Manifest 704: Corpses of the Colossi

The R. H. Commission on Unusual Cargo

Authorized by the Board of Regents of said Commission

Manifest 704

Curator: Commissioner John Hadfield


Storage Instructions:

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A drawing excerpt from the 16th century Bestiary of Nobody, depicting one of the beasts.

Specific details regarding the cargo's acquisition should only be made available to the Board of Regents, the Commissioner of the Commission, the British Crown, and the crew of the Aurora. Permission to ignore this order is to be solely granted by the direct order of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

The acquisition of the cargo should be carried out in accordance with the instructions and rituals prepared by Commissioner John Hadfield; due to the potential risks involved during extraction, the use of any other acquisition procedures is strictly prohibited.

Once extracted, the cargo should be stored in carefully sealed barrels created from consecrated birch wood. The storeroom aboard the Aurora where the barrels are located should be surrounded by an unbroken circle of salt at all times. The ship's crew is advised to inspect the structure of this circle on an hourly basis.

Cargo Description:

The cargo is the flesh, the scales, and the claws extracted from mutant bodies buried in the Cemetery of the Colossi in the eastern waters of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to their abnormally mutated source, these materials possess numerous unnatural characteristics, including the following:

  • No weapon known to the Commission — both magical and mudane — has been able to pierce the scales that cover the bodies of the buried beasts. Due to this property, their extraction is currently impossible;
  • Aside from their abnormal size, the claws obtained from the paws of the beasts show an unnatural absorbency to magic. Any ritual magic performed in their vicinity seems to be entirely nullified, with the energy used to perform the ritual being absorbed into the runes that cover the claws. The language in which the runes are written is currently unknown;
  • Sailors sleeping in the cabins near the storeroom where fragments of the cargo are kept reported unusual dreams centered around clashes between huge, animal-like colossi amidst uneasy seas. The battles were accompanied by rhythmic songs in unidentified languages. Since the discovery of this phenomenon, additional occult workings around the barrels have been employed.

Due to their nature, attempts at identifying the origin of the buried bodies or explaining the unnatural properties of their parts have been so far unsuccessful.

Manifest Remarque 1

18th of July, 1862

It is hard to describe the Cemetery in words. Not because it is difficult to comprehend, but because all the words in the English language cannot adequately convey its size.

The day during which we came across it was the most turbulent of my entire career at sea. The water around us tried to drown us with waves higher than the Aurora itself. The sky and its downpour did not remain idle, either. I don't know if I have ever seen a bigger storm in my entire life. We were, of course, more than aware that, in sailing out in search of the Second Son's grave — recent reports from the expedition to Mongolia indicate that we had completely missed the mark — we would encounter the wrath of the elements, but we did not ever expect such fury.

All day and all night we prayed to all the gods that we knew of that the Aurora would succeed in standing strong despite this madness. We did not doubt the stability of the ship's Yggdrasil planks or the structure of its sails woven from the Golden Fleece; we did, however, doubt whether in its frenzy the sea would not devour us ourselves.

And then — after almost thirty hours of constant battle with the elements all around us — everything suddenly stopped. In the blink of an eye, all of the clouds disappeared from the sky and the hundred-fathomed waves quieted down, leaving the surface of the sea completely calm. The silence that suddenly surrounded Aurora was almost sepulchral.

The Cemetery of the Colossi revealed itself before our eyes.

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A sketch drawn by myself, depicting one of the colossi.

It was filled with bodies. Every sunken piece of it was full of monumental, dead beasts. I have never seen such creatures in my life. Each of them looked as if they had been stitched together from dozens of different organisms animated by the darkest of magics. Despite the fact that, in this corner of the world, we had expected all sorts of monsters from the descriptions of the legends that had led us here, the sight was still shocking — they were unlike anything we'd ever heard about.

A few years ago, I would have said that they looked similar to the chimeras we encountered near the ruins of Adytum. Today, however, I know that even the Mutineer himself would never create beings so monumental, so… unnatural and primordial. In their posthumous serenity, they did not look like animals or like monsters, of which I have encountered a great few in my life. Their features were characteristic of many animals — crocodiles, octopuses, bulls, lions, and many others — but in spite of this, they… they looked almost human.

And all of them were dead.

I cannot begin to imagine what might have been powerful enough to exterminate legions of such enormous beings. It is difficult for me to speculate as to where they might have come from, or who — or what — might have created them. All of my books and all of the legends that I know of do not hold any answers to these questions. The only scrap of information that may in some way relate to our situation is an engraving contained in the sketchbook contained within the Bestiary of Nobody, drawn during the anonymous author's journey across the world. But even here I wouldn't be too certain — for although the drawing itself looks similar to the beings we encountered, the unknown identity of the author and the lack of connection between the engraving and the text of the volume itself leaves me in doubt.

My knowledge — and therefore that of the entire Commission — lies just as dead as the subjects of our discovery. There is a great hole in our records that is silent on the subject of the colossi fallen in the Cemetery. Fortunately, I know someone whose main interest is filling any such holes.

John,

I've gone through everything you've sent me (many thanks again for giving me actual samples, instead of just drawings!) and to be honest, I am… slightly shocked. I have only seen such runes twice in my entire life — once during the vivisection of the body of the Last Aifš-Urdal of Daevastan and once during the exploration of the tomb of the lich Caligula. I never expected to find them in any other place — especially on the bodies of such beings buried in such a place.

You see, these runes are not complicated. They may be large, that much is true, but the huge patterns they form have one simple meaning: to tell death to piss off. Judging by their bodies — and the number of thaumaturgic symbols engraved on them — each of these beings has been artificially created to be in such an immense rage at everything around them that they quite literally refused to die.

