tikific: (Default)
[personal profile] tikific
Title: The Disappearing Island
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale/Cthulhu Mythos
Author: tikistitch
Rating: M
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos
Warnings: Cursing, sexual situations
Word Count: ~36,000 total
Summary: Carlos, a naturalist on board the HMS Vigilant, stumbles upon the ancient island of Nightlantis during a tour of the Pacific in the 1800s. There he unwittingly joins in a contest to win the beguiling Prince Cecil's hand in marriage.
Notes: At the end.
Carlos had borrowed a pair of hounds from the hooded figures once again. Although progress had been agonizingly slow, with Babbage's help he had managed to clear away the debris from the staircase inside Vansten's library. And so at last he ventured down towards the lower levels of Nightlantis, intent on picking up on Thurston's trail.





The ground shook intermittently as the island prepared to once again sink beneath the waves, the tremors growing more violent, and more frequent.

Worst of all, Carlos was aware that his seven days would be up in mere hours, meaning the portal would reopen, and he would have his only chance of getting home.

He was now down far enough on the lower levels that it had grown uncomfortably hot. He had discarded Cecil's borrowed jacket, hoping that he could soon apologize for the slight, shouldered his pack, and continued on downwards, face now dripping with perspiration. Down on these lower levels was yet more machinery, but it was stilled. It had a strange symmetry to it: god knows what it was all for, or who had built it. It looked like it hadn't been used in ages, and was covered with layers of rust.

Unfortunately, when he had gotten innumerable levels down, the trail suddenly ran cold. The hounds whined, but ran around in circles.

Carlos he felt the familiar odd prickling sensation on the back of his neck. He stood with the dogs on a leash. “Please, I need your help,” he said.

Tamika stepped forward from the shadows, wearing her mismatched clothes. The redheaded boy, Barton, was beside her. They stopped a short distance from Carlos. There were many other children arrayed around him now.

“You helped me before,” Carlos pleaded. “Before I went to confront the librarian.”

Tamika and Barton exchanged a skeptical glance. “That's right. We hate those stupid librarians. But why should we help you again?” Tamika asked.

“Because I need to rescue Prince Cecil.”

Tamkia and Barton burst into giggles and nudged each other, which further tried Carlos's rapidly thinning patience. “Oh, what is it?” he demanded.

“Why? Because you looooooove him?” Tamika taunted.

“Ewwwww!” chimed in Barton.

As the ground trembled once again, Carlos shook his head in frustration. “We share a mutual affection, yes. And what's wrong with that?”

“Mushy!” called Barton.

“Well, I am sorry that romantic feelings are considered to be 'mushy' in your world view. But the fact remains, if we do not rescue Cecil from Thurston, your entire island may be destroyed!”

“Thurston?” asked Tamika, her dark eyes narrowing in derision. “He's a real jerk.”

“He's a jerk,” agreed Barton.

“Although I would fain call attention to others's weaknesses,” said Carlos. “Yes. He is … a real jerk.”

“Give us a minute,” said Tamika. She signaled, and several children gathered around for a whispered conversation. After a frustrating moment, they turned back to face Carlos. “All right. We'll escort you down to the lower levels. That's where … they are sleeping. We think that's where he must've taken your boyfriend.” The children burst into more giggles as Carlos rolled his eyes.

“He is your boyfriend, right?” asked Barton.

“Yes, Cecil is my boyfriend.”

“Did you kiss him?” asked another child.

Carlos was going to tell them exactly why it was none of their business, but decided to keep his temper for the moment. “Yes, we have kissed.”

“On the lips?”

“Yes.”

There was a hearty round of children groaning, “Ewwwwww!”

It was true: Nightlantis tried his patience. “Can we perhaps get going?” sighed Carlos.

“This way,” said Tamika, and they all headed off down the corridor.

Carlos noticed the little girl who had asked about the kiss was walking beside him. “Can I pet your puppies?”

“You may,” said Carlos. She carefully touched the head of one of the hounds, and it gratefully licked her hand. She sprang back, looking at her hand.

“It's fine,” said Carlos, reaching down to scratch the dog behind the ears as the girl stared in wonder. He handed off the leash to her, and, after only a brief hesitation, she grabbed it in her little hand and trundled on ahead.

They ventured down a couple of dark staircases, and zigged through some dim corridors, and finally all the children stopped where the light suddenly grew brighter and everything opened up. They stood along a very extended railing.

