Mauerburg, 8 June

Dear Bertie,

It has been the better part of a morning now until I have found myself calm enough to write you; this first part has been penned after the excitement of having very unexpectedly received your letter, but the latter sections will be my copies and re-writes of records that I had been making now these past eight weeks, intended for you all along but never sure that you would be in continued correspondence.

From now re-reading your letter of 31 May I will take pains not to give into my overwhelming temptation and dash out something quick, but altogether too short, in the enthusiasm and delight of hearing from you again. Since you seem to be on the move toward the south of Albion, hoping to make contact with Gallian soldiers, then I think I will take the time to write out what this happy round of correspondence needs. And that, my nephew, is best understood as an attempt to provide more forthright and bare information, coupled with a measure of precise detail, than I might have been able to afford in the past.

Not that I was never truthful in what I wrote, or complete—that is not my gist. I mean to say that although I cared nothing for those that might have watched our correspondence, the circumstances are vastly different now. And, in fact, a period of you and I having not heard from each other may well be a boon in this area. We may be—and ought to be—freer with our information than ever before, given the developments on my side of things of the last eight weeks, and indeed, as I read, yours as well. I am glad that you have come to a similar revelation, via your own route, that we no longer have the luxury of being anything less than frank and urgent, content to wait upon the priorities of our paymasters.

I am very thankful that the intrepid Alia was your erstwhile savior, if not a messenger—I can imagine the scene of her swooping out of the sky like a mechanical angel—even if she was necessarily cautious of you at first. That she was busy ferrying messages between the two halves of the Rackham and Crane mission since their division makes logical sense given what I know. That she was blackmailed by this Dr. Amory Brown makes me hate him all the more, fitting with what I have already learned of him. My re-produced notes below will explain something of those comments, but what you say also gives me some hope that you and I may yet make the acquaintances of Mr. Benjamin Rackham and Dr. Eliot Crane, despite what Alia might have described of their situation. I have never met Alia, but last week I made a brief greeting of her sister Alona here at our laboratories. As our collaboration with Sanders increases—without the corruption of the Society—I believe that the discoveries I will explain to you will deepen and prove themselves true. Alona, and perhaps her sister, may very well play a key part in that.

As for myself and my new colleagues, we are in the northern Saxonian town of Mauerburg, known, ironically enough, for its medieval walls that once saw it through the onslaughts of the ambitious Novgorod kings centuries ago. Its walls have now become a symbol of the quixotic and doomed goal of my fellow Saxonians to resist the changes that, we are sure, have already begun to take hold on the Continent. No, the cataclysm that blights Albion will not be localized to that island nation—we are sure of it now, from our work. The Gallians have chosen not to listen, and indeed their Quarantaine, as well as La Commission itself, were established in the fool-hardy belief that they might prevail over the events that most certainly herald the closing months of our current Weltstufe. What they fail to see—to their detriment, of course—is that no nation on this world will be spared. Not even the myopic and thick-headed New Columbians, despite whatever plans this Brown has concocted. It all must change, and we with it.

In the meantime, I have conveyed your name to my colleagues should you decide to come and seek a short refuge. That said, your developing abilities, and mine, may be called upon to usher in the next Weltstufe. You may read this and you feel yourself under no Abilities, no altered state, and neither do I: but as you will read in my notes below, it is very likely that you and I may develop them, in time. Especially you, since you have already traveled at length through Albion proper, and have not managed to turn into a pillar of white-gray salted ash, nor have you changed into an arouranthrope, like so many of the sad remains I have studied. Take heart that this is good news. If you make your way to Mauerburg any time in the next few months, find Herr Brandt, and he will lead you to me. If you continue to work for your current employers, then feel free to pass along to them our latest research. It won’t make a difference if they know; and in the best of all possible outcomes, perhaps what I explain below may convince a few of them to act in concert with us.

I’ve composed the information on the next pages under two topics; I recognized that while I had originally recorded my notes in chronological order (as anyone with my training naturally would) what I have to tell you makes better sense if I group the findings under like headings. Where memory served me, I attempted to tell a narrative of the most salient parts from my perspective, adding in what I recall my colleagues might have said, or actually had said. I did this in an effort to make things yet more clear to you—you are certainly clever, but that there are some highly technical details that require the support of background or context.

On the Nature of Conveyance Lines

I was correct about some of the direction my earlier work at the College had been going, although I did not know to what extent in some cases, and in other cases I was off along a side track that might never have gotten me back on the main road were I to have spent weeks examining it. My original Society handlers had directed me to review the star-charts you graciously recovered from the Observatory in the thought that the time of the next Weltstufe was predictable from the arrangement of the celestial bodies in the night skies above. I might have told them even then that the end of the current era of the world was at hand, but I sensed that this was not the kind of answer they wanted—so, misled by the direction of my own superiors at the time, I blundered around in the dark, not seeing the truths right in front of me. At the time I was also unable to obtain from my own organization the ancillary material necessary to make the connection which I later saw staring back at me in plain view just a few days after I moved from Essen to where I am now.

The world is criscrossed with pathways, hidden from the eye and impossible to traverse unless one knows the secrets of their activation. These pathways, or lines of conveyance as they first appeared in the work of one of our foundational sources, permit near-instantaneous travel between their points for living beings. They are not overland routes nor subterranean passages, although many of their terminal points, or “nodes” happen to be found underground. The lines of conveyance, the energies that support them, and the nodes that connect them have been here for millennia. Only recently—only because the current Weltstufe is at an end and a new one begs to be ushered in—have they reappeared, accessible now to adventurers like you, and of course Rackham and Crane. We have evidence that at least Rackham has experienced travel along one of them, if not Crane as well. We also believe that the despicable Brown has been exploiting them for his own ends—although exactly what these ends are we cannot say.

What I had been chasing using the astronomical charts was the timing of the Weltstufe and its portents; what I ought to have been seeing was the correspondence between the stars and the lines.

With help from a strange little man named Haien, a curator of archives here, the stars and their motions were plotted against a map of Albion and the Continent. With a simple mathematical algorithm of Haien’s design which allowed us to take into account the distance of the stars in both their apogee and their perigee from our world, we were able to plot both the locations of the “nodes” of the conveyance lines. What we found was that the distance of certain stars from our world was proportional to the power invested in the many and several nodes that we had gathered information about. The perigee of key stars in both the winter sky and the summer sky has happened several times in recorded history, and thanks to the last eight years of painstaking cross-referential work by Haien, a tablature of the “activation” and the “dormancy” of the nodes for conveyance lines has been compiled. According to our theory, at the end of a Weltstufe, these stars are all in perigee, activating all of these nodes. Also notable at the end of each of these eras of history, a comet has been seen passing close to the world. With the comet’s appearance, a “central hub” appears and sends out its power along these lines, allowing relatively free travel between them for a short time. All signs point to Highmark being this Weltstufe’s hub.

I recall the conversation with Haien, in the studio portion of his sprawling office. I had finished a reproduction of the known nodes of the conveyance lines on a large map, more of a collection of smaller maps either recopied from Von Neumann works or from Haien’s own gathered research. For each site, every time we were able to confirm at least three sources from stories, legends, records of the unexplained, or from eyewitness accounts on the site, we plotted its supposed location on the map. At the end my first month in Mauerburg, we completed two dozen of these cross-referenced locations, with five more listed as likely or possible. Some of these sites seemed more important than others, with more lines of conveyance passing to and from them.

“What you’re saying, Haien,” I said, studying the connections plotted on the map in push-pins and string, “is that this is not the first time the world has experienced this.”

