We moor in the Gibraltar harbor. The weather is particularly clement in May, and I merely wear a thin cloak in royal blue over a teal hybrid dress. The captain of the Corbeau, our ship, tries to stop me as I leave with Sheridan in tow. He combs his grey beard with a nervous hand.
“Milady, the research team will board the ship as soon as our landing is approved. Do you not wish to stay here and welcome them?”
“We leave in three days, yes?”
“That is correct, Milady.”
“Then there will be ample time to greet them before we depart.”
“Are you suggesting that I should await their consent?”
“N… No, of course not.”
“I have pressing business in the city. Good night, captain.”
My pressing business would be to finally move and unwind before I start juggling with torn-off limbs. Me, at the disposal of mortals? Especially a Bingle? I am the money. They will see me when I feel like it.
A pair of sailors in the white uniforms of the Rosenthal fleet hastily prepare a plank, both of them showing suitable deference. As befit men whose naked buttocks are at the mercy of my wrath!
My Vassal and I tread the pavement of the harbor with palpable relief. I take a deep breath, and inhale the scent of the sea, but also of flowers and heated rock. The usual warehouses and offices I spot in the distance are made of stone and rather recent, while the town further back shows influence from both British and Spanish architecture. Fortifications cling to the cliff, dating back to the territory’s Moorish days. They are older than my nation.
I am going to climb them. Later.
It also smells like sweat and gunpowder now, and the source comes trampling down the pier with all the self-importance they can muster. Red uniforms. I let out a low hiss.
“Are you expecting trouble, Ariane?” Sheridan asks while discreetly placing his hand near his holster.
“No. Or at least, not from them. Last time I came across redcoats, they shot at me,” I grumble.
“Ah, I always forget that you are older than you look. So, they were hostile at the time, huh?”
“Yes,” I answer, then, after a while, “to be fair I was trying to eat them.”
The war is long over. I must remember that most of the men approaching me were not born when Dalton fell.
“Madam, you must remain onboard until we have inspected and cleared the ship,” the officer starts with a mighty frown.
I glare. He is young, with the marks of a lieutenant. Waxed mustache and polished buttons show a great attention to his appearance, the image ruined by a vicious sunburn. Freshly dumped here from his native Sussex, then. Or Wessex. Some dreary land of fog, rain, and tuberculosis. A stickler for rules.
“We have a medical emergency,” I explain with a bit of Charm, “of the female kind.”
The man blushes purple and lets me pass with a muttered word.
“I do not know of any medical emergency of a female kind that would warrant skipping quarantine and inspections,” Sheridan remarks in a low voice.
“That would be because you grew up on a farm, while this man grew up in some cottage where people insist on using ‘expecting’ instead of ‘pregnant’ because anatomy is improper. He would rather let me through than be further embarrassed.”
“Some people let respectability get in the way of common sense. Bah, enough of this, I am being too judgmental. Perhaps he just cared about my well-being.”
“So, what should we do?” Sheridan finally asks as we leave the pier behind us.
“You are going to the pub, or wherever your steps take you. I am going to climb to the top of that thing, visit that castle over there, and then poke the garrison.”
“Don’t worry, the Rock is considered neutral ground. I am not invading anyone’s turf.”
Before leaving, I obtained American diplomatic identification papers. Traveling vampires also carry small, enchanted notebooks in Akkad to justify their presence.
“That’s not what worries me, woman.”
“You are going to prank the sentries, are you not?”
“Perhaps a little bit.”
“Is there anything I can say that might convince you otherwise?”
“I think not.”
“I need a whiskey.”
“Good luck! Oh, and try Scotch if they have it.”
Sheridan waves, already heading towards a more animated part of town. I hope he will have a grand time with the locals.
I spend the night moving around freely. I enjoy the eclectic architecture combining several cultures as well as the old and new. I climb the sheer cliff to The Rock’s summit and feast my eyes upon the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción to the North and Africa to the South. I find small monkeys sleeping in clusters of fluffy grey fur. I follow an intricate network of caves and explore it for a while, enamored by its beautiful complexity. The largest grottos near the surface are tame and rife with the remains of torches, food, and human blood, but the deeper parts show no signs of activity. I make one sentry pee himself by touching his shoulder, then his hair, then flipping his hat without revealing my presence. I sup on an officer in the middle of his surprise inspection, thus giving a patrol the time to hide their booze. Let it be known that I can show generosity.
