Death at Sea by Praefectus Praetorio Sliske.
This seems to be a notepad used by Sliske to jot down ideas for a play. The opening section deals with possible characters and a rough plot involving a sailor who witnesses a murder so terrible that it renders him mute. However, after a few dozen pages it devolves into backstage gossip, excerpts from secret police files on the proposed actors and tirades against the increasingly complicated plot. After a short gap the entries resume, in a journal format.
It seems art may be imitating life! I had a chance encounter with Nabor this evening, which may hold the key to my current plot difficulties. It seems that he has received a new inmate to his little asylum, specifically a member of our navy, who has been struck insensible by some terrible injuries. I was almost bored to tears by the conversation until that little nugget of information popped up. I may pay the place a visit tomorrow; an official inspection. That will pass a bit of time. Maybe seeing a wretch in a similar condition to the one I have been writing about will add a little realism to the scenes?
Well that didn't help.
My visit to the asylum has raised more questions than it answered. Nabor was almost fawningly open with his records, and it seems there is little to fear from his charges. I doubt many of them are capable of subversion at this point. Some are barely able to feed themselves!
I eventually requested to see the sailor in question. Nabor took me to a chamber held apart from the others, and I inquired if the patient was dangerous. He replied that it was more for his own protection. The human was known to shout things that disturbed the other patients, agitating them greatly. Nabor claimed that no matter what he tried, the lunatic would not do anything but babble piteously, occasionally howling and braying in ways most unsettling.
When I approached the cell I found the human inside lying on a pallet of straw. I noticed that he was not bound, but was in a filthy condition and missing his left leg and right foot. On seeing me he crawled on his belly across the flagstones and pulled himself up using the bars. What he said next was...unusual. I cannot get the words out of my mind, nor the intensity with which he spoke them;
'Do you really think you can save them, Player? You can't. The spiral of time leads only to the gaping maw of eternity. And this is Xau-Tak.'
As he uttered those last syllables there arose a hooting and wailing from the nearby cells. The inmates on this level began banging the bars, screaming and otherwise displaying their afflictions in a chorus of suffering. The pathetic human fell to the floor, weeping, as Nabor called for his orderlies to restore order. I returned to my offices. Who is this 'Player', and who (or what) is Xau-Tak? It seems my play will have to wait until I have answered these mysteries.
I returned to the asylum to speak with Nabor and the sailor, only to find out that the latter was dead. There were no marks upon the body, and nobody was seen to enter or leave the cell. Curious.
According to Nabor's records, the man was a sailor by the name of Gustaf Joannhes, attached to the patrol vessel Glory of Zaros. He was deposited a fortnight earlier with the injuries to his legs and completely mad. He refused to be bathed and reacted with extreme fear to being touched. His outbursts of screaming and howling in the night caused him to be moved to the lower cell, where I encountered him.
Nabor claims that before meeting me Gustaf had not spoken the name Player, but that Xau-Tak was a frequent part of his deranged howling. Could this lone clue be part of a larger threat? I should investigate further.
I have undertaken an investigation to the coast to find the remainder of the crew of the Glory, only to find more mysteries. According to my contacts in port, the ship was wrecked at anchor in an unnatural storm, and the sailors scattered and unreachable. I spoke to the admiral of the fleet who told me that the Glory had been dispatched after the unusual tsunami from the south-east to investigate the region.
They found that the mist-haunted volcanic island chain in that area had been reduced, apparently overnight, to a series of uninhabitable reefs and an archipelago of sandy scree. The humans on board were eager to leave, as the area had a sinister reputation; the jungles supposedly hiding a lost city of masked ape-things that practiced degenerate, cannibal necromancy. However, when the lash was applied several were persuaded to put on diving gear to go looking beneath the waves to see if any treasures could be claimed.
The only one to return was Gustaf, in the condition in which he was sent to the asylum. The log book from then on merely mentioned returning to port in the most cursory language, noting only some repairs below the waterline and the loss of four more men to 'mutiny'. The admiral was as disgusted as I with the quality of the document, and promised that should the captain ever be found she would face the strictest of consequences.
It appears the matter has concluded itself in a rather unsatisfactory manner.
After dispatching my agents and using my own skills I tracked down the last member of the Glory's crew; a werewolf called Lygrass. I approached him in a seedy tavern and found that he was drinking himself into a stupor. No other would approach his table, nor even look at him, and it seemed that the barkeep was providing him bottles for free.
I sat with him and demanded to know what happened aboard the Glory. His answers were evasive as riddles. When I asked him how Gustaf had lost his legs he simply replied 'they wouldn't let go'. When I asked what damaged the ship he claimed 'claws' and he would say no more. I saw his evasion was not caused by his drunkenness. Indeed, his eyes reminded me of Gustaf, and his words began to take on a strangely portentous meaning that I could not identify.
I asked him what happened to the four mutineers. Lygrass shook as if with chill and told me that the thing Gustav brought on board killed them. I asked what this item was, and he refused to say. He told me it had 'sung' to the crew at night, and that the four men had 'become absent' and had to be killed. I pressed him on what happened to this artefact, and Lygrass told me it has crawled overboard when not watched.
Finally I asked him if he had ever heard of Player, and he said he had not. I got the feeling this was the first truth he had spoken directly in our meeting. So I pressed further and asked him if he had heard of Xau-Tak.
Lygrass whimpered like a whipped child and placed his glass upon the table. He then launched into a sing-song catechism that ran as follows;
'What carves its hate upon the monolith?'
'Through what do we crawl in silence?'
'What swims the ocean of the dead?'
XAU-TAK! XAU-TAK! XAU-TAK!
He continued shouting that name over and over again, causing the other disreputable characters in the tavern to accost the pair of us. Despite my rank and powers I was unable to prevent Lygrass vanishing under a wave of thrown punches and broken bottles. The other patrons kept shouting for him to shut up, but even to the last he kept on crying out that terrible sound.
Once order was restored I had the brawlers executed and the owner of the bar arrested. Lygrass had been killed in the scrum, and with him went my last chance of discovering the mystery of the Glory. As much as I would like to spend resources investigating the archipelago for answers, more pressing matters call my attention.
The majority of pages after this are blank aside from a single entry containing your date of birth.
Player? Really? Is this the key at last? I must watch and see.