The Quest for Eden ('Team Fluffy' side)


Through one method or another, various individuals come to speak with the man in Jake Stirling's brig this season - or, if not permitted directly to speak to him, come ready to follow his instructions.

First are Greyhawk and Altair, who, conversing with the red-bearded man in Hebrew, have a long and animated conversation, only a few parts of which the ship's Chaplain (who speaks only passable Hebrew) can interpret. The man seems increasingly convinced throughout this conversation, nodding more and more often; until finally, it seems that the gentleman is willing to offer his advice, or assistance of some sort. It is partway through this conversation that Baron Wilson Mandrake and Lady Megan Annwn arrive, seeming somewhat distracted but in quite some haste. (The latter looks oddly… feline.)

Altair, translating simultaneously to Stirling and the other non-Hebrew speakers, tells them that this man, Cain, can forge a route to the Garden of Eden - but that this route is one that only he can travel, and they will only be able to join him if he is personally navigating them there. The route will not work twice for those who have never reached Eden before; they must take what he refers to as “the hard way, the Eastern way” if they wish to visit there again, and the way he speaks of it seems to indicate that “hard” means all but “impossible”.

There is some argument about whether the man should be released from his chains or not, as he demands; but almost simultaneously as this is becoming heated, an angel - calm, but with a terrible zeal in its eyes - appears upon the deck of the ship, demanding that they follow Cain to the heart of Eden if they truly wish to save the world. At the same moment, a cloud seems to pass over the sun, casting odd shadows, and Stirling passes a hand over his eyes as if afflicted by some strange headache; and the red-haired man is promptly freed, as he demands, to take the helm of Stirling's strange, black-sailed ship.

As affairs on the ship are laid out to the strange helmsman's satisfaction - this seems to involve a number of odd rituals including burnt offerings, incense, and lambs' blood - the expedition prepares to set off, following, as instructed, the wake of Stirling's vessel. Among the company are Megan Annwn and the East India Company's flying boat; Wilson Mandrake, on another Company ship; Nathaniel Greyhawk and his forces; and Lord Walter Devereux and his own forces. Altair, as soon as his translation skills are no longer necessary, slips away on some darker mission. Anthony Sutcliffe, appearing clothéd all in light and by this point clearly Angelic in nature, joins the mission just as it leaves the waters of Albion, and spends a certain amount of his time in flight, scouting for dangers overhead.

The journey is perhaps the strangest one that many of those on the mission have encountered. Cain, blindfolded and almost motionless at the helm of Stirling's ship, guides the ship out into the Atlantic and begins sailing almost aimlessly, leading to many frustrated mutterings. Finally, when the ship is out of all sight of shore, he turns it directly into the wind - leading to several startled and squawking mutterings from the sailors - and begins chanting over again, in a low, murmuring tone, words that sound a little like archaic Hebrew but which none of those present, even the Jews, can translate.

The water beneath the boat begins to take on an odd greyish tinge, and several of the men swear that they can see sand-dunes, not waves, beneath the hull. The entourage sail with little trouble through this odd landscape for several days, with Cain, tireless at the helm, never seeming to rest or sleep. The currents are as strange and dangerous as the winds, and it is only through careful navigating that parts of the expedition are not lost entirely in this trackless grey waste. Soon, as odd mountains and formless shores become visible on the horizon, it becomes eminently clear that this resembles no part of the Atlantic that any man here knows.

Several times during this strange expedition, as the ships pass through nights that are as bright as days, days that are as dark as nights, seas which resemble the sun - or memory - or dry land, Lord Walter Devereux sends quick signals from his flagship, the Impertinence, apparently from warnings given by Dame Eliza Gamut's Astrological charts. Bearing such cryptic messages as “No man is to look directly as the sky”, “Take fresh water here, it is our last opportunity”, “Paint the gunwales with any blood we have left”, “Burn incense or all is lost”, they seem ridiculous at first - but after the first few sailors die, screaming, in increasingly horrible and unlikely ways, from not heeding these strange warnings, all pay swift and immediate attention to them. It is unknown how many lives are saved by Dame Eliza's prognostication.

Finally, the expedition seems, somehow, to be sailing up a broad river, with what some say are leafy jungles and what other claim are barren sands on either side. Ahead, the river splits in two around a great island; and it is now that Cain, for the first time in the weeks-long journey, finally removes his blindfold and collapses, comatose, to the deck.

“We're here,” declaims someone in a hushed voice.

The Gates of Eden.

The Garden of Eden

Anthony Sutcliffe springs from the lead boat as soon as it becomes clear that the destination has been reached, and wings ahead of even the fastest landing-party to the Gates. When he arrives, he utters a terrible cry; for where an Angel with a flaming Sword should bar the way to all comers, there is no Angel at all; and the Gates that should rest inviolable lie hanging open, with fresh footprints clear in the earth. It seems that the adventurers' quarry is already within the Garden.

The forces of Albion deploy rapidly, as all are aware that speed is of the essence; as if a reminder is needed, the Angel of Truth lets out a mournful wail, and cries, “The trees! Look to the trees!”

