Edge of Enlightenment: Insights on the Arcane
Summary: Doctor Cyrus Pencroft combines magic and science to unravel the secrets of a hidden, supernatural side of our own world.
Here Be Dragons
The following section is largely full of speculative details, even compared to my other work. While I loathe presenting incomplete results, this field is one where only a fool would claim certainty. In ancient times, mapmakers would put "Here Be Dragons" on their maps to denote unexplored areas. The following section is largely based on an account known as the "Pilgrimage of the Warriors," written in China during the Ming dynasty. It chronicles a strange occurrence during three historical periods: the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Song Dynasty, and at the then-present Ming Dynasty. Small groups of foreign and domestic warriors would arrive in the Chinese heartland, seeking a man known as the Blue Sorcerer. The aliases and descriptions of the Sorcerer vary greatly, although he was most commonly described as having a pair of perfectly perpendicular scars on his left cheek, blue clothing, and gray eyes. These warriors often claimed he had wronged them and sought vengeance, promised them wealth to partake as his bodyguards, or otherwise directed them towards the same location. The location they departed for was a small island in the South China Sea, near the location of the currently disputed Spratly Islands.
Most warriors were never heard from again, but a few returned, often greatly injured. They held wild accounts of what had happened to them, being taken to an island covered in lethal traps and inhuman creatures. They were forced to battle enemies with superhuman powers and savage reptilian monsters, fighting to the death in a form of lethal contest. Most of the warriors were killed in such methods, although some fared well against their foes.
There are other sources than the Chinese ones. A similar period account is found in the works of Jose Diego, a Spanish explorer seeking the kingdom of Prester John during the Renaissance. This would-be adventurer stumbled into Ming China, and met a man with gray eyes, a cross-shaped scar on his cheek, and blue clothing to visit an island off the southern coast. He reported being forced to battle "witches" and "lizard men" by the Blue Sorcerer. He narrowly escaped after losing, and fled back to report what he had encountered. Few believed him, and he spent the rest of his days as a mercenary in the New World. Around the same time, a Dutch vessel reported an island where there was none previously, but did not approach due to hostile natives in boats that seemed to levitate across the water.
This legend came to light in China recently after the discovery of the so-called "Dragon Man of Guangdong." The team encountered a skeleton with reptile features in a vaguely hominid shape with preserved footprints nearby. A construction crew found it excavating a farmer's field, and it became a local sensation before a study dismissed it as a hoax. However, one of my sources informed me that the Chinese government has had a renewed interest in the "Pilgrimage of Warriors." Chinese fishermen and vessels from nearby countries have claimed to see an island where charts list none. One even posted a crude video online, showing almost reptilian figures moving along the shoreline. The gait and stance of these creatures appears to be very similar to footprints found near the "Dragon Man." The "troodon" creature proposed by paleontologist Dale Russell bears an uncanny resemblance with the images of the creature. The most probable reason for Chinese government concern is this island is located in disputed waters between them and neighboring states.
The interval between appearances of this island are roughly five centuries. While plenty of lost islands are the result of conflicting colonial claims and the problems of early cartography, there is significant reason to believe that this island is the "genuine case." One probability for the origin of this island is an overlap with a parallel world of some sort. Current scientific theory allows for the existence of parallel universes, but "research" by a number of mystics has opened the possibility of travel to them.
Arcane gateways have been found in remote corners of the world, connecting our world with its twins across universes. However, travel between those worlds is difficult due to energy requirements and ritual complexity. One theory for the periodic waxing and waning of supernatural activity over the history is travel of the solar system through space to regions where holes in our reality are larger. Another possibility is this parallel world likewise has some type of similar cycle that allows them to manifest here. However, moving large numbers of troops or individuals here may be an uncertain proposition, let alone the logistics and communications behind such an invasion. Likewise, the possibility that the "lizard men" are adapted for terrestrial conditions supports they originate from a parallel Earth where evolution followed a different course due to a lack of certain extinction events.
Humans with supernatural abilities were also present in such accounts. While they may be the native inhabitants of some parallel Earth, they may also be the descendants of humans who had wandered into some portal. Population movements across history and the loss of records means it is quite possible to lose entire nations of people. Perhaps a group of humans strayed into a world dominated by the reptilian hominids, a world where magic was far easier than our own realm, and came to dominate them (or vice versa). The island may likewise be a mere pocket dimension, something tied directly to the Blue Sorcerer.
The Blue Sorcerer himself may be a single powerful individual, or a group of operatives with similar appearances (perhaps the result of some magic or mere mundane disguise). Another possibility is that they (whether humans, lizard-folk, shapeshifters, or a combination) occasionally venture to the mainland to lure victims to the island for whatever purpose they intend there. The discovery of the "Dragon Man" skeleton may indicate these creatures are quite mortal, if indeed it is genuine. The "Dragon Kings" of Chinese legend may also be a distorted record of previous encounters with these beings. Recently, a few fringe websites have posted photographs and images of a figure meeting the description of the Blue Sorcerer. Whether this is just an internet rumor or something else, I am uncertain. However, based on the pattern, we are overdue for an appearance of the island. Whatever occurs on this island, it is certainly a location worth labeling as "Here Be Dragons."