The feeling of the heat from the fire on his face was comforting, the flickering shadows of the flames danced on the walls and ceiling above him. He was comfortable. The room was silent but for the crackle of the flames consuming the logs stacked in a perfect pile inside the fireplace. His glass was almost empty, the ice now melted, he turned and looked towards a grubby bottle of rum on the table next to him. "I should probably drink the rest of this" he thought to himself. He reached across from his rocking chair, grabbed the bottle and poured the viscous drink into his glass. The creaking of the wooden ship over the huge waves grew louder as they left the shallow waters of the coast and sailed East. He stared back at the flames.
He and his crew had been at sea for almost 4 years. Some men had been lost during devastating sea storms, terrifying encounters with indigenous tribes and many more to aggressive disease which was normal, but what they had encountered on Punta Salome Island in the Southern Ocean was nothing short of perplexing and it brought their exploration to an abrupt end. Captain Barajas was now returning home with a little under 25 men after setting sail into a world of discovery with close to 100. He had nothing to show for his crew's outstanding efforts bar some loose gold, a handful of primitively drawn maps, various precious metals gleaned from rivers deep in the mountain jungles. In the corner of his room wrapped in some old cloth was an artifact taken from Punta Salome that he knew he couldn't explain to his King. How could anyone really explain what they had encountered? The men that were left onboard to help guide the ship home constantly watched the horizon behind them as the Sun set rapidly over the mountains. They were both exhausted and mentally broken, some were terrified. Most didn't think they could make it home. Everyone was silent.
2 days before on the evening of January the 11th they had entered the crystal clear turquoise waters of Punta Salome, named after the 3rd daughter of the the First Mate, a worthy Seaman who made the Captain proud with his diligent command of the men onboard and one of those whose body may never be found. Once they had dropped anchor, the Captain climbed aboard a skiff with a ragtag bunch of his sailors and rowed towards the shore for the customary erection of his ship's flag into the newly discovered soil. It contained the sigil of the Limici and the colours of their home colony. Over the course of 4 years they had stood up 16 flags all over the region. This was on course to be a very productive escapade for Captain Barajas and his men. Once they had proudly stuck the flag in the sand their attention turned to the thick brush of jungle now ominously goading them to come closer. Most of the islands they had discovered looked like this and it wasn't uncommon for them to abandon their expedition once they knew the unforgiving mass of vegetation had become impenetrable but they wouldn't leave without trying. Barajas ordered some of his men to start a fire before they got to work. They scurried off in various directions to gather firewood.
"You boy, come here, I have a job for you" said the Captain, motioning to a young sailor standing idly beside him. The kid nodded, stowed his blade and sauntered over.
"I want you to go back to the ship and tell the others to bring all the Longblades, as much as they can carry. We'll need more men if we're to cut our way into this" he said, turning his head and pointing towards the jungle behind them.
The kid nodded once again and ran down to the shore, pushing the skiff into the water before jumping onboard and grabbing the oars.
"You there" said Barajas, pointing at another sailor.
"Take some men and move up along the shoreline. See if you can find something that we can eat, preferably some wild pig or anything else you can get your hands on."
"Of course, Sir" said the sailor before whistling towards a bunch of his crew mates and shuffling along the sand towards them.
The Captain turned and watched as some of the men onboard the ship move to the starboard side to help the young sailor up out of the skiff. 7 or 8 men could be seen walking hurriedly down the beach between the shoreline and the jungle, scowering the new land as they went. Barajas' men were seasoned at this stage of the expedition and within a few minutes a fire was started on the beach. He had created a committed and dedicated team of men around him who worked tirelessly for the good of everyone. He trusted every one of them. By the time the sailors were onboard the skiff and had begun returning to the shore the Sun had started to disappear behind the trees and some of the stars above them began to flicker into view. The men had returned with a bounty of sea turtle eggs from the far end of the beach, a quite magnificent delicacy they had grown accustomed to over the last few years. Cracked open and poured down their throats, they made for a tasty and nutritious meal by themselves but they had also managed to scavenge the carcass of a large sea Iguana half buried in sand close to the water's edge. Its meat not yet fouled they de-boned it and carried it proudly back to camp. The men all sat around the fire and prepared for their feast as another sailor filled skiff arrived with the last of those from the ship who had authority to come ashore. Barajas made sure those who stayed to guard the ship would have some Turtle eggs and Iguana carried back for them. When one eats, they all eat.
