Gold Prelude: Lord Blackwood in the City of Amon Iram!


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The following is an excerpt from Diary 11 by SCP-1867, otherwise known as Lord Theodore Thomas Blackwood. Along with the remainder of Blackwood's Collection, it was seized by the Foundation from a subterranean vault under an address provided by SCP-1867.

Water damage has left most of Diary 11 illegible, but due to its significance to the Forerunner Triad, the legible portions have been transcribed below.

July 12th, 1801

I have received the most peculiar gift today.

Mssr. Brazeau visited me today — simply appearing out of nowhere in front of my breakfast table, and pulling out a chair. After umpteen years of knowing Jacques, this is not altogether surprising — but the timing of the visit did inspire a measure of surprise in me, though he refused to answer any questions until Ms. Cartwright served him a plate, the cad. I had just returned home from a rendezvous with a Corsican seer who claimed he knew when the Queen would die. A charlatan, though — I doubt Queen Charlotte will live for two hundred years. Regardless, Jacques.

He confirmed, at my slightly-offended prodding, that his recent silence had come as a result of increased scrutiny on the value of le estate Noir by the First Consul Bonaparte. Whether the francs being poured into their archives were not better spent equipping the men on the front. Whether the objects in such archives could not be put to better use on the very same fronts. An officer communicating with an English noble during wartime would be a death knell for the organization. While I care little for mundane political squabbles, I understand Jacques' position.

My second question was regarding the large hay-packed crate that had appeared alongside Jacques. Wiping his mouth from the pheasant, he explained it was a gift, and drew his cavalry sabre to use the flat to pry off the top of the crate. We both peered in.

A collection of six large, heavy stone tablets, each the size of my chest, packed with straw into neat rows. Using all our strength, we were able to draw one out - it was papered in inscriptions in an obtuse script that resembled Greek. Jacques explained over coffee some time later.

Due to the increased scrutiny on the estate, he had taken it upon himself to personally ensure no potentially dangerous artefacts made it into the hands of the warhawks in the French consulate. He had been surreptitiously smuggling such items out of Catacombs and into the hands of well-informed friends of ours.

I questioned what kind of danger a set of tablets could carry. He elucidated: some years ago, agents of the estate recovered a cache of technology, impossibly advanced prostheses, from a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea. With them had come this set of tablets, remarkably well-preserved in sealed jars. They apparently described a set of ancient cultures, the origins of the technology, and where to find their cities. Deeply intriguing - but the translations were ongoing in Paris. He promised to deliver the manuscripts as soon as they were complete - and so I await.

Several weeks worth of entries have been rendered illegible by moisture damage.

August 23rd, 1801

Traveling with soldiers always makes for an entertaining trip, if nothing else.

When Brazeau first provided me the completed translations, I was slightly incredulous. The Arabia has been inhabited continuously for many centuries by a surprisingly cultured people. Surely if a metropolis to this scale laid in the center of the area, someone would have found it? But then, the Black Tower lies beneath London herself and I was the first man in centuries to step through its doors. I suppose anything is possible.

I could tell Jacques would have preferred to go himself. But the good Frenchman urged me instead - with the tenuous political situation in the Consulate, he could not afford to go on an expedition. Unfettered as I was by antiquated political rulings, he arranged for my passage with the armee d'Orient as they moved into Egypt and Arabia. I found myself agreeing along. It has been some years since I had traveled to the warmth of the equator.

And so here I remain, my detachment of just over two dozen sleeping in a distanced camp. At first, the soldiers were naturally suspicious of Englishmen, especially in times like these — but we are all too weary to keep up such walls for long. Now my two dozen men mingle with them like brothers, conversing in a broken mixture of French and English. They are all too willing to listen to our stories of the paranatural — the Ang Khor Trails and the Sphinx Hunts have become favorites. The officers, however, remain wary of the Englishmen with the strange tools and charms and stories of a world beyond.

