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Iron Quill - Ivory - The Terrible Misfortune of Intelligent Men

Laatija Gray

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The Terrible Misfortune of Intelligent Men






Ah, it’s you.


I suppose you’ve come here, to this dusty library, because you’ve caught scent of something astonishingly awful.

I don’t judge your curiosity.  Malifaux is largely comprised of sideshow horrors and it is not uncommon to host a few gawkers – especially in matters of exceptional demise.


Alas, dear Observer, you have arrived upon the scene too late to witness the sensational atrocity in its conception. We shall have to rely upon the evidence as presented to us to draw a clear picture of the devious acts which took place here, in Duer’s Library. 


The body lies there, just past the tomes on Greater And Lesser Horticulture in Malifaux Proper. The young man, barely out of boyhood, is lying chest down. His head has been turned violently around and you may experience the fullness of his terror as it is frozen within now vacant eyes. There is a curious lack of spilt blood on the scene – as if the assailant was greatly concerned with the neatness of his actions.  There is, however, a fine dusting of the most startling shade of cerulean blue powder.


The Observer may ask himself why such a young man – his name is Albert – would be murdered so viciously here. It can be safely assumed that the boy was not, in fact, protecting the secrets of the gardening world. If you were to look more closely, as I suggest you do, you will find something crumpled in the hand of the esteemed corpse.


Please do not pull it out of the hand. They have since discovered that the body is in an alarming state of decay and is rapidly falling to pieces. The inspectors would prefer the limb remain intact for a few minutes longer.


Do not fret.


I, the Omniscient Narrator, know exactly what he’s holding.


What the boy is clutching, with a dogged determination, is a large empty envelope. There are many crossed out names written on the front – each in a unique style of writing and in various states of fading, as ink is wont to do with the passage of time. There are at least five unique, broken wax seals.


What the inspectors will not discover are the burned remains of a letter. This is to their advantage, I assure you. This Letter is, in fact, the crux of the event. Should it be discovered, even in its ashen state, the discoverers will no doubt find themselves in various states of unbeing.

It is a letter which has rippled through the fabric of history, cutting a devious swath of destruction through the various Ivory Towers of humanity. It is appropriate that you have arrived here, at the Last Event. However, in order to fully grasp the Letter’s impact, you will need to travel backwards along the timeline, back to Earthside.


Please do not divert from the path I will lay out for you. You may not find your way back.


I will now impart you with A Brief History of the Undelivered Letter.




It is four hundred and seventy five years before the birth of Christ. The author of the Letter is a man who has been called the Weeping Philosopher. Many assume Heraclitus to be a great hater of humanity – plagued by his disgust and his melancholy. These things are claimed to be the reason for his tears.


You may correctly assume these claims to be false as, in fact, they are. 


The Weeping Philosopher had discovered a thing so horrifying and so damning that he could do little else but weep for his future fellows. (How he came to this discovery is largely unimportant and I will not spend my time in its explanation.) Heraclitus spent his years furtively searching for answers, calling upon the gods of Logic and Knowledge to impart their wisdom on the Eventual Event.


Here, at the writing of the Letter, the Weeping Philosopher is making one last vain attempt to impart his most important discovery to man – trusting the salvation of the world to the minds of his peers. As he hands off the scroll to the servant boy, his fate is sealed. It is mere hours later that a horrible figure appears in Heraclitus’ hovel. A figure with the darkest of intentions.


Swathed in cerulean, the Weeping Philosopher is now silent and unmoving.  


The second great man to fall prey to the Letter is no less than the great Socrates himself. The Letter was not, in fact, addressed to him. He takes the scroll in good faith – a man with an open mind and a humble spirit. He is instructed not to open it. It is his mistake to do so.

Upon opening the scroll and being fully horrified by its contents, Socrates begins to plan. He will use his status and influence to urge the sweet peoples of Greece to take action against the Eventual Event. I say ‘he will’ when of course I mean ‘he will attempt to’. The Dark Figure is quick to silence him. As Socrates falls numb to poison, he does so on a dusty cerulean floor.


