(Following manuscript was found in a sealed box on the coast of Sicily.)
At present, I am writing this missive at a location unknown to me, though according to my last reckoning to be most likely within the seas off the island of Rhodes. It is the dead of night, and I am writing now by the guttering light of what little wick I have left in my cabin. I shall seal this message within a small crate which I shall then cast to the sea, followed by myself. My last hope is that it shall someday reach an audience willing to lend their ears in the same way the great assembly once did, and so be informed of the dreadful circumstances that I, Alexandros of Athens, master of the ship called Dolphin, and my crew met with in the course of our demise, as I shall not be able to relay such a telling myself.
It was in the last days of the great war against the Spartans and their allies when the city of Athens was besieged by land and sea. The populace was in a state of uproar and chaos, as fear gripped the hearts of all men upon the severe reversal of our fortunes, and of the fate that may await our once-beloved city. I, for one, must voice my own sympathy to their fear, as I shall never know what horrors the detestable Peloponnesians and Boeotians wreaked upon our homes in the course of my absence. Amid this general madness, myself and some companions resolved to attempt to deliver ourselves from the siege and whatever may follow, even if it meant risking ourselves to penetrate the blockade. To this end, we pooled whatever money we had left from our estates- a meagre sum, after years of ravaging and burning by the savage enemy- and used the funds to purchase one of the few fast vessels remaining, the Dolphin. She was a small, sail-powered, nimble ship, well-suited to our purposes, and we used our remaining funds to secure provisions, charts, and a crew from among the young men left in the city desperate enough for work. Given that I had some maritime experience from my years as a travelling merchant before the war, I was chosen to serve as master for the duration of the voyage. Having made our preparations and consulted the omens, we weighed anchor in the dead of night with all lights extinguished and cast off from the Piraeus. We were blessed by the gods with calm seas, a moonless sky, and a favorable wind, and so managed to evade the Peloponnesian triremes and make for the open sea. Our plan was to make for the lands of Ionia or Caria across the Aegean, where we might find a Hellenic city sympathetic to our plight.
The first sign of trouble came but two days after we slipped through the siege. Whilst I was inspecting the rigging on deck, a sailor barged onto the scene dragging someone behind him, who was thrown at my feet. It was a young man, handsome and dark haired. He wore a fine tunic, which was now drenched in seawater. The sailor reported that he had found the youth stowing away among the cargo in the bilge. I demanded if such was true from the suspect, who openly admitted to the charge. This brought cries from the watching crew members to throw the stowaway overboard, but I chose to show moderation for the moment and continue my interrogation. The youth introduced himself as Nikias and claimed to hail from Thebes. Upon the latter revelation, the cries and jeers from the crew intensified, and I momentarily found myself inclined to accede to their demands. A Theban, one of the degenerate Boeotians that had forced us to flight alongside their Spartiate allies, onboard my ship? Unthinkable! But Nikias continued on, seemingly unfazed by the calls for his head. He claimed he had been a son of nobleman, then fled the city to avoid his duty to serve as a hoplite on the field of battle, and now had sought to escape the repercussions that may befall him if he were to fall back into the hands of his countrymen. He claimed to have a strong love of democracy, a passion that had driven him to his desertion and onto this ship. I was tempted to spit in his face and cast him overboard right then and there- the very notion of a democratic Theban was insulting- but I hesitated. There was something about the youth's mannerisms and speech that captivated me, the effect growing as he spoke on and also seeming to take hold on the crew and my companions. It was an aura as was possessed by only a few gifted men, men like the great Pericles and Alcibiades. Who was this Theban, to speak so eloquently in such dire circumstances? I noticed he wore around his neck a small ivory pendant, which I realized was carved in the image of his head crowned with a laurel. There was something powerful to it, as if it were an extension of Nikias himself. He added that he was willing to work on the ship in exchange for his continued passage, and I found myself reluctantly permitting and giving my word to that effect. The Dolphin continued her cruise, with a new passenger in tow, causing some discontent among the crew but no other issues for the next week.
