Isabel! do you not fear
The night and the wonders here?
Dim vales—and shadowy floods—
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over:
Huge moons there wax and wane—
Every moment of the night—
Forever changing places—
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial,
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down—still down—and down
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain’s eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be—
O’er the strange woods—o’er the sea—
Over spirits on the wing—
Over every drowsy thing—
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light—
And then, how, deep! —O, deep,
Is the passion of their sleep.
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like—almost any thing—
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before,
Videlicet, a tent—
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
(Never-contented things!)
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.

Edgar Allen Poe (Fairyland, 1831)

After some brief celebration of their hard-won victory, and furious patching to keep the Dümplom from sinking, the sailors of the Dümplom settled in to do a more detailed assessment of the damages. Caddis ordered the prisoners from the Faerie ship to be locked in the bilges for a few days, hoping that Fishgut’s stench (and the threat of what he might do to them) would soften them on the idea of working aboard the Dümplom. Returning from the bilges, Oppenheimer reported that the breach in the lower hull was bad. They could keep Dümplom limping along for a while, but would need access to fresh lumber and would have to to careen her and patch it from the outside to get her into proper fighting shape again.

unseelie-tree-3.jpgAfter a brief consultation with the other officers, Leo steered the damaged Dümplom south towards a wooded beach sheltered under some cliffs. Boats were put in the water and the crew disembarked, pulling the ship broadside to the shore and letting the tide beach her. The crew immediately went to work unloading cargo, setting up camp, and unloading tools and scaffolding for the repairs (good thing they’d recruited a few squibs).

While that was going on, the officers looked around. The beach to the east sloped upwards into some rocky hills or low mountains. The forest, which stopped about twenty yards from the sandy shore, was utterly bizarre. While everything there gave the vague impression of a forest, the impression was truly vague. The towering, densely packed, tree-like structures ranged from marble columns with metallic leaves, to twisting snakelike bodies with clouds wreathing their heads, to tree-sized human forarms and hands sprouting from the ground, to long ladders with leafy boughs at the top. The only thing that actually appeared to have a wooden trunk sounded a hollow, metal gong-like note when Oppenheimer tapped it. “Better than nothing, I guess,” the carpenter commented. “It’ll take us a while to figure out which of these we can actually build a thing with…and how to cut them…”

unseelie-tree.jpgLeo blew up at this point, railing at Zarina for not giving him more information before they sailed off. She explained that going strait into the storm, rather than around it as she had suggested, had been his idea. Zarina explained that the storm had clearly put them out on what she called the “Unseelie” side of the island. Faerie, she said, was split into two not-quite-opposing courts. The Seelie side, where she came from, were spirits of natural phenomena—water, flowers, stones, seasons. The Unseelie side was home to the stuff of mortal dreams, nothing but ideas and abstractions, and thus highly unpredictable.

At the top of a cliff of purple stone, due east of where they’d landed, they could see a titanic statue. While the sailing master and helmsman had their little spat, Caddis and Rummy hiked up to take a look. The statue was massive (easily fourty feet tall), made of solid iron covered in a thick layer of rust, and shaped like a naked, ostentatiously muscled man holding aloft a spear or javelin, in a late-period Roman style. The ground around the statue, in an almost perfect circle out to a distance of about a hundred feet, was worn down to bare rock—clear of all vegetation and debris save for a loose coating of black dust.

Pulling out his spyglass, Caddis scanned the horizon. The storm still waited, massive and brooding, just a few leagues off the shore, but otherwise the seas were clear, with no signs of other ships. The east and south were ringed with mountains, rocky to the east and wooded to the south, which rose up from the shore and blocked much of his view. Due south of of the beach where they had landed he saw a break in the mountains, a valley or pass, where the ground sloped down to a large lake with what looked like a mansion sitting on the shore. They returned to the ship and Caddis passed the spyglass and signal horn to Henrye, ordering him to take a few men and set up watch on the cliff, but to avoid going to near the statue.

