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.