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A Letter from Cnan to Northwind

Door Northwind gepubliceerd op Tuesday 29 September 10:05



You asked me to write you a letter about myself. It took me so long to write it because I don't know what you would want to know about me, or what you would want me to write about. But now you have started to bring it up every time we meet. So here it is.


There is really nothing special to tell. I was just an ordinary kid, growing up in the tree city Marelcumba Bianco. I have travelled the continents since then, but it is still the most beautiful city I know. Nothing else surpasses it's grandeur. It seems to consist of two worlds, above and below canopy. Above canopy, the city is full of light and splendour. There are temples and shrines, parks, magnificent palaces for the city leaders and Amazon rulers. The boardwalks are made of white tropical wood that shines brightly in the sunlight. Hence: Bianco. Below canopy and on the ground floor, the world is much shadier. Here is where most people live. That is to say, the common people. This is where I was born.


But my favourite places are the beach and the harbour. The Marelcumbians love to spend time on the beach, enjoying flavoured shave ice, and spicy cool drinks. There are always boats and yachts sailing up to the harbour or up to the beach, for pleasure or trade. Down at the waterfront there is always something to do.


I was an ordinary kid. Marelcumbians don't like to keep their children on a tight leash when they are still young. So until I was about 5 years old, I mostly ran around, wild-haired and barefooted, exploring Marelcumba with my friend. My mother was captain of a merchant bricbarca called Pendanha, after the goddess of the trees. She was often away from home, so my father took care of me most of the time. There were no brothers or sisters. It was just dad and me. We got along well. I remember how we would go to the lookout post at the beach, get some shave ice, and sit there for hours to watch her ship sail in.


She was a tall woman, with long platinum white hair. I can still see her standing on the deck of her ship. She was muscular and strong - a commanding woman. I remember her piercing blue eyes and the fragrance of the sea on her clothes.


Pendanha was a large ship, one of the largest merchant ships. The hull and the sails were white and when she came in, she looked like a swan majestically gliding towards her destination. Sometimes I felt as if this ship was my mother's soul.


I must have been about five years old when her ship was taken by pirates and she and her entire crew were killed. They turned Pendanha into a ghost ship by hanging every one of her sailors from the masts, some by their feet, some by their necks. But this, I learned many years later. My father and I grew apart after my mother's death and eventually he sent me to the Academy at the age of six. The Academy became my home. It became my mother and my father. It sheltered me, fed me, clothed me and taught me what I needed to know.

The Academy Complex is the only building in Marelcumba that is both above and below canopy. Above canopy is where some of the classrooms for the older students are, but mostly, there are rooms for the officials of the Academy, and there is a direct passageway leading to the War Palace, where high ranking military personnel works. I know it is there because I have been there.


Below canopy are the dormitories, the dining rooms, the common rooms, the class rooms for the younger students and of course the numerous practice courts. The Academy also has practice courts on a restricted part of the beach, a couple of miles out of Marelcumba.


The Academy is a gigantic complex and a maze-like to those who don't know their way around. When I first arrived, I knew nothing of course. But I soon made friends, and we explored the complex, just like I had explored Marelcumba itself years earlier. There were places where we were not allowed to go - the library's restricted area, some powerful shrines where older students learned about magic, the teacher's rooms and the passageway to the War Palace.


My first oppla was Tauris. I remember when I first saw her, during my very first fighting practice. She must have been 6 foot 5 tall - taller even than my mother. But she also had charisma. It was as if all the attention in her surroundings, from men, children, other women and animals alike, was sucked towards her like a tornado sucks up air. Her hair and her eyes were dark. She taught us to wield every conceivable weapon out there until our muscles seemed to be on fire, and we thought our limbs were going to fall off. But most of all she taught us to shoot and use spears and javelins. Rumour had it that she had her own custom made javelin. It was supposed to be a magnificent weapon. No one was allowed to touch it. No one I knew had ever seen it. And this is how I almost came to hold it.


One day I was practicing with this tall girl from my class. I don't remember her name, but I remember that everybody was afraid of her, because she was strong and ruthless. And on that day, I had gotten stuck with her. Tauris was looking on from the side line. It was her habit of having us practice one move over and over again, saying absolutely nothing until she called break (by which time we would all be exhausted). Then she would comment on our moves and after that allow us to have free style practice fights.


We practiced our move for over an hour in the heat. There was no break, no water drinking. Just the heat, and the same movements over and over again. It was almost hypnotising - after a while, none of us was very conscious anymore of what we were doing. We were just moving.


