From the Journal of Jean Louis d’Éon on Board the Dragon’s Fire

by Andrew R. Duckworth

Photo by Addison Mae Cook. Photo editing and poem by Andrew R. Duckworth

Disclaimer: This entire short story in the form of combined letters is a work of fiction. No names in this work are in reference to actual people, in most cases actual places, or actual events. It is written to reflect the beliefs and prejudices of the time, the 18th century. These are not the beliefs and prejudices of the author.

[The journal of Jean Louis d’Éon was discovered in a shipwreck on the ocean floor in 2013, some 200 miles off the coast of Greenland. Some notes are indecipherable due to damage and others are indecipherable due to the nature of Jean Louis d’Éon’s writing as it is speculated his pace in writing quickened, particularly towards the end of his writing. These indecipherable portions are marked in the writing. No specific date can be given to the journal. However, the journal was discovered in French and has been translated to modern English. Many scholars place the dating some time after 1790 due to very vague references to a loss of religious authority in France. However, others maintain that it is from much earlier, from 1700 to 1750, placing it within the Golden Age of Piracy. It is unclear whether the work is a completely accurate account or if Jean Louis d’Éon took many liberties with his writing due to many biases based in a religious nature, etc. Most scholars believe that the name of the ship and the the account of the initial voyage are accurate accounts. What follows are the words of Jean Louis d’Éon as inscribed on a series of letters over an undefined time span.]

. . . That an Englishman might help a Frenchman out was a surprise to me. The captain of the crew of less than moral men is Captain James Thorne who, from the beginning, has been more than generous. . . and when we dock at port, most of the men aboard find a [prostitute] for the night. I, of course, stay on board the ship. Anne and the children await my return in La Rochelle. To disgrace myself before the eyes of the Lord, to knowingly sin in such a manner that dishonors my wife. . . spotted land, some way off in the distance, but we should arrive before nightfall. I wonder if this might be the place that Captain Thorne speaks of, a place of miracles and riches. If so, I’ll have enough to pay off my debt to Laurent and I can finally relax once more. . . and Anne can come back with the children from her family’s home in the country. In the distance, beyond the cold waters, there are three mountains shooting up from the horizon. It looks to be lush with greenery but I will get a better look later. . . As for Captain Thorne’s belief of this land, I cannot be sure. It sounds like a fable but appeals to me greatly. I am in need of [possibly a reference to finances]. . . I have heard the myths of the sea long before I ever met Captain Thorne, reports of sea maidens and monsters that tear apart ships. I take a skeptical approach to such stories and perhaps I owe it to my fellow countrymen. . .

. . . set foot on the beach. . . indeed was a surprise to find the island inhabited by a civilized people. They are all extremely welcoming. They share the language of the Englishmen, and so, as is the case of me speaking to the crew of the Dragon’s Fire, Captain Thorne, who has an extended knowledge of the French language with a few mistakes every so often, must interpret. The leader of this city we docked at welcomed us personally as if he was awaiting our arrival. I presume he leads the entire island as this island is not very large. His name is unusual and it is not an English name that I am aware of. His name is I’kon Mokrondus and he wears long white garments with gold trim, ornamented with blue jewels. They are rich beyond measure. All of the city folk have very large homes with. . .

. . . and the north side of the island beyond those three mountains is reserved for farming. This is why they call it the four corners, the island in which they know is organized perfectly in four distinct sections. I was, however, concerned when the city folk became a bit outraged over Captain Thorne’s request to explore the inner portion of the island. The city leader, I’kon, gaped in horror and began shouting. They apparently consider the center of the island to be sacred. . .

. . . and I was greatly surprised when Captain Thorne relayed this back to me. As it was described, in a time before time, a creature leaped from the sea and landed in the island’s center. It burrowed beneath the ground and there it waits to emerge again, receiving sacrifices of crops and island animals that are lowered down a deep pit. . . because it makes me wonder where the crops are coming from. . . and feed an entire. . . marked in blue. . . gold lining. . . I admit a certain fascination with these tales. . . clearly not a people who believe in the one true God, the blessed Trinity, and I can only. . . and when beloved France began to turn away. . . but I will remain on the Dragon’s Fire for reason that I have quarters here and find no need to take up space elsewhere. . .

