Disclaimer: The author of this work of fanfiction does not own any of the characters, settings or intellects of the play Twelfth Night. All rights belong to William Shakespeare.
Diary of Viola of Messaline, November 1559
It was a long journey at sea in the November wind that I had embarked upon. Three years ago my father passed on, and shortly following, my mother. In Messaline, my brother and I were without family.
But during my childhood my father had told me of an aunt and uncle living in the far city of Cornwall, working within the ivory trade. After my parents' depart, my brother wrote to uncle Allen and aunt Ethel. We sold most of our father's fortune until we had little left to miss in Messaline, and set out aboard the ship of an acquainted captain bound for Cornwall.
Sailing at sea in the coming winter has been treacherous since the ancient times, but I prayed for our safe arrival in Cornwall. Unfortunately, all because of Sebastian's uncareful deeds, I did not see Cornwall but instead ended up swimming in the sea.
It was late on a night cold as ice; almost dawn but not quite yet, perhaps an hour or so from sunrise. I was in my bed when I heard yelling voices, stomping and splashes of water.
With my head in a cloud, I stumbled up the narrow staircase, curly hair lancing at my face. I pushed open the door, and in an instant I was hit by a torrent of wind. Through the darkness, I could see a few figures dashing around the open deck, but there was not light enough to discern them.
Then from the corner of my eyes sprang an orange flicker. I stared, wide awakened. There, biting at the cabins' rooves, was a huge fire enveloping almost half the ship. I realized that the crazy figures were the sailors trying to put out the fiery devil with buckets of seawater, but their efforts were in vain. They were going to be burned to death.
Staggering across the planks in my largely awkward dress, I shouted at them, "Our ship is charred beyond water can save! Flee asea on a boat, for your lives' sake!"
But they did not stop. They did not hear me. I had no time to think more, because I was tussled to the ground and I did see why. The ship's great mast had caught fire, and the flaming sail would have collapsed on me had I not been wrenched out of its way by my trusted brother.
"Sebastian!" I cried, "My Brother! Prithee, escape!"
"Viola, return back to your cabin. Peril is the fire, come not nearer."
He disappeared in the darkness, and for so long I would not see him again. The ship was half wrecked and shuddered on the harsh waves.
I stood, but with a great topple of the floor beneath me, I fell against the wooden railing. I was soaked with salt sea spray, and with one trip of my heavy shoes, the boards beneath me gave way. The next I knew, I was in the water, waves flogging my face. At length I fought, struggling to stay afloat in my thick garments, while I glanced back at the burning ship. The fire was victorious, and soon the ship had been swallowed by the sea's gaping mouth. I battled my way to a floating plank and held it, exhausted and dismal.
What would I do? Where would I go? I was more than half a week from Cornwall, and now my brother had perished in the sea. My gold and my possessions had gone down with the ship. I was without family, without money.
It was the darkest morning of my life, but I did not cry. That was not how my father raised me. I looked aside from my plank and saw a drifting shadow not far from myself. As the sun peeked at the west and dyed the sky a soft blue, I saw that the yellow-clothed figure was none other than the captain.
A ray of hope shone through my dismay and I felt a weary smile upon my lips. The captain knew the seas and lands. With his help, I could find my way to Cornwall.
So I let myself wander with the waves, until the sun had slowly climbed higher. It was then that I saw a sandy shore, distant on the horizon. Land! We would be saved! I smiled and laughed, turning back to the captain.
In no time, the tides had swept me onto the sand. Drained and breathless, I stumbled ashore in my soaking dress. Beyond the sand I could see a green hill and amis it a strange town with houses of stone and rooves sharpened to a point.
Without energy, I stood silently on the beach, fiddling with my ridiculously creased skirt. I saw the captain arrive on the shore, helping up several more seamen whose stars had shone brightly and blessed them with life.
I was happy for their survival, but deny I cannot that I was looking for Sebastian among them. And when my brother did not appear, I was disappointed. Finding my strength back, I approached the captain and familiar seamen.
"What country, friends, is this?" I asked.
"This is Illyria, lady," The captain replied.
And so it was Illyria that would change my fate. Somewhat, I am glad I never made it to Cornwall.
Sebastian's Diary, 30th November 1559
It was sometime mid-November that my sister Viola and I were bound for Hayton, Cornwall. I brought not much; a compass mother bought for me from an Eastern merchant the day I turned twelve, and all the gold father left behind when he departed to the netherworld.