“Not at all, Herr Doktor,” he replied, from somewhere behind me. Haien was the kind of researcher who, if allowed, would assume too much familiarity without establishing a like protocol for his own titles and experience, which, given the circumstances, I found relieving. I needed not regard him to know his pudgy nose was wrinkled upward to lift up his ponderous round spectacles in effort to add weight to what I sensed he would say next.


“Three times in recorded history, with archaeological evidence to suggest a fourth time. We may well be looking forward to a fifth impending Weltstufe, if not a later one yet.” I noted that his pronunciation of the Saxonian word was tinged with a different accent, very possibly Carpathian. Around the office we had fallen into Albionese as a default, since other assistants and colleagues on retinue here seemed to prefer the same.

“Each time a comet?”

“Yes. The last time was sixty years before Rexley published his volumes, er—”

“The Universal Lexigraph, yes,” I hastily interrupted, turning to look at him.

He smiled. “Begging your pardon, I meant to say his earlier works, such as the Utility of Nature.”

I nodded. “Indeed. You have read them all?”

“Not in entirety,” my short colleague admitted, joining me at the map. “But he knew enough that the comet passing through the atmosphere awakened effects in the world around him.”

“Surely if it were the end of an age, he and his contemporaries would have recorded more effects than this.”

“Not if the central, er—chamber—had not been activated,” he said, lifting his glasses to peer closely at the red pin labeled ‘Highmark’ on our map.

“I don’t understand,” I said, stepping back a moment to take in the breadth of the web we had plotted on the massive board. “The activation of the hub is something that could be chosen?”

He shook his head. “Not from the evidence we have. You see, not every Weltstufe ushers in changes to the extent we think this one has. It’s entirely possible that Rexley was fortunate enough not to live through a Great Cataclysm, yet be able to uncover at least some of the discoveries that have flooded into the Society within the last two years. His early work would have found correspondences to what we have learned now, but he may not have had the entire picture.”

I stared at the map one more time before reaching for my tea. “You mean the Ur-Samekh runes. What Von Neumann based his own research upon during his time at the Extern-Universität.”

“Not just based his research upon. He managed to codify three hundred and forty distinct syllables in the language of Ashkur.”

“Ashkur?” I asked, blankly.

“It was a city of ancients, founded well before the migrations of the four tribes out of—”

I waved my hand to stop him, thankful for his wealth of knowledge of ancient civilizations but with no stomach for legends that day. “We have other Von Neumann volumes, Haien—where are these codes?”

He looked downward. “We do not know. The Society owned a great set of them once, said to be the only copies made after the professor’s death. They never reached Mauerburg. But there is the curious story of their disappearance.”

“Which is?”

“They were simply misplaced,” he chuckled.

“This is why the Rackham and Crane expedition had been backed by the Society,” I concluded, sighing with the satisfaction of sudden recognition. “They needed Von Neumann’s work, and without it, they were trying to gather as much information on as many symbols as possible.”

Haien nodded and refilled his tea. “From what I understand, Rackham’s money had been his own, but many of the other elements, including key members of the expedition, were Society agents.”

“Crane?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Not to my knowledge,” he replied. “But the friendship between the two, stemming from their schoolboy days, provided a handy cover for Society leadership. If the New Columbians were to catch wind—”

“Yes,” I murmured, returning to the map.

“At any rate,” Haien continued, “you asked about comets. We think that the Weltstufe that ended of the Ashkurian civilization had its own comet, which passed very close to the world and blotted out the sun.”

“Your source?” I inquired. “This would have been before the advent of the written word.”

“Our observations of the path of the comet that passed into our skies two years ago, with a mathematical formula that agrees with every aspect of its appearance,” he replied, adjusting his spectacles. “And, of course the fossil evidence of the Tyrolian glacier basins.”

“That’s it?”

He shrugged. “There are also the markings of the caves on Skald.”

I turned and frowned at him. “How did we—er, excuse me, the Society—recover those? I thought the mission on Skald had been abandoned.”

“Begging your pardon, again, Herr Doktor,” he said after a short cough. “The mission had in fact come to fruition as the establishment for the allomorphic experiments.”

A look of disgust and horror came across my face as I thought back to the many twisted and changed corpses I had dissected at the College of Surgeons. Poor devils.

Bertie, I do not quite recall the conversations over the next few days as well as I do the one we had on that particular morning, but I can tell you a few more details I learned from Haien over the course of our work—before I was assigned to reviewing the prevailing theories regarding the transformations (with details in the next section).

In the first place, Bertie, your description of the Highmark location as an “emergency chamber” may prove more apt than you might know. It is a prevailing opinion here that each of the sites Haien and I have plotted on the ponderous map that dominates the wall in our laboratory functioned once, long ago, to somehow accommodate and link the Ur-Samekh speakers of Ashkur, providing refuge against the effects of the changing of the world. Haien sometimes refers to them as the “original people,” preferring not to give this civilization the label of “true speakers” as has been suggested elsewhere in some of his sources, most notably the few Von Neumann works we do own. The Highmark chamber, it has come to be regarded, may well have been a special protective chamber that linked the remainder of the sites when it became active, but which also the leaders of this mysterious civilization might regulate and join their people, lest they become lost.

If he were writing you, Haien might say flatly that these chambers were the method by which the Ur-Samekh speakers were able to continue their civilization from one Weltstufe to the next, where widespread catastrophes proved impossible to continue whatever lives they had led at the time of Ashkur’s ascendance. As I keep reminding him, we can support no theories about the utility of the sites and conveyance lines unless we have incontrovertible evidence that is supported independently from non-contemporaries of the main source. While I do think that Haien is given to occasional flights of fancy, he does not know yet that I intend to support his conclusions in my own report to the others, based partly on your reports but also some information that I had managed to retain after the break-in and removal of my materials earlier this year.

I believe that the Essen dig uncovered three of these ancient Ur-Samekh speakers, awakening two of them from a state of self-induced slumber in which their unique physiology allowed for a state of prolonged stasis. I take my source as Bennington herself; she had managed to write a small examination manual on the subject she called “Rachel” which, as I understood when I received the work, was somewhat more benevolent than the other ghastly things the Society operatives did to her there. I only wish I had Rachel here in our midst to prove this theory beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Our shared view is also substantiated by the preponderance of runes at each “activated” location. Reviewing my own copies of the rubbings I sent you a few months ago, my intuition tells me that some of the symbols relate to transportation along the lines, while others seem to be different somehow, more descriptive than they are functional. I believe that I can support Haien’s archaeological theory that the Ur-Samekh speakers used these sites to not only preserve their lives but also to preserve the history and culture from one catastrophic Weltstufe to the next, with transportation between places allowing the sustenance of some sort of leadership or collective good.

The work that Haien had completed before my arrival also points to a rule-governed variance in the appearance of the sites throughout history, independent of cosmological events or the marking of time in semi-catastrophic eras. Several sites under Haien’s study had been active in their own ways but remained “unlinked” from the network for centuries, and were active at different times because of the positions of the corresponding stars. Skald was like this, according to him—and true to Rexley’s suggestion, is linked to the alignment of certain planets and the position of Tisiphone. In an earlier letter, I told you that I thought it sunk under the waves and raised again, around every two hundred years; but Haien would say that it does no such thing, since the Society landings there confirmed that full trees and a variety of plant life grows there since a few years ago when it reappeared, which would have been impossible during submerged years. While we do not know exactly the manner of how it can disappear for years at a time from the very passing of seafarers, Haien would nevertheless tell you that no one save for Edmund Rexley had even come close to finding these patterns between sites such as Skald and the movement of the stars, not least because their patterns were not recorded until recently in human history. Those early sages who had an inkling about such things certainly never had recognized what they were looking at. Sadly, Von Neumann was closing in on this conjoined cosmological and archaeological theory as one of the greatest research minds of our time, but the bulk of his work has been lost to the disintegrated relationship between the Society and New Columbia, the incompetence of the former, and the avarice of the latter.

