The Maniae’s Relic
FROM THE JOURNAL OF DR. ALEXANDER B. WILSTHORPE
July 18th, 1887
Professor Alexander Wilsthorpe recording. We are currently en route to our destination: the ruins of Actium. To think that I, a humble professor from York, should have this rare opportunity to travel to the Ancient World and uncover the mysteries of the lost cults of the Greeks. I’ve held my office no longer than three years, without some recognition for my written works (menial as they are), and yet here I am on a boat for Greece! I never thought my rise in my field would be so swift. To think my superiors had chosen me---me--- to go along on this adventure. Sure, it is with the company of some yanks from Harvard and Princeton, but still it is the chance of a lifetime.
Americans… I cannot wait to see how these bumpkins muck and bastardize everything.
As things are right now, we have docked in Gibraltar for a few days now to allow the weather to subside and to resupply our ship’s stock. To note, this temporary stay in Gibraltar has proved to be most pleasant in terms of dining and leisure. However I cannot help but recollect the card game we had last night with some of the locals. The game itself was irrelevant, but this one part of it just sticks out in my mind.
After a simple game of Rummy and perhaps one or two drinks, one of the players said the most curious thing as he left. “Lyssa welcomes you, brother.” He said it with the most soulless smile, as if in a trance or completely mad. Perhaps he—or I, for that matter—had a drink too many.
In any case, it is getting late and tomorrow we are expected to finally put to sea again. I shall retire for the evening.
July 19th, 1887
We have been at sea for a few hours now, having left port at ten ‘o clock. The sea is unusually still, but I suppose a calm after a storm is not out of the question. What is most abnormal is the silence of the crew of the H.M.S. Usher. Normally they are either bellowing orders about or otherwise singing shanties; now they are sullen and silent, acting almost automatically, trancelike. Professor Jeremiah Levi, a compatriot and colleague on this adventure, emerged on the deck the same time I did—at the stroke of noon or so. Dr. Levi was a man in his late thirties, bearded, and yet one could see gray hairs already emerging in his beard. “Morning friend,” he said. I merely gestured with a raise of the hand and a nod. The awkward silence being so unbearable, I decided to approach him to converse. He may be an American, but anything beats this uneasy silence.
As I walked over to him, I accidentally brushed up against one of the sailors. I quickly turned about to apologize. He gave neither verbal response nor gesture of any sort. Instead he as well turned about and just smiled. But it was not the smile of forgiveness or of any other peaceful sensation. By God, it looked like that same soulless grimace I had seen just nights ago! Not wanting to be fixated upon that eerie sight, I resumed my course to Dr. Levi. By this point he had perched himself over the railing and had begun smoking his pipe. The tobacco odor was repugnant and unbearable, but for a shed of life to be found on this ship, this would have to suffice. To that end I as well leaned against the railing and simply took in the ocean breeze as best as I could, trying to stay windward of the tobacco. As I took up my rest on this railing, I swear I heard someone shout something ---“Lytta!” or something---but as I and my colleague double took to look about, we found no trace of the source of that sound. What we did hear just a second after the shout was the sound of something rather large hitting the water.
Our conversation lasted an hour or so as we discussed anthropologic findings that have supported the findings of Darwin until we found that it was best to dismiss ourselves to the mess hall for some luncheon. We were then joined there by the other professors, Ralph Kingley of Cambridge and the American Leroy Langley from Princeton, as well as the rest of the ship’s crew for the time we were in there. While my colleagues were engaging each other on the subject of Ancient Greece, I could not help but take note of all those in the hall: having seen nearly all the crew men from Captain to cook, I couldn’t help but note the absence of the one I saw before.
I am currently now in my quarters, logging my day here and continuing my study of Ancient Greek religion and culture to better understand what I am about to witness. To think that someday, somebody is going to read about me for the same reasons!
July 29th, 1887
Ten days later after sailing from Gibraltar, a month since from Liverpool, and now we are finally reaching landfall in Athens, from which point we shall have to travel to the site on foot. It has been a strange ten days aboard that sloop: more and more crewmen seem to vanish. Hopefully a better ship awaits our departure from Greece.
I must now pack up my things and prepare to disembark the vessel. So begins at last this great trek! I can hardly contain my enthusiasm! Not much longer and I shall be regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists in all of history!