Approximately ten days after we had departed Athens, we found ourselves approaching what we believed to be the coast of Anatolia, probably in the region of Ionia. The vessel was proceeding within sight of land, as I hoped to soon identify a city or at least a natural harbor we could land in. It was then around midday that, without any forewarning, that we were struck by a storm of immense magnitude. Our lookouts had not reported any clouds on the horizon beforehand, nor had there been any of the usual signs of an impending storms such as changes to the air around the ship. The sky was simply clear one moment, then in only a few moments the skies had darkened and opened upon us, and the seas had been stirred to the wildest degree imaginable. There was no time to lower the rigging or even recall the lookouts, and we were quickly forced belowdecks by the lashing wind and roaring waves. Water soon began to flood into the Dolphin's hold, compelling us to bail quickly to keep the rapidly rising levels of liquid contained. Great distress and fear seized the hearts of the crew equally as fast, as many of them were of the poor or slave populations of Athens, who had never been any closer to the sea than perhaps around the harbor of the Piraeus. Some began to wail out and become violent, raving about the youth Nikias and his pendant, forcing me and my companions to draw our swords to keep them in line. Nikias himself was working with the rest of the crew with a bucket to evacuate water, and in hindsight his expression and demeanor was one of most peculiar calm. I shall admit that I was fearful that the ship may be dashed upon a rocky bank due to our proximity to the coastline, and so resolved to fight my way to the deck to take control of her steering. However, the gales were so fierce that they would compel me to lash myself to the hull like Odysseus or be swept overboard, and in any case the clouds were so thick so as to make any attempt to correct our position relative to the coast pointless. Ultimately, I was forced to retreat below, and trust to Poseidon for our safety.
As it was, the storm blew on for around the next two days. The whole time, we were subjected to winds and waves of unabating force, and so had to keep up our desperate work of bailing water and patching leaks in the wood of the hull. When the tempests finally calmed and we were able to assess the situation, we were greeted by a most grim scene. Our rigging and masts had been utterly smashed to pieces, and the deck itself was in a sorry state. The hull had suffered severe damage, although thankfully we had not run aground as I had feared. Perhaps even more concerningly, many of our stores had been ruined by seawater, including most of our food provisions.
The crew of the Dolphin was still mostly intact, save for two lookouts on the masts who were most likely lost overboard when the squall began. Their minds had been most insidiously weakened though, owing partly once again to their status as mere commoners and slaves. The groaning and ranting about Nikias had spread worryingly among the sailors, who again began their cries for him to be thrown overboard of the past week. They claimed to have seen his image as through a hallucination and been tormented by it, as if by the Furies themselves, in their toils, and complained viciously of his strange ways and calm demeanor. The Boeotian himself, once again, did not bother speak on his own behalf, but simply looked serenely on as he conducted his duties on deck. I found myself already most impatient with the unmanly state of the crew, and the situation as a whole. Being an Athenian citizen, I had been educated in the best values of our famed philosophers and doctors and knew that the notions set forth by the sailors were absurd to the extreme. A youth, although the uncivilized Theban that he was, terrorizing the minds of the men and conjuring the storm as some former slaves and street folk claimed? Hah! There was no doubt in my mind then, that these afflictions were merely the result of stress overwhelming the weak constitutions of our sailors. I found myself longing for the early days of the war, when the men of Athens were just as strong as the stones of the Long Walls and the wood of our triremes. It was in this mindset, then, that I saw that some of the scoundrels had dragged Nikias from his place in the rigging by force in the course of our deliberations on the deck, planning on gods knows what. I stormed forward and seized one of the culprits by the throat, drawing my sword from its sheath in the same smooth motion. I'd sworn on my word that I'd see the lad through on my ship, and in the sight of Zeus, I was not intent on letting a lowly slave break that promise. Before I could run the wretch through, however, there was a hand on my sword arm. It was Nikias, once again beseeching me with those eyes, both from his own and those of his little pendant. Locking eyes with him, I thought for the briefest moment I could see a pair of goat's horns growing out from his dark locks, although in all likelihood this was a false memory created by my current weakened state. In any case, I could once again feel that strange aura emanating from him, willing me to not kill his captors. So I didn't, instead deciding that strong lashings would be sufficient. Once this was carried out and the crew were dispersed to their duties, I set about the task of setting our course back in order.
