Tuesday, 22nd Day of Kindling, Year 1133 of the Common Era, 9 of the Reign of King Boaz Adaer I
Fort King Hemrez, Unnamed Island (Isla Helena)
I write these words from an island of the New World. For years old salts have bragged of sailing beyond The Sea of Nothing to find wonders beyond. Mermaids they speak of, and dragons. Cities of gold paved with emeralds. Three-headed men. Cracks in the earth from which one can view the Pit, where the Stars of the Patrons do not shine. I confess myself underwhelmed. We found an abandoned village and a wooden holdfast. I checked the almanac and found it was the birthday of King Hemrez II, the Almace. 300 years ago to this day. As good a name as any, I suppose.
We gave up our fool’s errand in East Farhold after being stymied at a great monolith in the jungle. It was… incredible. Just the sheer size of the thing made the House of the Patrons at Stonesage look like a crofter’s shack. Seamless, though. Impregnable. No seam, no door, no hatch, nothing. We briefly entertained the idea of trying to blast our way in but honestly? I don’t know if there’s enough powder in the Royal Navy to blow a hole in that thing. We left then. Scout and Vargas are buried in the depths and resting in some black panther’s belly, respectfully. The latter, anyway, is no great loss.
We sailed for Kingshaven after that, catching a northerly tradewind and making good time. Ahh, ‘Haven. There is something reassuring in knowing that however the stars change and the throne seethes, that little rock of villainy and avarice will twinkle on. Its strange crystal pillars ring the harbor like stolen jewels around the neck of a spoiled whore. But there we found our new prize, rechristened _The Dragon’s Horde_. Patrons’ Stars she was a sight to see. I selected her new heraldry, a wyrm holding a golden coin, and we tattooed the new scum at a party in honor of Jacky Walks-the-Deck, cruelly slain by our own guest. May he stumble from brothel to beer hall in Fiddler’s Green.
The captain and I resolved then to strike north, as due north as we could manage given the winds. Enough time spent questing for magic and nymphs, I thought. If we are to boldly make a claim on the new lands, best to do it while the opportunity is still new. Doubtless Adaer has other agents he has dispatched. We resupplied at ’Haven and set off for parts unknown.
She made me captain of the Arrogance. Expected, but still an honor that I was grateful to receive. Another man would be tempted to mutiny in straits such as mine. Rename the ship, sway the crew, strike out on our own. I am not such a man. I rallied the crew with a tale of glory and history awaiting us, but reminded them that in this navy I remain Mr. Mate. I master the Arrogance today, aye, but her master will ever be Dremal. And for what an exile’s oath is worth, I swore her my fealty. I was born beneath the Knight and I’ve not intention of shaming Him over a vessel, proud though she may be.
Besides, as I quipped before the crew, I’ve managed to stay out of the captain’s bed this long, I’m not breaking my record now. She didn’t think it was as funny as I did. Ah, our beloved captain. Quick of temper, full of body, short of humour.
No mermaids did we encounter (well, save the Captain, I suppose, who flounced her way through ‘Haven with her usual aplomb), but something far more sinister awaited us about, say, 20 miles north of ’Haven. It started softly; a melody scarce heard on the wind. I was shooting the horizon for our latitude and didn’t even notice at first. Then I heard it. Soft. Soothing.
I raced to my quarters to dig out candle wax and violin rosin, but it was far too late by then. The sirens had absolutely mesmerized the crew of Arrogance and were walking, somnambulatory, to the starboard rail. I ran up the flags for the Horde, then ran for manacles. Thank the patrons we still had them from the Marklynx job, for I needed them to lash the men to the mizzenmast and the fo’c’sle rails. The storm was on us soon after, and I could do nothing to break the spell. I commanded them back to their tasks. I tried to drag them physically from the rail. I played a countersong and made a complete fool of myself. Nothing. Nothing worked.
The storm was a strong thunderhead with a vicious headwind. Fortunately I’d managed to steer the Arrogance into the wind before it hit, so even though I was the only one at the tiller we rode it out without any lasting structural damage. The Horde wasn’t so lucky; she lost her foremast and three of her crew. We limped into the harbor of the new island not long after.
Of what we’ve found here, there’s little to tell. Grasslands and a lake, on which a deserted village perched. And nailed to the door of the holdfast a peculiar warning. More on that next time, for I must leave for now.
Scribbled in the corner
The island has no name we’ve so far discovered, so I’m naming it after my sister for the nonce. She should be honored. Here’s hoping the damned place isn’t full of horrors.