Lost Port Royal Part 1 - Strange Signs
Monday, July 31, 2017
(After playing the original Call of Cthulhu Pirate scenario “Lost Port Royal” Friday, July 28 from 2 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. with Kyle Matheson, Hannah Gambino, James Brown, Ambralyn Tucker, Helen Koeval, and Yorie Latimer.)
The Golden Age of Piracy had been long and, for some, hard. The days of freebooting and piracy seemed to be drawing to a close in the Caribbean in the summer of 1692, however. With an alliance between Spain and England in 1671, the buccaneers of Port Royal had become personae non grata. When Privateer Henry Morgan became Lt. Governor of Jamaica in 1684, the English started cracking down on pirates.
Jamaica was taken from the Spanish by the British in 1655, an act that led to war between England and Spain that same year. Two years later, Governor Edward D’Oley invited the Brethren of the Coast (pirates) to come to Port Royal and make it their home port. Those pirates later became privateers with letters of marque given them by Jamaica’s governor.
The War of the Grand Alliance had been fought since 1688, pitting an alliance of England, Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, and Savoy against France. William III and Mary II held the throne of England since King James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution while Louis XIV remained king of France. Fighting had also broken out in New England in the American colonies as part of the war, pitting the American Indians against the colonists there.
In 1692, Port Royal, Jamaica, had a population of approximately 6,500 with 2,000 dwellings, a concentration of buildings and vessels all huddled tightly on the end of a long peninsula. As the available land diminished in the last 10 years, it was common practice to fill in areas of water and build new infrastructure atop it or build buildings taller. Most buildings had a shop on the ground floor and living quarters above. Newer buildings had adopted the brick styles of homes of native England. Wide streets of sand led through the town, the main roads 20 to 30 feet across.
But strange things were afoot in Port Royal that very summer.
* * *
On the morning of Saturday, May 31, 1692, two small pirate ships that had been working together to loot French vessels lay in the harbor. The Dautelous and the Golden Gull had been relatively successful in their endeavors but the crew had voted, in each case, to sell off their goods and ships and part ways. That meant two master gunners and a sailing master without work.
Flint Dawson was a young master gunner of 26. A simple-minded fellow, he had long blonde hair, bleached nearly white by the sun. He had wide, watery eyes that didn’t often comprehend what was going on around him. Solid, he was feared by many in Port Royal for his temper, which, when it did reveal itself, which was not often, did so with violence.
Flint had been quite bright when he was a child but his mother in Port Royal, a simple-minded woman herself, had dropped the boy many times on his head and even dragged him around by one leg. That had stunted his vocabulary and his thinking in general. Working with guns had not helped his disposition, unfortunately, though he sometimes had tiny, fleeting moments of brilliance. They were few and far between.
He loved all the animals of Port Royal and had a dog that he always fed when in port.
Theophilus Dawson was a dashing and beautiful sailing master. His looks defined him. Going by the name Theo, he had salt-and-pepper hair, cut short, and beautifully dark eyes. His smirk only made his 31-year-old face even lovelier. He had a thin beard that he kept immaculately trimmed. He was also very smart. He carried two flintlock pistols in his belt. Though beautiful, he was cruel to everyone except his brother and could really do no wrong, at least in his own eyes. He even thought himself too important for the prostitutes in Port Royal.
Theophilus was the brother of Flint, or at least they thought they were related. Neither of them had known their last name, however, their parents having died when they were young. They had chosen the name Dawson at the same time they decided they were probably brothers.
Brün Jeagar was hideous, even for a pirate. Nothing else could quite describe the 29-year-old master gunner from the Holy Roman Empire. He was tall and solid with short salt-and-pepper hair and was clean-shaven. But his face. His terrible face.
Jeagar had been caught in an explosion on board ship that had destroyed his right eye and ear, as well as his lower right leg. It left his face horrible scarred on that side of his face as well. Children were known to run away crying when they saw the man coming and a few had taken to calling him Jägermonster … but only when he was well out of earshot. Dr. Merriam Leighlin had been the one who had operated on him after the terrible accident.
He carried a brace of pistols in crossing bandoleers and kept a hatchet tucked in his belt. Due to his strength, he was considered a one-man cannon crew in Port Royal.