You can imagine, then, that the expedition of Mr. Rackham and Dr. Crane, can be said to have generated the greatest record of the Ur-Samekh speakers in the wake of the Von Neumann works and since the age of Edmund Rexley, recording and cataloguing all that they could and sending their findings to and from the halves of their mission. Whatever little we here in Mauerburg have been able to recover as copies of their correspondence seems to prove that humanity was not the only sentient life on the planet, a theory which of course was held and expanded by Von Neumann. As a result, it is imperative that as many of their records that can be recovered as possible be found—and the flyers might be the key, Bertie, if you can find a way to be in contact with her again following your rendezvous with your countrymen. Even if either Rackham or Crane, or both, are compromised, Alia and Alona know where they are. If they do not, they seem the ones that are most capable of locating them again.

On the Transformations

The last few weeks, then, have turned from analysis of the heavens and their relationship to invisible roads used by ancient peoples to the specific—and alarming—breakthroughs in what we potentially understand about the physiological changes present in the various specimens that came my way during my time at the College, combined with newest crops of specimens here, and observations gathered from various sources, including your own most recent letter.

If you recall, I explained some months ago that a man named Tarquin had watched me in the wake of the break-in at the College, following me daily to my preferred café in Essen, until such time as he could make his identity and purpose known. In the weeks that have followed, Tarquin has become something less of a recruiter and more of an organizer of sorts, assisting in my requisition of new equipment and introductions to valuable contacts such as Haien. At least I can say about these fellows that they are more respectful of my work than my previous handlers ever were. (If you had been reading for what factors influenced me in formally renouncing the Society and finally joining their efforts, here is indeed at least a partial explanation.)

At any rate, on several occasions, I met with Tarquin, as well as his associate, a woman named Covington. Covington is an older woman, with eyes and a demeanor bespeaking military rank and experience; both are Albionese, something I found almost unsurprising. In private quarters, Tarquin sometimes referred to Covington as “the Countess,” but would not explain whatever noble lineage she possessed. I recall one particular revelatory conversation which, in like wise that I attempted for my talks with Haien, I will endeavor to reproduce to the best of my memory. This conversation occurred last week, thankfully, so I believe I have command of its detail.

“You must be wondering something of your purposes here, Herr Doktor,” Tarquin called to me from his comfortable settee in a sitting-room somewhere in the town. I noted that over the past months, half of my working time had been spent at the central laboratory location in the old part of Mauerburg, and the other even half had been spent providing updates and reports in private residences around the town. I did not know if this was done for convenience or for some strategic advantage.

“I have in some ways, Tarquin,” I responded, sitting across from him, expecting still to provide a summary of my most recent findings, whereupon I would be allowed to go. “But in other ways I can see the direction of it, especially where concerns bringing in the critical work of Haien and his assistants.”

He nodded, closing his eyes with a little smile. “But you must naturally wonder about the intersection of that work with what you’ve found among the specimens.”

I swallowed, wishing to convey intention in my next words. “I must ask that you not call them specimens. They are people—or, according to what I now conclude—were people. But they deserve freedom just as any of us do.”

“As soon as we can confirm that they are not a threat, we will release them. And after all, are we not treating them with the utmost respect?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t excuse detaining them overlong,” I replied, testing the waters.

He sighed. “When the Countess arrives, she can explain better than I can what our strategy is in this regard. For now, I will take your tack as one of compassion, and note it among your more positive traits.”

I relented and reached for a pfeffernuss biscuit. Somewhere in this upturned world, I thought to myself, someone continues the critical work of turning out pfeffernuss biscuits. (I forgot to mention earlier, Bertie, that I sent a small tin of biscuits along with this letter, and I expect you are munching on them as you read these lines.)

After a few minutes of smaller talk and the discussion of some sundries that I needed at the laboratory, Covington arrived, assisted by a spritely teenager, who I learned later was a grand-nephew. Covington and I had met twice before, and as a result the three of us were able to quickly move to the main point of our meeting.

“Herr Doktor, I asked you here today to give an account as to your findings of the last month,” Tarquin prompted, smiling tightly at me.

I leaned forward in my seat, meeting her gray eyes. “Bennington’s data is conclusive, and I have been able to reproduce almost the exact findings independently.”

Covington looked, for a brief moment, as if she were about to shed a tear at the relief my news brought. Something in her shifted, however, and she remembered something more stoic in herself, and simply nodded slowly, blinking softly as she listened.

I continued. “The superstrata are all demonstrable, and above all they are stable. The samples we’ve collected will withstand transport. I cannot guarantee every individual reading, but—”

Covington raised her nose. “But you have isolated specific phenotypes?”

“Yes. There are three.”

She and Tarquin exchanged satisfied expressions. “Very good. They are?”

“We have catalogued a clear pattern of augmentations among those we included within the first phenotype. These augmentations all seem benevolent in nature, although within about five percent of the sample, the augmentations resulted in death from an inability for the body to become fully hospitable to the changes. Within this first phenotype, we observed specific variance in the beta set of the superstrata collected.”

“And in the alpha set?” Tarquin prompted.

I drew a long breath, heavy with the meaning of what I was about to report. “The alpha set is identical in each specimen—er, volunteer.”

The last word hung in the air between us, causing Covington to raise an eyebrow, but I sensed no imminent reproach.

“They can go free,” she said suddenly.

Tarquin sat up in his chair in protest. “But we don’t have—”

“We have enough, thanks to Herr Doktor,” she corrected, waving her hand. “We are not the Society.”

“Nor are we the New Columbians,” I put in, taking advantage at the unexpected support I now had for my original request.

Tarquin relaxed, resigned to the impossibility of fighting a two-front argument against those who, after all, he had sworn to respect as equals. Covington may have counted herself as first among equals, but if she had power in this way, she never seemed to wield it. (Perhaps, Bertie, this is where the structure of Society leadership had fallen astray.)

Tarquin turned toward me. “You said that there were three phenotypes?”

“Yes,” I continued, thankful to return to the main point of my report. “The second phenotype is one where we found the alpha set of the superstrata identical to the first, but the beta set seemed to have been altered somehow. Stunted, perhaps, is the correct Albionese word.”


“Yes, as if the coding of the beta set seems to have begun to follow one of the directions observed among samples of the first phenotype, but then stops. In its wake there is the introduction of a coding set that seems—well, chaotic, and not based on the chemical trace patterns of the other beta sets. In one-hundred percent of these occurrences, we found the same result, which of course we identified as arouranthropic.”

“Has this altered your original categorization scheme?” asked Covington. It encouraged me that Covington had read as much of my work at Essen as Tarquin had.

“Somewhat. My team and I are now categorizing the first phenotype as superpotentials, and folding non-arouranthropic animalism under this category, given the additional assistance from the volunteers we—ah—recruited. The second phenotype is now firmly designated as degenerate, not least due to the non-conforming chemical markers, but also due to the subtractive nature of the resultant changes.”

She nodded, satisfied with this explanation, and understanding enough of it to ask her last question. “And the third phenotype are those who have no beta set present in their superstrata?”

