Serial Setting 1: Week 18 ~ Ubiquity

This is the 18th installment of this year’s Serial Setting project, adding to my island setting in the South Pacific intended for use with Hollow Earth Expedition or Daring Tales of Adventure. Ostensibly a corporate holding off the usual shipping lanes, known to savvier career sailors in the region as a possible refuge between Pitcairn and French Polynesia, the Windlet Isles strangely represent both peaceful community living in an island paradise, and secrets perhaps best left unexplored. This series of entries reveals some of the landmarks on the islands, and continue fleshing out the many mysteries to be found in the interior.

18) Hunters Cave, Interior, Greater Windlet Island

Although in the grand scheme of things, the islands may seem too small to have any real secrets from residents, that would not actually be true. The exact location of Hunters Cave, is one such secret. Over time, even the likelihood of islanders stumbling upon it has declined, as patterns of behavior ossified into set routines and routes of travel.  It’s not that the place is actively kept a secret, but that it never entered into public awareness at all.

Accidental discovery of the site would entail being on the wrong side of the security fence, surviving in the interior, the ability and desire to scale Mount Cairn’s roughest face and negotiate its numerous dangers, and the luck to come across the right spot at dusk or dawn, when one of its most compelling wonders is revealed.

A generation of people have lived their entire lives on Greater Windlet Island, and made regular use of the A&R Center without having an inkling that this treasure exists. One of the primary reasons for this is that the access road is protected by the Fence, and the Center itself is nestled in the lush interior of Mount Cairn’s sealed crater. Barring some form of major accident or willful imperilment, the opportunity to see it, will simply never arise…for locals.

For those lucky and able enough to discover this hidden wonder, though, it will be a truly dazzling sight. At dusk and dawn, for a few minutes just as the sun is seen to sit on the edge of the ocean, the cave will blaze forth a crimson light in response. No scientific explanation for this effect will ever be successfully put forward as there is nothing to be found in the cave which would make such an effect possible… that, however, does not cause it to cease happening.

The cave itself is not much more than a rough circle approximately 25 meters in diameter with 4 narrow, crack-like openings about 2 meters high and 30 to 50 cm wide almost perfectly aligning with the cardinal compass points. The cave is made even more unusual by occupying the top of a peculiar spire or chimney of dark, vesicular volcanic rock, resembling nothing so much as a gigantic stalactite – defying conventional earth sciences.  The tower rises from deep in a fissure, and estimates place the total height at over 100m from its sharp tip to its expansive base. The fissure, and this tower, rise up the side of the extinct volcano to a point approximately 1/3 the way from the peak. Even from the air this oddity is nearly impossible to spot as the fissure is overgrown with jungle, and the tower is draped in growth, creepers, and vines.

The interior of the cave shows signs of having been worked, although many of its features appear to be natural. The floor has been smoothed down to provide a mostly level surface, and one of the ‘doors’ shows signs of having been widened somewhat. The walls have been ground almost to a polish in some areas, and these areas have been painted with scenes of hunting. The scenes, however, are as confounding as the cave itself.

Painted with admirable detail, and with skills seemingly far too advanced for a culture choosing to communicate with pictographs on stone walls, scenes of dramatic battles between tiny men and enormous, dragon-like beasts tell a tale of a journey or quest. The last scene or scenes have not been painted in spots prepared for them.

Deduction, patience, and time could divine a starting point in the tale as a small band of 8 men leaving the ruins or wreckage of something, and setting out toward the North, in search of an object or goal depicted as a star or jagged circle of light. The group endures hardship after hardship… usually of the carnivorous and gigantic variety, but also in the form of perilous terrain and cruel, fantastic landscapes. In the last few scenes the band has been reduced to just four men facing a descent into darkness; a black hole that seems the very antithesis of their goal. No further scenes have been painted, nor from the age of these, does it seem that they ever will.

The men in the final images are drawn with greater detail, and somewhat larger than life. One bears the horns of the first monstrous and strange beast the group was depicted as defeating, the second is always portrayed with a bolt of lightning in his left hand, the third bears a serpent entwined about a stick, while the fourth seems to be holding glittering stones in each hand.

In the center of the small space are the carefully banked remains of a small campfire, ages old, and the dried remains of a man dressed in leathers and cured skins.

Usual Suspects: The fourth man

One of the island’s most enduring mysteries is the fate which befell the tragic figure locals refer to as ‘The Fourth Man.’  This lone individual buried his three companions together in the center of what has grown up to become Windlet Settlement, and is presumed to have spent the rest of his days trying to survive in the cruel and rapacious interior of the island. In the early days of the island’s development by the Gast family, several formal searches for this highly romanticized figure were conducted – to no avail. Is this lonely, mummified man the person whose remains they sought? If not, who was he?

He appears to have been a good size, and to have all of his teeth. His dried flesh is withered, but even so there are many signs of healed scars from terrible wounds. His clothes are definitely handmade, but seem oddly familiar, as if cut to resemble what modern men in the astounding year 1936 would find normal. His boots stand out as being particularly well made and kept in good repair.

In his belt pouch can be found the pigments and brushes used to paint the walls, as well as two small, nearly perfectly rounded stones filled with crystals, that glitter in even the lowest amount of light. These two spheres are extremely light, and warm up quickly in the hand. Anyone who picks them up, however, will feel very much like a grave-robbing thief, and will feel as though the right thing to do is to return them to the pouch, leaving them here. Only the most strong-willed and willful individual would at that point, take them. Any with the ability to sense the presence of the unusual and mystical, will feel these impulses doubly.

Rumors: To be heard in conjunction with those offered regarding the Three Brothers’ or survival in the interior

  • If a man were clever and strong enough, he could live a good life on these islands, wanting for nothing
  • The island’s many pools and watering holes are deadly, but if one of the strange springs of cool water trickling down Mount Cairn could be located and protected, a man could hold out for a while
  • Finding a defensible elevated position might be the key to survival, but not the trees! No, the trees are death.

Stay tuned for more mysteries to come!

Rumors:

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