July 29th, 1887 Evening
We have settled for a sojourn at a local inn for the night. This will be the last such luxury as the remainder of our mission is going to be spent in the “great outdoors,” as my American colleagues put it. Dr. Levi prides himself on the experience he has of the great outdoors, courtesy of his stay among the Indian peoples of the American West. Should his skills be true then this venture shouldn’t be so arduous.
Dr. Langley went out to procure a means of transportation—a wagon most likely—to make things even less of a hassle. My task of securing a guide was more than a hassle. My interpreter was quite lousy at trying to relay what we needed to begin with, but what apparently didn’t aid the situation was when we said the name “Actium.” At that word, the people seemingly withdrew as if the subject was taboo. All except one man who was quite odd. He is named Actaeon and he is going to meet us at our wagon tomorrow. Fortunately he speaks English, hence we were able to save a sum and relieve our interpreter.
I have been bothered by something since we left Gibraltar. I read through my books about the Old Gods of the Greeks, and among them I saw the name that I swear I heard in that lounge: Lyssa. She was named as a goddess, but it didn’t seem to recall what she was a goddess of. I couldn’t make out what as the page coincidentally has inkblots all over that section of the book, rendering it illegible. Perhaps I’m just being paranoid.
Then again I do swear that there was somebody just at my door….
July 30th, 1887
I awoke at eight o’ clock merely because I just could not contain my eagerness. I quickly shaved (as dangerous as that is), dressed myself, and packed my things. As promised, Actaeon was there at our wagon, dressed in a black tunic. “Come! Come! We cannot delay now!” he said in such a giddy tone. I know this town was boring but I never saw anyone so excited to leave. Dr. Langley and Actaeon sat in the front to drive the wagon and guide respectively. Dr. Levi, Dr. Kingley, and I were all crammed in the back with the luggage and equipment. We inevitably spent a great many hours crammed in this position, and made it clear to Dr. Langley that we would be drawing straws as soon as we made camp for the next to drive.
Seven hours we were stuck in that position and we finally made camp. According to our map, we were only three hours away from Karditsa, meaning that we would only have to endure only another day or two at this pace. To think we were now so close to our destination. Alas we must be able to maintain our sanity; hence we have set up camp for the night. I am now in my tent for the evening, resuming my studies. Tomorrow we are going to fetch more supplies and shall resume our way to Actium.
July 31st, 1887
This day started off with the most horrid of circumstances. It could not have been more than six in the morning, when Actaeon has roused everyone in alarm. Jumping around the fire place in circles, he had begun babbling out of terror. “Wilsthorpe, whats gotten into him?” said Dr. Levi, rubbing his eyes as he emerged in his sleepwear from his tent. I hadn’t any idea so I cautiously and slowly made my way into Actaeons course to intercept him and calm him down. I grabbed him by his shoulders to still him and calmly inquired what was wrong.
He babbled in Greek until he regained what little sense he had, at which point he slumped to the ground. “Th-th-the Am-m-merican…” he stammered before hyperventilating, at which point I shook him back into sense. “H-he is…d-dead.” Falling still and fixating my eyes for only a moment on the tent that belonged to Dr. Langley, I released my grip from Actaeon’s shoulders and proceeded to the tent with Dr. Kingley. Dr. Levi had fetched his revolver, presumably to keep Actaeon from running away, assuming he murdered Dr. Langley.
Peering into the Princeton professor’s tent, I could already make out a violent scene. Pages had been torn to shreds and nearly all possessions had been thrown about. Dr. Langley himself was the most horrifying feature of the scene. There he lay in the center. He had several lacerations on his wrists and a slit on his throat, all made with his razor. He had been shaving at his time of death, as made clear by the shaving cream on his face, muttonchops, and the now bloodsoaked washing basin. But the look on his face…
IT WAS THAT VERY SAME MAD SMILE!
Was this a coincidence? Was this a murder? A suicide? What cause would a professor of such an esteemed university have to take his own life? We were all here for science! It is illogical that we would kill eachother! If it was murder, why kill only one?! The blade was in Dr. Langley’s hand: he nearly had to have done himself in! Actaeon had no cause to kill him and again, why just the one?
We began our day by burying the good professor there, just miles away from civilization. We made due care to record this and charged Dr. Levi to inform his family. After the burial be packed up the entire camp, including what possessions of Dr. Langley we could salvage, and hastened away from that place. The benefit of starting so early, is that now we can perhaps reach the ruins at nightfall. I shall write again when we make camp.
