It is said that the greatest mystery surrounding the Lindens is that of the disappearance of Magellan Linden, the great explorer of these lands. However, Magellan isn’t the only Linden to vanish under mysterious circumstances while exploring these lands – there is another. His name is – or was – Professor Linden.
“Who?” I hear you say – and not without reason; for compared to the great Magellan Linden, the good Professor is rarely, if ever, mentioned. There are many reasons for this: Magellan, of course, opened up the continents for settlement and was ever pushing at the boundaries of the world to discover new places to explore and claim them in the name of the Lindens. He was a Hero (and as some might have it, a bit of a rogue with innocent young women), and many expeditions have been launched to try to discover his whereabouts (or fate).
Professor Linden, on the other hand, was always of a much lower public profile – or as his fellow Lindens prefer to put it, “completely barking mad”. This is because of his persistently stated belief that these lands were once the realm of a great and benevolent dragon, who was to many a friend, and a guardian to all before changes to the world led to his passing. Such was his conviction on this that the good Professor actually vanished while attempting to find what was left of the great dragon.
Some say he actually found it.
But how much truth is there behind the Professor’s belief and his disappearance? Did he really find the evidence he sought, or is he even now hidden in a cosy, padded room in the Battery Street basement? I decided to set out to find the truth.
My investigations led me to what had once been an untamed island far to the south and east of the great continents. On this island, in more recent times, the Moles had raised up a huge development of Linden Homes, leaving only the northernmost parts of the island untouched, preserved as a protected wilderness. And it was in these northern reaches, my sources informed me, that the Moles had uncovered part of an ancient road.
So it was that I travelled to Cape Ekim, where I found this ancient road – although “path” might now be a better description – its stones worn smooth with age, as they lead the way through a strangely rolling grassy landscape towards a distant tower which raised a battered head above the low hills and ridges bordering the winding path.
At length the road brought me to a strange a wonderful coastline, complete with standing stones which reminded me of the Giant’s Causeway, beyond which lay that lonely and battered tower, connected to the land by a great stone bridge.
Crossing the bridge, I climbed the stone steps which spiralled up to the high tower’s single room, the roof broken and gaping in places. Here I found – and odd as it may sound – lit candles casting dancing shadows across the walls and bright light across the pages of a book. My heart quickened as I realised it was a journal, complete with several lines of writing in the Professor’s bold hand and a photograph of a great dragon’s head! On the facing page lay a parchment, dry with age, upon was written a curious verse.
The Whispers of Ekim’s waves / Echo round the Cape’s Fanged caves / They speak of friends once known and lost / They speak of change and winter frost // To find the true path to the prize / Of secrets found and counsel wise / turn your steps to lower ground / And listen for the seashell sound. // Below the site of vanquished flame / You may find the path’s a game / Seek the way, fear not my friends / Beneath one path, a path extends.
Looking out of the window as I pondered the words, I found myself looking down on the very dragon’s head from the photograph in the journal – more than that, from my lofty perch I could see that the strange hills and ridges I’d passed between in following the path to this place were in fact the body of a gigantic body of a great dragon, now melded with the ground and covered in grass.
Could it be that the Professor was right after all? I turned my attention back to the old parchment and realised that far from being just a verse, the words upon it were in fact a riddle challenging the reader to solve its meaning and unlock a secret. I know at once that this is precisely what the Professor had done, and that perhaps I was closing on solving the mystery of his disappearance.
While the meaning of the riddle wasn’t that hard to work out – it was pointing me to a secret passage – solving the mystery of how to get into it was a little harder. Nor, once resolved, did it mean my challenges were at an end. For the passage lead to an underground cavern – a front porch, if you will. And while I found more evidence of the Professor having passed this way in the form of wooden packing cases, I again found my explorations brought to a sudden halt by a blank rock wall. Beside it stood an odd stone plinth, with an image of a dragon painted on its smooth top and strange, raised symbols below.
For a moment I was stumped, until I realised that within the rock wall was a hidden door, and the image and symbols were the key and combination to unlocking the door. Once I’d realised this, opening the door was a matter of time and patience. Of the former I had plenty, although I could not in all honesty say my reserves of the latter were vast. So it was with some relief I heard a dull rumble and turned to see the wall before me splitting in two, providing passage into a great chamber beyond.
And so it was that I came – literally – into the belly of beast itself, for the great stone chamber lay deep within the great and ancient dragon itself. But the mysteries didn’t end; for the chamber itself appeared to have been set in memory of the great dragon himself – by whom, I had no idea. On the wall lay a ballad dedicated to him in which I learned he had once been called “Ekim”, whilst in the centre of the chamber lay a great dias, reached by steps, upon which rested an image of the beast himself, forever preserved in amber.
But as deep as the mysteries of the chamber and who had built it were, the one thing it did not seem to contain was any evidence that Professor Linden had been here. For while I searched high and low and found many trinkets and treasures, including a beautiful dragon sword, I found not a sign of the Professor.
It took my a while to find the next clue, one which caused me to dive deeper, so to speak, into this underground realm, and onto yet another chamber, cunningly hidden.
It was here that I found the evidence I sought. Sadly, not the Professor himself – but his attaché case. I had hoped it might contain further clues as to his whereabouts – for clearly he was not within the chambers I’d found, nor did there appear to be any I’d missed. Unfortunately, while the case was packed with the Professor’s personal items and a number of things he’d clearly found along the way, it gave no clue as to his possible whereabouts.
Nevertheless, it was enough. I know now that the Professor wasn’t simply a batty as a Transylvanian tea party at midnight.
Now my only problem was – how to get back out of here and tell people?