|This bay will be perfect! A breakwater already built, plenty of stone and wood for homes, and as much land as you could want for farms. I've been surveying the lands nearby with my spyglass, and believe we have found the perfect place to establish our homes. Our ship may have been tossed to the rocks, but most of our supplies were intact.
The stone faces have been disturbing some of the men, but not me. I see them as the faces of those who were unsuccessful in taming this land, a record that we will wash away with our achievements.
|Today we journey out from the settlement in Everfall to uncover all we can about these beguiling obelisks! I, Roger Henry Stevens, lead this expedition, and am accompanied by two strong associates: Walter McKay and Elias Anders. As leader, I assign myself the task of documenting our journey for posterity, as well as recording all scientific measurements and observations to be gained from this endeavor.
As draft animals are difficult to come by, our expedition is lightly equipped, bearing only what we may carry on our backs. Our goal is to complete a circumference of the outer obelisks and, if successful, gather a full expedition to penetrate ruins and make a true inspection of the central obelisk. One planned detour is to be made to the Windsward settlement for resupply and respite.
I plan to spend a few days at each obelisk, taking measurements and gathering plant and stone samples from each location, to determine what — if any — differences are present at each. Our first destination is the Orion obelisk, where the journey shall begin.
|Arrived at Octans today, no issues of note during the travel from Hydrus. Earlier settlers established a fortified structure nearby, where we have set up camp. A pleasant change from these past weeks, having a roof over our head. I shall have to speak with McKay and Anders and ensure we do not relax our guard, even during this respite. I am confident that my idea of leaving collected samples at staged locations is the correct one, given our limited carrying space.
To note: Samples have been stored at the Hydrus obelisk, while the first bundle of notes were stored at the Draco obelisk. Collect these upon our return.
Structure is almost identical to others found on previous expeditions, save some environmental weathering. This morning, McKay tied off a rope and climbed to the observation platform, with nothing to show for it but a nice view. Stones appear to have been shaped with little or no use of tools, may have been magically crafted. Will continue to investigate area, but plan to move on to Delphinus soon.
|Delphinus is much the same as Octans, with no nearby threats and travelers passing nearby with ease. Odd, that.
Earlier obelisks in this expedition — Hydrus, Draco, and Orion — housed a number of Guardians that did their best to prevent us from investigating the sites... yet these two seem to be uninhabited. No damage is apparent, no major alteration in construction... though neither has easy access to the upper balcony. Is there something on that level which attracts the Guardians? I shall convince McKay to scale the side to the platform to inspect the area further.
We shall continue our endeavor, and with luck, will find a clue to help us unlock the mysteries of these obelisks.
|A smear of blood obscures much of the text, but it's clearly written in a different hand than the previous entries.>
Stevens is dead. McKay is dead. I'm likely next.
I don't know why they aren't coming back to life... not like we haven't all died once or twice or thrice before. Maybe we each have an allotment of lives, like cats? Maybe it has something to do with these obelisks?
Whatever the case... the team is gone, and I'm trapped here. Whosoever finds this, please, re
Our exploration continues, though we are no closer to finding the cause of these Corrupted areas. No logical progression, no determinable cause for location or spread... it is baffling. And while the scientist in me is thrilled at this challenge, the human in me is terrified.
The only points that seem truly safe are the protected areas of the settlements. Whatever energy is present there is enough to prevent those Corruption points from forming.
Our team has reached the northern edge of the Great Cleave, and we are down to 12 members, of the original 19. If we lose too many more, we'll forced to turn back... which may work out for the best. I think everyone would like to return to the safety of the south.
For now, we will continue our research. Our current task is checking soil samples between locations, to determine if there is any variance in composition or quantity of azoth. You may wish to do the same in your own area.
Looking forward to seeing you soon. Perhaps you'll buy me a drink on my return?
It pleases me to know your expedition is going well, though I mourn for your losses. I would have loved to join you, but my duties here — while menial at times — are important to the settlement. Perhaps, if another were to take my place, I would be free to do so, but... my standards are high, you know, and I've yet to find anyone who could measure up to the task.
I shall take on your recommendation regarding the soil. There is a skilled newcomer to the area who has been able to handle my requests with ease, and I may present them with this new one the next time I spot them in town. I have full confidence that they're more than capable of gathering soil samples from some of the locations nearby, and to handle whatever cretins are currently in residence there.
And yes, of course, I shall buy you a drink of your choice on your return! I do miss our discussions, and you have a knack for deciphering even the toughest puzzles. I shall find a suitable one for you, don't you worry!
|That idiot! We have miles of open beach, clear waters, and the fool "Captain" goes and beaches the damn ship! Well, the only thing he'll be captain of now are the crabs picking at his bones. We bound him and buried him at the site of his shame, and we'll worry about his incompetence no longer.
Nothing to be done for it, I suppose. Though the ship was my namesake, I'll not have it be said that Captain Mesnard allowed the loss of his ship - to incompetence, no less! - keep him from finding glory! No, the men and I will salvage all we can from the ship, then continue up the coast and survey where we have landed.
|Had Isabella chosen to mention “azoth” more in her conversations with the crown, I suspect the Expedition may have turned out quite differently – and she may not have been our Captain at all.
As it turns out, the royal family were not the only ones interested in the azoth. The properties of the substance had already sparked rumors throughout the nations, amongst alchemists, and even companies were formed as to how the substance could be replicated – or found. Even if those who heard did not believe the Heretic's tale fully (or even knew of him), the weight of nations putting backing behind such expeditions was enough to scare others into not being left behind.
And it seemed the companies might be moving faster than the crown – one, in fact, had already been partnered with Isabella's family, if the ledgers were to be believed. And her father owed them a sizable debt indeed.
|It still is a question to me how the companies organized so quickly. The New World was surely one such inspiration, but to those who had landed on the new continent, no source of this “azoth” had yet been found. The only proof lay with a madman and his preaching. Even though the Church had locked him away, I fear that in doing so, it simply gave more credence to his claims.
The men seemed unconvinced of the truth of this, but they accepted it. They returned to Isabella many times over the coming month, pressing her for details. I thought that perhaps she would want them kept from the grounds, but over time, I realized she was allowing the visits – for the sake of negotiation.
|“He used to be a priest,” Father Dante told me. As if it was obvious. “And he speaks blasphemy. He claims we worship the wrong power: that the divine rests within the earth, and that God is false.” I told him surely such a man would have been executed long ago, and Father Dante shook his head and whispered conspiratorially. “Word is, they have tried, and it… does not take.”
I think he sought to make a joke at my expense, but the poor nature of the jest simply proved him a fool, not I.
|I examined the contract Isabella had signed and found the imprint of their seal to be rather… unusual. As expected, it was embedded in red wax, but I felt that the symbol almost expressed the color of crimson in its strange geometry. I could not make sense of it… yet could not tear my eyes away. Isabella, noticing my gaze, said that she had seen the symbol… drawn with who knows what… inscribed on the walls of the Heretic's cell, also in red, but not in wax.
“Azoth is not the isle's true wealth. Vitae Aeternum's value lies much deeper than a vial of blue fire, even if it rises from the ground in such quantities it is akin to a field ready to be harvested.”
|How she managed it I do not know, but Isabella is to command the Expedition. I have no idea how she negotiated such a result, or where she received the gold to back the three ships of the expedition… I suspect she concluded the contract with the Red Sign, and the company now moves with a faith in the presence of azoth that matches Isabella's.
The three vessels of the Expedition – the Santiago, the Santa María de la Consolación, and the San Cristóbal, are to set sail in a matter of months, yet there is still the question of where these vessels are bound. Do they intend to scour all of the Atlantic? And what had she offered them, when she has no gold to her name, nor any lands to speak of – or any influence at all?
|On the day the Expedition set sail, I discovered what Isabella had used in her negotiation. It was shackled below decks of the Santa María de la Consolación – a dirty, hunched man, with a great beard and eyes like embers in the hollows of his face. His wrists and ankles were clapped in irons, though there was nowhere for him to run… lest he sought to plunge over the side and drown, perhaps.
She had freed the Heretic from his Church cell. This… man… barely human at all, was to be our guide – if I had known, I would never come aboard, and now I fear where the words of this man will take us – to the bottom of the sea, or worse, to hell, I do not know, but it is some place far from God's grace, of that I am certain.
