August 5, 1885
My closest companion of countless years has perished and moved on from this plane of existence; it bereaves the better sensibilities from my body, leaving only the soulless shell of a man. The numbing emptiness remaining is nothing more than a reminder of how I am responsible for Nolan's demise. Blood is on my hands; they are the hands of an enemy, for no longer can I view the friendship of old in good repute.
I never intended for Nolan's death. Across the vast ocean, Kingstown awaited the both of us. I stored the relic with assiduous attentiveness; it sits now in my possession. The seax is of significant value to those who understand the scramasax for its true nature. The elder blade is more than a mere instrument of destruction. This artifact is also a key to a long-forgotten container. The contents of this container remain an elusive mystery, though the scroll unearthed by Nolan hints at treasures of inestimable wealth long forgotten.
The day Nolan discovered the scroll existed was an excitable turning point; the world changed for my lifelong friend and would never again be the same. I'd never seen Nolan so invigorated with the sense of wonder we both thought lost to childhood. His typical demure nature was so overcome with a determined fanaticism that I, at one point, thought an institution for those with mental ailments would be the only acceptable remedy to calm the man. He composed himself from the antics of the escaped child, and Nolan explained to me how he came by such a scroll.
"Belg, my good man. You must understand my work is not the misguided fabrication of hopefulness but the result of extensive research." His enthusiastic voice sounded earnest beyond reckoning. The child was on the verge of escaping the man once again.
"Have a seat, old friend," I gestured for Nolan to find comfort in a cushioned chair in my study. I prepared a pipe to smoke and offered the customary beverage selection, which Nolan declined. As I reclined my body and relaxed with the lit pipe, I scrutinized Nolan with curious eyes. "What is it you believe you have found, Nolan? You speak as if you've made an amazing discovery."
I remember how he took his time. With painstaking care, he thought out each word within his fast-paced mind. After a moment of composure, he relaxed in his chair. "I have discovered a scroll, Belg. It leads to wondrous hidden treasures."
"I have treasure enough here in Wales." I gave him a polite smile while taking in the tobacco from my pipe. "Profits are exceptional, investments yield fantastic returns, and my purse gets fatter by the day."
I had never beheld such a disappointed expression on my childhood companion's face before. I destroyed all he worked toward with a simple lack of enthusiasm. His dependency on my reaction disappointed me to the point of near outrage. How dare he put such expectations on our friendship? Of course, my ignorance regarding the validity of Nolan's claim was strong at the time.
"The last thing I wish to do is trouble you, Belg. I realize how successful you've become." His words struck a nerve, but I settled the guilt in the back of my mind and listened. "You are a wealthy man with gentlemanly means. You have a knack for business I never possessed, and therefore, it comes as no surprise we find ourselves here; you are the pragmatic realist, and I am the dreamer searching for glorious discoveries. I only wished to rekindle a sense of wonder we shared as boys and perhaps make true for ourselves an adventure we have only dreamed of."
The emotions within my logical mind came undone after those words touched my heart. Nolan was my childhood friend. We grew up together as brothers, and life gave us two distinctly different paths when those children matured into men. His parents fell ill, and mine prospered. Nolan worked to keep things afloat while I lived a more lavish lifestyle of comfort.
"Nolan. Tell me more. I wish to learn all about it." I took another puff off my pipe and settled into my chair.
"Of course, Belg. Of course." Nolan's enthusiasm returned, and as he explained the scroll to me, I grew enthralled with the greatness of it all. He rolled out the deteriorating parchment, explaining the cryptic nature of the information, and spoke of a unique blade. He believed he had uncovered the location of this scramasax and needed my help with safe passage. My company owned the quarry where this elder blade was buried.
The sea wind is cold, and I have a clear view of the setting sun. It will still be a while before we reach Kingstown. Once I arrive, I seek to uncover the treasure. Then and only then shall I learn if the sacrifice of my friend's life was worth it. As I retire for the night, I am disgusted that it just might be.
August 6, 1885
I awoke this morning to frantic deckhands bellowing outrage; a lifeless body lay out in the open, discovered by fellow crewmembers. No one aboard can explain the sudden death of what appeared to be a healthy and vibrant young man. His ghostly pale skin and eyes appeared drained of all essence.
A curse comes to mind. Nolan spoke of such things before he died, but I must remain calm and determined. This journey must be finished.
August 7, 1885
Paranoia has usurped the Captain's better sensibilities. He eyes the few passengers and crew onboard his ship with cold suspicion. Another crewmember is dead with no cause or explanation. Quarters are being searched for foul play. I can only hope the contents of my room remain elusive to the investigation and appear as the relics of an eccentric, wealthy gentleman.