Before his demise, he is able to pass the letter on to his companion.


The good man Crito takes the Letter from his master. Here it disappears for several centuries. The essence of this passage of time is mundane in nature. The Letter is removed from Crito by a thief and it goes largely undisturbed – passing from person to person in the bottom of an old chest. I will not bore you with the uninteresting details. Suffice it to say that this chest is delivered to a Persian Scholar named Melchior, two years after the birth of Christ.


You may not recognize the name of the scholar. He is often only referenced in the larger group of three very learned men – a comradery of intellect. As with Socrates before him, the awful impact of the Letter is not lost.


I realize that you must be anticipating the trend – that Melchior will die after attempting to impart his new found knowledge to others. You would be correct except that you are, in fact, not. Melchior’s attention is otherwise occupied by the discovery of Christ himself. Even as the Dark Figure enters his home, he is contentedly galloping away from the city gates. However, upon his return, Melchior will find his entire estate dusted in blue and scattered with twisted bodies.


Thus the Letter tumbles through history. It spends a brief period in the Library of Alexandria before the Dark Figure disposes of the curator (causing an infamous fire in the process). Among others, it is passed along to great men such as Avicenna, Galileo Galilei, and René Descartes. As much as these men fail to prevent the Eventual Event, they also fail to survive the presence of the Letter. Inevitably, the belligerent sheet of parchment is followed by the Dark Figure and only a scarce few have escaped agonizing blue-tinted demise.

History stretches along, forgetting the first addressee.


Yes, I do indeed know the original intended recipient, just as I know the identity of the Dark Figure. No, I will not give you that information.


The final Earthside casualty was the Marquis de Condorcet. Nicolas was a beloved Frenchman. Indeed, even I find him admirable. Looking in on his final days brings me a pang of despair. Of all of the great minds which had breathed in the understanding of the Letter, Nicolas had the very best and very last chance of preventing the Eventual Event.


If you will, Observer, please take his last moments with a degree of respect.


He waits in a French prison cell. The walls are dank and foreboding but you may find the locked door sufficiently protective. He will consider this place to be both a curse and a blessing – until the very end, of course, in which the cell is only a deathbed. He has had the Letter on his person for nearly a week now and has only read it twice – haltingly and with great difficulty. The Weeping Philosophers language is nearly dead but the Marquis is intelligent. He is able to grasp the full meaning of the old message.


The Marquis has been running from the Dark Figure for three days and this is the very end. He hides the Letter in his cell – unable to pass it on to trusted hands. He hopes that the Letter will be found by someone who has the power to act on its words. The hope is unmerited. The Letter witnesses his death from its place between heavy stone blocks. It remains undiscovered until well past the Eventual Event.




And now we come back to the ending – to the musty library and the impassive inspectors and the unhappy corpse of the unfortunate Albert. The Letter finds its way past the Breach – as damned things have a tendency to do – but I will not share the way in which it travels as such knowledge is largely useless to you.


Albert came to the Letter quite by accident and therein lies the tragedy. The poor man couldn’t have read the ancient Greek words. He merely wanted to know the secrets for growing the most perfect flower for his beloved.


If you find yourself unsettled, Observer, you may wish to take a few moments to mourn the man – the young Mr. Albert Einstein. I will think no less of you. However, I can assure you that he was the last victim of the Letter. The very last. The Letter remains undelivered. The Dark Figure completed the task – albeit a near century too late.


All that is left of the ashes is one single fragment – a weathered, worn piece of parchment, nearly black, almost unreadable. It is only a small part of the whole. I do not expect you to know the Greek but it reads: μην ανοίγετε το ρήγμα.


I will translate this for you but be warned – men have died for these words. Truthfully, I do not expect anything will happen to you as you are a mere Observer and unable to act on the knowledge. Even still, do not go searching for their meaning. I would be displeased to find you suddenly cerulean.


The translation is as follows:



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