Friday, August 12, 2011

The Island

Chronicler Gilles’ Personal and Travel Journal

As Commissioned by King Georges I

Part V: The Invasion of the Isle of Fae

Septembra 3, 1020: A lone sailor returns with bizarre tales of the fabled Isle of Fae, and his majesty decides that his claim to the throne through his strange, long-departed grandmother is not only a true claim, but that all of his kingdom must rally the banners and unite to reclaim his birthright. My loyal counsel that the island is not a real place goes unheeded, of course. I am but his majesty’s pen, and a pen does not have a mind of its own, he reminds me. Preparations have begun for a full-scale invasion in the spring. I am hoping that by then one of the dukes will convince his majesty that the journey is complete folly, but most are just as thirsty for adventure and conquest as he is. I would rather we were going south, to find the Eye of the World. The Eye at least is not entirely a fabrication; Claudius II did try to conquer it, after all, and his historian had the chance to record many of its wonders. Sadly my king looks to other legends, to the north. I hope that I am wrong, at least.

Septembra 16: It will be a long, hard winter for many. His majesty has ordered a portion of every harvest brought to his keep, in preparation for the invasion. Few are happy about the tax, and even less thrilled with the prospect of able husbands and sons going off to war, but that is the will of the king and the gods. I wonder which is more foolish. His majesty is within his rights to punish me for disagreeing with him so openly, but he merely laughs and says he cannot wait to see the look on my face when he proves me wrong. I am glad, at least, that his sense of humour has not changed.

Octobra 20: The winter is dull, but by the grace of the gods it has been mild. Spirits are high in the castle; many of his majesty’s favourite lords are wintering with us, and his favourite troupe has been asked to stay, as well. His majesty demands stories and plays about the fae nearly every night, and they are more than happy to oblige him. I have asked the fae in the troupe for stories of the isle but they all have conflicting information. I have forbidden Sadie from going anywhere near them; the last thing that I need is her running off with some fae singer claiming that he can show her the legendary island. Marge claims that they are harmless, but I’ll bet there will be at least one or two big-eyed bastards born in the castle next fall. The dukes will probably leave a couple with the women of the troupe, too. Marge urges me to be less negative when I write my travel entries, saying that history will remember me as a curmudgeon otherwise.

Decembra 34: Spring is a few days away, and his majesty grows restless. The banners have not yet assembled; his majesty has wisely ensured that nobody will march until all of the new ships are ready to launch. Duke Auxprence counselled his majesty to leave a contingent of ships behind, to protect the northern shore which will undoubtedly be harried by Wyk raiders at some point in the spring. His majesty laughed and promptly sent a messenger to his cousin Ulfwyd, inviting him to join him in the invasion of the Isle of Fae. He promised Ulfwyd a duchy on the isle, but many of the lords think that the two armies would come to blows over succession if the island were to be conquered. Thankfully his majesty took Auxprence’s advice, at least.

Marta 17, 1021: The harbourmaster reports that the ships are ready to launch, and his majesty has called the banners. The castle is all abuzz again, and Sadie is begging me to convince his majesty to let her join the expedition. He has other plans, of course, and has promised to wed her to a fae lord. I reminded him that the fae do not have lords, at least according to any that I have spoken with, and I reminded Sadie that women are not meant to travel, especially not in the company of soldiers and sailors. She told me that she hates me, for the fifth time since the start of winter. When Marge reminded her that I might not ever return, she threatened to dress as a page and follow the army. Why couldn’t the gods have given me a son, instead?

Marta 21: We have begun our march, and thus my true chronicling begins. It should take King Georges’ forces just over a week to reach Lombaux, where we shall await the rest of the dukes and their bannermen. The bulk of the southron and western dukes’ forces are already with us. We count nearly three thousand horse (that is to say, the knights) and another five hundred mounted mercenaries, mostly from the westerlands, though there are a few of the brightly armoured Noven horsemen with their crystal swords. Of men-at-arms there are a good eight thousand, and another thousand footsoldiers bought with the king’s coin. His Majesty expects another six thousand men to meet us as Lombaux, and perhaps a good few hundred from Wyk seeking plunder and glory. Better they are raiding with us than against us, his majesty reminded his lords.

