Posts Tagged With: Enchantress

Log 28: Tantalized

Captain’s Log

Date: 16 July 2011

Location: 50 mi. south of Glass Palace, camped on sand-beach

 

Conditions: Joyed to return to the sea, though my ship is uncommonly shrunk. Weather is glorious for sailing, if rather hot for breathing,

We have come a decent distance along the coast today, thirty miles in my estimation. The boat sails nicely, for a ship’s boat. The prevailing winds are largely against us, but I have three stout, lusty companions and four oars, and we make headway even against the wind. We are determined, aye, fixed on our goal.

Our leave-taking was rapid, even somewhat abrupt, but ’twas better so. I spoke to the Enchantress in the morning, before she could depart for her day of law-warping; I asked her for assistance in sending a message to Maid Flora. She looked at me most peculiarly, and then stepped to a smooth white gewgaw I had oft polished, but had never recognized as having a useful function – but lo! She lifted a raised, rectangular block, which revealed several bumps on its underside, numbered one to nine and naught, some others bearing symbols and strange words, Mute and Talk, and Ready-all (No, I think perhaps that was Redial, a word I am unfamiliar with. But this state of confustication is becoming most familiar indeed, the longer I abide in this time and place). The Enchantress pressed several of the bumps with her thumb, and then held the object to her ear; then it was that I understood: this was akin to the tellafone, like the Verizons my friends the Lopezes carry, oft staring into them in meditation, sometimes communing with each other through its magic. Indeed, in mere seconds, the Enchantress was exchanging greetings, and then she handed the tellafone to me, and I found myself speaking to and hearing the words of Maid Flora, though she were far, far away at that very moment.

I will remember, now, that tellafones come in various guises, shapes and colors; the key is the holes by which voices enter and exit, and the numbers in that strange pattern: three across, three down, and the naught below 8.

I told Maid Flora that her family could return safely – though I had to apologize profusely for the damage done to their home; I assured her that all the villains responsible were now utterly destroyed, and her family’s injuries all well avenged. She expressed gratitude most becomingly, which I demurred, of course. Then we said our goodbyes and her voice vanished from the tellafone, which I returned to its mistress, who set it back in place atop the smooth white box-piece. She said, “So Flora’s coming back? Then you’re leaving?”

“Aye, milady. My task here is complete, and Maid Flora’s family is again safe, and hale. I must sail on.”

She made a pretty pout. “Too bad. I was getting to like having a handsome houseboy. I was going to get you a nice Chippendale outfit for a uniform, so I could sexually harass you all day.”

Though I comprehended little of that, I did grasp her main thrust. I stepped close, seized her in my arms, and kissed her passionately. When I took my lips from her soft, sweet mouth, she sighed most prettily, and said, “Oh, my.” I kissed her brow and said, “I must go, milady. But I am not glad of it.”

I strode out of the room, then, to mount my steed, which I meant to return to House Lopez ere we departed. The Enchantress – a name most apt, in more ways than I knew! – came running out after, calling my name. I stopped and turned to her, and she took my hand and filled it with the paper money of this time. “Here,” she said, “You earned it. And this.” And then she gifted me with one last, sweet kiss, one I will carry with my fondly.

I returned the steed to its owners, and placed a letter of thanks and farewell on their doorstep, and then I walked back to the Glass Palace (Now that the Enchantress was gone for the day, I had no fear of being seen and questioned crossing her demesne), to the Redoubt, where I found my men ready to depart. I exchanged my maid’s clothes for my proper finery, heaving a comfortable sigh of relief as I armed myself anew, with sword and wheel-gun firmly in my sash where they belonged. I did keep the servant’s togs as a useful disguise, though. And with water casks filled from the magic tap and some last few bottles of wine gathered from the galley, we bid the Glass Palace a very fond farewell. It was our first refuge here, and served us all a great kindness; we owed it a debt of gratitude.

We found a secluded beach to make camp that first night, and leaving MacTeigue and Lynch to set a fire and watch the boat, Vaughn and I made our way to a 7-11 shop we had spotted a mile or so northwards. There we exchanged some of my maid-money for victuals – I must say, maids are quite well-paid in this place! I seem to have earned a 50-paper every day I worked at the Palace, and only half of those days did I work a proper servant’s watch, from near dawn to near dusk; those same twelve hours in Ireland would have earned me a crust of bread, a bowl of milk, and a soft kick out the door! But perhaps I was given a gift, rather than wages – and perhaps it was not by maidish prowess that I earned it. Any road, while culling out our foodstuffs, Vaughn found a rack of broadsheets, several of which featured prominently a remarkable etching of the
Grace of Ireland, and portraits of O’Flaherty and Shluxer – whose name is spelled Schluchzer, it seems, though for this record I intend to use my own spelling for simplicity’s sake. Vaughn gathered them up and added them to the purchase. As the clerk evaluated our goods and named me a price – which he would not dicker over, not even a cent! – Vaughn scanned one of the broadsheets and spoke most excitedly to me: the pamphlet reported a location for my ship! I told him we must seek out a proper map if we could locate a cartographer – at which point the clerk pointed and said “Maps over there, dude.” (The last word is unfamiliar, but I have rendered it here as similar to “duke,” which title it did resemble in sound. I thus take it as compliment.)

Apparently ’tis not only the Enchantress and her wealthy peers who can acquire such wonderful maps as she showed me; they are for sale at the local shop, and far less than the cost of a meal. (Though I must then question the price of their food, for surely a bag of those potato chips, no matter how delicious, isn’t as valuable as the assurance that one never need be lost and wander aimlessly to one’s doom, as has been known to happen on the moors and in the deep forests of home.) Any road, Vaughn and I pounced like hungry dogs on the rack of maps the clerk indicated, and took one of each thus offered us. We made our way back to camp with our booty – in strange bags, made of stuff so thin and strong it resembles spider-silk, but which the clerk, when asked, named “plass-tick” – and there we ate, and read, and plotted our course on our new maps.

This day was spent making headway on that same course. We should reach our destination on the morrow.

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 17 July 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada

Conditions: Frustrated. Trapped like Tantalus.

Like Tantalus indeed: standing in a stream of cool water, beneath an apple tree heavy with fruit, starving and thirsting both; this was that Greek tyrant’s curse in Hades. When he reached up for the fruit, the bough would withdraw, and the water below would rise; he would then crouch down to drink, and the water would recede, and the branch then come lower to tempt him with its bounty – hence our word “tantalize.”

Not a mile to the south-west of our camp, the Grace of Ireland sits at anchor. Perhaps two miles to the Northeast, my men may all be found, both the good and the bad, the penitent and the insubordinate. Yet neither crew nor ship are within my grasp.

My ship is at the Islamorada Coast Guard Station. By land, she is guarded by locked gates, high fences, and armed men; by sea she is even more unreachable, as a constant stream of beast-ships come and go all day long, all grey steel, with cannons and swivel-guns visibly mounted in the bow; not a sail among them, but all moving as quickly and easily, and loudly, as do the beast-wagons on land; and every one manned by generous crews of proper military sailors, alert and disciplined. This coast be well-guarded, indeed. And so too is my ship.

I did not intend to steal her. On the journey down, Vaughn pointed out that, her reputation as a corsair notwithstanding, the Grace is my ship, bought and paid for, with my name on the bill of ownership as well as the logs and charts. He argued that I could simply claim that my ship was stolen from me – as indeed it was – and with three stout men (and the Lopezes, should the word of four Irishmen insuffice) to swear to my identity and the veracity of my claim, I might just be able to take back my ship with a smile and a handshake. Thus, upon our arrival at this tiny island south of the mainland of Florida, we beached the boat and left Lynch, as the youngest and least credible witness, to guard, and then Vaughn, MacTeigue and I went forth to press my claim.

Our first gauntlet was the thick-skulled cretin at the gate – thick-skulled he must have been, for surely that rock atop his shoulders was not full of brains. He could not understand my accent, first, though my brogue is negligible – gods, some of my men speak Gaelic as much as English. Never in all of my travels have I failed to make myself understood with the King’s English, until now, and I vow the fault was not with my tongue. When I had slowed and emphasized my words sufficiently – approximately what I would think a drunken Ourang-Outang would require for comprehension – then the man could not grasp my name. When I shortened it to Nate, and this abbreviated moniker sunk through that ponderous browbone, then he could not understand my mission and purpose for requesting entry.

Thank the gods, Vaughn was there to stop me drawing steel and running him through, and thank all the saints and devils as well that I did not need to treat with that imbecile after I had won entry to the station, or even Vaughn could not have restrained me.

But ’twas all for naught, even so. My name on the logbook and ship’s papers, and my intimate and minute knowledge of my ship did not serve to establish my ownership of her; according to Lieutenant Danziger, the stolid, middle-aged officer with whom I parlayed, I must have a “registration.” Even my identity was called into question, and indeed our word was not good enough – though the man was clear that he did not name us liars, and I believed him; the Lieutenant was a man of morals and sober intelligence, unlike his buffoon of a watchman. He called it “red tape,” and when that mystified us, he explained it was a colloquialism for rules and regulations and laws, Byzantine in their complex convolutions, but inviolate nonetheless. Apparently I must have a birth certificate – though I would think my birth could be stipulated without witnesses, since here I am – a social security card, and a drivers license or some other – I believe he called it foe-toe-aye-dee; perhaps this means “identification,” another term he bandied about in our fruitless negotiation. As I do not understand what these things even are, I know I cannot procure them.

I must wait for another path to my ship to appear.

