Yorick's Skull

 
 

1300, 2101.HAM.1 from The Bluebeard Chamber.

Fortinbras 1

"Send a raven at first light," advised Edvin as the night grew dark beyond the palace window. "We can keep hold here till the army arrives." 
Fortinbras peered at the darkening sky with interest, trying to forsee the future. "The Danes will want retribution, Edvin. Unless we find who murdered their beloved family, it won't be long before some servant girl decides to sneak a dagger into my chamber." "A prince has no need to be concerned," Edvin said softly. "Their king is dead, so is their queen, and their prince. The dukes and barons will pay fealty. The kingdom is yours, you only have to send word." 
The young prince rested his forehead on his fist and thought of his father. He was interrupted by his guard from beyond the chamber door. "My lord." 
Fortinbras gave a nod and Edvin unlocked the bolt. The guard who entered was a tall man with powerful shoulders. He wore chainmail under a breastplate dented and discolored with use. He rested one hand on the pommel of his ugly longsword, and used his other to twist the wrist of a girl. The girl was black haired, olive skinned, and her figure was slender like a knife. She tossed the strands of black hair away from her face to show her deadly grimace. Fortinbras shifted in his seat. 
"My lord, Norway is in debt to this night cat. She came to us near twilight to reveal a rancid plot on your life. On her direction, we intercepted two ill-intended officers of the Danish court waiting for an ambush. She wants no gold for recompense, only made a request for your audience. According to her, the reason is unfit for my ears." The black haired girl contorted her arms and slipped free from the guard's grasp. Edvin unsheathed his glitting short sword. "Let go you halfwit. Is this how you handle a lady?" The guard slithered his fingers around the grip of his sword. With one swing of his arm, the girl could be headless. The night cat darted her sharp eyes to the prince. 
"I know what happened here at Elsinore."
The prince stood straight in his chair and studied the girl's face. 
"Go on."
"Not far from here lives a gravedigger who spends his days drowned in ale. He has some useful things to say about the late prince Hamlet. It seems Hamlet and the chief counselor's son Laertes had a scuffle in the grave field, with enough hate to warrant a duel here in the court to settle the bad blood. Only, I think the duel turned rotten."
"What use is the account of a drunk?" Edvin interrupted.
The girl kept her eyes on Fortinbras. "Proof lies within their graves, the wounds and weapons upon their bodies. If I take you to the graveyard tonight you can judge them with your own eyes."
"Spiders like to spin their web before they catch their prey." Edvin was quick to warn.
Fortibras knew to not make light of Edvin's counsel. Edvin the lendmann had served the crown for forty years, as man and boy, and he was rightfully accustomed to distrust. 
"Is there a dagger under your cloak?" Fortibras asked the girl. 
"No tricks, my lord. If you are alarmed, have me bound by the wrist to this dimwit." She sneered at the guard twice her size. The guard's lips tightened into a curl.  
"What will you have in return?" Fortibras asked. 
"There is something else I need in Hamlet's grave. Let me inspect the grave freely and I will share with you my suspicions of the entire plot of Elsinore, beginning with the location of Horatio." "Who's Horatio?" "He was close to Hamlet. He can attest for the gravedigger's ramblings." 

The stars began to come out above a half moon. The girl moved like a cat in the shadows, as if her eyes could see in the dark. Attached to her wrist, like a leash, lumbered a guardsman with his sword drawn. The sword was dull in the moonlight but caught enough light to see from afar. Following in the distance, at a slower pace, was Prince Fortinbras in his war gear, with Edvin the lendmann and a company of seven soldiers.

- fragment from a manuscript in The Sphinx Library

Scylla clings by the cliffedge

1178B, 0401.ODY.8 from The Dorian Gallery.

She has twelve legs, all writhing, dangling down
and six long swaying necks, a hideous head on each,
each head barbed with a triple row of fangs, thickset,
packed tight—and armed to the hilt with black death!
Holed up in the cavern’s bowels from her waist down
she shoots out her heads, out of that terrifying pit,
angling right from her nest, wildly sweeping the reefs
for dolphins, dogfish or any bigger quarry she can drag
from the thousands of Amphitrite spawns in groaning seas.
No mariners yet can boost they’ve raced their ship
past Scylla’s lair without some mortal blow—
with each of her six heads she snatched up
a man from the dark-prowled craft and whisks him off.

Circe's Swine

1178B, 0402.ODY.6 from The Dorian Gallery.

Once they’d drained the bowls she filled, suddenly
she struck with her wand, drove them into her pigsties,
all of them bristling into swine—with grunts,
snouts—even their bodies, yes, and only
the men’s minds stayed steadfast as before.
So off they went to their pens, sobbing, squealing
as Circe flung them acorns, cornel nuts and mast,
common fodder for hogs that root and roll in mud.

Moly Root

1178B, 1601.ODY.9 from The Secret Garden.

Drawing of a herb that once grew in the Isle of Kirke, reported to ward symptoms of amnesia, hallucinations, and delusions. 

With that
the giant-killer handed over the magic herb, 
pulling it from the earth,
and Hermes showed me all its name and nature. 
Its root is black and its flower white as milk
and the gods call it moly. Dangerous for a mortal man
to pluck from the soil but not for deathless gods. 
All lies within their power. 