Carlos ventured up to the rail and peered over. He gasped at what he saw and stepped back. And then, more carefully this time, he approached the railing.

They had somehow come out on the bottom of Nightlantis. Evidently, the city was symmetrical: just as it was bounded by a conical volcano above, so the very bottom consisted of a deep valley shaped roughly like an ice cream cone. He glanced up, and could see above them the many scattered structures that made up the underside of Nightlantis.

“How do we descend from here?” asked Carlos who looked around in vain for some sort of passageway.

“We fly down,” said Tamika, and indeed, some of the children had run to grab some very odd equipment which was stored around the rim. The contraptions were prodigious, and Carlos, despite his worry, was intrigued by their design. They contained a single seat, a small engine, and above that, something that looked like a very large, ribbed parasol. The ribs on the parasol were actually long, thin blades, and when the steam-powered motor was engaged, they whirled around. He watched in awe as Tamkia strapped herself into a seat and took off in the thing, hovering like a blown dandelion. And then she rose up and very slowly began to drift down into the conical valley.

Barton pushed Carlos impatiently into a seat. “But, I don't know how to pilot this machine!” said Carlos. “It's all right, it will take two,” Barton told him. He strapped in Carlos and then hopped up to stand on the seat in back of him, and, with no further ado, they were aloft.

Carlos gasped when they cleared the rail, as the bottom looked so very far down, but he tried to keep his head. The little craft drifted slowly downwards. “So,” said Barton, “what do you think?”

“This is remarkable. Do you think Cecil is being held at the bottom then?”

Carlos couldn't see Barton above him, but he could imagine the boy scrunching up his face to think. “That's our guess. We had one of these 'copters stolen. We imagine it was that jerk, Thurston.”

“It was stolen just now?” asked Carlos.

“No. Several days back. We think he's been going up and down. Don't know why.”

Carlos nodded. That was passing strange, especially if, as everyone said, there was no one below but the Old Ones.

“Hey,” said Barton. “So, you like Cecil?”

Carlos sighed, hoping this would not eventuate another round of teasing. “Yes, I like him.”

Above him, Barton was quiet for a moment, as if thinking very hard upon a problem. “Uh, so, how did you tell him?”

“I'm sorry? How did I tell him?”

Barton paused, as if screwing up his courage. “Yeah, if there's a person you like, I mean, like like, and you don't know if they like you, and you wanna tell them you like them, how do you tell them you like them?”

Carlos grinned. “Well, I've found it's advisable to just come out and confess your feelings.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes.”

“But, what if the person doesn't like you back?”

Carlos had to smile. Barton sounded in earnest. “If the person does not share your affections, then the gentlemanly thing to do is to retreat at once. And then you may pursue instead an interaction with someone who, one must hope, shares your feelings.”

Barton fell silent again, so there was no sound other than the whirling blades of the copter.

“Is there anyone particular you have in mind?” Carlos prodded.

“No!” insisted Barton. “Of course not. I'm just, you know, askin'.”

Carlos grinned, and soon after, they landed down on a circular rock ledge that was apparently the lowest rim of the valley. There was no railing here. Having unstrapped himself from the 'copter seat, Carlos ventured to the edge and leaned over to gaze beneath him: the circular space down in the center was dark, going to pitch black. “What lies down in the pit?”

“Where the Old Ones live, I 'spect,” said Barton. “Though I've no idea why they like it so cursed dark down there.”

“Maybe they're light sleepers?” ventured Carlos. He looked around. The valley here was not nearly as smooth as it had appeared from far above: caves and rock outcroppings pockmarked the valley walls, all perfect places to conceal someone.

“I think I saw where they got your boyfriend,” whispered Tamika, pointing straight across the circumference of the ledge. Carlos squinted across the abyss. Yes, he could dimly see a figure over on the other side.

“I'll go,” he said. “You two stay put!”

“We'll be fine!” Tamika told him.

“I need you to stand by these copters when we're trying to leave.” Carlos left and carefully made his way around the ledge.

He came upon a very odd sight: it was a large clock sitting on the rim, ticking away. He wondered idly if he took it apart whether it would have nothing inside, like the other clocks in Nightlantis. The clock had a bell on the top. Carlos wondered what it was for, and whether it might be a tolling clock.

