The Lost Scrolls
? Alex Archer
TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON ISBN: 9781426801518 Copyright ? 2007 The Legend The English commander took Joan’s sword and raised it high. The broadsword, plain and
unadorned, gleamed in the firelight. He put? the tip against the ground and his foot at the
center of the blade. The broadsword shattered, fragments falling into the mud. The crowd surged forward, peasant and
soldier, and snatched the shards from the trampled mud. The commander tossed the hilt deep into
the crowd. Smoke almost obscured Joan, but she continued praying till the end, until finally the flames
climbed her body and she sagged against the restraints. Joan of Arc died that fateful day in France, but her legend and sword are reborn… CONTENT Dedication Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21
Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26
Special thanks and acknowledgment to Victor Milan for his contribution to this work.
"I thought Julius Caesar burned down the Great Library," Annja Creed said. She picked her waygingerly across a small lot of churned-up dust with chunks of yellow-brick rubble in it, gladfor the durability of her hiking boots. She was sheltered from the already intense morningMediterranean sun by the floppy straw hat she wore over her yellow T-shirt and khaki cargopants.
"He did, Ms. Creed," her handsome young Egyptian archaeologist escort said, turning to smile ather. He had a narrow, dark hawk's face and flashing eyes. His white lab smock hung from wideshoulders and flapped around the backs of his long skinny legs in the sea breeze snaking aroundthe close-set buildings. "Among others."
"Call me Annja, please," she said.
He laughed. His teeth were as perfect as his English. His trace of accent made young Dr. Ismailal-Maghrabi seem that much more exotic. I love my job, she thought.
"If you will call me Ismail," he said.
"Done," she replied with a laugh.
Ahead of them stood a ten-foot-high loaf-shaped translucent plastic bubble. The rumbling ofgenerators forced them to raise their voices as they approached. Some kind of structure hadrecently been demolished here, hard by the Alexandrian waterfront in the old Greek quarter. Biggrimy warehouses and blocks of shops with cracked-stucco fronts crowded together on all sides.Although Alexandria was a major tourist destination the rumble and stink of buses and trucksthrough the narrow streets suggested little of charm and less of antiquity. Still, Annja'sheart thumped in her throat with anticipation.
"For one thing," al-Maghrabi said, "the library was very extensive indeed. Also parts of itappear to have been scattered across the Greek quarter. As you probably know, in 2004 a team ofEgyptian and Polish archaeologists uncovered a series of what appear to be lecture halls a fewblocks from here."
She nodded. "I read about it on the BBC Web site at the time. A very exciting development."
"Most. The library was a most remarkable facility, as much a great university and researchcenter as anything else. Along with the famous book collections, and of course reading roomsand auditoria, it offered dormitories for its visitors, lush gardens, even gymnasia withswimming pools."
"Really? I had no idea."
He stopped to open the latch to a door in a wooden frame set into the inflated tent. "Theenvelope is for climate control," he explained, opening the door for her. "Positive airpressure allows us to keep humidity and pollution at bay. Our treasures are probably notexceptionally vulnerable to such influences, considering their condition, but why takechances?"
The interior seemed gloomy after the brilliant daylight. Annja paused to let her eyes adjust ashe resecured the door. There was little to see but a hole cut into the ground. "You seem toenjoy some pretty enviable resources here, if you don't mind my saying so, Ismail."
"Not at all! Our discoveries here have attracted worldwide attention, which in turn helps tosecure the resources to develop and conserve them properly. For that I believe we have to thankthe Internet – and of course your own television network, which provides a share of ourfunding."
"Yes. I am thrilled they allowed me to come here," Annja said.
"I'm told the scrolls contain revelations about the lost civilization of Atlantis." Annjacouldn't mask the skepticism in her voice.
"Come with me. I trust you don't mind a certain amount of sliding into holes in the ground?"
Annja laughed. "I am a real archaeologist, Ismail. I don't just play one on TV."
She didn't actually have to slide. A slanting tunnel about three feet wide and five feet highhad been dug down to a subterranean chamber perhaps a dozen feet below ground level. Hunchedover, they followed thick yellow electrical cords down the shallow ramp.
"As you no doubt know," her guide said, "the library is believed to have been built early inthe third century B.C. by Ptolemy II, around the temple to the Muses built by his father, thefirst Ptolemy."
"That's the Mouseion, isn't it?" she said. "Origin of our word museum? "
"Yes. It was also said that Ptolemy III decreed that all travelers arriving in Alexandria hadto surrender any books or scrolls in their possession to be copied by official scribes beforebeing returned to them. While we don't know for certain if that is true, the library'scollection swiftly grew to be the grandest in the Mediterranean world."
