March 3rd, 1853
|The map left to us by our ancestors, such as it is.|
I have purchased this journal with the last of the petty cash. Everything else was accounted for; the climbers hired, the maps decoded, the keys to the front gates given to our butler, Blosip. If we never return, I suppose the old man will stay in the manor for the rest of his life. Certainly I have never heard of him having any family members. Maybe I never asked?
If you find this on my corpse: I was Elliot Klohr, last son of the Klohrs. I accompanied my twin sister, Brooks, on an expedition down the Face
of the world, following in the footsteps of our grand-uncle Patton Klohr. Hopefully we
won't meet the same fate as him
will survive the journey.
If you stole this from my pocket: Give it back, Brooks.March 5th, 1853
I've met the climbers that Brooks hired. I wish she had consulted me more. Some of them are objectionable.
Hereward, the old Zouave
, regaled everyone in the bar with tales of campaigns in the mountains. I had read most of those stories in my textbooks of military history. Hopefully his experience and wisdom will be more useful than his age will be a hindrance. Another two solid companions are Bintu Ebi the Vertical Ranger
, and his monkey-dad
Bill Toast. They both seem competent and are excellent climbers.
|Included here is a sketch by Brooks of Mr. Toast|
We will also be accompanied by a pair of... for lack of a better word: thugs. The Alpha Priest wears a blue mask
and not-much-else of mostly denim. She is unconcerned by the cold and was very rude when I recommended she put on shoes.
The other one is a monk
from the west of Aeshe. He wears a mask and a skintight silk bodysuit and I do not believe he spoke a word to anyone the whole evening. Later that night I heard him muttering while staring at the moon, but besides that I know nothing about him, not even his name.
Most worrying is Arthur McGill. He claims to be an Academy-trained archaeologist and manufactory
. If that's true, then his hire was commendably cheap. If that's a lie, then the Academy has heard of our plans. Hopefully nothing will come of this.
We sail from Kerlonen tomorrow, and will proceed down the western coast until we reach ice. Dogsleds will take us the rest of the way. The lodge that Patton launched his expedition from is only a few miles south of a whaling town which will supply us with lamp oil and food. Glory awaits!March 11th, 1853
Desperately, desperately seasick.March 14th, 1853
We reached the lodge around lunchtime, and noticed something strange; the whole building was frozen over, though it is too dry in these parts for snow and far too cold for rain. Perhaps there is some tectonic motion of the ice?
The building is still in fine shape, regardless of any encrustation. The thugs managed to smash their way through a back window while the rest of us were struggling with the front door, though they discovered nothing worth stealing (I think).
The Alpha Priest jabbered constantly while we searched for secret rooms. Several times she called the rest of us cowards, and ominously warned us of the threat of ice demons. Yes, demons
, this far south. It seems to be her primary concern.
Despite these distractions, she managed to destroy the master bedroom and reveal a secret study behind a bookshelf. It contained a few items of note, chief among them several valuable monographs on Patton's other expeditions to the blazing North
and the East
. Brooks is excited about this — no doubt those books will buy much rope and wine.
I found a chapel as well. There's
no easy way to put this
an easy way to put this: the chapel had been desecrated by some heretic ceremony. I do not want to go into detail. The monk pocketed the ritual knife, Brooks reconsecrated the chapel and I boarded the door back up.
Tonight we prepare ourselves, materially and mentally, for the beginning of the expedition. Tomorrow we will be on the Face
.March 15th, 1853
Much has occurred.
When I awoke something told me to investigate the cliff behind the Lodge. There is a spit of frozen rock there which reaches out over the darkness like the prow of a ship. I glanced at it last night, yet somehow I had missed a human figure. It stood at the extremest edge, peering out, leaning on its sword like a dandy might lean on a jeweled cane. I summoned the others in haste.
When we investigated, we saw the poor creature had frozen to death. He was hunched against the wind and covered in a thin layer of ice, much like the door had been. Beneath that layer of rime we could make out dark clothing and a bright green mask
The others brought him back to the lodge, against my wishes, and attempted to thaw him out. To all appearances the thing was a corpse — until the Alpha Priest took the sword from his hands, whereupon he immediately sat up and gestured for it to be returned. His sudden revival scared the Hell out of
us. I find their dog-masks of the Green Heretics creepy, and their inability to answer questions (they make themselves dumb with sharp knives and branding irons) annoying. Unfortunately the Alpha Priest took to him immediately, and the others were swayed into not throwing the horrible thing off of the cliff.