What's even more interesting — and please receive this information with a dose of healthy skepticism, for I myself remain uncertain of its veracity — these patterns remarkably resemble those attributed to the work of the ancient Klavigar Saarn. In such ancient times only she was sufficiently in tune with the cycle of the world to know the ways of circumventing samsara. However, what would these runes be doing here, more than a thousand years after the fall of the Eternal Empire?

I digress. My rituals date the body parts that you have sent me to around the year 150. This would fit in with the Second Occult War, particularly as Aaron's notes indicate that this period was particularly tumultuous for the relationship between the Empires of the Romans and the Daeva. It would give us evidence of the sides of the conflict and the weapons used, which represent a monumental discovery in the fractured parahistory of antiquity!

Friedrick Williams, the secretary of the Secret Society for Cultural Preservation

Friedrick,

I don't know what to say because I don't know how I could have been so blind.

Looking at my notes from a new perspective, I can see that your theory sounds extremely plausible. Not only would it explain why the late Daevite aristocrats were depicted as beasts on the paintings inside their palaces (which, as I suspected, was not just a metaphor for incest!), but it would also give us reasons for the military weakening of Rome during the Third War. All of this — combined with the fact that the year 150 is far too late for the First War — means only one thing: we have finally found physical evidence for the Second Occult War!

But that's not all — in eager anticipation of your letter, I also sent Aaron the claws and flesh of the colossi. After many weeks of work, he found that by using the claws, he could create apparatus capable of completely nullifying the occult shields that cover the beasts' scales. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of potential applications, especially military ones! Needless to say, my father's Foundation for the Secure Containment of the Paranormal — and with it, the whole British Empire — will be immensely pleased by any such potential uses.

At my earliest convenience, I will forward our joint discoveries to my sister in London.

By no means do I mean to downplay the historical weight of this remarkable discovery, which will undoubtedly change our perception of the Second Occult War, to be but a mere weapon for the Crown — but times are uncertain, and you know what they say: better safe than sorry.

John Hadfield, Commissioner of the Commission on Unusual Cargo

John,

Father is impressed and — I won't hide it — so am I. The findings you and Aaron have sent are really good work. If you'll allow me, I'm more than happy to use this information for the good of our Foundation — we've been long stuck at a dead end when it comes to alchemical work, so your notes will certainly prove invaluable.

Despite my praise, however, I am not writing to you about alchemy.

No matter how useful your analyses are — and once again I will mention that they are very useful — the Crown wants only one thing: weapons. So if you want to continue your research on the colossi, you have only one job to do — bring as many of their bodies to the Islands as you can. We will figure out how to make something useful out of them here.

It is with great regret that I have to interrupt your historical research, but the Crown is currently faced with an urgent need to strengthen our occult defense capabilities. The current geopolitical situation is so tense that we have no choice but to direct our efforts towards ensuring the security of the Islands. Our enemies are continuously developing their occult arsenals and we cannot possibly remain behind.

So load those corpses onto your ships and come home as soon as you can. We will eagerly await you.

Abigail Hadfield, Deputy Director of Her Majesty's Foundation for the Secure Containment of the Paranormal

Manifest Remarque 2

2nd of March, 1863

Honorable Commissioner,

I am very pleased to report that your rituals have worked brilliantly. Although we had to use more catalysts than we had initially planned, our efforts were successful. As of the writing of this letter, a fleet has sailed to the Islands, transporting as many as twenty bodies, with the Aurora, the Titania, the Maeve, and the Oberon in the fleet's lead.

I hope to see you soon, for we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

Peter Wilson, Deputy Captain of the Aurora

Lost Cargo Report


On the morning of the 3rd of March of 1863, two ships of the British fleet — the Aurora and the Titania — were attacked and sunk by three hostile pirate ships, sailing under an unknown purple flag. The offenders possessed far superior naval artillery and occult weapons, and they utilized it against the British fleet in the waters of the Gulf of Cadiz after passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. It is estimated that three-quarters of all the cargo on the aforementioned ships was lost along with eighty-eight of the members of their crews; the remaining ships managed to evade the aggressors and escaped without suffering any losses.

Abigail,

The Aurora has sunk — and with it, virtually all of our useful cargo.

When I received news of this, I didn't know how it could have happened. After all, we were both sure that only we had control of the seas. It is impossible, I thought, that anyone would stand up to us — after all, we have very good contacts with both the Tsar's Seer and the Estate Noir, and it is hard for me to think of other organizations in our business that could truly surprise us.

And then it hit me — this issue is not just about us. This issue is about more than foreign organizations akin to our own.

This issue concerns new players on our battlefield.

Once I realized this, it wasn't difficult to put this very simple puzzle together: for I doubt that anyone other than Darke would have waved his bloody purple in front of our noses with such hubris. I also doubt that anyone other than this fool would be greedy enough — and confident enough — to realistically expose themselves to the wrath of the Crown.

All this means only one thing: we are slowly losing our monopoly on control of the world in the shadows.

I don't want for my letter to sound like the ramblings of a lunatic, but this event confirms a worrying trend that I have recently discussed with Aaron: the world is slowly becoming bolder towards us. Too bold. From all this nonsense to the attempt on your life a few years ago, it would seem… that someone is trying to declare war on us. Someone, or a lot of different someones — because if there's one thing all our enemies hate, it is the peaceful order across the paranormal world that our governments have brought with them.

Please do not take this as fearmongering or anything of the sort — I just think that we should ensure that, if anything were to happen, we could count on the support of our allies subordinate to the Tsar, the French, or the Kaiser. I also think it would be worth refreshing contacts with the Initiative, particularly given their distance from the still ongoing Civil War.

I have a feeling that we might face a terrible storm in the near future — and to survive it, we will definitely need our own breakwater.

John Hadfield, Commissioner of the Commission on Unusual Cargo


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