[there is a significant amount of writing, several pages worth, that is indecipherable]

. . . It seems that the place that I’kon is most concerned for us to come upon is the space between two of the mountains, a valley. I have only glimpsed it from afar, but the view is spectacular with the most colorful flowers one can imagine, as if not originating from the world. If they are wild flowers and not planted by those of the island, I can understand why they hold it in such regard, whether the tales of these people are true or not. I also now understand their use of blue and gold in decor. It seems to be the most. . . and we were led back by our guide and I’kon who seemed very pleased that. . .

[scholars suggest a significant amount of time passes from the last entry to the following, possibly weeks]

. . . Nathaniel has gone missing. Of course, he is the crew member most lacking in morality. His name is known by women at every port we have docked at with the exception of this city, Abcainus, and I doubt it is by coincidence. I would be even more surprised if I found that Nathaniel had not already tried to make several local women acquaintances. However, the women here, while they are very beautiful, are also very well mannered. There are not any places that deal in those immoral practices here that I have noticed. The entire island follows the strict laws of Abcain. . .

. . . they brought me the book, but I can hardly believe that it was leant to them. More likely, George and Philip stole it. It is written in many languages, among them an older form of English that comes easy to Captain Thorne. He is helping me to translate it if it is possible to translate it in its entirety with the supplies we have on board. Among the first that we have translated is the Abcain creation story. Out of the water came the source of all life, a beast that fell to the island’s center, throwing out life in every direction. It burrowed underneath, being tired from its fall. . . and what amazed. . .

. . . and their actual language is that of Abcainus. We have come across some of this writing in the book, as well as French, Spanish, Latin, and Greek. For such an isolated people, they know much about the world. Their knowledge of languages, like all things on this island, is attributed to the land dwelling sea beast, their god. Such a. . .

Nathaniel has now been missing for several days and the captain. . . nervous. He knows of the predicaments that Nathaniel gets himself in. . . never this long. . . some sort of mission to find him. I have warned against doing so. Nathaniel will find his way back, surely. However, if he did not, I’m sure it is of his own doing. The man is immoral, sick in the soul, in desperate need of God’s divine grace. . . the other men on board as well. . . despite my warnings. . . that of I’kon. I am beginning to grow a bit suspicious of him and god only knows what the man will do when he discovers our George and Philip snuck away from their library with a piece of their most important. . . well tempered, but I sense something about this island. Perhaps it is just the difference in culture, but I have [come to the conclusion] that there is something dark here. As much as I dislike Nathaniel’s bad habits and blatant mockery of God, I too am worried. . . clever as they are. . .

. . . missing Anne more than anything. I hope that she has not given up hope of me returning. . . remembering when times were better, when I was not in debt, when Anne’s family loved me and now, how they hate me for the [reference to financial trouble]. . . and this matter of Nathaniel missing. Captain Thorne is preparing with three other crew members to scout at night. What they plan to find without. . . as there is during the day. Everything shines so brightly under the sun here, the gold reflecting out. . . deepest darkness one can imagine, even with the light of the moon . I’kon claims that they know nothing of Nathaniel’s disappearance but I have doubts. This place. . .

. . . found a curious piece from the book in my own language. They believe that they are gifted with some sort of supernatural ability. . . Always speaking in Abcain but that we are able to hear it in the manner they want us to hear it. For the crew, their own [possibly “language”]. . . some sort of power throughout the entire island. They distrust easily and trust is hard to gain, especially for those who are outsiders. They do not trust anyone from the outside world and are very suspicious of an outsider’s intent. I grant them that many have. . . not the best methods or the most hospitable means. However, this view towards the. . . comes from nothing that. . . wondering if they have ever. . . the fact that they know so many languages, they must have had some sort of previous contact with these cultures.

. . . and a trying day. . . and the remains of Nathaniel. My suspicions were correct and I want to get off of this island. . . found near the sacred valley. . . cut out of his chest and inside of a circle painted with his own blood. . . bed of flowers. . . sacrifice and, if this is the case, what does this mean for the crew of Dragon’s Fire? I have to wonder if we stay and. . .

. . . Captain Thorne has not returned. This greatly concerns me. . . and my prospect of returning to La Rochelle and seeing my wife. . . if they met the same end. . . refusing to come out of my quarters. . . Should I die from starvation, at least it will not be at the hands of. . . the whole island possessed by a great evil, possibly the Devil himself. . .