Finally, one hour before dawn, I retire to my quarters. Not even the discovery that Syrrin used some of my coffee beans to season her people jerky ruins my mood. It felt good to stretch my legs.
The next night leads me to the garrison’s barracks and Sheridan’s jail in particular. The tall man sports a bruise on his left eye that already started to turn a spectacular shade of purple, green, and yellow. Like a half-finished portrait. A grim sergeant frees him and leads us outside, past the squat building’s many alcoves and onto the whipping court beyond. A patrol looks at us with curiosity as he hands the Texan his packed belongings.
“Our apologies for the disturbance, ma’am,” the soldier says in an accent that I can barely follow. For a moment, it seems that he called me ‘mom’.
“I must insist that your man must stop carrying deadly weapons around, authorization or not. This is a military base, not the frontier, aye?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sheridan grumbles, although he keeps his belt and holster in a small bag instead of wearing it.
We leave in the direction of the ship, and I await with one raised brow, before realizing that Sheridan is not looking at me at all. He is admiring the many boats passing the straits, even at night.
“Well?” I finally exclaim, out of patience.
“Well what? Oh, sorry. I went to their watering hole to grab a beer. Bunch of soldiers on leave asking a lot of questions. Nothing bad. Then a man deep in his drinks demanded that I toast Queen Victoria. I said that I’d toast the broad but that she was not my queen. They took exception.”
“I’ve always been the brawniest around, least ‘till I started travelling with you. Recently though, I’ve been, I don’t know, feeling stronger. And faster than I had any right to be. And when I sent them to the ground it felt… good. I was meant to be there, and they were meant to crawl on the ground. It lasted until that military police unit clobbered me in the face.”
“Ah yes, I was expecting it.”
The effects of Constantine’s essence. It appears that his power extends to Vassals, not just Servants.
“A side effect of me becoming your spiritual guide? Sorry, I meant, uh, what was it? Vassal.”
“Yeeeees, spiritual guide indeed. I did not think that you would gain some of my instincts.”
“It scares me that I might not be entirely myself anymore.”
“You are yourself,” I reassure him, “Consider it as a sort of drink that you would take every time you fight that removes your fear.”
“A coward’s crutch? No. I see what you mean.”
“You could probably also survive gut wounds with your enhanced constitution. I also suspect increased healing. Your bruise looks like it was made three days ago, not twelve hours.”
He turns pensive.
“It does not sound too bad…”
“And before you ask, no, your soul is still your own and quite intact.”
“… I was not going to.”
“When you lie, you twirl your mustache on the right side.”
He drops his hands.
We walk in silence. The paved streets are calm, and the harbor comes into view, with its sapphire waters and moored warships. The Corbeau shows signs of intense activity. Slightly longer than a brig and without armament, its swift shape reveals that it was built for the quick transportation of valuable goods.
“You’re not mad? About the brawl?” Sheridan asks as we approach the gangplank.
“No. I am in no position to criticize your use of violence. Think nothing of it and focus on the future. We should meet the main members of this expedition.”
Field Journal of Miranda Bingle.
We finally boarded the Corbeau this morning! It was a ship of good size with the sharp figure of a frigate like I saw in Dover. We were welcomed by Captain Ozenne, who I assumed was a Frenchman but turned out to be Swiss! I did not even know Switzerland had a navy and captains. What a surprise it was. Captain Ozenne greeted us warmly, the very image of a gentleman. My cabin is fairly small, but at least it is mine.
I have been loath to leave the ship, lest it left without me. I know it is a silly fear, and yet it will not leave me alone and wars in my heart with my boundless excitement. I am having my own story now! Not those senseless tales father and brother tell all the time, ripe with superstition, no! I will have my own very academic adventure, one that will propel the name Bingle into the more serious circles of scholarly pursuit!
We will leave in three days and I am told we are soon to meet the rest of the team, including one of our investors, who was not available at the time. How exciting! I hope he will see the light of reason and insist on not pillaging our findings. We are archeologists, not tomb raiders.
The stage is set, only awaiting the actors to come for the introduction scene. I have placed my seat facing the entrance with Sheridan by my side, while my guests will sit in front of me. The coffee table, now thoroughly debrained, hosts a few assortments of sweets as well as cups for everyone. For tonight, I wear an azure gown of exquisite make designed specifically to show wealth and good taste. I made my hair into a conservative braid to keep my cheeks free. A golden pendant of abstract design attracts the eye towards a modest cleavage to add a touch of exotism. Sheridan wears a custom duster that gives him the appearance of a seasoned adventurer, which in a way, he is. He left his colt behind at my insistence.
