By Lane Heymont
Winter. Month of Tarranuary, Day 10
No doubt you have learned of our departure by now. I must apologise profusely for the deception – the lost continent of Londinium is out there somewhere to the east in the dark and unforgiving Torcdywyn Sea. Again, I must apologise, my love, for your brother, Caedmon, has joined the Marvelous Poet’s crew. I swear he insisted upon it and, frankly, we can use a strong, stalwart soldier like him. The sea holds many pirate vessels and things much darker. But do not worry. Caedmon is not our sole defender. In the coastal city, Durc, I acquired the service of a stranger, one of those nefarious charlatans. Kimball is cold and quiet. His eyes, like ice, shift constantly, as though he is plagued by distrust, even when he studies his strange, archaic book. The men fear him and rightfully so, but I keep them occupied with tales of Londinium’s treasures. Mounds of gold, gems and fine silks await us on the Lost Continent, I say. The crew rejoices at that, as do I, but some act strangely the smaller the mainland appears behind us. Some whisper of shapes in the sea and speak of the Torcdywyn Monster.
I must finish this letter now. My first mate, Ralf, wishes a word about Kimball. Hopefully, this letter finds you well or at all, and I will divulge the method of its arrival next time. Farewell, Sapphira, my love.
Signed Newlyn Pemproke, Captain of the Marvelous Poet
Winter. Month of Tarranuary, Day 14
Much has happened since I last wrote you and I apologise for the delay. First, let me elaborate on how these letters are finding you, if they are. Kimball the Charlatan has a strange, ornate box carved with symbols of unknown origin to me. A large aquamarine gem tops its lid and, from what I know, when Kimball places an object within the box, closes it and opens it again, the letter is gone. He says the box lets him send anything it can hold to anywhere he has seen. I hope he speaks truly and is not secretly taunting me.
Several days ago, the mainland disappeared below the horizon. It is disconcerting. We are now alone in the open bleakness of the sea. Stretches of ripples follow behind us, as should be expected, but there is something below the Marvelous Poet. Something following us. My navigator, Thomlin, claims he saw it. A dark, bulbous body of grotesque portions, matching of size of our ship – about one hundred and thirty feet long! It glided beside the hull for several minutes, Thomlin said, breaching the surface with thick, leathery flippers as large as a horse. He watched at first in horror, then said its splashing seemed like a wave hello, as though it were a curious child. A moment later, the “bloated water-lizard,” as Thomlin called it, descended and vanished back into the ocean’s vast, black unknown.
This is not all, my dear Sapphira. I fear even writing this. Perhaps you will think I have gone mad! But I swear by my love for you I have not. At night, there are lights in the distance – yes, I say lights. I have seen them, as have many others. These are not the torches of another vessel, merchant or pirate. We are far too east of the mainland … beyond where any man has been. No, these lights dance and they do not flicker with the red-orange glow of flames. These dance, Sapphira! Somersault through thick mists, twisting and twirling, and seemingly chase one another as if they were fireflies upon the sea. Some of the crew, Ralf and your brother Caedmon, say they are will-o’-wisps that have left the swamps and somehow lost their way in the darkness. I do not believe so. Nor does Kimball the Charlatan … He says they are … I cannot even speak it in fear of bringing its wrath upon us! Not until Kimball says it is all right to do so. He plans to stay up this night and study the lights, perhaps find some reason or pattern to them.
I grow weak, my love. It is early evening and I must rest. Caedmon sends his love and insists you not worry. I shall write again,soon, Sapphira. I swear it.
Signed Newlyn Pembroke, Captain of the Marvelous Poet
Winter. Month of Tarranuary, Day 16
Both Florent and Baldwick have vanished! The Marvelous Poet is haunted; I swear it! Ralf went to wake them this morning and they were both gone from their beds. All the stranger is that their quilts were tucked in a way that suggests they had not moved. Yet, they were gone and their clothes were not. It is as though they had been swallowed by nothingness, pulled ever-so-gently from their clothes and bed, and simply ripped from existence. More alarming news follows. I told you yesterday of Kimball’s intent to wait and study those spritely lights dancing in the distance, glittering through fogbanks that seem to sporadically constrain our view. Study them he did.
