My Dear Rackham,
I was delighted and reassured to learn Thorpe is alive, and that you have been reunited with him. Delighted because, despite his temperament, even before his transformation he struck me as the sort of man one would like have in one’s corner in a pinch, and reassured because what had seemed to be a needless self-sacrifice now turns out to be part of a larger plan. As for the others who did not survive – whether they were enthralled or they were doppelgangers, it is troubling. We have seen precedent for both, now. Hopefully it ended with Gates.
I have my own Jagdschloss news, believe it or not. It begins with Van Dyke; I fear I may have conveyed a mistaken impression of him in my last letter. Where, in his constant wanderings in the Castle, I saw a sort of neurotic mania, there turns out to have been a measured purpose. six days ago he asked me to accompany him so he could show me what he had found. Deep under Caeradarn, in one of the passages that seemed to pre-date the castle itself, he had set up a number of lanterns so that a particular stretch of rough-hewn wall was well-lit.
“Do you see it?” he said.
I took me a minute to understand what I was looking for. “Yes,” I replied. “Though I can hardly imagine how you noticed it wandering down here with a solitary light.”
“I have had to be thorough,” he replied.
We were staring at what could easily be mistaken for a slightly rougher stretch of wall in what was already a rough-hewn corridor. But there was a good deal more rubble than usual, and if you looked closely, you could see pieces of wood amidst the stone – a fragmented lintel. There had been an opening here, another passageway that had collapsed completely.
“I could have blown my way through with explosives,” said Van Dyke, “But if there is valuable intelligence on the other side, we might damage it.”
“This looks like it was a larger sort of opening – a new passage, not a doorway.”
“Even so. It occurred to me that we had another option.” He looked at me intently. It took me a momemt to realize what he was thinking.
“You want me to ghost through the rubble and see what lies beyond.”
“‘Ghost’ through? Is that what you’re calling it? I like it.”
I believe I indicated in my last letter that, despite my secret being out, I had been very cautious about using my Ability in public. In private, however, was another matter. Ever since my gambit with the arrow my ability to ghost had not only come back, but seemed stronger than ever. I was able to do it more readily, and with greater control, than ever before. Hence, any qualms I had about Van Dyke’s idea had to do with what might lay on the other side, not about the process of getting there.
I picked up one of the lanterns and stood facing the rubble. “Very well,” I said. “Would you care to come along?”
He gaped at me, thunderstruck. “What on earth do you mean? Can … can you bring someone else with you?!”
“Perhaps. I have never tried. But come now, use your head. When I walk through a wall, my shirt and trousers come along for the ride. My shoes, my notepad, this hideously heavy pistol you insisted I start carrying. I fully expect this lantern will come along as well. None of those things are me. So clearly my Ability operates in a field around my person to some extent. If you stay close to me, it will probably work.”
“Probably?! You will forgive me for being a little cautious. Maybe we could test your theory on … I don’t know … a cat from the village or something.”
I shrugged. “Next time,” I said. I confess I did not expect him to agree to it. But seeing a man who is normally unflappable so thoroughly discombobulated was well worth the effort.
In any event, the actual transit was perfectly routine. I passed through twenty feet of collapsed rubble and emerged into pitch blackness on the other side. The lantern had gone out, and it took a few tries to get it lit again, but when I did I saw the passage end ahead of me at a wide stairway going straight down. Standing at its top, I was surprised to detect a salty tang to the air wafting up from below. I turned around and rejoined Van Dyke.
“It is safe to blow through the rubble,” I said. “But while we’re at it let’s get a few more men. I don’t want to explore down there alone.”
The hardest part was convincing Campbell to part with some dynamite from the Sigsbee’s armory. He relented, sending Barksdale and a few more men along to make sure everything was conducted properly. It turns out Van Dyke was the one most experienced in the fraught art of demolition, a facet of his background that I had not been aware of but did not find surprising. He managed to set the charges in such a way as to re-open the passage without bringing the ceiling down on the whole affair, and soon after the seven of us were making our cautious way down the stairway on the other side.
It was a long descent, angled in the direction of the cliffs, that finally opened onto a large cave. My best guess, later confirmed, was that it was at or near the water line, tucked behind the cliffs that loomed over the scrapped hull of the Woodmere. Most of the cave floor was covered in water – ocean water, as was evident from the smell. The parts that were dry, all along the right-hand side as we emerged from the stairway, comprised what can best be described as a dockworks. A wooden frame jutting out into the water was just the right size to nestle a submersible craft, and built into the side of the cave nearby were a series of storage lockers, workbenches, siphoning tubes, and an oversized winch.
Subsequent exploration confirmed our suspicions – that the space appeared to be designed to host a submersible craft the size of your Jagdschloss, and that the floor of the underground lake connected to the wide ocean via an opening in the cliff just below the water line. As best as we can tell, this area was not sealed off during Brown’s departure, but considerably earlier – perhaps around the time that the craft itself went missing. Unfortunately this meant that there was little in the way of helpful information to be found; certainly no clues as to Brown’s whereabouts. But if you should ever find yourself in need of equipment and supplies to repair or retrofit your Jagdschloss, then know there is a place tailored-suited to your purpose, albeit on the opposite side of our treacherous island home!
Interesting as that discovery was, since I have received your letter and MacTallan’s map, I have thought of little else. It is tempting, but undoubtedly dangerous, to view it as a menu of places we could go, via the conveyance network. Should we retake Thornskye? Visit Skald? Check on the Caledonian Obelisk that you encountered? If I am reading it correctly, there is a node under Becket Cathedral! Or maybe we should go farther afield – the map suggests that there is a node in the vicinity of Essen (unsurprisingly), and a few others on the Continent as well! But of course it is not that simple. MacTallan succeeded in transporting you and your companions, once. I am reasonably certain that I understand the principals and could do so myself. But the risk is great, the outcome unclear, and a safe return is by no means guaranteed.
This much we have decided: Van Dyke, Jacobs, Sharma, and myself will be the first to attempt to use the network. A small group risks fewer lives. It will be the same merry band as journeyed to Mont-Bré! As long as Jacobs and Van Dyke can avoid strangling each other I’m sure it will go well. I have not decided on our destination, but it will be a test case – using the network to go somewhere nearby and then returning as soon as possible, just to make sure that it works. Nevertheless, I am sending this off to you beforehand in case things do not go as planned. If we end up someplace unexpected, well, I’m sure we will be able to manage … but if we end up someplace where I cannot signal a flyer and continue our correspondence – that might be more than I could bear, my friend!
You have not asked for it but I am sending you Rachel’s gift, the bright blood she left behind. Use it if you may; keep it safe otherwise.