The three had been gone for about a month and there seemed to be a pall of some kind over the town, almost as if the bright Caribbean sun were dimmer there. They noticed the people on the street were acting somewhat odd as well. Men would not meet their eyes. Everyone seemed jumpy as if they hadn’t been getting much sleep or were having bad dreams.
They noticed several posters or papers on the sides of buildings as well as the same, strange symbol painted on some walls of Port Royal.
* * *
That same morning three locals were walking down the street when they spotted the sailors, who were familiar to them. They had not really noticed the pall over the port, but had heard some strange rumors of late.
Dr. Merriam Leighlin was a local surgeon, one of many that Port Royal boasted. He was English and not very attractive, with a thick shock of red hair and thick eyebrows. His face had several scars upon it and his clothing, though fine enough, was often bloodstained from his work. He was of average size and skinny and 25 years old.
Dr. Leighlin was not really a man, nor was he English. Originally from France, Merriam had vowed, at a young age, to be something more than she was. Immigrating to England, she posed as a young boy who had a penchant for both medicine and dissection. She had disguised herself as a man successfully for years, graduating from a prestigious English college of medicine before fleeing to the New World. She had even scarred her own face to appear more rugged.
Sam Fowler was a young explorer, being 19 years old. English, he was blonde and good-looking with chin-length hair. He was trying to grow a mustache and beard without a great deal of luck and wore rugged clothing. He had been all over the Caribbean and to both North and South America, having explored far in his short life. He often carried a musket.
He had a lot of friends in Port Royal, being very sociable and friendly with people. His parents lived in the city as well, his father being a blacksmith in town.
Dean Ackworth, Esq., was a gentleman adventurer and educated as both a merchant and a lawyer. He had dark brown hair, angular features, and a thin mustache that led to big muttonchops. He had a certain poise to him, being quite rich, and always wore a decorated small sword. He also had a monkey named Momo that he took with him everywhere. He carried two flintlock pistols.
Ackworth’s father was a merchant and captain with his own ship. He had heard a rumor of some great beast in the harbor. The man had not seen it, but when it had moved, the water had heaved up and down as if it were the size of a whale.
They had all heard of pieces of paper with a strange symbol upon it that had been appearing for the last few weeks. None of them had seen them but they had heard they were terrible to behold.
They all noticed the strange symbols that day which, in the cases of Fowler, Flint, and Jeagar, seemed to twist and squirm, reaching hungrily for each of them. It only lasted a moment but it was strange and unsettling. Many of the other residents of Port Royal seemed affected by the symbols as well. Some were laughing at the strange things. Others were crying or simply staring at the terrible symbol. One man walked down the street, trying to cover his eyes.
Flint ran to one of the papers and ripped it down, dropping it to the ground.
“Theo!” he cried out. “Scary words!”
“It’s okay, brother,” Theo called back. “No worries. Just keep going! Just keep moving!”
Dr. Leighlin looked aghast at a symbol. Theo stopped, shocked and scared as he noticed another. Flint gave out a roar and ripped another one down. When Flint saw some ahead of then painted on the wall, he started to pull down his pants to urinate on them. Theo stopped him.
The six finally reached each other on the crowded Thames Street along the North Docks.
“Oh, it’s nice to see you,” Dr. Leighlin said to Ackworth.
“Flint, what are you doing?” Fowler asked.
“Bad symbols!” Flint said. “Make brother sad. Me pee on wall.”
“All right, that’s enough brother!” Theo.
“I see your leg is healing very nicely,” Dr. Leighlin said to Jeagar.
“It’s wood now,” Jeagar said.
“I can see that,” Dr. Leighlin said. “It’s beautiful.”
Nearby, a carpenter was climbing up a ladder with a bundle of thatch in his hand.
“Hey you!” Flint called to him.
“Can I steady your ladder?” Ackworth asked the man.
The carpenter looked down and just nodded his head.
“Gimme some paint!” Flint yelled at the man climbing the ladder. “Paint!”
He noticed, when the ascending man looked down at him, the whites of his eyes were showing, his eyes open wide and his mouth opening and closing without any noise.
“What is he going on about?” Dr. Leighlin said.
Flint pulled his pants back up and ran to the ladder, climbing it as quickly as he could.
“Paint!” he shouted.
“Perhaps a cranial hemorrhage,” Dr. Leighlin muttered, noting the carpenter’s strange expression.