Then came a short break, and after that the free fight. This girl comes at me while I was still drinking. She hit my right arm hard. My water fell to the ground, and I dropped, rolling over backwards in order to get out of her reach. But she was right behind me, so I rolled sideways and jabbed at her legs. Finally, she backs off. My arm hurts like hell and I can barely move my right arm, so I shift my javelin to the left, although I realised it would barely be useful in my left hand. We fought for a while, Tauris standing there, arms crossed, like a statue gazing at us. Finally, I was on the ground and this girl had her weapon pointed at me. I was defeated. Then Tauris says: "Cnan, if you get up and beat her, I will let you hold my javelin". At first I thought I didn't hear her right, so I turned my head towards her, but she looked straight at me.


The whole time I had been thinking that Tauris's javelin was just a myth, a tale the students would tell each other. And I was defeated and hurt. Not to mention exhausted. How the hell was I going to get away from there? It had to be a joke, right? But Tauris nodded and I suddenly had to see this mythical javelin.


I look up and this tall girl grins at me, bringing her weapon closer to my throat. I didn't think, I just acted. I grabbed her weapon behind the tip and gave it a mighty tug, pointing it towards the ground to my right. I can still see her eyes open in surprise. She is caught by surprise and loses her footing. I smack it against her right hip. She twists and falls and I'm on top of her.


That was the first time I've seen Tauris smile. That night I went to her office. It was a tiny office somewhere in a remote corner of the complex. She sits me down and pours me some hot tea. I looked around. I thought maybe the formidable weapon would hang proudly in her office. We talk a little and finally she says: "What are you looking about for? Are you looking for the weapon?" I nod. She looks at me and asks: "Why did you win the fight this afternoon?"

I look at her and wonder in my mind where this is going. "Because I thought you would show me your javelin." Slowly, she smiles at me. "Think. Why did you win?" Finally, it hits me. She sees it and says to me: "Exactly. Always provide yourself with a reason to win. You are stronger than you think. Don't let victory or loss depend on your opponent." I will never forget that fight. Or that moment with Tauris.


I remember another night - two of my friends, Danga and Fazio decided to find this infamous passageway. We snuck out of our dormitory and found our way above canopy without being seen by anyone. I remember how I saw the sun set over the tree tops. Above canopy we entered a general's office by climbing through the window. We left the office through the door that lead to a hallway, which in turn lead to an inner courtyard. At the very end there was an iron gate.


We were so close, but in people were still working in some of the offices overlooking the courtyard. But Danga had brought a flash bomb from the supplies in one of our classes. She let it go off and we made for the gate. We were so ignorant and stupid. I laugh now that I think about it.


For a moment or two there was a complete chaos. We ran for the iron gate, while people started to flood out of the offices. But of course, the gate was locked. And as the smoke cleared were stood there, like frightened bunnies, surrounded by generals, admirals and other high officials.


It very nearly got us kicked out of the Academy. I was punished for months, as were Danga and Fazio. We scrubbed toilets, did extra schoolwork, cleaned classrooms, did more extra schoolwork, waited on teachers and officials, helped in the kitchen, did still more extra schoolwork, until finally someone high up decided it was enough. The Academy director called us to his office and had a talk with us that made me feel so ashamed it brought tears to my eyes. Never again did I do something to disappoint the Academy.


It was during my final year at the Academy, when I was serving as aide-de-camp to Colonel Sadoras, that I finally saw the actual passageway, as she would often send me on errands to the War Palace.


Right. Writing to you unlocked certain memories that I had about the Academy. I have to say, remembering made it rather pleasant to write this letter to you, after all.


Take care of yourself, Northwind. Until next time.



Reacties (4) 

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Dankje dat je ons laat meegenieten in je schrijfoefening!
Geslaagde oefening. Verfrissend om te zien hoe jij de Engelse taal wel degelijk onder de knie hebt.
Dankje. In het Engels schrijven is niet helemaal ideaal. Ik ben een near native speaker, maar het wordt toch nooit je moedertaal. Maar mijn vriend is Amerikaan en leest geen Nederlands, dus bij een gezamenlijk project moet ik wel in het Engels schrijven. Maar ook daarvoor schreef ik al wel in het Engels. Het heeft wel wat, als is het stilistisch veel lastiger.
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Een tijdje terug hoorde ik van een soort oefening en voorbereiding die David Mitchell, schrijver van o.m. Cloud Atlas, gebruikt om zijn personages uit te diepen. Hij laat zijn personages als het ware een brief naar hem schrijven. Ik was gefascineerd en wilde het meteen zelf proberen. De gelegenheid deed zich voor toen ik een schrijfprojectje ging doen met mijn beste vriend (tevens de beste schrijver die ik ken). Voor ons verhaal schreef ik deze brief en nog een andere die ik binnenkort zal publiceren. Ik wilde de brief niet beginnen met deze uitleg, dat vind ik zo duf. Vandaar dat ik het hier even uitleg. Enjoy.