The Seventh Scroll
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The Seventh Scroll

4.1 26
by Wilbur Smith

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For 4,000 years, the lavish crypt of the Pharaoh Mamose has never been found...until the Seventh Scroll, a cryptic message written by he slave Taita, gives beautiful Egyptologist Royan Al Simma a tantalizing clue to its location.

But this is a treasure cache others would kill to possess. Only one step ahead of assassins, Royan runs for her life and into the arms


For 4,000 years, the lavish crypt of the Pharaoh Mamose has never been found...until the Seventh Scroll, a cryptic message written by he slave Taita, gives beautiful Egyptologist Royan Al Simma a tantalizing clue to its location.

But this is a treasure cache others would kill to possess. Only one step ahead of assassins, Royan runs for her life and into the arms of the only man she can trust, Sir Nicholas Quenton-Harper--a daring man who will stake his fortune and his life to join her hunt for the king's tomb. Together, they will embark on a breathtaking journey to the most exotic locale on earth, where the greatest mystery of ancient Egypt, a chilling danger and an explosive passion are waiting.

Steeped in ancient mystery, drama and action, The Seventh Scroll is a masterpiece from Wilbur Smith, a storyteller at the height of his powers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Great adventure...a smashing story.” —Ocala Star-Banner

“A page-turner...Few novelists can write action scenes that all but leap off the page the way Smith can...His detailed portrait of ancient Egypt is fascinating.” —Anniston Star (TX)

“Throughout The Seventh Scroll, as in all Wilbur Smith novels, the plot twists and turns with constant surprises ... This old-fashioned adventure novel keeps the reader enthralled all the way to its very exciting conclusion.” —The Washington Post Book World

“It's clear Smith knows his subject: his graphic depiction of lust, bloodletting, politics, and … honor is firmly grounded in rich details that evoke the period. … A consummate sequel, The Seventh Scroll perfectly complements River God, its phenomenally popular precursor. Smith excels at action sequences, getting his attractive heroes and despicable villains into and out of hugely entertaining predicaments, all the while tossing off vivid descriptions, bits of historical detail, and classic low-key British banter.” —Booklist

“This well-crafted novel is full of adventure, tension, and intrigue.” —Library Journal

“Intoxicating... A heady mix of exotic adventure, romance, and Egyptology. Smith is a master.” —Publishers Weekly

“A desert sandstorm couldn't get the pages turning faster than Smith.” —Independent On Sunday

“Full-blooded, muscle-on-bone-crunching treasure hunt ... it is non-stop action and thrill.” —Daily Express

“A rousing good sequel to River God that takes the immensely entertaining form of a high-tech treasure hunt ... A master storyteller at the top of his considerable form.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Life-threatening dangers loom around every turn, leaving the reader breathless ... An incredibly exciting and satisfying read.” —Chattanooga Free Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An ancient Egyptian scroll leads to a murderous treasure hunt in Smith's thriller, which was a PW bestseller for two weeks. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Noted Egyptologist Royan Al Simma escapes an attempt on her life, but her husband, Duraid, is not so lucky. This husband-and-wife archaeological team was immersed in unraveling the secrets of the "seventh scroll." Written in a type of shorthand, the scroll dates back to the Hyksos invasion of Egypt and was recently discovered in the tomb of Queen Lostris, whose story is told in Smith's River God (St. Martin's, 1994). Grieving over the loss of her husband, Royan engages Sir Nicholas Quenton-Harper, a wealthy English collector, to assist her in completing the work she and Duraid had begun by locating the tomb of Pharaoh Mamose the Eighth, husband of Lostris. Through collective teamwork, Royan and Nicholas travel to Ethiopia, at great peril to themselves, as they try to uncover a 4000-year-old secret. This well-crafted novel is full of adventure, tension, and intrigue. Recommended for general readers.-Maria A. Perez-Stable, Western Michigan Univ. Libs., Kalamazoo

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Novels of Ancient Egypt Series, #2
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.27(w) x 7.54(h) x 1.24(d)

Read an Excerpt


The dusk crept in from the desert, and shaded the dunes with purple. Like a thick velvet cloak it muted all sounds, so that the evening was tranquil and hushed.