The carpenter looked back at Flint but kept climbing without a word. He got to the top just before the master gunner. Flint pulled himself up, taking care to stay near the edge of the thatch roof. He had fallen through many and had learned a lesson from that. The carpenter was moving up the edge of the roof towards the height and Flint grabbed at the thatch. The carpenter gave it to him without a word. Then he took the hammer out of his belt, backing up the eave. He took out nails as well, handing everything to Flint. He got to the very peak, removed his belt and handed it to Flint, and then turned and jumped off the roof of the house, diving down to the sandy street.
“No!” Flint screamed.
The man struck the street headfirst, a loud and nasty crack reverberating when he hit the ground. People scattered away from the spot. Some cried out in alarm and terror, some fled, and others looked on in amazement or horror. A few looked up at Flint as Dr. Leighlin walked over to the dead man and stared at him with astonishment and amazement. Jeagar was disappointed he didn’t see a coin purse.
“I didn’t do it!” Flint cried out, still standing on the roof with the carpenter’s things. “I didn’t do it!”
He climbed back down, protesting his innocence and crying.
“I didn’t do it!” he said when he reached the bottom. “Theo! I didn’t do it!”
“It’s okay, brother,” Theo said. “Nobody knows anything.”
“It’s okay, chaps,” Ackworth said. “We were all here.”
“I didn’t do it,” Flint sobbed.
He threw the hammer as hard as he could. It flew through the air and came down on the street, striking a man some distance away on the head. The man dropped to the ground.
“I didn’t do it!” Flint cried out. “I didn’t do it!”
He ran away.
“This man needs to get to my surgery immediately!” Dr. Leighlin said, pointing to the dead carpenter.
Ackworth and Fowler helped lift the dead man and Dr. Leighlin led them back to his house.
* * *
Flint was running and running and running. Then he saw a woman standing by a building and screaming at her shadow.
“Leave me be!” she shrieked at it. “Leave me be!”
Flint punched the wall, his fist going right through the flimsy wood. The woman looked at the man.
“Just kill it!” she cried out. “Get it away from me!”
She grabbed Flint’s left arm, clinging to him and shaking his arm.
“Finish it!” she cried out, laughing hysterically. “Finish it!”
Flint punched another hole in the wall.
“It’s not dead!” she cried out. “It’s not dead!”
Theo approached the crowd gathering around Flint and the woman.
“All right brother,” he said. “That’s enough. Don’t you think we should get on our way. We need a room and food. Are you hungry?”
“Lady in trouble, Theo,” Flint said. “Help lady, Theo!”
Theo looked at the woman who was pretty but also seemed crazed.
“Yes, Theo!” the woman said. “Kill it! Kill it!”
Flint, who had the thatch still under his left arm, pulled it out and shoved it into the holes. Someone came out of the building.
“What did you do to my house!?!” the man shrieked. “What’s that thing on the wall over there!?!”
The man pointed at one of the posters across the street and ran back into the building in terror.
“Alright, Flint, there’s no reason to keep this up,” Theo said. “These people are mad. Let’s be on our way.”
“Where we go?” Flint said.
“We’re going to go to find somewhere to sleep tonight and get food,” Theo said.
Flint turned the lady away from the wall.
“It’s gone!” she cried out. “It’s gone!”
She wandered away.
“Are you satisfied?” Theo said.
“Lady strange,” Flint said.
“Yes. Let’s be on our way.”
“Theo! Why lady scared of shadow?”
“There’s all sorts of things in the food nowadays. She’s mad.”
“No. Not like you. You’re a good boy.”
“Let’s go get food then, my boy!”
Theo put his arm around his brother’s shoulder and they headed up the street.
* * *
As the other four carted the corpse to Dr. Leighlin’s surgery, they saw a man in the street, beating his Negro slave and ordering him to get up. The slave just laughed and laughed, louder every time the man’s stick struck him. It was not a pleasant sight. They finally reached Dr. Leighlin’s house and took the body in.
Dr. Leighlin looked over the body.
“Well, it can’t be helped,” he said. “We can perform some various tests on this …”
“Well, I have to get to breakfast,” Ackworth said.
“Fine then,” Dr. Leighlin said. “My minions … assistants …”
“Yes sir!” one of the Italian boys Dr. Leighlin employed came out of the back room. “Yes sir!”
“It’s Gregory,” Dr. Leighlin said.
“Yes, it’s Gregory! It’s me! It’s Gregory, sir.”
“Calm down, boy.”