Although we had not been able to take accurate measurements of our course for the past several days, through dead reckoning my officers and I came to the conclusion that the Dolphin had been blown north of its last known position. This would put us much farther away from our desired destinations, instead leading us to approach the Hellespont and the lands of the Bosphorous and Scythia beyond. I resolved to sail once again for the coast, reckoning that landing somewhere was better than nowhere given our predicament. We fashioned some emergency rigging from the supplies we had left on hand and set sail for the east for the second time.
Three days after the storm abated and the incident on the deck, we caught sight of Asia Minor once more. The news brought some relief to our depressed state, though none to our issues with provisions. At this point, I reckoned we only had enough for three days more sailing, maybe five if we were conservative. The officers of the Dolphin and I concluded once again that we must make landfall at the soonest viable anchorage, whether that be a Greek city or a pirate's cove. We sailed on for some hours more, and around midday the lookout reported something on the horizon. Spying through my glass, I caught sight of what I believed to be merely some sort of lighthouse. As the ship closed the distance, however, more buildings became visible through the fog and it became clear we were looking at some sort of port town. I judged that it was not a large place- I could quite easily make out most of the settlement even from this distance- and, much to my elation, Greek judging by the white villas and red tiles that became discernible as we drew closer. Curiously, we did not spot any fishing boats or other vessels on our approach. Indeed, the sea was completely still. Not even the birds of the air were present in the cloudy skies above. When we pulled into the harbor, there was no reception of any kind waiting for us. The docks, in fact, were completely deserted. No fishermen tended to their nets, no merchants hawked their wares, and no dock laborers worked at their projects. There was none of the hustle and bustle that would normally mark a seaport such as this one. As we slowly maneuvered into the harbor and alongside the wharf, the only signs that life had once existed here I could see were a few small fishing boats washed up on a sandbank, their hulls and rigging rotting away. Stepping off the deck of the Dolphin onto dry land for the first time in weeks, I got a good sense that nothing had lived in this town for quite some time.
Conferring once again with my companions, we speculated on what fate may have befell this place. Perhaps an army had sacked the town and dispersed its people, but we could see no evidence of violence. A plague was a disturbing possibility, especially among the more senior men who had lived through the great pestilence that brought Athens to her knees decades ago. There were no bodies lying in the streets, however, no signs of mass burials and burnings such as had marred the city from the hill districts to the Piraeus years ago. A famine or drought? We could not rationalize what we were seeing, but one pressing truth was clear. The issue of supply remained critical, and this abandoned city offered us perhaps our last chance to resolve it. Shameful as it was for men of Athens to turn to arguable piracy, such measures were the only recourse that we could see. Once we had stripped this place of whatever provisions we could find, we would be able to cast off and find a more agreeable city to end our journey in. Besides I reckoned, no one would miss anything we took, thus solving the moral dilemma for now. Off in the distance, we could see a small hill topped by a temple that seemed to serve as this town's acropolis, so we decided we would rove through the streets until we reached the temple, where we hoped we could find the most valuable goods left. Before we decamped for the hillside temple, however, one of my lieutenants came to me with news. The Theban Nikias had disappeared without a trace, leaving only his ivory trinket in his bunk.
Despite the unease among the crew stirred up by the inexplicable vanishing, we pressed forward into the city. We passed by dilapidated villas and warehouses, their white walls cracked and filthy and their roof tiles scattered on the ground. From what I could tell, this place had once been prosperous- the buildings were well constructed and there was evidence they were once ornately painted and decorated. Merchant's stalls still stood in a large cobble-stoned forum, and marble had been used lavishly around the whole place. The town was still unmistakably rundown, however, and the buildings we searched along our route yielded no answers as to the fate of the population. According to the sailors, backed up by their accompanying lieutenants, the homes had seemingly been untouched- one group reported that a meal for a family of five had been left unconsumed in its pots and bowls on the table. Despite this, our examinations yielded even fewer edible supplies- some stale loaves of bread, a few sacks of grain, smoked meat, and dried vegetables. It would sustain us for a few days maybe, no more. Even as I cursed our foul luck, I felt a strange urge within me as we approached our destination. A desire, an edict really to stand within the walls of that temple on the hill and finally feel some sense of accomplishment for our tribulations. The sensation seemed overcome the rest of the party, and we set aside our foraging mission to quicken our step, and soon arrived at the steps to the shrine.