What answers he did
provide included a tally of his murders. I did not find that information reassuring. Brooks believes he accompanied the first expedition for some inscrutable, prophecy-related purpose, as the Green Heretics are wont to do. Perhaps our uncle Patton was the Messiah they are waiting for. Ha! If that's the case, then the dog is out of luck. Regardless, he insisted on accompanying us down the Face
. I will be keeping a close eye on him.
After that unpleasant meeting we finally began our expedition. Mr. Toast was an invaluable asset, as we could easily dangle his tiny baby monkey body off the edge by a rope and allow him to test the stone for us. By this method we quickly found our way, and Hereward's mountaineering experience guided us down the Face
of the World.
I was pleased to discover that the maps were accurate; much of the Face
is crossed with paths of a sort which do not require full pitches. The first such path we encountered was a series of hexagonal nodules jutting from the stone, where softer material had been worn away by the passage of ice and time. We made good progress at first. Unfortunately, we verified another element of my uncle's notes when we were attacked by a swarm of Eunoiacs
These awful things look like a murder victim wrapped in a carpet, or the bloated hands of a drowned man. Their voices cause madness — in this case, our porter-monkey
Altagracia "Steamboat" Fourpennysworth was afflicted with terror, and Bintu was struck with guilt for the death of his order. With guns, thrown rocks and a blast of poison fire
we made short work of the predators, but I fear they will be as common as ice slicks on our way down.
On a more cerebral note, we made camp tonight on a shelf carved by some ancient civilization. The walls are covered with religious symbols; masks, kowtowing figures, signs of the Brothers, and all that sort of thing.
We also discovered our first stone circle (these, if you are reading my journal years after the fact when it is published in some academic quarterly, are the rifts in space between which communication and translation are possible. Gold and information flow "up" to the basecamp; supplies and warm bodies flow "down", and this is how we can climb the Face
without starving to death). We quickly lit the circle and reported the day's journey to my sister at the lodge.
I write this update from my tent as Hereward takes first watch. With any luck, the rest of our campaign will be as uneventful.March 16th, 1853
Catastrophe has struck down two of our party members.
During the night, Bintu alerted us of a strange creature prowling around the edge of our lamplight. By its shining blue eyes I guessed it to be a product of wizardry, and by the sound of its iron claws I guessed it to be hostile. The Alpha Priest labeled it an ice demon and smashed its face with one of her hammers, and it fell.
We were on the paths around eight in the morning. The weather had shifted. All around us was a supernal glow; wizardry of some kind whose source was impossible to guess. It was enough for us to see a strange silhouette a short distance from the path, which I at first mistook for a giant of some sort.
Side note; I am sure of the presence of stone giants on the Face. Those titans who built the great cities and worshiped the Brothers are now rare in Aeshe and the rest of the civilized world, but my uncle's notes refer to a small community of them he met on his expedition.
"We have cut the ashlar of G_d with our hands,
as those hands were cut out by G_d, they say,
when the seraphs lit the stars with their brands
and the devils carried the waters away."
In this case, though, it wasn't a giant. Just a corpse pulled in half and frozen to a cliff-face with its own blood. I found it quite grotesque, but the Alpha Priest climbed out to recover supplies and a pistol from the frozen climbers.
Later we encountered another dead climber, this one more active. He had a screaming match with the Alpha Priest and threw an axe at me. It wasn't boring, but neither was it interesting.
I suppose I am writing my way around the point. Bill Toast and Hereward are dead.
About half an hour ago (as I write this) we assembled our gear for a climb. The map indicated that we could save a long, cold, roundabout journey with only a few hundred feet of climbing along the Face
. We had no equipment failure, or lack of skill among the climbers — their deaths were purely ill luck. Bill Toast slipped while recovering our line, and was broken by the ropes and his harness. It took us several minutes to reel him back in. He was dead by the time we recovered his body. Bintu replaced his cowboy hat with his father's bloodstained tamoshanter, and now sits by the campfire in silence.
Not ten minutes after the death of Mr. Toast, Hereward had a near-identical accident on the very cusp of reaching our goal, and bled to death before the gates of an ancient ruin of the races which predate Man.
For there is a ruin here, of course; the one which was marked on the map and which we were climbing towards. Patton's map marks their location (or someone has marked them on his map), but the surviving notes do not discuss them in great detail. We had hoped to find something of interest here, whether treasure or an item of more archaeological interest. Instead we seem to have found death after only one full day on the Face
Tomorrow we will explore it. Tonight we have laid Bill Toast and Hereward the Watchful under a cairn of stone and ice. G_d willing, they will not rise again. We have no means of blessing their graves.
I include here a sketch of the doorway, in case you found this journal on my body and are trying to retrace my steps. We have made it two miles.