“—Who have no superstrata present whatsoever,” I corrected, gently.

Tarquin and Covington exchanged looks once again upon this news. “That confirms what Haien came up with in his last report,” the man said, and stood up to begin pacing.

I frowned. “I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to Haien for a while now,” I said, folding my arms. “Perhaps you two could let me into the newest developments?”

“He’s shared with you his evidence about the speakers of the Ashkurian language?”

I looked up at Tarquin, licking my fingers from their dusting of sugar. “Ur-Samekh. Yes. I should rather say so. And you know I support his reasoning?”

“We do. And we’re all in agreement that the Essen beings were three of their number. But, Herr Doktor, have you ever wondered why the human race survived the changes from one Weltstufe to the next?”

“You mean,” I clarified, “if the nodes and conveyance lines were meant for this advanced race, why humans would have continued to exist in their present forms throughout the centuries, managing to avoid extinction themselves?”

Covington let slip a little grin. “Exactly, Herr Doktor.”

“Clearly they were allowed to access the protections of the Ur-Samekh speakers as well,” I laughed, half-leading my colleagues into their next revelations.

Tarquin smirked. “Not quite so,” he returned, leaning against his brick mantle. “In fact, Haien thinks that they were given specific alterations from the Ur-Samekh speakers. Something extra that allowed them to survive—on their own terms, but indeed survive. Call it an uplift.”

I pursed my lips, suddenly understanding. “Call them augmentations, you mean.” At this, I caught Covington indulging in a smile of satisfaction from the periphery of my vision.

“Indeed, man,” Tarquin said. “Haien thinks that some subset of humanity was gifted by these ancient people.”

“How?” asked Covington, flatly.

“Passed through infusions of blood,” Tarquin replied, letting the connections set in for a dramatic moment. “As for Rexley, he knew he needed to find one of these ancient ones. He didn’t know he was about two hundred years too early.”

I nodded. “And I suppose that there’s one critical more detail present in Haien’s work that you are going to explain next.”

Tarquin narrowed his eyes. “Well—yes.”

Covington put her hands in her lap. “Well?”

“There are no historical precedents whatsoever supporting the appearance of rat-men,” he said, slowly.

“Arouranthropes, if you please, Tarquin,” I corrected. “As far as my research can indicate, we do not know if the extent of the degenerations meant that the poor creatures lost their minds. They may yet have been human—inside. Somewhere.”

Covington waved her hand again, indicating her lack of patience with distractions. “Gentlemen, I think what you’re telling me is that the arouranthropes are a recent—well, development.”

“More like a recent corruption,” I countered.

“It has to be what the Society and the New Columbians had allied themselves to create in the wake of the cataclysm,” Tarquin put in. “After the Essen discovery, they found a way to control the effects that an introduced superstratum had on a subject. Taint it somehow. But toward a certain design.”

“And we’re sure that all of the arouranthropes came from Albion?” asked Covington, now riveted to her chair with the thought of what Tarquin had suggested.

“Yes,” I confirmed, myself now standing up with a vague urgency. “The volunteers for the recent studies are all from Gallia or Saxonia. All of them have showed the beginning of augmentations from inborn superstrata. We have not yet confirmed findings of the third group—those without superstrata at all—but we expect to soon, if the changes in Albion have indeed begun to affect the Continent.”

“What of our associates?” Covington finally asked, looking upward at me.

“My catalog is complete. All of us, including myself, bear augmentative superstrata.”

Tarquin stepped forward, his face grave. “Then it could by any time.”

“We need to make contact with one of the two beings that were found at Essen,” Covington offered, her voice quavering with disquiet.

“Even if we could find them,” Tarquin replied, “we’re not meant for their special chambers. To them, we are simply the descendants of humans they once gifted long ago. The changes we will soon undergo will most likely be mirrors of what our ancestors once had in order to survive the transition to the next era.”

If we survive,” I added, my own voice faltering.

I leave off my little story there, Bertie, since you now have everything you need to know, if knowing will even make any difference in the months to come. I will also say that this is very likely the last letter you will receive from me, even if it finds you safe in some Gallian town, or still in Albion. This last week has brought debate whether we ought to conclude our research and disband, and each take up the protection of his or her own devising to weather the coming storm, or if we ought to hold up in Mauerburg for as long as we can, like a little castle that stands against the siege of nature itself. I do not know the direction our group of twenty researchers and scientists will take as time goes on, watching the Continent changes around us just as it did in Albion. If you come here, you can at least join me for whatever purpose we can see in the last light of the age. With any luck, perhaps you can impart upon my colleagues a story of putting a knife in Brown’s eye, if you choose to take on Alia’s challenge.

In closing, as a final thought from my end of the world, I can tell you that Haien is convinced that the Ur-Samekh speakers will eventually repopulate this world once again, although their reappearance will be slow. Given this, I can further speculate that the Ros you met was one of the creatures unearthed at Essen, and he may well be looking for Rachel. When I read your account of meeting him back to Haien, he agreed exactly.

Whatever the case, if you come upon him again, wish him well from the gifted humans. Perhaps we will meet his kin in the next age.


Uncle Friedrich

Somewhere On The Continent, March 2


Your Maman is perhaps wiser than I might have otherwise credited her for. Someone, indeed, knew. All along.

I have time now—or at least I am told that I have time—to write you a full account of what has transpired on my end these last five weeks. Upon receiving your last letter, I had a mind to write you immediately; I thought I might send a letter that would reach you in time before you left for your excursion to Yarmouth, and presumably, Highmark. Alas, at the point when your letter came to tell me of your time in Garnsey, and the next leg of the mission before you, I recognized that I had little to say.

Now I have much, and I write in fear that this letter may never find you, or it will find you too late to be relevant. In either case, I am compelled by the events of the last three weeks to write, if only to record the direction my research has taken. Thanks to my new benefactors, I can say that I am doing my research again, and with more success as when I was still at the College of Surgeons.

I will direct the letter to Sanders in any case, with a personal note of thanks to him—at least for his hospitality shown towards you—and ask that he forward it to wherever he knows or thinks you to be in Albion. I will not indicate that you reported the meeting that transpired between you both, but for that I am grateful too, and count him as an ally. If he is reading this, then, my friend: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Speaking of allies, then, I have now many and several that I did not know about, and indeed should not have known until the critical time became apparent. Whether they need me more than I need them has been debated in my mind this last week, and my conclusion is that it makes no difference. It is perhaps a symbiotic relationship, one that I was reluctant at first to enter into—but which I found I had no choice—and now one that I intend to make the best of.

Allow me to paint a scene for you.

I had made perhaps a little home for myself at the Café zum Badenstor in the rainy weeks that bridged this past January and February. As you recall, this would have been after the removal of almost every valuable piece of research I had been working on from my office and laboratory at the College. While my hosts at the College were sympathetic to the robbery, they of course knew nothing, and made impotent inquiries with local constabularies. Of course, I could not share with them my suspicions as to the identities of the perpetrators, even if I had one. My work for the Society was not exactly sanctioned by the deans of the College, and they blithely assumed I would return to my writing within a week’s time as if nothing had happened.

At any rate, the Café patrons began seeing me as a regular, and I secured a favorite table from which to review our letters and the smallest of the star-charts that you had faithfully recovered for me. I had been able to reconstruct some small part of my work, cataloguing a linkage of the trajectories of notable comets with their patterned appearance in the night skies over the last few hundred years. It was slow work for me, since as I have reminded you and my superiors at many junctures, I am not a researcher of astronomy but rather a biologist and physician by trade. Without orders to the contrary in the wake of the break-in from my superiors, and no pressing need to return to my bare trappings at the College, I continued what little work I could, sipping dark teas in my lamp-lit corner.