July 31st, 1887 Evening
As foreseen, we have made it at long last to Actium. What we have found so far are the ruins of a temple, but to which deities of the Old Pantheon, I cannot uncover yet. It is a most breathtaking place to be sure. I look forward to unveiling the mysteries and the history of this place first thing! Oh, I can hardly sleep! Poor Dr. Langley. You were so near to seeing this place and sharing in the scientific glory.
August 1st, 1887 After Midnight
I cannot sleep no matter how hard I try. I am just so excited on the one hand about tomorrow’s prospects, but on the other hand I am far too paranoid! Suppose the killer of Dr. Langley comes for me next! Assuming of course, it was murder. I have taken to pouring over my texts on Greek religions, hoping to find more on Lyssa. I have uncovered something about my book.
Page 143, 144, 145…148?
A page has been ripped out! This is becoming more and more curious by the day. Is there a force conspiring against us in our quest for knowledge? Why? What are we not meant to uncover? With this page now gone missing, I now have nothing in my books or notes regarding Lyssa. I have no inkling as to what she is the goddess of. Bah! I am sure that it is all irrelevant. At sunrise we shall all begin our study and finally make some headway.
August 1st, 1887 Evening
An exemplary first day! We started our investigation at first light after a light breakfast and continued our search for hours until we broke for luncheon. It was just as I had had relieved myself for mine that I finally came across a most queer thing by the remains of the Altar. There seemed to be what looked like a puzzle on one of the pillars. Some pieces lay on the ground, and one place on the pillar looked carved with a square. I gathered up some of the pieces and tried to pry of some of the pieces off the pillar. Succeeding in this, I then ventured to solve this mystery. I noticed that one of the pieces I had removed seemed to fit perfectly into this carved space on the pillar. Having placed all the pieces together time and time again to get the correct sequence (assuming there was one), I resolved to mark each piece. So I withdrew my blade and cut my own hand, using it as a pallet and the blood as paint to mark each piece with a different marking, so to differentiate them all. Again I tried putting them all in the proper order and eventually, after minutes of this, succeeded.
A piece of the floor tile budged, revealing a pathway underneath the temple. I had to satisfy my curiosity, but knew it would be foolish to venture alone. I hollered for Dr. Kingley and Dr. Levi, as well as for Actaeon. They had arrived hurriedly to the scene and were perplexed by this. I advised that we all proceed into there for cautions sake. Lighting a lantern, I led the way in. It was at this that Actaeon begun one of his famous episodes. “History repeats itself once more. Yes…yes… hehehehe.”
Choosing to ignore him I led the party down into this secret place. We arrived in what can be labeled as the “Sanctuary.” I used my lantern to light some of the torches that were still mounted upon the walls. The illuminating of the room hardly accomplished anything. The room was filled with dead corpses, centuries old, and various busts. I could not recognize the busts or the statues, who or what they represented. Neither could I recognize the symbols some of them bore. I had to surmise that we had stumbled onto a sanctum of one of the taboo cults of the time period. I did not know to whom this one in particular one was dedicated, only that its end was apparently at sword point.
The centerpiece of this room was an altar and just beyond it, something that resembled a wolf, with a box of sorts in its mouth. In comparison to the rest of the room, this object looked to be the only thing in any sort of pristine condition. I had to salvage it. After taking it I noticed one of our number missing. Where has Actaeon gone?
Several hours later and Actaeon has not returned to us. Honestly, I find myself too fixated on this object of mine to really care. This item could well be the culmination of my career! I’m sure Actaeon went home, that’s all. We can find our way to the next port city just fine without him. Kingsley decided that a ritual dagger was worth is attention. A simple knife! Ha! Levi took a ceremonial censer for analysis. Tomorrow we would do one further investigation of the site and leave at nightfall.
August 2nd, 1887
We are now leaving Actium having completed our study. Granted this expedition resulted in the death of two—yes, two—of our original party.
Kingsley has now departed us. Levi and I had been unable to locate him when we awoke. We decided that he would undoubtedly rendezvous with us inside the Sanctuary. We were partly correct. As we reached the sanctuary he was there. Waiting for us.
He had apparently, like Langley before him, slashed his wrists before slitting his throat with the ritual dagger. And to my special terror, he, like the others I had encountered on this whole damned adventure, HAD THAT DAMNED SMILE ON HIS DEVIL FACE! Coincidence was becoming more and more fleeting here. There was something that was drawing us here and bringing these events about.
