Deep Sea Embers
Chapter 608: Walking with the Reflection

Duncan’s voice rang out from the mirror perched on the dressing table, his surprise evident in his tone. “What did you just say? They brought out a wooden sculpture of Goathead?”

Lucretia responded quickly, her eyes darting to the crystal ball situated nearby. “Indeed, it’s a black wooden statue resembling a goat head,” she confirmed. The orb faintly displayed an ongoing scene, relayed directly by Rabbi from the secretive gathering of the cultists. “The carving strikingly mirrors the ‘First Mate’ figurehead on the Vanished… In fact, the resemblance is uncanny. It’s a perfect match!”

Growing more intrigued and concerned, the image of Duncan in the mirror leaned in, prompting, “And after this goat head statue was presented, what transpired? Is it interacting or communicating with the cult members in any way?”

Lucretia shook her head, her gaze still fixed on the slightly obscured vision in the crystal sphere. “Not at all,” she explained. “The goat sculpture seems inert. Upon its introduction, it merely sat there, giving off the appearance of a simple piece of art. Around it, the cultists have initiated some form of ceremonial ritual — they’re lighting candles and igniting incense. Despite their reverence, the statue, which they’ve christened the ‘Skull of Dreams’, remains unresponsive.”

Witnessing Duncan’s mirrored reflection displaying a profound look of puzzlement and concern, it was clear that he was taken aback. He had always known that Rabbi’s undercover work within the cultist’s base would yield essential intel. But the revelations that were coming forth now were beyond his wildest expectations. From the very onset of the cult gathering, both he and Lucretia had been meticulously monitoring the updates provided by Rabbi. Out of all the intriguing revelations, this particular scene about the goat head statue was by far the most staggering.

The thought was inescapable: The Annihilators, this cryptic group, possessed a goat head carving that was an exact replica of the ‘First Mate’ figurehead on the Vanished. Was this the key that granted them unhindered access to the mysterious Dream of the Nameless One?

Duncan found himself enveloped in the mirrored dimension — a space interconnected by reflective surfaces. In this dimly lit realm, he took a moment to contemplate deeply. Raising his eyes after a few moments, he took in his surroundings.

As Agatha once described, this otherworldly space was best termed as “the mirrored representation of the Vanished, situated at the crossroads of the spirit domain and the tangible world.”

As Duncan gazed around, everything seemed familiar yet was imbued with a surreal quality. The Vanished appeared just as he remembered, albeit shrouded in a chilling and bizarre ambiance. Peeking through a window, the deck beyond was enveloped in twilight. Both the distant horizon and the vast sea seemed spectral, mirroring the ethereal essence of the spirit world. Adjacent to the ship’s frame, a nebulous radiance flickered, its form wavering like a mirage in the desert heat.

Turning around, Duncan recognized the captain’s cabin behind him — the navigational map table, shelves stocked with various items, the ornate wall hangings, and, most strikingly, the unmoving goat head sculpture, eerily silent, stationed near the edge of the navigation table.

The room was bathed in an oppressive, persistent gloom. Even with oil lamps affixed to the walls and various light sources interspersed throughout, a thick darkness seemed to have woven itself into the very essence of the place. It was as if the room bore a tattoo of shadow, a permanent mark that reminded any who entered that they had stepped out of the bounds of the normal world.

In stark contrast to the pervasive dimness, an oval mirror before Duncan glowed softly like a beacon of hope. This mirror, which reflected the ambiance of Lucretia’s chamber, radiated a gentle warmth — a tangible connection to the world outside this realm.

Shifting his gaze from the mirror, Duncan, with measured steps, made his way to the navigational chart table. Prominently placed atop it was the wooden carving of the goat head, standing inert, its details even more pronounced in the subdued light. It appeared indifferent to his presence, mirroring the inanimate nature of the “Skull of Dreams” around which the cultists orchestrated their ceremonies.

After a contemplative moment of studying the intricately carved figure, Duncan extended his hand, gently patting the statue.

In the actual world, on the opposite side of that luminescent mirror, such an action would have sparked an immediate and vocal reaction from the talkative Goathead. It was known for never letting an opportunity for conversation slip.

However, in this mirrored realm, often referred to as the “reflection” of the Vanished, Goathead remained unresponsive, giving off an air of dormant anticipation.

Eventually, a soft patter of footsteps pulled Duncan out of his thoughts. Glancing up, he saw the figure of Agatha gracefully making her way toward him.

“Captain, we have roughly thirty minutes before the Dream of the Nameless One activates,” intoned the woman, her voice ethereal, embodying the essence of the mirrored dimension she inhabited. “Drawing from past observations, as that moment approaches, this reflected version of the Vanished will metamorphose into a vessel navigating through shadowy mists. The goat head statue you’re observing will also be imbued with life.”

Duncan’s expression grew contemplative. “When it comes to life, it will indeed be different from the ‘First Mate’ I’ve grown accustomed to. This is a distinct goat head, and there’s an identical one wielded by the Annihilators,” he mused, taking a moment to articulate his thoughts. “It’s bewildering that they’ve harnessed the power of a goat head, its origins shrouded in mystery, to access the Dream of the Nameless One. The idea aligns, but it’s far beyond what I had envisioned.”

Pausing for a beat, Agatha tentatively posed her question, “Do multiple ‘Goatheads’ exist?”

Duncan’s response was a slow shake of his head. “I always believed there was just one. And it believed the same.”

“I recall you mentioning that the ‘First Mate’ originated from subspace. If its roots lie there… perhaps anything can be expected. It’s even plausible that these ‘Goatheads’ are representatives or members of some entity or clan native to that dimension…”

Agatha’s speculation dwindled, her words ending in a murmur, as even she found it challenging to fully believe her own hypothesis.

