Dire Spear of the Old Ones
My name is Jonas Hage. I was born in Hawkeye Pass on Atlantia. I fell in love with a girl. She was the captain of Northern Lightning Bug, a mercantile cutter that traveled between Atlantia and Cantr island, trading cacao beans for cotton. When I was twenty-two, I joined her crew. I wanted adventure and danger and most of all to touch her hair and see her smile. I had my spawn-father's sabre, from his cavalry days in the 1st Hawkeye Mahouts. I could barely lift it. I was an idiot and I didn't know it then, but I do now.
If you're reading this, I'm already dead.
The captain died yesterday. I found her tangled up in the netting, bloating, the crabs and gulls already picking at her skin. Her face was blue, and her eyes bulged. I cut her down and let the sea take her. Before her, Jack had died screaming, the anchor chain wrapped around his feet, pulling him under the blood dark waves. By the time we'd pulled him back up, me and her, all the skin had been flayed away from his ankles and his tongue had been bitten off. We threw him back into the water and huddled in the cabin together, not even touching, just huddling there, while a storm blew in from the east and thundered around us. Henry, Lefty Jon and Cassidy were before Jack. Fallon was the first. He died back on the island, when we brought this stupid curse upon us.
It was Fallon who had found the map on that derelict sloop. We'd boarded it after fifteen days at sail north-northeast toward Cantr island, and found its owner dead at the wheel, all clothes and bones and nothing else. In a box beneath a rug on deck, he found that map. It was old, made of supple leather, and pointed to another island, a much smaller one, only two days to our east, shrouded by the mist. It promised us unimaginable riches, some old pirate cove that had fallen out of favor years and years ago when the Atlantia Coalition had conquered the bandits and mutineers pillaging the coastal towns, and adventure beyond our wildest dreams. Fanciful creatures had been drawn on the back of the map, things with long bodies and short, stubby legs, iridescent skin and eyes on stalks.
We put it to a vote. Only Lefty Jon said we should forget about it and move on. He was the oldest one of us, eighty-four years old, and he knew poisoned fruit when he saw it. He'd served alongside my spawn-father in the war, one of the last great tiger-men before the big cats had been hunted to extinction, and he still bore the scars on his face, and the tattoos on his arms. But the rest of us didn't have the years he did. We voted to divert course and sail to the island, which we'd taken to calling Oldcove. We made landfall two days later on the dot, calm seas and strong winds making the passage easy, uneventful. The captain had touched my hand and smiled at me once in passing, but she called me by another name. I didn't mind. I had her eye. I was a man in love.
We left Cassidy and Jack to guard the ship, and beached the longboat. A wet, soupy jungle met us almost as soon as we stepped off the boat - there was only a few feet of coast, and then those dark, foreboding trees. Strange animals ran along the rocks in the sand, and hauntingly beautiful birdsong called out to us from all directions.
We pressed on, following the map, and only a few hours later had arrived at our destination. It was a sunken clearing in the jungle, surrounded by weathered stone statues and piles of stacked bone. A single stone building stood in the center of that circle of monoliths. The door had rotted away long ago; the captain went in first, and I followed her. Everyone else stayed outside, on alert.
The inside of the building was covered in gold plating - the floor, the walls, the ceiling. In the center of the room there was a stone table, and on top of that table, there the spear sat. It was breathtaking. It was easily six feet long and made of some strange metal - stronger than steel, lighter than aluminum - that seemed to absorb the light rather than reflect it. It had a broad, triangular point on one end, and at its end there was a rounded knob of solid diamond as big as my fist. The entire shaft had been ornately decorated and inlaid with gold, swirling runes. The leather protecting the shaft had rotted away, and words were visible beneath where the flimsy scraps still remained:
WHAT MAN HAS WRITTEN, MAN MAY READ. WHAT GODS HAVE MADE, NO MAN MAY KNOW.
Below it, a severed skeletal hand. Outside, Fallon was already dying. One of those great monoliths had toppled over onto him with a tremendous crash, and someone was screaming.
We took the spear back to the ship, not thinking anything of the cryptic words written on it, and set sail for Cantr island, already several days behind schedule. A storm was brewing and we took pains to outpace it, trying to put distance between ourselves and the memory of Fallon's crushed body beneath the stone, and the slow death that had been his: anguished crying, one lung crushed, his spine crushed, his legs crushed, his heart slowly pumping blood into his stomach cavity, his intestines pulped. We had a good heading, and everything was uneasily calm until the day Henry slipped and was impaled by the large trawling hooks we used to bring in the sharks and smaller whales. It happened in the middle of the night, during his watch, and Cassidy found him in the morning. His face had been frozen in a terrified moan. His eyes had been clawed out by birds. Cassidy was next, only a few hours after that. She dove headfirst into the sea and we never saw her again. After her, the curse took Lefty Jon. He pointed his crossbow at his eye and pulled the trigger. The bolt tip jutted out the back of his head. The quarrels crusted with blood and fluid. The storm washed him overboard.
I am the last. I took the spear out of the cabin and threw it into the ocean, but I can feel it still, even now, like it's right beside me. The weight of it lingers in my palms. The touch of that metal had burnt, and seared. It is a presence. It calls to something beneath the waves. I want to slit my throat. It's fear. That's what it is. Fear and love and a wild lust all rolled into one. It calls to something beneath the waves, and it calls to me, and even though we'd outrun the storm, the water surrounding the ship continues to roil and churn. I don't know why I hadn't noticed it until now. There are dark shadows there, and the glint of teeth. Something ancient and hungry waits for me to die so that it may feed.
I think that island was a prison, and the spear wasn't just a weapon but something more, something sinister. I think what's coming to kill me was always waiting off that coast, waiting for the spear to be stolen away from the land. It is something violent and tragic and sorrowful beyond raging.
I caught a glimpse of a giant eyeball beneath the waves, staring at me.
I sit in the crow's nest now with my father's sabre in my lap, waiting.
The mate of the spear comes calling soon. I fear I will never see Atlantia again.
If you find this, tell my spawn-father I died honourably against the alien dark.