Stymied in that direction, I asked Danziger where the men were who had stolen my ship from me, and was directed to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on Plantation Key, to the north-east. We reported our failure back to Lynch, and then MacTeigue and I made the trek on foot – all of these islands are connected by a series of bridges the likes of which we have never seen, nor even imagined, stretching for miles across the ocean itself. How could anyone sink piers so deep? Not even the Romans, nor the druids of old could have matched this feat, and I do not believe these people even notice this wonder. The Lieutenant simply instructed us to follow the road, neglecting to mention that said road crossed a mile or more of deep blue sea.

We reached our destination and were greeted by another guard at the front gate, though in this case he sat behind a large table inside the building’s entrance – though the edifice resembles a strong fortress, such miserable laxity in security means it would not withstand the rudest assault, if the enemy may simply walk in through the doors, to be confronted by – a single clerk scribbling on papers behind a table.

I will remember this if we decide to take this place by force. The initial approach will not be difficult.

This uniformed functionary directed MacTeigue and I to the detention block, on the building’s third floor. This was a tighter ship: three men in a locked and inaccessible chamber watched over the antechamber at the top of the stairs, with no cover anywhere that was out of their sight, as the chamber had immense glass windows on two sides; their pistolas were prominent on their belts, and the only way past them and to the prisoners blocked by a steel portcullis.

This is where the challenge would be, but still: ’tis only glass, and only three men.

MacTeigue and I entered the antechamber, which had benches along the walls, one of them occupied by an elder couple, most fretful in their demeanor – perhaps they knew one slated for execution soon. MacTeigue and I approached the glass and hailed the men within loudly; they nodded, and one spoke into a black metal wand, which magically transported his voice to us as though he were in the room and standing at our shoulders.

“Can I help you?”

“Aye, gratefully. We are here to see the men taken by the Coast Guard – the crew of the Grace of Ireland, if you please.”

The man nodded. “Have a seat.” He turned away from us and spoke to the other two. I looked at MacTeigue, who shrugged, and we moved to the nearest bench and sat.

“Excuse me – did you say you’re here about the pirate ship? The men on the ship, I mean?”

I was addressed by the older man. He and the lady – likely his wife, by their clasped hands – looked on me somewhat strangely, though I wore my maid’s uniform this day, and MacTeigue wore simple sailor’s clothes, canvas pants and a brown homespun shirt. I could not have known them, of course, but still they appeared somewhat familiar.

“Aye,” I said, and extended my hand. “I am Damnation Kane, the rightful owner of that ship, which was stolen from me by those dastardly rogues.”

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

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Log 27: Vanity and Vengeance

Captain’s Log

Date: 14 July 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Victorious! And no longer alone!

 

Mine enemies are SCATTERED, my companions RETURNED – this night is a BLOODY DAMNED GOOD NIGHT! The BEST since we left Ireland, auld Ireland, alas. I believe I will have another drink. Ah! Sweet nectar, staff of life, blood of Erin renewed! Ha ha haaaaa!

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 15 July 2011

Location: Redoubt

Conditions: No longer drunk. All else continues as before.

 

Yesterday did not dawn presaging victory. I had at last eased my limp, and was all but recovered from my smashing by the Lions’ beast-wagon; while recovering, I had plotted a new course from Palace to den, and had discovered the means of my vengeance, and the tool to end the threat of the Lions entirely. But I had no hope of accomplishing my goal, and so the speedy recovery of my corporeal health – aided, no doubt, by the kind ministrations of My Lady of Joy – gave way only to a deep spiritual malaise, as I rose and gazed at the sun dawning bright and clear over the ocean, rising on another day when my vengeance and justice both, would again be frustrated ere sun’s set.

The seed of my plan began humbly, even inauspiciously. The Enchantress – who saw my several hurts, surely, but said nothing at all, did not ask after my welfare nor express sympathy (Though I admit I would not have been pleased to have a comely woman such as she commenting on my weakness or defeat. But she could have excused me from my maidish duties, blast the luck.) – had requested that I clean a locale she termed, quite without irony, her “vanity.” This, as it obtains, is a table and chair set hard by her bathing-room, equipped with a massive mirror and the brightest lights I have ever seen outside of the sun itself, and covered, from table’s edge to table’s edge, with an alchemist’s wildest and fondest imaginings. Or perhaps ‘twould be his worst nightmare: it was nearly mine. Bottle after bottle on top of bottle beside jar behind phial before box between piles, of perfumes and powders and paints and – only the Devil knows what else. I could not fathom where the Enchantress applies these concoctions to her loveliness; I have observed some small difference in her appearance, though solely due to the Enchantress’s penchant for swimming. I would have thought I could see her as her true self in the early morn, but by the time I arrive for my maidery, she is already adorned for the day – surprising, that, as I come somewhat early and she is rich, which led me to believe she would stay abed; but nay, every morning, my arrival at the door is greeted by a perfumed and painted Enchantress, looking as lovely as a flower at dawn and smiling a welcome. ‘Tis only after the greeting and some polite conversation that I descend to the status of servant once more, and am quickly forgotten. But even that painted face was but little different from the natural physiognomy I was wont to observe after her exercise in her terrace pool; surely there was no call for the sheer quantity and variety of materiel she possessed, and apparently utilized, as all of the containers were stained and smudged, often with caps and lids loose or misapplied, and all of it covered with a fine powder in various light hues; damn me if I could spot a tenth of it anywhere on her lovely face, though in truth I did not make a frequent and minute inspection of such. And the tools! The brushes and combs, the pincers, the calipers, the razors, the trowels – God’s mercy, but I would not find such equippage unusual in the possession of a surgeon – nay, nor even a torturer in the employ of the dread Inquisition. There was one silver device that, I swear, looked to be intended for prying open eyelids in order to remove the ball itself, or perhaps merely to stab it with one of the sharpened instruments that abounded there.

I am so sublimely relieved that I am not a woman.

Any road, this vanity and its witches’ brews were my task, and I set to it: I removed and cleaned, with cloth and water, every bottle and jar, and polished every implement I could, setting them all aside so I could swab the table itself, once cleared of its mighty burden. But there were some articles, and, as I discovered, some areas of the tabletop, that were stained and marred with splatters and spills the which a wet cloth simply could not remove. The Enchantress had already departed, leaving me on my own with this conundrum. I considered the soaps and tinctures in the maid’s closet, but I did not believe they were equal to this task – and as the table was of fine, polished wood, I did not want to holystone it clean for fear of damaging its surface. I had already been taken to task for marring the gleam of the galley tabletops in just this fashion, though as they were granite, and my abrasive merely fine sand, I think it the fact of the Enchantress witnessing me at this task rather than any permanent harm I did which brought me this chastisement. How do the people of this time bring such surfaces clean if they do not abrade them properly? Filth must be scoured away! (Ha: a good lesson for the confrontation with the Lions, as well, not so?)

So I went in search of turpentine. Among the elixirs and salves on the vanity I had found several which resembled paint, and I knew that turpentine acted as a solvent for such. I presumed it would not be stored in the house, if such were kept here at all, for the sake of its powerful odor, and so I investigated the garradge. I did indeed find a metal jar – most odd; like a box with a round spout in the top, and a lid that screwed on over it – with a clear liquid inside, most pungent, and the words “Paint Thinner” on the jar-box. This finally proved most efficacious on the vanity, though the resultant stench required that I leave all of the Palace windows open for the day, and still earned a light rebuke from the Enchantress, who claimed it gave her a headache. Though I must boast she was most pleased and impressed with her vanity; perhaps she is not alone in that sin, though I think my own pleasure in a job well done, no matter how seeming trivial, be not wrong. I am only glad she did not notice the stains made in places by the paint thinner on the wood of the table, though since I had covered them carefully with the myriad jars, I am not surprised.

But in the course of examining the various containers in the garradge, opening each and peering within at its contents, inhaling any vapors exuded, I found another liquid, with a similarly pungent smell – though this one was far more sweet – in a red box with the words “Caution – Flammable” on the side. Intrigued, I poured a small amount, no more than a sip, from the large jar-box into an empty glass from the galley; then I used the Enchantress’s magic firebox (Have I not recorded this ere now? The Enchantress, most strangely in my mind, prepares her own meals rather than employ a cook – though she does leave all of the washing-up for me, of course. She makes use of a device in her galley which, when a knob is turned, summons a clean blue flame from nowhere, like a fairy light. I have been using this to light a candle, taken from a box of clean white tapers marked Emergency Candles in the maid closet, and then using that candle to light my fire in the Redoubt. A wonderful convenience.) to light my candle, and, placing the glass of sweet liquid on the terrace, I touched the flame to it.

And it burned. Oh, how it burned! Indeed, the heat was so intense, and lasted so long, that when the flame was finally exhausted, I lifted the glass and was burned by its touch; a second attempt shielded by a cleaning rag was more successful, but when I brought the glass to the galley water tap in order to cool it, the rush of water touched the glass with a hiss, and then cracked it so deeply that it fell into shards at my wondering touch.

Thus did I find my weapon against the Lions. As for my approach, which must be changed now that the Lions have discovered my route and my means of travel, as well as my vulnerability atop my steed, I had asked the Enchantress the day before if she could descry a path from her home to the Lopezes’ village some miles to the northwest; I told her the press of cars (the local term for the beast-wagons, and a most peculiar one) was too great, and I sought a quieter, less-traveled road. She amazed me when she went to her own beast-wagon and returned with a map – a map such as I have never seen before, of such infinitesimal detail and mathematic precision that it makes every chart and log-book I have seen or made look like a child’s scribblings. I should not wonder to hear that these people never get lost, if they have maps such as this – though, of course, that may be the Enchantress’s particular boon, like her private cove and Palace and the like.

