The Isle of Skald, 25 May

Thingstag, 24. Elter

Dear Professor Sanders,

Let me open this letter to you by saying that I should have liked to have made your acquaintance under very different circumstances and with a nobler aim than the one that motivates me today. In another time, however—or in another world, perhaps—you and I might never have had cause to correspond or contact one another. And more’s the pity: for good Dr. Crane has shared with me your steadfast alliance and goodwill at several different points, through the usurpation of your blissfully remote island, its dramatic reclamation, and now through the recent discoveries of the “Ashkurian conveyance chambers,” as Dr. LaGrande wrote to me recently. I must thank you principally for the support and friendship you have shown him, and congratulate you on the leadership you have shown at many points through difficult times.

It is LaGrande’s addendum to Crane’s last letter to me that had me sick with worry, at least until the Gallian battleship turned up off the Albionese coast some two weeks ago. It is with this news that I turn to you in this letter, hoping you at least might be free and able to assist in some way: the expeditionary force led by our gallant Captain Thorpe finds itself here in dire straits. I do not know what has happened to Dr. Crane since the 18th of May, it seems LaGrande has walked into the tentacles of a trap, and the town of Greysham has been reduced to ash under the punishing cannons of Gallian warships. What’s more, we (Thorpe, Bennington, MacTallan, Tollard, and ten trained but young soldiers under our charge, along with myself) find ourselves on the shores of the Isle of Skald, having made a frantic but (apparently) invisible escape in a steam-powered Saxonian submersible. We now find ourselves bound by a mission we never wished to undertake, brought to an island where we wished never to return and, according to most maps, never existed. We arrived here on a ship that we thought had sunk, led by a captain we had taken for dead.

I have enjoyed in past letters Crane’s description of his companions, not least for the color that each of them bring to the experiences he has relayed, and certainly with appreciation for their contributions to the success of his part of our shared mission. I feel I owe you at least something similar, if not as detailed—but there simply is not the time. For efficient context I will say that the names I have listed above, and mine, belong to those who we view as the leaders of our part of the mission, and at least one of them you will know well: Dr. Charlotte Bennington, formerly of your very College. I do not know how a mention of her will turn your mood as you read this letter, but I can put in, at least, that any hidden, personal agenda she had upon starting the expedition aligned to Society goals has been thoroughly erased with the new calling of rescuing the changed people of Skald and bringing them back to Albion, or what civilized parts remain. I hope you do not count it as impertinent on my part if I imagine much the same is true of you.

Captain Louis Thorpe is our leader in matters of security, exploration, and, if needed, combat—he has an Ability which has manifested itself by altering his appearance and agility to something approximating a walking snake-man. As for Professor Hugh MacTallan, he is an academician from the lost university of Thornskye in Caledonia, and our expert in the ancient origins of the phenomena which wreathe our current troubles. Finally, we are joined by Captain Frederick Tollard, formerly of the New Columbian Navy. His presence on the island is the most ironic, as we found him as a rat-man some three months ago on this same damnable island; we changed him back into human form in part by scientific breakthroughs made at your Elizabeth College and he has assisted us since—at first begrudgingly, and now wholeheartedly.

As for myself, I do not know the breadth or depth at which Dr. Crane has described me to you, but I must assume that you at least know some of the history of our expedition, how we parted ways, and what discoveries we made in the meantime, including the acquaintance of Rachel, the enigmatic figure from the world’s forgotten past who may well be the lynchpin upon which all our troubles turn, and from which our future fortunes stem. I have never made her acquaintance but nevertheless feel as if I know her, both from Crane’s letters and from the fact that it is by her blood that I was reunited with my body and Tollard was brought back to human form again.

I can assume, in addition, that you know the contents of Crane’s letter as of the 14th of May, and LaGrande’s addendum on the 18th. You may not, however, know that LaGrande had it in mind to see one Dr. Amory Brown, or you may be only vaguely aware of this; in the addendum to Crane’s letter, LaGrande had it in mind to find a meeting with Brown in the town of Les Rives.

– – –

Thonarstag, 26. Elter

(With apologies for having run out of space on the log-book pages upon which I write this, I will continue here.)

I am, of course, not sure how much you know of Brown’s work, his influence upon the alliance between the Society and the New Columbian High Command, or the critical discoveries he made in the wake of the finds at Essen after the Blood War. At the risk of assuming too much security between us, it is important that LaGrande meet with Brown and share what he and Crane know; if you have any resources at your command, I advise you to put them toward ensuring the success of that meeting, of at all possible or practicable. I will say that the interference of the Gallian military would have a deleterious effect, or at least a delay, upon Brown’s unraveling of the mysteries of the conveyance chambers, and you may consider giving Brown safe—or at least secret—harbor at the College for any further research that may come out his most recent successes in traveling upon them.

That the Gallians have shelled the peaceful town of Greysham meant to us that they were looking for something, and when they found it, they were bent on its destruction; I can only surmise that they received incorrect information that our expedition found whatever that was and had it in our midst. They were not, of course, counting that we had the use of a Saxonian Haischiff; they also must have known something about the black storms that plague the sea lanes between Albion and the Continent, since we have seen no sign of them since we landed at Skald. However, their outright murder of the people of Gresyham ought to give you clue enough not to assist them in anything they ask for should they remain on Garnsey. In a sad way I suppose I am glad to hear that the research halls of Elizabeth College had been ruined under the madman Robards, since it means the Gallians ought to leave you relatively in peace.

One item in particular that I know would assist Brown in the last stages of his research is a map that our MacTallan made for Crane. It describes the locations of the conveyance chambers and their interlinking qualities; it had been compiled by MacTallan over many years of research and now serves as a guide, if you will, to the many destinations that can be accessed through these mystical corridors. I would ask MacTallan to make a new copy here, but sadly, our copy was lost in our chaotic exodus out of Greysham when the Gallians opened fire. While MacTallan is confident that he can activate the runes of the chamber on Skald to get us home, his only hope in reconstructing the map is to return to Thornskye and hope that he can still locate the same notes of Von Neumann’s that assisted him in creating the first map. Thus, if you are in possession of the map that was given to Crane, or its copy—perhaps for safe-keeping, for example—I urge you to make two copies: one for me, here, that Alia can transport, and another that you can send forthwith to Les Rives.

I would be inclined to write more to you but we are intent to move out the next morning, and of course we do not wish to delay Alia any further. It is my hope that Alia can steer well clear of Gallian warships as she passes over the sea. My duties here have made it impossible to give her the fare-well that I should like; when she arrives, please remind her that she is my dear love, and if anything were to happen to her, I would consider the world ended for good.

With high flags,