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!