He got his answer sooner than expected, as the minute hand reached the hour and the bell suddenly began clanging. Frantically, Carlos jumped out of sight behind some rocks. The bell kept ringing and ringing. And then, to his astonishment, a large, green tentacle poked out over the ledge. It felt around, and then, finally finding the clock, gave it a whack.

The bell ceased ringing.

The tentacle disappeared.

Carlos began to breathe again. He peered from behind the rock, but saw no more sign of the tentacle, nor the creature it presumably attached to.

He carefully made his way along the rim, and, with no further misadventures, and at length came to the place Tamika had spotted. He saw a flash of silver hair, and knew he'd come upon Cecil.

“Hold still,” he whispered as he ran to where Cecil had been chained up. “I'm here! I'm here. Are you all right?” Carlos reached out a hand and brushed his fingers on Cecil's face.

Cecil puffed air and blew some hair out of his face. “Oh, I'm fine. Other than the bad cliché of being chained up. How perfectly embarrassing!”

“You'll be fine,” shushed Carlos, plucking a bobby pin from Cecil's hair.

“We don't have time for that now, my love!” said Cecil.

“Excuse me?” said Carlos. “Uh, no, I need this,” he explained. “Are you certain you're all right? He didn't … harm you in any way?”

Cecil nodded. “I told Mr. Thurston that he lacks a villain's imagination. And then I requested some torture....”

“What?” asked Carlos. He was using the bobby to pick the locks of the metal clasps that held Cecil's wrists. “You requested torture?”

“Well, just a little.” Carlos stood blinking for a moment, but Cecil kept up his recitation. “But he just kept up muttering about inferior races and the like. He's very tiresome as an antagonist.”

Carlos shook his head and finished freeing Cecil's right wrist. “We'll get you out of here. I have some transport standing by.”

“I didn't know naturalists could open locks with a hair ornament.”

“My brother taught me this, actually. He's a bit of a bounder, but he has his uses.” There was a click, and Cecil was freed. He immediately (and somewhat dramatically) fell into Carlos's arms.

Carlos thought that they didn't really have time for drama, but then decided that it would only take a few seconds to give Cecil a nice kiss. (Although, in the back of his mind, he could already hear Tamika and Barton yelling “Ewww!”)

But the clench was soon interrupted by a gunshot. Carlos hit the floor, dragging Cecil down with him. “How much ammunition did that idiot bring along!” Carlos cursed.

“He might be setting the gun back to yesterday, when his armory was full,” said Cecil. Carlos frowned at him. “I told you time here is weird,” Cecil added with an apologetic shrug.

“We need to make our way back around the rim!” said Carlos. The ground shook again, and there was a loud boom. Carlos threw himself over Cecil. When at last the shaking stopped, he looked back up, he realized that there was now an avalanche blocking the way he'd come. “Damn!” he said. “Now the only way back is by Thurston!” As if in answer, another shot fired over their heads.

“No, there's another way,” said Cecil, wriggling out from beneath him. “But you have to trust me. Come on!” And with that, Cecil ran out to the edge of the rim and jumped off, disappearing into the blackness below.

“Cecil!” cried Carlos. Another shot came over his head. He ran after Cecil and, pausing a moment, closed his eyes and jumped.

He made a soft landing almost instantly. Oddly enough, it was now dimly lit down here. The ground below him was passing strange. It seemed to be a carpet of soft moss, but when Carlos moved, it rippled, as if there were a body of water just underneath. Despite his dire circumstances, Carlos's scientific curiosity was aroused, and he spent a little bit of time bouncing up and down in order to visualize the intriguing wave patterns.

Then Cecil was there, slapping a hand over Carlos's mouth. Cecil held a finger to his lips for silence. And then he gestured out across the cavern. There appeared to be something living there: Carlos's impression was a mass of enormous tentacles, all tangled up.

“The Old Ones lie sleeping here,” said Cecil, and Carlos realized whatever it is was faintly snoring. “Well, at least one of them. It’s a little hard to tell: all those tentacles.”

“This isn't very deep at all,” said Carlos. “It looked infinite from above. How did you know?”

Cecil shook his head. “I told you the Old Ones were rubbish at engineering. Also, I saw it wake up to punch its alarm clock.”

“Oh, was that what it was?” Carlos remembered the clock with the bell on top he'd seen the tentacle swipe at.

“Yes, fortunately, they're late risers. Lazy sods, if you ask me. Now, we need to make our way to the other side without disturbing it.”

Carlos poked at the ground one more time with his foot, sending out another ripple of waves. “There's water underneath,” Cecil explained.