If the town buildings had been once opulent, the place that towered over us now was positively splendid. The whitest marble towered high into the sky, in massive columns and soaring arches. Ornate and infinitesimally detailed engravings worked their way across the surface, and what areas were not covered in perfectly pale marble were richly painted with the finest dyes, depicting long-forgotten legends and stories. It was a home of the gods to rival the Acropolis of Athens. There was something terribly surreal about it, that such splendor should exist in a place such as this, desolate and abandoned and overgrown with weeds and decay. Walking up the steps, I was overcome with by a peculiar feeling, as though I was in the presence of something greater than myself, than of Athens and Greece and even of the world as a whole. And when our small crew crossed the threshold into the outer vestibule of the temple, I felt a small chill up my spine, as though we had crossed a line we would not cross again. The doors were already open, as though our presence was expected.
Standing in the halls of the outer temple, the feeling of smallness tightened its grip on me further. Great marble arches threw themselves elegantly into the sky, adorned with precious stones and paints. The floor was of fine tiles, perfectly clean. The space was lit by the light of braziers that burned fiercely despite there being apparently no one to attend to them. Even with their glowing heat, the interior of the temple was so vast that it created merely a dim, shadowy murkiness that swallowed us whole as we ventured deeper. I found my attention drawn to the art that so delicately emblazoned the columns and walls beside me. The craftsmanship was exquisite, each stone perfectly inlaid and each stroke precisely placed. But the stories they told were not ones that I, nor any of my companions, could identify. There was no Heracles, none of the heroes of the Trojan War or the Seven against Thebes, nor any of our Hellenic gods for that matter. Multifarious creatures shared the canvas with leviathans that snaked around the stars, and strange gods battled each other to the laughter of beings I couldn't quite discern. By the dim light of the fires, I could see one being standing above it all, seemingly reveling the strange and mad things that surrounded him. The god's face, I realized, was shockingly similar to that of Nikias, complete with his dark hair. Horns like the ones I'd momentarily hallucinated days earlier protruded from its locks, and it was reclined with a goblet of wine in hand and draped in naught but lush strings of ivy. I looked up and was struck by the revelation that in each of the four corners of the temple stood a statue, forged of gold no less. Each depicted the same god in different forms. One was the charming, free spirited youth, another a cloaked, bearded elder with a malevolent gaze, and to my shame I cannot presently find words sufficient to describe the two figures standing in the darkest corners of the vestibule. They all wore the same goat's horns, and all seemed to stare back at me with their glassy eyes. The others took notice of these facts as well, and some of the men became perceptibly disturbed and frightened, the same way they had been during the storm.
What entailed next will no doubt be incredulous to any audience that finds these words. It is the greatest insult to my Athenian nature that I, a well-formed citizen, cannot find it within myself to process the events into a coherent and rational description. However, much of what I've hastily written thus far must seem impossible, or at least highly improbable to men who were not present to bear witness themselves. Therefore, I shall endeavor to relay at least the intense emotions that struck myself and the crew of the Dolphin in the period of time described in the following verses and leave it to the reader to form their own judgements.
