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The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 2 September 10, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
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Some men have been immortalized in biography
While others have been immoralized.

– Laurence J. Peter


Chapter II.2:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

uppsala2

Captain Briggs sat in Uppsala’s ornate High Council chamber. He stared down the length of its dark perberwood inlaid cabinet table to the jewel encrusted Empty Chair, symbol of the governing power of all Uppsala. Marshall Jobe, Proctor of the Uppsala Rejoinder, and the seven other State Proctors had departed as soon as the conference ended. Briggs lingered in his felt-cushioned seat, his mind mulling over the details of the deliberations.

The meeting centered upon an unusual military operation, preparation for which would begin within the month. The High Council informed Briggs that command and responsibility for the success of this mission would rest in his hands. They selected him by reason of his past command proficiency in unique military operations. Therefore, they concluded, he possessed the ability to solve the distinct logistical difficulties this particular campaign would impose. With Briggs’ leadership the High Council could count on the attainment of the incredible goals predetermined for this mission. No time frame had been given for completion. OutSiders had no use for time frames.

Briggs had almost allowed his feelings to make a judgment. He’d caught his error before giving voice to his thoughts. He couldn’t see himself passing moral judgments on orders. In an Empire such as Uppsala, morals are a road to a premature grave. Jobe had a point, Briggs thought. History records victory. It does not list moralistic trivialities concerning its attainment. Conquerors write history. The conquered whine and die in silence.

Seated at the long council table in this high-ceilinged room, Briggs felt even smaller than his five-foot-six frame. A hall so lavish and pompous as this chamber contradicted his views on comfort . He preferred the austere surroundings of a military camp. His pale blue eyes traveled to the Seal of State on the wall behind the Empty Chair. Supported by two Griffins respectant set a shield parted per fesse. The upper crimson field contained nine blue stars, one for each Rejoinder of Erde, set in semicircle. The lower white field pictured a displayed richert, a black eagle-like bird, facing front, the standard of the armies of Uppsala. Carved into the polished rock wall below the shield read the words, “Live to Serve or Serve to Live.”

Taking an extended breath, Briggs stared at the richert, his thin fingers drumming on the table. Uppsala had spent the past two hundred years subduing the settled lands of Eastern Erde and he had played a large part in her victories. The last twenty years had been peaceful. Now this clandestine campaign had become his assignment. The Council had charged him to raise a unique battalion. He must train these hand picked men to penetrate the ancient forests of the Weald and destroy its indigenous natives village by village, the survivors to be transferred back to Uppsala and sold into bondage.

I escaped such bondage myself, he mused. He reread the words, “Live to Serve or Serve to Live.” He had made his choice. His mind began to wander back in time.

***

…”Do ya know where ya are?”

I heard the voice. My eyes opened but I could only see light and shadow. Salty air heaved my water-filled lungs in and out as I gasped for breath. Cloudy eyes squinted into the light. I couldn’t make out the faces looking down at me but I could feel the unevenness of wood planking beneath my back. A thick smell of dead fish prevailed. I tried to respond, “Where, where I am?”

I rolled over on my side, coughing up seawater. Men gathered around me on what I assumed to be the deck of a small fishing vessel. My clothes, soaked and gritty, felt plastered to my thin frame. No one spoke. I felt they wanted me to say something but I couldn’t respond. Coming from what seemed the end of a long tunnel I heard a voice dictate, “Keigs, Durin, throw him ‘gainst a rail. Get the water outta him and drag him down ta my cabin.”

Rough hands grabbed me and forced me to my feet. The roll of the deck had a familiar feel. The men pushed me forward. My gut struck the rough-hewn rail and I doubled over, retching seawater again and again until my stomach ached. They jerked me backward by my hair and pushed me across the deck, then down a short flight of wood stairs into a cramped enclosure. The two men pressed me onto a stool and left the room at the signal of a muscular hulk of a fellow who sat on an unkempt bunk.

My eyes cleared. A small oil lamp burned in a brass sconce attached to a dark bulkhead behind the heavy man. It gave little light and sent shadows stretching everywhere with each roll of the ship. We sat without speaking, the room’s occupant taking my measure. I pulled at the edges of my memory, trying to sort things out. In time, the brawny man broke the silence.

“I’ll ask ya again. Do ya know where you’re at?”

“Where’s my wife and daughter, my crew? Did you pull them out too?”

My words sounded labored by my heavy breathing. I kept my head lowered between my black trouser legs, not bothering to look at the other man’s face. My breath came back a bit as the pain in my chest and ribs subsided. My mind began to clear as well.

“We must be somewhere near the Azores I imagine. That’s where you pulled me from the drink.”

I looked up to see a coarse brown eyebrow lift over my inquisitor’s right eye. The man gave me a long stare and asked, “The A-zores? And where on the waves might these A-zores be?”

More in disbelief than because of my current condition I asked, “Th…The Azores? Why…They can’t be more than a half days sail from this exact spot. They’re on every chart. I ran a course from New York to Gibraltar when my ship…What do you know of my wife and child?”

The muscular man held up a hand shaking his head. “You’re talkin’ mad. The sun and water’s got ta ya. This here’s the Rigga Sea and there ain’t no place called New Yawk nor Gibralta nor the A-zores anywheres on these waters. I should know. I been sailin’ ’em for countless yars.   Saw no woman nor child. Just you. None other.”

My heart sank with those words and my head dropped back down to my knees. I realized I might never see my wife and child again but I had no time to allow my loss to sink in. I knew this situation called for all my faculties to be alert.

“We’re fisherman from Hummel. I captain this ketch. But from what I’m seein’ of you, we might have a journey ta Uppsala in store.”

He looked at me as if the name Uppsala should mean something special. I’d heard the name before but attached little importance to it. “Uppsala…Somewhere in Scandinavia?”

“No, no man!” I could hear excitement in the strong fellow’s voice now. “Forget all that if ya want ta live. There’s no Scan’navia here. Uppsala’s the Capitol City of all Erde. And by my whiskers, you’re a prime OutSider! First prime I ever came across!”

I stared back at him in blank silence. I wondered if I’d drowned and if this might be some kind dream or an afterlife. I dismissed the idea out of hand, however. I felt the same man I’d always been. Could this all be a joke played at my expense?

I looked over the barrel-chested sea captain, trying to get a read. I couldn’t see anything unusual in his countenance. His heavy-set face sported whiskers growing straight out from the chin. His skin appeared dark, tanned by the sun. He wore a light butternut homespun shirt tucked into homemade pants without pockets, belted by a piece of rope. To my discomfort, he also wore the look of a man who had just stumbled upon a treasure.

“I am Benjamin Spooner Briggs, Captain and part owner of the brigantine, Mary Celeste. It’s November of 1872 and we are within a day’s sail of the Azores. Put me to port there. I’ll take no further part in this foolishness.”

The huge man’s uproarious laughter rang in my ears…

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