They reached a level floor of stone polished slick by many feet over many years. Banks ofyellowish floodlights lit a chamber perhaps ten by twenty feet. Three people were crowdedinside, two on hands and knees rooting in what appeared to be some kind of lumpy mound. One wasbending over a modern table. The air was cool and smelled of soil and mildew.
The person at the table straightened and turned toward them, beaming. He was a tall, pot-bellied young man with crew-cut blond hair and an almost invisible goatee on the uppermost ofhis several chins. "Greetings! You must be Annja Creed."
He held out a big hand. Annja knew at once he was a working archaeologist. He looked soft andpale overall, but his hand was callused and cracked like a stonemason's, from digging, liftingand the painstaking work of chipping artifacts from a stony matrix with a dentist's steel pick.
"This is Dr. Szczepan Pilitowski," Ismail said. He struggled with the first name – it came outsounding close enough to Stepan. "He's our expert in extracting the scrolls safely from theground."
"We all do what we can," Pilitowski said in a cheerful tone. "There is much to be done."
The other two, a man and a woman, turned around and picked themselves up from the floor. Theywore kneepads, Annja noticed. One was a man, the other a woman. Both were thin and dark, andshe took them for Egyptians.
"This is Ali Mansur and Maria Frodyma," Ismail said. The man just bobbed his head and grinnedshyly.
The woman stuck out her hand. She wore her black hair in a bun, and had a bright, birdlike airto her. "Please call me Maria," she said in a Polish accent as Annja shook her hand.
"This was a library storeroom," Ismail said. "Most of the scrolls were kept in locked cabinets,in chambers such as this. Only the most popular items, or those specifically requested byscholars, were stored in the reading rooms."
"So that heap...?" Annja said, nodding toward the rubble mound where Maria and Ali had beenworking.
"The remains of a cabinet," Pilitowski said. "Damaged by the fire, it collapsed and mostlydecomposed, leaving the burned scrolls behind."
"How many scrolls did the library possess?" Annja asked. "Or does anyone really know?"
"Not precisely," Maria said, wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of one hand. Sheseemed to show a quick smile to the bulky and jovial Pilitowski, whose own smile broadenedbriefly. "Some have hypothesized it held as few as forty thousand scrolls. Others suggest thefounding Ptolemy set a goal of half a million. On the basis of what we have found, we feel
confident conjecturing the former limit is far too low. As to the upper – " She shruggedexpressively.
"This isn't my time period," Annja confessed, believing as she did in professional fulldisclosure. "But I can certainly see how the recovery of any number of scrolls at all from theancient world is a terrific thing."
"Oh, yes," Maria replied.
"And here you see three of them," Pilitowski boomed. A vast callused paw swept dramaticallytoward the table.
They looked like three forearm-sized chunks of wood fished out of a campfire, Annja thought.They lay on a sheet of white plastic.
"These are actual scrolls?"
"Yes, yes," Pilitowski said. "My friends and I extracted them this morning."
Annja felt a thrill. She'd seen older artifacts – she'd seen Egyptian papyri a thousand yearsolder in the British Museum . But there was something about these scrolls, the thrill ofsomething lost for two thousand years and believed to be indecipherable even if found. Yetmodern technology was about to restore the contents of these lumps of char to the world.
"Even if they're just grocery lists," she said a little breathlessly, "this is just soexciting."
They knew.The others just smiled at her.
"Who really burned the library, anyway?" she asked Ismail. "Was it Julius Caesar?"
The others looked to Ismail. Ali was still grinning but had yet to utter a syllable. Annja'sfirst thought had been that he didn't speak English. But that appeared to be the commonlanguage on the multinational dig. She began to suspect he was just shy.
"Caesar was one of the culprits," her guide said.
"One of them?"
"And not the first," Maria said. The archaeologists seemed glad of the break. Annja understoodthat. They loved their work, she could tell, as she loved the work when she was engaged in it.But it could be brutally arduous, and breaks were welcome.
"The first major fire damage occurred around 88 B.C.," the woman said, "when much of Alexandriaburned down during civil disorders. This may have been the greatest destruction. Then duringthe Roman civil wars in 47 B.C., Julius Caesar chased his rival, Pompey, into the city. WhenEgyptian forces attacked him, Caesar set fire to the dockyards and the Egyptian fleet. The fireprobably spread through trade goods piled on the docks waiting to be loaded on ships. Thelibrary lay near the waterfront, like now. Many scrolls were lost in the conflagration. Also itappears Roman soldiers stole many scrolls and sent them to Rome."