The lieutenant who had earlier informed me of Nikias' disappearance, a soldier by the name of Cleon, suddenly became overwhelmed by violent spasms and shakes. He pointed towards the center of the temple, where a large object of some kind lay cloaked by a black shroud flanked by four columns. I took this to be the inner sanctum, where sacrifices would be made upon the altar to the relevant god. Cleon, in his throes, began to scream aloud about a being present in the shrouded object. He cried out the name of the god Dionysus repeatedly, followed by words that were completely undecipherable to any of us. The madman's terrible chants and roars struck deep fear into the hearts of the men, the ones closest to him beginning to mouth his words in repetition. I found myself frightened to a shameful degree by the scene, dazed by the fantasticality of it all. I'd known Cleon to be a solid and reliable Athenian, a veteran of fighting around Decelea and a survivor of the catastrophe at Aegospotami. Yet he had seemingly completely broken down upon seeing the strange shrouded thing, sobbing and tearing at his hair. Suddenly, he produced something from his tunic, which upon closer inspection proved to be that wretched ivory pendant Nikias had worn. I surmise he must've kept it after discovering it in the Theban's quarters, likely thinking it of some artistic value. Before anyone could think to restrain him, he lunged forward towards the center of the temple. I saw him reach out and rip the shroud away from the thing. My eyes averted themselves of their own accord as a strong light struck them, just barely avoiding taking the brunt that would've blinded me. But the light that spilled forth was a strange one- a darkness really, an anti-light. It frothed upwards as though it were liquid or some malodorous gas, extinguishing all light it touched, although the fires of the braziers remained lit. Looking back, Cleon had been completely swallowed by the darkness- his shrieks had ceased and there was no sign of him or of Nikias' ornament. The screams had been replaced a hundredfold by the din of shrill flutes and the wailing of hundreds of voices, men, women, and children. These were soon joined unmistakably by cries from the crewmen- vicious ones, as though from some rabid animal. As the last light died around me, I saw the men closest to the thing turn on their comrades, with feral eyes and predatory intent in their movement. There was the sound of steel leaving scabbards in a final gasp of desperation, cries of fear, followed by the disconcerting yet unmistakable noises of joints popping, bones snapping, and mortal flesh tearing. The foul light bled out the final holdouts of illumination, plunging over the last act of the Dolphin's crew like a curtain. I found myself finally coming to some sort of sense and turned tail and ran for the entrance. Cowardly? Yes. But my body made the choice for me, and my logic was too overcome to protest. Whether by luck or some cruel twist of fate. I managed to clear the threshold of the door and found myself sprinting into a dark night. We had entered the temple around midday, but that fact did not strike me until later.
I fled at full speed through the deserted streets towards the docks, where the Dolphin was still moored. Upon reaching the ship, I soon realized I had been followed by another man, one of my companions called Demetrios. He was either too tired or shaken to form coherent words, but his wild gesticulation and tone made it clear he was the only other survivor, and that he was in quite the rush to leave. Inclined to agree, we cut the moorings of the ship and through our cumulative frenzied efforts managed to raise the sails. A favorable breeze caught the canvas and pushed us slowly out to sea. As we cleared the mouth of the harbor, I looked back at the town for a brief moment. The once abandoned buildings were being illuminated by the dark light as it seeped like blood from a sacrificed bull from the temple. Through my strained eyes, I could see it entering each window of each house, filling it with an unearthly glow. And I could see figures, long and dark and distorted either by the growing distance or fatigue of my mind, beginning to stir in the structures and spill out into the streets. The manic flute playing and screaming had followed us all the way here, and it was no comfort as it died away with the fetid light in the distance, only to be replace by the quiet sobbing of Demetrios and the soft glow of a candle.
Within a day of our departure of the city, it became evident to me that Demetrios had been constitutionally broken and had lost his wits completely. He had curled himself up in the hold, babbling incessantly about Nikias and Cleon and Dionysus and everything that had happened within the past two weeks. I tried several methods to bring him back to his senses, from persuasion to dousing him in cold seawater and finally to physical violence. Nothing proved effective though, and he continued his ranting and self-destructive fits of rage, in which he would tear at his own hair and skin. I found myself shaken deeply by my once-friend's condition, for like Cleon he had once been a respectable Athenian citizen. He had been a frequent and eloquent speaker at the assembly, and to see him driven to such a state frightened and confused my Athenian sensibilities profoundly. In more practical terms, Demetrios' suffering spelled disaster for my own plight, as there was no hope of being able to manage the damaged rigging on my own, leaving us at the mercy of the winds. This was compounded by the critical situation concerning supplies. We had lost all of the meagre provisions that had been collected in the town during our hasty flight, and without fishing nets of any kind had no hope of collecting more. Although I did my best to stretch our meals as long as possible, which was not difficult given that we two were far fewer than the twenty or so that had been originally intended, the food on hand could only fulfill a starvation diet for perhaps a week or a little more. Deprived of most of my ability to see to matters of the ship, I would simply have to hope we would sight another ship as the winds pushed us steadily out to sea.
