The foray we completed this past week reached a zenith of success: the current experience at the Cairns is expected to confirm Rexley as a town that is the cold epicenter of a catastophe, like Innesmere. “A weapon that is now defunct,” Stratham opined regarding the Obelisk. “Is it?” I asked. “Quite dead, I can assure you,” he replied confidently—and loud was my satisfied sigh! A transformed evil, then, one that I was very glad to believe was behind us.
Thus, the mysteries of the desolate Cairns, if anything at all, are similarly false. I suppose one could be fooled by one or two features; however, zero evidence is apparent to my eyes that the Cairns ache from The Incident. They had already used the word “vanished” to describe the effects when we arrived. Bennington and I observed today that it was with great difficulty and with extreme, dutiful caution that MacTallan inventoried only sparse outcroppings—now that we are here, it seems useless.
Bennington rightly feels that we waste time. Like her, I am anxious; a keening sense of the weight of past scholarly ignorance twists my pride, yet makes my thoughts focus my addled mind, bending them toward tomorrow. MacTallan wishes to return; he supports Thorpe’s proposed idea that your fruitful sea voyage, in theory, will yield similar fruit for us. I give us three days more to decide: reasons such as the insistence Stratham continues to make regarding used, outdated equipment are only one piece of the puzzle.
Word has now widely spread of our expedition; for over three weeks now, people from parts unknown have sought us at Graysham. If the ominous Obelisk taught us anything, any cuts of fortune, expected going in, are never set in stone. Those of us who are the leaders take a straight percentage (myself holding the edge of majority there), and from what we hear, these simple folk are merely the instruments of greedy Bledsoe.
A comet of inspiration hit me from the blue: today’s clear sky, devoid of black clouds, coincides neatly and somewhat propitiously with the anniversary of our shift in plans, made hurriedly in those fateful days. The ancient doorway was destroyed; the Society blessed us with Bennington, before we received the secret flood of information about her. The decision was made. Our ward was Caledonia, come what may. But today we all hold a fresh hope for a welcome lack of any key findings here, and if Thorpe agrees, it means new plans to leave here—perhaps to follow your team south. Take heart especially, Crane, that it yet unites us, although away you may be.
If his face is changed, Thorpe’s body is hale, and it is obvious that he is changing only outwardly. His mind more acutely computes strategy, and Bennington agrees that his iron will is untouched. Thus, to assist him further, we have found him a new lieutenant. Evidence of bravery and a showing of recent leadership at camp led to Arasaku; a bell rang when I proffered a memory of a lost, rogue, but herocially rescued MacTallan. From there, Bennington recalled Arasaku’s government had once awarded him the high honor of Bushido. Captain Thorpe was thrilled; he waits for Arasaku’s expected return. No better lieutenant could be chosen, we conclusively thought.
The path forward, therefore, is clear, yet we tarry needlessly. While the days pass and the Cairns yield nothing, our supplies are rapidly dwindling during this maze of indecision. I think of Thorpe’s map, which depicted caverns here, but no sites that attracted attention. An interesting twist—MacTallan’s torn, pencilled maps and charts are superior, and will now be used to take us through this territory.
A proposal I made a fortnight ago to Thorpe (and to Bennington) was that we explore the coastline. Perhaps eagle-eyed Alona can make some helpful reports from the line of clouds, thinner along the sea. Heavier cloud cover still remains on our horizon, but no approach is evident, thankfully, that may indicate that we will have to move north. A rendezvous will take place tomorrow at Greysham, between Arasaku and another squad of recruits. They place their trust in Thorpe; I commend them.
My enduring trust goes with him too; Alona holds him in regard but does not know his will in full. You can use a different measure and code of conduct for Robards; for all immediate purposes, he now commands an island. That must mean something, after all. Stay in his good graces—patiently, you may ultimately find in his new power some secret advantage.
Wishing you farewell,
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