Allow me, first and afore, to make clear in the mind of the reader my intentions in compiling this manuscript; or, I suppose, to make very clear what my intentions are not.
It is not my intention to compile a history of the Deep, for the simple reason that such is surely impossible. Uncounted are the centuries in which that colossal cavern has played host to human beings, stretching, possibly, back unto the antediluvian days of Enoch and Methuselah. And while some records remain of those ancient times, they are writ in the tongues of people either long dead, or that of peoples so ancient and obscure that reference to them has not been found in the libraries of the West in which I have spent much of my life. Those writings of an historical nature which pertain to the Deep date back only unto the settlement of the North American continent by Europeans, and even those make reference to it only in passing. The Deep is, in effect, a place without history: a fact queer in the extreme, given the tremendous antiquity of the ruins and artifacts which may be found there.
Further, it is not my intention to chronicle the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or their allies. While the Mormons (or, as they are more properly, and derisively, known by the peoples with whom the cohabitate, “the Saints”) play a pivotal role in the modern history of that place, and while they are in themselves a subject of considerable interest to me, it is the opinion of this chronicler that the truth of things is written in the smallest of details, and that to observe only the great forces at work in a place is to miss the point altogether. For those curious about the Saints and their peculiar exile under the world, I implore you to search elsewhere. You need not search long; in light of recent events, I am sure, the tomes concerning them are already in production, en masse.
Nor is it my intention to chronicle the fall of the Tartar Qing. I would not presume to historicize a folk who are, for a first, still living, and for a second, a people with whom I am only familiar in passing. China, I am told, is an immensely strange country, and an immensely immense one also, and I suspect that too few are the hours between the day of a man’s birth and that of his death to learn all that he would need to properly write on the topic of that ancient and mysterious empire. Both the Mandarin peoples and the Saints will feature prominently in these pages, I am quite sure, but neither are strictly the focus of this manuscript.
What, then is that focus, I can practically hear you murmuring to yourself? Why, in the name of Father and Son and Holy Ghost too, have you spent so very long in disclaiming this work of yours, chronicler?
Well, I suppose the reason is that I expect this work to be rather strange, for within it I intend to set down on paper the careers of two men of whom the reader has most certainly never heard tell. They are not great men, at least not after the fashion of an Alexander or a Charlemagne. In fact, by the standards of civilized folk, they are both of them quite low. Cut-throats, they; vagabonds, scoundrels, guns-for-hire.
To the folk of the Deep they were called, respectively, Samuel Broadbent, and Mr. Crow, and though in the beginning they knew it not, they would each of them hold in their hands the fate not only of the United States of America, of China, of the mercantile empire of Great Britain, but indeed of the world itself.
Before all of that, though, they were common cut-throats. Queer and fay is Fate.
– The Archivist
9 February, 1903