Read an Excerpt
Doctor Silverdawn Peterson typed in the final sentence on her word processor then read aloud what she had written.
"Before the third dawning of time, after foul creatures had dragged themselves from the sea, grown two legs, and developed a mind, and before a young man with russet hair, broad shoulders and solemn face cast himself upon a cross to save humanity, there was an age in-between, when silken strands of magic wound themselves through all that had sprung from nature and some that had sprung from the loins of men. In a time when the names of the gods were whispered in awe, creatures of black fable crept across the Earth bringing reality to nightmares. Sorcery was rife, and the helpless lived in fear of powerful warlords who grewfat on the toil of decent men.
"In that time there existed a King of the Eastern Lay-a sorcerer and warlord who went by the name of Iraj of Istani. A grim shadow in black robes, who, it was told, floated more than strode across a room. And who-it was also whispered-traded souls and tortured flesh to the Hell Wraiths for his own immortality. The sorcerer king had an army of unholy creatures that would march across a continent for him, bringing slaughter and merciless death to any man, woman, or child who dared to stand in his path.
"But there also lived one named Mikkasah, High King of Rastehm. A good man. He could see what was happening, how the Kings of Lesser and More fought amongst themselves. How their petty jealousies, selfishness, and vanities took toll upon the land, weakening its defenses. He watched Iraj's loathsome creatures sweeping across thelandscape like an evil plague, realizing that should the slaughter and degradation persist, the world he knew would be no more. All that would survive the mass carnage of Iraj's militia to inhabit the second dawning would be Iraj and his hordes from hell.
"Mikkasah formed his own army, but they were crushed by Iraj's cunning. Loath to lose more good men, in desperation, the King of Rastehm fell to his knees and called upon Deharna the one true Goddess, Mother of mankind and beast, to show him a way to bring peace to his fallen land.
"The Goddess opened her arms and her heart and gave unto Mikkasah a magical device: a crystal pyramid, a third the size of a grown man. When activated, the pyramid would draw Iraj and his evil creatures to its heart, sealing them within, therefore, cleansing Rastehm of their foulness. However, in exchange for the gift, Deharna exacted a promise. All that held the gift of magic wouldbe banished from the land or put to death. All teachings of the craft would cease. All script pertaining to the practice of the art would be burnt, subduing the art of magic to no more than a whisper spoken around a late campfire or, further over the mountains of time, a story in a child's bedtime book.
"So true magic would be lost forever from the minds of mankind."
Silver shut down the program and turned off the computer. Carefully, she marked the place in the leather bound tome beside her and closed theyellowed pages. She placed the tome in the center of her desk and breathed a heartfelt sigh. At any moment, she had expected the wafer-thin parchment to dissolve to dust beneath her fingers.
There were still a few glitches in her deciphering, such as what the magical device given to King Mikkasah had actually been, but she was certain of her ability to uncover the answer.
She moved from her desk, pushed aside the heavy drapes and stared down at London town. It was surprising how much one could see from the third floor. Soft drizzle wreathed the treetops in the park opposite the museum and turned the road beside it to shining agate. People scuttled along footpaths gilded by the many streetlights. Workers headed for home at the dying of the day. Headlights turned to winking creatures, dodging in and around each other, constantly on the move.
It never failed to amaze Silver how early it grew dark in the Northern Hemisphere. It was barely four o'clock, and already daylight was fading. With longing, she thought of Australia, with its lazy, hot summers and long stretches of white, sandy surf-beaches.
In her early student years, most of her time had been taken up searching known inland prehistoric sites or, as she grew older, archaeological digs. But, there had been a time when she had spent the summer with her parents in Maroochydore, Queensland. She felt a familiar jab in her heart at the thought of her parents and slammed the door shut on the images the memory evoked. Too painful. Too close. She would deal withthem later. Somewhere warm, safe, and tightly locked.
Silver removed her plain-glass spectacles and placed them on the desk. She didn't need glasses, but had learned long ago that it didn't pay to be attractive in the field. It could only cause distractions and lead to situations she neither needed nor wanted.
Years of study, hard work, and constant persistence had won her the position she now held in London, and she would allow no man to compromise her situation.
She leaned against the windowsill and breathed in the smell of old books. Sliding her gaze around the room to the overflowing bookshelves, high ceilings, elaborately sculptured fireplace, and the deep ultramarine carpet, she had a feeling of coming home. Especially when she held an ancient manuscript or tome of Old World legends in her hand, ready to decipher and translate onto disk. At twenty-six, she believed herself to be the youngest in her field and had achieved the goal she'd worked toward all of her life.
Graduating with honors in Archaeology from the University of Melbourne, Australia, she had applied and been lucky enough to be accepted as junior assistant to Professor Peter Waymer at the London Museum of Rare Artifacts. In the last three years, many changes had occurred within the museum.Professor Waymer's senior assistant had left to join another museum, and his second assistant had foolishly found herself pregnant and left to raise her child. The professor, being so impressed with Silver's almost unnatural ability to decipher archaic writings, had appointed her second assistant and given her the job of transcribing onto the computer the most ancient works recorded in the memory of man.
She didn't know why languages came so easily to her. It was as if she merely had to glimpse the words, and their meaning immediately unraveled. Professor Waymer had once commented that she could read hieroglyphics with the same aplomb a great actor could read Shakespeare. She thanked the heavens for old Professor Rouse, who had made her work immeasurably easier by coming in regularly to teach and guide her in the preparation of leather and papyrus scrolls.
The volume of ancient legends she'd documented today was the most archaic she had been entrusted with thus far. In fact, it was so antiquated it had never been accurately dated. The forensic experts had been unable to agree on an origin. The text had been traced back to early Keltoi, a people basically warriors and shepherds, but that was questionable. Nothing explained how such people had learned to read and write in this elaborate way.
Some believed the tome to be several thousands of years older than Christianity; others thought it medieval. Silver had her own ideas.
She'd studied languages and the decoding of Old World scripts as part of her training. The pigments in the illuminations, the spirals and trumpets in the writings, were unlike anything she had uncovered before. It was as if the book had slipped through the vaults of time.
But from where had it originated?
If the parchment was as old as forensics believed, why had it not crumbled to dust? Why had the ink not faded?
Copyright © 2007 Julie A. D'Arcy.