"This is fascinating!" Twenty-four hours later, Nigel retained no traces of Merlin, nothing but a faint memory of – as he put it - something awry that was righted. He was poring over the journals, the perfectly-preserved scrolls recovered under a condemned theater in New York City. His fingers, sheathed in protective rubber gloves, skimmed the surface of the ancient parchment while his eyes devoured the multilingual scrawls. His hazel eyes were animated and his voice was back to its normal bouncy self.
Sydney still couldn’t completely reconcile her perceptions. Different memories and half-memories flitted through her consciousness. She recalled Nigel cowering in fear and towering over her, arms outstretched and exuding power. She recalled a rose silk gown that flowed over her skin, its fitted contours elegant and utterly feminine. She recalled Nigel’s face twisted in fury as he flung a dagger at her. She recalled looking down at her own face, her body stilled by death, while Nigel’s voice confessed love for her. She recalled a ghostly image of an old man in a long white beard and blue robes. She recalled shelves crammed full of ancient bottles and vials, and alabaster embedded with the solar system. She recalled somehow that Nigel was Merlin.
It was impossible for all of those things to be true. There had to be another logical explanation.
Her hand strayed to the twinge in her side, the not-quite-pain directly below where her vest had been cut. The images still skipped through her mind in disjointed flashes too brief and too distorted to rightly be called memories, and too vivid to be dreams.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Sydney glanced over her assistant’s shoulder. The old excitement took over at moments like these. They’d uncovered Merlin’s journals. The legendary magician was once a living, breathing man, a human being born and raised in the dark ages, for whom magic was a reality and computers inconceivable. The journals were the tangible link to that world, as fascinating for their antiquity as for their content. Moments like these, she and Nigel were perfectly attuned. They both appreciated the incredible wonders of the ancient world, knowing that sometimes older was much, much better - and not just in monetary terms.
In an incredible stroke of luck, the journals were inscribed in variations of several languages. It might well turn out to be the most important find of their careers, in fact. Aside from its value as an ancient object, it placed Merlin and King Arthur and Camelot squarely within the mainstream of British history. The multiple translations added a layer to the scrolls’ value, making them comparable to the Rosetta Stone.*
They had far more questions than answers. There was blood on the floor of the cavern, and the surrounding area was completely incinerated by the time the search and rescue team found them. She and Nigel were both carried away by ambulance, unconscious. While it was possible that a rival relic hunter contributed to their condition, it was unlikely. Any archaeologist worth his or her salt would have recognized the value of the scrolls.
The inconsistencies only mounted from there.
Doctors couldn’t explain the dusty substance that wouldn’t wash off of their skin. Whatever it was, it disappeared on its own overnight, apparently leaving them none the worse for the wear. Nigel’s blisters healed overnight, and both of them were released from the hospital after twenty-four hours’ observation. Nobody was willing to brook an explanation for the miraculous recovery. Other than a couple of queries about their sanity, the medical world declared that Sydney Fox and Nigel Bailey were textbook healthy.
Sydney felt good, physically. Fantastic, in fact.
Now if she could just get rid of the niggling belief that things weren't as simple as they appeared.
Go to Part Twenty Eight.