A knock on the door. They are here.
I stand up and Sheridan opens the door, inviting the two characters I was eager to meet.
The first is a scholarly type with benevolent brown eyes set in a wrinkled face. A well-trimmed beard covers most of his jaw, and a close-fitting tweed suit shows the wiry body of a long-time athlete underneath. He reveals a bit of shock at my sight, although he recovers almost immediately.
The second person to cross my threshold wears a sensible dress in dark brown. Its conservative cut still hints at a shapely figure, undoing the woman’s best efforts to appear bland. She wears round glasses to camouflage her lovely face and a pair of velvety brown orbs brimming with intelligence. Her only concession to beauty is her hair, which falls down her back in a shower of dark ringlets. She appears meek while he is confident, and the contrast between the two serves to underline the camaraderie of the pair, with the scholar instinctively shielding the maiden from my imposing Vassal.
“Mr. Fergusson, Miss Bingle, I am delighted to make your acquaintance. Please, join me,” I greet them pleasantly.
Sheridan moves to the table and prepares the seat for Miranda like a perfect gentleman. The gesture of respect soothes my guests who sit down and eye the victuals with curiosity.
“My name is Ariane Delaney. I represent your employer’s interests in this venture.”
No reaction from Miranda.
“And this is Marshall Sheridan, previously of the Texas Rangers. He will contribute to the security of this expedition. Allow me to welcome you aboard and to thank you for your exemplary work so far. The Rosenthal Consortium has high hopes for you and we expect that this will mark the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.”
“Thank you for these kind words,” Ferguson says, eyes darting around the room to take in the books, the maps, and the occult circle that I will use to locate the island poking from under the rug.
“My pleasure. May I offer you something to drink? Tea, perhaps? A good friend of mine offered me this interesting blend.”
“Oh, it would be my pleasure,” Ferguson answers while Miranda nods emphatically.
I grab the prepared teapot and serve both guests in turn. The delicate scent of Lady Sephare’s creation spreads through the air in a cloud, the blend meticulously measured, then kept fresh in enchanted compartments. Both of their engraved white cups soon fill with piping hot liquid the color of mahogany.
The pair lifts them to their lips in eerie silence and with perfect synchronization. They freeze at the same time, staring, askance, at my own.
This is where I reveal another pot.
Powerful wafts of freshly ground Arabica push the more discreet scent away like East Indian company crates into the Boston Harbor as I serve both Sheridan and myself the dark nectar.
We sip in silence.
“So, you are American then?” Fergusson finally asks, forcing Miranda to cough in her elbow.
“Yes. You have questions before we begin?”
So far, Miranda has remained silent. The older professor still looks to her on occasion with paternal care. They obviously hold each other in high esteem. It shames me that I suspect a forbidden love almost immediately, but no, their relationship is closer to that of mentor and mentee. No signs of arousal.
“I was hoping that you could assuage my curiosity. Forgive an old man for taking liberties, haha. I could not help but remark that you are unexpectedly young… and…”
“Forgive me. Yes.”
“I appreciate your concerns. Do not be deceived by my youthful appearance, I have worked with the Consortium in the past. Your employer Isaac sometimes trusts me with his more... unusual pursuits.”
Oops, not to be taken out of context, that one.
“Are you, ahem, a scholar of sorts?”
“Think of me as the point of contact between the investigation team and your investors. My role is to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I can make decisions or request additional means to that effect, so that we bring this project to a satisfactory conclusion.”
“I understand,” answers the man who clearly does not understand. I do not have the heart to tell him that, beyond a necessary help in case of supernatural foes, I am here as an overseer.
“The chance to study ruins belonging to the Sea Peoples is a unique opportunity to learn more about this mysterious folk. I do hope that we will be free to share our findings with our esteemed colleagues throughout the world…”
I smile pleasantly.
“As stated in our contract, your research is your own. We reserve the right to keep a few key artefacts you might find.”
“For the purpose of conservation, of course?” the old gentleman asks pointedly.
Ah, I have to draw the line, it would seem.
“For the purpose we see fit and according to guidelines you already agreed on. Unless, of course, you find our terms unacceptable, and would prefer to opt out of the contract? This is your last chance.”
