Prologue

 From the Depths of Despair Is Born Hope

As The Agony of Defeat Oft Bears the Fruit of Victory

Egypt

1915 A.D.

 

WORLD WAR I WAS RAGING throughout Europe, but it meant nothing to Ed. His childhood sweetheart had recently rejected him for another. Ed, a man of limited means, had only an undying love to offer; it was not enough. Edward Leedskalnin fled Latvia and the life of his humble beginnings.


The invisible hand of fate guided him out of Europe and into Egypt. After sleeping all day, Ed awoke to the smell of rot and human waste in a room barely large enough to fit a man of even his small stature. Reaching over to the one minor convenience in the room, a shallow pan, he violently regurgitated much of the previous days meager diet.

After writing a few obscure lines in his old and tattered pocket journal, he made his way into the heat of the early evening. The sun had set and the moon was full, brighter than ever he remembered. He had spent his last few coins in readying a camel with a small amount of provisions. His brief journey into the desert sands of Egypt began.

Ed traveled for hours, guided only by his intuition. Tired and thirsty, he came upon a stand of rocks about the size of a small campsite − an area so nondescript as to go unnoticed for ages. Visible far off in the distance, was one of the largest pyramids of ancient Egypt.

Ed dismounted and made his way into the center of the outcropping. He sat, opened his small leather bag of provisions, ate a few bites of bread, and sipped a few drops of precious water. Despair clothed Ed like a crushing weight. His life could have ended there, making an imperceptible ripple in the fullness of time. The only testament in the years to follow would be his bones. Just a simple skeleton considered ordinary by all but the trained eye, the right side of the skull slightly thinner than the left.

It was not to be.

When the moon above seemed brightest, Ed noticed a faint glow in one of the rocks nearby. Inspecting it closer, he could make out the rough outline of a human handprint. He placed his hand over the soft radiance − it was a perfect fit.

At his touch, the rock shifted silently to reveal an opening. As small as he was, he could still barely fit through. Had Ed not been so utterly despondent, he might have had second thoughts before entering the pitch-black crevasse in the middle of nowhere. As it was, he squeezed through with no hint of hesitation.

With not even enough room to crawl, Ed slithered down the dark passageway scraping his forearms and thighs on the rough rock floor along the way. He descended deep into the bowels of the Earth, struggling with each breath for air. Hours passed. At each point where the tunnel split, a glowing circular mark guided him further into the unknown depths.

Ed was near his last breath, physically brutalized and bleeding from the seemingly interminable trek through the tunnel. Having descended nearly a thousand feet beneath the desert surface and at least a mile from the entrance, he reached an impasse. There was no room to turn around.

He slowly turned his head and looked over his right shoulder. There on the tunnel wall was another radiant handprint, exactly like the one on the surface. It was a titanic struggle in his constricted position to place a hand over the dim outline − he did it. The moment he covered the soft glow, the impasse in front gave way to an opening, which cast a pale luminescence into the tunnel.

Ed inched his way through the new access and collapsed on the floor a few feet below.

The air is better here, he thought.

Ed stayed crumpled on the floor for minutes, an eternity in his weakened condition. He breathed life back into his frail and battered form.

The image meeting Eds eyes when he arose would stay embedded in his memory for the rest of his life. He stood on the side of a wall which towered a full three hundred feet above him. The wall sloped inward to meet a circular ceiling, nearly a thousand feet in diameter. The base of the room, also circular, must have measured at least two thousand feet across. He gazed at the expanse before him. The room was inconceivably large.

More than that, everywhere he looked was opulence and beauty beyond belief. There were frescos and paintings to rival the works of Leonardo da Vinci, sculptures of marble to bring tears of joy to the eyes of Michelangelo, and mosaic tile work whose beauty would evoke jealousy in the likes of Venus de Milo. Silver, gold, and jewels of every color adorned even the simplest of items.

A soft light invaded every crevice of the room. The source of the light was a complete mystery. Ed could have sat at each of a hundred different marble benches spending days absorbing the beauty of his surroundings, listening to the calming sounds of the many fountains of clear spring water. As it was, he simply bent down and quenched his thirst from the nearest miniature waterfall. The moisture was ambrosia for his body.