“How remarkable!” whispered Carlos.

“Some toff sort of bed.” Cecil shrugged, unimpressed. “Now follow me!” Carlos nodded as Cecil crept along, keeping towards the side of what he guessed was the creature’s bedchamber. Carlos smiled, marveling at Cecil's bravery and resourcefulness. Perhaps the children were right to moan and groan over their mutual affection? Carlos had to admit to himself, even though he had only known the man a few days, he was rather smitten.

As Carlos's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he noticed other features of the chamber. There were theatrical placards hung up on the walls, for example. As Carlos had never been a theater aficionado, he didn't recognize the titles. One advertised a show called Qunisniket Park, and another, Regner Lodbrog's Epicedium.

They also had to make their way around various items of furnishings. Carlos looked up at what he took to be the creature's kitchen. There were a number of oversized pots and pans all stacked up, as well as some kitchen knives big as swords. It was also stacked with books and periodicals. Carlos looked at one of the spines. The title was in the strange language of the Old Ones, but Carlos now had enough practice he could translate it: To Serve Man.

They made their way around the huge table, and were about halfway around the circumference of the room when they heard the shot. Fortunately, it missed Cecil and Carlos, but hit the floor of the chamber, and the result was a gusher of water, as if someone had knocked over a fire hydrant.

The creature abruptly ceased snoring, and suddenly, the tentacles began to writhe.

“Cecil, run!” said Carlos. He grabbed one of the oversized knives. “I'll hold him off!”

“You can't hold off a gun with a knife!” said Cecil, who stayed stubbornly put. “Don't be preposterous!”

“Cecil, I throw knives,” Carlos hissed.

Cecil paused for a moment staring in wonder. “Really?”

“Yes, that's how a killed a pirate! Aboard the Vigilant!”

Cecil gaped in a rather rude but endearing manner. “Carlos, I cannot begin to describe how terribly attractive that is!”

They stared dumbly at each other for a long moment, but another shot rang out. “Cecil! There’s no time for this. Go get cover!” Carlos ordered.

To Carlos's intense relief, Cecil scampered away. Carlos stood, gripping the knife, and tried to watch both the slumbering Old One (which, oddly enough with all the commotion, seemed to be drowsing once again) and Thurston, wherever he was. Also, as the surface of the bed was still leaking, and he was now shin-high in a rapidly rising tide of water.

The villain appeared just then, gripping his rifle, which was pointed at Carlos. “Stop right there,” Carlos threatened, hoisting the knife, and immediately realizing what a foolish defense this would be.

“Where is it?” demanded Thurston. “Where is the sacrifice?”

“Is that it?” asked Carlos. “You're helping the Old Ones now?” He wasn't really certain how he was going to get out of this one, so he decided to delay Thurston as best he could. He had read a lot of novels, and knew villains needed to explain themselves in the last chapter.

Thurston glared at him. “Only one Elder God. This abomination!” He pointed to where the creature snoozed nearby.

“You consider this creature an abomination, yet you evidently esteem him over Cecil?”

Thurston looked as if he would spit. “That savage is less that human.”

“You attempted to assassinate the mayor. What does that make you?”

“Some races are simply not as highly adapted,” Thurston averred primly.

Despite his current predicament. Carlos was offended, both for himself and for the scientific community at large. “Oh, do not use Mr. Darwin's theories this way! He would be appalled at the likes of you.”

“What do you know of it?”

“I am Mr. Darwin's correspondent of many years running!” Carlos crisply informed him.

“Really?” asked Thurston, who seemed a little crestfallen. To Carlo’s astonishment, he lowered his weapon, and approached Carlos. “I can't seem to get him to answer my letters. What do you think I'm doing wrong?”

“You're out of your mind, for one thing!” came a call from up above. Instantly, Thurston had his rifle up, pointing it at Cecil, who looked down on them from the creature's kitchen counter.

“Come down here, or I'll shoot!” screamed Thurston.

“Carlos, look out!” yelled Cecil. Carlos dove out of the way just as something dark and sticky rained down from up above. The gun went off once again. Thurston leapt to his feet, although the water was now rising, making every movement clumsy. He was now completely coated in the dark, sticky substance. Carlos raised his knife, but suddenly, Thurston had the gun up, pointing it at him.

