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nn5n: scp-3986 The Observatory of Genghis Khan
EuclidSCP-3986 The Observatory of Genghis KhanRate: 45
SCP-3986

Item #: SCP-3986

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Mobile Task Force Chi-99 "Ancestral Voices Prophesying War", has been established to locate SCP-3986. The area of search has been narrowed down to Mongolia, Xinjiang, Kazakhstan and parts of southern Russia. Chi-99 is employing a number of unconventional methods of detection, including extensive use of Hume detection, neutrino cannon, and large-scale interviews with locals.

Any extant copies of the Altan Debter, A Description of the Mongolian Peoples, Divan-e Afshar, Recitations of Lakshmi Rao, The Construction of Xanadu and Voyages in Russia and Turkestan discovered are to be acquired by the Foundation immediately.

Description: SCP-3986 refers to a hypothetically extant mountain, with an unknown location somewhere in Inner Asia. SCP-3986's existence is not confirmed and is conjectured from a small number of textual sources ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. Despite some deviances and apparently not drawing upon one another, these sources all describe a remarkably consistent landscape with several apparently anomalous attributes.

The sources agree that SCP-3986 is in the centre of a flat steppe, highly visible due to the lack of surrounding elevation. The mountain's size is difficult to ascertain, but is uniformly described as being coloured like cobalt or having cobalt stairs. These stairs have been cut into the side of the mountain, winding around its circumference several times and providing a path from the ground to the peak. At the top of the mountain is a large observatory; here, the sources are inconsistent, each describing the observatory as if it belonged to their period and culture.

The only consistent points of observation concerning the observatory are the presence of a large number of multinational inhabitants, and the presence of a large central courtyard of the complex, in the centre of which is the body of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan. The body is located in a grave, covered in a sheet of glass; the type and colour of this glass vary according to the observer. The body is reportedly in a state of perfect preservation.

Despite its hypothetical state, the testimony of Foundation operative John Callaghan in conjunction with the earlier reports has been deemed sufficient to provide SCP-3986 with a designation in the Foundation database. On six occasions prior to Dr. Nicholas Cartwright's death in 1999, petitions were filed to reclassify it as an explained item; these requests were all denied. The evidence gathered at the time of Dr. Cartwright's death have led to a moratorium on petitions for an explained status, although this may be subject to change at a later date.

The relevant extracts from the six sources describing SCP-3986 are below, translated into English when appropriate.

This is the official state history of the Mongols, extensively drawn upon by Rashid al-Din Hamadani and the Chinese chronicles. Previously believed to be lost, or possibly not a single chronicle at all, several 16th-century copies were discovered in an archive in Hohhot. The syntax and language all appear to indicate a genuine copy, although it is believed that there are several interpolations throughout the work; this includes paragraph 989 in the transcript below. The manuscripts have since been seized by the Foundation and the discovery suppressed. A possible reference to Lakhshmi Rao exists in the first section. The paragraph number is indicated in the transcript below. Translated from classical Mongolian.

986. And the heavenly-ordained armies grew tired of their wandering, and sought an end to their travels. So they sought an audience with a city-dwelling sage, called Rao, and he told them of a mountain, framed in gold and [cobalt?]; and atop it lies an empty plain.

987. And the armies went to the mountain, and found it inhabited; so they went away, and then returned, and it was not yet inhabited;

988. And the armies climbed the steps, which were made of gold and [cobalt?]; and they marvelled at them, for they knew not who had built them. And they climbed the steps, and said, here is where we shall bury the heavenly Khan. And so they placed his body inside the earth.

989. And the armies made a sheet of glass, to change with the wind; and they placed the Khan inside it, and sunk it into the plain. And they placed with him his favourite slaves, his weapons, and the body of the noble Khatun Borte. And they cried up, O eternal heaven, here we shall make it so his body gazes upon you, so his spirit shall leave, and pass through the glass as if through twin flames, and it shall reach and mingle with you.

990. And they mounted their horses and rode upon the flat plain and the mountain, and covered it, so that nobody could find it again.

A late 14th century work by the Andalusian ethnographer Abu al-Aziz al-Shams Muhammad Ibn Ubayd. Ibn Ubayd's work is largely drawn from the descriptions of Mahmud al-Kashgari and Rashid al-Din Hamadani, and although known it was of little scholarly note. An article on its deviations from its apparent source texts by the American historian of Andalusian literature Dr. Philippa Castle apparently referenced SCP-3986, and thus brought the work to the attention of the Foundation. Translated from Classical Arabic.

And the tribe of the KIPCHAK lives to the north of the Oxus; and they are a warlike people, skilled in the hunt and with many legends.

And the tribe of the KALMYK lives to the north of the Oxus; and they are a warlike people, in the manner of the KIPCHAK.

