The Isle of Skald, 7 December

Thingstag, 30. Elfmonat

MacTallan has passed this log-book onto me today, with the mutual agreement that I should fill its pages with as many details as I can during the upcoming journey. Upon handing it over, he made warm compliments toward myself as the chronicler of the expedition and praised my ability to let no detail go unobserved. Whereas I have seen the importance of keeping excellent records of everything we see and experience in this changed world, I am sure that I perform a mediocre service at best—but at any rate, I will use this nautical log-book during the journey to make what notes I can. Since I have run out of paper taken from The Waterford School, I will happily exercise this option, but make somewhat shorter notes while at sea. I will endeavor to capture the workings of the ship, details of how we navigate the voyage, and how the men fare in a strange and cramped environment.

– – –

Wodenstag, 1. Jahrende

December 1 and the weather has become no colder than it would be in mid-autumn. At least the lack of cold serves us in that it does not impede preparations for the testing of the Jagdschloss later this week, and as a further blessing, the last six days have been free of black storms.

Bennington and I expect to complete the work on the manual by tomorrow, in time for us to have a complete working copy aboard—although I should note that the most relevant parts have already become Gates’ abbreviated course for the men in the basics of piloting. Since Hollins has a young family and cannot be convinced to serve on-board as engineer, Gates will also be using the manual to train some of the men to service the engine—to the extent that two days’ study will allow.

Thorpe and Bledsoe have cooperated well in the acquisition of supplies for the journey, and we will have as much as we can take on waiting for us to load after we complete our tests.

– – –

Thonarstag, 2. Jahrende

Gates has ordered a day of on-board drills and walk-throughs for the men, complete with meals taken on board and confinement to their quarters for the evening, apparently to acclimate them to the experience of serving on a vessel such as the Jagdschloss. This leaves those of us still at the Downborough Arms a last quiet day of completing the translations on the manual, studying MacTallan’s maps and charts, and rest.

After supper Bledsoe related the news that Thompson was found dead earlier this afternoon by a fisherman who had strayed south along the coast in search of a catch. According to the man’s testimony to Bledsoe, he spotted a small boat out in the water, adrift, about a half-mile from the coast. In it, was the body of Thompson, sprawled out on the floor of the little craft. His face was pale and his body slack, and when the fisherman took him up onto his boat, it seemed to him as if he had been poisoned. Not knowing what to do, he brought the body back to town, where Bledsoe identified the dead man.

I wished then that Bledsoe had thought to at least alert Thorpe, or Bennington—but then again, with all of the business of the preparations for the crossing to Skald, I do not know what either of them would have spared the time to do, except to order that Thompson’s corpse be buried. This is what Bledsoe ordered upon seeing the man: and so that chapter is now completely ended.

After supper, Bennington offered that a practice among some Society operatives is to wear pendants which, when broken in half, would produce a hidden caplet of poison. In case they were discovered or compromised, suicide was ordered instead of the risk of revealing information under interrogation or torture. Perhaps this is what Thompson decided, finding no hope in striking out from the town into the bleak landscape beyond, and no ability to return.

– – –

Frigstag, 3. Jahrende

Gates and full crew completed day of successful tests. Diving ring apparatus appears fully functional; Greenley and Hollins congratulated. Single-screw steam engine seems fully operable, no problems reported. First test dive to 55 feet successful, followed by test dive to 120 feet at 6 arc-minutes per hour. This is as per Bennington’s translation of Knoten, about one and one-sixth mile per hour—thus our maximum speed is approximately 7 forward miles per hour.

All chambers on board have been inspected, with the maximum scrutiny possible, including the engine room, the storage and ballast chambers, the control cabin, crew quarters, and ready room. The ship has a small galley with a gas burner, a WC, with fresh water supplied though clever use of cooling condensed vapor along steam exhaust tubes. We also have two round pods attached to the hull that appear to be covered, windowless lifeboats, accessible via watertight hatches.

MacTallan estimates arrival at Skald, assuming linear movement at constant speed and time allotted for course corrections, in thirty-six hours’ time.

– – –

Samstag, 4. Jahrende

Last of the preparations and tests. Bennington has completed the last of her medical inspections on the men and confirms full health after both dives.