But just then, a long green tentacle snaked out, wrapped itself around Thurston, and yanked him away. As Carlos looked on in horror, the Old One, which was now awakened, popped Thurston into its tentacled mouth and swallowed, emitting a satisfied burp.

Carlos felt a splash beside him. It was Cecil, who had hopped down from the kitchen counter up above.

“What was that?” whispered Carlos.

“Chocolate,” said Cecil, licking a bit off his fingers. “The beast has a sweet tooth. I saw a lot of dessert cookbooks when I was up there.”

“Clever!” said Carlos. There was a huge rumble. The Old One writhed around, and then suddenly disappeared beneath the surface of the rapidly rising water.

“I think we need to get out of here, Cecil,” said Carlos. They half-ran, half-swam for the far ledge. They pushed and pulled each other up, as the water had nearly risen to that level.

“Carlos!” shouted Tamika. “We thought you were done for!”

“We need to get going, right now!” Carlos told her.

“We can only take one of ya,” said Barton. He pointed to where one of the copters had been bashed by a falling rock. “You need to decide. And quick!”

“We think we can possibly take us and one of you,” said Tamika. “But that's all.”

“Take Cecil,” said Carlos immediately.

“No. I'm staying with Carlos,” said Cecil stubbornly. “You two ride up.”

“Cecil-” said Carlos.

“But we can't-” protested Tamika.

“Both of you!” commanded Cecil. “I don't like to pull rank, but I am your prince, so get up and out of here, now, or there shall be consequences!”

“What consequences?” asked Barton.

Cecil knelt down so he was eye to eye with Barton. “I shall look askance upon you,” he said quietly. “Now, go!”

The two children made to get into the copter. Carlos slipped his hand into Cecil's. “That was very brave,” he whispered.

“I don't care what happens,” Cecil insisted, “as long as I'm here with you.”

Carlos smiled and went to kiss him, to a hearty round of “Ewwww's” from the children, who were already riding up in the ‘copter.

“What's that?” asked Carlos, pointing upwards. There were shadows on the wall of the canyon.

And then, with the sound of beating wings, he was yanked upwards.




“Did you get all of them?” Josie fussed at her angels as they all alit back on the main level of Nightlantis.

“There are more children on the lower levels,” Carlos told her.

“We need to get them to safety,” said Cecil. “We owe them a large debt of gratitude.”

Tamika and Barton both straightened up proudly. “We can help,” said Tamika.

“Yeah, if we get to fly with angels again,” added Barton. Josie nodded to the angels, and they flew away with the children, who squealed in delight.

“Wish we'd thought of that when we needed to get down there,” Carlos groused as they watched them fly away.

“The angels won't interfere in most things,” said Josie. “But you'd already taken care of the sacrifice, so I told them to quit dilly-dallying and go help you.”

“Thurston ended up being the sacrifice?” asked Carlos. Josie nodded. “Then, as the children would say, ewww!”

“Thank you, Josie,” said Cecil, although Carlos still looked annoyed.

“By the way, Carlos,” said Josie, blinking through her thick spectacles, “I suppose you know that your portal is opened now.”

Carlos gasped. “What? Oh, good Lord, we have go! Cecil, come on!” Carlos took off running towards the edge of town and the passageway beyond.

Cecil, looking confused, started waving goodbye to Josie, who wrapped him in a hug. “You take care of him, my dear,” she whispered.

“Come along, Cecil!” hollered Carlos, as the ground trembled underneath them. He and Cecil ran breakneck through Nightlantis as the ground continued trembling, and a deep rumbling went up from deep beneath the mountain. They finally came to the tunnel, and ran along towards where Carlos had fallen what now seemed so long ago.

As the ground shook, Carlos ran as fast as he could, panting and gesturing upwards. “I see a light! I think it's opened!”

Cecil, looking bewildered, ran along behind.

“There it is!” shouted Carlos. Indeed, there was now an opening visible up in the tunnel's rocky ceiling. “Come along,” he told Cecil, “we can climb up there.”

“Carlos,” said Cecil quietly, “you want me to- to come along?”

Carlos stopped. The ground was now trembling mightily. “What? I thought that was the point!”

“To leave my home … for the outside world.”

Carlos’s heart sunk. “Cecil, I told you I would show you the stars and the moon. Now, come on!”

“Yes, but you didn't ask me formally,” said Cecil, who looked a bit put out.

There was thick dust all around and it was getting hard to see. Carlos was thrown against the side of the tunnel when the ground lurched. “Cecil, be reasonable,” he pleaded. “I was going to marry you, for Heaven's sake.”