Overhead the blazing magenta sun had not moved a degree since they’d arrived. Grumbling, Leo set a man to fetch the ship’s glass to measure out the hours since the sky refused to help. He struck up a song to stave off fatigue and keep the men working while they make a defensible camp and started selecting and cutting down trees (or what passed for trees) for lumber to repair the ship.

The officers turned in to get some rest while the crew kept working. Some five turns of the glass later, the sky darkened. It happened almost instantly, like snuffing a candle. One minute the sky was bright yellow with its magenta sun, the next it was pitch black with a giant, silvery moon in the exact same position that the sun had been in. Like clockwork with the appearance of the moon, they heard howls in the distance.

With the fall of darkness, Caddis and Rummy hiked back up the cliff to find Henrye and the other men they’d put on watch sleeping. The captain kicked Henrye awake, then kicked him again for good measure. “Can’t you to watch anything?! Get back to the ship, you’re a swab now! You’re going back to cleaning the decks until you prove we can trust you…” Henrye rounded up the men and they slinked back to camp. Once they were gone, Caddis lay down and passed the spyglass and bugle to Rummy, then lay down to get some rest himself.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, Adriana struck up a conversation with Zarina, trying to get more information about what they were looking for in this strange place. Zarina explained that the last thing she needed for her flying ship experiments was unicorns—or their horns more specifically. They reason she’d been exiled, she said, was that she had previously tried to steal an entire herd of the creatures from the Unseelie lords. For her experiment she’d need to harvest probably close to a hundred horns, or else obtain a dozen or so live specimens, preferably breedable stock. Zarina pulled out the map of the island they had taken from the Faerie ship and pointed out a few possible locations where they might find the unicorns, noting that the herds were migratory, but tended to settle in the low-lying grassy areas of the island.

Fae-Skunk.JPGAdriana asked if all the stories about unicorns and virgins were true. Zarina explained the unicorns, who could live for hundreds of years as mortals counted things, mated for life. On rare occasions, lone windowed unicorns, whose partners have been slain, will adopt young women (or very rarely men) of exceptionally pure virtue as surrogates. The bond generally ends if the woman becomes more committed to someone else (such as a spouse, or lover, or child). So yes, unicorns do befriend virgins.

A few hours later, up on the cliffs, Rummy caught a wiff of an awful, acrid smell that burned his nose and heard rustling in the woods to the south-east of where he and Caddis were set up. He nudged Caddis awake, who quickly took the form of a dromite to better detect the scent. A bad move it turned out, as he immediately become horribly nauseous. Shifting back, he recovered enough to throw a glitterdust spell in the direction of the rustling.

The sparkling dust lit up a bizarre creature, long and sinuous like a snake, but with the fur and markings of a sunk, its head crowned by an impressive rack of stag-like antlers, easily twelve points. Caddis quickly put the creature to sleep with one of his lullabies, and Rummy rushed up and stabbed it between the eyes. Rummy, who, while smarter than Thaduk, was still not the brightest bulb on the ship, insisted that the strange creature must be a kind of unicorn and collected the antlers.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully—likely in large part because of the lingering stench of the dead, three-hundred pound skunk kept all other would-be predators at bay. A dozen turns of the glass later, morning comes as suddenly as night did, though everyone has by this point been awake and working on the ship for quite some time.

Caddis and Rummy wander down from the cliff and Adriana immediately begins grilling Caddis about whether or not he is a virgin. Eventually she explains what Zarina told her about needing to “harvest” a bunch of unicorn horns, or, better yet, catch several breeding pairs of unicorns. Caddis admits that he is, in fact, still a virgin. Extensive investigation among the crew reveals that Caddis, Adriana, Thaduk, Caulky Tarroon, and Oppenheimer are the only virgins among their crew—as well as some other interesting tidbits, like the fact that Pixies are sexual beings (though Zarina is not at all interested in doing it with Leopold) and that Sandara has two kids of her own.

