Dominic Swain was a theatre techie, running lighting at small theatre companies around London. He had arranged to meet an ex-girlfriend, Katherine Mendes, on Saturday 10th November 2012 at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill for a matinee performance of The Trojan Women that she was in.
Dominic arrived early and went to a local Oxfam charity shop to kill time before the performance. There, he found a plain book bound in something like calf leather with the title Ex Altiora on the spine in faded gold letters. It was written in Latin, with woodcut images of cliffs, mountains, a tower, and an empty night sky. A bookplate in the cover read, "From the library of Jurgen Leitner." He bought the book for £4 and, discovering he'd lost about an hour looking at the book, he left for the show.
During the performance, he smelled ozone but couldn't pinpoint the source. Katherine had a look at the book but didn't read much as the images triggered her vertigo.
Dominic did some research but found nothing on the book or Leitner, except a listing on eBay from 2007, an auction on "The Key of Solomon (1863), owned by MacGregor Mathers and Jurgen Leitner", which was won for £1,200 by someone called grbookworm1818.
He tried to get more information on the book from various buyers, but they weren't able to tell him anything other than it was 100-150 years old. The last buyer knew Leitner, saying he was a big name in the literary scene in the 1990s, a Scandinavian recluse who custom-bound books or asked authors to write books for him. He disappeared around 1995, but dealt with a shop called Pinhole Books.
After doing a theatre performance, Dominic went for a walk and found himself in Morden, outside Pinhole Books. He knocked on the door and was greeted by an old woman with a shaved head who sported numerous tattoos of words all over her body. Dominic showed her the book and the woman, Mary Keay, returned to the building, followed by Dominic. After walking through a maze of books, they stopped in a room. There were bookshelves all over the walls, an old desk with papers, fishing wires and safety razors, and a painting of an eye. The painting was an incredibly detailed painting, with intricate patterns and symmetry with the caption, "Grant us the sight that we may not know, grant us the scent that we may not catch, grant us the sound that we may not call," which Mary said was painted by Gerard.
Mary announced that it was a long time since she'd seen a Leitner, but that Gerard kept an eye out. She showed Dominic her Leitner, similar in appearance to Dominic's, but without the title. As she passed it under the shadows and Dominic had a closer look, tiny, warped animal bones fell from the book. He looked at his book again and saw that the images were starker with a Lichtenberg figure on the previously empty starry night. He fled the building: his childhood friend, Michael Crew, was struck by lightning after Dominic forced him to play in the rain. He survived but was permanently scarred by a Lichtenberg figure.
Later that night, after returning home, there was a knock on his door. Gerard Keay stood on the threshold, dressed in a dark long leather coat, with dyed black hair, looking like he hadn't slept. He looked at Ex Altiora and offered to buy it for £5,000. Dominic agreed (thinking that he would have given it away but that "wouldn't count") and Gerard left to get the money.
Whilst he was away, Dominic researched the Keays, and found a news article from 2008. Mary Keay's body had been found. Death was determined to be by an overdose of painkillers but was ruled a murder by the police, due to large pieces of Mary's skin being removed and hung to dry on fish hooks. A picture attached to the news report showed no tattoos and a full head of hair. Gerard was acquitted after an important piece of evidence was deemed inadmissible.
Gerard returned and burned the book after paying Dominic, which stopped the ozone smell which had haunted Dominic since he bought the book. Gerard said, "My mother doesn't always know what's best for our family." He picked up the scalding hot bin containing the ashes of the book, saying he'd had worse, and left.
Post-Statement Follow Up Edit
Jonathan Sims noted that he thought they'd dealt with the Leitner library in the incident in 1994. The library was known for having custom editions of known texts on demonology and the arcane.
The team was unable to locate Gerard Keay for a follow-up interview, as he disappeared after his trial. It's worth noting that Pinhole Books was closed after 2008, for obvious reasons, so it wouldn't have been there when Dominic went.
In the police reports, Tim found that Mary's flesh had been covered in Sanskrit writing, a script similar to that found in her Leitner book.
| ATTENTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
This article contains information from later episodes of The Magnus Archives, and may contain major spoilers for the setting and plot.
- grbookworm1818 is revealed in MAG 66 to be Gertrude Robinson, former head archivist of the Magnus Institute.
- Ex Altiora is the first of many books from the library of Jurgen Leitner to appear in the series. It also appears in MAG 46.
- Mary Keay is the author of the statement in MAG 62. She is also briefly mentioned in the post-statement follow up for MAG 23.
- Gerard Keay appears frequently in connection to Leitner books, including in MAG 12, MAG 35, and MAG 48.
- Michael Crew leaves The Bone Turner's Tale, another Leitner book, in a library drop box in MAG 17. He possesses Ex Altiora in MAG 46, and is the author of the statement in MAG 91.
- Ex Altiora is a book belonging to the entity known as The Vast