Roanoke: Chapter One
Ever since he had found himself in a strange other dimension, after attempting to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Lost Monolith (otherwise known as they Grey Man) Edwyn le Fay had become obsessed with the idea of other dimensions. Part of the reason for his obsession was fear: fear that he might, somehow, accidentally find himself back in the Grey World. It was not a place which he wanted to visit again. The next time he might end up getting stuck there.
Another reason for his obsession, though, was the fact that this seemed to be a little-studied area of Magick. It was not something which was taught at schools like High Tor. It was not something which was written about in the journals which dealt with Magick. So Edwyn had decided that he would study this neglected area of Magick, if only to keep the world safe from what had happened to him.
Well, he told himself that one of the reasons was to help keep people safe. But, in truth, it was just burning curiosity; the sort of curiosity which not only killed the cat, but also anybody standing next to the unfortunate moggy.
There had been a few wizards who had studied such things in the past. Jules Verne had been one. But Verne was now in his seventies and reported to be frail. Apparently he no longer did any Magick. Another wizard who had investigated such matters had been the reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (otherwise known as Lewis Carroll). But he had died five years ago. Edwyn was not going to get any help there.
Edwyn le Fay had tried to collect all instances of mysterious disappearances which he could. In his opinion at least some of them had to be people who had fallen into other dimensions and who had not been able to make it home.
There were many explorers who had disappeared. But, in the early years of exploration, le Fay could not be sure that there ships had not imply sunk. Still, though, some famous explorers had disappeared from the face of the Earth: Vandino and Ugolino Vivaldi, John Cabot, Francosco de Hoces, and many more.
Then there had been warriors or rebels who had disappeared, from Spartacus to Own Glendower. But le Fay supposed that their disappearances had not been mystical in nature. They had simply decided to make themselves scare. But maybe somebody like the Roman emperor Valens had not been killed in battle – his body never recovered – or escaped into anonymity. Maybe he had found himself in some other world.
But there also were some really mysterious disappearances, ones which could not be explained. There were people who had vanished from the face of the earth when they had had no reason to do so.
There had been the recent disappearance of all three lighthouse keepers at the lighthouse on the Flannan Islands. All three of them had disappeared without trace. Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur had all disappeared from the place; nobody knew where. It had been reported that the light was out in the lighthouse. The relied lighthouse keeper was sent, on Boxing Day 1900, to find out what was going on.
Benjamin Bathurst, a British diplomat, disappeared from an inn in Perleberg in 1809. Nobody saw him exit his room. He left his horses behind. It was as though he had simply vanished into thin air, and de Fay thought that he was a good candidate for somebody who had fallen into some other dimension and who had not been able to find his way home. He had not been a wizard, after all. If he had been in some other world he would have had no chance.
John Lansing, Junior, an American politician, had walked out of his hotel in New York one fine day in 1829 and was never seen again. He had only gone out to post a letter.
Then there was the mystery of the Mary Celeste. That ship had been found drifting, on a calm ocean, off the Azores. It had been found on the fourth of December 1872. Nobody was on board. One lifeboat was missing. Otherwise, there was no indication as to what had happened to the people on it: the captain, his wife, their daughter, and a crew of seven. None of them were ever heard from again. After the ship was discovered drifting, there were hearings in Gibraltar to discuss what might have happened. The Magician Royal of the time, the great John Mandrake, came and performed mystical experiments, to try and discover what had happened. But even he was unsuccessful. The mystery of the Mary Celeste remained insoluble.
There were others who had disappeared at sea, such as Hermann Fol, the Swiss zoologist, who had vanished in March 1892. George Bass, the explorer, was another one. The ship The Patriot, carrying the daughter of the then American Vice President, had disappeared off the face of the globe in 1812, with no trace of any wreckage ever being found. But Edwyn le Fay could not prove that those disappearances at sea were mystical in nature. It might simply have been that their ships had sunk.
Edwyn le Fay had visited the Stumbleway, in Birmingham, a street where, allegedly, you could sometimes hear voices, and see shadows of people who were not there. It had been suggested that the shadows were those of people in some other world. But when Edwyn had gone to Birmingham he had not seen or heard anything unusual at all.
The list of people who had simply vanished without any reasonable explanation was long. There were over a hundred incidents, over the centuries. The disappearances went back to the times of the Romans: and those were just the disappearances which had been of such note as to be remarked upon. Le Fay bet that if some beggar disappeared into thin air that nobody would ever bother remarking about such a fact.
The disappearances should have worked the other way, as well – people from other worlds should have found themselves in the world of Edwyn le Fay. In his opinion that had occurred in at least a couple of cases, supporting his theories. He had found a report of some children who had been found walking around in Spain, apparently unable to speak any language known to man. There had been a man who had been found in Britain, hundreds of years ago, who had also been unable to speak any languages which people had recognised, although he had certainly not been deaf and dumb. Were those cases of people who had somehow fallen through the cracks in the worlds?
There was one mystery which Edwyn le Fay had not been able to get out of his mind, though, and that was the disappearance of the colonists of Roanoke Island in America.
In the late sixteenth century people from Britain had sailed out to start a new colony in the New World. This was years before the founding of Jamestown, which would, eventually, become the first permanent English colony in North America.
The ships reached Roanoke Island, off the coast of what would eventually become North Carolina. The colony was founded in 1585. The islands in the area had only been explored by Sir Walter Raleigh some a year before that. It was he who had sponsored the founding of the colony. But this first attempt to found a colony on Roanoke Island did not go well. The colony came under attack by local Indians, and the colonists evacuated in 1586.
The English were determined not to let the Spanish and Portuguese have this New World to themselves. More ships arrived at Roanoke Island, with a hundred or so colonists under the command under John White, who was to become the governor of the colony. The colony was founded, and John White head back to England with the ships to fetch more supplies for the colonists. The attack of the Spanish armada, in 1588, delayed his return. He did not actually make it back to Roanoke Island until August 1590.
When he got there he found that the colony had been abandoned. There was no sign of the colonists. But they could not have returned to England without any ships. There were no bodies – not one body of any of the colonists was ever found. The only clue was the single word ‘Croatan’ carved into the trunk of a tree. That was supposed to be the name of a local tribe. It was thought that, perhaps, the colonists had sought shelter with the tribe; or that the tribe had attacked them. But there was no evidence that either possibility had occurred. For more than three hundred years the disappearance of the colonists of Roanoke Island had remained a mystery.
No trace of them had been found: not one Christian grave, not one dead body, not one journal explaining the mystery of what had happened at Roanoke some time between 1587 and the August of 1590. The hundred colonists who had disappeared had seemingly left not one trace behind.
Edwyn Le Fay decided that he was going to solve the mystery as to what had happened to the colonists in Roanoke. He would find out what had really happened to them. But he, in the back of his mind, had already decided what the answer was to the enigma: all of the colonists had become stuck in some other dimension. He felt that was the only possible answer, now that he knew that such other worlds existed.
So, at the back of his mind, there was another plan: to go to that other dimension and bring the descendants of the colonists home.