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.
– – – – –
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS FROM SURGICAL WARD 3
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.