I recall the man who I eventually came to know as Mr. Tarquin walking in three times during the course of one week, sitting quite on the opposite side of the warm, wood-lined room, watching me over whatever mug of drinking chocolate and buttered pastry he had ordered that particular day. I am no spy but I know when someone is watching me, and I know how to act as if I have not noticed. On the third occasion I had mind to clap up my book, bundle up your letters into their coffer, and exit quickly; I also thought to confront him, but I was afraid of a concealed weapon.

He did not allow me the luxury of choosing either option.

“Good evening, Herr Doktor,” he called, from his seat.

I looked up blankly, knowing I could not ignore him any longer but stultified at his brazen greeting. His Saxonian was not native, but the accent had been so well suppressed that I could not immediately guess at his nationality.

An ingratiating smile played at his thin lips. “Doktor Friedrich Emhaus Nussbaum. Hauptartztgenerall, Chirurgschule Zöllern. Secondary group, Circle of Regents, The Ancient and Maj—”

“What is it,” I interrupted testily. It was then that I became aware that the café was quite empty except for he and I, and that the door had been locked and shuttered. The portly proprietor was nowhere to be found.

“Your writings are excellent, Herr Doktor. I have long hoped to speak with you in person.”

At this I lost my next thought, which I recalled later was going to be a firm protest at his inquiry and an admonishment that he had mentioned the Society, even in private. I stopped and instinctively rolled up the chart, keeping my eyes on him even as I did so. He had the aspect of a lean and quick man, not quite devious, but hungry in a way, with darting eyes.

“What writings?” I finally managed, looking down at your letters. I initially assumed mockery in his tone, and the first conclusion my mind went to is that La Commission was displeased with me—with both of us, perhaps—and the confiscation of my equipment and materials had been a punishment of some form.

“Your studies of the allomorphic transformations, and your exhaustive treatment of the various categories of changes you observed. Your laboratory notes on the homologous development of musculature in the arouranthrope were especially intriguing.”

I confess this disarmed me perhaps more than it should have, especially given my recent loss and the bitter recognition that no quarter was safe anymore.

I cleared my throat. “Thank you, but before I say more or ask how you came to read my work, I must now ask you who you are.”

“Of course, Herr Doktor. I am Jacob Tarquin, formerly an explorer with the Knights of the Tower and Key. Golden Eagle, third operative.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “Society man.”


I narrowed my eyes and the man stood up, bringing his mug with him. He stood before me, six and a half feet of sinew. I observed no weapon; not seeing any better use of the next several hours, I motioned for him to sit before me as I closed up the remainder of my notes and writing equipment.

“Thank you, Herr Doktor, you are most kind. I do not mean to frighten or alarm you with my appearance here today, but after careful consideration, I decided this environment would offer a chance to speak privately without raising too much suspicion.”

“Among whom?” I asked, still skeptical.

“Society informants. Your handlers. The ones to whom you currently answer.”

I paused, impatient now for the man to arrive at some kind of premise for this conversation. “And they are not those to whom you also answer,” I prodded.

“Not anymore. Not since the Schism.”

“I have never heard of a Schism,” I replied.

“Nor were you meant to,” Tarquin countered. “You were meant to continue your work, making only the discoveries they wanted you to, and advancing knowledge you never knew you were uncovering.”

I blinked and squared my chin. “This is nonsense,” I muttered, but something kept me in my seat.

Another crooked grin spread on Tarquin’s freckled face. “How many dissections did you perform at the College, Herr Doktor?”

“In excess of five hundred,” I declared. “Either as the supervising surgeon or as the operant myself.”

“Did you ever wonder where the specimens came from?”

“Never. They were poor devils that were caught in the wilderness or hiding in some cellar. Some had undergone their changes at prisons and others at sea. Many had died as a result of their changes, and others were killed by frightened or outraged compatriots.”

“That’s what they told you,” Tarquin said. “Ever get a rat-man from Yarmouth?”


“Ever receive a bear-man from a place called Innesmere?”

“I recall him exactly.”

“Ever dissect a dog-man from Duneaton?”

“I don’t recall the town, but I recall that specimen, yes.”

“Ever wonder why the specimens were always from places in Albion? And why you always seemed to have a steady supply?”

I looked down in an attempt for earnest recollection. I reddened a little, and was forced to admit that I never questioned the origin of my specimens, or the conditions under which they came to me.

“Herr Doktor, I must tell you now that I represent a small alliance of former Society agents and scientists who have come to the conclusion that the direction in which the world is heading is not, in fact, the direction it is meant to go in, and that there are secret but very powerful cabals that would spin it into their own hands for their own ends. I will tell you that the Society, such as it is, is one of those groups, and even now they continue to act in concert with elements from New Columbia. The catastrophe of Albion made hardly a correction in their activities, and, in fact, according to my friends, acted as the perfect cover for their agenda.”

I hesitated and my eye twitched. “Your friends?”

Tarquin nodded solemnly. “We are perhaps the world’s only hope.”

“You have a way to reverse these catastrophes?”

“No,” he breathed. “We must evolve from them.”

My heart fluttered and my palms began to sweat. Every inch of my skin seemed to crawl. I desperately wanted to leave and simultaneously I found myself riveted. “I—I don’t understand,” I stuttered.

Tarquin’s eyes drifted toward the thick scroll by my side on the bench where I sat. “Of course you do. Why would you have ordered the star-charts?”

“My sources pointed toward a correlation between the presence and types of allanthropic activity and certain celestial—”

“That doesn’t sound like medical research to me, Herr Doktor.”

“No,” was all I could manage.

Tarquin raised his chin. “You believe in the Weltstufe.”

“I do. But it is not a belief—”

“Correct. It is a theory,” Tarquin offered, “to which my friends and I adhere. In fact, it is a concept central to our work.”

I shifted. “You had me at a disadvantage during the first part of this conversation, Mr. Tarquin. Now I must inquire: what work is this?”

“Our theory—upon which we have amassed some considerable evidence—is that the workings of the world are cyclical. It is meant to continually evolve. To move toward a state of more perfection than it finds itself currently, yet a state that it once possessed. In fact, there have been several times of rebirth, so to speak, and they frame this world’s history like the rings of a cut tree.”

I took a long breath and signaled him to continue.

“Think upon it with me, now. You are a surgeon, but your training was in the natural sciences. You know, even as we speak, there are things you have seen which are unnatural and—well, perverse. I am willing to bet that there are other things you have seen which, although not within the typical order of things, seemed yet as improvements, beneficial changes to humans which seemed not to corrupt, but to enhance.”

I nodded slowly. “I don’t—I cannot disagree.”

“As a naturalist, now, think of how a forest fire works. A dry, overgrown, knotted wood, filled with hollow dead trees and others fouled by disease. Growth in strange directions, too close upon itself to efficiently drink in the sun or bring nutrients from the soil. A saphrophyte’s delight, but inhospitable to the rank-and-file of burrowers and birds, predator and prey alike.”

Here he paused for dramatic effect, or to gauge if I was still listening. His hands twitched in the air.

“A spark comes from the heavens—a dash of lightning that touches down somewhere in the forest. The tinder and parched undergrowth lights up in minutes. Soon a great and roaring fire springs up, engulfing all of the dead material in its hungry advance. Old trees, rotten roots, dead plants—everything. The flames carpet a wide area. And what is left?”

“Ashes,” I gulped.