Duncan’s posture was that of deep contemplation. He stared, almost trance-like, at the wooden carving on the table. For all intents and purposes, the carving appeared to be nothing more than a piece of lifeless art. After what felt like an eternity, Duncan whispered, seemingly to himself, “Could they be… fragmented?”

Agatha, perceptive as always, caught on to Duncan’s musings. “I beg your pardon?” she asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.

However, instead of elaborating on his earlier thought, Duncan exhaled deeply, the weight of a sudden realization pressing down on him. “It’s becoming clear to me,” he began, “that we must apprehend those Annihilators alive. It’s not just about detaining their members, but we must also secure their ship.”

Agatha responded with an unwavering conviction. “As long as we pinpoint the ship’s exact location, no ordinary seafaring vessel can evade the formidable Vanished.”

At her statement, Duncan looked at Agatha, his eyebrows raised in mild surprise. “You sound so certain of the Vanished’s prowess, but have you ever witnessed its might firsthand?”

She gestured broadly, her voice tinged with reverence. “The sacred texts of the Death Church abound with tales of the Vanished’s awe-inspiring power. They recount how you once annihilated a massive warship commissioned during the pontificate of Banster in mere moments. And you achieved this remarkable feat right in front of the Death Ark with countless eyes watching. In my estimation, these cultists could never construct a ship more formidable than the legendary Arks.”

A shadow crossed Duncan’s face for a brief moment, caught off guard by the gravity of her statement. After a few beats, he offered a wry, appreciative smile. “Well, I suppose that’s a compliment in its own right.”

Recognizing that she had ventured into a potentially delicate topic, Agatha swiftly redirected the conversation. “Captain, have you managed to discern the motives of these cultists?”

“You’re referring to their unusual fascination with Shirley and Dog or their joint venture with the ‘Suntists’?” Duncan queried.

“Indeed, both aspects,” she replied with a nod.

Duncan leaned back, folding his arms as he meticulously recounted, “The Annihilators interest concerning Shirley and Dog was predictable. Any Annihilator in their right mind would be taken aback by the sight of Dog. From the snippets we’ve gleaned from Rabbi’s reports, the vision of ‘an intelligent shadow demon’ appears to be of paramount importance to them. The Saint’s reference to the ‘final piece of the puzzle on the path to ascension’ is particularly concerning. As for their ‘partnership’ with the Suntists…”

Duncan’s voice trailed off, and after a contemplative pause, he resumed, “The Annihilators seem fixated on the ‘Tree’, most likely referring to the World Tree Atlantis. The Suntists, however, are chasing the ‘Sun’…”

His gaze became distant, seemingly looking beyond the immediate realm, perhaps towards a specific “star” that floated ethereally in the Dream of the Nameless One—a beacon from days long past.

“…What could their plan be to acquire the ‘Sun’?” he mused aloud.

The tense atmosphere in the captain’s quarters was palpable. Agatha, usually composed and articulate, struggled to find the right words after being taken aback by the gravity of Duncan’s reflections. The room was immersed in a heavy silence, only to be unexpectedly shattered by Lucretia’s voice, which seemed to materialize out of thin air from a nearby mirror:

“Papa, Rabbi has relayed that the cultists are on the cusp of completing their arcane ritual.”

Immediately, Duncan’s attention shifted to the ornate mechanical clock adorning the opposite wall.

Its unique design showcased mirrored numerals in a reversed arrangement, and its hands rotated in a counter-clockwise manner. The clock’s unusual movement seemed to hint at the impending ninth hour.

The onset of the Dream of the Nameless One was imminent.

His focus then gravitated back to the nautical map sprawled on the table beside him.

Even within this mirror dimension, the maritime chart within the captain’s quarters faithfully represented the Vanished’s designated course across the oceans. At present, the ship was anchored roughly a thousand nautical miles north of the renowned Wind Harbor, steadily progressing further north, widening the gap between itself and the famed city-state.

The impending trial was drawing to a close. Duncan, with his seasoned intuition, surmised that regardless of how far the Vanished ventured from Wind Harbor, and no matter how remote the location they brought the goat head carving to, the Dream of the Nameless One would inevitably make its presence known. Wind Harbor would remain ensnared within the dream’s clutches, and this mirror version of the Vanished would undergo the anticipated metamorphosis.

Because, as the “Sun” softened its luminance, those who were once ostracized would be beckoned back into the tangible realm. This was reminiscent of the “warrior” who, through unforeseen circumstances, found himself thrust into the actual world, evolving into an entity that defied description. The much-revered Dream of the Nameless One was essentially emerging from a forgotten abyss, reclaiming its place in reality.

With twilight’s embrace, these transformations were set into motion, and the Vanished’s impending arrival at Wind Harbor only served to expedite the awakening of the Dream of the Nameless One.

As previously declared by the mysterious “Saint,” this fabled “Era” was unmistakably on the precipice of its defining moment.

Snapping back to the present, Duncan decisively instructed, “Lucy, provide a detailed account of Rabbi’s observations.”

From the mirror, Lucretia’s voice emanated with clarity, “Understood. The elite members of the cult have assembled around the ‘Skull of Dreams’ in anticipation of the ritual’s zenith…

“The Saint has now decreed for the ‘Blood Feast’ to be ushered into their ceremonial chamber.

“…They are presenting two elves bearing significant injuries.”

Chapter 608: Walking with the Reflection
  • 14
  • 16
  • 18
  • 20
  • 22
  • 24
  • 26
  • 28
Select Lang
Tap the screen to use reading tools Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between chapters.