. . . their return. . . happy that Captain Thorne has returned. They are shaken at what they witnessed in the valley, thankfully undetected. . . and relay to me a ritual they. . . at a distance in the valley. . . Torches were carried and planted around the pit and the sacrifice began, using Nathaniel’s organs. I’kon himself took them and threw them down into the pit. Captain Thorne. . . ground rumbled as if their. . . more than tales, but a reality. But this beast is. . . must be some demon escaped from Hell and now haunts both the island and its people. We have to. . . thankfully, set sail. . . come to a place [scholars assume that Jean Louis d’Éon here is conveying Greenland due to the Dragon’s Fire’s discovery 200 miles off the coast of Greenland, but the text is too damaged to be certain] and perhaps we will find safe haven among. . . a long distance to La Rochelle. . . thankful that we will leave. . .

[scholars are unsure how much time takes place before the author continues his letters, but a matter of days at the most]

. . . set sail. . . opening the damned thing from their [possibly a reference to the library at Abcainus] but to my surprise the words. . . vanished. . . completely blank, once filled with. . . appropriate to throw the cursed book into the ocean.

. . . will not tell me why they are so nervous. . . Thorne unsettled. . . crew members seem to be suffering from some sort of illness. I’m not sure what plagues them. . . possibly weeks. . . a madness plagues them. . . worry about the voyage. . .

. . . madness plagues this ship. . . crew members and captain. . . gone mad. . . demonic rage. . . death of Philip at the hands of Matthew. . . hooks below deck. . . entire crew. . . if I will suffer. . . end. Surely I will not. If it is some illness brought on by that evil place, I barely came out of my quarters. Now, the prospect of returning to Anne seems more bleak. I am glad that I tossed that wretched artifact of evil overboard days ago. . .

. . . they look upon me as if to devour me, as if they have not eaten in days. More mysterious is the way their eyes glow red at night. Something. . . to this crew and I am witness to it. The merry sea shanties of our initial voyage have been replaced by anger and hatred. I have lost hope of ever seeing La Rochelle again, of seeing Anne again, of earning her family’s. . . and I am quite sure that this will be my. . .

[This marks the end of the decipherable portions of Jean Louis d’Éon’s journal. What happened to the crew of the Dragon’s Fire is still a mystery. However, there is no evidence besides the words of Jean Louis d’Éon that such a place as “Abcainus,” or any of the inhabitants for that matter, ever existed. It is thought that Jean Louis d’Éon may have suffered from some sort of psychological break due to grief. However, the possibility of a mutiny on board the Dragon’s Fire has been discussed as a possible explanation for the end of the journal and possibly the demise of those on board]

If you haven’t already guessed (I mean, there is a disclaimer), this entire thing is a work of fiction. I got the idea to write a short story constructed as a series of notes. To add a bit of believability, I added the “found document” scholarly portions. I suppose one can view this as a work of horror writing, but I’m not really sure at the moment what genre this might fall into… Unless, of course, there is a genre specifically dedicated to sleep deprived writers who type what they’ve previously scribbled down on notebook paper at 3 in the morning. Just a bit of art for the sake of art. This was, again, inspired by both Lovecraft and Melville (as odd of a combination that may be). I like keeping to the open sea theme. The cosmic horror element comes with the undefined beast that will one day come out of this burrow it has made. I liked making the creature of the story possibly the least detailed aspect, only being referenced. It was my attempt to keep attitudes and prejudices as close to what they may have been during that time with the overly Catholic Jean Louis d’Éon and his, at times, negative critique of anything he comes across that is different than the world he knows, although I did grant him a bit of grace when he acknowledges some of the evils of colonization while not directly calling them “evil.” He is often very quick to critique the crew members, the pirates that he is sailing with, as they engage in activities he sees as abhorrent. As to where I came up with the name Abcainus, there really is not much of an explanation to give. Although, I did want “Cain” to be in the name somewhere in reference to the first murderer (as allegorical as I find the story) according to my own religious beliefs. Ultimately, Jean Louis d’Éon turns out to be correct in being suspicious about the place they found, but not because of his prejudices (a broken clock is correct twice a day).

This writing is the work of its author, Andrew Ryan Duckworth, and can in no way be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any form without request from the author.

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