Nymphaeaceae comedenti, The Lotus Eater

117B, 1601.ODY.3 from The Secret Garden.

A drawing of the narcotic flower from the Libyan coast. Historically the flower has been consumed to induce amnesia and apathy. 

Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey sweet fruit, 
lost all desire to send a message back, much less return, 
their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters, 
grazing on lotus, all memory of the journey home
dissolved forever.

Charybdis rising to meet Odysseus

Charybdis

1178B, 0401.ODY.7 from The Dorian Gallery.

The other crag is lower—you will see, Odysseus—
though both lie side-by-side, an arrow-shot apart. 
Atop it a great fig-tree rises, shaggy with leaves, 
beneath it awesome Charybdis gulps the dark water down.
Three times a day she vomits it up, three times she gulps it down, 
that terror! Don’t be there when the whirlpool swallows down—
not even the earthquake god could save you from disaster.

Recording of a Siren

 
 

1178B, 1904.ODY.2 from The Sphinx Library, donated to the Museum by Louise Phyn and Dane Jacobs.

Whoever draws too close, 
off guard, and catches the Sirens’ voices in the air—
no sailing home for him, no wife rising to meet him,
no happy children beaming up at their father’s face.
The high, thrilling song of the Sirens will transfix him,
lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses
rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones…

The effect of a Siren's voice is one of science's greatest unsolved mysteries. A recording of Siren voices does not appear to alter the human brain in the same way that hearing in a real physical space does. There's plenty of speculation as to why, often related to the ear's ability to detect tones at inaudible frequencies versus the limited range of the original recording device.  

See Page 16 of Francis Hugo's Bestiary of the Mediterranean World.

Francis Hugo's Bestiary of the Mediterranean World Page 16

1178B, 1902.ODY.1 from The Sphinx Library.

Hugo's keen drawings of the monsters of the Mediterranean would have no been sketched from on-board a vessel. The sketches were later compiled in his Bestiary of the Mediterranean World with ink on vellum, which became one of the most important drawings from antiquity.

ARIANA 1

The morning had dawned clear with a gentle wind that teased at the start of summer. Ariana sprinted along the length of the trireme, from stern to bow. Her feet sprung off the oars on their upstroke as she leaped between the side of the ship and the deck. She was now sixteen and her legs were strong, they could launch her lithe frame a good height in the air, enough to clear the head of the tallest rower. 
The sweat of the rowers and the salt of the sea mingled, fusing in the warm air, along with the distinct sweet scent of Circe as she sauntered on her morning walk towards the prow, tucking garlands of aromatic leaves behind the men's ears. The rowers were sailors from the island of Aeaea before Noble hired them. Well, in truth they were cutthroat raiders who happened to forage on the wrong island. Circe caught them in her woods feasting on one of her boars, and she gave them the choice of serving her or losing their heads. 
Ariana gripped the prow of the ship as it cut through the waves. The ship had been built for speed, and with the vigorous rowing it glided along the water like a shag ready to take flight.
"What do you think she really smells like without all those flowers?" Ariana scoffed. Francis averted his eyes and did not reply. He had been cowering near the breeze to relieve himself of seasickness, but also to hide from Ariana. Although they had been at sea for two weeks, Francis had not lost his appetite for sketching the coastlines. Ariana had a way of disturbing his tranquility. He knew she would ask him to join her side sooner or later.
"Well?" Ariana pressed. Francis rummaged his mind for an answer Ariana would find agreeable, but found nothing. 
"Great, you're in love with her too," Ariana said.  
"What would your mother say?" Circe said as she gracefully came to a stop near Ariana. She slid her narrow finger across Ariana's dark hair to expose a deepening growl. "If her precious little calf grew up to be such a miserable little creature." Ariana's eyes darted away and then her body followed. Only after Ariana had escaped almost out of earshot did she turn around and cry: "If you hadn't lost Odysseus in the first place, we wouldn't be here looking for him." Ariana knew her words would sting, but the sorceress was already in the middle of casting her rite.
Every morning Circe slung her thin staff in a graceful motion toward the sky and determined which direction to sail. Noble always scrutinized Circe when she preformed magic. He pretended to enjoy the morning light but Ariana could read his face and she knew he was trying to resolve a hypothesis. Noble will berate her as soon as Circe returns to the high-castle Ariana realized, as she pressed her knife deep into a wooden post.

After a while Circe came to rest near Noble at the high-castle of the ship. She sat like a playful cat, half lying and half alert. Noble leaned on the rail, placing his head in the shadow of the sails, and crossed his arms in a vain attempt to appear indifferent.
"To answer your next three questions," Circe told him lazily, "I saw the stars, the same number as yesterday, and the sky vanishes like a veil". Noble frowned. "And you spoke the same incantation as yesterday?" he asked.
Ariana squeezed her body between the sail and the rudder where she knew the crashing of the waves would drown out the conversation. She unfastened her sheepskin pouch and picked out a ball of yarn. She began her work and tried to forget Circe, Odysseus, and her mother. 

- fragment from a manuscript in The Sphinx Library