As the men settled around the fire Barajas lifted his drinking gourd high and boomed "We thank the Gods for guiding us to this new land and we ask them to protect us from harm, we thank them for providing this food bounty and we ask them to take care of our fallen brothers."
The rest of the men, raised their gourds and in unison shouted "Godspeed. Long live the Limici."
"Now lets eat" said Barajas through a grin, squatting down in the sand amongst his men.
Behind them above the trees the night sky had grown full and the Milky Way etched across the sky, stretching one of its arms out into infinity. Farther back into the jungle, out of view of the men, at the base of a huge mountain, a greenish blue glow covered the tree tops. Its aura reaching for the stars, shimmering like Aurora Borealis. Something was alive on the island.
By the time the Sun had climbed high above the jungle the men had already cut a few hundred yards into the thick, damp undergrowth. They had slept well on the beach with full bellies. Digging small human sized holes into the sand and crawling in like crabs to rest for a few hours before the Sun came up. The air inside the jungle was heavy. The calls from strange birds echoeing all around them as they hacked and swung their longblades into the dense roots and branches of this living breathing rainforest. There were only 11 men now. The rest had gone back to the ship to provide extra protection. It felt like they were they only people in the world but rest assured there were other adventurous Captains out there sailing with their men, ready to plunder what they could given half the chance. Barajas thought it best to be safe and to protect what little gold and precious metals they had already stored for themselves below deck. This was a quest to make them and their colony rich, nothing else. The romantic notion of adventure remained but priorities came first.
As the day wore on the men were overcome with fatigue and they stopped in a small clearing next to a stream of water for some rest. Filho, took off his hat and placed it beside him at the water's edge before kneeling in the shallow stream and submerging his head into the water. It was freezing cold. He gulped the fresh water down and watered his long greasy hair before placing his hat back on his head. The other men did the same. Taking onboard as much liquid as they could and filling their gourds with excess.
"Where to Captain?" remarked one of the men leaning against a rocky outcrop. Aiming his blade higher up the ridge in front of them Barajas inhaled and said confidently "Up stream I would imagine". They secured their gourds and began moving along the water's edge, the Sun now high in the sky, the heat was blistering. They found it easier moving on this route as they didn't have to use their blades. All of the men watched the treeline intently. There had been many occasions when they had been ambushed by tribes of indigenous and many times when a sailor would suddenly fall dead with an arrow sticking out of his neck. All of the men held one hand on their blades, they had grown wary from past horror experiences and were hyper aware of their surroundings now. They were spread out on the water bank about 10 meters between each man, defensive positions. About 50 yards behind them, deeper into the jungle, was another defensive formation and many more sets of eyes, eyes surrounded by black mud paint and hair braided into tight knots, their bodies grimy and covered in red symbols. Barajas' men were being followed.
"I'm starving" grunted one of the sailors. Up ahead the men could hear the soft roar of water. They entered another clearing and it opened up into a huge area filled with a small lake, behind it rose a high waterfall pouring water off the cliff top. Green feathered exotic birds swirled in the air above the tree tops. Some of the men immediately began undressing and diving into the pool. Hollering loudly as they plunged into the refreshing water. Barajas felt exposed and uneasy. His men no longer had the cover of the thick jungle. "When they're done fooling around lets move back into the treeline and begin our return to the ship" whispered Barajas to Filho, both of them standing on the edge of the pool. "We've come far enough for one day, we'll return tomorrow with more men and some food so we can go further." Filho nodded and glanced up to the summit of the cliff where the water began tumbling down into the pool below, "Aye, Captain". They sat on some strewn rocks and removed their hats. Wiping sweat from their foreheads.
All the men gathered in a small huddle and began to dress once they returned from the water. Barajas motioned towards Filo and walked back into the brush behind them, staring into the deep jungle for any signs of movement, but it was too late.
"Men, drop your blades and be calm" said Barajas in a clear stern voice. The men all looked towards him, not fully understanding what was unfolding. They were completely surrounded. The uncontacted tribe were all standing motionless, their bows pointed straight at the heads of all the men. Filho's heart sunk. His instinct was to grab the handle of his blade and squeeze it. He didn't feel what hit him. The arrow pierced his temple and nestled deep into his head. His lifeless body hit the ground before the man beside him knew what had happened. This had all the hallmarks of the end of the road for Barajas and his men. He was tired and exhausted mentally after 4 years away from home and seemed to be accepting his fate. He was sad he had led Filho and the rest of his men this far for nothing. He dropped his blade into the soft mud and raised his hands towards the tribesmen.
