I arrived before sunrise at my office in the Steampunk Explorer building in Port Laudanum. It was early spring and quite chilly. “Good sleeping weather” someone had called it on a trip I once took to a time in the future. But I hadn’t slept much as I kept waking and thinking about the amazing telegram I’d received the previous evening from Mr. Boston Steampunk, the organization’s director. “NEW LAND DISCOVERED NEAR WINTERFELL. STOP. NORTH OF ILLYRIA. STOP. RETURN TOMORROW. STOP. WILL SEND MORE TO OFFICE. END.”
His reports were now on my desk. Several telegrams, each more amazing than the last. Word had reached the office while I was away of beautiful woods and waterways along a mountain side. Boston had gone north to investigate. His final telegram said the mountain top was the shape of the head of a bird. It wasn’t known if this was a natural occurrence or if someone had constructed it. Constructed it? I laughed. Who could do that? How could it be done at all, never mind in a place no one had ever come across until now.
I immediately laid plans for explorations of my own. There wasn’t time to organize a proper group and to gather supplies and equipment. My boat was on the Mainland so I would have to hire a sailing vessel. I was very new to Winterfell and did not know where to begin to arrange for a boat. Nor did I have time to find out. The only way to do this quickly was to go there alone. I decided to make my way north as best I could. I would have to travel very lightly. One bag with food, water, coffee, a small pan to boil the water, matches, a blanket, my journal and little else. I would begin on foot and when there came to be water to cross…
It was a fool’s errand. This could not be a proper exploration but merely a scouting trip. By all rights I should have waited for Mr. Steampunk’s return and hear his whole story. Then we could mount a true expedition. At best, all I could do was to simply repeat the scouting work Mr. Steampunk had already done. But I could not wait. I was excited as a little boy at the circus. There was pristine land out there to explore! Land not even on the maps yet! But that wasn’t all of it. There was something else. Something was pushing me toward that mountain. I had to find a way there.
Just as I was leaving the office a member of Steampunk Explorer arrived. He had heard a rumor that Miss Serra had headed north to claim newly discovered land for Winterfell and he had come in to see if it was true. “It’s news to me,” I said calmly, trying not to give myself away. At Steampunk Explorer we have a code that we share our information with anyone who wants it but until we verify a report, we say nothing. We are an information center, not a rumor mill. If Mr. Steampunk was here, he could tell what he saw first hand. But I have only these brief telegrams and no details. How would I explain the mystery of the mountain with the giant bird head?
I bundled up and walked through the southern towns quickly to avoid being stopped by anyone. I did not want to be asked where I was going. I hadn’t explored Winterfell extensively yet so I wasn’t sure how to proceed without intruding upon someone’s land.
I had gone about as far as I could through Anodyne wondering what I would do as I came to the water. Just a few meters from lands end I saw a rowboat in the harbor. A man was rowing vigorously. When he saw me he stopped and began waving. He was yelling something. Finally I could make it out. “Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman!” It was Boston Steampunk on his way back from his scouting expedition.
I helped him ashore where he wasted not a moment before giving me an excited, breathless catalogue of all he had seen. What he told me only made me more determined to see for myself. “I must have your boat,” I said. “Sir?” “I am going north and I am going now.” “But, sir…” I brushed past him and stepped into the boat. “You go back to the office and make your report. Alert the officers and organize a proper expedition and, by all means, hire a proper sailing vessel.” I tossed his bags to him. “And send someone to me tomorrow with supplies.” I shoved off and left him there, mouth agape.
I had known Boston Steampunk for some months now but had never spoken to him so sharply. What’s up with that? (Another phrase learned somewhere in my time travels, about 125 years to the future if memory serves.) I had been out of sorts all day. Now I was off on a long journey, ill-prepared and with little sleep. What was going on here? What was pushing me toward this faraway mountain with the raven’s head?
Wait, was it pushing or was it pulling?
I passed easily through Winterfell Harbor. The sun was shining but to no avail. It could not stop the cold.
I rowed harder as I crossed into the waters of Illyria. It was then I first noticed there was water in the boat. “Darn you, Steampunk,” I said aloud, though only a seagull could hear me. My thought was of Mr. Steampunk trying to save money and get the best price but not the best boat. As I cursed him I shivered from the wind and began rowing for shore.
Another boat approached from the east. “Ahoy sir,” called the voice of a man. He pulled closer and I could see he was very old but not as old as his boat. “Ahoy,” I said. “Looks like you need a hand. You’re taking water,” he said in a feint but raspy voice. “Yes sir, thank you,” I said as he pulled alongside. I carefully climbed from one rowboat to the other. His boat was ancient but more seaworthy than mine. I sat down next to a fishing pole. “Nothing to do but let her go down,” said the old fisherman as he looked at my boat. “I don’t think you’d have made it sir.” He pushed off from my boat and rowed away.