So now I had a way of once more reaching the Lions’ den undetected – it took only an hour’s exploration with map and steed to find a road well-suited to my task; my leg made it a painful hour indeed, but this merely served to whet my appetite for vengeance – and a way to wreak havoc on it once there. Yet had I no hope: for I could not destroy the Lions alone.

Then the miracle happened.

Around mid-day, as I emerged from the Palace onto the terrace by the cove, taking a moment’s ease after swabbing the floors, I heard – a signal whistle. A sailor’s whistle, that is, which is three notes, low, high, and low again, with the middle note held longest. My eyes, half-closed with a comfortable lethargy in the warm air, snapped open, and my jaw dropped. I stepped out to the sand, looking to the forested strand from whence I believed the whistle had come – and what should I spy but the most-welcome figure of Balthazar Lynch, a wide grin on his thin face, as he stepped from the greenery, waving with the vigor of a young child whose father has returned home. “Ahoy, Captain!” he cried out, a greeting I returned with equal vigor and joy. A joy which was doubled, and then trebled, when the flora behind him parted to disclose first my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn, and then my cousin, Owen MacTeigue, over whom I had fretted much, as I feared either his loyalty or his life lost to the mutiny, and neither could I well abide.

A joyful reunion had we then. I fed them well from the Palace’s stores, and gave them each a chance to bathe – something they had not done in the fortnight since my ship was stolen from me, cleanliness being neither near nor dear to those faithless swine who stole my ship. They told me the tale I had largely expected, though I had never known if it would be confirmed for me: that the mutineers had put the Grace out to sea after telling the crew that I slept in my cabin, much the worse for wine – and Vaughn agreed that he and I, and Ian O’Gallows, had been drugged by a conspiracy made up of the other men at that last dinner: O’Flaherty and Burke, O’Grady, Shluxer, and Hugh Moran – the last I declare to be my cousin no more, as I disown the traitorous serpent – and Donal Carter, as well. The three prodigals were quick to assure me that my friend Ian remains loyal, and stayed with the Grace to try to ensure her safety; I said a brief prayer then for the safe voyage of both good ship and good man, a prayer I have oft repeated, and do so again now. They told me of the petty thefts that marked the height of ambition of that verminous carpenter, and of their own theft of the boat and subsequent journey back, using a chart made by Ian ere they left the Grace; they had sailed with the boat’s small mast for three days before reaching the cove and quickly finding evidence of my habitation in the Redoubt, which gave them reason to wait and watch – a course amply and quickly rewarded when they sighted me on the terrace not two turns of the glass later.

They did swear their loyalty to me as captain of the Grace most vociferously and eloquently, and offered me their good right arms in whatever course I plotted for them – even the pacifistic Vaughn, clearly angered by the loss of the ship he loved too, to such small-hearted pilfering to line the pockets of blackguards with chaff no more valuable than their own tarnished souls.

I ordered that first they must rest for the remainder of the day, and recover from their difficult journey.

Then we had some Lions to beard in their den.

Once I had my loyal shipmates, the doing of the deed was largely simplicity. I distributed to them the pistolas I had collected, keeping my wheel-gun for my own use, and then we set out after sun’s set, walking by my newfound and less-traveled road. Two hours’ journey found us near the Lions’ den, and close to the hour of their usual dispersal, leaving perhaps a half-dozen within the house. I set Lynch and MacTeigue to watch the exits fore and aft, leaving Vaughn to watch the street, alert for la policia. Then I crept about the house, splashing it with the sweet fire-juice from the Enchantress’s garradge. After I painted the foundations thusly, I gathered my men to the front, the only portion I had not imbued with the liquid, and then I used flint and steel to strike a spark and set the flame. It caught, and spread, and soon roared hungrily, belching smoke as it devoured the dilapidated wooden dwelling. I would have been content to cook them all within, but soon a ragged shout was raised and Lions came stumbling out the front door.

And there we shot them all down. Six men, felled in barely twenty seconds as they gathered in a knot before the house, and we four rose from the darkness at my signal like avenging angels, and opened fire. We approached once they had all fallen, and I saw that one was still breathing – ’twas Agro, the leader and instigator of all of this. I aimed at him, and waited until he saw me in the light of his burning home, and knew me. Then I shot him dead.

We departed quickly, to the sound of a banshee wail that I knew, from young Alejandro Lopez’s magic window, signaled the approach of la policia.

Thus was justice served.

Now: to win back my ship.

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Log 24: Clean and Clear

Captain’s Log

Date: 8th of July, 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Exhausted with hard work, but successful. Methinks things are clearer, now.

 

The Enchantress . . . is a pig.

I did not believe this position would be difficult; how much disorder could one person make? Especially one high-born woman? Now I know better.

The woman arises each morning, swims in her pond in smallclothes that would be indecent even under proper dress, and then, following her toilet (which includes still further bathing, as though she must wash off the first bath), scatters raiment like a bird shedding feathers in spring: clothing which I, as her maid, am expected to retrieve, launder, and stow in their proper cubbies in her closet. Though once that closet has been but briefly explored, it becomes instantaneously apparent why she is so indifferent to her attire as to cast it on the floor: she has more apparel than my entire village could wear, back home. And this material, strewn across the floor of the closet, and her chamber, and her bed, and the soft chairs in her chamber, and any other surface that can hold an article of dress, is not part of her attire for various occasions or functions, no: she considers it and discards it before she chooses her splendifery for the day. The apparel has not even been worn! Her maid, of course, is required to replace each piece in its proper place, neatly folded or rolled or hung or stretched, as the item warrants. It is more difficult, and time consuming, than stowing cargo in an undersized hold and lashing it tight for stormy seas.

Then there is the kitchen. Now, I am a pirate, an Irishman, and I have seen ship’s galleys that resemble the aftermath of a raging fire, sparked by a thunderstorm flooding rain, onto a battlefield churned muddy by boots and blood. But nonetheless: the Enchantress lay waste to that hearth to a degree unmatched by a score of filthy seamen. Egg shells and fruit peels, puddles of water and juice, crockery and glass containers and sliver utensils – ’twas a wasteland, a ruination, a shipwreck on a rocky shore. Which I must clean.

Two hours spent arranging women’s fripperies, another lost to hot water and rags, to crockery and kitchen scraps – I wish often for a good kitchen hound to dispose of the excess food bits properly – and then I can attend to the floors.

I have never been so happy to see a broom as I was on my first day in this role. I could not find it, at first, though Maid Flora had identified for me the antechamber where the implements of maidery were to be found; the broom, however, did not abide there, but rather stood in a corner of the large barn-shed, which I now know to be a garradge. Why did I search high and low for the broom, one might ask? Because at first I made the attempt with – the vacume. A machine risen straight from Hell, fashioned no doubt in the infernal forges of the iron city of Dis, forges sparked by the Devil’s infinite fiery hatred and fueled by the suffering souls of the damned; and that which they make there takes into itself every evil thought, every miserable suffering breath that wafts across its surface. That is the wellspring of that thrice-damned monster.

Maid Flora had instructed me to use the vacume to sweep the floors before mopping, and had shown me the beast in its den, which was the closet stocked with maid’s tools. She had pantomimed its use and pointed to me the lever that brought it awake, once it had been tethered – by something that may be a leash and may be a tail or similar appendage, I know not – to a certain hole in the wall, round with two thin vertical slots into which fit a pair of metal pieces on the appendage-leash. I did not understand how the thing was to remove dirt, but I had nodded that I understood her instructions, at least. And when the time came, I followed them: I moved its round, squat body out of the closet, uncoiled the leash and slotted it into the wall, and then I pressed the awakening lever, marked “ON.”

And then the beast roared. I was so startled I leapt back, striking the body with my foot and casting it away from me; the thick trunk-like appendage which one held when making use of the beast flipped about –and then it sought its prey. I know not if that thing be the bastard child of the Asiatic monster called an Oliphaunt, or if it be some strange hybrid of serpent and badger, but whatever it is, it is a predator, and it is hungry. It leapt and cavorted across the room, the end of its trunk-appendage roaring, a terrible inhalation drawing sundry bits into its maw where they were swallowed whole – a piece of paper and a pair of coins that had fallen when I leapt back and dashed them from the counter with my groping hand, and the cap for a jar of soap which I had opened in the closet, placing the cap in my pocket, from whence it now fell and was swallowed.

Then it came for me. I dodged to the side and kicked the body, hoping to stun or damage it, or perhaps, with luck, strike the awakening lever and put it back to sleep – though I confess I was too terrified to know what I was doing; that roar! That terrible roar! – but the action merely whipped the trunk-mouth around toward me again. It struck at my leg and attached itself, leech-like; its roar instantly grew more shrill, the keening of a hunting beast with its victim in its grasp. I shouted and struck at the trunk with my hands, but could not dislodge it, so strong was its grip on me. I could feel it pulling at my flesh through the cloth of my pantaloons, and I feared becoming envenomed and paralyzed and devoured at leisure, drawn slowly into that terrible, tiny maw. I grabbed at the body, lifted it over my head, and threw it across the great room with a shouted curse – and detached its tether from the wall, which killed the beast, or stunned it. Taking no chances, I drew my wheel-gun, which I have kept in my pocket at all times against an ambuscade by the Lions, and placed that monster in my sights. When it did not move, I used the handle of a mop held in my left hand to shove it before me into an empty closet in the room where we had imprisoned the Lopezes during our earliest acquaintance, my gun trained on its body the entire time lest it come awake once more and strike. In that closet, I swear, that horrid beastie will stay. I am well-satisfied with a proper broom. Even though that immobile rug makes it most difficult to sweep properly in the parlor. Who glues a rug to the floor like that, so that no one can sweep underneath? The Enchantress is most peculiar to me, and no less so is her abode.