"But that wasn't the end of the library?" Annja asked.
Smiling, Ismail shook his head. "Oh, no. Only a fraction of the scrolls were lost at that time.Although we believe that this site burned then. And finally, Emperor Aurelian burned the Greekquarter in 273, when the Romans made war upon the Palmyran Queen Zenobia. That destroyed moreof the library."
"So what happened to the rest of the library," Annja asked, "if fire didn't destroy it?"
"Time," Maria said.
Annja looked at the dark, diminutive archaeologist. Maria shrugged again. "Egypt's rulers lostinterest in maintaining the library. Much of it simply fell into disuse. Here, as elsewhere,people reused the scrolls, or even burned them for fuel. But most simply rotted away in theheat and humidity."
"All except the ones neatly protected by a thick coating of carbonization," Ali said suddenlyin a deep baritone and beautiful British accent.
Annja stared at him. He smiled but said nothing more. She suspected he'd used up his allotmentof spoken words for the day.
"Ali has a second degree in biochemistry, you see," Pilitowski explained.
"Ah," Annja said.
"Well, you know, Annja," the young Egyptian archaeologist said as he walked with her into thehuge old brick building next to the dig where the team had set up headquarters, "we make noclaims concerning the veracity of the scrolls. We only recover them. And are thrilled to do it,if I may say so."
"As well you should be," she said. "It's just that Atlantis is a hot button for archaeologistsin the U.S., Ismail."
Their voices echoed slightly in the enormous space. Wooden partitions had been set up todelineate work areas and offices.
"It is for all of us," he said. "We are, after all, on a quest for the truth, are we not?"
"Oh, yes," she agreed.
"And should we not follow the truth wherever it might lead us?"
"All right. I see where you're headed with this, Ismail. And you're right. If I'm going to be aserious scientist, then evidence needs to outweigh my preconceptions."
He smiled and nodded with boyishly visible relief.
"Now," she said, "let's go see this evidence."
The headquarters appeared to have spent much of its career as a warehouse, with high walls ofyellowish brick, steel struts for rafters and grimy skylights admitting brownish morning light.It smelled more than slightly of fish. Annja presumed it must be their proximity to thewaterfront. The smell couldn't last decades, could it?
They walked down an aisle to an open doorway. From inside came a blast of raucous femininelaughter. Ismail's fine features tightened briefly.
He ushered Annja into a wide room, well lit by banks of standing lights. Several people workedat a row of computers. Others examined blackened-log-like scrolls on a big table.
"You might find this interesting," Ismail said, leading her toward a table. On it stood acurious device like a bundle of upright rods worked through one of the burned scrolls. "It'sbased on a machine invented in the eighteenth century to unroll burned papyri."
The two technicians operating it had teased out several inches of scroll. It resembled charredbark being peeled from a log. They paused to smile and nod at Annja as Ismail introduced them.
"We mostly make use of magnetic-resonance imaging to take pictures of the scrolls, layer bylayer, without unrolling them," he said. "But we explore every means of recovering theircontent. And over here – " he turned to a wide white table where bright white underlightingilluminated the faces of the Egyptian-looking man and European-looking woman bending over it "– we have our apparatus for photographing fragments of broken scrolls we find."
What sounded like a great gong tolled. Everybody stiffened. The woman from the scroll unroller,whom Ismail introduced as Bogumila, exclaimed, "Aleksy, call Ali and Szczepan and Maria. Tellthem to come quickly!"
One of the pair at the photo table took out a cell phone and whipped it open. He spoke quicklyin Polish.
Others were beginning to arrive on the run from the other cubicles. Apparently the gong, whichshe guessed was a recording, was turned up high to let everyone in the converted warehouse knowthere was news.
Everyone crowded before a large flat-screen monitor. An image had appeared, a ragged off-whiteoblong, with spidery dark gray markings on it that Annja guessed might be ancient Greek. " Da!
" somebody exclaimed.
A young woman sat perched on a stool by the photographic table, at the other end from the bulkycamera itself, which was mounted on a heavy mobile stand. Now she pushed off and camesauntering over. She was strikingly pretty, with pale blond hair done in pigtails that made herround-cheeked face look even younger than it probably was. Her eyes were big and blue, ifcurrently half-lidded as if with contemptuous disinterest. She wore a tight black-and-red topthat showed off her healthy figure and an extremely short skirt with horizontal stripes in redand black. For all the horizontal stripes and harsh colors she was stunning looking; Annjafought down an inclination to hate her.