Bennington shared with me that after translating the technical manual, she concluded H-boat is of Society design, sold to the Saxonian Empire at outset of the War. Society inventors created steam-engine apparatus for diving. This conveys the water from inside the ballast-tanks into the condensation chamber by vibrating coils. Coils focus electrical power from the ship’s “amberite piles.” Water inside chamber then separates into vapors that allow the ship to rise or descend.

Irony of being conveyed in recaptured, repaired Society invention to recover lost, arcane weapon secretly sought by Society not lost on me.

Received Crane’s latest letter late in the evening from Alona. Too much excitement now; will read it after we have cast off.

– – –

Sonnentag, 5. Jahrende

Cast-off ceremony in early morning, with cheers and well-wishes of the entire port town. Bledsoe speech generous but not particularly inspirational. Gates and Thorpe generally confident, no errors on cast-off, ship’s engines sound strong. Total loaded cargo: three weeks’ food, medical supplies, clothing, and small equipment for exploration. Some weapons—Thorpe advises ammunition locked up separately from weapons, and Kilcannon at the watch with the key. Greysham coal reserves of 5 tons will be consumed during the journey, serving meantime as additional ballast.

Men remember past weeks of training well. High morale at sea thus far. Gates seems confident in men. Duty officers are as follows: Kilcannon as under-captain, discipline over men, general watch. Arasaku: Pilot-at-helm, follows Gates’ commands for rudder. Laray: Depth-officer, controls mechanisms for what we now call the “diving apparatus,” watches depth gauge. Wright: Co-pilot, follows Gates’ commands for forward velocity. O’Doole and Bell: Engineers, detect breakdowns, ensure correct operation of engines, make at-sea repairs.

Engines powered all through day and into evening at full speed, depth 30 feet. We have no awareness of waves, storms, or currents while submerged. All is quiet except for the rhythmic churning of the engine screw-shaft. Water-vapor air causes wet surfaces and some difficulty writing in book, but otherwise we are generally comfortable.

– – –

Montag, 6. Jahrende

Time is imperceptible in our wet metal tube. Awoke sometime the next morning after fitful sleep. Gates and MacTallan had already conferred: we have stayed relatively on course and now should find ourselves well into the Eastern Sea.

Some hours passed with no word from Gates, but otherwise quiet. Reviewed nautical map after short meal with rationed water. Alerted in ready chamber by strange noise echoing throughout. Low, thumping sound, each new noise punctuated by several seconds of silence. Men nervous—some heard similar sounds at front of ship, others heard in midsection, then as far back as engine room.

Sudden lurch to side—men thrown about, myself tossed against bulkhead. A cry came from Bennington in the ready chambers, and out the small porthole there we saw something moving in the deep. A long, reptilian tail swished suddenly against the porthole and the H-boat shuddered again, booming with the sound of the creature’s attack. Gates ordered a hasty surface and the diving apparatus engaged, allowing us a sudden burst of speed. I recalled Crane’s description of the sea creature during the passage to Machlou. Can only imagine that this was one of its cousins. Unlike the wooden boat, however, our iron hull stayed whole.

Gates ordered craft to remain just under the surface of the water, at a stop. We dared not to breathe for an hour. Thumping sound began to recede and then a cold silence. The air in the cabin had chilled to a frost and we shivered from both fear and cold.

Bennington mentioned seeing a tubular cupola mechanism in the manual to aid in viewing above surface, but had not labeled it, having found no word for it. Gates located this Sehrohr and operated it through a twinned eye-piece tube that descended from the ceiling of the vessel. Shocking scene: Gates described terrible force winds and heavy rains, sheets of water, descending from low, boiling clouds. Peaks of sea rose up to meet the clouds, as if being conducted through invisible funnels. Streaks of sparks, ball lightning, meeting furiously amidst the sky and the surface water. How glad we were then to be protected—and how lucky Crane must have been not to have been swept up by them.

Bennington then viewed the Sehrohr device. For a moment I saw her tremble—I caught her as she fell back in shock, mute, unsteady. “It cannot be,” I heard her gasp, and I helped her to a ready bunk. “I see energies in the storm.” Me, confused, struggling to settle my own disquiet: “Have you seen these—energies—before?” At this Bennington nodded, her eyes transfixed. Our immediate situation rushed to the fore of my mind; I whispered, “Are we in danger?” Bennington shook her head, but I was not sure if this was a response or an attempt to drive away the images that haunted her. I appointed Kilcannon to attend her, and rejoined Gates and the remainder of the crew in the control cabin.