“Yes sir. Sorry sir. What do you need, sir?”
Dr. Leighlin got to work on the body, experimenting. Jeagar turned to Ackworth.
“Breakfast,” he said.
“Yes, breakfast,” Ackworth said.
“Sounds like a great idea.”
“It’s been ages since I’ve seen you!”
“Uh …” Fowler said.
“Oh look!” Gregory said. “His leg moved, master!”
Giovanni, Dr. Leighlin’s other assistant and Gregory’s twin, entered the room as well. Dr. Leighlin continued to cut up the body.
“Yes, my good friend,” Ackworth said to Jeagar. “Let’s get some breakfast.”
“So, you’re going to breakfast?” Fowler said to the other two men. “Why don’t I come with you?”
“Sure,” Ackworth said. “The more the merrier.”
“Breakfast,” Fowler said. “That sounds good.”
They left the surgery and the so-called surgeon to his work. They heard a crack somewhere behind them and then Gregory call out “Oh! Look at all the blood, master.”
They continued back along Thames Street and, on the way, saw two men sitting by the road, slitting their skin off their flesh and then playfully slapping each other with the strands as if they were playing some kind of terrible, insane game.
* * *
They all met at the Catt and the Fiddle Tavern, less Dr. Leighlin. The establishment was of some size and prestige, standing on the corner of Lime and Thames Street not far from Fort James. Peter Litton was the current owner of the Catt and the Fiddle, a tavern near the north docks. He was a good friend of Dean Ackworth.
Flint and Theophilus Dawson sat at a table, eating.
“Look!” Flint said, pointing at Ackworth as he entered. “Now we don’t have to pay!”
Theo rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Ah, if it’s not my favorite cannoneer!” Jeagar said to Flint. “And … the brother.”
Flint nodded and kept eating.
“What want?” he said between mouthfuls. “Me hungry.”
“How is your brother doing, Theo?” Fowler asked.
“I good,” Flint said.
“Quite well!” Theo said. “Quite well.”
As the men sat down, Ackworth went to the barkeep to tell them he was paying for everyone and that he wanted turtle and turtle eggs. He also ordered brandy. The man got to work preparing the food.
People in the tavern were talking about the signs and sigils. A few were talking about Flint throwing a man off a roof.
“How are you doing?” Jeagar asked.
“Fine,” Flint replied. “But man falling off roof make me sad. Theo sad. And now everyone thinks I─”
“Theo does look sad.”
“Everyone thinks I’m a killer.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“Oh, I fine. But I don’t want Theo have to explain I don’t kill people.”
“Everyone knows that, brother!” Theo said. “You’re not a killer.”
“But that person over there look at me strange,” Flint said. “Can I go hit?”
The man at the nearby table looked away.
“No,” Theo said.
“Can I go take his food?” Flint said.
“Normally I’d say yes,” Theo said. “But no.”
“You’re no fun,” Flint said.
“Later brother,” Theo said.
Fowler and Flint noticed the man started to eat more quickly.
“Now we’ll never get it,” Flint said. “Well, there is one way to get it.”
“All right,” Theo said.
“You gonna finish that?” Flint asked his brother.
“No, go ahead,” Theo said, pushing his plate to his brother.
Ackworth’s food came and he set about eating it. The others ordered their own breakfast and got fish, eggs, cooked potatoes, and a great deal of good food and drink.
Dr. Leighlin entered the tavern, fresh blood on his coat and hands. He had seen red-coated soldiers moving through the town, ripping down the papers. Some carried whitewash and paint and were covering the terrible yellow signs painted here and there on the walls. He joined the rest at their table.
“Hello,” he said. “So nice to see you.”
“Good morning,” Fowler said.
“Good morning,” Dr. Leighlin said. “Yes.”
Ackworth pushed his bowl of soup away upon seeing all the blood on the man.
“You should wash your hands,” Flint said.
“Why, dear boy?” Dr. Leighlin said.
“They’re perfectly fine.”
“You should wash your hands.”
Dr. Leighlin ran his hands through his mop of red hair. He called over the tavern keeper and ordered the duck.
“Oh, I do love creatures that swim!” he said with a smile.
“That’s pretty much everything they have here,” Ackworth said.
A pair of red-coated soldiers entered the tavern and talked to Litton, having a short conversation. Flint ducked under the table.
“I don’t know,” Litton said. “I had some on the front. Someone tore them down.”