Marta 31: We have arrived at Lombaux. The bulk of the army is camped outside the city, and his majesty has insisted we remain with them to keep morale high, despite Duke Anguy’s many invitations to stay at his castle. We await Duke Néro of Prevasse and his banners. At the moment the invasion force numbers a good seventeen thousand, counting all mercenaries and Wyk freemen. His majesty is anxious for Duke Néro to arrive and has sent a messenger. The longer we delay the less food we have in reserve, he has reminded the straggling duke. Many have reminded his majesty that the mountain passes are difficult in the spring, but his anxiety to set sail grows keener by the hour. He stares at the longships and wrings his hands. Some of the men feel differently. Many are excited for glory and the chance to see magic, or take home a fae wife and untold riches. Others believe the fae will call upon their heathen gods and sink us all in a storm. There are few who, like myself, do not believe in the legend. Sailors disappear all the time looking for it. If it is a real place, men were not meant to tread there. I believe that we will find nothing. I pray that we will return safely.

Aprila 12: Duke Néro has finally arrived, and we are ready to set sail on the morrow. His majesty shouted at the duke for a good amount of time, in front of the whole army. The duke took the tongue-lashing well and apologized, but pleaded for his troops to have a day of rest before sailing. They lost many to spring sickness in the mountains and he worries that it will spread to the rest of the troops. His majesty cannot abide any more delays, however, and reminded Duke Néro that sickness cannot easily spread from ship to ship. His majesty has demanded that I remain by his side from now on, the better to record his glorious voyage across the Fae Sea. I have not seen him this giddy since his father, may the gods keep him, gave Prince Georges his first sword.

Aprila 13: Our sea voyage has begun. His majesty is in good spirits here upon the Fury, and so far no issues have been reported by the messenger pigeons from any of our seven hundred boats. Many soldiers on the Fury are seasick, but other than that the mood remains positive.

Aprila 15: So far no sign of the Isle of Fae’s shores. A fog is creeping in. Dysentery has set it amongst the soldiers of the Fury and has been reported by several other vessels, but the water is clean and has not been tampered with so his majesty is certain that it came from the river in Lombaux.

Aprila 16: A storm hit us suddenly. I am below decks, scribbling. His majesty has commanded me out of the way, but I know not what to write other than that if the Fury falls and this book is somehow found, the fleet is sailing north by northwest toward the supposed destination of the island. His majesty is calling for pigeons to be sent to the other vessels but the captain is shouting that it is madness, no birds will fly in this storm. The ship pitches and the cargo deck is leaking. My (remainder of entry illegible)

Aprila _ (entry illegible)

Aprila _ (entry illegible)

Aprila 29: Still no sign of land, still lost. The fog has not dissipated. Would that we had the fabled arrow of Tracticus to guide us! We cannot even go by the stars at night. The boats are in a tight formation and we can call out to each other, but the pigeons are mostly lost and his majesty wants to be careful with the ones we have left. At last count we have two hundred and thirty-two boats remaining, but of those, many soldiers have been lost and many more are sick or dying. At my estimate we have seven thousand men remaining, only four thousand of which are in any condition for battle. Many of our food stores have mysteriously gone rotten, and not just on the Fury. Most of the dukes are urging for us to turn back. His majesty will have none of it.

Aprila 31: Land! We have spotted land just as the fog lifted. We are following ashore cautiously. No fae spotted so far, just a stretch of beach under a cliff. We are searching for a better place to dock the boats. I do not like to admit when I am wrong, but I am excited about this opportunity to be the first human to write of his findings on the isle.

Aprila 32: We have been fooled. After docking the boats sometime after midnight we came upon a small town, where the peasants huddled in fear believing that we were a Wyk raiding party. They speak our language. The dukes are talking of leaving and his majesty is ordering people back onto the boats. Somehow we have wound up somewhere along our own coast. Is this fae magic or just bad luck?

Aprila 34: Another storm. We are losing more boats, I can hear the screams and the crashing of wooden beams. His majesty is standing on the deck swearing at every god he can name. I am starting to believe in this island. Some god or the fae themselves do not want us to find it. I can say now that I do not regret whatsoever leaving Sadie at home, but I regret that I will likely never see her get married. I only hope that this book is found someday, to remind people that too much curiosity is a dangerous, terrible thing. If history remembers this at all, this voyage will be called ‘Georges’ Folly’, and it will be his, and my, claim to fame. I do not think I will ever get to see the Eye of the World. If anybody finds this, tell (remainder of entry illegible)

(final entry)

No comments:

Post a Comment