From where they stood on the crest of the dune they looked out over the oasis and the complex of small villages that surrounded it. The buildings were white with flat roofs and the date palms stood higher than any of them except the Islamic mosque and the Coptic Christian church. These bastions of faith opposed each other across the lake.

The waters of the lake were darkling. A flight of duck slanted down on quick wings to land with a small splash of white close in against the reed banks.

The man and the woman made a disparate couple. He was tall, though slightly bowed, his silvering hair catching the last of the sunlight. She was young, in her early thirties, slim, alert and vibrant. Her hair was thick and curling, restrained now by a thong at the nape. of her neck.

"Time to go down now. Alia will be waiting." He smiled down at her fondly. She was his second wife. When his first wife died he thought that she had taken the sunlight with her. He had not expected this last period of happiness in his life. Now he had her and his work. He was a man happy and contented.

Suddenly she broke away from him, and pulled the thong from her hair. She shook it out, dense and dark, and she laughed. It was a pretty sound. Then she plunged down the steep slip-face of the dune, her long skirts billowing around her flying legs. They were shapely and brown. She kept her balance until halfway down, when gravity overwhelmed her and she tumbled.

From the top he smiled down on her indulgently. Sometimes she was still a child. At others she was a grave and dignified woman. He was not certain which he preferred, but he loved her in both moods. She rolled to a halt at the bottom of the dune and sat up, still laughing, shaking the sand out of her hair.

"Your turn!" she called up at him. He followed her down sedately, moving with the slight stiffness of advancing age, keeping his balance until he reached the bottom. He lifted her to her feet. He did not kiss her, although the temptation to do so was strong. It was not the Arab way to show public affection, even to a beloved wife.

She straightened her clothing and retied her hair before they set off towards the village. They skirted the reed beds of the oasis, crossing the rickety bridges over the irrigation canals. As they passed, the peasants returning from the fields greeted him with deep respect.

"Salaam aleikum, Doktari! Peace be with you, doctor." They honoured all men of learning, but him especially for his kindness to them and their families over the years. Many of them had worked for his father before him. It mattered little that most of them were Moslem, while he was a Christian.

When they reached the villa, Alia, the old housekeeper, greeted them with mumbles and scowls. "You are late. You are always late. Why do you not keep regular hours, like decent folk? We have a position to maintain."

"Old mother, you are always right," he teased her gently. "What would we do without you to care for us?" He sent her away, still scowling to cover her love and concern for him.

They ate the simple meal on the terrace together, dates and olives and unleavened bread and goat's milk cheese. It was dark when they finished, but the desert stars were bright as candles.

"Royan, my flower." He reached across the table and touched her hand. "It is time to begin work." He stood up from the table and led the way to his study that opened out on to the terrace.

Royan Al Simma went directly to the tall steel safe against the far wall and tumbled the combination. The safe was out of place in this room, amongst the old books and scrolls, amongst the ancient statues and artefacts and grave goods that were the collection of his lifetime.

When the heavy steel door swung open, Royan stood back for a moment. She always felt this prickle of awe whenever she first looked upon this relic of the ages, even after an interval of only a few short hours.

"The seventh scroll," she whispered, and steeled herself to touch it. It was nearly four thousand years old, written by a genius out of time with history, a man who had been dust for all these millennia, but whom she had come to know and respect as she did her own husband. His words were eternal, and they spoke to her clearly from beyond the grave, from the fields of paradise, from the presence of the great trinity, Osiris and Isis and Horns, in whom he had believed so devoutly. As devoutly as she believed in another more recent Trinity.

She carried the scroll to the long table at which Duraid, her husband, was already at work. He looked up as she laid it on the tabletop before him, and for a moment she saw the same mystical mood in his eyes that had affected her. He always wanted the scroll there on the table, even when there was no real call for it. He had the photographs and the microfilm to work with. It was as though he needed the unseen presence of the ancient author close to him as he studied the texts.