I was to learn later on the Red Sign had sought to extract the knowledge of the isle of azoth from the madman many times, but the only one he said he would show was Isabella… she must be the Captain, he said. Do this, and I shall show you the way to Vitae Aeternum. It is a devil's price, and Isabella has paid it.
|Isabella spends more and more days belowdecks, speaking to the Heretic. It concerns me, but each conversation seems to calm her… and we adjust our course after each discussion.
Strangely enough, except for Father Dante, the crew have not questioned the man's presence. Perhaps they thought he was imprisoned early in the voyage for some crime, but they know not the truth of it. I fear the day they learn he is providing guidance to our efforts. There may be mutiny if they knew whose hands were really steering the ship.
|The Expedition suffers. At first, the lack of wind proved difficult, now the storms strike us. We seem to circle sections of the ocean, always at Isabella's insistence, but it is almost as if the navigation provided by the Heretic is meant to cost us time, our food stores, and our faith. Our supplies run low, and tempers among the crew have risen.
I suspect the crew would blame Isabella were it not her bouts of sickness… not from the voyage, but the fever that seems to strike when the winds become calm. Father Dante has taken to caring for her during these times. When the storms beset us, she is on deck, with an authority and command that puts the crew to task. The men fear her, and just when it seems treason might overshadow these thoughts, her presence quells their doubts. It is a strange sort of command – she uses not facts, but conviction to cow those around her. Even I fear her.
I have not mentioned my journal, nor the letters I brought from home chronicling our voyage. I have a strange feeling that Isabella would not be pleased with them.
|The Santiago and the San Cristóbal seem to fare little better than we. Once, a storm almost separated us from the Santiago, but Chief Pilot Keyes on the San Cristóbal found her and brought her back to us. I fear that only Keyes' navigation through the storms has saved us… not once, but twice now.
I did not have much opportunity to meet Keyes at port (I took her for a servant, in fact – she is rumored to be from the West Indies, but not a slave, curiously enough) but I pray we do not lose her before we discover we need to turn back, for she is exceptionally gifted… or lucky. I will take either.
|The last storm nearly ended us. In its wake, the disposition of the crew has become ugly. Fights have broken out, and the other day, one man stabbed another for a perceived insult. Both now sit in the brig, accompanying the Heretic in chains.
The crew's whispers about the Heretic have grown louder. Father Dante speaks of him as a curse, exerting a devilish influence upon the voyage and the Captain. I fear that if we do not find some hint of Aeternum soon, the crew will mutiny.
Captain Isabella seems unconcerned, and I fear she will not see a mutiny until it is too late.
|We lost sight of the Santiago first. We fear it now lies on the bottom of the ocean, but we caught no sign of its lights in the great waves buffeting our ship. Whatever has become of it and the San Cristóbal, only God knows their fate – we are fighting for our own lives, and we may not last the night.
Yet over the storm, I heard laughing from belowdecks. It was the Heretic, laughing – but at what, I do not know. He has led Isabella to this hell, and we were fools enough to join them.
|We are alive! Much of the crew is missing, but Captain Isabella is undeterred – she has been scouring the shores, looking for supplies and organizing the men.
Our ship lies upon the rocks… it is almost as if the rocks themselves rose from below, splintering the ship's hull so that it became a crown. I believe we are stranded here, for I see no means by which the ship could be repaired. This thought chills me, but Isabella does not seem concerned.
And I see we are not the only ships to run aground upon this isle – its beaches are covered with the wrecks of previous ships, some familiar… some that seem much older, indeed.
I asked her if we should begin searching for the crews of the Santiago and San Cristóbal, but Isabella did not seem to hear me, insisting that we must explore the isle and learn more of our surroundings – and that we must focus on helping ourselves.
The Heretic survived. He was waiting for us on the beach, still shackled by the arms and ankles, yet he was smiling, staring about him. Sand was on his brow, his face, and his lips, as if he had touched it to the shore, kissing it as welcome.
|We have made camp and gathered what supplies we can from the ship. This isle of Vitae Aeternum, for better or worse, is now our home until rescue comes.
Captain Isabella has not spoken of the other two ships we have lost, and has given no orders to search for them – only survivors from our own ship, as if somehow they might “escape” into the isle. I realize now her concerns lie in that they find something she herself seeks and somehow take it from her. It is disturbing, but gives her purpose.
I recovered my footlocker with the journals and letters, all dry and intact – I confess, I would have felt better had another crate of provisions washes ashore instead, but the writings give me comfort.
|The men, already close to starving before the storm hit, have taken to hunting and foraging for supplies, although Isabella is reluctant to let them out of her sight, and has ordered them to report any discoveries to her first, and not to investigate them on their own.
The Heretic proved no help, giving me further cause to believe he had never set foot on Aeternum. He scoffed at the hunters, the foragers picking at berries, and remarked – rather oddly. “It does not matter. Aeternum, it provides bounty, but one cannot starve to death here. It will not allow it.”
I have grown sick of the man's chattering – every rattle of his chains irritates me. To know that he survived when many of the crew did not… it makes me think there is no justice here except where we make it.
|Isabella's health has improved from the voyage. While at times the fever rises, her spirit seems calmer upon land, as if anchored by finally being upon Aeternum's shores.
The determination she showed at the darkest parts of the voyage is still with her, but there is a crueler edge to it. It worries me, for when the crew return from hunting and scouting the isle, she asks them many questions as if searching them for a trace of a lie.
I have taken to hiding my journal pages. I now know for certain Isabella would not take kindly to reading them, and their existence would not paint the journey and its goals in a favorable light. Although I could burn the records, my hand hesitates… I have recorded all I have seen truly, and I fear if it were destroyed, Captain Isabella's expedition would be hers to recount alone, and it would be far from the truth.
|The Heretic guides our small group now, the most trusted of my crew. I can no longer waste strength on Keyes and her traitors of the San Cristóbal – I must find the strength that was promised, secure it, then the traitorous among her crew and mine shall answer for it.
The Heretic has guided us to a great canyon in the earth, the Ancient road spanned by an Ancient bridge – I do not know who fashioned it, and the Heretic himself does not answer. I think he knows, but he does not wish to say, as if it is unimportant.
I ask where he leads us, and if he truly knows where the Fountain of Youth lies. He simply nods and asks for my patience. The road is still long, and we have far to travel. I do not know if our provisions will last. The Heretic does not seem to care… and he does not seem to hunger or thirst.
I often see red at the corners of my eyes… crimson hues crossing the face of my men like the colors of dusk, but in the middle of the day… and even in the firelight. Our souls are stained. Or purified.
|One of the crew fell in the Cleave, swallowed by the ice and mist below. Perhaps he shall catch up to us… but I do not think our trail will be easily found.
We cannot spare the time to search for him or wait for him – no one even asks the question as to whether we will, we simply continue our march.
I remind myself the Heretic's hands remain shackled. At times, I think I remind him out loud, though the wind swallows my words, he still seems to hear and nod, as if agreeing that yes, I hold the key to his fate.
|I see now the Heretic has walked this path before… but not alone. There is a road, constructions, and the evidence of the passage of many feet, long ago. Many have made this pilgrimage, the Heretic is but one of them. Or… I laugh… perhaps he has led thousands here, one at a time, to the Fountain and its wonders.
As I laugh, I notice he is laughing, too, his eyes red and dark. He shares my amusement, as if he knows what I am thinking.
Another of our band has perished. He did not awake as we began our march for the day, and his neck was bent, as if something twisted about it and constricted. If I saw blood upon the Heretic's shackles, I did not remember it. We need him now, or else we shall be trapped forever in this frozen hell. He does not guide… he leads us.
|We have come to a great arch in a wall, a construction even greater than the bridge we had seen. Before us looms the great mountain, and the Heretic… it seems strange to call him that after all the truth he has shown us… promises us… promises me, for there is no one left, we have left everyone upon the trail behind us. There were three ships of us once, and the promise of a new world – and all its wonders.
They are intended for me. Fortune restored. Youth restored. The Heretic says we are close now. The base of the mountain, and we shall be there. I ask him what we shall find. He says such power that Aeternum itself… even the crown of the mountain itself… shall be lifted from its foundations, and all who come to the shores and beyond shall feel the power of it.
I do not know where the others have gone. There is just the two of us now. And what lies ahead.
|We are so close now… I do not feel the cold. The Heretic has asked me what slows my pace, and I told him that… and it has been so long… I wish I could merely stop a moment. Stop and pray that this path was the right one.