“And there in the middle of the cold ashes, after the rain has fallen upon the blight?”

I stared ahead as if I could see the very scene. “A sapling,” I whispered.

Tarquin rested both of his hands on the table and straightened his back. “I put it to you, Herr Doktor,” he declared, “that there are people in this world that want to hold back that healing fire for their own horrid ends, to exploit the deadness of the world, and who at the same time claim to be able to cure what ails it; and there are others who recognize that this world is in the midst of cleansing itself so that it can become something new again, something brighter, with beings populating it whose bodies and minds are more wondrous than what they are now. It must evolve—but its progress is slowed. You can either work for those who keep you secretly shuttered away, recording what you learn of their own monstrous but failed abominations loosed upon the unknowing world, or you can join us, those understand what is truly happening and have the evidence to prove it. We seek to accelerate the evolution of the world toward a new beginning, as it once was and yet has already been many times.”

I joined them, Bertie.

More awaits in future correspondence, I promise. I will tell you where I am and what I have been working on. However, what I say and when I say it may depend on how you fare on the excursion upon which you embark even now. It also depends on whether this letter ever reaches you. Let us just say for now that for both our sakes, I hope you find a sapling in the midst of the ashes.


Essen, 25 January


I am glad that I did not store our letters in my laboratory. I would also credit myself as ahead-thinking (if this a word in Albionese) because I had stored our correspondence in a teakwood box which I took with me to a café here in Essen. However, I can only say that it was fortune and not a conscious choice that motivated the removal of the letters to a different location than the laboratory. I am now sad to say that apart from the smallest of the star-charts, a few notes, and the packet of letters, I have nothing.

I arrived in the evening of the 23. to find my laboratory completely empty. I had once learned the meaning of “ransacked” and I would use it here, except that the floor, my cabinets, my safe, and my closet were completely bare. It was if the space was newly built and no one had occupied it. Whoever was here left no trace of anything, and removed every scrap of equipment, books, instruments, and supplies. What remained was what was bolted to the floor, which means that upon turning the key and swinging open the door, I found I was left with my three dissection tables, a metal rack, the wire shelves where I kept most of my solutions and tinctures, and an iron-wrought bench that had been a gift from the College. They took my favorite rolling stool and several of the smaller pieces I had used as utility tables.

My mind did not quite register the outrage until I recognized that my stool was gone. At that point, I am embarrassed to say, I let fly a stream of curses. And yes, sometimes the Saxonian language is the only one adequate to express certain ideas.

As for my adjoining offices, the thieves (I cannot imagine any other word more appropriate here) left me with a few more creature comforts, but they were careful to remove every scrap of record, or anything that looked like a record—from a scribbled note that I might have made regarding my next foray to the nearby markets to the largest of the star-charts you sent me. They must have had orders to be as complete as possible with their removal but as neat as possible with it also, and from the looks of it I suspect that they were not told what to take but to take it all, lest a mistake be made and something valuable to their cause be left behind.

Consequently I can surmise that they will review what they took over some time, and eventually come to the conclusion that they are missing one of the star-charts—and, perhaps more notably, our letters. I say this partly because of the precision of their work (they were quite efficient, having removed a large amount of material in three hours’ time while I was taking an early supper), the planning and assistance they must have had (not only did they enter exactly when I was out, but also they must have had a copy of my key, and used it to lock it after they were finished), and the sensitivity of the work that I had begun after you were kind enough to provide me with the charts. As a result, I must think that whoever is behind the theft also knows that you and I keep correspondence, and will notice its absence from what is brought for inspection.

This last point—about the sensitivity of the work—deserves some more explanation. Before I tell you more, I ought to insert a point that anyone who is reading these letters between you and I are not the same as those who cleaned out my laboratory and office a few days ago. In fact, I hope that if they are indeed intercepting these communications, as I suspect, they might take a much-needed alert from this particular letter and act against the thieves in some ways. I am helpless to do so, as are you, but the nature of what I have discovered—or had discovered—is far-reaching enough that my Society contacts are going to want to take every precaution that it does not fall into any hands but theirs. Yes, I have written the requisite reports to the appropriate people, but I have doubts that my Society friends can do anything about this particular problem.

That is not to say that the Society is impotent or that it cannot protect its own, but I fear that we are at a weak point now, and the description you gave of Robards and his ruin of Elizabeth College in your last letter is a reminder of the freshest of our wounds and the most severe of our setbacks to date. My intelligence tells me that your La Commission is now the rising power in this strange world, and I took no surprise that LaGrande was snapped up by others in your organization for a multitude of tasks. Cheer up, Bertie, your tactical error will not yield any true negative repercussions, since at the very least you see that you introduced a valuable resource at a time that LaGrande’s knowledge is needed the most. In fact, I would advise that your recent assignment to gather information from Garnsey is La Commission’s way of rewarding you.

I can only hope that you recover something on Garnsey, or learn something, that can somehow compensate for the strategic loss that I—my employers—have suffered with the loss of my equipment and research. The explanation I can proffer regarding what I had been working on is that a working theory within the Society points to an otherworldly power “grooming” the world for a mass evolution toward something greater than itself, and the happenings of the recent years is not the result of these efforts, but efforts from another quarter intended to inhibit that metamorphosis. Indeed, as you guessed in your question, the College of Surgeons began collecting allomorph specimens during the Blood War. In fact the fog of that war provided the best cover for us to do our work: but that came to an abrupt end with the victories of the Gallians, and the subsequent occupation of the New Columbians. Turncoats and backstabbers, all of them. Saxonia, for the third time in her little but brave history, was left to be carved up by those who professed to be her friends just instead looked with jealous eyes across her rich borders.

At any rate, I am not a historian or a politicist; I am a scientist, and I must take firm stock of observable realities, no matter how far-flung the source or complex the theory behind them. I can say that the rubbings that I sent you when we first opened our correspondence are reportedly in a language called Ur-Samekh, and are thought of as the language of those who mean to lift up the world to a better existence. In this you may now understand the Stufe in Weltstufe: a “stage” or “phase” of the world. My work before the robbery was to match what I knew of the locations where the rubbings were found to phenomena observed at those locations when the stars were in a certain position, and of course in the time since my laboratory and office were violated, I have not had the ability to do anything, and may have to wait several weeks until I am set up again.

I have said far too much in the paragraphs above, but with the situation such as it is, I find myself a little desperate, and with little to risk. Since you will be away on your mission, I decided to write you as soon as I could, but I know that you will not be in a position to assist me with any more transfers of material from the libraries or archives of La Commission. However, remembering that I read that you would be sent to Garnsey, I thought perhaps you might at least find something there of note that relates to the work that I had been doing in the weeks before the robbery, and thus be in some kind of position to replace to some small extent what I have lost.

Until then, I may also travel: I have it in mind to visit the nearest of the rubbing-sites on a hunch. Again, I am a scientist and not some kind of dashing adventurer like Dr. Crane or his associate Mr. Rackham. I suspect that those two Albionese are a bit touched, as my own mother used to say, since they endeavor to travel into the heart of what the Society has believed in recent months to be the epicenter of the “false evolutions.” But—perhaps fortune in fact favors the bold, and I ought to heed that proverb to some extent.

I hope to read your next exciting chapter soon, Bertie—but above all, stay safe.