And the tribe of the OBSERVERS lives to the east of the Caspian; and they are a tribe of many nations, who live at the foot of the mountain; and they stare at the stars, having constructed a great observatory in the Andalusian style.

And this tribe has a sheet of coloured glass, and beneath it lies that warlike prophet, Chingiz Khan1. And his body does not decay; for it was placed here by means of a pact with the OBSERVERS, who are the children of many races, and who did not wish to be killed by the armies of TOLUI; and they placed the body where all could see and remember it; and by strange dark magics the OBSERVERS preserve it; and the armies of TOLUI went away again;

And the tribe of the KIRGHIZ lives to the north of the Oxus; and they are a warlike people, in the manner of the KIPCHAK and KALMYK.

A collection of poetry by the 15th century Persian poet Shams al-Din Afshar Shirazi, a member of the Timurid court. Although reported by numerous sources as being of high quality, the Divan has been entirely lost except for a translation by the 19th century British orientalist and Foundation operative John Callaghan. This translation is extremely loose, and it is believed that Callaghan embellished or invented many details; he is not believed to have come into contact with any other sources discussing SCP-3986, however.

And on the mount of Ofstrato, upon the Onon's shore,

A stately pleasure-dome, atop the rocky moors,

With tiles of cobalt blue stand the watchers of the night,

The tunnel all refracted, the threshold framed starlight2

And in their halls there walks a folk of learning and of love,

Whose hearts are pure-white as if the feathers of the dove,

Ply the secrets of the stars that twinkle in the dark,

And smile and write on arcane pages only sages hark.

A work by an unknown Hindu author from the mid-16th century, this work records the sayings of the Yogi mystic Lakshmi Rao. A number of manuscripts, each with minor variations, were in circulation across the early modern period. Translated from Hindavi.

And on the eighth day, the Venerable Sage came to us, and asked us why we die.

And the brahma among us told him many things; that the body was like the worn-off clothes of the atman, and that it must be exchanged many times;

And that the atman would be purified further and further, until it can rest.

And the Venerable Sage smiled, and nodded, and approved; and the brahma among us were mollified.

But then the Venerable Sage offered an alternative notion. He spoke of Genghis Khan, who had died in order to build Bedhashaala, also called Rasadkhane-ye Moghul, also called Shangri-La.

And the brahma among us protested; there was no such place, they said; there was not even a legend of such a place;

And the Venerable Sage merely laughed, and said, this is the sacrifice of death; all that you are slides into oblivion, and nought can recall what you have given.

For even the form, or the name, or the idea of a place is nothing but idle words or frail memory to those who are left behind. And Genghis Khan, who sought an elixir of eternal life but accepted its non-existence, was able to accept this.

And thus, for no reason beyond his own desire to patronise scholars, he gave his body as a seed, and around it grew a beautiful observatory;

And people from all nations arrived there; and recognising the glory of our country, raised up walls not of Mongol furs or Muslim stone, but of red Patna; and it shines with the fire of the sun.

And thus there was no empire left in the soul of Genghis Khan, and he was at last at rest.

And the brahma among us agreed, and hailed the Venerable Sage.

A novel by the 17th century Chinese novelist Li Yujian, a bureaucrat in the service of the Ming dynasty who fell into poverty following the Manchu conquest of the country. Li's account provides a narrative of Kublai Khan's construction of Xanadu, which he portrays as bankrupting the state and causing immense destruction. Unusual for a novel of this period is its sympathy for the Yuan dynasty and its portrayal of Kublai as a heroic (if flawed) protagonist. The passage in question comes towards the end of the novel, as Kublai's loyal servant Báichī asks him why he continues to embark upon a project he knows is doomed to fail.

And Báichī stood up at last, and looked at Kublai. "I do not understand," he said. "I know I am only a poor idiot, but I cannot see the reason. All around you rage the fires, and Xanadu is burning, and still you will not give it up."

And Kublai turned towards him, and Báichī saw how his face, within the firelight, no longer looked like flesh, but like stone. Indeed, it reminded him of a statue he had seen, in his youth; one weathered and beaten with age, but still carved to make the watcher remember the divine glory of its emperor.

And Kublai said, "I cannot stop, noble Báichī, because to do so would be to abandon myself. For all my palaces, for all my glory and my kingdom, for all the nations of the world who pay homage to me as no other emperor has achieved, I am still a Mongol, born to a Mongol king, who knows nothing but the hunt and the lust for gold that is common to all my kind."

"For in the west, in the far west, my grandfather lies, staring up at the sun and smiling. For he lies atop the tallest mountain, the only mountain in all the steppe, and above him lies the greatest testament to his power. For behold! The greatest minds of Po-Su and China are gathered in one place, amid a palace akin to the greatest emperor's; and there they have plumbed the depths of the universe. They have seen the rotation of the earth and the centrality of the sun; and through the glass all the stars pay homage to him, from the lone protector to a preacher of distant gods; and on the ceiling of the universe he stands, forever, tall and proud, a monument forgotten yet necessary that no man can touch."

