Vincent Thorne


Background Story

The Diary of Doctor Vincent Thorne Doctor of Theology and Theosophical Studies The Smithsonian Institute, Flambard.

Twelfth of January, in the year Sixteen Hundred and Fifty-Six.

As soon as I opened the door this morning to see a messenger boy there, I knew that the day had come. It almost felt ridiculous to contemplate it. That old man, so old that the students were only half-joking when they nicknamed him “The Immortal”...

Now he lay dying.

Memories of him flooded my mind as I made my way slowly through the winter snow towards the hospital. Professor Albert Stahl... I still remember the bearded Mill-enese man's warm handshake on the first day of my undergraduate studies at the Smithsonian; how his lectures were always interspersed with tales of his adventurous youth; how he proud he was to offer me a doctoral position at the university...

Even as he lay on his death bed, the man was jovial. The irony of the situation was clearly not lost on “the Immortal”. He talked for hours – old habits die hard for lecturers, it seems – of his future plans, and he laughed each time he realised that he wouldn't be able to put them into practice.

At last, the man came to the point he had been trying to make.

“I'm not a poor man, Vincent,” he said. “I've made my will, and my money is going to the Institute.”

I nodded sagely. I had expected nothing less. Personal wealth had never been one of the professor's goals, and the decision to leave his money to the Institute itself was a logical one.

“However,” he continued, “It would have been unwise for me to give my money blindly, and thus I have not. You are aware, of course, of my fascination with the Maelstrom and the lands that lie beyond.”

Again, I nodded.

“In such advanced years as mine, it has been an impossible wish for me to see for myself the New World and its culture, its society and its religions. The larger part of my money, therefore, has been given to the Smithsonian Institute in order to fund an extended expedition to the New World and to document the theological attitudes of those people who now call it their home.

My mouth hung open, my eyes shone. I could see where this was heading, and I liked it very much.

“You, Vincent, being a young and strong man and devoted to your subject... While I still, barely, have the position to decide such things, let me ask you this. Will you go? Will you accept the challenge, will you travel across the seas to unknown lands beyond?”

I grasped the old man's hands firmly in mine.

“Of course, Albert, you old fool! You know me well enough by now, there's no way I could turn down a chance like that!”

“Then it is decided. The Smithsonian Institute will fund your transport, your living expenses, and anything else you might need. In return, Vincent... Discover a new world for us, and broaden the horizons of theology!”

He paused for a moment, and coughed loudly.

“And now, my pupil and friend, I must rest. A new life awaits you, and you need not concern yourself with the run-down remains of your last one!”

Professor Albert Stahl let out one last guffaw, lowered himself down on the bed, closed his eyes, and died with a smile still on his face.

In time, a doctor came to cover him and take him away to be buried. He had no family to inform, for he had well outlasted them. All that he had left behind was me, a promise of sponsorship, and one ticket for a passenger-carrying ship to New Terino.

In the end, he was right. There is no need to worry about the debris of my old life any more. Although his memory will never leave me, there is a brighter future that awaits me far away over the seas.

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