Prayer is strange to me. It brings memories. Of a simple stone chapel… across the grounds, in the shelter of trees. In a place that was once home.
The Heretic seems to share the memory, for he smiles. The Heretic… that is not truly his name, though… surely, once a priest, but he has spoken truth. Only a little further, he says, come, Isabella. But I do not hear his voice.
|I tell him we must stop. I must collect my thoughts. There are so many – if only I could stop for a time, pray… know silence again. The Heretic… the priest… walks upright now. I walk, hunched as he was, as if my body is forcing me to prayer.
Why, Isabella, you may pray here, he says. Pray at the base of the mountain. But the solid ground, it will not serve.
I feel loss at these words. I did not realize how much I needed to stop. How much I needed the silence, the feel of walls around me. The end to the crunch of shale and ice beneath my feet. And now I see… bone.
You must build a church, he says. It need not be a great thing… it must only be holy in your eyes. There, you may speak prayers, and know the truth of what you seek.
My hand is already gripping the first stone around me. It will be the first stone at the Church's wall. There are many stones around me, and I can mount each in turn, one atop the other.
The Heretic does not help me. I realize now he is watching because his hands are shackled. I shall release him. He is not my prisoner. A prophet, perhaps. Perhaps more.
When the last stone is in place, he says, the way to the Fountain will be granted. You will feel all Aeternum course through you.
You will live forever in this place, Isabella.
But when he speaks my name, it is in a language I do not know. It sounds like a blessing. Or perhaps… a farewell. But he will not leave it. A blessing it must be. It must...
|On this island of eternal life there have been established three parties of interest: The Marauders, The Syndicate, and The Covenant that shall thusly be referred to as 'Factions'.
These Factions represent their individual interests and motivations that shall be introduced to every new denizen (henceforth referred to as 'the subject') of Aeternum. Once all three introductions have been issued the subject is to return to the Magistrate of the settlement and make a formal, immutable decision on which Faction they wish to swear their undying allegiance to. Henceforth the subject shall belong to their chosen Faction and be available to fight in Wars for settlement gubernatorial control as well as conduct missions for influence within their Faction.
All members of each Faction agree to conduct their fighting away from the settlements of Aeternum, as they are hereby decreed sanctuary.
So the Pact is decreed and so it shall be so for so long as there is life on Aeternum.
Note: The bloody factions refuse to sign the bloody truce. Perhaps some change in wording would convince a representative to come forward and unite the Factions in this agreement.
|My fellow Marauders, if you will allow me a moment of extremely brief sentimentality, are among the bravest and most noble fighters on this island.
Here in our faction it matters not your creed or origin but how ferociously you can fight and conquer. The Vitae Aeternum Pact dictates that we issue a test of strength to all newcomers and, once proven worthy, extend the offer of membership to them.
While all factions must band together to fight the Corruption, the Marauders are without pretense, an uncomplicated bunch united in blood shed on the battlefield. What more could an adventurer ask for?
-Commander Hoang of Everfall
|The Syndicate may have thinkers from all corners of the world in a seemingly incongruent group of intellectuals, but we are united in the use of our mind before our fists or our hearts, often prone to error as they are. The Syndicate is superior in its objectivity and logical outlook on conflicts. We may have internal disagreements, but there is one thing we can agree on: we are better equipped for battle with our sharp, focused minds than the other factions.
Still, we must cooperate with the thoughtless Marauders and the small-minded Covenant against the Corrupted in the end, lest we desire mutually-assured destruction at the hands of the red tide.
-Alchemist Olivera of Everfall
|Our sacred cause cannot be beaten. The snakes of the Marauders and Syndicate stand no chance against us, but at the same time can be, if wielded properly, vital tools in the fight against Corruption. The enemy of my enemy is my friend sometimes, and the same applies to all those fighting Corruption. Though it is said "to lie with dogs, you wake with fleas," cooperation is at times necessary if the Corrupted tide is to be stemmed. This Vitae Aeternum Pact calls us together in the handing off of new denizens to one another to see where they best fit in, and if they are pious enough, to join the Covenant. After the choice is made, we still must rely upon others if we are to truly end the threat of Corruption.
-Adjudicator Amano of Everfall
|Should just crush them all right now, Pact be damned! What use is the Pact if no one does anything? If I were leading the Marauders, I'd make certain that things happened... force those Syndicate cowards to give over what they've researched, and wipe the sanctimonious smirk off the faces of the Covenant with my blade, if I had to.
Commander Joshi is a great woman, but the others bind her hands! If the weak were meant to rule, then it wouldn't be so easy to get rid of them, would it? I'll talk with her about it more, next time I see her.
|Commander Joshi has again proposed that we carry the fight to the north... and while the day will come that we must do this, the time is not yet right. I, and the rest of my brethren, are certain that we will uncover something that will give us an edge over the Corruption. The Ancients must have had some way of fighting against it, perhaps they were too few at the end, or there was not enough time?
That halfwit Amano tried to say that the Ancients fell because they lacked faith, that the Covenant is stronger than the Ancients were because of it. I could have throttled her right then.
We must not be hasty. And I must control my temper.
|While this Pact has made these sanctuary settlements much quieter, I fear it has only prolonged the existing conflict. Each leader knows that the Corruption is the true enemy, the rot at the center of all chaos across the island, yet none is willing to step back and accept another viewpoint.
I refuse to be caught up in the rank venality of the Marauders, and even if Alchemist Long and I sometimes agree on the blessed nature of azoth, her inability to find faith in our cause makes her a difficult ally. While I am certain our beliefs will act as both sword and shield against the darkness ahead, I am at least willing to grant that some members of the other Factions make points to consider. That does not make me doubt our cause, no... I believe it makes me stronger in it.
|I hate committees. Always have. When two or more imbeciles are too scared or stupid to act, they form a committee.
But against my better judgement. I agreed to this pact between the factions. I thought the common threat of Corruption was obvious enough that we'd be compelled to take action. But whenever I propose a joint attack, I am blocked by cowards! The Syndicate hides behind its paperwork, and the Covenant hides behind its pews. It's all just politics and posturing. Meanwhile, more good people are lost to Corruption every single day.
I must go, it's time for another 'strategy meeting'. God, I really hate committees...
|Progress is being made, but slowly. Others have spread far and wide, searching for any and every remnant of the Ancients. Anything that can aid us in the coming battle is immediately sent to a settlement for safekeeping and research, though we often have to fight off bands of Marauders or Covenant in the wilds.
They see us as easy targets, they see us as weak... but they do not know the knowledge we possess, which gives us an edge. Often, a threat is more useful than an action, so we have reached a stalemate. We may not be willing to throw ourselves at an enemy, but we are more than capable of defending ourselves.
|Those heathens! They refuse to understand that our cause is just and right, and with that on our side, we cannot fail! If they would accept that we have been chosen by Aeternum to fight, to restore the glory and divinity of azoth, we could wipe the Corruption away in a matter of weeks! But no, those Marauder fools want to charge in with nothing to protect them but their armor and blades!
Without faith in our cause, they will fall like a bloody harvest before the might of the Corrupted. But still, they do wish to fight... the conniving Syndicate thinkers, on the other hand, want only to sit and wait and hide, hoping for providence to fall into their laps.
|…the wind has died, so I'm taking the time to record my thoughts lest I forget them. Isabella was not our Captain when she first heard the rumor of the “immortal” Heretic. Whether it was from the gossip of priests or alchemists, I do not know, but it seemed ridiculous.
I know the alchemists put little stock in the man's claims of longevity – it was more in the blue vials he had on his person when he was pulled from the Atlantic. “Azoth” is what the man had called the blue fire, and the name took hold. Its properties were mysterious, almost magical, seemingly drawn from an unknown isle in the Atlantic. The alchemists claim azoth could win wars, tame nations… if only one could find its source. It's why we set sail, as unwise as that may have been.
But Captain Isabella's interests did not seem to lie with the azoth, not entirely. She had been more curious about the man who had been rescued, and wrote a letter to the Church, requesting permission to visit him. At first, the priests refused, but once Isabella insisted again – now with the royal backing behind her, the Church was forced to agree.
|The Expedition is off to a difficult start. The weather has been against us, the winds almost non-existent a week out from port. We drift, and exhaust more of our provisions.
