Erson decided that they could not possibly get off the boat too soon. It wasn't merely the smell that bothered him or the thought that there were decomposing bodies below deck, but the small crew was insufferable. Jadui was still simmering in her bad mood and under the circumstances, Erson decided she'd best get some fresh air before she worried herself sick. He dragged her outside and insisted she stay next to him as he planned what to do next.

"Pilagn. It's a big city, it's far enough away from Arev and we can join a caravan if the road is too dangerous. Agreed?"

Jadui grunted something that sounded like a yes. Erson threw her a pointed glance and repeated, "Agreed?"

"Yes!" Jadui shot back and returned to staring down at the water moodily.

Erson had given up trying to appease her temper. At the time, the only thing she needed was to sulk and get it out of her system. He returned his attention to the tarnished map of Bandar the captain begrudgingly lended him.

He felt surprisingly calm about the whole ordeal. At first, he thought that maybe he needed time for his change in situation to really sink in, but he eventually concluded that he'd felt abandoned by the Devyran Fortress Guard ever since coming to Bandar. When that happened, he'd acted much like Jadui; now he felt strangely liberated. The charade that had taken over his life was finally over.

"What's so great about Pilagn, anyway?" Jadui muttered.

At first, Erson thought he'd imagined it. Jadui had barely spoken two words to him and one of those words he was pretty sure had been some sort of swamp-dweller insult. But he could sense aprehension. It sounded like she was requesting information about Pilagn, but what she was actually saying was "What do you have planned for me next?" He decided to take the long route around her fears.

"Pilagn was a Saye colony," he replied. "Everyone there follows only their own interests."

The truth was, Pilagn was an imposing city and imposing cities had plenty of jobs needing to be done. They were out of food, nearly out of money, on the run and strangers to the land. He would have told her that, but at the moment, he most definitely didn't need Jadui to give in to desperation.


After the abrupt end to the Red Empress' reign, there followed a period known mainly as the Fragmentary Years. Marked by a rise in crime rates, xenophobia and the erection of many, many walls, it was a short period during which the Mekijian Empire was reduced to its base components: counties. After brief anarchy, a relative calmness was reached. At this point, the economy was revitilised, especially since the steep competition that existed between the counties increased.

Well into the Fragmentary Years, some strange disaster befell the ftornies, perhaps to the great fortune of the Mekijians, who were desperate for expansion. Following the demise of the ftornies, the western territories were taken over and eventually, a small stretch of land leading to a new and impressive continent, Bandar, was discovered and with it, a safer route to Itan'ters (or, more accurately, the only safe route to Itan'ters).

A frantic period of exploration and colonisation followed, during which each county sent out convoys to Bandar. While the colonies were being set up, however, something bizarre and unexpected happened. Someone suggested they all cooperate. This was unusual thinking for the time, when everybody was concentrated on finding new ways of getting an edge on their neighbours.

An enterprising fellow, Gedon er-Padish, drafted a unanimously beneficial agreement, by which each county would concede one third of all their profits to a Repository, a sort of national treasury. From there, a small part would be kept in case of natural disasters or unforseen circumstances and the rest would be divided equally between all the counties. Naturally, there were many counties without any colonies, thus they would be getting something for nothing, as many of Gedon's detractors pointed out.

But Gedon, being a politically-savvy fellow, drafted another agreement. The Crimson Guard, which had devolved into little more than a mercenary force, would be revived and the counties without colonies would, in turn, give their part of the profits towards training the new guard, which would become a sort of joint military and police force, according the the needs of the time.

Devowah, formerly a small outpost on the eastern side of Mekij, was used as a neutral location for discussions about these agreements, in lieu of Val Lay, which had, up until that point, been the gathering place. Also, Mekij was renamed to Devyra, which previously had been used to describe the continent geographically, not politically.

A few more years passed and eventually, the Ruling Council was established, which smoothed over the differences between counties progressively, until years later, a stable, singular government replaced the gigantic array of ill-fitting puzzle pieces.

Naturally, when this happened, virtually all profits from the colonies were going straight into the Devyran Repository and the Ruling Council were more than a little happy to skim off the top. In the end, the only people surprised at the colonies' uprising were the Ruling Councilmen themselves.

Pilagn as an off-shot colony of Saye, thus had been founded by merchants. Populated and ruled by people whose main goal was profit and progress, it was easy to see why they'd been the first colony to request autonomy. Since the day they achieved it, Pilagn grew increasingly prosperous, extending the city limits until finally, it grew to be the biggest independent city on Bandar and the second biggest out of all cities on the continent, right behind Mescet's capitol city, Hove.


"Do you kno anybody there?" he asked.

"No. Do you?"


A long stretch of silence followed. "What do we do once we get there?" she asked in return.

"Get jobs. Get a roof over our heads. Survive. We'll figure it out as we go."

Jadui snorted. She stomped off the deck, followed by her own little cloud of malcontent.

'No,' Erson thought, 'I don't like this plan either.'