Bits of the tunnel ceiling were coming down all around them, but Cecil pouted. “Well, only because you felt sorry for me,” he said, looking away.

“Cecil, that's not-” There was a terrific rumble, and the ground shook violently. Carlos sighed, deciding there was nothing for it but to get it out. He dropped down on one knee. He thought for a moment, and then began, “Cecil, I hope the past days have proved that I harbor a great deal of affection for you in my heart-”

Cecil crouched down, taking Carlos's hands. “Oh, you don't need to go down on a knee for me!”

Carlos huffed in pure frustration. “But you wanted romance, Cecil!”

“I suppose I did,” laughed Cecil, who tugged Carlos upwards. But just then, the ground beneath them buckled, and Carlos stumbled backwards. He fell … upwards, into the doorway, as if invisible hands were pulling him in.

Desperately, he grabbed the door frame and attempted to brace himself. He held out a hand. “Cecil, come with me! I-”

“Carlos!”

The ground shook, Carlos lost his grip, and felt something wrenching him upwards.

He found himself, quite suddenly, in the water. He looked below him, choking and disoriented. He could see through the clear tropical waters that the island that housed Nightlantis was already sinking beneath the sea. He thrashed in the water, looking this way and that, but didn't see the portal door anywhere. Finally, he looked up, and could barely see light of the sun barely showing through the surface of the water.

Kicking with all his might, he tried to ascend, but was held down by his now sodden clothing. His lungs began to burn. He yanked off his boots, and once again struggled towards to surface. Higher and higher he climbed, feeling dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

Air.

He needed air.

And then it all went black.



Carlos sat up in bed. “Cecil,” he whispered.

“Get the Cap'n,” whispered a voice beside him.

Carlos blinked, looking around the gently swaying room, utterly confused. “Where- Where am I?” he asked.

“Don't you know, lad?” asked the mate. “You're back on the Vigilant!”

“You waited for me?” exclaimed Carlos.

“Waited?” asked the Mate. “You were gone less than an hour.”

Carlos laid back, relieved. “Yes. Yes, time works differently in Nightlantis.”

“Where? Listen, lad,” the mate said, leaning over him, “we think you might've bumped your head, jumping in like that.”

“Have you- Have you recovered Thurston?” asked Carlos.

“No, body's likely washed out to sea.”

“Washed out? From the doorway?”

The mate was squinting at him. “What doorway?”

“The empty doorway on the island.” It was all coming back to him. “We went up to investigate, and found ancient ruins....”

“Ruins!” laughed the mate. “Ruins of what? You found a deserted isle. Not even real interesting, according to our men.”

“But, if I didn't jump into a doorway-”

The mate looked confused. “T'was no doorway, lad. Thurston pitched raving into a pool, and you plunged in after him. Half mad yourself, if you ask me!”

“No doorway?” said Carlos.

“Oh, there you are!” boomed a familiar voice. Captain Cochrane entered the room and sat down next to him. “We thought we'd lost you. You were half drowned when we pulled you out.”

“I- I jumped in a pool?”

“Yes,” said Cochrane.

“There was no stone doorway?”

“Doorway?” The mate and Cochrane exchanged a puzzled glance. “I heard of no doorway. Did your brain get scrambled down there?”

Carlos tried to control his breathing. He noticed he was barefooted, wearing just his underclothes, and lying under a scratchy, woolen blanket. It looked like they had set him out in the mess room he usually used for surgery instead of his hammock. “What happened?” he asked.

“You went ashore on the island. You remember that?” Carlos nodded. “Thurston claimed it was supposed to be some kind of great lost civilization, but we saw no trace of that. Then that great fool started to rave about Old Ones and jumped down into a pool. You rushed in after him. Must have wanted to save his raving mad arse. But you both must have ended up washed out to sea.”

“That's what happened?” asked Carlos, rubbing his head.

“Yes. We think you may have suffered a concussion, in the fall. You’re damn fault, always jumping into trouble!”

Carlos lay back. So it had all been a strange fever dream. Yet it had felt so real. But it was all poppycock, obviously – a civilization below a mountain. “Thurston?” he asked.

“We've seen hide nor hair of Thurston,” said Cochrane.

“You were completely knocked unconscious,” added the mate.

“I was having-” Carlos began. “I had the strangest dream.”