Within the Garden, where rank on rank of every tree that is known upon God's earth wave fresh and sweet in the breeze, leaves are beginning to wither; fruit is beginning to fall, half-rotten, from the boughs. A chill breeze blows through the tall grasses, and a terrible, sudden autumn is come to this place of eternal summer.

The East India Company forces take the left flank, while Greyhawk's forces - some conventional privateers, some apparently Native fanatics of some variety; while they look like common Cornishmen, they are stripped to the waist, covered in blue woad and screaming in an incomprehensible language as they make their charge - take the right. Stirling's forces mostly focus on defending the ships, their only chance of egress, while those of the 31st Hereford that are both alive and present follow Lord Walter Devereux and the angel who was once Anthony Sutcliffe into the heart of the Garden itself. Soon, a cordon is spread about the great green-sward, with particular focus on the Gates, and the soldiers move in, prepared to stop the Brandage twins and remove them from the Garden by any means necessary.

Simply walking upon the earth of Eden is not as simple as it sounds, however. Whole platoons of men, as the cordon slowly tightens, are found weeping on the ground and unable to wield their weapons against the visions they can see in the trees; of their mothers, their homes, of England before the Flood. Wild beasts of the greatest ferocity howl and roar in the deep undergrowth, and the entangling vines of the forests, after milennia of uncultivated growth, are thick and wary enough to snatch a man from his feet and drag him screaming into the trees before his comrades can even warn him of their movement.

Several times, one force or another is certain that it has seen one of their quarries, and gives hot chase, only to find itself stranded at the Gates again - or hard against a wall - or firing aimlessly into nothing, and sometimes striking their own allies. All the time, Anthony Sutcliffe soars overhead, shouting directions to the men below; but the Garden itself is changing and warping before their very eyes, as grass begins slowly to wither and eventually crumble to dust - the first patches appearing in the shape of footprints; those footprints that David and Leah most surely made on their entrance to the Garden.

“This place cannot support the touch of the Nephilim! They must be removed before all is lost!”

The Angel of Truth who spoke upon the boat, who spoke to Cain and Stirling, cries out from its place with Lord Devereux's forces. Making one final, valiant attempt to rally what men are left - those that are not dead, or mad - the Courtiers press into the very centre of the Garden, into that twisted maze which leads, at its heart, to a bower - and to three trees, standing alone, each shining with a certain terrible light.

David and Leah themselves must not have had more than a few minutes more within the Garden than their pursuers, for as they are sighted they are in the process of each plucking an apple from the two shorter trees which flank the great central one. (An Oak, some will say later; no, surely an apple tree; or a great Redwood like those that are seen in the Americas - none can clearly agree on precisely what was seen.) Quarry sighted, chase is immediately given, most prominently by Sutcliffe, who springs through the disintegrating, greying ash that the trees are rapidly falling into, to catch the twins.

However, it rapidly becomes clear that this is as much a flight as a chase. The Garden itself is beginning to crumble, with great crashes as if fragments of the wall - or even the Sky itself - are falling to earth. Dust and ash plume up from where rich, fertile earth once held grass and vegetation; and after the first few men are lost to that creeping greyness, screaming and crumbling to dust as quickly as the trees they brush against, the retreat very nearly turns into a rout. It is only the tactical expertise of the men present that keep the forces moving towards the gates to the Garden, all the while trying to keep sight of the fleeing Brandage twins, who seem to dart with a supernatural swiftness through the trees, musket-volleys and crossbow bolts falling harmlessly to either side of them.

The last desperate dash for the Gates is one that will haunt each Courtier for years to come, as the walls of the Garden themselves seemed to close in upon the adventurers, hemming them in and seeming to form an endless corridor with only a speck of light at one end to guide the way. Finally, however, the surviving forces break free of the Garden's terrible destruction, and throw themselves down upon the shore of the Island; Sutcliffe arrows towards the direction that Leah and David disappeared, but gives up the chase as the Angel of Truth wings after him, talking urgently and quietly. It seems that the Brandage twins have fled, towards the West; but they are at least removed from the Garden, and the Angel of Truth assures all those present, in a sad and ringing voice, that they have surely saved Creation itself; for if either of those creatures had touched the Third Tree, all would surely be lost.

As the defenders look back upon Eden, the walls have collapsed, the plants have crumbled to dust, and where there was once the purest and most beautiful Garden of Creation, there is now only rubble and ash. Yet - in the centre - there is one small feature in the waste; one tiny beacon of light, even as the sunset light begins to pool in the choking dust. A sapling. It is difficult to estimate precise geography, but it seems that the tiny tree has arisen where the Three Trees once stood at the centre of the Garden.

Approaching it with slow and heavy feet, the Angel who was once Anthony Sutcliffe bows his head, and stands a while in prayer. Finally, he turns back to the company, and informs them that he is now the Guardian of the Tree, much as Uriel was once the Guardian of the Gates. He cannot leave with them; but much like Uriel, it is possible that he can manifest in several places at once - it is possible he might see them once again. He asks them, quietly and with dignity, to depart.

bonus.eden.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/08 20:08 by helen