Then he threw off the mood and was the dispassionate scientist once more. "Your eyes are better than mine, my flower," he said. "What do you make of this character?"

She leaned over his shoulder and studied the hieroglyph on the photograph of the scroll that he pointed out to her. She puzzled over the character for a moment before she took the magnifying glass from Duraid's hand and peered through it again.

"It looks as though Taita has thrown in another cryptogram of his own creation just to bedevil us." She spoke of the ancient author as though he were a dear, but sometimes exasperating, friend who still lived and breathed, and played tricks upon them.

"We'll just have to puzzle it out, then," Duraid declared with obvious relish. He loved the ancient game. It was his life's work.

The two of them laboured on into the cool of the night. This was when they did their best work. Sometimes they spoke Arabic and sometimes English; for them the two languages were as one. Less often they used French, which was their third common language. They had both received their education at universities in England and the United States, so far from this very Egypt of theirs. Royan loved the expression "This very Egypt" that Taita used so often in the scrolls.

She felt a peculiar affinity in so many ways with this ancient Egyptian. After all, she was his direct descendant. She was a Coptic Christian, not of the Arab line that had so recently conquered Egypt, less than fourteen centuries ago. The Arabs were newcomers in this very Egypt of hers, while her own blood line ran back to the time of the pharaohs and the great s20pyramids.

At ten o'clock Royan made coffee for them, heating it on the charcoal stove that Alia had lit for them before she went off to her own family in the village. They drank the sweet, strong brew from thin cups that were half-filled with the heavy grounds. While they sipped, they talked as old friends.

For Royan that was their relationship, old friends. She had known Duraid ever since she had returned from England with her doctorate in archaeology and won her job with the Department of Antiquities, of which he was the director.

She had been his assistant when he had opened the tomb in the Valley of the Nobles, the tomb of Queen Lostris, the tomb that dated from about 1780 nc.

She had shared his disappointment when they had discovered that the tomb had been robbed in ancient times and all its treasures plundered. All that remained were the marvellous murals that covered the walls and the ceilings of the tomb.

It was Royan herself who had been working at the wall behind the plinth on which the sarcophagus had once stood, photographing the murals, when a section of the plaster had fallen away to reveal in their niche the ten alabaster jars. Each of the jars had contained a papyrus scroll. Every one of them had been written and placed there by Taita, the slave of the queen.

Since then their lives, Duraid's and her own, seemed to have revolved around those scraps of papyrus. Although there was some damage and deterioration, in the main they had survived nearly four thousand years remarkably intact.

What a fascinating story they contained, of a nation attacked by a superior enemy, arched with horse and chariot that were still alien to the Egyptians of that time. Crushed by the Hyksos hordes, the people of the Nile were forced to flee. Led by their queen, Lostris of the tomb, they followed the great river southwards almost to its source amongst the brutal mountains of the Ethiopian highlands. Here amongst those forbidding mountains, Lostris had entombed the mummified body of her husband, the Pharaoh Mamose, who had been slain in battle against the Hyksos.

Long afterwards Queen Lostris had led her people back northwards to this very Egypt. Armed now with their own horses and chariots, forged into hard warriors in the African wilderness, they had come storming back down the cataracts of the great river to challenge once more the Hyksos invader, and in the end to triumph over him and wrest the double crown of upper and lower Egypt from his grasp.

It was a story that appealed to every fibre of her being, and that had fascinated her as they had unravelled each hieroglyph that the old slave had penned on the papyrus.

It had taken them all these years, working at night here in the villa on the oasis after their daily routine work at the museum in Cairo was done, but at last the ten scrolls had been deciphered-all except the seventh scroll. This was the one that was the enigma, the one which the author had cloaked in layers of esoteric shorthand and allusions so obscure that they were unfathomable at this remove of time. Some of the symbols he used had never figured before in all the thousands of texts that they had studied in their combined working lives. It was obvious to them both that Taita had not intended that the scrolls should be read by any eyes other than those of his beloved queen. These were his last gift for her to take with her beyond the grave.