It required all the hours remaining in the day to finish the floors, but I saw the job done properly: I holystoned the tile with fine white sand I brought in from the cove, and a scrub brush and bucket from the maid’s closet. Then I let it dry while I attempted to sweep the glued-rug rooms, which did not garner good results; and then I swept out the sand and swabbed the deck as Maid Flora had instructed me, using the sweet-smelling soap from the closet, even though its scent nearly overpowered me. Then the same treatment for the terrace, and I was feeling as though all was properly ship-shape and myself back in command – until the Enchantress came home.

“Daniel, did you hear?” she asked me as she strode quickly in her strange, precariously high-heeled shoes and her raiment that a Dublin whore would blush to wear.

“No, milady,” I replied, my eyes firmly fixed to the far wall, high above anything improper that might cross before my gaze, uncovered, and round and firm, and tanned by the sun.

“Huh – I thought Flora would have texted you, too, but whatever. Her house got shot up in a drive-by! Can you believe that?”

I could not understand it, and thus could not believe it – but I understood the operative words: Flora. House. Shot. “Was anyone hurt, milady?”

“I don’t think so – Flora didn’t say so, anyway. She said the neighbors called her and said a couple of gangbanger cars came by last night and just pulled up in front and unloaded. There’s a lot of damage. I asked her if she called the police or anything, but she said no – but undocumented workers don’t usually call the cops, do they? She said it was all right, that I shouldn’t worry about the house, that they’d take care of anything when they came back. She just said I should talk to you about it. Do you know Flora’s family? Are you going to check on the house for them?”

I nodded, after a moment spent unclenching my jaw, which had tautened with rage. “Yes, milady. I know her family, and her home, well.

“I will take care of it.”

***

 

The bike took me to the vicinity of House Lopez, and then I chained it and proceeded cautiously on foot. From thirty paces away I could see an hundred holes blasted in the wooden walls of the home, and broken glass in all the windows; I could also see the head of a man on watch in a beast-wagon just beyond the Lopez property line, his gaze roving the street most haphazardly, the loud rhythmic chanting I remembered from the Lions’ den emerging from the wagon, though again, I could see no musicians nor ritualizers. I shook my head: the man on watch was using neither his ears nor his eyes to advantage; any proper bosun would have had that man on his knees with a scrub brush, if not lashed to the mast and bleeding from his back, if he kept a watch that slipshod at sea – assuming his incompetence and imbecility did not have the vessel smashed on unseen rocks, that is.

I had taken the liberty of borrowing a length of slender but strong rope from the Enchantress’s garradge – I had noted it when seeking a broom, and a sailor never passes up good cordage – and as night fell and I observed the man’s miserable habits, I plotted my strategy. I did not know the man on watch, but he was without doubt one of my foes – a suspicion easily confirmed by the shirt he wore, a bright blue color much the same hue as the headscarves I had seen before – and I knew the man had most likely pulled a trigger and blown a hole in the home of my friends. In their home. Where dwelt their mother, and the boy Alejandro. Had he known the family Lopez was far gone when he aimed, when he fired? I doubted it.

I would ask him.

I crept up behind his beast-wagon, my wheel-gun in my hand, and around to the side opposite his post. Then I lay on one shoulder, my legs under me so I could move with rapidity if he did so, and, reaching under the belly of the beast, I aimed and fired a shot at the house. This brought a most satisfying response from the man, who cried out like a small child startled awake by nightmare and then leapt and stumbled out of his wagon, cursing and brandishing a pistola of his own. He had heard the shot strike the house, had heard the blast somewhere close, but he knew not where – and in his confusion, he simply ran to the house and stood staring, dumbly. It was child’s play to come up from behind and lay him out with a blow to the back of his head. A glance up and down the street showed that we two were alone; I took up his pistola, dealt him a blow or two with my heel – for the honor of Lopez – and then trussed his arms and legs. I dragged him to the small meadow behind House Lopez, where we might converse unseen by people on the street, hidden as the meadow was behind a wooden fence. I left him under a tree, and then opened the heavy garradge door to gain entry to the house and gather the other materials I required. Then I prepared him and waited for him to awaken so we could begin.

He woke soon after, and when he did, I hauled away on the rope which I had tied to his thumbs; he was soon standing on his toes, his eyes wide, his head shaking – any shouts silenced as I had bound his mouth shut, at least for the nonce. I tied off the rope on the fence, and then I aimed my wheel-gun at his left eye, and waited there until his entire body was shaking and the beads of sweat ran down his face. He had tried to let his weight back down onto his heels, and had learned what it meant to be strung up by one’s thumbs – and then he had raised up onto his toes once more, to save his thumbs from being pulled from the socket, or off entirely. This same fate had maimed my traitorous former bosun, Ned Burke, when the tribe of maroons he had been preying upon after escaping into the jungle of Hispaniola from his indenture had captured him and strung him up by his thumbs, leaving him hanging until, after days, he had – fallen down.

I put the barrel of the pistol into the hollow of my man’s throat. “Do not shout,” I said quietly. He nodded. I removed his gag.

“Please, man,” he began, but a thrust of the gun barrel into his throat stopped the words there.

“Did you fire at that house?” I asked, pointing.

I saw the lie begin in his eyes, but he saw me recognize it, and he swallowed it untold. He nodded instead.

I laughed, darkly. “So have I. Only their cowardly surrender kept me from putting a shot into the brothers themselves, when first they came against me.” I turned the smile into a snarl, and pressed close, bruising his throat with the pistol. “You insult me when you presume that these dirt-faced peasants are my allies. My – friends. How dare you think that this, this filthy scum could be the bait in a trap for me. For me!” A blow to his nose with the pistol’s butt set the claret flowing down, and surprised him enough to fall back off of his toes – stretching his thumbs agonizingly, though as of yet his hands stayed whole. He opened his mouth to scream, and I shoved the pistol into it.

“Be. Silent.” I ordered him. He followed orders. When he recovered his balance and eased the pressure on his thumbs, I removed the pistol’s barrel and asked him my questions.

“How many of you are there?”

“Nine – eighteen. Eighteen since Francisco got fucked up in that alley.”

“And your leader – is it Agro?”

“Yeah. Man, let me down, man – shit!”

“Agro is the one I stabbed in the hand at the market, yes?”

“Yeah, man, he fucking pissed at you, essay.” (Perhaps the last word was the letters S.A., but that holds no clearer meaning for me.)

“Do you know who I am?”

“Naw, man, we call you the Sparrow, after Johnny Depp, you know? Fuck, this fuckin’ hurts, essay!”

I grabbed his chin, pressed the barrel of the gun against his broken nose, which brought a shudder and a groan. “My name is Damnation Kane. Remember it. Tell the others.

“And watch your step.” I lowered my aim and fired into the ground. The shot struck his pistola, and scattered sparks, which ignited the circle of rum-soaked rags with gunpowder sprinkled o’er (gunpowder gathered from the cartridges that had been in the gun) that lay under the tree’s limb from which his rope descended. I pulled on his rope until his feet lifted free of the ground, and he swung directly over the flames, which tickled at his toes and his heels, even up to his ankles, but no higher. I tied it off there, and then dealt him a mighty blow to the belly, setting him swinging like a pendulum and silencing his cries for a time. I left him there and walked to the street and his beast-wagon. I splashed it with the remainder of the rum, and fired one more shot, my pistol laid flat on the puddle of liquor, which ignited and began to burn merrily.

I went back to the bike and rode to my redoubt at the Palace, confident that my message would be received. I would be alert for the response, whatever it may be.

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Log 23: To Safety. To War.

 

Maid Flora and I rode her beast-wagon back to the House of Lopez – now become the Infirmary of Lopez. The moment we arrived, she dashed within to check on her brothers; I followed more slowly to allow them some time as an uninterrupted family. I walked the perimeter of the house, seeking any enemy, any watchful eye that might be seeking me – that might have used those men as bait to draw me out, those men who were beaten but, strangely, not killed, not dropped in a river or a marsh to be seen no more outside of Hades; no, these men had been left alive in the street, and I could not but think this was done to a purpose. For the moment, I saw nothing – but I would need to take steps to ensure that the only traps sprung from here onward would be those I set.

I went within and found young Alejandro standing guard bravely, a wooden club in his hands and a look of grim determination on his face which almost, but not entirely, hid the terror in his eyes. I nodded to him, and he squared his shoulders, stood straighter, nodded back to me. “Be steadfast,” I said, and barely bit back the “lad” that wanted to follow these words trippingly from my tongue; but this would not have improved his confidence. I went on: “Your family needs you to protect them, now. Keep a weather eye and a ready shout, should ye see aught of the foe. Aye?”

He nodded, a bit of color returning to his face. It does wonders for a young man when he is treated as if the “man” matters more than the “young.” I was glad to see him move purposefully to the front window, where his eyes and shout might do more good than would the club in his small hands. Ye gods, the thing was half his height – what sort of combat weapon was that? A bludgeon should rarely be more than a belaying pin in length, else it is too slow and unwieldy to make good use. I noted the words “Louisville Slugger” on the smooth, polished wood, but it meant nothing to me. I moved past him and along the corridor to the sickroom.