Isabella has been ill, sometimes for days at a time, her cheeks flushed, and feverish. She cries out in her sleep, speaking of red-clothed priests, of evil visages… and then calls out for the Heretic, asking strange questions on what he has promised… azoth, the fountain of youth… the location of this mysterious “Vitae Aeternum” where all of these secrets lie.
|I do not know where Captain Isabella leads us, but I am bound to follow under my contract.
Isabella sought me out for my skills as navigator and pilot, and while I do not fully trust them (far from it), they have done much for my family, my sons, and for me. The crew knew not what to make of me at first, but once they came to know my skills, most relented. Many have become my friends.
I do not tell them we sail in search of a fable – if azoth is a fable at all. Isabella believes it is not, and if I must suspend superstition for a time, I shall.
- Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|We survived, although the San Cristóbal has not. The storm was fierce, perhaps the fiercest I have ever encountered, but the strength of our crew got us through… and perhaps God answered our prayers as well.
There is no trace of the Isabella's ship, the Santa María, or the Santiago, and while I fear they may be lost, I refuse to give up hope – I will send crew out to search for them as soon as we are able: our fellow crew are our first priority. I know Captain Isabella would do the same, and if she is searching for us as much as we are searching for them, it will not be long before we are reunited.
For now, we are making camp, and we shall see what tomorrow brings.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|The scouts have found no sign of Captain Isabella, the Santa María, or the Santiago. I said words to the crew that we should not give up hope, nor should we abandon the search. The Captain would not leave us behind and would not stop looking for us if our positions were reversed.
We have seen about doing what we could to repair our damaged sails. I have set some of the crew to the task on an isle they've dubbed “Stitcher's Ease,” taunting the men there that patching the sails is easy work (though far from it). The stitchers on the Ease have taken it all in good humor, however, and despite our predicament, the crew's spirits are high. The isle is beautiful, hunting is plentiful, and we have begun to craft spears and even bows to supplement our rifles.
I think we have come to a paradise, were we not trapped here. But I have faith in the crew, as they have faith in me. I think of what Isabella would do, and I shall not let them down.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|We have set up a small fortification, dubbed “Consolation”. While the animals on the isle are quite large and aggressive, the walls provide some shelter during the night. Our hunting parties are organized so we take care not to exhaust each area, nor provoke the wolves or bears unduly if we can find hunting easier elsewhere. The crew upon Stitcher's Ease have taken to fashioning fishing poles for the crew, and what we do not hunt in the forests and marsh, we can draw fish from the waters of the isle itself.
The crew's spirits remain high – while some of them spoke of fears of not being able to return home, those fears are rarely voiced now. The beauty of Aeternum is hard to ignore, and life on its shores… when you respect the isle… is not hard on the crew, and there is plenty of space for all. Some of the crew have asked if they might set up homes or claim parts of land for themselves, and so we have spaced out plots for those who wish to build homes of their own.
The crew treats me as their governor, even though I do not care for the title. I suspect that is why they trust me with it.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|One of the crew who was part of the party sent in search of the other ships I overheard to say something odd – and I inquired about it with the crew left behind.
The man had said something on Captain Isabella's character, and said that they would be worse off if she was found. It seems that even though the men search for her, some had a dim view of her efforts before the voyage. One claimed that she had made unhealthy alliances, even gone against the will of the Church by freeing one of its prisoners.
I gathered the men at this, and without identifying the ones who spoke, I spoke highly of Captain Isabella, and reminded them again that if she were stranded upon the isle, she would let nothing stand in the way of searching for us – her first goal would to be reunite with us and work together to find a way off the isle. I reminded them that her ship may have survived, but many of the crew shook their heads at that.
“Her ship was at the devil's mercy before it set sail,” one said. “It's said she had him belowdecks, and it was his guidance that led to their deaths.”
I had no answer to this, because I know of who the man spoke of, for I had seen him. A filthy prisoner, and I could not understand why Isabella had brought him on the voyage. I did not like the ways his eyes darted about, nor the way she seemed to focus on his every word, no matter how strange it sounded… as if she was hearing something else whenever he spoke, something we could not understand.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|A light from a fire has been spotted upon Weaver's Peak. It is not from one of our crew, perhaps it is someone else who lives upon the isle. We marked the position of the fire, and began to set up an expedition to head there the next day to make contact – to think, we may not be alone on Aeternum's shores!
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|What should have been a joyous reunion has unsettled me. The fire on Weaver's Peak was not anyone native to Aeternum – it was Captain Isabella and her crew. At first, our crew gave cheers and eagerly greeted our missing shipmates… but soon, the mood became hostile. Captain Isabella demanded to know where we had been, the location of our ship, and where we had been on the isle. These questions were not unusual, but the tone she spoke of them was more akin to an accusation.
I asked her what had become of her ship, and the Santiago, but she confessed she knew nothing of the Santiago and had not sought it out… and I realized she had not sought our ship out, either. I took in the health and disposition of her crew, and that made me even more uncomfortable. Many looked gaunt, starved, and were exhausted from what must have been a march of many days with little rest… but their expressions told of greater unpleasantness. Even old friends among the crew seemed unwilling to speak to us.
It seems few of Isabella's crew survived to reach Aeternum's shores. We have offered to share our bounty and food with them, for I realize we have had better success with hunting than it seems they have had.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|One of Isabella's crew asked to see me in secret. He seemed terrified of what Isabella would do should she found out… and so I agreed, meeting him with a few men from my crew in case the man meant some harm.
The tales he told were almost impossible to believe. He listed the men Isabella had executed, and how the crew remained, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of what would happen if Isabella caught them should they try to escape. I said surely he was exaggerating, and he said no, and then recounted the punishments that Isabella had delivered upon the crew she perceived as traitors.
He then asked if he might join us, and that if we agreed, he would slip away with us tonight. I told him I had not planned on leaving, but inviting Isabella with us – along with the whole crew. He grew frightened at this and warned that we should leave at once and that we were in danger the longer we stayed.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|The crewman recounted Captain Isabella had been sick on the voyage… but he was more concerned with the prisoner she had brought aboard. “A devil given flesh,” he called him, and he crossed himself as he did. The crew man was convinced the man was a curse, that he had been responsible for the ills that beset the voyage. I pressed him on this, and said the man had been a guide… and had led us to Aeternum at Isabella's request.
“Aye,” the man replied. “I think he knew the way here, but he didn't mean for all of us. He's been here before, that much is true. But he didn't lead us here for azoth or gold or even to help us… he brought us here for some other cause, and there was no grace in his act.”
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|It has been two days since encountering Isabella upon Weaver's Peak. After her crewman's disturbing tale, I resolved not to come to any decision without speaking to Isabella first. I found his tale difficult to stomach, but the sincerity and fear in his words were hard for me to ignore.
As it turned out, I would not get the chance to speak to her. I heard the screams at first – moving quickly in case we had been attacked, I found her in front of a roaring fire… and the crewman who had spoke to me was upon the blaze, screaming. Isabella was shouting at her crew encircling the blaze, that the man was disloyal, that he cared only for himself… he sought to split from the Expedition… and the next words chilled me, for then she added, as the “crew of the San Cristóbal had done, and sought to leave us behind.”
She had gone truly, completely mad – and I knew then, she meant to harm us for she saw us not as fellow crew, but as traitors, all.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|Isabella's crew attacked again… they threw themselves against the walls of Consolation as if they knew it meant they would die. I see now how true that was. If there was any doubt, the isle grants life to those who perish… and Isabella uses it like a weapon, hurling the crew against our walls knowing they shall soon be under her command again. It is vile, evil… what drove her to this?
Only our knowledge of the Fen has kept her at bay – she does not know the marsh as we do, nor how to avoid the animals and other dangers of the swamp. It seems the time we spent in exploring has been our salvation… for now.
My Captain, my dear Captain, what has become of you? What evil has been whispered in your ear?
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|Isabella has brought hell to this paradise. Our days are spent fighting or preparing to fight… we set ambushes, build Forts, and the Fen becomes choked with the wreckage of our battles. It has been months, and there has been no victories on either side… for every inch of ground Isabella gains, she loses it on the morrow. She seems to have thrown patience and caution to the winds, casting aside strategy and negotiations for the hope of a quick victory. Why is she so determined and quick to act?
She refuses all my attempts to speak to her. I no longer have any name to her other than “traitor”.
