My breath produced a little vaporous cloud on contact with the fresh air of autumn. From the top floor of the belfry of Vilnius Cathedral, I watched the sun disappear peacefully behind the horizon, casting rays of pink light upon the city. Further down, on the white square, small figures gradually dispersed, returning to the streets of the city center on both sides of the Neris. In my back, the metallic creaking of a door that is opened. The sound of boots against the slabs indicated that someone was approaching. A man came to stand at my height. He put his right hand against the railing. The faint light of the setting sun was reflected in the imposing signet ring on his forefinger: it represented a three-headed hydra. In contact with the cold metal, it caused an acute clatter. I watched him out of the corner of my eye: his haughty face, his beard carefully cut, he scanned the horizon. A thick fur cape covered his shoulders, falling to the ground. At his belt, a sheath from which emerged the golden guard of a short dagger.
"I do not remember ever being tired of this sight".
As an approbation, I smiled.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Lord Garlan.
- It's all natural. A French journalist interested in HYDRA, a few weeks after your departure from the alliance, it puzzled me a bit."
"Did you vote the referendum?"
The brevity of my answer seemed sufficiently explicit.
"You know, we can not force nations to cooperate. Sometimes interests vary.”
His eyes came off the horizon and he turned in my direction. His face expressed a certain good nature.
"How is HYDRA doing since the departure of France, Lord? I asked."
The expression on his face changed in an imperceptible twitch, as if he tried to remember every day since the Hydra had lost one of his heads. He inhaled deeply.
"My faith, the alliance is stable, we regain little by little in power. Macedonia has finally managed to free itself, at the cost of many efforts. Our cooperation with Asteria has also paid off.
- HYDRA and Asteria cooperate?
- Of course. We regularly exchange regions in the Balkans, organize training wars to advance our troops. I sincerely believe that we are on the right track..."
He now smiled calmly, his upper lip disappearing under his mustache. His piercing eyes scanned my face and seemed to detect the question I was about to ask him.
"You may be disappointed to learn that losing your country has not had the slightest impact on our alliance.
- Not the least?
- Not the least. I could boast to tell you that it has sold us even more, but Macedonia, Lithuania and Latvia are old allies, who have been working together for many years. There is neither greater cohesion nor defeatism since your departure. We are simply going our way."
He approached the railing again and leaned forward. He motioned me to imitate him, with a slight movement of his head. I executed myself.
"Do you see the few squares at the foot of the belfry, Mr. Dhelk?"
I did so, while holding my felt firmly to prevent him from being caught by the Lithuanian squalls, drawing him insistently towards the darkness of the night.
"Let's take a closer look," said Lord Garlan cheerfully.
He ran down the stairs of the belfry two by two, not at all bothered by the heavy cloak floating behind him. When I pushed the metal door to the square, limp, he was already squatting, his hand gently resting on a tile on which was traced a mysterious symbol.
"Mr Dhelk, you see, a few years ago a big march started in Riga. Baltic citizens, mostly Latvians and Lithuanians, took the road to unite their compatriots against the occupation we were undergoing. They left a handful, but arrived a thousand at this exact place, at the foot of this belfry. When they became brothers, they took up arms and freed themselves from the yoke of the invader. This powerful link, we also tied it with our Macedonian friends. It is this strength that lives within HYDRA."
He straightened up, went over and put his right hand on my shoulder.
"We are neither the most powerful nor the most numerous. But we are determined, faithful and loving freedom. And we will fight together to live a third way, apart from CODE and Asteria."
Lord Garlan gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder, then turned on his heels. As darkness devoured the last bright spots in the square, he turned around.
"Walk, French people, walk. And can you reach thousands, without dividing yourselves."