No matter. Tonight is the last night we bunk with the armee. Tomorrow the marching plans take us as close as they ever will to the location transcribed on the tablets, less than a day's walk. Diverting the entire army is beyond even Mssr. Brazeau, so my detachment will say our goodbyes to our traveling companions and walk the distance. Tomorrow we see what truth there is to these legends of an Atlantis of the Sands.

August 24th, 1801

Pardon my French, but — bollocks.

August 24th, 1801, cont.

This expanse of sand is no different from the other countless expanses of sand we have traveled to arrive here. Empty, desolate — not even birds of prey ride these winds. It is dark, but even in the darkness it is quite obvious there is nothing here resembling an Atlantis of the Sands. Resembling much of anything at all, in fact — merely the rolling dunes.

We have chosen to make camp — I write this by lantern-light as the men eat and make merry. We will continue searching in the morning, but the immediate signifiers are not reassuring.

August 25th, 1801

My predictions from last night ring true. We have combed every square meter of the location in the tablets - explicitly marked as the midpoint between the mountains and at an angle to a crevasse, which we located. By all possible measures, the city should be here.

The men have come to the conclusion that we are indeed in the correct location - but at the incorrect elevation. Toying with his false eye at suppertime, Watterson posited that after three thousand years, the strong wind patterns in the Arabian peninsula would likely have shifted large amounts of sand. Amon Iram may well be here, simply buried under countless tonnes of sand. Not a reassuring notion, but better than it not existing at all — thought the latter is just as likely.

Tomorrow, we begin digging.

August 26th, 1801

Watterson has vanished from the dig site. The men sustain he was directing them one moment, took a step away for a smoke, and vanished from thin air. We have searched up and down the area. I fear the worst.

August 26th, 1801, cont.

Relief. We heard loud calls during a silent supper and raced out of the tent. We found Watterson stumbling across the sand, out of his mind with thirst and sunstroke. We filled him with water and carried him back to camp. He is resting in a tent, and the Surgeon says he will be fine in the morning. Off his body fell his own journal - the most recent entry, dated to today, being a hastily-scribbled statement on how he had "fallen into" an ancient city, in a space that seemed seperate from the surrounding desert. This warrants investigation,

Several pages of moisture damage.

August 27th, 1801

I have traveled up and down the Earth, exploring the peaks and crevasses of our wondrous planet. The things I have seen have filled countless volumes and vaults in Britannia. I have encountered forgotten beasts, forsaken lands, and more than my fair share of ancient ruins.

I have never seen anything like Iram.

Iram (Amon is, according to the tablets, a title — akin to Capital) is an impressive sight by any mundane measure. Its walls outclass their Chinese rival in thickness and height — more battlements than blockade. The streets are wide and open, criss-crossing the city into a complex web of roads and avenues — the broadways are lined with what could have once been shops and merchant stalls. The towers — by Jove, the towers stretch so far into the sky, one struggles to imagine how they could have been constructed. The intricate stone and metalwork that covers every surface has the telltale imperfections of hand-carving.

The city itself is not in our world, not properly - it exists in a sort of pocket, accessible at random. I am as yet unsure what qualifies one for being able to access this pocket, but once a person is seen doing this, it appears all others around them are also capable of it. Most curious.

The city is truly gargantuan - much larger than even London, and we have seen passages underground — I expect some sort of underground construction. But it is impossible for us to explore the entirety, so we have chosen to make camp in one of the empty buildings for the night. An air of excitement buzzes through the air as we eat and bed down.

August 28th, 1801

Further exploration has indicated the city is, perhaps, not as utopian as first thought.

The first task was to ascertain a rough map of the city - a large portion of it is, as we discovered, almost totally destroyed. Bombed-out ruins, pitted streets, and dried-out bones litter the paths. Scorch marks on the buildings complete the image — the section of the wall in this quarter is similarly broken-through. I am of the opinion that this city did not fall apart — it was taken.