Essen, 15 January


It seems that your Maman, fortunately, has not passed to you the lingering anger that the Gallians still have against we Saxonians—and of course the Albionese—following the Blood War. For the most part she is correct about the detail on the Society technology from Albion benefiting the Saxonian armies under Vögl in the Western Zone. Your conclusion that my fellows helped to arm Albion is, however, a little rückwärts. (Please pardon my insertion of the Saxonian; it functions somewhat better than the Albionese “backwards” since I meant to imply a comedic subtext!)

It was the Albionese who shared their technologies with us—for a price, and I mean yet beyond the outrageous terms of their expensive alliance against your nation. Certainly they had younger members and new cells of the decentralized Society across the Occitan Continent and even into Cathay at the outbreak of the War, but nothing expands a clandestine organization’s reach like the profits of war. That the New Columbians should come in as interlopers and change the balance of power when they did is ironic to me, since they arrived as Gallia’s saviors yet left as Albion’s allies. You can bet it was the Society that was behind that change of heart, too. Now that the La Commission is cooperating with the New Columbians only highlights their fickle sense of alliance, and perhaps the desperation of your countrymen. Opportunists!

Yet, if the New Columbians have shown us anything, it is that intelligence and scientific inquiry can lift us above our nationalist pride and pig-headed prejudices. Even the Gallians know the value of clemency in victory: they were kind to me specifically in the wake of Saxonia’s defeat and kinder still to those of my profession in a general sense, leaving our university and hospital system largely autonomous. As you get to know this LaGrande fellow, perhaps he can tell you something similar. And access to the Sorbonne—would that I had those kinds of archives at my disposal! This is the kind of thing that tells me that the Gallians understand the role that supporting discovery can have in making sense of our changed world, even behind the aegis of La Quarantaine.

I suppose, though, what you are telling me is that I do have access to the Sorbonne—through you. Yes, it is a two-way street: I was glad to hear that you shared the rubbings with LaGrande, someone who, from your description, sounds like a much better man than me to handle them. The star-charts are delightful, and I thank you a thousand times for them. They will further the work greatly that is already underway in predicting the next Weltstufe. (Pardon the preference for Saxonian again; I believe the Albionese use the word “Incident,” but this, I am told, does not provide the same connotation of progression toward an end, which both the Saxonian word and the Gallian phrase étage-du-monde provide.)

If our analysis of the star-charts predict that the next Weltstufe brings the collective human consciousness to a cataclysmic end, I will be sure to let you know.

More cheerfully, I have send along with this letter something for your new Gallian researcher friend to pair with his rubbings. Enclosed are copies of my notes from the Franconium Conference six months ago, linking at least some of the symbols from the rubbings to specific heavenly bodies, showing in many cases a clear correspondence to their sudden and unexplained altered trajectories to the designs found along with the rubbings at each of the four locations. I would have sent them sooner but I honestly didn’t know what you might do with them since we were early on in our correspondence; and besides, like I noted above, this LaGrande seems like he would be the man to interpret them best. You might also make special note to him about the particular locations and ask him his interpretations. If he has studied Mont-Bré already perhaps he can tell me any connection he finds. I know that certain Saxonian members of the Society had long wanted access to Mont-Bré but of course were forbidden this on the orders of their former enemy government.

You were curious about the dissections that I have performed, and ordinarily I would give you, like anyone with a similar curiosity, a perfunctory response that information of that type is provided on a “need-to-know” basis only, and at this time you do not need to know. However, we are in very different circumstances, and so far it seems that the free flow of information benefits us both. So, as an appendix to this letter, I have written out a brief synopsis of the work I have done. This work was done under the banner of the College of Surgeons flying in the courtyard between our sprawling wards, but in truth it was done at the Society’s orders.

In this, I recognize you are very good at drawing information forth from me, and I also recognize that I am still in the happy glow of having received all of your carefully-shipped star charts. But I am a man who is constricted not only by these walls but also by the obligations on my time—you, however, seem to have no problem meeting new people like LaGrande, finding entry into observatories and libraries as you go about whatever business it is that your Maman thinks she found for you. So, ask away, any curiosity you have!

Let me know soon what LaGrande thinks about my additional notes. I wouldn’t show him my dissection notes unless he insists.


P.S. Ah to mention curiosity, after I finished this letter to you I read again what you wrote and I saw that you also were asking about Skald. What I have heard about that mysterious place is that it rises above the sea, or falls underneath it, every two centuries or so. To hear the observatory clerk, or whoever he was, dismiss it as a myth made me laugh, because even within Society ranks there seems to be something of the mythological about it. In fact, Edmund Rexley’s mathematical equation that predicts its reappearance—and disappearance—with remarkable accuracy is still enshrined in a Society museum somewhere; this same equation predicts the planetary alignment of Hestia, Dionysia, and Hera with the appearance of the comet Tisiphone in the northern sky. According to the calculations, Skald should have reappeared some six years ago; I had heard that there were some preparations at Elizabeth College to explore the island, but these efforts received neither funding nor enough interest—this was surprising to me, but the expeditionary branch of the Society is not one I belong to.

I think I also mentioned in one of my previous letters that we had an operative along with the expedition that was launched by the Albionese gentlemen Eliot Crane and Benjamin Rackham, who financed and organized their team independently of whatever was left of the Albionese government following the beginning of our current Weltstufe. We think she has been compromised somehow, as she no longer is in communication with her contacts within the Society—but hear this only indirectly since, as I have said, I do not work with the exploration teams. We thought that a landing on Skald by Crane and Rackham might have re-energized an interest in the cooperation that once existed between the New Columbians and the Society, with our operative as a lynchpin, but I am afraid that those goals, like many others, lie in ruins now. Perhaps you can learn more, and tell me what my ears have missed on this side of the Quarantine.

– – – – –


College of Surgeons, Essen

Many of my colleagues use the word “lycanthropy” to describe the metamorphic changes observed in our autopsies. Keeping Hellenic word roots, a better word is allanthropy: changing-to-other.

We have catalogued some five hundred and seventeen cases of allanthropy, and they generally fall within three main discernable types: animalism, degeneration, and suprapotentiality. In whomever we do not see a change, we refer to these as “null” cases. Allomorphism is a subset of suprapotentiality, where mostly human forms are retained but animal characteristics are taken on without a reversion to animal instincts. We have limited information on allomorphs except the three poor devils we keep caged at Elizabeth College; what we know is that they retain speech, the ability to reason, and their memories.

I have dissected over two hundred rat-men (arouranthropes) with varying degrees of similarity, cataloguing their differences. It seems their blood carries combinations of cells not matching the original host nor quite matching any next rat-man; thus the rat-men are as varied as humans are, and their rat-selves appear to be something added to the human, but dormant from birth. In the majority of these cases, the transformation seems to be localized in the upper half of the body, but not in all cases. Why the rat-men (about forty percent of the total catalogued samples) are in the majority of the changed forms is not known.

Some different types of animals have also been catalogued, for example lizards and snake-like men (sauranthropy, specifically ophisanthropes) and bear-men (arctanthropes). These made up about fifteen percent of our sample. In order of frequency, the changes that these creatures endured corresponded to reptilian (twenty-nine of the subjects), canine or lupine (twenty-two of the subjects), feline (sixteen of the subjects), and rodentate but not rat-like (seven of the subjects). Completely missing from our sample set were any transformations that appeared aligned with features of birds, fish, or hooved animals.

Another three hundred were degenerates, who were generally humans who seemed not to be able to sustain a transformative process. In these cases, we noted with almost total consistency that the blood seemed to have evaporated from within the victim, leaving the flesh a brittle, white husk both within and without. Tests on the flakes of flesh recovered from each of these cases revealed a cellular structure not unlike bone, where minerals naturally present in the body seemed to overtake and crystallize otherwise healthy flesh.