And Kublai looked down upon his burning castle, a mountain made of wood and stone, and he wept, and Báichī wept with him, for although he would never be an emperor or a sage he understood, having grown and played with emperors and tyrants, the desire to conquer that world still denied to them, that immortality through empire.

Nikolai Karensky was a Russian army officer sent as an envoy to the Dzungar Khanate in the early 18th century, where he died in March 1718. A great deal of correspondence survives between him and his sister, Katerina, which has since been seized by the Foundation. Translated from Russian.

20th Feburary 1718, near Ghulja.

My dearest Katerina,

The weather here continues to be frightful. It has begun to snow, and these appalling Tatar tents are little protection against the elements. My guide, Mehmed, has told us that we are to stay put, on the Khan's orders. It is a shame; I had hoped to see Almaligh, the old capital of Moghulistan, but this is prohibited. It seems I shall return straight home to St. Petersburg with no diversions at all.

Still, it is only a small problem, because I came across the most wondrous sight recently while travelling with the Khan across the Tarim Basin, as I discussed with you in my previous letter. I became lost from the bulk of the rest of the group, and found myself wandering across unfamiliar pastureland. I was lost and with little food; but I saw before me a lone mountain, shaped so oddly I became convinced some structure had been built upon it.

I approached on my horse, and saw a series of steps carved into the mountainside. They shone with a brilliant cobalt, and I was quite taken aback at the beauty of their preservation. I ascended- by now desperate for water- and after what seemed like no time at all, I was atop the mountain.

And what a sight lay before me! It was as if I had stepped out of the savage nomad land I had been in only moments before and had instead entered a university in Russia. An Orthodox chapel lay at one end; a great plaza covered in stained glass, as if taken from some Roman church; domes and white marble to rival the best found in Russia.

I presumed this place must have been some Russian colony of some kind, but I was mistaken; it was full of Persians, Chinese and Arabs, all wandering with telescopes and sheafs of papers under their arms and discussing high matters- astronomy, astrology, the rotation of the earth. Some were discussing the philosophy of empire, others the ethnography of the Kipchaks. One fellow, an Arab named Ibn Ubayd, gave me some water and food. When I asked him what this place was, he told me it was the observatory of Genghis Khan! I was very confused by what this meant, until he told me to look at the fine stained glass I had admired earlier.

Beneath it, Katerina, was a sight I had never thought to see; a perfectly preserved corpse of the conqueror himself. I had thought that he had died some way to the east of this, but it was clearly him- I knew it in my soul. I could feel his gaze upon me. I thought how strange it was, that a savage Tatar such as this should have made such a place. But then, I thought, perhaps he did not; perhaps this was an unwanted legacy. His eyes stared so horrifyingly at the sky.

Nobody would tell me anything about the place, and they sent me on with supplies some hours later. I could not find the place again, and found my people again shortly after. But oh, Kat, what a find! The tomb of Genghis Khan! I shall write up an account of this miracle as soon as I return home; my fellow travellers and students of history across the continent!

Give my love to Alexander and the children- how they must have grown!- and remember me fondly in your prayers.

Nikolai.

A travelogue-cum-report written by the British orientalist and Foundation operative John Callaghan and published in 1887. The portrayal of sensitive information within this work on other anomalous items (particularly SCP-3838 and what would eventually be revealed to be SCP-3150) led to Callaghan's lynching during the 1889 Snarling Coup, an important predecessor for the modern Foundation's development as a scientific institution.

And upon this stretch of grassland lies a small mountain; approximately 400m tall, by my calculations. It contains a set of stairs carved into the side of the mountain, winding around it 10 times before reaching the top.

Upon the top lies a small observatory. Of particular note is its adherence to modern standards, being remarkably similar to a number of similar institutes across the West; despite this, it is staffed and occupied chiefly by Orientals of various types. A disappointingly cliched set of texts are held within by its ignorant guards; some works on heliocentrism, they claim, existed prior to Copernicus, despite the clear impossibility of this. Still, there was a remarkable set of Persian poetry which I did not recognise; a great deal by Omar Khayyam and some previously unknown examples of Shams al-Din Afshar, who I had heretofore only encountered in catalogues and allusions.

There is a clear anomalous presence here, what with the presence of modern buildings and equipment within a less enlightened country. The inhabitants demonstrate a clear knowledge of modern instruments and techniques, but insist in writing in what I believe to be a variant of the Phags-Pa script of ancient Mongolia, despite its many unsuitabilities for scientific endeavour. They are cagy and inscrutable people, who seem unwilling or perhaps unable to give me any further information on the place.