Buzzards soared above Filho's body high in the early evening sky. Barajas and his men, their hands tied in knots behind their backs with jungle vine and their eyes caked with thick river mud, marched slowly through the jungle. The tribesmen ushering them up river and further away from their ship and home. The heat of the jungle was intense. One of the men collapsed and was quickly raised back to his feet and pushed back into a slow stumbled walk. Barajas uttered some words of encouragement to his men, "Remember, stay calm, if they wanted to kill us we would be dead already." He knew this was folly but he wanted to keep their morale high no matter what their final outcome was. It felt like they had trekked for hours and finally Barajas and all his men were stopped and forced to their knees. He could hear a low hum out in front of him and he had a magnetic tingling sensation all over his body, his hairs standing on end. There was a strange smell in the air and the jungle had become totally and eerily quiet except for the sounds of the tribesmen moving on the jungle foliage around them and that audible hum that seemed to resonate deep into their bodies. Barajas sensed someone standing in front of him, then a hand dug into the mud around his eyes, removing it so his sight returned. He gazed out in front of him, his eyes slowly focusing in the darkness. He didn't understand what he was seeing out in front of him. Standing about 8 feet off the ground was a glowing green triangle, a pulsating greenish blue light emanating from it. It made no sense. He turned his head to get a better look or so that his eyes could focus more. He could see it had edges along its side and was maybe a meter wide, sitting there on the undergrowth like a star had fallen from the sky. He looked at one of his captors, the tribesman just stared back at him motionless. One of Barajas' men was lifted to his feet and they cut the vine from his hands. He was pushed out in front of Barajas towards the strange object. When he stopped in amazement he was pushed further, his hair now beginning to rise from his head and a crackling sound ricocheted off his body. He took a few more steps with his hand out towards the triangle, he was totally mesmerised by its beauty and by his own curiosity. He turned to his Captain with a giddy nervous smile on his face, Barajas nodded back. The sailor looked back at the object as its hum grew louder. Some of the tribesmen cowered. There was a strange sensation in the air, all the men felt like their teeth were vibrating. Then suddenly, silence. The sailor dropped to the ground. A faint vapour rising from his body. The tribesmen began chanting together in a low murmer. Barajas was now lifted to his feet and the vines were cut loose from him, he too was pushed towards the object. This was it. This was his end. He tried to make sense of what was happening and where he was but he didn't have time to focus, the triangle once again began to hum and its radiance grew deeper and more beautiful. His teeth began to vibrate again. He turned to his men, all of them staring at the scene with their mouths aghast. He looked back at the object as its light began to blind him and its hum increased to the point where he felt he had to cover his ears. Then just like before, silence. Barajas opened his eyes and tried to focus, the object had completely dimmed in front of him. He turned around and looked at his men who stared back in disbelief. The tribesmen were terrified, so much so that they all turned and ran into the darkness of the jungle leaving Barajas and his men alone with the mysterious star. They could hear the tribesmen crashing through the vines and trees in the distance. Barajas turned to the black glass like object in front of him and reached out his hand to touch it. It felt dense and it had a warmth to it. Its surface felt rough like a shark's skin. The Captain sensed movement inside of it but the glass was opaque and he couldn't see inside.
He closed his eyes and thought, "Who are you?"
A voice replied inside his head, "We are you."
Barajas drank the rest of his rum and got out of his chair. The ship was now swaying heavily on the open sea. He walked across to the table and picked up the artifact wrapped in cloth. He peeled back the cloth and looked at the strange device. It had 3 squares on its front and on each square was a symbol, one was a triangle, one was a square and one was a pair of lines. Coming out of the top of the device was a short rope made from a strange flexible material and attached to it was a soft metal and two round parts covered in soft sponge. It was such an odd looking device. He pushed the metalic triangle with his thumb and a sound emerged.
"And now the end is here..
And so I face, that final curtain..."
It was the year 141 BC and Captain Barajas of the Limici had just heard the voice of Frank Sinatra. Nothing would ever be the same again.