As she approached the flat-screen monitor Annja felt uneasy. China-doll perfect the youngwoman's appearance may have been, but she gave a strong impression of negativity.
Excited as they were, the other team members moved back from the screen as she approached. Theyoung woman leaned in, jaw working on a wad of gum.
"Not too close, Jadzia," the man at the keyboard said. "You are the anticomputer geek."
She gave him a baleful squint and snapped her gum at him. She stuck a finger toward the screen.The guy at the keyboard seemed to wind up tighter and tighter the closer her fingertip, thenail painted black, got. She read in a bored voice:
" – had in their possession most marvelous stones, like unto gemstones, such as rubies oremeralds, but the size of goose's eggs, wherein they stored a force as potent as thelightnings. Perhaps this blasphemy, this stealing of the very thunder of mighty Zeus, evokedhis wrath and caused him to cast down that which belonged by right to Poseidon."
She shrugged, popped her gum, straightened up with a little headflip. "That's it for this page.The break was a physical one. Nothing to translate."
Everybody cheered and hugged each other and exchanged high fives. Annja noticed nobody tried toembrace the pigtailed blond girl.
"Can she really just read it like that?" Annja asked the air.
She didn't expect to be answered in the hubbub. But beside her boomed the ever-cheerful voiceof Dr. Pilitowski. "Ah, yes, she can. This is the noted Jadzia Arkadczyk. She holds degrees incryptology and linguistics. She has a remarkable gift for languages. She is, quite simply,beyond genius."
Annja studied the young woman, who seemed content to stand looking offhandedly at the screen,soaking up the arm's-length adulation of her comrades. Annja had her own gift for languages. Ithad formed a key part of her love for travel and adventure.
"I'm impressed," she said.
Maria was speaking to the girl and nodding at Annja. Jadzia turned and looked at the visitorfor the first time. Her blue eyes flew wide.
"I know you!" she exclaimed. "I have seen you on Chasing History's Monsters ."
"Well, yes, I appear on the show from time to time," Annja said with authentic modesty. She didnot want to be known primarily for her association with the program. Especially among peers asdistinguished as these.
"You are the woman they bring on when they wish to cover something up," the girl went on, voicerising accusatorily, "and undo all the good work done by poor Kristie Chatham!"
"They despised everything but virtue," Annja read, the bubbly water, still hot, gurgling to theslight motions of her body as she kept the book braced open against her drawn-up knees.
Photographic specialist Rahim al-Haj had lent her a copy of Plato's Dialogues, well grimed
and dog-eared by the team, as she took her leave of the recovery site late that afternoon.Unwinding in her hotel room after dinner in one of her favorite fashions, she was reading what
Plato had written about Atlantis.
The legend claimed there had been an island outside the Pillars of Heracles, "larger than Libyaand Asia put together." Whatever Plato meant by Asia. A big island, to be sure.
The Atlanteans, the story said, made war on Europe. The Athenians, eventually standing alone,had defeated them. Then violent earthquakes had occurred, followed by floods. In a single dayand night the island of Atlantis and all its people disappeared in the depths of the sea.That sounded pretty final to Annja. It did intrigue her that the Athenians apparently sufferedgreatly from the same catastrophe.
"You never hear that part of the myth when people talk about Atlantis," she said aloud.
There was a lot of discussion about the founding of Athens. It intrigued Annja to read of whatseemed to her to be an equality of men and women in ancient Athens, including in warfare. Shewas also struck by the claim that Greece had once been a wonderfully green and fertilepeninsula that had suffered sorely from millennia of soil erosion. She wondered if there mightbe something to that part, anyway.
At last the narrative wandered around to Atlantis. It had been built by the sea god Poseidon toimpress his human love, Cleito. It was a land of fertile fields, concentric circles of canals,elephants, that sort of thing. She made note of several details to take up with her hosts inthe morning.
What made the biggest impression on her was the interval of nine thousand years since thesupposed fall of Atlantis. She put her book up on the rim of the sink and closed her eyes andtried to wrap her mind around it.
As someone who had studied geology, and a bit of paleontology, as part of her formal education,she had little trouble coping with nine millennia. In geologic terms it was a fraction of asecond.
But for a coherent account of events to survive for nine thousand years – for any kind ofknowledge to be transmitted over such a yawning gulf of time – that just made her jaw sag indisbelief.
She was well aware that archeology, especially the relatively new but fruitful practice ofapplying modern forensic techniques to archeological evidence, was showing that as often as notthe written histories bore only a passing resemblance to what could be physically demonstratedto have really happened. History was perhaps not bunk – not altogether. But to say it wasinexact was like saying it snows at the North Pole.