In an effort to whittle the time away, I preoccupied myself in tracking the Dolphin's position as she drifted approximately south. I also attempted to set about mending the ship's hull and sails as these inevitably deteriorated, but the task was again hopeless without a full complement of sailors. Thus left mostly without busywork, my mind began to focus back on what I had experienced in the past weeks. I had not brought many texts on the gods, nor of any type, when we had departed Athens, which I now found to be a grave mistake. There was no written basis for me to process what I had seen and heard, no way to corroborate or deny it. Now long-ago memories of religious rites were my only guide. Of course, being a well-educated Athenian, I had been instructed in the nature of our Pantheon and the many stories involved with them. Thinking on Dionysus in particular, I knew of his connotations with madness and the bizarre and had even had the pleasure of viewing Euripides' The Bacchae in the final days of the city. In that play, King Pentheus of Thebes had been eviscerated by those he had trusted thanks to the intervention of the god of wine. The parallels were compelling, perhaps, but it did not explain everything else. Dionysus had been presented in that cursed temple as the ruler of a strange realm, filled with ghastly beings and unworldly beasts that would put the minotaur and other creatures of Greek legend to flight. What were these things I had seen, in the artworks and stirring in the homes? Who had erected this shrine, and what had led to that city being swallowed whole by this evil? In the hours when my mind raced to its most unreasonable depths, I wondered if the screams I had heard were those of the townsfolk, somehow entrapped within the shrouded thing for all eternity. At these times, I thought I could still hear them ever so faintly. What was that thing, for that matter? For all my reckoning and reading I had no answers to these questions. The only thing I could do was try to listen to the rambling of Demetrios- maybe the madman could lend me some clues.
Demetrios' condition had only worsened as the days turned into weeks. He stirred very little from his preferred curled-up position in the corner of the hold, moving only to draw from the sustenance I left him periodically and to fly into incomprehensible fits of madness. Likewise, his earlier constant raging and babbling had given way to the silence of quiet muttering, punctuated by hoarse screams often in the late hours. I had for a time been content to leave him to his insanity- there was little I could do, and my own nerves were admittedly not eased by his presence, particularly as his appearance became more and more ghoulish as days worn on. But now I looked to him for answers, or at least insights of some sort. When I descended to the brig, I found him where I expected- huddled in the corner, moving very little as the bilgewater slowly lapped around him. The food I had left him the other day lay untouched. Demetrios had stopped eating earlier in the week, and though I originally attempted to force him to consume his rations I could not, and in the end, I was resigned to have a bit more food for myself. His Athenian sense had completely departed him, and I knew one way or another Hades was closing in on the wretch. He was muttering something indistinguishable again and didn't bother looking up as I approached. Inquiring in a low voice about the nature of the temple, I was surprised when Demetrios' bearded and scarred face suddenly turned up at me with the most animation I had seen in days. In a clear but shaky voice, he claimed that the temple was a home to the god Dionysus, one of many such places where his worshippers congregated to practice their rites. When I questioned him about Nikias, he suddenly stood up and seemed quite agitated, beseeching me as to whether the Theban was present on the ship. Upon my reassurance that he was absent, Demetrios sputtered out that- and I shall put emphasis on this as he did- "he dwelled within the temple, within that black crypt." Inquiring into the nature of this "black crypt", he became progressively more hysterical, stammering loudly about a "bloody altar" and "the souls that belong to him". My companion could not form clear sentences after that, but from what I could discern in his weeping he mentioned the power of Dionysus, which had been "made manifest so many times". This was followed by him complaining of his need to "return to the place of destiny". He beseeched me to apparently come with him, yelling that "WE must go! Alexandros, HE calls!' and shaking me violently. I managed to disentangle myself from the madman and retreat to the upper deck- there was nothing more I could glean from him. His ranting continued on for hours, much later than usual that night.
