Pax Imperium was an Airship that belonged to the Imperial Navy.
"... we commenced to launch Heavy Fyre at the Enemy from all our Ballistae, with both Regular Speare and Hellfyre, the latter of which proved greatly Effective, so that in less than fifteen minutes from the Time we engaged Our Enemy, their Ship was very much Injured, heaving and yawing in Plain Distress. At this time damage taken by the Pax Imperium was minor ...
"... and gave us an opportunity of pouring in upon their Vessel several Hellfyres, which made Great Havoc amongst the Enemy Crewe and wreaked Grievous Injury to her Hull and Engines ..."
It seems that these crumbling pages are what's left of the captain's log.
"Enclosed I have the Honour to forward you a list of Killed and Wounded of the Pax Imperium and also the list of Casualties aboard the Enemy Vessel, as well as the List of surviving Crewe and a copy of her Quarter Bill, and Finally a report of our own Damage Received during the Action...
"... and found aboard her the most unquestionable Evidence ... obliged therefore to Investigate the matter, I have set the Engines to Full Speed ... Upon Sighting our Quarry, I made a decision to land Pax Imperium in the midst of the Enemy’s forces and Project Shields, allowing our Troops to disembark and Engage the Enemy Infantry..."
"I wish to convey to you the bravery of the Officers and the Crewe under my command during the Recent Action. I assure you that so well directed and so Relentless was the Fyre of Pax Imperium, that in less than three hours the Accursed One sustained Grave Injuries, compelling the remainder of the Qantari Force to Disengage and Flee. You will no doubt hear from many Quarters of the Bravery and Exemplary Conduct of those engaged in this Conflict, and I must again state that these Accounts are in no way Exaggerated ...
"... to haul off and Repair our Damages and return again to the Action, not knowing whether the Enemy had survived or not..."
The rest is indecipherable.
The box contains what used to be personal effects, the only object of interest is a tightly-rolled old scroll. The ink has faded a long time ago but you can still read it.
"I promised myself I would write this down one day and today, with the aid of a bottle of fortified wine, is that day. I called myself a strong man before, even a brave man and not because I’m a braggart, but–
"It was the first time I had seen one in person. When the Trierarch first told us that we were going to bag one of the Qantari devils, we cheered. The tides of war were about to turn and we would all live to see it. The first of them had been ambushed and killed less than a month before, and after all if a squad of fusiliers could do it, how hard could it be? What living thing can survive Hellfyre? Even the Legatus visited the hangar before the assault. He didn’t address the rank and file in person of course. Lowly gunners don’t merit such an honor. Anyway."
"We had all heard stories, but the stories don’t do these – what should I call them, creatures, things? – justice. I didn’t even recognize it as our target until it moved, uncoiling itself too many times, and in the end looking straight at me. Supposedly it was human once. Human? The fucking thing was the size of an elephant.
"The first volley we launched at full power, an assault usually reserved for an enemy carrier, or if we were bored and wished to rearrange the horizon. Day turned into night and the ship gave a gentle roll in our own blast wave. We all waited, hushed no matter how rattled our nerves, for the smoke to clear. Were its insides guts and bones, or gears, machinery, gods know what? When we realized it had shifted position it was too late to evade. Something smashed into us, and I heard a new sound, new to me because it had never happened on a ship of our class, or at least not to one where any crew survived: metal tearing, screeching, giving way. The starboard bulkhead several yards away decided it was a floor and everything went dark."
"I woke to the Optio’s boot in my ribs, not gently reminding me I was still on duty. “Get up, boy! Get up!” he yelled, an unusual squeak leaking into his usually fierce voice. The entire section had been torn open like an envelope, and my crewmates replaced with smears of blood and clusters of indiscriminate gristle. Beyond the fire and smoke, the wind through a hole in the hull moaned out an invitation to Hell. The Optio gave me another kick, and pointed at the steel rack which housed the Hellfyre missiles.
"It was normally a job for two men, but sensing it was the wrong time to complain I hoisted a missile on my shoulder and carried it to the launcher. The ship rocked with another blow, then shivered as if she was coming apart. The remaining missiles rolled across the steadily canting deck, but I somehow kept my feet. The Optio was yelling again, but I heard no sound. My mind was adrift, detached and dreaming, as if this was simply one of our many regular drills. I locked the missile in place and the blue telltale confirmed it was armed. I walked toward the firing mechanism, but the Optio pushed me away –with his left arm for his right had been severed below the elbow, ragged strips of flesh woven with tassels of blood-soaked cloth– and pointed at the porthole. I looked out and instantly wished I hadn’t. What I saw then nearly undid me on the spot. For some reason I thought of the brown ants that mistakenly attack the insect-eating plants of the low plains. However great their number, the ants march not to battle but to offer themselves up to die."
"The Optio was gesturing wildly, frustrated at my stupor. Afterwards, when I had the luxury to do so, I would marvel at his focus, his stubborn narrow mindedness. The bastard was bleeding to death, yet acted as if one more shot would win the battle. I forced myself to the launch console, gave him the sign, and he fired.
"He was pointing to the remaining missiles, but I was tracking our first shot, watching its multicolored explosion, the tiny figures taking flight as if fleeing the battle by the only open route. The thing squatted there still, unmoving, unfazed. But when it began to uncoil again, the head slumped and swayed like a drunken python, and blood, thick and black as rock oil, poured in gouts from its maw."
"Hope blossomed inside me like the beautiful burst of a Hellfyre explosion. Full of renewed purpose, I dashed for another missile, loaded it with shaking hands, checked the gauges again, and gave the Optio the signal to fire at will. He was deathly pale now, and after putting his weight against the lever this time he tumbled to the deck. I knew he wouldn’t rise again. The missile roared toward the target, another direct hit, and the monster was engulfed in the fires of the underworld.
"I would not see the result of the finishing blow, for that playful bulkhead called to me again and I returned to black unconsciousness.
"My account is done, and my wine, a coincidence I will take as a good omen, and finally my hands have stopped shaking."