The Tale of Captain Johne



Damn thee . . .

I know thy names.

First thou didst steal my friends. Now thou hast taken and corrupted their names.

Damn thee.


* * *



Sutek returned today. I wept as I told my tale.

And may the fates forgive him . . .

He forgave me.


* * *


"'There is a darkness that shadows those three,'" Sutek said. He was reading the scroll he had addressed to me. "Words I did not write, nor can I see." He handed me the parchment. Indeed, the phrase was no longer there, what words were there, were not what I remembered. "An illusion," the mage continued. He appeared much older since his departure, his beard tangled and matted, his robes streaked with the gray dust of stone. "A trick by the shards to deepen thy madness."

"And my dreams? My visions of Mondain, Minax, and Exodus?" I could not subdue the shudder that pierced me when I uttered the names of the Triad of Evil.

"More of the same," Sutek replied. "Mondain's gem was the heart of his power, the very essence of his immortality. Perhaps that is why some scholars believe the gem ultimately spawned a soul of its own. Or perhaps the gem contained part of Mondain's spirit. It may never be known. Nevertheless, 'tis clear that the gem was not destroyed as was once thought. 'Twas merely shattered, its fragments hurtled into the Void for an imprisonment that would last an eternity."

"Or what should have been an eternity," I murmured, "if not for the raising of the Codex."

"True enough," Sutek agreed. "Our magic may have weakened the barrier between Britannia and the portion of the Void in which the shards were trapped; weakened it just enough that the shards could seek an escape from their imprisonment." He peered at me. "And they found thee. They brought thee and thy companions to the Underworld. They corrupted thee, just as Mondain corrupted the jewel when he stole it from his father so many eons ago."

We fell silent for many moments before Sutek spoke again. "I have found a way to the surface. Southeast lies the entrance to the dungeon called Despise, a labyrinth of mine shafts abandoned before the Age of Enlightenment. I've explored the lower passages, and I am certain with further exploration, we can find our way to Britannia."

Never had any statement spawned such hope and despair at the same instant: To know there was a way home, and to know that I could not go. "If I accompany thee," I said, "they will find us. Even by speaking to me, thou dost jeopardize thy life and any hope to warn Britannia."

Sutek nodded while he shouldered his pack. "'Twas good to see thee, Captain," he said.

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