Two days after this interrogation, I was awoken in the night by a loud splashing sound. When I went to investigate, I found Demetrios missing, his possessions and food left untouched where they lay. I can only assume the anguish was finally too great for him to bear, and he threw himself overboard to alleviate it. Hades rest his soul. Not long afterwards, the last of the food, even augmented by that which should've gone to Demetrios, ran out. It has been perhaps two weeks since then, though my perception of time cannot be relied upon now. As my hunger mounted, I was of course afflicted by the usual physical symptoms of weakness and fatigue, which rendered me progressively incapable of even the small amount of work I had been able to previously perform in maintaining the condition of the Dolphin and in monitoring our position. Aboard my drifting and slowly leaking vessel, I also found myself struck by weaknesses of the spirit of the most distressing kind. Unable to perform any sort of labor to distract my mind, I found myself drifting even deeper into the words of Demetrios, and of my own experiences. Could what he had said and what I had seen been true? Surely not, I had previously thought. But alone with little hope of rescue, I found my psyche slowing giving ground to the dark idea. In the dead of night, I thought I could hear the screams and whistling of flutes like those of the temple, and this impression only became worse as the nights wore on. Too physically weakened to resist it, I found my mind and spirit slowly unravelling in a way most affronting to everything we Athenians stood for. But my fellow Athenians were dead- at best- now, and I was and am now alone on this sinking death trap with only the darkness and seawater around.
With that, I find myself in the present. Despite my best attempts to drown out them out with what little wine was left for medicinal purposes, my delusions of the shrill flutes and screams have grown only louder. They pound at my head now as I write, as if a mob battering down the doors of a tyrant's palace. Worse, in recent days I have developed a most dreadful hallucination of the peculiar darkness that had spilled forth from the temple that fateful night. Even now, I see it crawling along the timbers of the ship, up the rigging and mast, decaying and devouring them with certainty. Shadowy figures struggle to free themselves from the mass, as if trying to reach out to me. When I dare glance at them, I sometimes think I am staring into the faces of my comrades- Cleon, Demetrios, and all the rest stare back at me. Most dreadful of all however, I have fallen under the illusion that a cloaked figure is aboard this ship with me, youthful and horned. I've heard it call out to me, not in the soothing voice of Nikias, but in a frightening and strange tongue, and I dare not to answer. I can hear it now, stalking the lower decks, as if waiting for me. But this figure, god or not, nor the others shall find me. Though I must know that these are mere delusions of my tired and frayed senses, they have finally proven too much to bear.
And so, I have hastily written this chronicle in the hopes it may reach the eyes and ears of my countrymen someday, on a date around four weeks after leaving the city. Looking now, I am surprised at how much I have scrawled in such a short time given my condition. No doubt there will be some errors of inaccuracy, omission, or even simply of grammatical sense. That is of little worry now though. I simply ask of my audience that they forgive my catastrophic collapse of Athenian rationality and judge for themselves the fate that has befallen the ship Dolphin and her crew. With that, there is nothing left to do but to see to this message's delivery and then see to my own inevitable demise. I had considered falling upon my sword, but in my weakened state I am unsure if I still possess the ability to deliver a fatal blow. At worst, I would merely incapacitate myself, leaving me unable to fight off the haunting figures that skulk around should they come for me. But surely, they are a delusion? No matter. I shall trust to the sureness of Poseidon and follow Demetrios overboard instead. It is a funny thing, perhaps. There is a belief in our Greek culture, that a drowned soul is a restless one, forever doomed to not know peace in the underworld. But I feel that it would be better for my soul to be lost forever, rather than accept the risk, however irrational, of being found by the darkness and things that drove my crew to their demise, that stir within that hallowed and ancient temple.