Both men were asleep, and obviously should remain so. Were that not true, I fear the profanity I would have uttered upon seeing their wounds would have shamed the sun behind the clouds, chased the moon out of the sky, and brought a blush to every tender, innocent cheek for miles around. In silence, but with those terrible curses ringing in my head, I swore on my mother, my ship, and my own honor to avenge every hurt on these two innocent men.

Then I must leave that sorry sight before my anger overflowed and whelmed my sense. I have never sat easily when an innocent is harmed. What man could? But the cruelty and savagery exercised on these two men – these two faultless, guiltless men – was not only beyond what I might perchance accept done to a child-beating English rapist, but far worse, ’twas all done because of me. ‘Twas done to them because those filthy mongrels could not reach me. Those wounds: they are my wounds.

I suppose I made some sound in my retreat, or perhaps his injuries kept him from resting easy, but Ignacio stirred then and woke. I confess I would fain have slunk away, too craven to face his accusing eyes, but as I could not bear to increase my shame, I stepped to the side of the low bed and knelt, gently taking up his hand in mine. When his gaze cleared as his mind rose from the realm of sleep, he recognized me. “It didn’t work,” he said, and I could not but smile – though keeping that smile longer than an instant was impossible as I looked on his eye swollen shut and split at the brow, on his nose bent to the side, on the broken teeth barely visible past his torn and bloody lips.

“Nay, it did not. My fault, lad. I overestimated them, thinking them human.” I tried to chuckle as if this were witticism rather than barren truth, but not much more than a wheeze emerged from my tightened throat. Still, Ignacio smiled at the corners of his mouth, and squeezed my hand.

“They didn’t – we didn’t have a chance,” he said, the words slurred by his accent and injuries so I could barely comprehend – but damn me if I would ask him to repeat himself. “We got there, and showed them the – ‘Lito, and Juan started to say we were sorry. But Agro hit him and he fell, and then he kicked him in the head – and then the others got me. And I try to say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t do it,’ I try to say, ‘Please –’ But they no listen. Then I no can talk or do nothing. They kick me until it all go black.” He pulled his hand away from mine, turned his face to the window beside him and away from me.

“Do you remember the faces? Any of the ones who kicked you?” For the bloody rage which I felt building in me would best be unleashed on those who shattered this boy’s teeth. Fortunately, he nodded.

“Two of them at the market yesterday – the tall one and the one Mama hit.”

“I remember them,” I told him.

Then his gaze went flat. “Si – and they remember you. Now they will find you and kill you, and then they will kill all of us, too, so we no talk to la policia.” (I had learned in my time here that la policia were a sort of civil guard who sought out and apprehended malefactors. I had also learned – with absolutely no surprise – that these men could not be trusted, that they could be bribed, or swayed by their own loves or hatreds, and that they sometimes did more harm to innocents than to the rogues they hunted.)

I stood then and settled my weapons in my sash. “No, my friend. They will not kill any of us. And they will not need to find me.” I leaned down and placed a hand – gently – on his shoulder. He turned to look at me with his good eye.

“I will find them.”

***

When I emerged, I sought out Mistress Lopez and Maid Flora for a council of war. The first task must be to move this poor family past the horizon and out of the range of my enemies, for the span of time whilst I am working to destroy them all. This was, therefore, the first point of contention: Maid Flora did not want her brothers moved, and Mistress Lopez would not surrender a foot of ground to such scalawags. I did manage to convince them that great danger awaited both of the brothers here and now – far greater than the danger of moving them. My assurance that I would swiftly distract the Lions’ cretinous, half-formed thoughts from the House of Lopez was sufficient to overcome Mistress Lopez. A happy chance, as I could not assure her that I would protect her home, nor that no harm would come to it once they left; I thought it highly likely that the Lions, seeking me, would burn this place to the ground.

But no harm would come to the family: on that I was determined. We came to the knowledge that another city to the north, one Orrlandoh, had friends the family could visit, as well as a place called Dizz Knee Whirled which Alejandro would gladly see. The inevitable monetary objections were quickly overcome when I pressed the eleven remaining gold coins from the seam of my vest on Mistress Lopez, accepting no argument nor polite refusal. These refusals fell away when I told them to seek a surgeon for the two brothers; this use of my money seemed fitting to them – as indeed it was, as was the conversion of any excess into funds for the maintenance of these kind folk.

The only concern that remained was Maid Flora’s position at the Glass Palace, which she would not surrender and was most loath to abandon. But we arrived at a solution for that, as well.

I straightened my new shirt and dusted off my new breeches, as we stood at the door, waiting for our knock to be answered. Maid Flora smiled anxiously at me and patted a stray hair into place. The door opened, and there stood the Enchantress herself.

Maid Flora explained, as clearly as she was able, that she would need to leave her post for at least one sevenday, perhaps two, in order to nurse her sick brothers. She offered an alternate servant in her place: myself, whom she introduced as Daniel Kane.

The Enchantress eyed me most suspiciously. “You’re supposed to be my maid?”

I made a passable leg, knuckling my brow in manner I hoped fitting. “Milady, I would not ask you to open your home to a man without scrap of introduction or recommendation. I would never ask you to trust a stranger to care for your environs and property without any knowledge of his fitness for the task. I ask only that you continue to trust in the good heart and wise discernment of your servant Flora, who verily doth recommend myself and my skills to you – and that you trust, as well, your own natural womanly intuition, which surely tells you that I mean your kind person naught but comfort and joy, as I most sincerely do.” I crafted my winningest smile for her, then.

She did look askance at me when I bowed: then when I spoke was she taken aback. At the last, she began to smile. When I finished with the matching expression on my own physiognomy, I hoped it was not too bold of me to presume my place at the Palace was assured.

It was not. The Enchantress looked me over from stem to stern, and then said, “Well, you’ll certainly be decorative to have around the house, won’t you?”

Thus did I become a domestic.

We returned to the House of Lopez, and Maid Flora joined her mother in preparing for their journey to Orr Land-Oh – which preparations gave the appearance of twin typhoons, two waterspouts circling through the house, sucking up and belching out clothing and necessaries and ephemera in staggering quantities and with much sound and fury. I, in the meantime, asked for and received the assistance of young Alejandro. I faced one more impediment: though the Lions’ den, a ramshackle house and garradge which the rogues claimed for their base of operations, stood near the House of Lopez, the Glass Palace was some ten miles away – too far to walk back and forth while in pursuit of justice. But I would never master the beast-wagon in time, nor did I wish to make the attempt. Fortunately, there was another solution: a thing called a “bike,” a staggeringly uncomfortable seat and a strange handle atop a pair of wagon wheels, which one moves forward with a sort of walking motion on two levers called “petals,” though they resemble flowers not at all. Over the course of that afternoon, Alejandro taught me to ride it; I found that my experiences riding horses, combined with my years of keeping myself upright aboard ships in stormy and wanton seas, made it fairly simple to master the balance needed to keep the bike upright. Moving my feet on the petals but not actually walking was far more difficult, but I persevered, and found success.

I asked for and received detailed instructions for locating the den of the rapscallions from Ignacio, and then I bid the Lopezes a fond and heartfelt farewell, and sent them off. Then I mounted the bike I had the loan of from Ignacio, and set off to work.

The Lions’ den itself was simplicity to identify: it was the shabbiest, most dilapidated house on an otherwise tidy and ship-shape little road. I secured the bike nearby with chain and a most ingenious little lock-and-key provided by Ignacio, and then I walked the streets all around the den, observing the movement of the local villagers, the paths by which one could approach the den, both openly and surreptitiously, the local tavern and shops where the Lions surely procured their necessaries. Then I returned and found myself a sheltered place from which I could observe the house and those coming and going.

Their time was spent largely in the garradge and on a sort of open porch appended to the front of the house. The entire time I watched, which comprised several hours, I could hear a strange rhythmic chanting over a drumbeat and an assortment of weird and eldritch noises, shrieks and whistles and thrums and others I could not begin to name. I never saw the ones doing the chanting, so I had to presume that there were people inside the house performing weird incantations or rituals; though strangely, no one seemed to react or even acknowledge the noise other than occasionally bobbing their heads up and down with the drums, perhaps agreeing or approving with what they heard. As for the words, they were all Greek to me. The garradge and the paved area before it was glutted with beast-wagons and various associated equippage; they had the maw of one beast propped open and several of them spent much time with their heads thrust deep inside the gullet. I wondered if they were feeding it, or killing it? I know not.

Several of them took their ease on the porch for the entire afternoon and evening; they talked and laughed and drank and smoked, and shouted at each other and at the passersby. I did note that several passersby approached the men seated on the porch, talked to them briefly and then made some kind of quick exchange, but I could not see what was given nor received. The visitors always left quickly, after. I know not the meaning but I wonder of the possibilities regarding my intentions.

Once dusk fell, they began to depart, mostly in groups in the various beast-wagons drawn up by the garradge. The house did not empty, and the lights that shone through the windows implied that it would not – some number of Lions must abide there, and the others gather round during their idle days.

And then, near the end of the evening, a happy chance: one of my known and sworn enemies, the tall ruffian from the donnybrook at the market – that same one whose pantaloons I had untethered, and whom Ignacio had identified as one of his tormentors – departed on foot and in my direction. I drew back and watched him pass, and then I set off in pursuit, keeping my distance.