From his position on the side of the room, the floor terraced down towards the center. The midpoint of the room acted as a magnet to the eye, and Ed was not immune to the allure. He walked as if drawn towards the center, slowly gaining a little strength as his body continued to absorb the fresh air and feel the benefits of rehydration.

Ed reached the lowest point of the vast expanse. Just in front of him, the floor began a slow ascent in a series of circular terraces. At the top was a single platform. It appeared to be located at the exact geometric center of the room. Each terrace had a set of coffins equally spaced around the perimeter. The higher the level, the more intricate were the designs on the coffins. Unbeknownst to Ed, the markings on the level just before the top signified malevolent rulers.

There was a single coffin centered on the highest platform, which differed from the rest. Although magnificent in construction, it was clearly simpler in design. The foot of the coffin was adorned with a single engraving, a solid silver pyramid with an eye made of gold. Ed walked directly to the coffin. As if in a trance, he opened the lid.

Like his first sight of the room, the image that now met Ed's eyes was also to become permanent in his memory. A well-preserved corpse lay unobtrusively within the coffin. The left hand of the corpse was resting on an ancient tome embossed with the symbol of the pyramid and the eye. But what the right hand held was dazzling. The opulence that Ed had seen since entering the room now seemed fleeting. It was at the same time both simple and complex, the epitome of beauty yet not, emanating both power and futility.

To the dispassionate eye, it was a simple translucent scepter barely ten inches in length and less than one inch around. Although color and geometric variations appeared along its length and circumference, it appeared to be a single crystal with neither crack nor crevice marring any facet of its surface. To the touch, it was uniformly as smooth as polished glass.

With a mechanical conviction born of his deference to destiny, Ed removed the tome and scepter. The mysterious scepter seemed to float into his hand as if from its own volition. It was as light as a feather and stronger than stone. The ancient tome was large with an intricately decorated leather cover. It was easily three inches thick, even more if the heavy binding was included. Ed carefully closed the lid to the old sarcophagus.

At the base of the coffin was a small altar. The altar, a mere speck in the entire vast space, contained worldly treasures beyond imagination. Ed took one of the jewel-encrusted candelabra. Although a man of simple means, he was well aware this single treasure would make him wealthy.  Removing his bloodstained shirt and carefully wrapping up the scepter, tome, and candelabrum, he began the trek back.

His pace quickened in lockstep with his growing anxiety. Ed was beginning to sense that he was not alone in the underground cavern. In fact, by the time he reached the point where he had entered the room, he heard the echo of voices speaking in a language he did not understand. With increasing concern, he noticed that the opening to the tunnel had vanished. A perfectly smooth wall had taken its place. He was sure he had properly retraced his steps.

On the wall to the left and right of his entrance, Ed saw some subtle etchings. Almost instinctively, he reached into his trousers, withdrew his pocket journal, and read his morning entries.

 

Rightful Owner Be

Candelabrum for Life

Tome to See

Scepter for Power

Escape from Strife

Earth, Wind, Fire, and Ice

 

The etchings were pervasive on the walls for as far as the eye could see. There was nothing special in the placement of the etchings near Ed's position that revealed their secret. They were a puzzle key, which opened a hidden and fateful escape to the surface.

Spying a single drop of blood from where he had collapsed into the room only one hour before, Ed was now certain he was in the right place. Quickly scanning the nearest etchings, he touched in order the symbols for earth, wind, fire, and ice. The small access appeared as if by magic out of the solid marble wall.

After another quick drink at a nearby fountain, he made his way back into the tunnel. He closed the secret door by placing a hand on the glowing handprint inside. Pushing his makeshift bundle in front of him, the shirt that carried the seeds of his new life, Ed began retracing his painful journey to the surface. Better air had temporarily flowed into the passageway, easing his upward trek.

Edward Leedskalnin would soon travel to the United States of America, never to see the desert sands of Egypt again.


Moments after the secret passage shut, the main door to the cavern opened. Two figures entered with their black ceremonial robes silently brushing against the polished marble floor. They were deep in conversation.

 
 

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