Several of her crew have fled to my side. They say while they fear her, they fear what will happen if they stand with her. Many of the crew wept when they found themselves safe at Consolation, and the few tales I have heard before are nothing compared to the tales of what Isabella now does to drive the men forward… I do not think she cares for me, she cares for what I might find on the isle. It is madness – I want nothing from this place but peace and a way home.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|I am convinced more than ever that Isabella's prisoner, the Heretic, must die. He has somehow placed himself in a position of command, and Isabella treats his words as scripture. I fear he delights… or is at least amused by this conflict, even though he is in chains. The fool has become the king. I do not know what unearthly power he has brought to bear over Isabella, but if she is to be freed, if she is to hear reason, then I must find a way to seize him and if necessary, kill him. He may have guided us here, but whatever his reasons, they were for some other purpose.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|Isabella has vanished with her filthy advisor. After the bloody fighting upon the ridge, it seems she abandoned her remaining crew to be slaughtered – using their deaths to mask her departure. We moved upon her camp where she had slept the night, but found no trace of her, no tracks marking her passing. Five men of her crew are unaccounted for, including the Heretic… we suspect they left with her.
We did find the Heretic's leg irons – when she left, he accompanied her, of that I am sure. I have sent scouts out to find their trail. I do not believe she headed south, however – she came north along the Ancient road in search of something, and did not expect to find us. Even with all the blood and death, we were nothing more than a distraction for whatever consumed her.
Wherever she and the Heretic walk now, I do not think God walks with them. I think they walk toward something else, and I do not know if we will see them again.
We have pardoned what men remain. Some have refused our offers, and they have fled, or still attack us, still blindly following their Captain's last command. I fear there is little we can do for them – but I hold out hope they will understand that we are friends, and that we should act as allies, not enemies upon this paradise that we have stained with our blood and our hate.
Chief Pilot Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|The scouts return. There is no sign of Isabella or the crew who left with her. They believe she headed North, but the snows were too heavy and the scouts were not able to go further.
What does she seek at the mountain?
The scouts also told me they found the Heretic's shackles, near a great arch further up the pass, but no sign of the Heretic. If he had passed that way, he had come alone – Isabella had not returned with him.
I wept at this, and I raged at this. And I feared most of all, he had walked to the nearest shore, then into the waves and cast himself once more upon the seas, to be found by a passing crew, who he would promise all the wonders of Aeternum if only they would follow his words wherever they might leave – and that he had been doing the same to others for a long, long time.
We shall stand watch against those who come, if the isle permits it, even if it should be a hundred years. And should all that remain be the wrecks of our ships and these simple pages, let it be enough of a warning to those who come to Aeternum.
Chief Pilot, Keyes of the San Cristóbal
|I fear the Captain is mad. She scattered Frederico's journal, shredding each page from its spine and casting them to the wind. The poor man, now bound, begged forgiveness, but she shouted over him, claiming he had tried to purposely conceal them from her, and they were full of lies, containing thoughts of mutiny and doubt in our voyage – and worse, she claimed it showed shortcomings in the provisioning of our voyage, and repeated attempts to prevent us from reaching Vitae Aeternum and its wealth.
She swore such lies would not be part of our history, and the chronicle was rife with lies and half-truths. I did not know whether to believe her… only that I knew I must put up appearances, or else I might face the same fate Frederico has.
|…If Isabella had executed the Heretic, we would all be better off, but I fear to give voice to the thought. The crew is already uneasy at our predicament, but others fear what the Captain and her loyalists will do now that we are here. For now, it is easier to go along with her commands than challenge them.
The Heretic, in a small mercy, has been quiet since our arrival, and seems content to sit and weave rope from hemp on the isle – for what purpose I know not, but if it keeps him occupied and silent, so be it. I have ordered Álvaro and the others on watch to make sure he is secured each night – I do not trust him.
Isabella still has sent no scouts in search of the missing ships and their crews. The Santiago, I am sure, sank beneath the waves, but the San Cristóbal I have more faith in: If anyone could have survived the storms, Keyes would. Perhaps her ship is still intact and can provide a way off this isle.
|The men grow restless, and as much as I think more and more of flight, I still find myself trying to restore some measure of order. I think when I leave, “Captain” Isabella shall not be able to bring these men to heel as she has with her filthy prisoner.
There was unpleasantness with him today. I awoke to find Álvaro and the men had made a joke of the ropes the Heretic had been weaving from the hemp… they had looped a cord around his wrists and were leading him about, as if on a leash. Even the Heretic was chuckling at the antics, and seemed quite delighted by the attention. The men, however, seemed to be taking cruel sport in leading the man about, so I put an end to it.
When it came to removing the rope from the Heretic, he suddenly spoke to Álvaro. “It's your turn to wear it now.” Álvaro laughed, shoved the man – but when the Heretic persisted, he struck the man, saying he would do not such thing. The Heretic looked confused at this and said most oddly, “It won't be your choice.”
The words angered Álvaro, who kicked his water bowl and what remained of the man's food into the muck, out of reach of where the man was lashed to the tree. I reprimanded him, but not as strongly as perhaps I should – as for the Heretic, I thought to burn the ropes he had made for good measure, but I could not bring myself to do so – the thought of even touching them seemed suddenly abhorrent to me.
|My hand is shaking as I write this – I can scarcely believe it. We have been searching for a path to the Guardianes at the insistence of Isabella, but the isle has not been making it easy. Isabella – and strangely, the Heretic – have been accompanying us, as if they want to be the first to reach the Guardianes. I fear Isabella grows more and more frustrated as the isle blocks our progress.
What happened the past day, however, has given me new fear of the isle. We were searching for a way south when the Heretic (who tripped on a rock) encountered a path concealed in the brush. We cleared it away, and found our way to a cove – unlike the shore we had departed, the cove had a chill about it, but we thought little of it. Night was approaching, and rather than risk a trek back in the dark, we decided to make camp.
It was when night fell that we noticed the lights… at first, we thought them perhaps mist, but they had form and a shape about them that resembled that of men – ghosts. Terrified, we fled the camp and were scattered in the forest. I spent the night hidden in a cut in the rock, and when dawn struck, I tried to make out what landmarks I could to find our way back to the camp.
Along the way, I ran into Captain Isabella and some of the patrol. Three were missing – I had been the fourth, and she lectured me quite angrily about running. I asked about the ghostly shapes we had seen in the dark. She insisted this was why we should remain together and avoid encountering others on the isle. She glanced at the Heretic, who said simply, “sometimes those who die here do not come back in the flesh. Those are of the Santa María, but they did not claw to shore as we did – their spirits are now… adrift. The island is filled with such phantoms.”
The men grew pale at this. Captain Isabella said we would avoid the area and continue South. The men secretly have given the place a name: Costa de los Ahogados, and they whispered prayers for the crew who had perished there and hoped they would find their way back to God.
|We came to two great statues on the shore. Isabella seemed angered at the sight of them, and the Heretic barely gave them a glance, as if he had seen many before. They are strange statues… possessing four arms, and cleft down the middle. Yet such a size they are! It must have taken many men to carve such figures, and the work of the craftsmen is fine indeed, for it is hard to see seams where the blocks of the statue were stacked, or even chiselmarks in the stone, if they used such tools. How they managed the spears the figures hold, I do not know, but such skill is impressive.
We searched the shore for a time – Isabella did seem to find what she sought, though I know not what that might be. Although the men were about to make camp, she told us we would march back that night and not sleep in the shadow of these “idols”. I thought I heard the Heretic chuckle at that, but it might have been my imagining. I long to strangle the man with his own chains.
|The Heretic was the one who suggested the execution, I'm sure of it. Perhaps he suggested it so that the Captain would not waste gunpowder, but no, I think the reason darker than that. The “mutineers” were brought forth. LaCuran was praying, Montes was apologizing to the Captain, begging for forgiveness. The others, including Álvaro, seemed resolved. Among the crew, we were silent, none of us wanted to join the men on their walk. When he realized his fate, Montes broke into tears.
By now, we'd known the rumor of the isle's power. Whether is was due to the azoth or something else, we did not know but any who died on Aeternum seemed to have some divine chance to return, reborn upon the morrow (perhaps sooner). The ghosts of the bay were proof, we had seen it with our own eyes.
