Transcript of Report from Scrylashe Tirk to Thaneson Rancliffe July 6th 1358
My Lord, Allow me to preface this report with my sincere hope that it finds you in good spirits, and also with a brief explanation of the circumstances under which it was compiled. If at times the following account seems in any way confused or inconsistent, bear in mind that the events with which it deals are strange beyond my experience and have since their completion caused me many a sleepless night as I sought to untangle their meaning. Note also that I have ommitted specific dates because my calendar was eaten by a goat.
Our journey from Ashwell to Garioch was without major incident, although it was clear from the start that Deagh's initial taciturnity and rudeness of manner would not readily be softened by your servants' natural Lagoner-style amiability. Of Deagh there is a great deal more to say, but in the first instance it became plain that his companions were not all that could be hoped for. All three exhibited a complete silence, two because they were acolytes in the service of Deagh's religion, the third because he was dead, and by the musty odour which hung about him I suspect he had embraced that state for some time.
At Garioch I took leave of my master Chiselmeet and Ballantine sent his troops overland to Cottlesmore. I took the chance to pay a visit to my old friend L.M. and rose early the next morning to scout out the Amoroso, ascertaining the whereabouts of the quarters allocated to the Falfaxian contingent and lifting a soap basin from Deagh's cabin the purpose of which action will shortly be made clear.
For the record let it show that the five representatives of Lagoner who boarded the Amoroso were Sister Luana, Roggan Thurgood Oakstaff, Thanesman Sir Edward Ballantine, Court Under-Mage Sanguine, and the scribe Scrylashe. At the helm of the Amoroso was Captain Plummer. The First Officer was Reich.
As it transpired, Sister Luana and myself were sharing a cabin opposite that of Deagh and his putrefying pal. She had already confided in me her distrust of Deagh andhad expressed her desire to use her arts to investigate his true purposes. Accordingly, I had procured the soap dish from his quarters so that she might use it, I assumed, as a kind of sympathetic link with him. That night she attempted to 'read' him in some manner, but reported to me that no sooner had she made contact with him that she was in her turn perceived by him. Naturally she broke the connection. Although in this instance we did not discover anything of Deagh's plans, we had at least come to a clearer understanding of the nature of his powers. Further evidence of Deagh's talents was soon revealed. Apart from being an ugly, twisted, sick individual, he is obviously a man of some spiritual strength, even if his leanings are towards the dark side.
It was in fact Deagh who set our course. He took to standing at the prow, waving a smoking censer, and by such divinatory means did he direct the boat over the ensuing weeks to the spot where, according to his arts, the vessel we sought should be. Alack, no such vessel was to be found, but after a stint of vein-bulging exertion, the spindly evil priest appeared to have determined that we had arrived at the correct place, but that the ship we sought lay on the ocean floor. What ensued perhaps serves to demonstrate the importance with which Deagh regarded the cargo he sought, for no sooner had he located the sunken vessel, than he cast an enchantment upon one of his satellites (the male) and sent this poor misguided fool over into the briny deep. This wretch would himself have found a watery grave had it not been for the quick thinking and bravery of one of the crew of the Amoroso and one of our own party. The golem Clay and the under-mage Sanguine they were who by their own magix braved the icy waters and rescued the acolyte from drowning, helping him to bring his foul treasure on board. For it was not gold or silver which the priest Deagh had coveted from the sunken wreck, but the decomposing corpse of one of its hapless crew, and as we stood and watched this lifeless mass of rotting flesh that had once been a man like you or I dumped without ceremony onto the deck of the Amoroso, such a clamour of disgust and reprobation rose from the officers and crew of the Amoroso and our own party that one would think Deagh might at least offer an explanation for his vile conduct. Yet the sour, pale one was unmoved, demanding only that the body be taken below decks. In the moving of the body I took my chance and searched it for clues and items, and came upon coins which I hold to be from the far rumoured land, for their make was such as I have never seen before. Somehow (and here my memory fails me) they came to be possessed by Reich.
Our party retired to discuss developments and were joined by Reich, who expressed his concern at the turn of events and the effect that a runny corpse in the hold might have on the crew. Squeamishness aside, the upshot of the gruesome find was as follows: Deagh posted his fetid friend as guard on the body, but a night later wove a potent charm which roused the ill-fated seafarer from his eternal slumber. The alarm was raised, for such a course of action did not go down too well with the officers of the Amoroso, but it was too late. Deagh had locked himself in the hold and we could hear his muted conversation with the dead man. What followed is even now confused in my mind, but at some point Deagh was knocked out, releasing his hold on the ghoulish guardian of the doorway and Sanguine burst into the hold. When Ballantine, Roggan, Luana and I arrived on the scene not only did we have to despatch an insane zombie sailor to his final (we hoped) rest, but also pick the battered under-mage from the floor and dust him off. As compensation for our own cuts and bruises we savoured the sight of Deagh, bloodied and prostrate in a corner of the hold, his jaw smashed into pieces.