“Right,” one of the soldiers said. “You see anyone suspicious, let us know.”
“Yes sir!” Litton said.
The two soldiers left.
“They think I did it!” Flint said, still under the table, his head between his brother’s legs. “Theo!”
“What?” Theo said.
“They think I did it!” Flint said.
“Oh, my dear boy,” Dr. Leighlin said. “Are you suffering from paranoia?”
“I didn’t do it,” Flint said.
“We all know you didn’t do it, Flint,” Fowler said.
Dr. Leighlin wondered if Flint was merely suffering from pressure on the brain. He knew it could be removed with a simple corkscrew if need be. Trepanation was not a terribly complicated surgery. At least not for the surgeon.
Jeagar got up and went to Litton, a portly man who ate a lot of his own food.
“What was that all about?” he asked the man.
“Oh, they’re asking me if I had any of those sigils, signs in my establishment,” Litton replied. “I didn’t. Told him there was a couple out in front this morning. Strange things. Don’t like ‘em at all.”
“So, what is all that about? I just came in, recently, to port and noticed all the signs up everywhere.”
“Oh! Those things been showing up around town every once in a while. Never had hundreds of them like we had this morning. I went outside to throw out the p*** pot this morning. Thought I was going to have a fit.”
“That sounds pretty bad.”
“It is bad! Did you see them?”
“Yeah. They’re a little strange. Unsettling.”
“A little? Unsettling! Yes! Yeah! That’s the word! That’s a great word for it! Unsettling.”
“Not like the setting sun,” Ackworth called across the room.
“Yes, yes, that’s right Mr. Ackworth,” Litton said to him. “Not like the settling sun at all. Unsettling. Indeed.”
“Masterful wordplay,” Jeagar called.
“I don’t understand some of the words,” Flint confessed to his brother from under the table.
“I don’t know,” Litton went on. “Apparently the soldiers are taking everything down is what he said.”
“Do you know where they originated or who’s doing it?” Jeagar walked over and asked.
“Nope. Haven’t heard. I heard a rumor. There was a priest. He was preaching. He was preaching outside one day. Not here. But down on York Street. He was on the corner. He was rambling on about Sodom and Gomorrah and how it was coming here next and how Port Royal is so wicked, just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Some soldiers rounded him up, because that’s dissention. But, before they could get him back … to the prison … they all went blind and deaf … and he got away. Scampered off. That’s what I heard.”
“Did you hear about what he might look like?”
“Oh no. He was a priest, so he must’ve been wearing black. It goes to reason.”
“Aye, it does. But that’s all I heard, apart from seeing these sigils. Apart from seeing these sijils. Whatever they’re called, I don’t like ‘em.”
“Thank you very much, Peter.”
“Oh, very good, sir, very good. You’re with Mr. Ackworth?”
“Oh, of course.”
“Here, have another beer.”
Dr. Leighlin’s duck arrived and he dug in with gusto, ripping it apart with his bloody hands. He gobbled down the meat, making choking noises as he didn’t chew his food well enough. As usual.
“I wonder if this … priest … has anything to do with these symbols,” Jeagar said.
“It’s possible,” Fowler replied.
“Priests are good,” Flint said from under the table.
“Well, we could go to the church,” Fowler said.
“Yeah, what street did he say?” Jeagar said.
“Let’s go to St. Paul’s Church,” Fowler said.
“What would you fancy, brother?” Theo asked Flint.
“I just want to do what you want to do,” Flint said.
“Aw,” Theo said.
Flint leaned over to Theo.
“Can we go to the church if we don’t believe in God?” he whispered to his brother.
“Yes, but not a lot of people do,” Theo said.
“Do you want to go with us?” Jeagar asked Flint.
“If I want to,” Flint replied.
He smiled. So did Theo as he now had someone to look over his brother for a while.
* * *
Dr. Emmanuel Heath was the priest at St. Paul’s Church on the south side of the town. There was an old oak church further to the east that had originally been built not long after the English took Jamaica but it was no longer used. They knew a synagogue lay somewhere in the town and that Catholic and Protestants met in people’s homes when they wished to worship.
Fowler, Jeagar, and Flint had gone to St. Paul’s Church to talk to the doctor. The fine stone church was empty on that Saturday so they went in search of Dr. Heath and found his house. They were able to secure a meeting with the Anglican priest and soon found themselves in his study.