As ghastly as the scene was, it made me wonder if the execution was perhaps some sort of test of the isle's properties, not merely an execution. I thought again of what the madman had said to Álvaro… and I saw Álvaro realized the same.
|…the nine men were bound, but not executed… on the contrary, the Captain waited until all nine were secured, and then held her hand up. “There will be no execution this day,” she said – but not to the mutineers, although many of them sighed with relief at the stay of execution. “We will leave them to think upon their crimes and their loyalty and revisit them on the morrow to hear their confessions.”
And so… the nine men were left, securely bound, such that escape was impossible. I thought to free them, as I'm sure did others – but Isabella's patience had already been tested, and there was no telling if she might turn on us as well.
But the Captain's order did not fill me with relief, it made me uneasy… why the change of heart when she had been so furious with them?
At dawn, I saw the truth of it.
|At dawn, we marched out to where we had left the nine men. They had survived the night, had barely slept, but they had fought against their restraints through the night.
The Captain, before the assembled soldiers, asked the men if they regretted their actions and repented the crime. She went through each in turn. Montes kept interrupting the others, and his apologies came so quick and fast she had to strike him to silence him.
As each repented, the Captain nodded… and the Heretic nodded, too, in her shadow. He had a feral grin, as if anticipating what was to come.
And then the Captain struck out at each each of the men, one by one… Their faces frozen in shock at the suddenness of the attack, until the bodies fell still. Nine crewmen, dead.
I asked if we should cut their restraints, and the Captain said no – and glancing at the Heretic, who nodded. She said they must remain.
|I see the why of it now. In the morning, the men returned… their bodies still bound in the light of dawn. Aeternum granted them new life, for the Captain to once again snuff out.
Yet I knew this was not the Captain's who conceived of this. I thought again of the Heretic, weaving the ropes in his tent, and now knowing the truth of the evil his hands wrought.
He had known this would happen. He had always known. He had woven some of his evil into those ropes, enough to damn the crewmen they would someday bind.
If the isle lends its voice to its evil, it is that horrid figure, hunched in the dark. Though leashed like a dog and wearing irons upon his feet, he acts at the isle's behest. He is its servant. As the Captain is his.
|We spotted a lighthouse in the distance, although it is not lit and is likely abandoned. Captain Isabella has ordered that we march for it, though not with the same fervor as the Guardianes, as if she knows it will not contain whatever she is searching for.
As with the statues, I wonder who built such structures – and where they live now.
|As we neared the lighthouse we saw that its design was strange. Captain Isabella believes it is a beacon that could signal others approaching the shores… it is encouraging to think that she believes we will not be alone. Perhaps if we find a way to light this beacon, we may be found easier by passing ships. The Captain said we would leave that act until we had explored more of the isle for ourselves, and only after we had secured the isle and made our claim clear, then it would serve to guide others to the shore should she allow it.
That night, the crew (quietly) whispered that perhaps they should make use of this beacon if she would not… what they had seen in Costa de los Ahogados still haunted them, and they had no wish to remain and join the spirits if there might be an escape.
I, too, share their fears. But I do not give voice to my thoughts. When I leave, I shall do so without telling anyone – but I must find a place where the Captain will find it difficult to track me first.
|We have made camp near the beacon. It is a curious structure, and it seems more like a great obelisk. Whatever fire it once held, if any, does not feel like it was for ships, yet I cannot explain why.
We have found many caves in the rock surrounding the beacon, and many skeletons as well. Each of them is well-preserved and their bones intact, still held together into the shape of men but how we do not know – but we are hesitant to disturb them lest it give them life like the spirits we saw earlier.
|As if the shipwrecks were not enough, the caves at the beacon are further proof we were not the first to set foot on the isle. The other ships we saw upon the shore… it looks as if they sought out this “lighthouse” as we did, and stored some of their cargo here. We have found various ancient arms and armor – some unrecognizable, but others were clearly Roman swords and helmets – while another man came across what seemed a Viking shield at the base of one of the caves. Perhaps the statues and the lighthouse were made by these other crews.
I fear, however, all the remains we found are just that: remains. And that these men were cast upon these shores as we were and never escaped.
Shall we also rest our helmets and spears here? Will that be all that will remain of our failed expedition?
|We explored some of the caves, but the chill we had felt in the Costa de los Ahogados was thick there, and we feared encountering the same spirits… or more ancient spirits of those who came before us. Captain Isabella got quite angry at this, even calling us weak, but finally relented after a brief word with the Heretic, who seemed to indicate what she sought must lie North of here, and that at least now we knew. I do not know what they seek, but I fear it will drive the Captain to do something rash.
I asked about the crates of cargo – they might contain valuables, or even some clues to elsewhere on the isle. Captain Isabella said we would return for it when we had more of the crew, but the cargo was not of importance now.
|Ruiz has asked us to make sure the Heretic is secured on our nightly rounds. I do not like it, and when we check on him, we check in pairs – never alone.
The man is strange – he does not even acknowledge our approach, and still persists in his continuous weaving strands of hemp into ropes. The man has made yards of it, but without purpose, for we have no need of it.
Still, if it occupies his time and as long as his shackles on hand and foot remain fast, then I shall count our blessings that he no longer whispers in our Captain's ear – and I am sure Ruiz is the same. I often think about looping the rope he makes around his own neck and let him quietly choke in his sleep. I know the others feel the same.
|Captain Isabella has ordered that no one leave the camp. Why we abide this woman's mad orders is beyond me.
I am not the only one. LaCuran and others agreed with me. There are almost nine of us in total now. Either we take command from her or we leave in the night and go in search of other signs of life on the isle, but to remain at Isabella's mercy will get us killed, we are certain of it.
|I, Álvaro Bento, am writing this confession of my own free will. Captain Isabella confronted me on my treasonous thoughts and as proof, showed me one of my own pages I had written expressing my desire to abandon her and the crew. I have betrayed myself, my crew, and worst of all, my Captain.
I am to be executed, I, and eight of the men who also sought to abandon Captain Isabella. It is no less than we deserve.
May God forgive me.
|Day 1 - I have made it, and although this scratch of charcoal is a poor pen and I had to wait for these books to dry to make use of them, I am grateful to God for both. When I was swept from the deck of the Santa María, I thought it was the end… but in the morning, I found myself woken by the tide, and I was safe upon a strange shore!
I have escaped the whip and curse of Captain Isabella and her filthy, nonsense-spouting dog of a prisoner. That foul excuse of a man led us to our doom, yet I have awoken in a paradise! Beautiful land as far as the eye can see and what I can take for structures upon the isle, although I know not the markings.
May Captain Isabella have drowned beneath the waves with her filthy prisoner. Though, I hope the rest of the crew made it to shore as I did.
- A. Damas
|Day 3 - There is still no sign of the Captain and the crew. I have constructed a makeshift shelter, and some simple tools aid my efforts. I am truly alone here on the isle, and consider myself fortunate. I am free of her cursed ship and her mad navigator. Even though I know I shall never see my contract fulfilled, I find that I do not care. The isle provides all I need.
There is no lack of food or water – game is plentiful, and I have found a spring from which I may drink. The very place restores my spirits, and I feel healthier and stronger than I ever have.
- A. Damas
|Day 7 - I found tracks today, and my heart became afraid. The tracks were made by boots, and made by many men. I do not think they were searching for me, but the direction they were heading was toward my shelter, and they may chance upon it.
I must hurry. If Captain Isabella survived and finds me, I fear for my safety.
- A. Damas
|We found one of missing crew today, a man by the name of Damas. The man had fallen overboard in the storms but had made it to shore and had made a simple camp in the wilderness – he seemed like he had fended for himself quite well, but he seemed reluctant to follow us back to camp – so much so I feared he might try and run from us. We were forced to bind him and warn him he was to come with us.
When we brought him back to camp, some of the crew gave a cheer to welcome him, but became silent when Captain Isabella emerged from her tent – her gaze was fully on the missing crewman, who I now realized, was truly our captive.
Isabella declared him a deserter, and ordered him bound and gagged, awaiting her judgment. Ruiz looked as if he wished to object, but I think he knew it would earn him a place by the deserter if he did.
|Isabella ordered Damas beaten for desertion. His pleas became screams, and when the beatings stopped, we were ordered to drag him to the great tree and bind him there so he would set an example. “Let him spend the night,” she said. The mutineers had long since vanished, and nine stone-covered mounds had taken their place – Isabella had finally buried them. Perhaps alive.
