Prologue

24 Uno, 1867

Penweight archaeological expedition

To the royal academy of Foxton:

It is a pleasure to announce that the expedition is going well. I can with further enjoyment state that the primary reports were inaccurate; the finding is much vaster than assumed. We appear to have an entire, Ivorian city, buried under the mud and ash. Although of course in ruins, it is in remarkable good shape, and I would like to draw particular interest to the bath house and the many statues and examples of Ivorian art in the ruins of the Forum. The working theory is that this was some sort of colony, the most northernmost they had.

We had dug so extensively that the houses are completely clear, and walking down the ancient streets buried for centuries, I am almost able to feel the atmosphere in the ancient civilization, hear the busy street life and see toga-clad men walking the street next to me.

This is all a fantasy, of course. But the reason for this report is that we have unearthed something wonderful.

Breaking into a local tomb we discovered not just the skeleton of a man, but also a number of sealed pots. Some contained food for the next life, others what was probably milk in its former life, if you will forgive this small joke, Sir. But the most remarkable was one jar decorated with symbols both from Ivory and from an empire that was until now considered myth: The Matriarchy of Sirens.

The jar was placed near the head of the corpse, and as you can understand, we were anxious to see what was inside.

Inside were a collection of scrolls, which explains in detail a story that is quite amazing. Not only does its exquisite explanation of the society of the time give us insight we could before only speculate on, the tale itself is a thrilling epic showing a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable destruction of the Empire itself. Having translated the scrolls into modern language, we are now seeing an eyewitness account of legend. The only strange thing about it is that it seems to be telling its story in the past tense, as if the empire was already history when it was written. And yet it was found in an Ivory tomb.

Despite this oddity, it is a tale of the ages, Mr Aubrey, and with our names attached, we will be as immortal as the heroes that play in it. A copy of the translated manuscript follows this later. I trust you will enjoy the reading.

I remain, sir, yours truly:

Arthur Penwright.