“Where are you headed sir?” he asked. “Going north, sir, as far as I can,” I said without further explanation. “North?” He paused before repeating it quietly, “North?” He seemed to mull it over for a moment and then said it again, not as a question but as a statement. “North.” He waited for me to say more but I sat quietly and looked at the water.
After awhile he said, “I’ll take you north sir. But,” he paused, “you will have to pay.” “I can sir,” I said. He continued, “I hate to take a man’s money after saving him from drowning but I have to eat.” He pointed to the empty bucket where his catch should be. “It was quiet out there today. Again,” he said. ‘I am most grateful for your help sir,’ I said. We discussed the price.
We travelled into the northern waters of Illyria to the edge of the world as we knew it. Along the way the fisherman asked again where I was headed. If it was a secret, he told me, there was no need to worry. He had no one to tell. So I told him about my scouting expedition and of Mr. Steampunk’s reports. I don’t know if he believed it all but it seemed he had heard some of this before. “I will take you to the land if we can find it but I must be heading home before day’s end.” He looked as if he would be glad when that time arrived.
Finally we neared land. The fisherman saw it first. “There she is!” he said as he pointed to tall trees along a shore. There was no mountain in sight but the sun had given way to clouds so there was no telling for sure.
The wind picked up as we landed and it blew the cold right through me. “It will be dark soon so I will camp here for the night,” I said as I put my single bag down and handed him the agreed upon fee for his service. The fisherman looked at me with a weary smile, ‘You explorers have no fear, do you?” He paused and looked at the sky which seemed to be threatening rain. “Or is it common sense you lack?” I laughed out of courtesy, not bothering to determine if it was a joke or an insult. I had no time to worry about that. All I could think about was how to get to the mountain.
The fisherman shoved off with a wish of good luck and a nod of his head. I gathered some brush and branches and made camp. The fire warmed the coffee while I unpacked my bread, meat and cheese. In the morning I again woke early. I finished the coffee I’d left the night before. I didn’t bother with a new fire, I drank it cold. I was in a hurry. Whatever force had brought me here was now pulling harder.
As the dawn spread I could see most of the clouds had gone. I cleared the camp and packed my bag. I made my way through the trees to a clearing. And there it was, just above the remaining clouds. The bird’s head. It was true! I began to hike up the slope to try for a closer view.
I came to a spot where the trees were fewer and I could look up from under the neck of this bird of rock. But I could not climb up as the rock was steep and I did not have the proper equipment or a team. So I walked back toward the water, looking for a spot from which to view the bird’s head in profile. When I found such a place I could not believe the magnificence of what I saw. It was remarkable. Such a stunning resemblance to a raven that no one could possibly deny it. For a moment I thought, “How did they do that?” But I wiped such a silly thought from my head. “They?!” I laughed out loud at myself. This could not have been done by an earthly being. I could only conclude that the raven’s head had been created by the same supreme power that created the rest of the mountain and the trees and the land and the water.
Personal note…do not include the following in your official report…neither tell Mr. Steampunk of this for he may think you have gone mad…the force that drew me was so strong at times near the mountain that I could hardly breathe…but when I saw what I am about to describe, the pulling sensation ceased and I became calm and in a dreamlike state, which stayed with me for my remaining time in that land…the view from the spot near the waterway was difficult…but it looked as if the raven had eyes…from this distance the eyes looked purple in color…and they glowed.
I must come back with a proper expedition team to verify.
Editor’s note – Mr. Whitfield did return to the mysterious land now known as Ravens Reach and was able to verify his sightings. It was only then that Mr. Steampunk confirmed he too had observed the glowing purple eyes of the raven’s head and had experienced the same feelings. Though these two gentlemen were among the first to venture to the far north they were not alone. The earlier word that Miss Serra had travelled north to claim the land for Winterfell turned out not to be a rumor at all. Others who had heard the news headed north as well. When word spread that a new land had been discovered, more followed. Some came to look at this wonder, others came to settle the land. Even the old fisherman was said to visit. He would fish the waters and stare at the mountaintop. Mr. Whitfield himself returned to Ravens Reach a third time to establish a home there and become a founding landowner in the new region. He maintains a country retreat both for himself and as a way station for his wayward friends. He has been known to refer to Ravens Reach as “a place to feel the magic.”
Later, additional lands were discovered to the east.