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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Manuscript found in Airship Wreckage, 5877
The journal of geologist Farnsworth Lake, found in the wreckage of the airship Orvendel, is the only hint we have of the fate of the Altamont Arctic Expedition of 5876. Despite it’s undisputed authenticity, the veracity of its account is controversial.
Throughout much of the early voyage, Lake describes the view of the world below as obscured by thick mists. Temperature readings of the rising air are notably higher than typical for northern Borea. Proponents of the “Polar Homeland” theory have suggested this was due to the volcano-surrounded island which was home to the ancestors of the Natives of the New World. Skeptics accept the possibility of volcanoes, but dismiss the idea of lost tribes. No credible land or sea expedition has been able to approach the area thanks to malevolent ice elementals and death frost winds.
When they had flown north of the mists, Lake describes the mountain-ringed Polar Continent, quartered by sea channels. Here, the airship made landfall and managed to make contact with the obsidian-skinned dwarf people who inhabit the ancient, perhaps pre-human cities built into the sides of the mountains. Previous expeditions had painted the dwarves as savages (and possibly) cannibals, but Lake suggests the gifts of gems the expedition brought may have placated them. Lake records that the dwarves recipricated by giving Altamont's group a portion of the tusk of a giant walrus and ancient sculptures (perhaps idols) recovered from the cities. The fact that none of these artifacts were found in the wreckage is made much of by the manuscript's critics.
Soon after leaving the dwarves, Lake records that the radio operator sighted a party of “beautiful but strange-appearing” women. These women were described as having skin like porcelain and being utterly unaffected by the cold. Historic accounts report “amazons” on the Polar Continent, but no other expeditions have ever recorded a sighting.
Altamont had planned to turn back at the edge of the maelstrom at the center of the “ring” of the Polar Continent, but for some reason, the Orendel strayed closer to the imposing spire of the Black Peak. Lake records that they begin to drift in the wind, their propellers pulled off by the mountain's magnetism. Blue fire was seen dancing across the hull. Lake theorized this was the anti-magic field of the Peak interacting with the alchemical coatings.
It was in the second day adrift that Lake describes the moaning sound beginning. All the crew heard it, though it was louder for some than others. At first, they thought it might be a natural phenomena, but soon they discerned that it was more like a chorus of voices. Their sleep was disrupted by the sound. Lake confesses he has a mounting sense of dread as the Bleak Peak filled the horizon in front of them. He reports seening shapes moving beneath the at times almost mirror-smooth surface of the mountain.
At this point Lake’s account becomes more terse and (perhaps) more confused. He mentions two of the crewmen as being “gone” but he does not comment on the particulars of their absence. He records entries he dates earlier than previous entries, but that clearly occur after. He relates Grandon’s (the historian) obsession with “runes” on the Peak that Lake cannot see. Finally, he writes that Altamont plans to extend sails to try to catch the wind and and turn southward.
The Orendel's wreckage was recovered 10 months later from an ice flow. No bodies of the crew were found, but as all the supplies were left aboard, it seems unlikely they abandoned the craft purposely. No further evidence of their fate has ever been found.
The greatest barrier to the acceptance of the manuscript's account is reconciling it with the last radio communication received from the expedition. Though the journal appears to be written in Lake's own hand, Altamont reported that Lake died during the encounter with the polar dwarves, nearly two weeks before the journal's last entry.