Quothe Adriana, “Our mission for now is to protect the captain’s chastity!”

With that settled, sort of, they debated heading out to hunt for unicorns, but realized that all of the locations Zarina had marked on their map were on the far side of the island. Thus, they decided to wait for the ship repairs to be finished, which Wunorse informed them would take three or four days, “that’s normal days, not the crazy light cycles here.” And crazy the day-night cycle certainly was, for only three turns of the glass after the sky yellowed, it was black again—though that only lasted an hour.

During the incredibly brief night, Caddis suddenly heard something like music, ever-so-faint coming from the east, across the mountains, and felt compelled to follow. Noticing him leaving camp, Adriana, Leo, and Rummy grabbed Ratline and Sandara and headed after him, leaving Thaduk to yell at the crew and make sure they kept up progress on the ship. Caddis made a bee-line strait into the mountains, albeit a strangely leisurely one, clearly not compelled to hurry.

As they climbed, Leo struck up a marching song to keep everyone from tiring out, and soon found himself being accompanied by a swarm of brightly coloured kittens who seemed to appear from nowhere. As the party marched and Leo sang, more of the little creatures appeared, stretching out in a half-mile long line behind them, horns blaring and drums banging adorably. Try as they might, they could not shake the strange little creatures.
Finally they reached the peak of the small mountain, nearly fifteen hundred feet above the beach. On a rocky outcropping overlooking the sea, they found a statue of a little boy, a toddler, perhaps three years old, carved seven feet tall from green-veined white marble. In the statue’s left hand was an alabaster rose, identical to the one Caddis always carried. In fact, on close inspection, the statue was an almost perfect likeness of Caddis as he was as a child.

Standing on the promontory, Caddis could hear the music much louder now, still coming from the east, down the far side of the mountain. He suddenly recognized the haunting melody as the same lullaby he always found himself humming when he used his magic to lull his victims to sleep.
Tili Tili Bom
Swiftly close your eyes
Someone is walking outside the house
And knocks upon the door.
Tili Tili Bom
The night birds are singing.
He is already inside the house
Of those who can’t sleep.
He walks…
He is coming…
Tili Tili Bom
Do you hear someone nearby?
Lurking around the corner,
Piercing with his gaze.
Tili Tili Bom
The silent night hides everything
He sneaks up behind you,
And he is going to get you.
He walks…
He is coming…
Tili Tili Bom
Do you hear someone nearby?
Lurking around the corner,
Piercing with his gaze.
Aberes-cottage.jpgCaddis pressed on and the others followed, trailing the parade of technicolor kittens after them. Halfway down the other side the others began to hear the song as well, and the melody was soon picked up by the kitten marching band. Hearing the song, Leo and Rummy also fell under the compulsion, and marched resolutely down the mountain towards the thick swamp they could see at the bottom, then heedlessly on through the waist-deep water and mud.

Near the center of the swamp, on a slight rise of land, they found a quaint little cottage, built up on stilts to keep it from flooding, with bright blue clap-board siding, and a wrap-around porch with stairs leading down to a small dock. Lace curtains hung in the open windows and the lovely smell of something baking wafted out.

As they approached the house, the song stopped. Caddis knocked smartly on the door and a rich alto voice answered, “It’s open, let yourselves in.” They walked in carefully to see an attractive middle-aged woman, with a faint greenish cast to her skin and violet hair, taking a couple of pies out of a pot-bellied stove. A small table stood near the door, with eight chairs around it and a fine, lace tablecloth.

Caddis greeted the woman and introduced himself. Hearing his voice, the woman started, nearly dropping the pies. She laid the pies on a nearby counter and half-ran to Caddis, throwing her arms around him. “Oh, it is you!” She hugged him tightly, nearly sobbing.

“Um who are you?” Caddis asked.

The woman pushed him back to arms length and looked at him carefully, smiling. “I’m your mother, dear Caddis. My name is Abere.” Over his shoulder, Adriana and the others could see that there was a definite resemblance between the two of them, but were not quite convinced…

“If you’re his mother, prove it.” Adriana demanded.