More disturbing was the note that Kingsley had left behind:
“Chaíre se séna , O̱ ieró Lyssa ! Gia na sas échoume paradó̱sei orthologikí̱ myaló mas na apelef̱thero̱tikó drómo sas ! Oikodéspoina , mas apodéchontai , mia prosforá gia séna !”
Clearly, the note was in Greek, and with no interpreter, could not translate. But the thing that struck me most was these facts: 1) Kingsley didn’t know Greek from Portuguese! He made that clear when we had lunch that one day on the sloop. And 2) One word did stick out in the note:
Did he sacrifice himself to this pagan god? Was he pagan? A member of this Cult? Impossible: there has been no trace of this cult at all. WE JUST REDISCOVERED IT! We buried him near the sea, disguised his burial as a marker for a shipwreck; we could not let our findings be compromised by this.
Perhaps it wasn’t a sacrifice. It could have been Levi. Americans love the glory. They always do. I’m going to watch him closely, just as that predator watches me, ready to strike.
I have done more analysis of this box. I tried opening it but to my surprise that when I did, a rush of odors overtook me. I swear I heard voices, but it was improbable. My analysis of this strange box is that it contained opiates. That is probably all. Still…the box has me so fixated.
It is my find…
December 13th, 1887
Months have gone and I am still fixated on this box. Fool Levi…Fool colleagues…They want my box! Always asking to see it, to touch it, to feel it, sniff it, and smell it! No! No it is my box! My precious box! A gift from my holy matron!
HAIL TO THEE, OH HOLY LYSSA! TO YOU WE SURRENDER OUR RATIONAL MINDS TO YOUR LIBERATING WAY! MATRON, ACCEPT US, AN OFFERING TO THEE!
FROM THE DESK OF HOMICIDE DETECTIVE NATHANIEL LAWRENCE MORGAN
Case No. 456-902
Victim Name: Dr. Alexander Bartholomew Wilsthorpe
The victim had been known to hide away in his study, rarely ever emerging. Drove away his wife and children who have since taken up residence in Dover. All hired hands for the grounds have either resigned or have been dismissed. There have been no signs of forced entry into the premises, making a murder improbable. Locals report that he had seemed “quite paranoid,” and always going on about a “box.” We have reviewed some of the notes and his journal and have been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of this box. Given his description of its contents, it is assumed that under their influence his mind degraded and drove himself to suicide, slashing his wrists and finally slitting his neck open. Perhaps this is why he wears that eerie grimace on his face; finally being free of this torture.
His journal suggests that he had adopted the worship of a “Lyssa,” indicating that this drug use might be associated with some form of Pagan belief. To this end, funeral arrangements will be difficult, as no church is likely to have him in their cemetery. This dispute shall be brought before the local magistrate.
NOTE FROM DETECTIVE MORGAN TO SECRETARY DILLON WALFORD
Send a telegram as soon as possible to the University of Cambridge and inform them of the whereabouts of their missing Professor, Dr. Ralph Kingley. His remains are buried around the Ambrican Gulf.
FROM THE DESK OF THE DEAN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF YORK,
MONTGOMERY LEONARD PHILIPSTEAD
To My Bretheren,
It seems that our good errand boy, Wilsthorpe was most useful to our order. He has retrieved our most sacred of relics: Pandora’s Box! “Opiates,” indeed! The very essence of the Maniae and our Matron Lyssa are contained within: no mere mortal like Wilsthorpe can withstand it!
Ah, but I am too harsh on that martyr. He died in the best of our traditions and gave us back our cornerstone. He should be recalled among our faith’s heroes. The great spirit of Actaeon, messenger of our Matron, was good to guide him for us. We shall meet soon enough to bask in this artifact once more. We shall meet where we always meet every solstice: beneath Westminster Abbey. I look forward to our reunion and to the day the matron makes us all smile the smile of her liberation.
Chaíre se séna , O̱ ieró Lyssa ! Gia na sas échoume paradó̱sei orthologikí̱ myaló mas na apelef̱thero̱tikó drómo sas ! Oikodéspoina , mas apodéchontai , mia prosforá gia séna !
Hail to thee, Oh holy Lyssa! To you we surrender our rational minds to your liberating way! Matron, accept us, an offering to thee!
High Elder Montgomery Philipstead