He headed toward the row of shops I had observed in my explorations, perhaps meaning to visit the tavern close by; and in the dark alley behind the shops, I saw my chance. I sped my pace, approaching closer – and then, only a few paces from where I meant to strike, the rogue heard my step and turned. His eyes widened in recognition even as I leapt forward, hands outthrust to grapple and choke him. He leapt back from me, hands reaching to his belt for his pistola – and he stumbled over a pile of refuse on the ground, trash brought down by trash. I was on him before he recovered, and struck once, twice, thrice, once into the hollow under his right arm to stop him using his weapon on me, and then to the throat and last to the temple, which incapacitated him.

I took his pistola – ‘Struth, these dogs do grant a veritable armory unto me! – and dragged and shoved him, groaning and coughing, into the deeper darkness of the alley, where none would disturb us. I found there a large metal box, on wheels, which reeked of filth; apparently a receptacle for rubbish and kitchen leavings. I observed that it had short metal poles, like spars, outthrust from the uppermost corners on one side – and that these were very nearly the same distance, one from the other, as my foe’s widespread hands.

Perfect.

I introduced his brow to the metal box – twice, as the first meeting did not make a sufficient impression – and then drew my boot knife. I removed the rogue’s shirt by means of the blade, and cut the cloth into two long pieces. Then I tied his wrists to the two poles, with his face pressed against his new and odiferous acquaintance, and his bare back presented to me.

How I wished then for a cat-o-nine-tails, or even a tarred rope end or cane, but alas, I had naught of the kind; not even my sword, which I had left with my servant’s clothes in a sea-bag borrowed from the Lopezes and now concealed in the shrubbery outside their house. The flat of the blade would have sufficed, though I would not want to sully my new-polished blade with this cur’s flesh.

Fortune provided, however, and I observed a number of wooden platforms stacked on the ground, perhaps something meant to display goods at market, though they were rough-made and dirty. They might be used as on a ship, where we place bags of flour and salt and the like on raised wooden platforms to ensure that seawater does not ruin the dry goods. Any road, they were constructed of a wooden framework to which were nailed wooden laths – and those would do just fine. I broke one free and swung it through the air to get its feel.

My man began to regain his wits, then, and some amount of spluttering and cursing and threats emerged – the last rather laughable, considering our relative circumstances. He was still too stunned to test his bonds, though I would trust my knots against his outstretched arms for as long as I needed him held; still, ’twas time to be getting on. I took a moment to remove his headscarf, from which I fashioned a gag against his impending cries.

Then I pronounced his sentence. “For every mark you left, with your coward’s boots, on Ignacio Lopez, you will bleed. And another stripe for every mark your cursed mates left on Juan Lopez, too. We will set the number of lashes, then, at one hundred.”

He grunted in surprise when I began.

He was screaming against the gag when I had to replace my lath, which broke after thirty.

He was unconscious before sixty.

He received the full number, nonetheless.

I left him there tied to the metal box with his back awash in blood, for his mates to find. I retrieved the bike, and then my seabag, and then I rode to the Glass Palace. I crept beyond the darkened house to the strand and my redoubt, where I have kindled a small fire on the seaward side, eaten the bread and cheese from House Lopez that I had in my bag, and now I complete this log. Now to bed: and I shall sleep well.

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Log 22: Taking a Dip in the Ocean of Time

Captain’s Log

Date: 7th of July in the year 2011

Location: The Glass Palace

Conditions: At heart’s ease, but with blood high and passion enkindled.

 

Since last I was able to keep this log, while waiting for Maid Flora to return home for our parlay and then in the minutes before we departed for the disinterment, there have been developments. Now I find myself once more at the Glass Palace in the Matheson Preserve, and now I am in the employ of the Enchantress, Lady Elizabeth Cohn. And I am at war.

The recent course of events began with our quest to recover the mortal remains of one Manuelito Nieves, known as ‘Lito to his fellow Latin Lions. ‘Struth, it did seem like a fine stratagem at the time, howsoever gruesome it was.

There is truly something unnatural in digging up a corpse. Even if one has the finest intentions. In my nineteenth year, back in the Ireland of my birth, my cousin Conor O’Malley was taken by the damned English and hanged as a cattle thief. He was guilty, of course, but only of the crime of being Irish and hungry. Any action which follows from that may be forgiven, but will surely not be if ’tis English mercy one seeks. The English threw his body into a shallow and unconsecrated grave outside the black and infernal prison where stood the gallows, and so his brothers Steven and Brian, along with myself, must needs creep under the watchful eyes of the English bastards standing watch on the walls of the keep, to bring Conor to a proper kirkyard for a burial that would grant him rest, rather than the everlasting torment granted him by the English, may all the curses ever cursed light on their black souls. But when we began to dig, even though our hearts pounded with fear and excitement with the thought of the English nearby and the blood that could be spilled if we moved too quickly or too loud, the overwhelming feeling when the shovel bit into the earth was one of wrongness. I wanted to apologize to Conor, and to the earth that held him, and to all the ghosts and spirits and gods that roam the aether all around us, even though I knew our intentions were just. I knew, and Steven and Brian knew as well, that this – this was something one simply does not do.

And here we went, the Lopez brothers and sister and I, to do it once more, and the same feelings all came along for the cruise. Though discomfited by our purpose, I was somewhat gladdened to be returning this man ‘Lito to his shipmates. He was a rogue who died honorably and was treated honorably by his foes, with words of prayer spoken over his interment; but nonetheless, a man should never be placed in the earth by any but his kith and kin. Even rogues have mothers, and should feel the tears shed over them by such, instead of gruff words spake by reluctant tongues. Enough that we took his life: we should not steal his fare-wells.

Maid Flora assured us that the Enchantress was away from her Palace; she was, it seemed, a lawyer, and thus frequently in distant cities to attend to the needs of her clients. At first I was somewhat aspraddle that a woman could be in such a profession, but then I bethought myself of my own mother and her strength of spirit and of mind, how she has led the clan ably for all of my life; then I recalled a lawyer’s need for deception and artifice, and how that is not foreign nor even difficult for most women, and I understood. I was not for a moment surprised that this world, so strange and complicated and absent of any reason or sense, would have a wealth of opportunities for lawyers, nor that the resultant lucre could purchase a Palace. We paused outside the Palace’s gate while Flora proceeded in to confirm the Enchantress’s absence, and then we three, Juan, Ignacio, and myself, brought their beast-wagon as close to the spot as possible. They revealed a small cargo-hold in the rear, lined with a strange shiny cloth – it looked to me like sailcloth, though it was a blue bright enough to shame the sky, and had that strange wet-seeming sheen that I have observed to be most popular and beloved amongst these people (Truly it brings one to wondering: have they never heard the wisdom that not all that glitters is gold? Do they care nothing at all for aught that lies beneath the surface? Sure and their possessions would say: Nay.). Juan called it a tarp, and said it was made of “plasstick.” Any road, ‘twould serve to enwrap the carcass – though we had shrouded the man when we planted him, to be sure.

I think I need not record at length the details of that gruesome and horrific chore. Suffice to say that we removed him from the embrace of Mother Earth, that we assured ourselves that he was still recognizable, and was not so rotted as to make the looker incapable of gazing on his features – ’twas I who pulled back the shroud to confirm this, while Juan looked away and Ignacio retched in the bushes – and then we placed him in the beast-wagon’s hold, wrapped in the tarp to prevent corruption from marring the wagon-hold. Then Juan and Ignacio were off to deliver their grisly burden unto the only inhabitants of this Earth who would want it.

Maid Flora made an honorable attempt – limited, as ever, by her insufficient command of my only tongue and my even greater incompetence in hers – to offer me lodging in the Lopez home for another night, but I would not hear of it. This endeavor may have been doomed from the start, and myself inextricably linked with this humble family in the reddish eyes of the Lions – indeed I did fear that to be the case, though I placed responsibility not on any misstep or poor stratagem of ours, but rather on the notable dearth of either perceptiveness, or the reason and sense which nature gave a hedgehog, on the part of our adversaries; but if our attempts were to prove futile, still I would not be so foolhardy as to give the cads a single target encompassing myself and five innocents. I refused her kind offer, though I did allow myself to be cajoled into surrendering my finery for laundering in her capable hands, my best alternative to this being wearing shirt and vest and breeches and boots while bathing in the cove. These items were in certain need of unfilthing, owing to the soileous nature of my activity this day, a perspiratious fight in hot sun and an unearthing of a rotting corpse and its consequent enearthing of mine own carcass. She offered the Palace’s bathing facilities, as well, but I told her I preferred the infinite clean water of the ocean rather than stewing in a tub full of my own filthy skin. I accepted a robe and loose drawers for the nonce, being assured of the return of my finery within an hour’s time.

Thus did I find myself swimming naked across the blue water of the Palace cove and back, across and back, glorying in the salty taste and pure smell of that water, scrubbing myself with handfuls of white sand and sluicing clean liquid over me to wash away the stench of combat and corruption. ‘Twas relaxing to such a degree that I would swear the water in this cove had wafted here, driven by current and wind and tide, straight from Ireland, solely for my benefit. When this fancy struck me, granting a laugh and a smile, ’twas followed shortly by another cogitation: this water could even have come to me from my native time – for was not the ocean now the very same ocean then? Was not the earth that held it and the wind that drove it – were these not the same, then and now? Perhaps this breath of air, that splash of water – perhaps they began when I did, and have circled the world entire an hundred times, only to waft here, to me, and be the balm I most need. My heart was much eased by this thought. My people I have left far behind me: only bones and dust mouldering in the Earth remains outside of my heart and memories; my country, my struggles, and my enemies are all lost to time’s changing course. My home, my possessions, all that which I coveted and longed for, the world over – all this is passed, now, passed and past.