After Damas, Ruiz came to me in the night and said that if we were to find more of our number, we were not to capture them, but instead, warn them. He said that if we found others, they would end up as the one we had found today. I told him that Isabella would surely punish us if we disobeyed, and he hissed at me that we would be punished if we followed her orders as surely as if we disobeyed them.
Whatever she is, she is not our Captain, not any longer – if we do not leave, we shall end up acting as her or else we shall be executed as surely as the others we found were.
|Ruiz is gone. I fear to say “fled” or “escaped,” and so are the men, but many of us believe it to be true.
Captain Isabella has demanded a search, pretending that he must have been attacked by one of the beasts that prowl the isle, but I saw it on her face, the tremble of anger in her voice – she knew he had fled, and she was to blame.
Ruiz, I hope you have run far from this hell we have been cast into, and I pray to God you find peace far from here where you might live out the rest of your days.
|It has been three months as we have camped on Desembarco Eterno. This night, however, Isabella has ordered us to prepare to march in the morning – we are to leave the safety of the camp and head North, along the Ancient road the scouts discovered two days ago. It seems a gamble to uproot us all, but the men said that Isabella does not trust leaving men at the camp, not after Ruiz escaped and she fears more desertions – if we all travel together, she may watch over us more closely.
Whatever the truth of it, we are not such fools as to argue with her command.
|Captain Isabella has not yet said revealed our destination, and I am not sure she herself knows – she simply seems to be searching for something, and refuses to speak of it. The Heretic seems here to help her in her efforts, though his counsel has proven to our detriment, and to hers, I suspect.
In the morning, we march for the North. I for one, am glad to leave Nine-Man Knoll. I cannot bear that place, for I am angry at myself for those who were punished, yet still am relieved I was not a tenth man to join them.
|The Ancient road has taken us to the borders of a great marsh. Part of me wonders if Ruiz fled here, and I make a vow to myself that should I see him, I shall make no move to capture him – he has earned his peace, and I do not wish him to suffer as we have.
The marsh stretches out in many directions, but scouts have spotted a peak in the distance. Captain Isabella has ordered us to march for it, and plans to use it to see more of the land and decide our next destination.
And so we march. This fen is a foul place, not nearly as inviting or warm as the shores to the south. Yet the Captain orders, and so we follow.
|I, the great Simon Grey, will unlock all the secrets of these long-forgotten chambers. With Foreman Nakashima so graciously accepting my direction, the Amrine Excavation will yield marvelous results! May this mark the beginning of our journey into the depths.
|After months of hard work and guesses, I have made a true breakthrough! That wily Foreman of mine suggested we the transcribe the Ancient Runes. They are still hot with Azoth burning on the pillar in the chamber to the East. The man can be handy with his base attention to his craft.
After comparing the Runes with those in the chamber to the South, which is some sort of Entry or Vestibule Chamber, I made the brilliant leap... (marred text) has allowed us to reactivate the crossing using the...(the note becomes illegible)
|That idiot Simon is continuing to disturb powers beyond his comprehension. I am quite certain tinkering randomly with the Mechana in the Obelisk room will come to no good. I've taken the precaution of sealing this Chamber off to protect us from Simon and his fool pretenses at research. -Foreman Nakashima
Please take care of Barkimedes for a few days while I'm in the excavation.
Foreman Nakashima never gets any work done when he's around.
|After a recent spate of back injuries, the doctors of Aeternum feel compelled to issue this warning to anyone who transports goods between settlements:
Please remember that there are NO beasts of burden on Aeternum. No horse or donkey will pull your cart, carry your pack, or tolerate a rider. All efforts to domesticate or re-domesticate these animals have led only to injury and a lot of swearing.
Therefore, it's important to transport ONLY as many goods as your own back can bear. Do not overburden your packs or carts. This is not the Old World. In Aeternum, we must all pull our own weight.
Your joints will thank you!
|T'were the strangest thing I ever saw, even in this land of strangeness. Emmy and Abby, our ship cats, are the sweetest, most even-keeled creatures I ever knew. They stuck with me through storms, mutinies, even shipwrecks. We all three reached Aeternum clinging to the same piece of flotsam. They're my lucky cats, and I thought our bond was unbreakable.
But the very instant we touched shore on this island, their faces twisted up with hate. Clawed my face into a bloody mess, they did. Emmy damn near took my eye. Then they ran up the beach and was gone.
Something about this place put the devil into them. Happens to all the animals here, I'm told. They forget their trainings and their masters, they go feral. Whatever state took my Emmy and Abby, I hope they found somewhere dry and warm to sleep...
I saw Peaches again last night. You won't believe me, but I swear, it's true! She was eating the sugar cubes I left out. She ran away when I got close, but I'd know her anywhere.
I know you're still angry since she broke my arm, but it wasn't her fault. I do believe this island drove her wild, somehow.
I won't give up on her, Papa. She may be a horse, and she may have hurt me, but she's still my best friend. I think she hasn't given up on me, yet, either. I think she's thinking about coming home.
|Maybe if I write down my story, the nightmares will stop. Here goes:
I was coming home late from burning charcoal in the woods. The moon was high, plenty bright enough to see by. Heard a strange noise from the eastern clearing, so I went to check it out.
The clearing was filled with donkeys, a whole herd of them. Not grazing or walking around. Just standing still, like they were listening to someone. The one closest to me had a bridle on, the leather all rotting away like it was a hundred years old.
I must have made a noise, snapped a twig, like. They turned and looked at me, all at the same time. In the moonlight, I could see the whites of their eyes, shining, rolling, rabid. They opened their mouths and screamed, a sound like no earthly donkey I ever heard.
I ran. Couldn't have run faster if all the devils of hell were chasing. The sound of their hoofbeats followed me through the forest, all the way home.
I can't ever tell my mates about what happened, or they'll laugh me out of town. Imagine, a bunch of donkeys being the scariest thing I ever saw.
|To my dear brother Paolo,
How I miss civilization. How I miss the markets of the Rialto, where one could buy and sell anything at all. Imagine selling azoth to the princes of Europe. Think of the profits, Paolo! It makes me weep.
But even domestic trade is difficult on this dreadful island. The stormwall makes maritime shipping risky. And, of course, we all know what happened with the horses. Suffice to say they won't be pulling our carts anytime soon.
Thus, we must walk, and pull our own caravans. The pace of trade is limited to walking speed. It's simply barbaric. How can we progress as a society without easy, unrestricted trade? Don't bother answering, Paolo. We cannot. Life without profit, it is futile...
It's been four months since you left home to join the Soulwardens. Are you staying safe? Are you eating right? I miss seeing your face at the breakfast table every morning.
I said some harsh things when you left. I'm sorry. I was so scared of the path you are taking. All I want is for you to be safe and happy. I've never seen a happy Soulwarden.
If your training becomes too hard, there's no shame in coming home. Everything can go back to the way it was. Someone else can save the world.
Please write back.
|July 15th, 1060
The cities have fallen, one by one. Corruption crests like a wave, and we don't have the strength to stop it.
I'm so angry. I hate running. It's not in a Soulwarden's nature. But anger won't help our Order survive.
If you're reading this, it means we never came back. Maybe Aeternum is a very different place now. But if you're alive, still human, there's still hope.
Take this haft, whoever you are, and use it to stand against Corruption. We'll be standing next to you, in spirit. The Soulwardens always answer the call.
We're out of time. I have to go.
|Amrine Forge (Received by Mastersmith Ezra):
Coal, 1200 libra
Iron Ore, 2000 libra
Sanctified Silver Ore, 35 libra
Bronze Ingots, 300 libra
Leather, 200 libra
Azoth, crystallized, 10 libra
Lumber, oak, 300 libra
Amrine Forge (Delivered by Mastersmith Ezra):
Iron swords, 250
Bronze spearheads, 600
Azoth staves, 75
Magic arrows, 1000
Note from Ezra:
Yonas, this much coal will barely keep the forge lit. Unless we want to fight this war with sticks and stones, I need more supplies.
|**As you stare at the symbols, they seem to twist strangely in your brain. You can feel the shapes of the sounds in your head, though you have no idea what they mean... All you can make out is some hint that the Corrupted plan to attack the Angry Earth.**
Ubahâh Nog padeñâna t'obambi. Ngo xangi mihen bab a Eruweñ kâk'opambi axo t'obambi. Ngo ep'âgi yi manambi eatwak t'ehambi.