“No, no… of course not,” he replies with a put off expression. “We are grateful for the opportunity. I merely wish for you to consider the invaluable contribution to mankind those discoveries would mean.”
“Oh, believe me, I do.”
I use the pause provoked by the slight rebuke to sip on my delicious cup. I cannot believe that Syrrin would steal my beans and use them as spice. I hope that it messes with her metabolism and that she gets pimples all over that stupid flat face.
Fergusson mirrors me. Signs of annoyance pierce through his admirable composure, though he hides them well. It must chafe to be chided by someone seemingly thirty years his junior. A woman, no less. His well-earned position grants him the respect and obedience of all those he usually works with and the drastic change of circumstances will undoubtedly create friction. He bears the frustration admirably.
I hope it will be true for the other members of the expedition.
“Good to hear. I have high hopes for our success. I have dedicated my whole life to the study of the Sea Peoples, you understand, a most frustrating endeavor considering the lack of direct sources. I had to rely on records from Mesopotamia… Are you familiar with the history of Mesopotamia, Miss Delaney?”
“Passably. I understand that the Sea Peoples are blamed for the collapse of the first community of civilizations in the twelfth century before… the twelfth century BC.”
That was before the time of Semiramis too.
“Indeed. I have sources from there as well as from Egypt. Unfortunately, we are only now barely starting to research the cradle of humanity, so there is little time and energy dedicated to the understanding of this specific group while so many other ruins still await to be recovered and studied. I hope that, by visiting one of their actual settlements, we will finally acquire first-hand materials to bring back to Oxford and comprehend the important — if destructive — role that the Sea Peoples played in the history of the ancient men.”
Ah, what delicious passion. Wait. No, Ariane, no sampling the expedition group.
I must have smiled, because Fergusson’s eyes shine with enthusiasm and the pleasure of a shared interest. Miranda also stares dreamily into the distance.
“This will be my last expedition, then, I hope to pass on the burden of discovery to the next generation on the person of my dearest assistant, a brilliant mind and a credit to her sex.”
Wait. Retirement? Passing the baton? Did this man just commit plot-related suicide? Aw, poor soul.
I stare with interest when Miranda turns a delicate shade of rose in a fit of bashful modesty. Ah, when will she realize that she is under his protection and that the rest of the academic body does not squish her dreams and ambition because they are indulging an aging genius, not out of respect for her skills? Hopefully, not too soon.
“I am sure that we will find something,” I assure him with perfect confidence. With a Bingle on board, we are pretty much guaranteed catastrophic success.
We make more small talk, with Miranda remaining mostly silent. I learn that Fergusson enjoys running and hunting, and that he used to play Rugby as a flanker, whatever that means. I reveal very little myself, except hinting that I have shares in many flourishing businesses and work closely with the Rosenthal. As they leave, I ask Miranda to stay for ‘girl talk’ and let Sheridan escort Fergusson back to his cabin.
She plants herself back on her chair with a guarded air. I allow her to squirm for a while as repayment for what she is going to put me through.
“Is this about my qualifications?” she finally asks.
“What do you mean?”
“Are you displeased with my presence? Is it due to my youth?”
“Ah. No. Everyone aboard this ship is here by the consent of House Rosenthal.”
Although, I would have been more stringent in my selection criteria.
“I merely had a question regarding your family. Some of them are adventurers, are they not?”
Her face scrunches in terrible disapproval. Her hackles raise with thunderous outrage.
“Do not tell me their… drivel has crossed the Atlantic!”
“My brother and father write entertainment for simpletons. All these stories of curses and magic and other ridiculous notions, really! I intend to break away from fables and tall tales to bring our family name back to its erstwhile respectability.”
“Really? And you never opened one of those books?”
“I have better ways to spend my time than to fill my head with wild exaggerations,” she proudly exclaims. Then realizing my lack of reaction, she asks in turn:
“Surely you do not believe in magic and superstitions, Miss Delaney?”
I should knock on the hull and ask Syrrin in. Ah, no, it would remove the dramatic effect of what she will undoubtedly uncover.
“Why would you, someone with an obvious education, believe in supernatural fabrications instead of what scientific evidence tells you?”
“I like to keep an open mind. Perhaps some elements that are now considered mystical will, in time, be better understood and fall under the mantle of science,” I politely suggest.