Whatever battle did occur here, it was three millennia ago. And yet the bones look as clean and fresh as if they had been stripped not yesterday.

The men we sent into the passages quickly returned, with claims of strange vines and pods down below, in a labyrinth of iron and steel. These are hardened men who have explored with me many times, but they seemed unnerved. I will go down myself, but today was consumed by the making of the map. The city itself is approximately circular - a temple complex dominates the center, and four broadways extending outward cut the arrangement into quarters. Very well-designed for an era in which mathematics was only a loose concept.

But there is… a soberness.

The emptiness of the city is overwhelming. Not only have we seen no other people, we have not seen farms, plants, animals - anything remotely resembling life. The howl of the wind is the only sound one can hear, aside from his own boots against the stone. This effect is only intensified at night.

As we settle down into our tents, we do not speak. There is an unspeakable presence in the air.

August 29th, 1801

As I turned to make my way back to the camp, I heard a soft pinging. The unmistakable sound of metal on stone. I raised my cane — only to see a small metal automaton, a child's toy, staring back at me. A monkey that could fit into the palm of my hand, hanging from a pipe along a wall. It cocked its head at me — a moment of hesitation, and then I reached out.

I have no idea what it is — I've seen automata but this metal beast is intelligent, capable of acting depending on the situation. It shows emotion; it plays when I play, and hides when I shout. Most fascinating. This is, no doubt, an example of the aforementioned advanced technology that led us here. I brought it to the camp and the men were similarly fascinated.

I assumed this creature, watching us, was the source of the strange heaviness last night. A seasoned explorer can always tell when there are a pair of eyes on his back, even when he cannot see them. But when I bunk, I hear it, in the very farthest reaches of my hearing — countless, overlapping pitter-patters of metal on stone. We are far from alone.

August 30th, 1801

I visited the temple today. It is a grand affair, like the stone-carved temples of the New World. Sandstone and limestone, with great big murals fashioned out of overlapping plates of a strange bronze metals. They are incredibly stylized, but seem to tell a story - possibly a creation myth of savages, but I find it difficult to say. A massive statue of what could only be a god or king dominates the courtyard, hefting a spear and sword. His gaze seems to follow me throughout the temple.

If it indeed is a temple. The interior can only be described as a throne room - and what a throne, rivaling even King Edward's Chair. I hold my ear close, and I swear I can hear a slight ticking. Standing in its presence is strange… invasive, I would say. I did not dwell, and I warned my men to do the same. I do not know what is within that throne, but every instinct in my body suggests I should leave it be.

August 31st, 1801

I descended into the passages today. The men were right. The silence aboveground is doubled down below. Every movement and step against the metal sends an echoing clang through the structure, as if I were standing at the bottom of a canyon. I left a rope to mark my path — before long, the maze become utterly impossible to navigate by memory.

Surely they would never intentionally create something this labyrinthine. Or perhaps they had their own methods of mapping the path. Regardless, I am not bold enough to risk disorientation in pitch blackness, and returned quickly.

But before I did, I stumbled upon the vines mentioned by the men. Petrified little things, snaking up and down the walls and falling to ash when touched with my blade. The pods… spherical things resting on the vines, the size of my chest, slightly… throbbing. And the bones.

Hundreds on hundreds — human and otherwise. Deformed skulls, femurs with bulbous growths, bones splitting into Y-shaped crosses, a chain of small bones four meteres long. And countless human bones picked clean of all viscera. They are littered knee-deep, and dry as… well, a bone. They crunch underneath my boot. These charnel houses start as jarringly as they stop; entire passageways can be ossuaries, and other sections are all fine steel and rusted iron.

I do not know what occurred here, but whatever it is, it was something horrible. Tomorrow we take our leave and go to our ship docked in the Levant to report back to the estate. Amon Iram is seductive, but my own bones tell me that if I do not take my leave quickly, they will join their countless brethren under the streets.

Remainder of diary is illegible from moisture damage.



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