Chapter 52 - Fragments
They chose the second stack and Rowan gave Alena half as they took turns to read aloud what they discovered.
“Already the rumors come from the desert that the Golden City of Carthuse lays in ruins, its people gone, and its water undrinkable,” Alena started off.
“The warnings speak of a terrible illness, but others whisper of darker things. They all agree on one thing; let the desert claim that accursed place. King Mohaddid three as recorded by his scribe, Talmud,” Alena finished the first letter.
“An army of one hundred men, from the legions of the accursed Roman oppressors, journeyed to the tombs in the desert where a city died in darkness. We warned them that those who venture there, never return, but they would not listen. Commander of the Pharaoh’s high guard, Talmud of Egypt,” Rowan continued with the next document.
“The Romans robbed the graves of fallen Pharaoh’s. They stole from the black tomb all that they could, and they did not heed the warnings of wise men. Death would follow them — Commander of the Pharos’ high guard, Talmud of Egypt,” Alena read with a frown.
“The Romans returned the treasure, and they brought an army, but it would do them no good. Death will reap them all for their insolence. The Royal scribe, Mohammed of Siria.” Each letter corroborated what they already knew.
“The Romans never returned, but the desert speaks of many men that move by night. They carried a heavy load, and the tombs are empty. How many more lives have the dead to reap before men learn? The Royal scribe, Mohammed of Siria,” Alena read, and both of them wondered if the deserters stole the treasure after all.
“A dark army came from the desert. They could only come from one place, and they came laden heavily, silent, not like men back from the waterless waste. A tall man led them with his entire body covered, in layers of dark, and dense cloth, not even his hands or face revealed. He spoke to the merchant traders, commandeered three of their ships, and he loaded the treasure from the dark tomb in their bows. Twice those ships crossed the ocean to move the treasure. The Roman soldiers disappeared, and so did the sailors and merchantmen with them,” Rowan hesitated when she read this, and her frown deepened.
“Someone spoke of a fortress on a jut of land at the edge of the sea. They found him drowned, and we asked no more questions. They must have gone from here to the closest shore, for their first journey was brief. For weeks after they left the bodies of the Roman dead washed up on the shore, bloated with no wound or reason for death. No shark, nor fish feasted on their flesh and among them were but one or two sailors. They were…” Alena sighed and rubbed over her face.
“Some part of it is missing, then: we burned them, and some of them screamed as they burned,” Alena continued, and Rowan shuddered as she listened.
“This ends, to my friend Mohammed who once expressed an interest in these things, maybe you can add this to your collection and to that be an end to this. Greetings to you who watch and would read this letter,” she concluded.
“I’ve heard of these people,” Alena said as she replaced the letters in the order, that they found them, Rowan lowered her eyes but said no word. They were quiet for a long time. Back on deck Marcus looked caught up in some deep thought, and once they joined him, he changed their heading.
“Where are we going?” Alena asked, and he shrugged.
“The letter said the nearest land and mentioned a voyage not long in the taking. We will have a closer look at the charts when we go down,” Marcus revealed. He noticed that a brewed in the east, but it blew away before the sky tinged with light.
During the daylight hours, they sat around the map Marcus chose. He drew his finger along a jut of coastline and Rowan frowned as she put her finger on it.
“There,” she pointed out at the whim of a vague memory coming from somewhere inside herself, almost as if from a stranger.
“There used to be a castle here,” Rowan experienced some odd shift in herself, almost as if she were two people. She was unaware that a single drop of blood flowed from her nose until Marcus caught it with his thumb.
Rowan seemed almost transfixed as she stared at the spot on the map, barely aware of Marcus as he cleaned her nose with his pristine white handkerchief. They spoke, but Rowan couldn’t hear them past the roaring of her ears and the intrusion of something both alien and familiar.
“It stood on the bluff, sentinel to the coast. It belonged to a wealthy man, some called him cruel, and vindictive,” Rowan rocked back and forth as she spoke these word. She’d become pale as death and sweat beaded her brow.
“One evening a stranger came. He walked past the guards, and they did not stop him. The dogs barked furiously, and with a single gaze from the stranger, they whimpered and whined. He walked past the guests to where this Ferdinand stood,” Rowan continued with her mind caught in another time.
“Ferdinand was a blustering man, rarely quiet, but at the sight of the fair-haired stranger, the words halted on his lips. The newcomer beckoned, and Ferdinand followed. They two of them remained absent for a while, and when Ferdinand returned, he was like a man unable to wake from a dream,” the other two looked at her as she continued, and they knew what she meant, they could see it in her.
“He gathered his wife and his daughter around him, and they complained as he dragged them to the exit. His wife wailed, and the stranger bade Ferdinand stop,” Rowan’s words came with a strange monotonous cadence that caused Alena chills.
“Take only what you can carry on your back, the man ordered the wife. She made a bundle of her jewelry and ornaments, but when she moved to take her daughter by the hand, he prevented her,” Rowan hesitated almost like she lost the connection to the memory.