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Chapter One

     I take pen in hand to write this rambling tale of strange doings and intrigue in the desolate backlands of Hivernia, that strange and lonesome island that I now call home. Many years have passed since that fateful night the terrible storm threw me from the raging sea onto the shore of the island. I had started out on what should have been a normal voyage from Beliugas to Pertaskas, on board a nice compact cruise ship.

     However, after eight days had passed a sudden storm started brewing, and before anyone could react, reached hurricane force. The ship had been buffeted about for several hours until it started to come apart. As more and more of the ship fell into the sea, it became clear that it was going to sink, and that time was not too far off. Most of the crew had already left in the few lifeboats that were on the ship, so making my way to the deck I looked around for some means of escape.

     Just as I appeared on deck, the last of the lifeboats disappeared over the side. Rushing over to the side I looked down; just then a tremendous wave lifted the small boat high into the air and then dropped it down into a trough, falling in over the helpless humans and the boat, tearing it apart and sending all to the bottom of the sea. As the ship swayed back and forth I staggered about, looking frantically for something that I could use to keep me afloat when I had no choice but to abandon ship.

     I finally stumbled over some timbers in a corner on the deck. I grabbed some of the rope that was coiled nearby and began lashing several of them together, making crude sort of raft. When I had come up on deck I had brought a small bag with a jug of water, some cheese, and half a loaf of bread that had been left over from the dinner the night before. Armed with my meager supplies I secured myself to the raft and waited for the end of the ship. I had not long to wait. With a tremendous jar another of those gigantic waves struck the ship, sending water pouring over the sides and then as the ship started to sink the water carried the raft and me along with it over the side of the ship and down into the raging waters waiting below.

     Upon striking the water I hit my head on one of the timbers and blacked out, for how long I do not know. I only know that when I awoke the storm was spent, and the raft was drifting gently on the surface of the sea. Having no compass and no maps, I had no idea where I was at, or how long the raft had been moving on the water while I was unconscious.

     Standing up as best I could on the rickety raft, I shaded my brow with my hand and looked about me. Over to my left I could the outline of what appeared to be trees, so returning to a sitting position I began using my hands to try to paddle the raft in the direction of the trees.

     It was hard work and took me some time, but I finally was able to see the trees from the raft. Soon I was close enough to slide off the raft into the water and drag it up on land. Taking a few steps I collapsed to the sand, utterly spent from my endeavor.

     After several minutes I rolled over and stared up at the sky, noticing how blue and cloudless it was-a far cry from the way it had been last night! I then sat up on my knees and looked around. The beach stretched for about a hundred yards in either direction before curving out of sight, with a large clump of trees at both ends. About fifty feet in front of me the trees started, palm trees that were growing quite thick and tall with dense underbrush mixed in with them.

     Struggling to my feet I mentally flipped a coin and started walking to my left along the beach. As I slogged along I soon realized that something was missing. Pausing, I concentrated for a few minutes and then it came to me-there were no birds! Usually there were gulls and other birds on the water, and along the shores, but for some reason there were none. Puzzling over this I continued walking along.

     I was getting closer to the clump of trees that obscured the shore as it curved inland from where I had landed, and suddenly the trees started to shake. The shaking grew greater and there was now a noise that became audible, a low, stomping sort of sound, as if several hundred men were jumping up and down at the same time on the sand.

     Unsure of what this might portend, I stopped and waited. Out there on the beach, no cover of any kind, I knew that if anyone or anything came out of the trees that I had no chance of hiding. However, the shakings and noises came to an abrupt halt. Puzzled, I crept closer to the trees, wondering what was going to happen next.

     Suddenly there was a thrashing and crackling noise, then out of the brush flew what seemed to be a giant Toucan bird. Flapping its wings and squawking, it sailed off over my head inland, going higher and higher until it disappeared behind a cloud.

     Picking myself up off the ground where I had fallen on my backside when the bird startled me, I dusted off my pants and continued on my way. As I rounded the corner of the stand of trees, I looked down and saw some curious carvings in the stones that were visible at the water’s edge.

     Bending down, I could see that there was a carving that looked something like a bird, and next to it one that resembled a ram leaping over a rock. The next carving had been eroded by the elements so much that I could not make it out; it seemed to be a tree, or perhaps a horse? I could not tell at all. Shrugging my shoulders I stood up and continued on my way.

     As I continued to walk along the shore I could see that there were carvings beneath the surface of the water. However these carvings were so worn that they were indistinguishable.

-to be continued-


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