There, all diplomatic and mysterious. Better than casting ‘Shred’ on her arm asking her to scientifically analyze it. I am a merciful vampire. Sometimes. With a reasonable amount of select people.
“Do you rely on occultism in your investment strategy? Surely not? Unless… you think the artefacts we retrieve will be magical in nature?”
“Perhaps. I cannot tell yet.”
“Oh, Miss Delaney, I would like your assurance that you will not deprive mankind of valuable sources of knowledge. You must not…”
“Miss Bingle, please,” I interrupt, surprised by the torrent of words I am submitted to, “remember that my beliefs are not your concern. We have a contract, and we will both abide by its rules.”
“The rigorous pursuit of truth…”
“Enough!” I order, this time more sternly. “I do not owe you a justification. If you want to finish this conversation, I propose that we do so on our return trip.”
“Very well… I, huh, I should go. Sorry.”
“Good night, Miss Bingle.”
Field Journal of Miranda Bingle
We have bid adieu to Gibraltar and left for the Aegean, where Icarus fell to his death. The weather is pleasantly warm, and the distractions are many, giving the professor and I ample opportunities to mingle with our esteemed partners. We have another archeologist in the person of Emilien, full name: Emilien Eustache Marie Sigisbert Champignac. It is fortunate that our patronyms do not adorn our cabin doors, or he would have run out of ship. In any case, the Frenchman was polite enough, though flirty as expected of his race, and I learnt that he studied under Champollion himself. His knowledge of hieroglyphics and the reign of Ramses the Third will be of great use if we do find our ruins.
We are also graced with a quiet Prussian scholar who spends entirely too much time drinking beer and scratching his sunburns. Finally, and for an unknown reason, we are saddled with a greasy little merchant from Sardinia. I have no idea what his purpose may be, and I dare not ask our patron after that latest fiasco.
And indeed, the woman is intriguing. She only joins us for late afternoon tea, when we gather in the captain’s cabin, and I have no memories of seeing her move around much. When asked, the sailors deflect questions concerning their employer and show a clear apprehension of their curious guest. The only morsel of knowledge I grasped was from an angry man who hinted that she had been difficult to live with as they crossed the Atlantic. I can only deduce from this and her fine gowns that she is a woman of refined taste, and picky with either her food or her entertainment, thus creating a strain on the crew.
I have so many questions.
Why pick someone so young, when they clearly do not have a background in archeology or science? Her understanding of the expedition covers elements of logistics and finance, yet her knowledge of history remains basic.
Is that gruff man following her around just a bodyguard, or something more sinister?
Who are the people behind the Rosenthal Consortium?
What are they hoping to find on their island that would justify such expense?
This voyage grows more mysterious by the day.
It appears that our brave captain has learned his lesson. From the moment we lift anchor, he makes sure that I am suitably entertained through various social calls and by teaching me how to play poker. I have made progress since Loth and Dalton last flounced me like a plucked chicken, but there is an art to playing and that I had never understood before.. He teaches me psychology, statistics, and bluff. Finally, he teaches me how to cheat.
Between this, my usual activities, and hanging with the crew, my days are finally filled enough that I have stopped recharging the hidden glyphs to have doors spontaneously open at random intervals.
I acquaint myself with the team as well. We will have around twenty handymen used for various tasks, cooking, and suffering ignominious deaths at the hands of ancient traps as Miranda looks on in horror. We also have a dour man of Germanic origin with a blond beard and delicate skin who does not seem to acclimate and whose life expectancy I count in days. We also have a Frenchman who might be the romantic interest, and a fat little prick from Italy whom I have labelled as ‘emergency blood supply number one’. With Sheridan, we form a relatively large group. The captain and his crew will remain onboard with the understanding that they are not disposable like the rest of us.
I should feel aggravated, but, well, this is my third Bingle.
It only takes us a few busy days to bypass Crete from the north, the turn to the south before Kos. Captain Ozenne slows the ship to a crawl to wait for my directions.
At nightfall, I change into a thin, functional white slip. I then seal my cabin and have Sheridan remove the rug with Syrrin watching to uncover the construct underneath. Isaac told me it would fit on a stele. Clearly, he was wrong.
A circle of dark iron made of curved bars riveted to the hull’s interior forms the exterior of a complex series of glyphs engraved into the wood, three paces across. To begin, I open a can of luminescent paint and patiently retrace every part of the spell with meticulous care. A working of this size takes a great amount of work, yet at the same time it is strangely relaxing. I can stop worrying about the entire expedition and focus instead on the present moment and the brush between my fingers. With slow purpose, I complete the framework until it shines under the lantern’s light. The preparations are complete.