Kimball told me of a seamen’s fairy tale, but his cold eyes and icy expression showed he believed it fully. There is a supposed island in these seas. An island which has no name, or so says Kimball. On this chunk of oblique stone that has risen from the depths of the abyss sits a tower of perverse nature and making. “The Tower of Lost Bones,” Kimball calls it. A tower built out of some unearthly black rock, and worse. Bones. It is built from the bones of those lost at sea. “A truly horrific sight of unfathomable evil and disgust,” says Kimball. If this malevolent wizard thinks this, what are my crew and I to do if we find such a monstrosity? I pressed the frightened Charlatan for more information about the tower, but he won’t speak of it. Refuses to! But he does report what the lights are and they are just as otherworldly wrong as the tower. Kimball used magic of some sort and found that the will-o’-wisp is, in fact, a ship! However, he is more concerned about its distance. Each night he has kept meticulous notes on that subject, using all sorts of archaic magic that sends shivers down the spines of most men. In his calculations, which Kimball has corroborated with our navigator, Thomlin, the ship grows closer at a dizzying rate!
I made Thomlin and Kimball swear to speak of this to no one but myself. The crew already has fallen into despair. The disturbing disappearance of Florent and Baldwick sent many to the mess to prepare a funeral feast … or drink. I believe the pain of their loss stings even more without their remains to properly cast off to sea. Other men have taken it much harder … I fear Caedmon is one. He shared a room with the two and has not left his bed since it happened. Only a day, but still it worries me for you. When I went to speak with him, I stopped at the door. I heard him through the wood … sobbing. And talking to himself, rather, gibbering. I do not know what to make of his words, for I can only hear bits of them: “At th.. ..ower los … we ..hall be.” I decided to let him rest, but do not worry, my love, Sapphira. All will be all right.
Signed Newlyn Pembroke, Captain of the Marvelous Poet
Winter. Month of Tarranuary, Day 18
Things have worsened, my love. Two days ago, I did not think that possible. But lo, here it is. Perhaps it is the full moon out now in the murky sky that so resembles the sea, or that the prancing lights appear nearly a mile from us starboard! The men … something has come over them. Yesterday, there were rumors of a mutiny, Ralf being the instigator. My first mate, you ask? Yes, but he is the one who came to me, warning of the ill-will spreading through the crew like smallpox or Greek fire. Ralf says your brother Caedmon plots against me, but that cannot be! Caedmon still has not moved from his bed since Florent and Baldwick disappeared. I do not know whom I can trust. Sometimes, not even myself. It may be my imagination, but even for winter in these warm climates, the days grow darker and colder more than is natural. Something is wrapping its claws around my ship, my crew and, I fear, even me. Kimball claims we stumbled upon a stretch of ocean which no man was meant to find. He speaks of the Tower of Lost Bones often and claims the lights are its hands reaching out from the unholy otherworld to drag us down into nothingness! He says these unknown things have a god, but Kimball won’t dare speak its name.
I had told you I feared speaking of what Kimball told me … of what I saw. Still, I fear you think I’ve gone mad, but I must heave this secret from my shoulders and cast down its weight! I do not think Kimball can admit this to himself, but he and I have seen this phantom ship. He and I know it well. Like the Marvelous Poet, it is a great galleon, the fiercest and most advanced ship for merchant trade or warfare. But this is ship is too like my own, boasting four thick, towering masts with sails flapping dangerously in the sea wind. Three through-decks that run the full length of the ship. Both the castles fore and aft have two decks, my quarters being in the aft … as it is on this ship. I say my love, that ship is ours and ours is theirs!
