Well, how many squids would it take to fill up this flask with their ink?” he asked as he took out a small, dark coloured flask.
“Their ink? Eh… that’ll take seven to ten of them. And when-”
“About that, by tomorrow. Tomorrow night the latest.”
“Tomorrow! It won’t be easy but seven squids should be doable in this season. Consider it done.”
“And how much will that be?” queried the Eyrie with an obvious look of relief and hope.
“Price, we’ll determine when I’ve caught them,” Adian replied as he got up, glad that he had ordered and drank that coffee. “I’ll leave now, if I am to catch them at all.”
“Oh, one more thing!” “Yes?”
“Is there’s an apothecary in this town?”
“My friend and his father runs a small one. They’re the Vandagyries at my table. Friend’s name is Orcius.”
“Thank you. And how will I find you later?”
“Just look out for me at the port. Ask for Adian if you can’t find me.”
To be continued…