The following is an excerpt from a novella I’m currently writing, entitled “Songs of Circe.” As will eventually become clear, this novella is built around various methods of correspondence that are shared by the characters who populate the universe I’ve created.
Per usual Faithful Horde standards, your feedback is not only welcome, but deeply appreciated.
Dated at Isla Ocelotl, (Mexico,) Sep. 5th, 1538.
Most Noble, Powerful and Catholic Prince, Invincible Emperor, and our Sovereign Lord Carlos I,
AS we have been instructed by Your Grace to pursue the investigation of such wealth as may have been carried off the mainland by servants of the pagan Aztec lord MUTECZUMA, we have, in keeping with the commands issued, gathered a dozen doughty and Catholic knights, two dozen local serving-men, two of God’s holy priests, and a certain “Lightning Snake,” an elder Aztec of indeterminate years retrieved (under protest) from his mountain hovel. This last addition would be most unwelcome were it not for the command of Your Grace and the protection of Almighty God offered in the persons of his priestly servants; the man has a fell look, and the horses shy from him as from a slavering wolf. Still, he seems docile enough, and is indeed a necessary part of this secret and sacred mission tasked unto us by Your Majesty; he is the last of the “Ohyanqui,” as this particular priesthood styles itself. The word means “traveler” or “sojourner” in the barbarian tongue, and it is understood from talking to the man (he speaks Spanish well enough, although with the flat, slow tones of his brethren) that he is to be our guide, a capacity we had not anticipated but certainly appreciated at the time of our arrival on this island, a rocky and barren outcrop that appears and disappears with the heavy autumn storms. The stones here are tawny, marbled with blackish rings, and the natives have christened it “Ocelot Island” for the resemblance of the natural stone to the small lions that prowl the dense forests beside their larger jaguar kin. We have dropped anchor on the sheltered side, toward the bay; as Your Majesty commanded, the equipment and men necessary for this task have been secreted here for a fortnight after departing on a false mission inland. Morale remains high, but I do not doubt that knights and Aztecs alike will be glad to leave this haunted and desolate place for the bright waters of the open sea. Lightning Snake has informed us that he is “waiting on the stars to align” before we make our departure for the secret Aztec island Your Majesty’s agents discovered through study of their pagan texts; yet my mind is unquiet, and I see in him a devious and unsavory nature that can only lead to deception, for he loves not Holy God, nor the Spanish people who have come to raise the benighted Aztecs from their state of wretched paganry, nor even Your Most Holy and Gracious Majesty, whose mercy has made this land and its people a part of Your realm. The bearers we brought with us hold him in most high regard, but seem no more comfortable around him than the horses. I cannot say that I will be sorry to see the back of him when we return, and if the murmurings of the men are of sound indication, it may be that his life will be forfeit the day he guides us back to these shores.
BY the grace of God and the forbearance of His men of steel and of cloth, we have sheltered in the lee of this “Ocelot Island” for a week. A strange sight greeted us with the dawn; a ragged and aged madman scrambled from a tiny skiff, filthy and clothed in strange rags, and shoved one of Your Majesty’s holy knights into the waters. Felipe Caldera would have surely been drowned had he been clad in his armor, but this madman caught him at his morning ablutions, and consequently he was clad in only his smallclothes. The man, an elderly and sun-blackened Spaniard, begged an audience with me, crying piteously of the doom he claimed awaited Your Majesty’s mission. I have seen his like before; some sailors, long shipwrecked, are driven mad by sun and sand and isolation; in my father’s time as captain of God’s Grace, in service to Your Holy Majesty’s Blessed and Sacred Mother, two such men were rescued and returned to Spain, claiming they and their crew had been the prisoners of savage lizard-men. This dotard and his ravings were of no import, and could only damage morale if allowed to continue. I told Caldera to give the poor wretch the mercy of the sword (a mercy he was perhaps a touch too eager to grant), and returned him to the sea on his driftwood skiff, which we set alight with a well-placed arrow of flame. Some of the younger men were uneasy in this work, but they are green and have not yet seen ten summers on the sea; when they have been seasoned properly, they will understand. The Aztec savage seemed greatly entertained by the entire affair, babbling in that jagged-edged tongue of theirs and making mock of the madman. I asked him why he felt the need to torment the unfortunate soul; he only shook his head and murmured, “Neither sea, nor spear, nor stealth shall prevail in this; I speak, but do you hear me, Captain?” I snorted and told him to begin preparations; this black-souled savage says we will depart on the morrow. He refuses (or is perhaps unable) to indicate on our charts and maps where this island is located; when asked, he shakes his head and says that it is in the sea, but not on our map. This foolish and stubborn attempt to conceal the location of this island is not doubt some savage plot to leave us dependent upon his guidance for the duration of our voyage. It will avail him not, of course; His Majesty has the finest cartographers in all the world, and once their calculations and documents are complete, we can do away with this arrogant hedge-wizard. He tells us we must head to the northeast, into the area near the Sargasso Sea (the windless and wraith-haunted sea of false land that waits to snare the unwary and bedeviled our most sagacious Christopher Columbus when he first voyaged to this new world in the years before Your Majesty’s birth). The men were unhappy to hear this, and I must admit that it gave me little heart with regard to the savage’s reliability as a guide. Yet he insists that our path lies to the Northeast, to what he calls “Tlaloc’s Courtyard.” Tlaloc, as Your Majesty undoubtedly remembers, is the name for their heathen water god, and the wide Sargasso is, by the lights of their primitive sailors, the plaza of this water demon’s great palace. The priests tell me the place is unnatural, a lair of water-sprites and a grave for the unfortunate, but I have equipped our ship with sturdy oars. Should the winds prove fickle, we will simply row our way out. Should we reach the Sargasso safely, we are to allow Lightning Snake to work his heathenish magicks in order to reveal the path to this Kingdom of the First Nations. Indubitably, as both Your Gracious Majesty and God’s Holy Servant Bishop Guerrero have concluded, this “Kingdom” will be some well-sheltered spit of land known only to the Aztecs, well-stocked with treasure and more of their blasphemous idols and texts. As commanded by Your Majesty, we will, upon reaching this place, reclaim for the crown all of the former and allow the priests (who are, after all, the hand of God on this benighted earth) to destroy any blasphemous magicks and fell texts as may be discovered. In this, as in all things, it is the hope of Your Majesty’s most devoted servant that you remember this small favor I have done the Crown and Kingdom; with Your Majesty’s consent, I will use my share of the profits from this voyage to finance a grand voyage to the Terra Incognita Australius, and continue the good work started by our esteemed predecessor Cortes. It is in hope, then, of great glory and success for the mighty Kingdom of Spain, that I close this necessarily-brief missive and begin preparations for tomorrow’s launch.
Most potent and most excellent Prince, may God our Lord preserve the life and royal person and most powerful state of your sacred Majesty, and grant you for a long period the addition of as many greater kingdoms and dominions as your royal heart may desire. Dated at Isla Ocelotl of this New Spain, the 5th of September 1538.
From your holy Majesty’s most devoted and humble servant, who lays both sword and heart at the feet and in the service of the throne,
(More to come! Stay tuned, dear readers!)