Gates demanded an explanation, and seeing that I was unwilling or unable to provide one, concluded that we were not safe at the surface, either. “Deep dive, lads,” he called out, eyes still on me. “Hundred and forty feet or we scrape the bottom.” We looked at Thorpe. “Gates is captain here,” he said, “and we have already been badly delayed by all of this.” He then left to check on our doctor.

A whine and a shudder—diving apparatus engaged again, this time at its maximum capacity. Vaguely aware of forward movement but plane of descent steep enough to cause unattached objects to dislodge or roll. Men held on to seats and handles as ship plummeted downward into deep. Tiefenmesser reading indicated maximum depth; Gates ordered stop on apparatus.

[Log entry remains unfinished, account continues on separate page]

Crane, at this point I was unable to complete this log book entry to its fullest because of what happened after I had left the control room. I wrote this last portion to you from the shores of Skald, on chart-paper that you find wrapped around these log-book entries.

There in the silence and gloom we heard creaking as H-boat struggled to withstand crushing forces; having retreated to the ready quarters after several minutes of observing the men listening intently to the eerie sounds of the utter depths, I found a small gas lantern and penned the last few paragraphs of the log entry.

Just then, the H-boat shook violently and I thought in an instant that Gates had doomed us—but instead it was the engine screw from the rear cabin. Smoke floated slowly out from underneath the recessed door, and I could make out O’Doole screaming from behind it. The muffled but unmistakable report from a pistol shot then followed, and I feared the worst, paralyzed at my chair. I heard Thorpe sprint from his quarters, and as I steeled myself to peer astern into the long corridor, I saw Thorpe tear the iron bulkhead door from its very joints.

The hungry glow of hot flames beyond greeted our captain. Another shot rang out: but our snake-man dodged it in a blur—like a bolt, I tell you—and the bullet careened into a nearby pipe, causing an angry jet of steam to pour into the hold. I could see very little from the smoke and the steam, but Kilcannon sailed past me, shielding his eyes but intent on assisting his leader. I caught the general motions of a struggle and I heard another shot, and then a shout and a painful cry from a man whose voice I recognized—but whose presence was incomprehensible to me.

Kilcannon emerged first, and motioned to me to enter the galley. Finally remembering myself amidst the shock and urgency of the scene, I made out the outline of a water-bucket under a shelf. Passing Kilcannon the bucket, he retreated back behind the wall of vapor, and the light from the flames subsided. Then, out from the smoke marched Thorpe—dragging a sputtering Thompson, head firmly looped by a mighty arm-hold, stumbling behind Thorpe like a street urchin subdued by an angry constable.

I gasped, at the time not comprehending Bledsoe’s treachery, which is now obvious to me.

“He’s sabotaged the engines.”

For a moment all I could do was stare at Thompson in disbelief.

“What are you going to do?” I asked, recognizing a look in Thorpe’s reptilian eyes that I had seen once before.

Thorpe passed me with Thompson now going limp under his grip, and looked back for a moment. “What I ought to have done back at the Cairns.”


I had no choice but to follow Thorpe. As we both approached the control room, Gates appeared, eyes wide from the excitement, questions ready on his lips. Like myself, however, all that the seaman could do is watch Thorpe march the re-captured spy to the hatch at the side of the vessel.

Bennington and MacTallan exited the crew quarters, joining me there in the corridor as I breathlessly watched what Thorpe would do next.

“He’ll never survive at this depth,” observed Bennington. In her voice I heard a cold calculation—not a careful warning.

“That’s the idea.”

Thorpe turned and pulled a lever, and we heard the loud whoosh of the first of the lifeboats detach from the craft.

Gates stepped in. “What in Deus’ name, man—”

Thorpe stopped him with a glare.

He then turned the hatch wheel: his arm wrenched the wheel with a mighty strain as he maintained his hold on the now-unconscious Thompson. The hatch opened to the small crawlspace beyond, and Thorpe bundled the man inward. We could see him collapse in a heap as Thorpe replaced the hatch, sealing it watertight by turning the wheel in the opposite direction.