There is one final thing of note- a plain sheet of clear glass in the centre of a small plaza, somewhere to the side, containing a perfectly preserved human body. Although obviously not the body of Genghis Khan, as the inhabitants claim, the clothes it is wearing do appear to be of particular antiquity and are very fine. I attempted to liberate a sample, but the glass could not be easily removed or broken and so I desisted.

Beyond this, Kazakhstan is a most desultory location for anomalous items. I intend to return to the Marketplace posthaste.

Addendum 1: On 09/12/1999, Dr. Nicholas Cartwright, project lead on SCP-3986 from 1969 to 1984, died in his sleep. A small note was left to the Foundation with contents pertaining to SCP-3986; a transcript is as follows.

I remember- as a very young man- that my father told me about Callaghan, whom he had met. Reading the file again tonight, I recall the way my father discussed his manifold weaknesses, his rather closed mind- but also his open and generous spirit, his kindness to those less fortunate (or perhaps those he deemed less fortunate!), and his sudden change of heart shortly before the Snarling Coup, when he disavowed a great part of his travelogue after finding something in the archives at Tabriz. Specifically, he claimed that SCP-3986 had been far more significant than he had previously thought- that it was indeed the grave of Genghis Khan, and that he would return there posthaste for a final discovery.

He wrote down what he found, but it was lost- some time, we think, during the Snarling Coup. And it was perhaps this which led us, for the longest time, to believe SCP-3986 affected by the anafabula. The seventh piece lost, a place apparently expunged from the world- it was not hard to conjure up a theory where Callaghan was a fantasist who had invented the observatory, following on from the many fictions of previous centuries- because, in keeping with the ideas about the conflation of myth and history in the 60s and 70s, we were disdainful of the observatory's existence. And so the observatory became a piece of myth, observed in various other works, and deleted from existence.

But this wasn't how the anafabula worked, and we should have recognised that. Indeed, I began to be troubled by how many of the authors already described the observatory as hidden or lost. I was the one- in the face of considerable opposition- who insisted on giving the observatory its own file, its own number, creating the project. But our searches turned up nothing, and for a time I thought that I had led the Foundation on a wild goose chase, some errant quest for my own personal fantasy.

But then I found it. For me, it appeared in southern Russia, on a steppe that had once been Tatar but had become settled, Christian, modern. The grass- which some earlier observer would have seen as the hellish ground of northern savages, or the romantic freedom of the nomads, or some other such thing- was now mere grass, an explicable and unromantic thing, discussed in terms of economics or history or geography. It was explained; it was made modern.

And within that rose the steps of cobalt and a mountain of black stone. And I rose, giddy with excitement, my recording devices ready to snap all, hear all. Like any dutiful Foundation researcher- even one old and frail and withering, as I was- I wanted to bring it all back to my superiors, to advance the cause of knowledge.

So, I reached the top- and stopped. There was the observatory, one which resembled the technological marvels at the cutting edge of American science. There were its inhabitants, friendly, reticent, frightfully learned. And there was a sheet of- well, I know of no way to describe it other than "strange", as truthful and as flawed a description as all my predecessors.

I learnt nothing there. I asked desperately for that one burning question- "What did it all mean?"- but the inhabitants just looked at me oddly, quizzically. I was irrelevant to them. They were on the ceiling of the world, and had bigger concerns- their scholarship, the mapping of the heavens, the truth of the cosmos.

But like the good researcher that I was, I needed to know. How did this place exist? Why was it here? What had caused the conqueror of the world and his companions to set him here, to build-or occupy- this observatory? Why would anyone live here? Where did they get their food?

And so I went to the glass, and looked into the Khan's eyes, staring up at the sky, and I laughed. Because it doesn't matter. This place had a meaning, or meanings. In the darkness of the world, in the mysteries of its age, there is some purpose, but it is lost. It doesn't matter. Half a dozen utopias are described in the pages of the file, by men with different concerns to us. They sought to create, use, contextualise; they sought to bind this place, this miracle, into a single unity, a single meaning. They wanted to define it and give it meaning. We, in our modern way, want to do the same.

Well. To hell with all that, and since I'm dying, to hell with all of you, too. I don't know who made it or why. All I know is that it's beautiful, and has inspired men of great talent and of none to spill ink across the page. This is the observatory of Genghis Khan, and that's all it needs to be; a sublime mystery which you will never understand, you bunch of calcified researchers. For the rest of the day- and the two days beyond that I stayed there-, I sat, read, drank qumis and imbibed opium, laughed and read and stared at the sky, at the twinkling of that which is beyond our comprehension. I talked with Afshar and Ibn Ubayd and Li and all the rest. And when I descended, I was happy; not because I knew, but because I knew not.

I am going now. My time will come soon. I wish you all the happiness in the world, dear reader.

page revision: 9, last edited: 02 Jul 2018 09:32
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