The aftermath of this incident was gratifying to say the least. The good-hearted Luana used her healing arts to revive the unconscious Deagh and then stood there berating him for his lack of responsibility and utter selfishness. This was the first and last time that any of us saw Deagh at a loss for a cruel word, and it is a moment that I still treasure.
Deagh directed the captain to change course, and it was not many days before another ship came into view. On approach, we realised that the vessel was adrift and sinking, and while magix determined that there were two living beings still on board, the craft seemed deserted. It was clearly a pirate ship, and Deagh had evidently extracted enough information from the animated mariner to enable him to find it. Chances were that whatever the vile priest sought was on board, but the sight of the blood-sprayed decks and rotting corpses was enough to send a chill down our spines. Apprehensively we secured ourselves to the drifting ship with ropes and a small party crossed over. Both the acolytes and the undead creature were ordered by Deagh to go, and the golem Clay, Reich, Ballantine and yours truly made seven.
The bodies of the savagely slain pirates were everywhere. The stench was overpowering. We had little idea what we sought, but Lurch and his buddies seemed to know, and they vanished below decks forthwith. The sight of so many corpses rendered the rest of us more cautious, however, and we explored the ship deliberately. The hold seemed to be secured from the inside, so we headed for the captain's cabin. The door was locked, and no amount of brute force could budge it. Footsteps on the stairs alarmed us, and with trepidation we crept into the hold, there to find the most frightening and yet most remarkable thing that I have ever seen.
Taller than a man it stands, and twice as wide. The main body of the item is cylindrical and of transparent glass. It has a lid and a four-legged base, so that the whole thing is nothing so much as a large cannister. It were perhaps the most natural thing in the world were it not for its hauntingly alien design and its weirdsome contents, for behind the glass is a crystalline body that reminded me of an alchemical construct and yet on a far greater scale, for the rystal is as big as myself. As Ballantine and I stood in that watery hold we realised the both of us that here was something which confirmed the existence of another land beyond our knowledge, and it is perhaps that which lends the object much of its strangeness - for it is truly otherworldly - and yet it seems also to be possessed of unnatural powers, upon which I shall expand later.
As we stood in the hold, the hatch opened, and Lurch peered down at us with his dead eyes. It soon became apparent that a winch and pulley system was being constructed in order to shift the crystal on board the Amoroso, but as for Ballantine and myself, our feelings of insecurity were palpable, for it seemed to us no coincidence that the crystal should be surrounded by the corpses of a shipful of pirates. We tried once more to break down the captain's door, with no success. Back on deck, I let myself into his quarters via a small window in the side of the vessel. Here was a piece of good fortune - for by virtue of my unobserved entry into the cabin, I was able to claim for Lagoner the item and documents which accompany this brief, and which otherwise may have fallen into the hands of Deagh.
Captain Thomas was dead. He had blown his own brains out with the pistol which he still grasped in his rotting hand, and his maggot-ridden face decorated his desk. Captain Thomas was dead, but he had died rich. His cabin was filled with a haul of treasure which would keep a Pope in high-class whores for life, but your humble servant had eyes for other things. A small imp lay starving in a parrot cage (this creature is 4" high and blue-black, and Ballantine once called it 'Blimp', a name which seems fit) which I took for my own, having ever since I was a small child wished for a mascot or pet which could do more than lick its own arse. There were also charts and maps and papers, and a ledger, which I secreted on my person, and a small and heavy gold box which it seemed was of the same make as the great cannister in the hold. This latter I also kept.
The keys to the room were on a hook on the wall, so I let myself out, but the passageway was deserted. Up on deck, all was confusion. Great had been the fear on board the Amoroso when the bodies of the slaughtered pirates had been first seen, but as yet nothing untoward had come to pass, which fact served to increase the nervousness of all, and there was another problem. The pirate ship was beginning to sink. Another survivor there was, recovered from the crows nest, a weather-beaten drunk of a tar he seemed who had somehow managed to live through the slaughter. His very survival was a puzzle, and he was taken on board the Amoroso for questioning.