The woman looked hurt and sighed. “Are you sure? Must I?”

They insisted. Sighing again, she took another step back and in a moment, the flesh on her face appeared to melt and flow like wax. Beneath was the most hideous visage they had ever seen, so horrid that they all staggered in fear. Worse though, were her eyes, which were dark and piercing and identical, down to the last freckle, to Caddis’s and shone with the same intensity as his evil eye, though the effect on them was magnified a hundred fold.

“Well, I’m convinced…” Caddis said, and, quick as that, her face returned to normal. “So why was there a statue of toddler me and my rose up on the mountain?”

“You kept the rose?” Abere seemed almost ecstatic. “I knew it would lead you home…”

Caddis pulled out his own drowned rose, and held it up. “What do you mean? A storm brought us to Faerie, not this rose…” His mother simply started humming the song again, and suddenly he could hear it reverberating from the stone flower. “Oh…”

Seeing that Caddis’ friend were still weak and reeling from her evil eye, Abere offered them all some pie.

“Is it people?”

“No apple dearies, and it will make you all feel better…” and, indeed it did, as one bite of the delicious pastry was enough to dispel all the harmful effects of her gaze. As they ate, she bustled about, inquiring why they had come to Faerie.

“We need to collect some unicorns to make Captain Caddis’ ship fly…” Adriana stated matter-of-factly.

“Captain?” Caddis’ mother sounded impressed. She looked around the table and her gaze settled on Adriana in a strangely approving way. “And are you his…?”

“I’m his first mate…” Adriana replied.

“Oh! How wonderful.” The woman nearly clapped her hands. “When are you due…?”

“Oh, no no,” Adriana said blushing. “I’m First Mate on his ship…not his first mate…”

“Oh, pity. I was so looking forward to some grandbabies…” She sighed again. “Well, anyway dearies, it’ll be dark soon. Do stay the night, won’t you.” She bustled into the other room, “I’ll just fix up some beds for you shall I?”

While she was in the other room arranging linens, Leo’s eyes suddenly went wide as he remembered something. “Ummm…guys…we’ve got to get out of here. Now!” He stood, leaving the last couple bites of pie on his plate and began inching towards the door.

“What’s wrong?” came the hissing whisper from everyone around the table.

“I just remembered where I’ve heard her name before,” he wispered. “The natives on the islands back home talk about Abere as a cannibalistic demon who lives in marshes…lures men in…then her plant-lady servants drown them and she eats them…” Leo cleared his throat and raised his voice, “Terribly sorry ma’am. We’d love to stay the night, but we should get back to our ship and see how the crew is doing…” He continued backing slowly towards the door.

“Oh,” the woman looked sad, “Must you go?”


As soon as Leo’s foot touched the ground outside, he felt something grab his leg. He looked down to see vines rising from the ground and wrapping his legs tightly, cutting off the circulation. He look up, then back down and, on his second glance saw, not vines, but a beautiful woman, lying naked on the ground and grabbing his leg tight with one hand and stroking it tantalizingly with the other. “Guys!”
Caddis quickly spoke up, “Actually, I’d love to spend the night, Mother, but my officers really do need to get back to my ship…”

“Oh, well that’ll be nice…”

The woman-vine-thing released Leo’s legs and stood up, along with five others. They all looked like masses of seaweed, tightly packed and twisted in the forms of female humanoids, each with a single long strand extending from their midsection off into the swamp, almost like an umbilicus. Crestfallen, the six vine-women slunk off into the swamp and vanished into the strange-looking trees.

Caddis waved his friends off, “I’ll be fine. If she wants grandchildren she has to keep me alive a bit longer.”

Adriana, Rummy, Leo, and the others ran as fast as they could out of the swamp and back to the ship, leaving Caddis to spend the night catching up with his Mommy.

To be continued…