Book 1 Chapter 1
He was entranced. He was so totally, wonderfully and delightfully entranced, the stupid old fool I am, he thought, squinting to keep the thick lens entrenched within the socket of his one bad, watering but ever watchful eye as it scanned fragments of upwardly curved sentences. He cursed softly as he unrolled it with both hands on the desk before him, fingers trembling but not from exertion. Each time he unrolled it, each time he moved his one hand, it had that wonderful tendency to roll back up within itself. And each time he resisted, and moved his hand away to weigh it down, roll back up within itself it would. This act of trying by speed to move his hand fast enough was what entranced him. He tried again, and again, he failed. He sat up and stared at the roll then raised a hand, hooking a finger around the end of his nose in thought.
‘This will do no good,’ he said out aloud in a grunt of indignation. ‘No good at all.’ He tried a last time, rolling out the parchment again, the neat but ancient quill-inscribed letters faint yet quite readable.
He left the tip of his thumb on the corner, fingers searching for the paper weight, a round cylinder of iron upon which had been fused the seal of New Mondian, a tower standing tall upon a hill, that if left standing would be quite invisible, to be lost in the smog that pervaded the air from anything above roof height on upwards. His little finger found purchase, moving the seal closer until, with the aid if middle and little fingers, he was finally able to keep the edge perfectly in place. Only then did Master Ganthrell reach across to the paraffin lamp to bring it a little closer. He read:
“The Third Lore of Scy-entification states:
‘The natural state of the universe is chaos and that all things and beings tend to disorganise themselves to become it. A wise man once said that there is but one life on earth, a life that embraces every blade of grass and every breath of every being.’
The aging of time has divided this one life into so many small pieces that we can hardly keep track anymore, he thought.
‘But rest assured, each is one small piece of a whole…'”
Ganthrell scanned ahead of the first few paragraphs, seeking the proof he had been seeking for so many by years, knowing he had totally, finally and quite distinctly… found it:
“The fact that the story of Pantacoris was for thousands of years regarded as a fable proves nothing, nothing at all. There is an unbelief which grows out of ignorance, as well as a scepticism which is born of intelligence. The people nearest to the past are not always those who are best informed concerning the past. For a thousand years it was believed that the legends of the golden cities of Leionnór and Arathach were myths: they were spoken of as ‘the fabulous cities. For a thousand years the educated world did not credit the accounts given by Sépucive of the wonders of the ancient civilizations of the Pantacoreans.”
Leionnór. He had never heard of it before. Or Ara…. Arathach for that matter. No matter; he was called the father of liars, Ganthrell recalled. This man who copied the old texts.
“Even Elisantis sneered at him. Now, in the language of Buthrock it was written, ‘the deeper and more comprehensive the researches of the moderns have been, the more their regard and esteem for Elisantis has increased.’ Buthbrock says, ‘His minute information about Panatcoris is admitted by all geo-graphicers.’”
Buthrock was full of cow dung. Admitted by all geo-graphicers? Buthrock was never ordained as any geo-graphicer. ‘That’s a damnable lie,’ he said aloud. There had been nothing, not one measly little word by any geo-graphicologicer he had ever read. There was a time when the expedition sent out by Sépucive to circumnavigate the world was doubted, because the explorers stated that after they had progressed a certain distance the sun was north of them. Of Sépucive, nothing. Gone, vanished into the very ether of nothingness from where the adventurer came from.
“This circumstance, which then aroused suspicion, now proves to us that the first Coranàthian navigators had really passed the equator, and by there very arrival to these shores, does irretrievably anticipate the discovery of the Islands of Pantacór.”
Ganthrell cleared his throat. ‘Indeed.’ He tugged at his nose.
“If I succeed in demonstrating the truth of the somewhat startling propositions with which I commenced this chapter, it will only be by bringing to bear upon the question of Pantacoris a thousand converging lines of light, from those whose names remain hidden within the Counsel Archives. Further investigations and discoveries will, I trust, confirm the correctness of the conclusions at which I have arrived.”
Ganthrell rubbed a wrinkled finger across the white hair of his brow as he removed the weight, letting the parchment roll back as it so desperately wanted to. So, Sépucive’s nameless whoever-he-was source suspected the Counsel of foul play. And who could blame him? He pushed the ancient parchment out of the flickering light of his candle, turning next to the open tome laying dormant to his left, pulling it closer. He opened the large leather-bound book at the mark and read:
‘…This Chronicle is the true testament of the voyages of the good ship Arettel. We have journeyed perhaps farther than any other man of the North, and have seen things and been places nobody can dream of. Sitting here in the comfort of my cabin, the tale I am about to tell seems as a dream now. I need to pinch myself to make sure I haven’t dreamed it all. But the absence of some of my friends and fellows testifies to the truth of my tale.’
The old man breathed in, deeply and pondered the Captain’s words. Arettel, the very name of the vessel stirred emotion. Sépucive, that very name stirred wonder, gone he was. So where the hell in Baldazar did his ship’s log come from?
‘Of my ship, this is all that is left of a small flotilla sailing from Coranon, city of the South. Our five ships left these shores to discover the fabled lands of the South…The world is a great place!’
Fabled lands of the South. He regarded for a moment the parchment again. There was only one fabled telling, and this was it. Unless the old texts of Elasantis had by some divine intervention, prevailed. Sepúcive had access to the document. But how? New Mondian was once a harbour of boats, he had to remind himself. How terribly quaint, he summized.
‘So great my words can never serve to bring it the justice it so deserves. We have seen lands few have even dreamed of! We have discovered new realms, new peoples! Glory to all. But our discoveries have changed us. We are no longer the people we once were. We have left a piece of ourselves behind, in Pantacoris…’
We have left a piece of ourselves behind. Ganthrells hands were shaking as he placed the document down onto his oaken desk. He read these lines over and over again, but still the weight of them continued to thrill him. ‘Yes, yes… quite.’ Terra Pantacoris was no longer a fable of the past, that much was certain. He stared for a moment into the flame, then blinked behind the thick lens of his monocle. ‘Pantacoreon’. He mumbled its name to himself, his eyes vacant as he travelled to worlds of his mind. ‘Now, there’s a name if ever there was one.’