“For good, this time.” Another pull on the lever, and Thompson was sucked out into the murky void.

Just then the H-boat shuddered again, and from all around we heard an agonizing creak. Bolts and valves burst from above and near us as the pressure from the pipes overcame the metal that contained it, spewing water and steam.

“We can’t move forward, Captain, but we can still surface!” shouted Thorpe in the chaos.

Gates rushed back into the control chamber. “He’s right! Diving apparatus to full reverse—TAKE US UP, immediately!”

Instinctively, we all grasped the nearest safe handle and braced ourselves. The nose of the H-boat began to rise slowly, the hull groaning again as the apparatus answered its helm.

“Not you three.”

Somehow finding footing against the rise, Thorpe crossed the corridor and turned the hatch wheel leading to the other lifeboat.

“Get in.”

Bennington, MacTallan, and I looked at each other. What was Thorpe proposing?

Bennington looked at Thorpe. “We’ll make it,” she offered.

“No, we won’t. You know this as well as I, Doctor. There’s no time for argument.”

Thinking quickly, I grabbed my pencil, the log-book and the lantern from the ready room. MacTallan and Bennington hurried into the hatchway as quickly as they could, and Thorpe’s arm ushered me in to join them.

“One more thing, Rackham,” Thorpe said from behind me.


He held out the key on its leather strap—the one that he had taken from Thompson back at the Cairns. “You might need this.”

Beyond we found the shell-like lifeboat, a little submersible into itself; MacTallan closed a second hatch, and then the little lifeboat door, and sealed us in. A few more seconds and we felt a powerful thrust outward, like a bullet leaving a rifle.

From somewhere in the deep behind and below us we sensed a dull, sickening thump, and felt a strange bob in the water that disoriented us in our windowless pod. In the dim glow of the gas lantern, I noted the same expression of dread and horror etched on the faces of my compatriots that must have appeared on mine.

Perhaps an hour passed and we sensed a change in the air inside our boat. We soon heard the pelt of water droplets echoing on the hull: so with a kick, I dislodged the door, detaching it fully to reveal a sunrise horizon, the new sun dappling the waves. Some moments later and we three were able to climb out of the craft and onto its wide, flat roof, providing us with the scene of a wide, forested island looming not far to the east, and the wreckage of the H-boat bobbing up from the dark waves behind us. We now count it destroyed completely; the Jagdschloss has been lost with all hands.

You are able to read this and the log entries I have attached, in sum, because again our miraculous flyers have triumphed again: it is Alia this time who spotted us, having flown low along the water when she saw the glint of the debris and oil from the Jagdschloss fanning out on the water’s surface in the morning sun. We met her on the shores of the island, which she has confirmed from her own maps as Skald, after she was able to locate a suitable clearing on which to make a satisfactory but bumpy landing.

I had tucked your latest letter into the log-book and thus I was able to read it; I am glad to note that back in Greysham I had left the copies of all of my notes, and our correspondence, locked up in my desk at the Arms. I can only hope that these documents are not already taken by the traitor Bledsoe—who, as I see it clearly now, lied to me to conceal Thompson’s presence onboard the H-boat in order to sabotage it. I can only wonder what the spy offered to Bledsoe as a bribe that would be valuable enough to become an accessory to the deaths of so many fine men. In the meantime, since Alia knows well how to access the false bottom of the writing-desk, I have asked her to stop there first and secure my documents. She is clever, and I am confident that she will find a way not to arouse Bledsoe’s suspicions.

We are now only three, no food, no water, no equipment save what I took in our last moments aboard the submarine. I am sure that you will send supplies with our next flyer’s return trip—but until then, MacTallan, Bennington, and I will forage and sleep under the stars, taking refuge from the storms in whatever meager shelter we can manage to build from the trees. Our first hope is fresh water; there is higher ground on the northern part of the island, and perhaps there we might find a little stream.

And we have a key—a key to an unknown door with secrets more invisible than the door itself.

I can only wish that you fare better than we have of late, Crane, in your next adventures with Campbell and his crew, especially now that you are free of Robards. May fortune continue to smile upon you and find its way—somehow—back to us.