Winter. Month of Tarranuary, Day 20
You may be wondering why you are receiving two letters, one from two days ago and this one. Mutiny has struck the Marvelous Poet! Not against me, but against sanity! A majority of the crew have gone wild since I last wrote – the abrupt end of the previous letter was due to Ralf striking me from behind with … I do not know what. When I woke, I found myself in your brother Caedmon’s room, along with Kimball the Charlatan and our navigator, Thomlin. Though a barrel-chested man and a rugged, masculine exterior, Thomlin was crawling up on the floor like a newborn babe with his head in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
Kimball was shaken, as well, but not to such a degree and your brother stood by the door with his weapon drawn. Thankfully, his soldier’s instincts had taken over. It seemed Ralf had indeed led the mutiny against me, but for what reason? I do not think I will ever know. However, I had your brother relate the details to me as precisely as he could. It seems that about the same time I discovered the light’s secret, Ralf did as well. Some men thrive under the heaviness of war, while others fracture and shatter like dropped china. As your brother, Caedmon, reacts honourably and bravely, Ralf broke. His psyche tore itself apart at the very sight of what appeared to be our ship destroyed and our accursed souls working those infernal riggings. Wanting to return home, Ralf spread vicious rumours among the crew and turned them against me. The only men who stood by me were Thomlin (Thank God, for he is our navigator!), Caedmon and, strangely, Kimball the Charlatan. I suspect he fears what Ralf and the others have become.
Even now, I can hear them on the deck above us, howling at the full moon, screaming until their voice boxes expire from thirst and wails. Wails of the dying can be heard as my former crew falls to their knees, no doubt hacking and slashing one another as their reason is consumed by the insanity of witnessing that which should never be viewed by mortal eyes, lest this very same event occur. They chant wildly. Even those who died must be chanting; it’s deafeningly loud. Reverberating off the wood of the ship, bouncing off the waves and piercing through the heavens – I cannot hear over the noise. Even as I write this, I tremble at the thought of what is happening above.
Caedmon covers his ears while maintaining his weapon and post at the door. Thomlin still blubbers like your niece, Magalia, but this is more pathetic. High-pitched too. Kimball screams to me, “We are almost there!” I do not understand what he means, but this is no time to ask nor should I be writing to you, but I fear that I may perish and you would never know what happened to your sweet husband. Now you know I at least listen to you.
A growl from beyond the depths of the universe rumbles through the sea below us and the Marvelous Poet is pitched into the air for the briefest of moments. Then we crash down with a force only a celestial being could wield and it’s silent. We hear no more chanting … whatever gibberish they were saying. No more guttural rumblings from the throat of a creature that should never have been. We hesitate. This cannot truly be over and with such a good ending! It is! The Marvelous Poet glides listlessly and strikes land, the wood of her hull scraping against rock. My three companions cheer joyously, even Thomlin, who has stopped his keening.
Slowly, we make our way through the decks of the ship. They are painted with gore to the point the original coat cannot be seen. Bodies! They are everywhere; you would never think an entire ship could be littered with so many pieces of people. Not a single identifiable person as we reach the first deck. It is even worse up here. And the stink! I look about the deck, not for anything or anyone in particular, but out of respect … to make certain these men – my men – are not forgotten. But that smell! It is a foul mixture of coppery lifeblood and marrow, or bone meal. I hear Kimball screaming, “See, Newlyn! See!” I look and spy Caedmon running up the shore. How did he get down there so quickly, did he jump? Where is he going? I bark at Kimball.
Kimball points up the island of oblique, frightening and even paranoid-looking stone, and draws my attention to the tower … the Tower of Lost Bones! I cannot describe the empty, forlorn horror that this structure of stone holds, nor the method by which skeletons, femurs, skulls, hands, knuckles, knees and even those still living, are built into this heinous thing.
I will finish this quickly, my love, my Sapphira. Your brother Caedmon runs for the tower, screaming some more gibberish, but I will bring him home to you. That I swear, my love! Farewell, for now or forever.
Bio: Lane Heymont was born in Pennsylvania. After earning a BA in Liberal Arts, with a double minor in psychology and business, he turned his focus back to writing. He has written two novels and attends Harvard University in Extension, pursuing an MLA in creative writing. When not reading, writing, or researching his next book, Lane attempts to run a fantasy blog at A Goblin, a Unicorn, and a Dragon: A World of Fantasy (http://laneheymont.com/).