But this good Earth, this clear water, this soft wind and bright sun, the lovely glimmering of stars and moon in the sable velvet night – those all remain to me, all familiar, all mine, as much as ever they were. My Ireland is gone, but the Earth is still my home, and I am welcome here.

My bath and gladdening ponderations done, I was glad to accept my finery and a hearty plate of food and drink from my kind friend Maid Flora – once I had covered my nakedness with the borrowed robe, to be sure. I made much first of the snowy whiteness of my shirt, the pure crimson of my vest and the deep black of my pantaloons, all as bright as new cloth and without a hint of mark or stain. They smelled of flowers, too, which was an additional kindness; one thing I will say of this time and place, it is strangely perfumed: the stench of the beast-wagons is as noxious as any bilge or city sewer I have encountered, yet the people and their clothing are almost miraculous in their clean, lovely aroma, without whiff of sweat or the stink of sickness anywhere. I could not be quite as complimentary of the food, though it was a satiating repast, to be sure; still, I could not understand why she did not simply give me a proper hunk of bread, slice of meat, and lump of cheese, rather than assembling them all together into this thing she called a sanwitch (Perhaps San Huiche? Her accent makes a literate rendering most difficult.), combined with a piece of green leaf I had rather she fed to a cow or pig and then given me the cow or pig, and some sauce she called moose-tard which I would fain have removed, except it covered the strange taste of the bread, which was rather off-putting. She did give me a bottle of ale to wash it down, which was most welcome. When I had finished, I bade her back to her maid’s duties, though she assured me laughingly that her day was most often idle, as the Enchantress was rarely at home and even more rarely demanding of any especial service; Flora was most complimentary to her kind mistress, and grateful for her employment here. Once she had left, I took the time to clean my boots, polishing them with the tail of my borrowed robe, before I returned to my proper attire.

Then I moved out to the end of the strand, to the redoubt constructed by that capable traitor Moran – a refuge as yet undiscovered by the Enchantress, it would seem and was surely to be hoped – and lay down for some rest. The clean sea breeze and warm sun, both contradicting and complementing one another, made for a most wondrous atmosphere, made only finer by the shade cast by the dense greenery. I slept for some hours, my head pillowed on the robe, and woke most refreshed. Maid Flora had supplied me with a small bottle of clean water, made of some strange clear material far more flexible than glass, which I drained and put aside, intending to refill it from the Enchantress’s terrace pond, once darkness came to cover my movements.

For I had determined that, for the nonce, this was to be my berth. I could ask for no better bed than the sand and soft pillow-robe, no better blanket than my own clean and flower-scented finery, no better security than all-concealing forest and the ocean on three sides, no better safety for my new friends than my own disappearance to this place unbeknownst to the Lions, and our hopes placed on our plans to sever our ties. With the kind Flora to give me sustenance, and the loving embrace of constant and eternal Nature to give me peace, I was as happy as I could be, thrown out of my time and off of my ship.

Rested, refreshed, and revitalized, I had to see to my last necessity then: my armament. I had a honing-stone in my pocket, and I gave my boot-knife a brief polishing to return its fine edge, and then I turned to my new sword, the aptly-inscribed Blood, Death, and Liberty – apt for in shedding the first, it had prevented the second and preserved the third, at least for now. The fine white sand brought a proper color back to the slightly tarnished steel; I would remember to beg oil from Maid Flora to protect the blade’s surface properly. Then I carefully and meticulously honed the edge to a razor’s sharpness.

My blades thus seen to, I turned to the greater puzzle: my guns. I was now in possession of three pistols, my own recent purchase and two taken as spoils of battle. The pair of looted weapons were similar to each other, but unlike mine own: mine had a round wheel-piece, set side-to and pierced with six holes that held shot, if that’s what the amm-owe I had purchased was intended to be, yet I could not find where the powder and wadding were to be placed around that shot. But as an experiment, I placed six of my new-purchased brass-ended shot-thimbles into the holes, closed the pistol and then pulled the trigger, aiming idly at the bole of a tree – and I was rewarded by a sharp report and a hole appearing where I had aimed. In amazement, I opened the weapon again and found a mark on one of the brass thimbles, as if someone had taken hammer and awl to it; upon removing it, I found that the thimble was now hollow and empty, the interior blackened and smelling of spent powder; the round tip was gone, presumably now residing in the tree.

I realized that the amm-owe thimbles are cartridges, not unlike canister shot for ship’s cannons. They hold the ball in place, and contain the powder, as well. The spark is made with a sharp strike of metal on metal, much like a flintlock but even simpler. Most amazing is that the weapon seems able, owing to these cartridges and the wheel mechanism, to fire six shots without reloading. Six shots! I was stunned and amazed.

And ready to find those mutinous blackguards who stole my ship and give them what-for.

The pistols looted from the rogues in the market were much like that we had taken from their dead shipmate. That weapon had proven most mysterious to us, with its trigger that would not pull and its unfamiliar shape and mechanisms, until Kelly, who had had its keeping, had thought to ask Shluxer about its use. Shluxer had called it a Nine-mill O’meeter, had showed us how the small lever which, when pressed, revealed a minute red dot, was called a Safety, and would lock or unlock the trigger and firing mechanism. He showed us how to remove the box of shot from the handle, what he called “bullits;” I had not been watching his demonstration carefully enough to identify them as being akin to my amm-owe shot-thimbles, though I recognized them now, in examining my looted pistolas – and how to handle and fire it. We had scoffed at the thing then, with its quiet sound and the weak recoil of its firing, almost without fire or smoke compared to a proper powder-and-shot pistola, but Shluxer assured us it was sufficient unto its purpose. I presumed these two would be as well, and I made a place in my sash for all three of my shooting irons.

The sun was setting, then. I returned to the Palace and refilled my bottle; Maid Flora appeared, having seen me from within, and at my request brought me a proper loaf of bread (the which was still largely tasteless and strange, as if uncooked but rather allowed simply to stale to some hardness above that of dough and below that of proper bread) and a lump of cheese, three good pickles and a bottle of ale. I assured her my needs were well-met and I would not disturb the Enchantress, who was due to return soon, and then I bade her good-night and returned to my redoubt. I supped, dipping bare feet in the cool blue water and watching the waves ripple to me and away again, the eternal heartbeat of the ocean, writ small on this shore and large on another where waves crash against rocks with the roar of thunder, but always present, never-ceasing. What need have we of God? If thou seekest something infinite and eternal, and spellbinding and breathtaking in its glory, its generosity and power, its boundless gifts of life and the pure hell of its rage – look no further than the ocean.

I watched the water until it was no more than reflected starlight sparkling on a field of black, and then I lay down once more and slept well. I dreamed of home.

 

*****

 

I was shaken out of my sleep, and sprang up, bared blade in hand, before I recognized Maid Flora in the gray light of early morn. Tears streaked her cheeks and fear hollowed her eyes, so I did not need to wait for her broken English to explain why she had come for me. Still, once I calmed her slightly, I learned somewhat.

Our plan had not worked. Juan and Ignacio had suffered the wrath of the Lions, and had been beaten savagely. A kind neighbor had gathered them from the street and brought them home, where they lay even now, delirious and in great pain and risk of death. Flora feared the Lions would return again, seeking my humble self.

But I would seek them out first. And they would learn that Hell itself hath no fury so black as that of an Irishman.

And no Irishman wreaks vengeance half so terrible as doth Damnation Kane.

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Log #5: The Glass Palace

Captain’s Log #5

Date: 25th of June. Dawn.

Location: At anchor in cove. Still afloat.

Conditions: The sun shines, and hope blooms in those golden rays.

We live. I say again: the fairest sight of all is the sun’s rise on a new day, arriving like an unexpected guest who bears good tidings.

The storm broke and fled in the night, though in truth it should have spelled our doom before it did. For our survival this dawn, we must give thanks to the capricious gods, and to my mate and friend, Ian O’Gallows. (A name he bears half for his father, a Scotch gallowglass, a mercenary who came to Ireland to fill his pouch with gold fighting in our wars, and instead found himself filling the pouch of a comely Irish maid, one of such spirited blood and poetic temperament that she loved the man but never bothered to know his name beyond, “Ah, Love!” The other half-measure of the name O’Gallows is the just reward for Ian’s meritorious service in a lifelong quest to end on that renowned apparatus, made holy by the blood of so many Irish kings. And the shite of an even greater number of English rogues, as Ian says it true.)

The seas found the hole in the Grace’s hull at last. Ian was at the watch and heard a report from the men at the larboard pumps that they could no longer keep pace with the water in the bilge. Ian went below to inspect, and found water pouring in through the wound in our lovely lady’s skin. He went to the carpenter’s closet, near abandoned since McLoughlin’s death on Irish seas, and found a short plank end, a great handful of long nails, and a hammer. He held the plank in place with his feet, his back braced against the deck and muscles straining against the might of the seas, while Roger Desmond nailed the board in place with enough iron to charge a cannon. It was nothing like a proper patch, but it held back the water enough to let the pumps keep us afloat.

Now with the dawn we are at last headed ashore. I will take Lynch and explore on foot to the south, and O’Flaherty and Carter will head north. We seek a strand where we can beach the ship without fear of intrusion. We seek also for civilization, and knowledge of our whereabouts – but always, the ship’s health comes first.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I have returned. I do not know what is uppermost in my mind, in my heart: the dread I feel, or the wonder. For the nonce, it is perplexity, bewilderment, and confustication. WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE WE?