It had taken all their combined skills, all their imagination and ingenuity, but at last they were approaching the conclusion of the task. There were still many gaps in the translation and many areas where they were uncertain whether or not they had captured the true meaning, but they had laid out the bones of the manuscript in such order that they were able to discern the outline of the creature it represented.

Now Duraid sipped his coffee and shook his head as he had done so often before. "It frightens me," he said. "The responsibility. What to do with this knowledge we have gleaned. If it should fall into the wrong hands.. ." He sipped and sighed before he spoke again. "Even if we take it to the right people, will they believe this material that is nearly four thousand years old?"

"Why must we bring in others?" Royan asked with an edge of exasperation in her voice. "Why can we not do alone what has to be done?" At times like these the differences between them were most apparent. His was the caution of age, while hers was the impetuosity of youth.

"You do not understand," he said. It always annoyed her when he said that, when he treated her as the Arabs treated their women in a totally masculine world. She had known the other world where women demanded and received the right to be treated as equals. She was a creature caught between those worlds, the Western world and the Arab world.

i0Royan's mother was an Englishwoman who had worked at the British Embassy in Cairo in the troubled times after World War II. She had met and married Royan's father, who had been a young Egyptian officer on the staff of Colonel Nasser. It was an unlikely union and had not persisted into Royan's adolescence.

Her mother had insisted upon returning to England, to her home-town of York, for Royan's birth. She wanted her child to have British citizenship. After her parents had separated, Royan, again at her mother's insistence, had been sent back to England for her schooling, but all her holidays had been spent with her father in Cairo. Her father's career had prospered exceedingly, and in the end he had attained ministerial rank in the Mubarak government. Through her love for him she came to look upon herself as more Egyptian than English.

It was her father who had arranged her marriage to Duraid Al Simma. It was the last thing that he had done for her before his death. She had known he was dying at the time, and she had not found it in her heart to defy him. All her modern training made her want to resist the old-fashioned Coptic tradition of the arranged marriage, but her breeding and her family and her Church were against her. She had acquiesced.

Her marriage to Duraid had not proved as insufferable as she had dreaded it might be. It might even have been entirely comfortable and satisfying if she had never been introduced to romantic love. However, there had been her liaison with David while she was up at university.

He had swept her up in the hurly-burly, in the heady delirium, and, in the end, the heartache, when he had left her to marry a blonde English rose approved of by his parents.

She respected and liked Duraid, but sometimes in the night she still burned for the feel of a body as firm and young as her own on top of hers.

Duraid was still speaking and she had not been listening to him. She gave him her full attention once more. "I have spoken to the minister again, but I do not think he believes in me. I think that Nahoot has convinced him that I am a little mad." He smiled sadly. Nahoot (iuddabi was his ambitious and well-connected deputy. "At any rate the minister says that there are no government funds available, and that I will have to seek outside finance. So, I have been over the list of possible sponsors again, and have narrowed it down to four. There is the Getty Museum, of course, but I never like to work with a big impersonal institution. I prefer to have a single man to answer to. Decisions are always easier to reach." None of this was new to her, but she listened dutifully.

"Then there is Herr von Schiller. He has the money and the interest in the subject, but I do not know him well enough to trust him entirely." He paused, and Royan had listened to these musings so often before that she could anticipate him.

"What about the American? He is a famous collector," she forestalled him.

"Peter Walsh is a difficult man to work with. His passion to accumulate makes him unscrupulous. He frightens me a little."

"So who does that leave?" she asked.

He did not reply, for they both knew the answer to her question. Instead, he turned his attention back to the material that littered the work table.

"It looks so innocent, so mundane. An old papyrus scroll, a few photographs and notebooks, a computer printout. It is difficult to believe how dangerous these night be in the wrong hands." He sighed again. "You might almost say that they are deadly dangerous."