Fear is in the air, mixed in with the salt of the sea, and gives off the most unsettling aroma. I discern it in the crewmen's eyes. It lives in the Captain's eyes. He is afraid but would never give credence to such fear. He must remain strong for his crew. I, too, am afraid. I fear this ship will never reach port in Kingstown. I fear I am a fool to believe such a thing to be possible.
As I gaze upon the endless blue of the open sea, I only think of Nolan and our last moments together. His wordless, deep blue eyes screamed at my betrayal of him. Do I deserve to be forgiven? His life ended because of my greed and instinct to survive. Did he deserve to die? His eyes grew as fierce and hungry as mine. The blade pulled this deep-rooted part of human nature from both of us. The damn thing is cursed, after all.
We'd still been in Wales. The night air was filled with wonder as we approached the particular quarry that granted me so much wealth. I sent the crew home, aware Nolan would desire complete privacy for our excavation. I drove the carriage myself, wanting to keep the entire adventure between two old friends, and as we approached the quarry, the comfort of the night air transformed into something else. A gloom hung over the mine, thick and uncomfortable.
"It's nothing to worry about, Belg." Nolan laughed off my feelings of disquiet. I knew he felt the same, but he pushed on, putting on a brave show. "Shall we have a look? You have a remarkable crew at your disposal. They've completed most of the digging for us, if not all of it."
"Would it not be advisable to proceed with caution?" I stepped down from the carriage and stood alongside my friend. "Mines can be dangerous to navigate."
"Have faith Belg. The risk is well worth the benefits." Nolan assured me.
"If you might humor me, Nolan, there is a question I wish to ask. How did you conclude that the quarry under my company's name has the item you require within its belly?"
Nolan began walking toward the adit, eager to gain entrance. "The scroll I presented to you was written with a particular quill. I neglected to bring it with me when I visited your home to inquire about your willingness in this endeavor, but the quill has a unique design on the feather. That, combined with the cryptic nature of the scroll, allowed me to understand and determine I had the cipher needed to unlock the mysteries hidden within the scroll. I used the design on the feather of the quill. That design was no accident, Belg, for it allowed me to translate this location. When I discovered it was a quarry owned by you, it became clear this was providence."
We arrived at the vertical shaft and descended to the depths of the mine. The lighting was minimal. The cramped space with which to move about gave me a bout of manic claustrophobia, but I pressed on with the aid of Nolan. The digging was the most troublesome part. Nolan dressed for the occasion, and his impoverished upbringing accustomed him to manual labor. On the other hand, I was not, and I felt the strain and fatigue of what the mining crews dealt with daily.
The scramasax lit the belly of the mine once we unearthed it. The blade's glint made it appear alive. It drew our eyes in like a lover, and its power over us came with a suddenness neither of us could deny. The fatigue and tiredness of the endless digging faded away.
That's when the change took place. Nolan's greed and my own were on equal footing. He wanted the elder blade as much as I did. I had no choice but to acquire the blade for myself. We unearthed my property, which belonged to me; my right to it was indisputable. Nolan failed to grasp this.
"Belg, you may not have it!" His eyes were furious as he lunged for the blade. "It belongs to me, not you!"
I remember lunging toward the blade as well. My body did not feel like it was my own during those moments. A violent struggle ensued. I forget much of it now, but I remember that when it ended, I stood over Nolan's body, and the blade had shed a fair amount of his blood.
"It's cursed…" Nolan spoke his last words, spitting up bubbles of slick crimson. His body gave one last violent convulsive spasm and ceased to be a thing filled with life.
I stood for a few moments, unable to move. The fear and shock of what I had done paralyzed me. I write this out hoping to find meaning but am left riddled with guilt and remorse. In the blink of an eye, I murdered my best friend.
I exited the mine in a surreal state. I forced its collapse, doing my best to create the specifics of an accident. This allowed me to bury my wrongdoing forever. I promptly closed all operations the following day, stating I wished to move locations. My company's land was vast, and setting up another nearby quarry without ever having to uncover his body was simple.
One night, I sat in my study, enchanted by the blade's properties. It lay beside Nolan's notes of what this relic could unlock if taken to Kingstown. A deep desire to uncover this hidden wealth overwhelmed all else. I wanted the treasure, but I also owed it to Nolan, even if I had been the reason for his death.
August 13, 1885
A few of us have survived so far, and the Captain is dead. A carnal mutiny swept over the crew, and in my soul, I realized this was where I would die. A strange madness has overtaken almost everyone. A few passengers and crewmembers who maintained some semblance of sanity have banded together. We are secure in the lower deck, attempting to ascertain the next best course of action. As I study all their faces, I realize what is to blame. The elder blade in my possession is the culprit.