Dr. Heath was a white-haired gentleman of solid girth. Clean-shaven, he almost had a boyish face despite his age. He wore fine but comfortable clothing and put down the bible he had been reading as they entered.
“Hello,” he said to them, standing. “Hello. Can I help you gentlemen?”
“Well, we heard a rumor of a priest acting oddly,” Fowler said. “Would you happen to know anyone like that at St. Paul’s?”
“Acting oddly? No. I’m the only priest at St. Paul’s.”
“Not a preacher with you,” Jeagar said. “But have you heard of the one spouting … nonsense right off of …”
“Nonsense?” Dr. Heath said. “You’ll have to be more specific than that, I’m afraid.”
“Something about Sodom and Gomorrah?” Fowler said.
“Ah yes, I heard that rumor,” Dr. Heath said. “It’s just a rumor, I’m sure. No man can make people blind and deaf. I’m sorry. That’s in the realm of God. But I do know that it is heretical to claim that one of His Majesty’s colonies will fall to the same symptoms as that terrible city.”
“Do we know who this preacher may be?” Jeagar asked.
“No,” Dr. Heath said. “He’s not any priest … he’s not the Catholic priest. He doesn’t have anything to do with the Jews here. Nor, as far as I can tell is he with the Protestants. So … he’s someone new. I have no idea.”
“So, he’s just a crazy newcomer?” Fowler said.
“He could be,” Dr. Heath said. “But if he’s preaching dissention … and it sounds like he is … if you apprehend him and bring him in, he’ll be arrested for it. In fact, I’m sure Governor White will be happy to lock him up until he sees the errors of his ways.”
“Thank you for your time,” Jeagar said.
“Turn him over to any soldiers that you find,” Dr. Heath said. “If you find him.”
“Okay,” Fowler said.
“Will do,” Jeagar said. “Thank you, Emmanuel.”
The priest glared at the master gunner.
“Yes,” Fowler said. “Thank you, Dr. Heath.”
“Ask him if God’s real,” Flint whispered to Jeagar.
“Have a great day,” Jeagar said to the priest and turned and left.
Dr. Heath nodded at Fowler and the man left as well.
“Is God real?” Flint whispered to the priest.
“Why, of course He is,” Dr. Heath said. “He sees into all our hearts and all our souls.”
“He loves us all very, very much,” Dr. Heath went on. “If you give yourself over to him completely, you’re guaranteed a seat in heaven.”
Flint’s mouth fell open and in amazement.
“Just keep that in mind, good boy,” Dr. Heath said. “Don’t forget to come to church tomorrow morning.”
I don’t like to wake up that early, he thought. Then he ran off, happy.
* * *
Theo, his brother situated and safe with others, had gone down Thames Street to visit with Lily.
Lily Campbell was an older woman of about 40 whom Theophilus was having an affair with. Her husband, Captain Joseph Campbell, was a merchant of 50 who was often away on his ship and Lily was very lonely. She was perfect for Theophilus, who thought himself above the whores of Port Royal. She also often paid the man in little trinkets or gifts for the pleasures he gave her. She lived in a fine house on Thames Street, her bedroom overlooking the harbor.
Theo was very familiar with the house and the servants and slaves, all of whom he bribed generously to guarantee his easy access when Captain Campbell was away. All of them knew and liked Theo.
“Captain Campbell is, of course, at sea, right now,” one of the servants told him. “Mrs. Campbell, she’s been acting a bit strange today.”
“How so?” Theo asked.
“I’m not sure,” the other man said. “She just seems off.”
Theo handed the man a few coins.
“Yes, of course,” the servant said. “Go right up, sir.”
He handed the man a cup of beer and Theo headed upstairs. He knew all of the servants knew of Lily’s affair as both she and Theo were very loud during their lovemaking. In his arrogance, Theo was actually in the habit of shouting out his own name during their trysts.
He found his paramour in her room. It was a large chamber with a balcony overlooking Thames Street and the North Docks. Lily sat at her vanity on the other side of the room, combing her hair with a silver brush. She didn’t look at the door as he entered, merely stared at the silver mirror and combed her hair. He saw there was a lot of hair in the comb.
A pretty young girl was in the room. Theo recognized her as Lily’s personal maid. She approached the man and he handed her a coin which she tucked away.
“Madam has been combing her hair for four hours now,” the maid said.