In terms of the suprapotentiality, we dissected very few. Of the subjects that were brought to us either already dead or dying, they each displayed either physical characteristics or mental characteristics that would seem beneficial, if not desirable, but which lead to their death. One example I can relate to you is a man whose flesh was impenetrable in any way; he had sadly died racked of hunger since his body had not been able to assimilate foods, no more porous or permeable on the inside as it was on the outside. We could not cut, or burn, or tear, or otherwise puncture his skin; needless to say, the autopsy I performed on him was quite lacking in many of the typical observations I would normally make upon peering into a man’s inner cavities.

Essen, 25 December


Well, I may as well simply call you Bertram after this round of correspondence, now that you have described our familial connection. I never knew Arnaud, at least not in any true sense. Hildi and I last spoke before the Blood War; I ceased getting letters after the great Tyrolian advance into Steinmetz, and the enormous catastrophe that enfolded there. I never had a hate for Gallians in any case.

So indeed, there are no “hard feelings,” as you state—especially since I am hoping that the Commission for whom you work will cooperate with me, when so few others will.

Speaking of that, there is a saying we have: “the Society never knows what the Society knows.” This speaks to the loose and fractured cells that vaguely cooperate from a thousand shadows, I suppose. I include it here to address the notion that the Society was only on Albion. Yes, the Albionese were its principal founders, having begun with the great thinker and inventor Edmund Rexley. But the Society’s members were—and still are—found in many nations, on the Continent, in Cathay, in Anatolia, and yes, even in New Columbia.

In fact, that you are Gallian, residing in New Columbia, corresponding with a Saxonian element of the Ancient and Majestic Society of the Unchanged Ways in well-practiced Albionese is a grand irony that is not lost on me, I assure you.

If Maman arranged this assignment for you—this does not worry me. If your scholarly credentials were less than originally advertised—then I have another saying for you that we have in the Society: “Utility in all things; potential is greater than the sum of its doubts.” I can tell you about the legends of Rexley himself: he was a failure before his discovery of the celestial clock, and that was only possible through his correspondence with Molineux. He codified the Universal Lexigraph, certainly, but only with the collaboration of many in his day who had knowledge beyond his. I can provide you with many more examples, but again I say, I will rely upon your desire to assist me as the only encouragement I need to continue corresponding.

Toward that end, I hope you were able to convey the rubbings I sent to your superiors at the Commission for possible translation against their Von Neumann volumes. I need whatever translations—even if rough—that you can furnish, and if you cannot provide any, say so and we will move the next project. We had an agent who could provide such translations placed among the Albionese explorers, but we have not heard from him in almost two months now.

I reviewed my previous letter to you and recognized that although I had mentioned that I needed access to “records,” I was not entirely clear. I need star-charts and celestial maps, any and all that you can get your hands on. If I understand from your letter that you can safely send these things without diplomatic interference, any that you can send my way would be most beneficial. We in the Society know that the New Columbians have made great strides in the area of observations into the skies, and perhaps there are some new charts you can “borrow” from them. Since our observatory on Garnsey is no longer in operation—as my contact there tells me—then you are my next recourse. If you promise not to let your friends at the salon set their tea-cups on it, I may well give you some summaries into my findings in a future letter!

One last detail that I cannot resist explaining. I am a scientist. This requires that I abolish all superstition until it converts itself into fact through evidence, or dissipates under the power of truth. I cannot eliminate any possibility until it is either upheld through logical explanation, or dismissed by the same light of reason. Lycanthropy is real, my friend; but it is not a thing of werewolves like they tell in the dark Märchen of my childhood. It is a slow and painful process, causing great agony and danger to the body. It is not contagious, yet it is found in large groups at a time. Despite the legendary tales, it is completely irreversible in the subject. And perhaps most disturbing of all: those who survive a transformation retain their human consciousness. This means that those who undergo the involuntary and sudden change, and survive, roam the earth in full knowledge of their changed state.

But there is one detail that seems to hold true to the old stories. The changes happen because of a shift in the stars, or the moon, or both—or this at least is my theory now, after hundreds of dissections and observations of live victims. Now you know why I am asking for astrological maps.

With those comforting thoughts, I wish you a Happy Yule, or whatever they say in New Columbia. Joyeux Noël and Fröhliche Weihnachtszeit!


Essen, 14 December


It is my understanding that we correspond in Albionese for the course of our work. A superior made this request of me; I ought not ignore this request. I think the word “order” in Albionese is probably a better choice than “request” here—but we have no military rank or discipline in the Society. As a result, I am more accustomed to receiving requests of my time in service to my oath. I suspect a similar request was made of you regarding the use of Albionese, but I do not know that for sure. What I can be sure of: this letter, and the letters to come, will no doubt be read by eyes other than our own.

Perhaps it is all the same. If I were able to record my findings in my native Saxonian, it would be easier for me, but perhaps more difficult for you. If you were able to write in your native Gallian, it would be simpler for you, but heavy for my mind. I have much to explain to you and I fear that Albionese will not be sufficient for my reports. However, this is how we find ourselves. Forgive my short sentences and poor grammar.

My organization has recently suffered incredible losses. Our hope to dive underneath Skald is sunk and lying on the sea floor. We have reason to believe that our best agent—a leading expert of certain transformations of the blood—has been compromised. And now I have received word of the loss of the laboratory at the College. All of this demands that at least some of us work toward a reëstablishment of the original Stiegsmark Pact. If it means Albion is quaratined forever, so be it. But there are those of us who still believe that Albion’s condition is only temporary. We believe that the reversal can even be accelerated.

I will not shock our shadowy readers if I denounce the Quarantine as a hindrance as much as it is a help. After all, any wall has two sides. There are people I know in Albion, people who are still alive according to what I know. They could unlock at least some of the research that I have done over these eighteen months. Here, I am frustrated that I do not have their minds. Now, I was never a student of the this Von Neumann fellow, but I am convinced I do not need to be. You might be an adequate link to resources I do not have here and cannot access because of the Quarantine.

Folios 1 and 2 are the rubbings from four sites here, in Saxonia and Tyrolia. I present them that they might be compared with the Essen research. The rubbings show a clear connection in both style and use of tools to make the markings. I have labelled them each according to origin. The first set of rubbings (above my red pencil) is from the Altensteine in northern Saxonia. The second (below the red line) are from Tyrolia, from the hills at the foot of the great Waldberg. The smaller set on the second folio constitutes a third rubbing, this time from a site high up in the Alpinspitze. Finally, the fourth set seems to tie them all together. This one is obviously the most similar to the ones at Mont-Bré, but were not etched onto dolmens. Instead, this last set comes from the dark caverns underneath Dürenmar.

I am not a linguist, nor am I an archivist, or an archaelogist—but in times like these the Society must rely on those who it knows are loyal first and knowledgeable second, and not the other way. I am a physician, biologist, and a naturalist, and my true interest is in effect of the transformations. The feared loss of our agent from our ranks is a bitter blow. Now, our conclusion that she is no longer reliable put me in the expert’s chair for these matters. Yet I am in desperate need of assistance.

At any rate, it is my hope that you can assist me in gaining access to those records. If you cannot, then I will of course turn to other things. But the Quarantine be damned—we need to know how to protect ourselves from lycanthropy. If we can profit from that goal and find a way to control its impulses, then we stand astride the world.

Please convey the enclosed records with my goodwill and sincere wish to receive some of the secrets that remain guarded there. For all our sakes.

Dr. Friedrich Nussbaum