The crew and remaining passengers are nervous and quiet. We are trapped by the madness that gripped the others. A woman whose husband sent for her sat in a corner; her name was Annabelle. A lovely name. Her once elegant dress clung to her in ripped tatters; blood stains from the sudden violence that engulfed her like a storm glinted in the lamplight. The flummadiddle skirting the lower part of her dress frayed in uneven patterns.
"Are you well?" I cleared my throat, sure that my attempt at causerie was awkward given the circumstances.
She shook her head.
"Silly question." I offered my handkerchief. She dried her tears. I noticed a ring on her left hand. "Your husband awaits you in Kingstown?"
She nodded. "Yes. I return to him after visiting my mother." She dabbed at the silent tears with the handkerchief. "Machynlleth is where I am from. My father owns a small inn, and I must admit, they meet my arrival with pomp whenever I return home. A visitor to their fair countryside always elicits such excitable reactions."
"Warranted, I am certain." I smiled. It relieved me to see her smile in return.
Her eyes drifted in memory. "The town has that peculiar coloring I remember being struck with when I passed through it in childhood. I attended the Welsh morning service before my departure. It was such a thin congregation. I…" She locked eyes with me. Desperation sprang from them. "My husband, God bless his soul, never made much time for church. Are you a man of faith?"
I was taken aback by such questioning, although I shouldn't have been surprised. Life and death situations made one think of such things. I clutched the artifact closer to me. It rested on my lap in a sack. I scarcely had time to grab it before the horror of the mutiny ensued. Somehow, I also managed to bring my pipe, the rest of my tobacco, and some matches.
She noted my change in posture. Her eyes fell on the sack. "What is it you hold so dear?"
"Nothing!" I barked louder than intended.
The outburst caused the remaining survivors and crew to stare in bewilderment. Most of the men kept the door to the lower deck barricaded and guarded. The constant smashing against the defenses became melodic; the madness drove those intending us harm boundless stamina. They persisted without end.
"I… I apologize." I bowed my head, embarrassed, and left Annabelle to be. She would never see her husband again.
I paraded past the other survivors, holding the blade close. An unnatural fear that they might try to steal it from me bombarded my every thought. It was maddening. An infant cried, taking me away from thoughts of murder in the name of protecting this ancient seax whose thirst for blood knew no bounds.
The infant's cries drowned out the fearful murmurs and rang in unison with the constant banging against the barricaded door. The combined noises were a macabre melody syncing in harmonies created by a devilish composer.
"Shut that child up!" cried a deckhand, a young blond man. It was his first voyage and would be his last.
"Shut yourself!" The father barked in return, with violence in his eyes.
The blade. The blade's need for bloodlust began to hold sway to those few who held out this long. I knew I had to act.
"Young man," I walked to the deckhand, who vainly ignored the crying infant. He could not deny the veracity of the cries.
"What ya' want?" His lowborn accent shone through. He cast aside formalities at this point. I couldn't blame him.
"What's the cargo down here? There appears to be more than mere passenger luggage." I studied the crates and barrels lined up and secured throughout the lower deck with militaristic precision.
"Gunpowder and a consignment of explosives are taking up the bulk. It was a last-minute addition to the cargo manifest. The Captain is…" He froze for a moment, remembering the dire situation. "That is, he was a man who liked to make the most of these trips. He always saw fit to make room for extra profit. It's what I was told, anyway."
It was then I realized I had two choices. I could allow the evil instrument to change everyone below deck, which it would. Violent, gruesome deaths would ensue, all by one another's hand. Or I could make it so this ship never reached port. We would drown at sea. This would be a mercy for those who survived this long, for it is better than killing your loved ones and dying a murderer - like me.
The blade had to vanish; it was far too dangerous. So, I write my final words, smoke my last bit of tobacco in my pipe, and plan to ignite the volatile contents of the lower deck pointed out to me by the young blond man. I never did ask him his name. There is enough explosive material here to ensure this ship sinks; with it, so shall the wretched blade. The ocean will have its offering on this day.
I store this journal within a bottle in hopes it remains and may one day be discovered so the truth can be revealed. I've placed it on the opposite end of the lower deck, away from where the explosion will happen. I leave my signature with this journal and hope it will be treated as a last will and testament if found. My wealth, if any should remain, is to go to Nolan's family. He was survived by a sister, nephews, and nieces. They deserve a better life. May all onboard this ship forgive me. May Nolan's family forgive me, and may this cursed artifact never be discovered again.
About the Creator
I'm a Puerto Rican storyteller/filmmaker who uses lies to tell the truth; this is the essence of what I love about good stories. Author of Casino City and Distinction of Realms! Scifi, fantasy, horror, and thriller are among my favorite!