Pad Ubahâh Mabayibok bimpi ambi, mañ ami ba. Pab ketir, 'atku p'â ambi. Pab ketir, p'â 'ag ngub atkibipwepoxo.
Efitwek yi nox pikning pab 'anggur ven p'â kumoxo.
|In forge, in tree, in star, in stone
The ancient key, the welcome home
|I give my heart to shield my soul
I'm torn apart and remade whole
|The Curse of the Eldritch continues to plague us here in Brightwood. It has chosen the Brightrest Cemetery as its killing ground. Perhaps it had some connection to the place, in life.
All my cleverest strategies have served only to lead my soldiers to their repeated deaths. It's as if the creature is laughing at us.
The people of Brightwood have faith in the Covenant. If they cannot visit the graves of their loved ones, many will fall to despair. We must protect them, as the Spark protects us.
Please send more troops from the Fourth Battalion. Our need is urgent.
Lieutenant Templar General d'Aquitane
|To the attention of Templar General Carvalho,
The bearer of this letter wishes to form a coalition between the factions to fight Corruption. To that end, they have requested that the Covenant attend a parley.
I believe it is in our best interest to attend.
Our sacred charge is to vanquish the Lost. Our pragmatic need is to battle the other factions. Yet Corruption will consume us all, if we do not act.
Before we are Covenant, we are human. Grant me permission to attend the parley on behalf of the Covenant. I will represent our faction with honor.
Lieutenant Templar General d'Aquitane
|We followed the string of strange disappearances here, to the village of Dromgoole. We knew something bad awaited us, but we weren't prepared to find the entire village Lost.
General Carvalho is taking it very hard. Dromgoole was his hometown, and the faces of these shambling corpses must be familiar to him. But there's still no sign of the missing people.
Wait. I can hear singing coming from inside the church. Perhaps there's still someone left to save.
|As soon as we set foot inside the church, the singing stopped. No sign of the missing people, or anyone else. Who was singing?
The Lost seem to have fallen back, at least. We can establish a temporary command center here.
|General Carvalho hasn't slept for three days. His rage seems to be the only thing driving him. He slaughters two hundred Lost a day, but they keep coming back, growing more bold. We've barricaded the doors and windows.
I haven't slept either, but for a different reason. Every time I close my eyes, I hear the singing. Many voices, singing the same melody that drew us to this church. When I wake, they fall silent.
I haven't told this to anyone. General Carvalho needs my support, not my formless worries. I just need to get this song out of my head, somehow.
|The dead claw at our barricades. Sleep deprivation weakens our resolve. All except General Carvalho, who always swore that he would never become Lost.
Today, we finally found out the true extent of his resolve. To save his soul from being Lost, he sold it to Corruption instead. How many years has he spent preparing for this final stand?
Now the nightmare is in here with us, roaring rage at the Lost outside. He's tearing down our barricades to get at them.
It's so hard to think. The singing has started again, rising up from under the ground. Am I asleep, or awake?
|My colleagues and I have discovered a fascinating phenomenon at the ruins in Weaver's Fen. To call it a 'microclimate' would be an understatement. It appears to be a small, permanent hurricane.
I'm reminded of the colossal stormwall that pens in the whole island of Aeternum. This smaller one seems to act on the same principles.
The potential implications of this research are staggering. Among other things, we might finally find a method to escape this island.
|(To differentiate our phenomenon from its cousin, the Great Stormwall, we've taken to calling it the lesser stormwall, or LS.)
Some observations on the LS:
The vortex circumference is roughly 150 yards, and remains remarkably stable over time. Wind velocity is approximately 130 miles per hour. The eye of the storm hasn't moved an inch since we started observing it.
We do not yet know what lies at the eye of the LS. None of our attempts to breach the wind barrier have yet been successful. Perhaps if we were to build some kind of anchoring system…
|Our campsite seems to have been surrounded by wildlife sometime in the small hours. They're acting strangely, but haven't moved to attack us yet.
I've heard my fellow scientists make reference to a phenomenon called 'Blight' that infects Angry Earth creatures in Edengrove. The description seems to fit my observations of the creatures that now circle the ruins. The evidence suggests that the Blight is spreading south.
Dr. Fawn has hired several hunters to guard the camp perimeter from attack. I've persuaded one of them to collect tissue samples from the creatures for me. We'll see what the microscope reveals about this 'Blight'.
|A closer look at these Blighted tissue samples has revealed both animal and vegetable characteristics. Both hemoglobin and chlorophyll are present in the blood. Or is it sap? I have so many questions.
I also took a biopsy of the red, fungal-looking growths that afflicted the creature, presumably as the result of Blight. Unfortunately, the tissue sample ate through the glass slide before analysis could be completed. Curse these magical diseases…
Meanwhile, the lesser stormwall seems to be growing more unstable. Its circumference now varies up to 3 yards, and the wind velocity has increased. Observation continues.
|The Lepus research camp was destroyed last night. The lesser stormwall sustained a sudden energy surge that caused it to explode in size and force. Cause: currently unknown.
I awoke in the wreckage of my tent, and escaped with nothing more than the pajamas on my back. So much valuable research data destroyed…
It's my understanding that Dr. Fawn, who was killed in the stormwall flare, is now recommending against re-establishing the camp, claiming 'safety concerns'. Not to question my colleague's commitment (or her courage), but aren't a few deaths a small price to pay, to uncover the truth behind this phenomenon?
But I'll leave that for the ethics panel to decide.
Do not touch the Daughterwell.
Do not meddle in the affairs of the Angry Earth.
Leave in peace, and you will be left in peace.
Upset the balance, and there will be consequences.
|Dear Marauder lowlifes,
I've taken your champion's soul. It was easy. Yrsa is mine now.
Bring me the box, or I'll hunt down every Marauder in Aeternum.
Don't test my patience. I have none.
Thorpe, future ruler of Aeternum
|You are a traitor, a thief, and a coward. I should have drowned you when I had the chance.
These games have gone on long enough. I'm sick of hearing your name.
Come to me and let us finish this.
Bring my box, or leave it with your Soulwarden friends. I can just as easily take it off their corpses.
Thorpe, future ruler of Aeternum
By the time you read this, I'll be gone. By now, I expect that you'll all be celebrating your victory against Corruption. Pour out one last glass for me.
There are some things about being a Soulwarden that I haven't told you. At first, it was because I wanted you to just go away. But after a while, it was because I was afraid you would.
A Soulwarden never knows when the fall will come. We may last longer than most, but eventually we succumb to one of the two great forces that take every soul on Aeternum: Azoth, or Corruption. And when a Soulwarden falls, they fall hard. They put everyone around them in danger. An old Soulwarden like me lives in fear of that every day.
I can't bear the thought of hurting you, and wrecking what we've built together. I thought of slipping away quietly a dozen times. But I just couldn't bear to leave. That hope you showed me... the courage, and the leadership... that was my weakness.
I never thought I'd be part of something like this again. These last months, rebuilding the Soulwardens, I've been the happiest I can remember ever being. That's how I know it's time for me to go.
Seneca said, "Life, if well lived, is long enough." I've lived more than long enough, and I'm not afraid. I'll go somewhere far away, where I can't hurt anyone, and let Azoth take what's left of my soul. I think I'd make a good Lost, honestly. Maybe I could even haunt a spot with a nice river, for fishing.
Keep the Soulwardens safe.
|**The bar napkin is covered in scribbled writing. A ring-shaped stain from a beer glass makes it tough to read.**
**A few words stand out from the jumble:**
Captain Isabella and crew
"No survivors, no prisoners"
Killed one hundred, no, one thousand, no, TEN THOUSAND men
Deal with the devil? (Corruption?)
Please bless our village with health
Please grant us many fat children
Please keep the monsters away
Please watch over us
|When Corruption comes to smolder
In the furnace of men's souls
We, the deathless shields, will shoulder
All the fires the future holds
|Join our battle, share our fire
Meet us on the barricade
When dark rises, we rise higher
Ironclad and unafraid
|Chains of duty, chosen freely,
Never rust and will not break
All Aeternum can sleep deeply
The Soulwardens are awake
Here, the last of the Wardens are laid to rest
No corpses to bury, hearts and souls sacrificed long ago
Memories may fade, but this testament to courage shall remain.