I walk to my safe and remove from it a small box containing the mummified hand of the expedition leader, the same who led the doomed attempt on Ramses the Third’s host of charioteers. His remains were to be interred on the secret island and the resonance between those two should be powerful enough to direct the spell. If this fails, I have others, though I do not believe they will be needed. As soon as I touch the lead, my intuition tells me that this will work.
I place the focus in the middle of the circle and leave to grab two more items. The first is a compass which will act as a conduit that I will be able to bring topside to help steer the ship. The second is my gauntlet.
I feel a rush of sensations as I clasp the precious tool around my hand, the power yet to be shaped waiting in the air and singing in my essence. I walk to my spot by the box and slice a vein open with a sharp talon. Instead of dripping down, the droplets of black blood rise in the air as if caught by an unseen current. They explode in shimmering clouds of pale purple, like a sunset on an alien world, until I can barely see the roof. Slowly at first, then with increased speed, the nebula rotates as I feed power into the spell. Yellow light emerges from the paint, soon gaining in intensity. I pour more and more power as time passes until the very cabin vibrates with contained might, and still, I give more. The strain on my essence grows noticeable and forces me to grit my teeth. Finally, an ivory arrow forms in the air.
Syrrin and Sheridan back away from the roaring construct, which by this point whirls with tempestuous vigor. Despite the torrential onslaught, the boundaries hold fast under my practiced will.
The arrow solidifies in the air, sharp as a foil. I raise the compass in my right hand. A matching light.
“Good. It worked. Now, to get topside.”
“Get changed first, perhaps?” Sheridan mutters as he steals a glance towards my denuded feet.
He is right. I would not want people to see my knees and think me a shameless harlot. Not after the effort I made to appear all proper.
“Great idea Sheridan.”
“Then get out.”
“Oh, yes, sorry.”
Five minutes later and properly dressed, the Ranger and I join an expectant Captain Ozenne on the deserted aft castle. The sails are reefed, and a full shift of sailors await our direction on the deck below.
“it worked, then?” the older man asks.
“It did. Follow the arrow.”
With a mighty voice, he yells directions and the crew scurries left and right. Soon, we slice the waves like a sharp knife.
And we wait.
The arrow points forward with unerring focus for a solid hour, until something quite peculiar happens. The sky is clear and the moon casts a light so bright that even a mortal should be able to watch, yet the ocean before us blurs and melds with the sky in curious hues of cobalt. I study the phenomenon with curiosity when the captain’s voice interrupts my musing.
“This is pointless. We should turn around. This cannot be right,” the man protests, eyes strangely glazed. The sailors below echo his grumblings.
“Keep course,” I counter.
“What? Why would… Hold on, something is wrong,” Sheridan says. He shakes his head like a man reeling from a punch.
“I’m turning around,” Ozenne continues. His frown turns to a thunderous scowl when I stop the wheel’s motion.
“Let it go, woman.”
“Look at me,” I order, “good.”
I Charm him and find the most curious of intruders deep within his psyche, a permeating fog that muddles his mind. I find myself unable to remove it. Instead, I simply combat its influence with mine.
Ozenne blinks owlishly.
“Maintain course, captain.”
The protests of the sailors intensifies, so I turn to them and grab one of them like one grabs the scruff of a rowdy dog.
“Shut up and keep working,” I bellow.
The mutiny dies before it could start.
The next fifteen minutes are a pain. I am forced to assist the captain during bouts of terrorizing the mortals so that they stop protesting. At some point, Professor Ferguson inexplicably joins us to complain that the island location was wrongly calculated. I send him back to his cabin with the instruction to ‘recalculate it then’. It works.
And, finally, just as I was about to start slapping people, the indigo of the night fades like fog under the wind and our destination appears.
An island like a tower springs into the air like a raised fist, sheer cliffs surrounding it on all sides with one exception. Slightly to the side, a small bay guards the only path up to a plateau and the thick forest covering the island’s center. The rocky walls are dotted with black marks from whence sea birds take flight. A network of caves.
“What was that thing’s name?” Ozenne asks me with a dreamy voice. The repulsion effect faded as soon as we were through.
“The Hand of the Drowned God.”