Far across the Forgotten Seas, there lies a country lost in the mists of distance. Few travellers ever arrived there, and fewer returned to tell their tales. So many sailors’ wives stood for far too long staring out at the horizon, waiting for menfolk who never returned.
Those few that did return never lost that look of misty distance in their eyes. Even fewer still would speak of what they’d seen.
For a long time people, adventurers, in particular, wondered what great secrets that land lost in the distant mists kept to itself. They haunted and prowled the dockside taverns and inns, all seeking out those few who had come home. There would be the occasional one who would let drink loosen his tongue enough for the need to speak to overcome the fear of remembering.
I, and those like me, eager for fame, riches and the women fame and riches can bring – were, over time, able to piece together the tales and find out….
Well, there was not much to find out.
None of those that survived ever got further than the beaches where their rowboats pulled up. Those that went further into the land never returned. Those that stayed near the boats spoke with fear in their trembling hesitant voices about the screams in the darkness.
The lucky ones were the ones that stayed on the ships anchored far off the coast. They spoke of strange sounds amongst the screams, of lights in the forests that met the beaches, of weird throbbing noises like the angry heartbeat of some strange creature.
One or two even spoke of seeing something flying through the air above and around where the screams tore the air and died in sobs.
‘They was like witches,’ one drunkard told me before he fell face down in a pool of spilled beer. ‘Witches on broomsticks,’ he said as his eyes closed. ‘But worse… far worse.’
I sat at that table for a while, after making sure my companion was not drowning in the pool of stale beer.
When I looked up, everyone else in the room was silent, staring at me. No-one spoke, but I knew then it would be best if I left. If I left immediately – and if I were lucky – then I would make it back to my room at the town’s other inn. Another look at those faces around me assured me that my luck – such that it was – would not last long if I did not go right away.
So I threw down coins, handing more to the friend he’d come in with seated next to my sleeping storyteller. I told him to make sure the sailor got the money.
The friend nodded, swore to hand it over and thanked me. ‘He ain’t been able to go to sea, sire, since… Well, since then.’
I nodded, turned and left with the others there all watching me. They relaxed somewhat as I eased my way through the door. I felt my actions had been enough to enable me to leave that place alive, but little more.
Outside, I stood and breathed the fresh sea air, coming in on a steady breeze.
Out there, far away beyond the mists, that mysterious land lay. I cursed myself for my still strong desire to go there.
‘My brother… he went there,’ a voice from behind me.
I turned, but I could see little of her face in the deep shadows of her cape hood. ‘Oh?’
‘He went inland… and returned.’
I took a step closer.
‘His mind is… gone. But occasionally he speaks of what nightmare has just awoken him from what little sleep he gets.’ She looked down. ‘We need the money. You could stay the night too, with me… for money.’
The breeze from the sea made me shiver.
She turned to go, not looking back.
I stood for a moment and then followed her.