Could any meaningful, let alone accurate, information be transmitted over nine thousand years?She doubted it.
And yet...the legend of Atlantis had persisted all that time. It had exercised a fascination onthe human imagination continuously since Plato had recorded it. Does that count for something?
She shook her head. Weariness was getting the better of her. She'd been going pretty hard oflate, to say the least. She stood up with a slog of water and a cascade of soapy foam down herlong smooth body and legs, and drew the curtain around the tub to shower off before heading tobed.
It was late at night. Annja had spent the day down in the excavation itself, painstakinglyhelping to extract burned scrolls from the rubble of the burned cabinets. She was exhausted andfelt sticky from sweat, although here in the main lab inside the old warehouse it was quitecool. Apparently the Supreme Council on Antiquities was willing to spring for air-conditioning.Or maybe the television network was springing for it – she was grateful to whomever.
She noticed Jadzia lurking off to one side. The girl was fanning herself with a sheaf offanfolded paper and trying to chat up a handsome young Egyptian technician working on acomputer near her. Either he was shy or deliberately ignoring her. She caught Annja'sattention, glared and looked away.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Annja said, propping her rump on a table. "Wasn't the Minoancivilization destroyed by a great big volcanic eruption around 1500 B.C.?"
"Yes," Pilitowski said. "The catastrophic eruption of Thera. It is now estimated to have beenat least ten times as powerful as Krakatau in 1883."
"Although geologists tend to date the eruption from about 1600 B.C.," Aleksy Fabiszak, theteam's geology specialist, said. "That volume of ejecta would be the same magnitude as theterrible Tambora eruption of 1815, the most violent of recorded history."
"One point on the volcanic explosivity scale beneath supervolcano," Maria said.
"So it would have made a royal mess of much of the Aegean," Annja said. "I mean, the way thecatastrophe that destroyed Atlantis is supposed to have?"
"Well, if what you're getting at is that perhaps Atlantis and the Minoan culture of Crete werethe same," Pilitowski said, "a lot of people have come to suspect that."
should tell her," she said brassily, as if AnnjaSomebodyJadzia snapped her gum loudly. "
were not in the room, "that we have found many references on the scrolls that make itimpossible the writer was talking about the Minoans."
Burly, good-natured Dr. Pilitowski looked to the slight, dark Maria, who shrugged. Annja gotthe impression she wasn't the only one who found the brilliant language expert a problem child.
"From contextual evidence in what we have translated of these Atlantis scrolls," Maria said,"it is clear they were written about half a century after Solon. That would make them a centuryolder than Plato's writing."
"So far we are not finding any reference to Solon at all," Naser said. He was a plump, pallidman in his thirties with a neat beard, who spoke with a Lower East Side New York accent. "Wesuspect that somewhere along the line different end-of-the-world stories got mixed together."
"Hmm," Annja said. She was still having trouble dealing with serious archaeologists takingAtlantis seriously. Although she had to admit none of them actually seemed to be vested in the
truth of the scrolls, even if they did call them the Atlantis scrolls. But there was nomistaking the excitement that ran through the site whenever the gong went off to announce thatthey had images of more restored fragments.
"One thing I'm puzzled by," she said, "is that reading Plato, I didn't really see any talkabout advanced technology. Not like what people always talk about, with flying machines andartificial light and all that."
"That actually seems to have first appeared in a book called A Dweller on Two Planets, which
came out late in the nineteenth century," Pilitowski said. "Its author claimed to have receivedthe information in dreams."
Annja raised an eyebrow.
"Well, channeled it, actually." He shrugged. "What can I say? He was from California ."
"Somebody ought to tell her the new scrolls substantiate much of what Frederick Oliver wrote inthat book," Jadzia said hotly.
Annja looked to Pilitowski, who shrugged. "I do not know that I would go so far as to say'substantiate,'" he said. "Nonetheless, we must admit we find certain correspondences."
"We began to wonder if some alternate account of Atlantis might have surfaced sporadicallythroughout history," Naser said, "without impinging on academic scholarship. And that Olivergot hold of it somehow."
"With all respect," Annja said, "that seems to be reaching a bit far."
"Not so far as believing in channeling," Naser said.
"True," Annja said with a laugh.
Annja looked sidelong at Jadzia. The young woman – she just acts like a girl, Annja thought –posed a conundrum. For one thing, Annja wasn't used to evoking knee-jerk hostility in peopleshe hadn't met. It bothered her. She led an isolated enough existence that she felt threatened