“Really?” Theo said.
He looked more carefully at Lily and noticed that though she was looking at herself in the mirror, she didn’t seem to see anything. He crossed the room, coming up behind her and putting his arms around her. He noticed her hair looked a little thin on the side she was still brushing.
“What’s the matter, my love?” he said.
“I cannot forget Carcosa,” Lily mumbled, still staring straight ahead into the mirror and continuing to brush her hair. “I cannot forget. I cannot forget Carcosa.”
Theo closed his hand on the hand that was still brushing her hair, hoping to calm her down.
“What’s Carcosa?” he asked.
“I cannot forget Carcosa,” she mumbled again. “I cannot forget. I cannot forget Carcosa.”
Theo turned to the maid without letting go of Lily.
“Do you know what this is?” he demanded.
The maid crept up to him.
“She went out this morning for breakfast and … she came back in a few hours ago and then …” the maid said.
She gestured towards Lily. Theo could feel his love pushing against his hand but he was much stronger than she. He moved to her side, crouching down and looking up at her.
“Why won’t you look at me, my love?” he said.
Lily started to comb again.
“Because I cannot forget Carcosa,” she whispered. “He’s coming.”
He put his hand in front of her eyes to block her view of the mirror. Lily continued to stare straight ahead and brushed and brushed and brushed. Theo stood up abruptly and turned back to the maid. The girl had crept to the door and looked uncomfortable, as if she wanted to leave the mad woman’s room.
“Get some of the other servants and get them to put fabric over the mirror,” he said. “Try to calm her a bit and get her to stop this. It’s a bit much.”
“Yes sir!” the girl called out, obviously relieved someone was doing something. “Yes sir!”
She bolted out of the room. Theo turned to look at his lovely Lily and then left the house to find his friends.
* * *
It was mid-afternoon when Theo found Sam Fowler at a tavern, drinking with his friend Timothy Dalton.
Dalton was a long-time friend of Fowler. Another young sailor, the two men were best friends and had explored the Caribbean together on more than one occasion. Dalton was an average-looking man in rugged clothing. They were talking about some of the strange things happening in the town.
“How you doing?” Theo said.
“I’m doing fine,” Fowler said. “How are you, Theo?”
“Good,” Theo said. “I─”
“Are you going to introduce me?” Dalton said.
“Oh, Tim, this is Theo,” Fowler said.
“Nice to meet you,” Theo said.
He turned back to Fowler.
“Did you learn anything today in your travels?” he asked.
“Nothing particularly useful, no,” Fowler said.
“Fair enough. I may have stumbled upon a strange term and I was hoping … perhaps you know it.”
“What kind of strange term?”
“Something called … ‘Carcosa.’”
“Carcosa. Never heard of it. Tim, have you ever heard the term?”
“No,” Dalton said. “Sounds Spanish though. Is it Spanish?”
“Perhaps,” Theo said. “I have no idea.”
“Oh. Oh. Oh. I see. I thought this was a game.”
“All right then,” Theo said. “I’ll be on my way to find our other acquaintances. Do you know where they’re at?”
“I heard your brother and Jeagar talking about how they were going to go talk about cannons,” Fowler said.
“All right,” Theo said. “I’ll leave you two be. Have a good night.”
“All right,” Fowler said. “You too.”
* * *
Ackworth and Dr. Leighlin had gone in search of the man who had seen the thing in the harbor. In the course of the day, Ackworth heard that odd rumblings had been heard under the ground in Port Royal. He also heard of strange lights in the water of the harbor in the early morning hours. Someone told him madmen seemed more common in Port Royal as such. At least one or two men or women a day seemed to go mad. Dr. Leighlin heard people had been going missing for nearly a month. Usually they disappeared in the wee hours of the night but some claimed others vanished from their homes. He also heard that someone was dragged out of his boat by something in the harbor. The man didn’t come back up.
It was in the evening when they finally found the man who had seen the strange, heaving water. He wasn’t sure what it was but noted the water rose up as if something underneath was coming up. The thing must have been at least as big as a sloop or bigger. He expected something to surface but then the water simply settled back down again.
“How high?” Ackworth asked.
The man wasn’t sure due to the distance but guessed the swell was between eight and 12 feet. He also told them the rumor of the man pulled from his boat, though he didn’t see it himself.
Dr. Leighlin was talking to himself again, jabbering on about sea life.
* * *