The first few days aboard the ship were fine, but Viola was sick after every meal. Fortunately, the seamen were well, so we sat on the open deck on better afternoons and talked of this and that. There was a small furnace filled with coal, and the men rejoiced in roasting nuts and berries to compliment our flavourous speech.
Rarely at sea, women do not help with the management of sailing, so Viola put out the furnace before retiring to her cabin each day. Then, I should have wished the cursed furnace gone, but I did not and never will.
That one night, Viola was not well. I myself would gladly put out the fire, if she did tell me. But tell me she did not! And nothing is more unjust than when one stumbles onto the deck under twilight to use the potty, only to trip over a burning hearth!
Sleepy, confused and speechless, I fought the fire. I stamped at it, I tried to crush it with ropes. But swiftly it ran, gnawing at the wooden planks until half the deck was locked within its inferno heat. I woke the captain. I yelled for the seamen to rise - now!
The captain answered me, bolting to the deck. "O my good man, what evil has been done?"
He was a man of action. The savage sea roared as he lobbed large buckets into its black waters under the starlight. A bucket of seawater was thrust at me, splashing my garment and soaking my stockings.
Like madmen we showered the fire, praying to the heavens that it be drowned. But the wind waged war against us, escorting the flames to the cabin rooves.
By then I knew it was hopeless. The ship was not to be saved, and neither were we. I let the empty bucket fall from my hands as I watched the fire climb up the mast and ignite the main sail. My eyes lowered and I saw a figure, hooded and cloaked, her eyes hollow with fear, framed by loose hair flying erratically in the wind.
The blazing sail broke from its ropes, ready to fall and devour my sister Viola. I ran and wrestled her to the floorings. Furious I was that she had been bold enough not to stay in the safety of her cabin, but I was also relieved to find her unharmed.
"Sebastian, my brother!" She squawked, laying in her humongous dress, "Prithee, escape!"
I was in no mood to be told to escape.
"Viola, return back to your cabin!" I ordered, "Peril is the fire. Come not nearer!"
I ran for the boatyard, but it had been enveloped in the flaming hell. Without lifeboats, how were we not to perish? I looked over my shoulder, but could not see Viola.
The ship swayed and creaked. The water had risen and was seeping through the planks. In my frenzied panic I noticed the mast; the tallest point on the ship. I did not want to die. I grabbed the mast and scurried up it until there was nothing more to climb.
There at the thick mast's very peak, I looked down as the ship vanished in my eyes. Just as I breathed relief, I heard a splinter. A bead of sweat rolled from my hairline. Then, with a thundering crack, my nightmare came true. The mast had broken in half, and down with it I went.
My hoarse voice was drowned out by the sea's mighty waves, but I did not lose hold of the mast. I clenched to it tightly as I did my own life, and with it I drifted towards the bluing horizon.
I cannot tell you how angry I was. My hair stood on end and my jaws locked in fury. I saw none of my company. I had lost sight of my sister, who had perchance perished in the sea. Every shekel of gold and silver ever belonging to my father was now deeper than sound could hope to reach. I was not in Cornwall. Instead I was marooned on a broken mast, drifting to where the Lord knows.
The more I thought, the angrier I became. I could have torn my soaked garments, had I not seen land. And there it was, a scattered mound of reefs, followed by a steep cliff conjoined to a sandy shore.
My anger was washed in an instant, but misfortune had not departed. My stars shone no brighter when the mast crashed into a reef and fell to pieces.
Exhausted and breathless from the flogging of seawater, I struggled to the cliffside where I held onto a rock. My vigor used and my spirits drained, I could climb no further. From the rock I hung destitute, without strength to call for help. But how was I to know that I was truly a lucky man? Because as I contemplated letting the sea take me, I heard a voice.
"Here, fellow, take my hand."
He helped me to the shore where he held me at arm's length. I looked into his dark eyes and unfamiliar clothes.
"Thank you, thank you." Was all I managed. The strange man gave me a yellow-toothed but rather friendly smile.
"My pleasure to save thee," He courtesied, "My name is Antonio, and this land is Illyria. I presume your coming was not pleasant, but I do bid you welcome."
For a time I stood, unable to reply, but this Antonio seemed a patient person. Beyond the sandy beach I could see a hilltop town, built with white-walled, tile-roofed houses.
I was curious of what this new land had to offer. Thinking back, had the ship not wrecked, I will now be a man of trade. A lonely man, bound to the run-down hamlet of Cornwall.
I'm glad that destiny had planned otherwise and my bright stars led me to Illyria, where I found the family and friends yearned by all but found by so few.
End...or rather, the beginning.