Then he laughed. "I am being fanciful. Perhaps it is the late hour. Shall we get back to work? We can worry about these other matters once we have worked out all the conundrums set for us by this old rogue, Taita, and completed the translation."

He picked up the top photograph from the pile in front of him. It was an extract from the central section of the scroll. "It is the worst luck that the damaged piece of papyrus falls where it does." He picked up his reading glasses and placed them on his nose before he read aloud.

" 'There are many steps to ascend on the staircase to the abode of Hapd. With much hardship and endeavour we reached the second step and proceeded no further, for it was here that the prince received a divine revelation. In a dream his father, the dead god pharaoh, visited him and commanded him, "I have travelled far and 1 am grown weary. It is here that 1 will rest for all eternity. " ' " Duraid removed his glasses and looked across at Royan. " 'The second step.' It is a very precise description for once. Taita is not being his usual devious self."

"Let's go back to the satellite photographs," Royan suggested and drew the glossy sheet towards her. Duraid came around the table to stand behind her.

"To me it seems most logical that the natural feature that would obstruct them in the gorge would be something like a set of rapids or a waterfall. If it were the second waterfall, that would put them here-" Royan placed her finger on a spot on the satellite photograph where the narrow snake of the river threaded itself through the dark massifs of the mountains on either hand.

At that moment she was distracted and she lifted her head. "Listen!" Her voice changed, sharpening with alarm.

"What is it?" Duraid looked up also.

"The dog," she answered.

"That damn mongrel," he agreed. "It is always making the night hideous with its yapping. I have promised myself to get rid of him."

At that moment the lights went out....

© 1995 by Wilbur Smith

Meet the Author

Wilbur Smith is the bestselling author of many novels, each meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His bestselling Courtney series includes Assegai, The Sound of Thunder, Birds of Prey, Monsoon, and Blue Horizon. His other books include Those in Peril, River God, Warlock, and The Sunbird. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages and have sold over 120 million copies. Smith was born to a British family in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in Central Africa, and attended Rhodes University in South Africa. He has homes in Cape Town, London, Switzerland and Malta.

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The Seventh Scroll 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Dancing_Queen More than 1 year ago
This is a sequel to River God, even though it is set in modern time. Smith cleverly uses the characters and plot from River God and moves them into a suspenseful and fast-moving novel that leave you wanting more at the end. His vivid description of action sequences allows the reader to easily visualize the scene and characters, just as if you were watching it on the 'big screen'. Wilbur Smith is one of the great action writers of today and this novel proves it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this one first, because I found it by accident. Serendipity I think they call it. Little did I know the greatness I was about to find in this book and the authors other books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mixes action-adventure, mystery, and history with a touch of Indiana Jones. Smith's best effort!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book after I read River God. That's the way you should read it or else it will be confusing. This story pulls you in with bright colors, names, and emotions. If you are an ancient Egypt lover as I am, you will feel a part of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Seventh Scroll was simply outstanding. A truly fun read. Definite page-turner/can't-put-it-down. I took it everywhere with me in case I found a moment to get back to it. As in Birds of Prey and Monsoon, Smith provides outstanding edge-of-your-seat chase scenes that have you running along with the characters! Although it's not necessary to have read River God first, I think knowing the story of Taita & Lostris makes Seventh Scroll all that more enthralling. If you're an Indiana Jones fan or a fan of the recent 'Mummy' movies, this is a definite read for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like ancient egypt. And I like to hear about fake stories. This one was a little confusing but I enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In our Books That Should Be Movies category, The Seventh Scoll is top contender. The hero seems to jet out of a movie,he is a handsome Indian Jones style hero. He jokes, he knows history, he gets the girl. The basic read of the book lends itself better to a two hour movie, cutting out major sections of stagnation in the middle. But like a movie, you enjoy yourself. No big moral lessons, or deep thoughts, but a good time to be had by all.