“You were out. Lucky for you your friend dragged you in,” Cochrane continued.

“It was all...” Carlos began. “Wait, my friend, you said?”

“The native boy who rescued you?” said Cochrane.

“Native boy?”

“Yes, out exploring or something. Another madman! We all thought he was an old man. Hair white as-”

“Moonlight!” said Carlos sitting up.

The captain looked at the mate. “Well, of course. Anyway, he claims he's your friend. Funny kid, but speaks good English, I have no idea how.”

“Is he here? Is he still here?”

“Well, yes, he's up on deck. We thought- Carlos!”

But Carlos had already grabbed the blanket around him and took off running for the deck. I must look a madman, he thought, gallivanting around the deck half-dressed and half-drowned. It was night time, and the Vigilant was cutting silently through black waters.

And then he saw him, a silver-haired figure standing by the railing at the bow, gazing around in wonder. And then Carlos was behind him, wrapping him in an embrace.

“The stars!” said Cecil, pointing upwards. “Carlos, they're so lovely.”

“They are,” said Carlos, arms tight around Cecil's waist.

“I never knew there would be so much void between them.”

Carlos didn't answer, but only held on, his heart beating, his eye welling up.

Cecil turned around to face him. “Carlos, are we going to have an adventure now?”

“Yes, my dearest,” said Carlos, tracing Cecil's face with the tips of his fingers. “Yes we are.”



Epilogue


Strathlachland, Scotland, Year of Our Lord 1860

Rafael sighed and gazed up at the vine-covered walls of his family estate, steeling himself. He heard a soft “ahem” next to him, and jutted out an elbow. Temperance, rubbing her bulging belly, took his arm.

A liveried servant opened the wide front door, and, with children trailing behind, the couple stepped through the threshold. The Baron stood there in the cavernous main entryway, leaning on his cane. He looked a slightly less tall than he had been, slightly more hunched, but his eyes remained sharp. His wife was at his side, extending her arms.

“Nana!” screamed the children, who broke into a run to embrace her. She fell to her knees to receive their hugs and kisses.

The Baron extended a courteous hand, and Rafael shook it, gratefully. “Well, look at you,” the Baron told Temperance, giving her a quick kiss on the temple.

“Oh, my dear, you look marvelous,” gushed the Baroness, taking both of Temperance’s hands in hers. “How far along?”

“Still another three months, but I’m already big as a house,” said Temperance, once again gleefully rubbing her belly.

“What’s all that racket?” came a voice from up the staircase.

A squeal suddenly went up from the children. “Uncle Cecil!” they chorused. The boy and girl tumbled over to greet the dark-skinned, silver-haired man who was descending towards them.

“Who brought these rugrats?” asked Cecil in mock horror, grabbing the girl up on one hip. “I suppose you’ll be demanding a story from Uncle Cecil?”

“Yes!” they chorused.

“Well, as it happens, your Uncle Carlos and I just returned from the Antipodes. What do you think about that?”

“Children, please don’t plague Uncle Cecil,” scolded Rafael.

Cecil winked at Rafael and reached out a hand to the boy. “Do you want to see a platypus? We picked him up in Tasmania!”

“Yes!” shouted the boy, and then they were off, walking back out the front door, while the Baroness escorted Temperance to the sitting room.

“Your brother’s up in his study, if you want to converse,” the Baron told Rafael. “He probably lost track of time again.”

Rafael nodded and excused himself to go upstairs while the Baron and his wife continued fussing over Temperance. He somewhat nervously made his way along a darkened hallway to Carlos’s rooms.

“Rafael, is that you?” called Carlos, who was indeed ensconced in his study. He rose from his desk and, ignoring his brother’s outstretched hand, wrapped him in an embrace. “I’m so sorry, I must have lost track of time.”

“It’s all right,” said Rafael, who was blushing slightly as Carlos pounded him on the back.

“Care to go outside for a smoke? It’s a fine day?” Rafael nodded. Carlos opened his humidor, and after grabbing cigars, they passed through the French doors to a small balcony overlooking the estate.

“I’ve heard congratulations are in order,” said Carlos, settling into a chair.

Rafael puffed on his smoke and leaned against the railing, heaving a sigh. “Twins this time, or so they tell me.”

“Great news!”

Rafael looked dubious. “Carlos, if I had any idea Temperance would be so … fertile….”

Carlos roared with laughter.

