The Grimoire of Irkutsk is a mysterious object found on 22/03/2187 by a superdeep borehole mining operation near the Marispatrian city of Irkutsk, Russia. In appearance it is a beveled cube 62mm in each dimension, composed of a pitted grey stony-metallic material. Its chemical composition is indeterminable due to the object's curious indestructibility; attempts to obtain a sample by mechanical means (drill, saw etc) merely result in the implement being worn down, even those made of diamondoid materials. Laser cutters and plasma torches experience spontaneous failures when brought near the object, indicating that the object has some kind of defence or anti-tampering mechanism.
After being retrieved from the ore slurry processing machine it was blocking up, a team from Moscow University was sent to investigate the object. Upon seeing the apparent indestructibility of the object, the team realised the magnitude of the find and had the object sent back to Moscow for a more detailed examination. Included in their report was a note that the object's mass appeared to be greater than its weight - when placed on a set of scales, it weighed about 5 kilograms - but the object's inertial properties were more like that of an object of 10kg.
Back in Moscow, measurements indicated that the object was either older than the universe or was carefully constructed to exclude certain long-lived radioisotopes. This was another puzzling result in an already mystifying find; the object was obviously artficial, and it had been brought up from geological depths which made it at least a billion years older than any possible human civilisation, let alone the Abyssian Dwellers who had only been a technological civilisation for a tenth of that time.
With only the most tentative hypotheses as to what the object actually was, testing continued apace. It was not totally unreactive; when the object was subject to an electric field oscillating at 60 kHz, a complex circuit board-like tracery lit up on the object's surface, but this eventuality was overshadowed by the horrific noises it started emitting at the same time; discordant screaming that reached into the ultrasonic, alternating with guttural roaring and subsonic rumbles interspersed with more human-range noises that were nonetheless disturbing. It was soon found that some people exposed to the noises experienced various adverse reactions, from a vague but surprisingly intense feeling of dread and horror, to more physical reactions such as nausea and bleeding. These effects were observed even if subjects were played a recording of the object's sounds, although at a lesser magnitude than if direct from the source.
Once a mentally and physically robust enough team was assembled, they were then tasked with investigating this newly discovered aspect of the object. It was soon determined that despite their effects, there was a certain structure and syntax to the noise; as if it were a language, or music. Or perhaps a musical language. Once a rough idea of the syntactical structure of what was now reckoned to be some kind of recording was worked out, attention then turned to whether any semantics could be worked out of it. What was most obvious was that if this was a language, then it was completely unrelated to any known language, human or otherwise - it was as different from Abyssian or ancient Martian as the two are from each other or any human language. The difficulty of the task was greatly increased by a total lack of context, so the team was reduced to working with an algorithmic approach, building on their understanding of the syntax; in effect, learning how to speak without knowing the meaning of words.
By this point it was pretty obvious that the noises the object produced were some kind of non-human language, which the researchers named Chthonic, in reference to how the object that introduced humans to it was discovered. Chthonic was already known to be a powerful language, but it wasn't until an incident in the summer of 2205 occured that it was realised just how powerful; one researcher was hospitalised after their work area burst into flames following the playback of a Chthonic sentence, one constructed out of fragments recorded from the original object. An investigation of the area turned up no potential sources of ignition, nor any sign of accelerants or electrical failure. Surveillance records also turned up nothing out of the ordinary. As a precaution, further experiments with audio fragments were suspended for a month. When nothing further untoward occurred, experiments resumed, but under much closer observation. It was soon found that various syntactically-correct combinations of sounds (or words, if you will) had a wide variety of physical effects. The researchers were gobsmacked at these seeming demonstrations of honest-to-goodness magic, and it was at this point that the object earned its name - the Grimoire of Irkutsk.
Although mechanisms of how the Grimoire's "words of power" worked were completely unknown, they were nonetheless consistent - the same sentence always produced the same effect at the same magnitude, no matter how loud the sentence was played. Various "rules" were discovered via practical experimentation, and soon the Grimoire was the subject of intense scientific and media scrutiny. Problems began arising; the researchers who had worked with the Grimoire for the longest, especially those working on the audio-related aspect of the investigation, began reporting extremely vivid nightmares. At first this was reckoned to be simply the symptom of the stress of a world-shattering find, but the nightmares worsened until the project leaders were driven to insomnia and in one unfortunate case, suicide. Immediately following this they were placed on medical leave effective immediately. A handful of researchers defied this to clandestinely work on the Grimoire; a couple of months later, however, one of the defiant researchers was found murdered at the hands of one his fellows who was apprehended while working on the Grimoire, claiming no recollection of what he had done and protesting his innocence.
Elsewhere, some of the researchers given medical leave (and who had not defied it) began to experience physical symptoms, inconsistent with any known condition. One case, later known as Patient B, underwent what could only be described as a complete physical transformation - over a period of roughly six months, her skin became rough and moist like a toad's, her neck, face and jaw elongated, and her teeth became sharper and longer. Her legs changed from plantigrade (resting on the sole) to digitigrade (resting on the toes), the bone structure in her legs accommodating this change. Her eyes changed colour from brown to yellow and developed nictitating membranes. She became pregnant and gave birth in a mere three months, although the fetus was (thankfully) not viable. As these changes advanced Patient B also underwent drastic mental changes; bouts of amnesia followed by paroxysms of animalistic, undirected rage so bad she had to be heavily sedated at times. A year after being admitted, Patient B was found dead in her room - an autopsy determined the cause of death to be some kind of organ failure, although this was difficult to determine due to the fact that the transformation process extended internally as well.
The cause of the physical and mental ailments suffered by a significant portion of the research team was never solidly established, but what is known is that they only afflicted those who came into direct contact with the Grimoire, or with derivative items like the experimental words of power. It's also known that those who worked with such items the longest suffered the severest. With that, the investigation of the Grimoire was put on permanent hold, pending safer methods of finding out more. The Grimoire itself was sealed in a secure location along with any derivative recordings that could be found.
Whether an actual tome of spells or something else entirely, the Grimoire of Irkutsk has sparked a frenzy of speculation among scientists and laymen alike, as well as spurring more adventurous individuals and organisations to undertake explorative boring for themselves in the hope of encountering similar items. Some of the more secretive, paranoid or aggressive polities on Earth no doubt hope to use whatever they find to their advantage against their rivals and enemies.
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