We took the boat to the shore, found a bare patch between trees – and such strange trees! Standing aloft on roots like a cathedral’s buttresses, growing right from the sea, with salt crystals visible on their tangled roots. O’Flaherty calls them mangroves. He was transported to the Indies where he turned pirate before returning to Ireland, so I take his word on matters of local knowledge now. Though I don’t know why: wherever we are, it is not the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. I do not believe O’Flaherty has ever seen these shores any more than I have. Nonetheless, we tied the boat to one and spent some minutes regaining our land legs, learning the uncertainty of the land around these mangrove trees, which is softer even than a peat bog, though perhaps not quite as odoriferous, and then we were off.

Lynch and I slogged through mangrove bog for a mile or so before the ground came solid to our step. We knew to use the mud to keep off the insects, or we would have lost more blood to them than we ever have to the English. But the stench was most unpleasant, as was the heat, even in the trees’ shade.

Not half a mile after the bog turned to good earth and the mangroves made way for proper trees, we came to a wall. I cannot say how that sight heartened me: we were not lost, we were not doomed to wander in the wilderness until my ship sank and we starved for our ignorance. A wall meant men, and with men we had a fighting chance. That’s all an Irishman needs.

The wall was six feet high, with broken glass embedded in the top. A fine piece of masonry, too, as good as any cathedral wall I have seen. The surface was covered with a plaster smooth as a shaved and sanded plank, the extent slightly curved but the top straight and level as the horizon. But trees grew within a pace of it, so its defensive value was somewhat less than its craftsmanship. Lynch scurried over it with no more difficulty than he had climbing the rigging, and though my days as a mast-monkey were far behind me, still I had not much more trouble. The woods continued on the other side for a dozen paces, and then cleared. We paused at the edge to take stock.

That’s when we saw the house.

House? Fah. ‘Tis a palace the likes of which no man has ever laid eyes on, I warrant.

There were brief gardens with plants unknown to me or Lynch; puffed shapes like immense dent-de-lion gone to seed, and tall trees with nary a branch on slender trunks but for a crown of great leaves, bright green and serrate, bursting out of the top, many times the height of a man – they might make fine masts, perhaps, though they may be too flexible. Then a terrace of some sort, with a columned portico or promenade – Christ and Dagda, I have not the words for it. I have never seen architecture like it.

It was the size of a vast cathedral, a king’s palace: thirty or forty feet high, an hundred feet across – nay, more. It lacked ornament: not a single piece of statuary, no mural nor frieze, not even a curved band of stone. I’d call it a Puritan’s proclivities that stripped it bare, knowing that humorless race landed on the New World’s shores and live there still, but no: ’twas the edifice itself that served as decoration, that gloried the eye and honored the wizard who built it.

The walls shimmered and shone as we approached cautiously through the gardens. I noticed there were no crops, no edibles, and surmised we must be on the far side from the kitchens. I told Lynch through signs to ‘ware guards on the parapets, but we saw not a soul. As we drew closer, the risen sun gleamed from the walls, which had a strange appearance: smoother even than the wall we had crossed, yet rippled, and the sunlight reflected from the surface. I surmised they were solid steel, as I have seen such metal forged so that light ripples on its surface like that of a pond teeming with fish and fragments of wind. This wall curved, as well, and I wondered if the people dwelling here could not lay a straight line.

But then before our eyes, the wall changed. What I had taken for ripples of forged steel was in truth a curtain, a curtain than now drew away, moved by no hand. Why did this curtain wall gleam in the sun, you ask?

Because the curtain was inside of a wall made of glass.

I could not fathom it, at first. ‘Twas Lynch, crouched beside me, whispering, “Glass! ‘Tis made of glass!” that set the truth in my ‘mazed mind. I know not how to imagine a wall made of glass, without flaw, without blemish, without frame, ten feet high and a hundred feet wide, without saying that it must be magic. This was a sorceror’s palace, I thought then.

And then, within the glass – though the eye did not pause for an instant at its surface, clear as the mountain air – we saw the master of this palace, and I corrected myself: this was the palace of a sorceress. Her robe – silk, I thought, though I have never seen it on a person, only on a bolt liberated from an English trader; sure it was not the rough-dyed homespun I have seen on most colleens at home – that robe revealed more of her curves than it concealed, and lovely curves they were, indeed. I glanced at Lynch to be sure he was not entranced or inflamed by this first sight of a woman in nigh three months, but he was glancing at me to determine the same, and so we looked back at the marvels before us.

She stood at the window for a moment, staring out at the sun on the water, a delicate half-smile on her face – a face as lovely as the rest of her, a face to bring out the poet in any Irishman – and then she turned and walked across a wide room, a reception hall, perhaps, though I saw no table large enough to seat a proper company of men. There were low couches and chairs, rich carpets; the floors were of some pale stone, and as smooth as the glass wall I saw them through.

The sorceress went to a wall of cabinets, and produced a miracle. She grasped a handle, pulled the cabinet open – and light shone forth from within, brighter than any lantern I have seen! Within the cabinet, and affixed to the inside of the door, there were what appeared to be foodstuffs, though the room was so wide that I could not make out all the details; too, I was dazzled by that light: surely she did not keep a candle burning inside a closed cabinet! But then, no candle ever shone like that.

She removed a bottle of some kind, and a smaller handful. Another cabinet, which I could not see into, and then she poured, with her back to us. She turned and we saw she was drinking a golden fluid from a clear glass cup; in her hand she held something that might be fruit, though I did not know its shape. It looked to me like a golden sausage. But I watched her peel it and eat it raw, so a fruit it must have been.

But what can I know of this? Perhaps she devoured the severed finger of a demon before my eyes. Or perhaps it was . . . some other part.

She put down the glass of golden nectar and took up a strange object: only just larger than her hand, slim and long and flat, covered in knobbly protrusions. She waved it at the wall, and then I knew it was her sorceress’s wand, for the wall opened, of its own accord, revealing a great mirror in a black frame. She waved the wand again, and the mirror showed images – but not images, for they moved. They moved! It was a window of some kind, revealing not the other side of the palace’s grounds, but showing other places and people, like a scrying pool or some such wizardry. As Lynch and I watched, it changed a dozen times, revealing a man’s face, then three people gathered around a strange object I did not know, then a map with strange names written on it – alas, she waved her wand and the map disappeared before I could discern any useful details; but I will swear the words were in a script I recognized, even if I could not see what words they spelled out. Then it was a woman with a metal rod pressed to her wide open mouth – was she singing? – and then a jeweled pendant, surrounded by words, like the illuminated page of a monk’s manuscript. I made out the number 29.99, before the mirror’s magic showed two faces – no, it was one face, but shown twice, side-by-side. But perhaps it was not the same face, for the one on the left was older, more blemished than the right side face. Mother and daughter, perhaps?

The sorceress stepped closer to the mirror then, and gazed at it; it was now that she ate her golden sausage-fruit and drank her golden nectar. She dropped the peel – the skin? – and the empty glass onto a wide shelf beside the cabinets full of light, and then took up her wand again and waved it at the wall of glass. And the wall opened.

Two doors, framed in some strange, smooth white stone but made of glass, swung wide without a hand to move them. Lynch and I froze, knowing the slightest movement might draw the sorceress’s attention to us. I know his fondest wish now was the same as mine: we had seen enough, and now we wanted nothing but her departure, so that we could return to the safety of our ship and our friends. But she did not leave: she came out onto the terrace, no more than thirty feet from where we crouched behind shrubbery. Then she took off her robe.

I will not speak of what I saw then; it would be ungallant. Suffice to say that I am not innocent of women, that I have known the fond caresses of more than a few generous and loving lasses; but never had I hoped to see so much bared flesh outside of a bed. What garment she did wear was little more than paint on her skin; certainly it hid no more from our sight than it did from the gods.

She walked across the terrace, away from us – I can close my eyes and see every single step, so closely did I observe her every swaying, undulating movement – and then dove into a pond that we had not noticed hitherto. She swam – better than any man I have ever seen, and more than a few fish, as well – across and back, across and back, a score of times. Then she emerged once more, taking up a small blanket to dry herself, an operation I observed just as carefully, especially when she bent to rub the blanket down her smooth leg – but I blush to continue.

She went inside, closing the glass doors, this time by hand. She disappeared through a doorway, granting Lynch’s and my wish of minutes before – though I confess my wish had become somewhat different by that point.

When we spoke, when we had recovered our wits enough to whisper, Lynch asked, “Is she a temptress demon, Captain? A succubus?”

I shook my head, but not because I knew him to be wrong. “She may be. Though I think this land too fair to be infernal. Look you.” I pointed to the ocean, visible to our left; before the glass palace was the perfect cove, ideal for our purposes. A wide, flat expanse of white sand that we could draw the ship upon, a spit of land dense with trees and shrubs to hide us from the view of passing ships, should such exist in this strange place (We have seen none). Stout trees to anchor lines for drawing the Grace out of the water, and lashing her safe against the tide’s caprices. And overlooking all, this glass palace, with a pond of clear water to drink and magical cabinets full of food, howsoever strange.

“Hell would not have such perfection laid before us,” I told Lynch. “Not without a legion of demons, armed and belligerent, to keep us from it.”

No, I had realized, as we watched the beautiful sorceress emerge from her magical, impossible palace, where we were and what we were seeing. “She is no devil,” I told Lynch. “She is a Faerie Queen.

“We are Underhill, in the Land of the Fae.”

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