Rafael’s face took on a morose cast. “My two are tormenting their Uncle Cecil now. If you’d like, I can call them off.”

“It’s no problem. We’d like to get to know your children, so I can more easily pick who I’ll want to disinherit.”

Rafael scowled at his brother, who once again burst into laughter.

“To be serious, Rafael, will you require more financial recompense?” Carlos asked. “We want to assure for the children’s education.”

“We’re fine. You have been most generous.” He sighed again. “And, as I have often said, I am most grateful to you for smoothing things over with Mother and Father.”

Carlos waved his hands. “It was nothing with Mother: she’ll do anything to see her grandchildren. But as I’ve warned you….”

“No hint of scandal,” sighed Rafael, sounding more than a bit wistful.

“No returning to your former ways. At least while Mother is still alive,” Carlos warned.

Rafael turned his back on Carlos to gaze out over the estate, smoking for a while, deep in thought. “When we originally arranged this visit I didn’t expect to find you and Cecil here today,” he finally said. “I thought you were still out on your latest expedition.”

Carlos shrugged. “We had originally planned to be away longer, but turned around and made for home as soon as we received the news about Father’s stroke. He appears to be doing well though.”

Rafael came and sat down in the chair next to his brother, looking concerned. “Is that your opinion as a physician?”

“My opinion as a physician is that he’ll outlive the both of us.”

Rafael sighed and appeared to sag. “He will me, probably. I’m not so certain about you. You appear highly contented these days, Carlos.”

Carlos sat back, looking contented as a house cat. “Perhaps because I am?”

“Will you ever tell me the true story of how you and Cecil … became acquainted?”

“We’ve already told you everything.”

Rafael derisively waved around his cigar. “I don’t mean Cecil’s phantastical tales.”

Carlos leaned forward. “Rafael, as you must have learned by now, sometimes the phantastical is also true.”

“Papa!” came squeals from the doorway, as two children hurtled themselves towards Rafael.

“Uncle Cecil has a platypus!” “In the duck pond!” “And he has a beak like a duck!” “And webbed toes!” “And he swims!” “And he’s Albert!” “And he comes when he calls!” “And he’s from Tasmoonia!”

“Tasmania,” supplied Cecil, who was standing at the door, grinning.

“Children,” scolded Rafael, who was struggling to stand up. “Aren’t you going to greet your Uncle Carlos?”

“Hullo Uncle Carlos!” they chorused, and tumbled into his lap one by one for kisses. Then they were back to tugging on their father. “Come and see! Come and see!”

Rafael rolled his eyes and allowed himself to be swept off the balcony by the tide of toddlers.

When they had all gone, Carlos smiled at Cecil, and patted his leg. Cecil came over and sat on his knee, and Carlos kissed him softly on the temple. They took care, when they were in mixed company, but Carlos figured he could do as he wished on his own estate, and everyone be damned.

“When they get a little older, we can take them along on a voyage perhaps,” said Carlos.

Cecil’s eyes grew big. “That would be wonderful!” He nestled into Carlos. “Oh, Carlos, do you regret that we can’t have them?”

Carlos shrugged. “We could have them, if we wanted.” Cecil sat up and looked dubious. “There’s orphans enough in this county,” Carlos explained. “Like the lost children in Nightlantis. If you wanted, there are many children who want and deserve a home.”

Cecil gasped. “You would do that?”

“Of course.”

Cecil leapt to his feet. “Carlos, we need a child!”

“Right now?” laughed Carlos. “I haven’t finished my cigar.”

“Oh, hang your cigar. Come on! There’s no time to waste!”

“Cecil, it’s not like picking out a damned puppy or kitten.”

But Cecil would not be talked down. “We should go now. Our niece and nephew are here, they could help select a suitable cousin!”

Carlos regarded Cecil for a long moment. “All right, all right.” Cecil clapped his hands. Carlos tapped his cigar into the ash tray. “I suppose you’ll want to bring along Albert the platypus as well?”

“Oh, what a capital idea!” said Cecil, and he tugged Carlos off the balcony, and into their home.

It was silent for a short while out on the balcony, except for the whispering of the wind. And then a striped tabby cat leapt up and sat on the railing, grinning and switching its tail.



Notes on this chapter: I gave you a little epilogue, since people seem to like 'em. The depths of Nightlantis are somewhat based on Dante's conical version of the various circles of hell. I figure Cthulhu would like that.
Page generated Sep. 20th, 2017 07:59 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios