On a sheet of fine linen stationery, imprinted in pale violet ink “Elizabeth Jane Amberley” above a Palmer script “L” curling over from the top into an intertwined G clef
My erstwhile Dearest,
You despicable Gollum! I am still seething. Because you were so insistent and importunate, I dragged your “precious” little treasure along to my appearance with the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra this past weekend—which you then skipped without a word, even though you had accepted my invitation with apparent eagerness. Were you just trying to placate me? I assure you, I am not placated.
This could have been so much more civilized. We could have had a last pleasurable night together and a polite good-bye over a decent breakfast. But, NO! And so to get it off my hands and rid myself of any remaining sense of obligation to you—and hoping to purge my soul of any remaining feeling for you—I was forced to make a side trip to Grantville before I could start home to Philadelphia, on a day when I was already short of time.
But purging my feelings—unfortunately, that won’t be quite so easy. I quite foolishly gave you my heart. I shall be years getting over you, if I ever do, you superficial oaf. But I had promised to return the thing, and I keep my promises. I wish you would keep yours. You told me on the phone that you would meet me in Pittsburgh. If you wanted to break off with me, you could have just said so. Really! Did you think I would make a scene if you were honest with me?
And where were you on Monday, when I did come down? You weren’t at work, or at home either. Were you avoiding me? I don’t know what to think. In any case, I had very little time to linger. It wouldn’t have been the first time I waited for you.
Well, I’m not coming down there again, and I’m not bundling it off via UPS, either, nor did I think to leave it with a neighbor. I’m done with you, you inconsiderate social cripple. Finis. Finished. Kaput!
Let me make one more thing clear. What you said about my brother wasn’t the reason I realized it had to end. It was merely the last straw. Yes, I understand that you were joking. Well, it was in poor taste. He didn’t have a choice in the way he was born.
DeWayne Jeffreys, you have no sense of how others will take a crude remark. I marvel that your redneck friends haven’t adorned your oh, so handsome face with a broken nose. You have no sense of anyone else’s feelings at all. I think what manners you have are learned by rote, like those elaborate medieval courtesies you performed at that SCA weekend you brought me to.
I must say, it was a unique and intriguing experience, being addressed as “Lady” Elizabeth, amidst what amounted to participatory theatre in the round for two days. (You do realize, that was a thoroughly rose-colored depiction of the Middle Ages? I know far too much of what that time was really like to ever want to experience it for real.)
I won’t pretend that I don’t know what I ever saw in you. I know very well. But it was only a part of you. I just didn’t see the whole, much less see it in balance. It was wonderful singing next to you in that choral session at the Welsh Nationals. We raised the “hoyle” higher than I’ve ever experienced. Even the old-timers said so. Your voice has real potential, if you would study seriously with a good teacher. You are a dream on the dance floor—and in other places.
But in time it became abundantly clear that what we had was a fling, and not a meeting of the souls that could grow into a fulfilling life together. The worst moment was when you had the effrontery to tell me that if I should become pregnant, it would be my sacred duty to have the child and devote myself to motherhood. What, did you imagine that I would abandon my career amid its first success? Are you blind to how long and hard I’ve worked to get this far?
I do believe that if a woman is going to end a pregnancy, she should get on with it promptly, and not dilly-dally. Well, I probably did get pregnant, but I’ll never know for certain, because I took prompt action at the first hint. That was the couple of days I felt crappy, and stayed home by myself. You didn’t know?
The idea of confusing a clump of a dozen cells without even a single neuron with a thinking, feeling human being! Really, could anything be more unscientific? Just because I’m a Republican doesn’t mean I’m a religious reactionary! Shouldn’t a Democrat from a good union family like yours be more progressive?
So, your little treasure that you wanted back? I almost threw it in the trash under the rickety stairs leading up to your dingy little room. Yes, I looked in the window of the dingy little building in your even dingier little town. Then I went to the store and bought some spray paint to write good-bye with. You would have had fun cleaning your “precious” after that, wouldn’t you? But I didn’t do that either. It would have been a petty, senseless act of vandalism. It truly is a lovely thing, and Keats was right, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
And I had to concede the logic of it, that you were right and I had no reason to keep it. After all of this, when would I ever have use for it again? If you’d had a little more presence of mind, you could have simply gathered it up when you left my apartment for the last time, and we would have had our parting then.
It was such a sweet and charming gift. That you even asked for it back was jarring enough—that simply isn’t done, not in any stratum of society I’ve ever known. But the way you argued for it was offensive. And on top of your mysterious absence, that’s why I was too furious to think of finding someone to leave it with in Grantville, and instead finally threw it down a hole in the ground on the way out of town. You want to know where it is? Since you seem to think a quest is such a wonderful thing, I had a few moments to leave you some clues as I departed.
My first thought on returning home was to write out the directions in Portuguese. But I had to go straight into a choral rehearsal without even time for supper, and during a break I fell into conversation with Mark Mandel. That’s when he offered a deliciously fitting way to express the landmarks to an asocial nerd such as you—which I now enclose with great satisfaction. So enjoy finding the deep dark hole, and whatever creature might dwell there.
Sincerely no longer yours,
USE Steel plant cafeteria
Aaron ben Mordecai genannt Neuenrader looked up with a rueful shake of his head from the letter in his hands. “Ach, that was one upset woman, Wolfgang. It makes me thankful I never had to go courting in those times.” He glanced back down at the sheet. “How did you come to have such a strange letter?”
“It was tucked between the pages of a book my wife found behind a clothes cabinet I shifted, when we were moving out of that upstairs room in Grantville. She wanted to leave the place clean for the next tenants. My Walpurgia is a good woman that way. It got packed with our things by mistake. I came across it yesterday, and with it was this other thing.”
He unfolded a second sheet and laid it on a clean place on the table.
This wasn’t a beautiful, perfect piece of up-time paper. It was a ragged-edged scrap of parchment, scraped and cured animal skin. “This must be what she was talking about at the end, but have you ever seen such writing, Aaron? Is it Hebrew, or maybe Arabic?”
Aaron moved around the end of the table, peering at it from a couple of different angles, and finally shook his head. “No, no, it’s not. I read those, of course. These marks are nothing I’ve ever seen. I know what Greek looks like, and they say Russian looks much like Greek. It’s not one of those. I’m almost certain it’s not Egyptian.” He paused for a moment, and tipped his head to one side. “I don’t think it’s Norse runes, either. I’ve never seen them, but they’re supposed to be all straight lines.”
Neither of them was paying any attention to the queue a few feet from their table. All of a sudden Wolfgang heard a familiar voice say in American-accented German, “Would you hold my place for a minute?” He looked up. Jim Pierce, the head of the company, was coming straight toward them.
“You guys got me curious. Could I see what you’ve got there?”
The Pierces were some of the best people around to work for, so it was only sensible to stay on their good side. They wouldn’t insult or strike a worker, but they were quick enough to dismiss anyone who failed to perform—or worse, flouted safety rules. Wolfgang gestured toward the document with his open hand. “Sure, Boss.”
The boss leaned over the table, his eyes lit up, and his cheeks puffed out in amused startlement. “Whoa! I never thought I’d see that here!”
Wolfgang looked at him. “You know what it is?”
“Yeah. It’s Klingon!”
“Um, it’s not from a country. It’s a made-up language from a science fiction TV show. But it’s a real language. Look, give me a minute to get back in line and get my lunch, and I’ll join you and tell you about it.”
That was typical of the Pierces. The idea of precedence simply wasn’t part of their mental furniture. When the boss ate in the cafeteria, he went through the serving line like everybody else who worked at USE Steel. In a couple of minutes he was back with a tray, and settled down on the bench.
“So, where’d you get that?”
“It was with a letter between the pages of a book my wife found, in our room in Grantville.” Wolfgang pointed at the envelope and the letter.
Pierce glanced at the envelope and scratched his head for a second or two. “I think maybe I’ve seen that monogram somewhere.” He tapped the “L” clef with a forefinger. “Someplace along the road near the high school, maybe? Can’t remember for sure. But it was years ago. It’s probably long gone.
“Anyway, from the postmark this must have been in the last or next-to-last mail delivery before the Ring of Fire. I don’t remember this guy Jeffreys. Maybe my kids do. He might have got left up-time.” He did a quick read-through of the letter. “That must have stung, if he ever got it.”
“Well, anyway, about the Klingons . . .” He took a long swig from a cup of water, and started explaining about the Star Trek movies and television shows, and the Vulcans, Cardassians, Klingons, Ferengi, and the rest. “If you get into town some time, you might be able to see a few episodes on the TV at the Gardens, or maybe at a house showing.”
Wolfgang shook his head. “It’s amazing. So many languages in the world already, but somebody made one up for a world they only imagined? But, you know about this? Can you read it?”
“Well, no. I only saw the symbols once during a panel talk at a science fiction convention. I never studied it, I’m just not that much of a Star Trek fan.”
Wolfgang looked disappointed.
“But why don’t you ask around at the State Library? They’ve got all kinds of stuff, or somebody there might know something about it. You’re on D Crew, right? So you wouldn’t be on the schedule for the next couple of days. If you go, let me know what you find out, willya? You’ve got my curiosity up.”
Wolfgang thought about it. “Thanks, Boss. Sure, why not?”
Thuringia-Franconia State Library
Wolfgang glanced around to orient himself as he came in the door. The room was an odd mixture of order and clutter, tranquility and activity, peace overlaid with an air of ferocious concentration. He’d heard about the never-ending rush to find the next vein of intellectual gold and bring forth a fortune from it before the scholar at the neighboring table did. If you looked and listened, the room was filled with tension in the whisper of turning pages and scribbling pencils.
Any bit of space that wasn’t occupied by chairs, tables, scholars, or floor-to-ceiling bookshelves was left clear only as a matter of necessity to allow passage. A long counter at one side clearly belonged to the staff. As he approached, an elderly woman looked up with a gentle smile, and asked in a soft voice, “Can I help you?”
“I hope so, Gnädige Frau. I have something here written in a language called Klingon. It was with this letter. Mr. Pierce at the steel mill thinks maybe there might be something in the library that would help in translating it, or one of the scholars might know something about it.”
“Speak quietly, please.” She gave him a soft smile and pointed to a sign on the wall. “Klingon? Oh, my goodness, I don’t think so. This has only been a research library since the Ring of Fire. It was just a school library until then. That’s esoteric, even for us. I know I never saw anything like that before the Ring of Fire happened. But still, a lot has come in since then.”
She turned to a younger woman shifting piles of books from the returns desk to a cart. “Charlotte, do you remember ever seeing anything like that?”
Charlotte shook her head. “Nope, Gladys, it doesn’t ring any bells. Too bad. You could have found anything you wanted about the Klingons on the Internet, back when. But now? I can’t believe anybody in this town would have something that weird. I’d bet a week’s pay on it.”
“You’re probably right. Still,” Gladys said, “this is a research library, and we don’t give up that quickly. Let’s have a look at the card catalog.” She put a hand on the counter and levered herself up, came out from behind the counter, pulled open one of many small drawers in a long cabinet in the middle of the room, and riffled through. She paused, looked at one of the cards for a few seconds, then went to a second drawer and riffled some more. She stopped and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t look like it. We have some Star Trek paperbacks, but nothing on the language itself. Let me think a minute.”
She went to one of the bookcases, pulled out a middling-thick volume, and flipped back and forth until she found the page she was looking for. And put the book back and shook her head. “I had the thought that perhaps you could ask DeWayne Jeffreys, since the letter was addressed to him. But Who’s Who in Grantville says he was left up-time.”
A young girl swept into the room with quick steps, went around behind the counter and into a back room, and returned a moment later without her coat. The librarian smiled again. “Oh. Yes, Jackie!” She beckoned the girl to join them.
“Jacqueline, these gentlemen are asking for help with a paper they’ve been told”—her tone suggested skepticism—”is written in Klingon.”
Aaron got an odd look on his face at being referred to as a “gentleman.” Wolfgang was enough of an old Grantville hand to have heard it before from up-timers.
She turned back to Wolfgang. “What did you say your name was?”
“Wolfgang. Wolfgang Eichelberger.” He gestured to Aaron. “This is my friend Aaron ben Mordecai.”
Gladys flashed another quick smile. “Herr Eichelberger, here is just the person to ask. Mademoiselle Pascal collects languages the way some people collect butterflies.
“Jacqueline, do you know anything about Klingon?”
“Of Klingon? Very little, Mrs. Wood, I’m sorry. I did not pursue it, after I learned there was nobody to speak it with. I concluded I would never have use for it, so I moved on to Polish. Many come here who speak that tongue.”
Wolfgang must have showed his disappointment.
The girl tossed her hair. “But it is not impossible. The Baptist pastor, Doctor Albert Green, has three books in Klingon. Two are Bibles and the third is a dictionary. That is what I looked at for a few afternoons. May I see this paper?”
Gladys—Mrs. Wood—held a finger to her lips, led them back to the counter, and gestured to a bit of unoccupied space. Wolfgang took the parchment out of his pocket and spread it out. Mademoiselle Pascal bit her lip for a long moment, then looked at Wolfgang. “Herr Eichelberger, I read that there are three known Klingon alphabets, besides the way of writing it in our Roman letters. But Doctor Green thinks the language was first invented in the Roman alphabet. Perhaps some among the fans imagined that there would be many languages on the Klingon home-world, or they just had their own ideas of what an alien alphabet should look like. Whatever they intended, your friend has the truth of it, this is a Klingon alphabet. I remember most of the speech sounds of this one, but . . .” She began tracing the lines with her finger, frowning in concentration. After a minute she looked up, with puzzlement showing on her face. “Herr Eichelberger, it is very strange. These are words, they are pronounceable, but I do not recognize any of them. They do not feel right.”
“No? Perhaps your Doctor Green’s dictionary could tell us what they mean. Should we visit him next, and ask if he can help, then?”
She shook her head. “I think he could not. Though he collects strange Bibles, it seemed to me that he doesn’t spend much time on reading them beyond comparing a few favorite passages. He first told us of Klingon when he gave a lecture to the Bibelgesellschaft. He was talking about the difference between a true translation and a paraphrased translation. He showed us a copy called The Good News for the Warrior Race or something like that. He said John 6:35 translates literally back into English as ‘I am the gagh worm of life.’ Blood worms in English, he said, but he thinks that captures the connotations even though it isn’t a literal translation, gagh worms being an important part of the Klingon diet, so it stands for food, like ‘bread’ or ‘meat’ can in English. Then he held up the Klingon Language Version where John 6:35 said something like ‘I am the ground grain baked food of life.” And Doctor Green said that was a much more precise translation for the word ‘bread,’ but did not even come close to capturing the meaning behind the metaphor. The Klingon warriors thought eating plants was beneath them, you see, degrading. Or maybe the Klingons were supposed to be carnivores, and unable to digest plants. He said that was unclear. Perhaps intentionally unclear. My literature teacher says that when you write fiction, ‘Vague is your friend.’ But to the Klingons, eating plants is only suitable for prey animals, so anything that eats plants was created to be eaten. He then showed us a Bible from some island in the Pacific Ocean where the staple is sweet potatoes and the English translation was ‘I am the sweet potato of life.’
“Then he asked us which one we thought was the better translation, blood worm or plant food, for someone who finds eating plants improper or worse? We decided that the baked grain food is the more accurate translation but ended up wondering is it the better translation? His point was that a paraphrased translation can have merit, though offensive to purists and pedants. Oh, I’ve wandered off into babbling, haven’t I?
“But, no, I don’t think asking Doctor Green will help much. I don’t think he can read this, and I do not think he has found time to begin to study these books beyond, as I say, comparing a few favorite verses. And he would not let such books leave his library, you understand, of course? It’s part of a Bible seminary, now, at a farm on the rim. We must visit him there, and he will let us study this ourselves.” Her finger stabbed at the parchment. “This is—I don’t know what it is. Now that you have shown it to me, I wish to know more.”
Gladys said, “I understand completely why he keeps them up there. We can’t let most of our books circulate either.
“Anyway, Jackie, we’re not busy today, I have plenty of help. Why don’t you take these gentlemen up there and get them started on their project?” She picked up a few cards from a stack on the desk and handed them to the girl. “But take along some blank catalog cards to fill out, will you? Those books ought to be listed in the private-libraries catalog Jan Brinker is compiling for his Eagle Scout project.”
Mademoiselle Pascal smiled. “That sounds like fun. Let me call the seminary, and then call Madame Fermat and let her know I’m going to see Doctor Green on library business.”
When she came back she was wearing her coat.
Outside she asked, “Are we walking, meine Herren, or can you afford to ride the tram? It goes most of the way, and it doesn’t cost much.”
“We can take the tram,” Aaron said.
She turned and led them to the nearest stop. “Where did you find a Klingon parchment? It must be from up-time, but it didn’t find its way into the documents collection?”
When Wolfgang explained, she asked to see the letter it had come with. As she read it she became solemn. “I have read romance novels. Most of them seem silly, foolish. But this—” She shook her head. “She was so unhappy. I wonder, was courting really like that, up-time?”
“I wonder about that myself, Mademoiselle Pascal.”
The branch tram line went only part way up the run. They were perhaps halfway to the foot of the trace up to Old Joe Jenkins’ farm, which was now the new Bible college, when the seminary’s old five-ton coal truck with the natural gas tank over the cab pulled up and stopped. The window rolled down and a familiar face popped out. “Hi, Jacqueline, are you going up to the farm?”
“Yes, Mr. Stewart, we need to see Dr. Green. And your up-time English sounds very good today, almost perfect.”
“Oh, that’s a compliment, coming from you, but then I have to try, don’t I? The Brethren have hardly five words of Scots among the lot of them.” He winked at her. “Well, then, give your feet a rest. I’ve room enough.” He hooked his thumb back over his shoulder.
“Thank you, Mr. Stewart.” She introduced the two library clients.
They could never have all fit in the cab, but there were hinged benches along the sides in back. It boasted padding of a sort, but the wooden-spoked wheels with iron tires made for a rough ride. And a slow ride by up-time standards, if breakage was to be avoided. But it was easier than walking up the mountainside. The gentler, less steep, longer approach to the farm was lost somewhere up-time.
When they stepped down to the ground, their driver asked, “And what brings you folk up here to our mountain retreat?”
Jacqueline glanced over toward the two men. “These library visitors have a letter to translate, and the only Klingon dictionary in the world is in your library.”
“Klingon? Ye’ve got a letter in Klingon?”
“Yes. Well, it’s not actually the letter, Mr. Stewart. The letter is in English. The Klingon parchment is the directions to some kind of a hidden treasure. At least, the woman who wrote the letter called it a treasure.”
“A treasure guide? In Klingon? If you’re not having me on, are you sure someone isn’t having you on?”
Herr Eichelberger showed him the parchment.
He looked at it. “Might be Klingon,” he admitted. “But what makes y’ think it leads to a treasure?”
“This is the letter that was with it.”
John Stewart read it quickly and looked up with raised eyebrows. “Fiery words these are, eh? Well, let us find Brother Green. He is going to want to see this, for certain. I think he’s haying today. It sounds like they’re running the conveyor.” He led them around to the uphill side of one of the barns, cut into the hillside, where a conveyor was running to the hayloft door. He walked up to where Doctor Green was loading bales onto the conveyor and waved his hand for attention. Two of the seminarians up in the loft kept stacking the bales.
“Brother Green!” John Stewart called out when the other looked around. “These fellows have something you will surely want to see.” He turned to Wolfgang Eichelberger. “Will you show him the letter first? Then the treasure business in Klingon?” He picked up a bale and dropped it on the conveyor.
At the words “treasure” and “Klingon” Al Green forgot all about reminding John that if they really were going to practice the priesthood of all believers, then it wasn’t enough to just be called Brother instead of Doctor or Reverend, he needed to do his full share of the farm work. But it wasn’t every day that Jacqueline Pascal showed up with a couple of strangers and a Klingon document.
He glanced through the letter, then looked at the parchment. “Quite a find, gentlemen, quite a find. Well, let’s go see what we can make of it.”
Al led them inside to the study, consolidated a couple of piles on the table in the middle to make some work space, and pulled the Klingon dictionary off the shelf. “Fortunately, I have this particular Klingon alphabet. Actually, I have all three. But this”—setting the book on the table—”is printed in the Roman alphabet, so I think the first thing we’re going to have to do is transcribe your missive into Roman letters. Then we’ll be ready to look the words up.”
Jacqueline spoke right up. “I can do that, Doctor Green. I need only a few minutes with the dictionary, and I will have the speech sounds clear in my mind again.”
“All right, Jackie. I’ll get us some refreshments while you’re doing that. Small beer, gentlemen? Or spring water?”
By the time he came back, she was well along. Al looked at it, was seized by scholarly excitement, and went to work trying for a first translation. To his surprise, he found none of the first dozen words in the dictionary. He stopped and looked at the words she was still writing out. “Huh. Something about those words doesn’t seem right, Jackie. Are you sure this is the Roman transcription? It just doesn’t sound like Klingon to me.”
“No, Doctor Green, it does not. It felt wrong to me when I first saw it. But they are the words written here, and they are words, of whatever kind they are. I can pronounce them.” She began reading aloud. It was plainly not English. Nor was it German, high or low, or French, Dutch, Spanish or Italian. Or any of the source languages of Scripture.
By this time John Stewart had finished up with the hay and was looking in through the doorway to see how things were going on.
The two visitors were looking at Al and Jackie. Al thought some more. “I wonder if it could be a substitution code? It isn’t anything simple, like Pig Latin, or English spelled backward, though.”
Brother Stewart came in and looked at the transcription for a long moment, then straightened up. “Jackie, would y’ read some o’ that again?” His Scots was back at full strength. It tended to happen when something excited him and distracted his attention.
She read a few lines.
“Och, it sounds a bit like what the highlanders speak. But ’tis not quite the same. I dinna have the Gaelic myself, but I’ve heard it betimes. No, ’tis not Scottish, I think. Nor Welsh nor Cornish, not with all those K sounds. Manx or Irish, I’m thinkin’.”
“Irish?” Al and John looked at each other, then both said at the same time, “Brother Donnelly!” Al added, “Old Joe’s gift to us.”
Baptists were scarce in Ireland, always had been, though they claimed to have been there from the time of Saint Patrick. Whatever the truth of that, after corresponding with some Baptists in London, Joe Jenkins had gotten a letter of introduction from them and gone traveling. And here was Colm Donnelly, with a letter from Joe, talking about plans to visit everything from Iona to the Blarney Stone. What the current master of Blarney Castle might think of that was left to the imagination.
Al searched his memory for a second. “Last time I saw him, Colm was going off with the sawmill crew.”
John looked blank momentarily, then nodded. “Oh, aye, I know where you mean.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “But still working into study hours? Belike they’re working late to finish rough-cutting what’s awaiting. I’ll just go fetch him, then, aye?”
Al nodded and gave a rueful smile. Unlike the haying, the last of the sawing could have easily waited another day or two. Likely the logging crew felt guilty over others working late, and did the same.
“Did you have lunch?” Al asked his guests.
“I didn’t,” Jackie said.
Al smiled to himself. Typical of the girl, with her enthusiasm for learning anything and everything. Jackie got so busy doing one thing and another that she didn’t slow down to eat sometimes. “Let’s see what we can scrounge in the kitchen, shall we?”
Al’s wife, Claudette, was washing a basket of potatoes when they came in. Al gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek. “You could sit down, you know. You got home from the job at the hospital, what, ten minutes ago?”
“Sure, but I wanted to talk with Katerina about the business of being a preacher’s wife. Might as well get something done, if I’m here anyway.”
“All right, I’ll try to keep out of your way.” He went over to the knife drawer.
While he was putting a couple of sandwiches together, Jackie brought in the letter and showed it to Claudette.
“Would you read this please, Mrs. Green? Some of the things she says here, I don’t understand.”
“All right. Let’s see.” She washed her hands and dried them, then took it and scanned it for a long minute. Her face fell and she looked back to Jackie again. “That poor woman. She was in love and it all fell apart in a fight. It all sounds pretty permanent, too.”
“Yes, but what is ‘hoyle’?”
Claudette smiled. “Now, I just happen to know that. You won’t find it in our dictionaries, though. It’s a Welsh word.
“You can use singing as a way of meditation to draw closer to our Lord. Hoyle was commonly used to describe the high that came from group singing. By what she says, she probably experienced it at NAFOW, the North American Festival of Wales. Community sings are a great tradition in Wales, usually in four-part harmony, usually in Welsh, and they worked at raising the hoyle. There was an annual gathering commonly called the Nationals, full of people from all over. A choir of hundreds was not uncommon, and boy, could they ever raise hoyle! I got to go twice while I was in college.” She smiled at the memory. “I dragged Albert along once, even if the good Lord knows the man just cannot sing to save his soul. But when you raise hoyle you lose yourself in the group and your spirit soars with freedom.”
“So hoyle is getting your spirit high on singing? Is that why she got silly about DeWayne?”
“Mmm, it might be where it started. Very likely. Then they danced together, and that too can be a situation where two can become one, like the Bible says of a husband and wife. It is part of why some Baptists up-time forbade dancing, since you couldn’t limit it to husbands and wives.
“Then she makes it clear that they went to bed together. That absolutely is or should be two becoming one. But she and DeWayne let their bodies and souls intertwine when they shouldn’t have, because they weren’t planning to stay together, or didn’t know each other well enough to understand that they didn’t really belong together. Letting yourself fall in love with someone who doesn’t share your values and culture is awfully hard. That’s why so many of the mixed couples—up-time and down-time, that is—have a hard time of it. Falling in love just isn’t enough.
“But this poor girl might have gotten pregnant and killed her baby, well, before it could really become a baby, she says. In the letter she sounds so matter-of-fact about it and free of all doubts and regrets, but I can’t believe it didn’t weigh heavily on her feelings. That is going to haunt her for the rest of her life.”
Jacqueline’s eyes grew wide. “Does everyone do foolish things when they fall in love?”
“Oh, that’s a hard question. I’d like to think not, but maybe so, but then it’s a matter of how foolish. I sure did. I had enough sense to know that marrying a preacher was a bad idea, but I did it anyway.”
“Does everyone fall in love?”
Claudette smiled at the young girl. She asked such deep questions sometimes. “Most do, I think. Some don’t have it in them. Those who don’t are sad, unhappy people.”
“I don’t want to get all silly.”
“Jackie, if you’re lucky, in a few years your feelings will change and grow. But even if they do, I don’t think you’re one to ever let your heart make you lose your head.”
Colm and the rest of the sawmill crew came trooping in, looking to see what was going on. Spotting Al, he led off with “Brother Green, we’re after roughin’ out the lot of it, and I have to tell you, two of the four-by-sixes came out bug-eaten. So we’ll have to have another log to cut up t’morra. Now, what was all this about a treasure map from the old Emerald Isle?”
John smiled. “Not a map, Colm, just written directions, and maybe it’s in the Irish and maybe it’s not. Jackie, will y’ read out that first line for Colm?”
Colm clapped his hand to his brow. “Oh, lass, your accent is that horrible! It sounds like you’re tryin’ to pronounce Irish like it’s old Hebrew. Irish is a sweet melody and you sound like you’re a cat hackin’ up a hair ball.”
Al let out a belly laugh. “Well, what would you expect, Brother Donnelly? Mademoiselle Pascal and I studied Hebrew, not your fine old language. Anyway, it’s written in Klingon letters. You wouldn’t have heard, but Klingon is a whole lot like Hebrew—you either learn to gargle the language in the back of your throat or you choke on it trying to pronounce it right. But, you say John guessed right, and it is Irish?”
“Aye, that it is. Well, let’s be about it.”
It took half an hour, with the Greens, Jackie, and Colm pitching in at different times, sometimes having to go back and forth to work out the pronunciation of a badly written word. And after all, it was in Klingon letters, with no distinction of upper and lower case, and no punctuation marks. But they got it into understandable Irish, properly written out in Roman letters. Well, mostly Irish. A few of the words were in other languages, probably for lack of an Irish equivalent, some of what was in Irish seemed to be bad translations and maybe bad transliterations too, and one unresolved Klingon letter stood all by itself.
With that much done, Colm set to translating it into English, which was looking to be the writer’s native language anyway, though he seemed curiously inconsistent about what century’s English he had in mind. And then there was the problem of a German translation, for the benefit of Wolfgang and Aaron. Hopeless. There were things there that had no German equivalent. They settled for going through it phrase by phrase, explaining as they went.
What they finally came up with was:
AT JUD PERIOD FIVE COLON ONE AND TWO COMMA LEAVING YOU ARE THE WOMAN SINGING PERIOD OPEN PARENTHESIS SHAME ON YOU PERIOD CLOSE PARENTHESIS (KHH?) TEN TO THREE SLASH ARE OPEN PARENTHESIS EIGHTY EIGHT OVER TWO CLOSE PARENTHESIS SEEK A SIGN YOU MUST PERIOD ADVANCE YOU SHALL FROWARD THE CONFEDERACY AND NIPPON PERIOD OPEN PARENTHESIS GO AHEAD PERIOD FLEE YOUR FATE PERIOD IN THE END YOU SHALL NOT ESCAPE PERIOD CLOSE PARENTHESIS PASS YOU SINISTER OF THE HOME OF THE HUMBLE CARPENTER PERIOD IGNORING YOU THE BISON COMMA TRAVERSE YOU BIFROST PERIOD FARE YOU THEN OZWARD UNTIL BEYOND ELFHOME BEHOLD YOU THE PAINTED RUNES OF TROTH PERIOD ADVANCE THEN NINE FURLONGS PERIOD HOLDING COMMA IS THE ENT COMMA A NOTE SUNWISE OF THE MOSS PERIOD TAKE YOU THE NEAR ROAD TOWARDS THE SUMMER LANDS PERIOD SEEK YOU A DEEP DARK HOLE AND FIND THEREIN YOUR HEARTS DESIRE PERIOD OPEN PARENTHESIS EAT YARGHGHESH ROOT AND EXPIRE IN SHAME COMMA UNWORTHY WHELP COMMA THAT WAS NO WAY TO TREAT A SWEET LADY WHO LOVED YOU PERIOD CLOSE PARENTHESIS
Colm read it over again, and histrionically looked up to heaven with the back of his hand to his forehead. “Oh, the mockery! The grammar is such as to make a deaf dog howl and bards to weep! No son of Erin ever wrought such mangled butchery upon his mother tongue!”
Al let out a quick laugh and looked sideways at him. “Ain’t that the truth! And it’s not proper Klingon, either. What it is, is Yoda-speak. Well, sort of, anyway. And not particularly good Yoda-speak at that.”
“What? What is Yoda-speak?”
“It’s a fake alien syntax out of the Star Wars movie series, Jackie. I thought you saw them. The verb always comes first, followed by the noun affected by the verb. I think.”
“Just how many made-up languages were there?” Wolfgang asked.
“A few. A fellow named Tolkien had more than one in his books. Star Trek, Star Wars sort of, though the Yoda scenes didn’t turn into a full language, it just rearranged English to sound outlandish. Outside of fiction, Esperanto was a serious attempt at a simple, easy-to-learn international language, but it never caught on.” Al shrugged.
Aaron stared at the puzzle, rubbing his chin. “So now we have the words, but it’s still nonsensical.”
Al raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. It doesn’t make complete sense to any single one of us right now. That’d be a much more precise way to put it. But it made complete sense to El and her friend Mark once upon a time, and they expected it to make sense to DeWayne. So let’s begin by looking at the parts we can figure out, shall we?
“Jackie, when you have a colon between two numbers, what does that signify?”
“A ratio? Odds? A drawing scale?” She brightened. “Oh, chapter and verse of the Bible! Or a Bible. But which Bible? So the word before it could be the book, but there’s no book of Jud in the Bible unless it’s a Klingon book.”
Green took the Klingon Language Version off the shelf and handed it to her. She read out the book titles aloud. And shook her head. “So we don’t know anything.”
“Ah, but you’re missing the period. When in English do you use a period?”
“At the end of a sentence.”
“After an abbrev—Judges. It’s not Klingon, it’s English. Judges 5:1 and 2! Or does ‘1 and 2’ mean 3?” Her whole face lit up in a grin.
Three people spoke at the same time and by the third word they were speaking in unison. “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, ‘Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.'”
Jackie looked back at the translation again. “So, ‘Leaving you are the woman singing’ means ‘Leaving you are Deborah?’ But that’s wrong! It should be ‘Leaving you is Deborah.'”
Claudette put it together. “No, it’s ‘are.’ It’s Yoda-speak, with the words all shuffled around. It’s ‘Leaving, you are, Deborah.’ So it’s not ‘Deborah is leaving you,’ it’s ‘You are leaving Deborah.’ ”
Colm looked confused. “But she left him. He didn’t leave her.”
“No, Colm, it doesn’t mean the woman Deborah. It means the settlement Deborah. You haven’t been around Grantville long. It’s a largish village near the high school, where there used to be a mine head.”
Aaron got a thoughtful look on his face. “Perhaps it means both. She left him, but in a way he left her too. And maybe at that concert she was a woman singing.”
“Mmm. You might be right. If the way she handled words in that letter means anything, she and her friend might have been saying all of that.”
Jacqueline was looking at her. “But for us, that must mean the village. We must leave Deborah.” She turned and wrote that down, then looked back at the puzzle. Her finger moved back, and stopped. “Here. This part is algebra, yes? Eighty-eight over two, the answer is forty-four.” She wrote that down. “But ten to three? It cannot be a ratio, or odds, he would have used a colon. Count backwards? All the numbers from ten to three, backwards?”
Claudette was looking at the clock. She murmured, “Ten to three. Two-fifty? Something happens at 2:50?”
John Stewart suddenly straightened up from looking over Jackie’s shoulder and laughed. “No, Sister Green. Two-fifty is the highway!”
It all came together in Al’s mind. “I was wondering what the heck that leftover Klingon letter KHH was doing there. We couldn’t translate it into anything. But when Klingon is changed to Roman letters, that one is written as a capital H. And ARE isn’t the verb, then, it’s the letter ‘R’ spoken aloud and spelled phonetically. So,”
Three voices spoke together, “H 250 R 44.”
Jackie was writing again. “You mean—Highway 250 and Route 44. Yes. I know where that is.”
John echoed, “So do I.”
Al nodded. “So there must be something there. Well. Shall we go see what we can find?”
Claudette turned back to what she’d been doing. Al reached out and touched her shoulder. “Come on! Put that down and get in the car.”
One of the wives working in the kitchen snatched the bow knot out of Claudette’s apron strings. “You are going wid your husband! It sounds like fun. You deserve to have some fun. We will finish making dinner.”
She froze in place for a second with her mouth open. “Oh. Yes, all right. Thanks, Katerina. We’ll be back. Set a place for our guests, okay?”
Al let John drive the station wagon. John Stewart was good at it, and absolutely fascinated with driving. It would wear off, but it hadn’t so far. Claudette got in the middle because she was that kind of person. With the seats filled up, Colm dove into the cargo space in back—he was part of the treasure-hunting party too, now.
“What do you think the treasure was?” Colm asked. “Gold? Silver?”
Claudette snorted. “Not on a Grantviller’s income. Had to be something personal. Something special, maybe something he made himself.”
“An engagement ring?” Aaron speculated. “It was a custom then, yes? They had been fenstering.”
Claudette shook her head. “Uh-uh. The letter said she bought paint to write good-bye, and wouldn’t he have a problem cleaning it! You could spray-paint a ring, but you couldn’t write on it that way, and it would be easy to get paint off metal and a diamond. No, if she was going to use spray paint to write with, it had to be something large. If she was moving it in a car, it could be a pretty good size.”
Aaron turned away from the window to look at her. “What could he have given her that would have been large enough to write on and valuable enough that he would want it back? It had to be something great. You were so rich up-time.”
“A gold plate?” Colm asked.
Al turned and looked over his shoulder. “Her family might have been able to afford something like that, but I doubt he could. Not unless it was a doll-house plate a couple inches across, with gold plating thinner than onionskin. I’ve never seen a gold plate in my life.”
The rest of the way down the trace they amused themselves with more and more improbable speculations as to what the treasure was, except for John, who took driving seriously, and Al Green, who was running through the rest of the clues and preparing notes in his mind. By then he was deep into teacher mode.
They drove to the center of Deborah, turned around, and headed back toward the intersection of 250 and 44. John slowed and hesitated. Al said quietly, “Let’s pull over and look around.”
Jackie stepped out with the paper in her hand, and read, “Seek a sign, you must.”
To a car full of Bible scholars, that phrase offered more possibilities than anyone could count. Eyes began searching in every direction, to the two roads, the hills, the trees, the sky, the rocks and dirt under foot, and round again.
All of a sudden Claudette called out, “Holy cow!” Everyone turned to look. She was standing a couple of feet in front of the station wagon, pointing at the back of the stop sign on the far side of the intersection.
Wolfgang ran over and stared at it, then traced with his finger. There was a flaking remnant of purple spray paint. “This was her mark, that sign from the woman’s letter, yes? This bend here, that must have been where it turned to go across at the bottom.”
Colm looked at it doubtfully. “I don’t know, it doesn’t look like much of anything. It’s just a few faint scraps of color.”
Jackie showed him the note paper with the symbol.
By this time Al was looking over Wolfgang’s shoulder, moving his head from side to side. “No, if you look from where I’m standing, you can see where the metal weathered more around the paint, before it flaked away. You can still see the outline of her monogram. El was here, all right. And I think she left more than one message. Did anybody notice what kind of sign this is?”
John looked at the octagonal shape. “ ’Tis a stop sign. And the import of that . . . ?”
“She’s telling him, ‘Stop. Stop what you’re doing. Stop treating people the way you’ve been doing. Grow up.’ Everything in the letter tells us she’s subtle enough to send that kind of a message.”
A quiet smile spread slowly over Claudette’s face. “I think I’d have enjoyed knowing El Amberley. Even as angry as she was in that letter, she never descended to pettiness or spite. She only tried to teach him a lesson. A constructive lesson. That young woman was a class act.” She sighed. “It’s just too bad things happened the way they did. Well. What’s next, Jackie?”
“Advance you shall froward the Confederacy and Nippon. What does that mean?”
Colm’s mouth compressed in intense thought. “Why ‘Confederacy’ in Latin? The writer could have put that word in Irish, but he didn’t. And ‘Nippon’ I don’t know at all.”
Claudette picked it up. “Actually, that’s not Latin, it’s English. To an American, ‘Confederacy’ means the Confederate States of America, the southern side during the Civil War. So he probably means south. But it could mean east, because Virginia was part of the Confederacy, and Virginia used to be east of here. And Nippon is another name for Japan, which is in the Far East, so that means east for sure. But ‘froward,’ I don’t get. What does surly and contrary have to do with anything? And why use an obsolete word for somebody’s mood? The only place I ever saw it was in a Dickens novel, and it was old-fashioned then.”
Colm looked confused. “What? Mood? No, missus, I know it as ‘away from,’ or ‘opposite.’ Is that no longer the meaning in your time? Should I use some other word for the English translation?”
“Uh, no, I guess we learn something every day. So we’re supposed to go away from the south and east?”
John had his finger on the old road map, spread out on the hood. “Well, before the Ring of Fire brought you all here, Route 250 ran west to the town, and then turned north. So properly speaking, if we follow this road we should first go froward Nippon, and after froward the Confederacy. Odd he didn’t say it that way, but perhaps I’m too nitpicky. We shall see, eh?”
Jacqueline was reading again. “Go ahead. Flee your fate. In the end you shall not escape. But that’s all in parentheses, so it’s not supposed to be part of the directions, is it?”
Al gave her a quick smile. She was such a bright kid. “No, it’s just the writer scolding him for being mean to her. What follows that?”
“Pass you sinister of the home of the humble carpenter.”
“Pass you sinister? Is he calling DeWayne dark and evil again? But it’s not in parentheses.”
“No, missus Green, that word wasn’t in Irish, it was Latin. Heraldry. Dexter is right and sinister is left.”
“So we need to find the home of a carpenter and go left of it?” Aaron asked. “How would El know where a carpenter lived? She didn’t live in Grantville. So what carpenter would she know?”
Al got a twinkle in his eye and winked at his wife. She grinned back at him. She knew what he was about to say. “Now, who is the most famous carpenter of all time? At least, to us Christians?”
“Joseph,” Jackie and Wolfgang said at the same time.
John looked up from the map. “Only to Catholics, lass. Jesus is much more famous to Protestants and, especially, Baptists.”
Al was looking back and forth between the map and the cluster of trees to the west. “So what’s another name for Christ?” Green asked.
“The Savior?” Colm said.
“The Messiah?” Wolfgang offered.
“And where was he raised?” Claudette asked.
“Nazareth.” Wolfgang answered.
“So he was called a—?” Claudette left the sentence hanging.
John Stewart put his finger on the map and then turned to look toward the northwest, trying to see through the grove of trees. “Nazarene. ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’ ”
Al smiled at him in approval. “And right over there, on the other side of those trees—”
John hesitated. “I dinna get it. This map says the Church of the Nazarene. But I’ve been there. That’s Leahy Medical Center.”
“So it is. When El was here it was still the Church of the Nazarene. But when the Ring grabbed us, the whole congregation was at a funeral, and got left left up-time. After that, the town didn’t need an empty church, but it sure needed a hospital. The older parts still look like a church.”
“A thrifty thing to do, that was.” He glanced at the map again. “And the highway passes left of it.”
“Right. I mean, yes. So that’s the right way. The way we should go.”
Jackie started reading again. “Ignoring you the bison, traverse you Bifrost. But don’t Americans call that animal the buffalo?” She stopped, thinking.
Colm broke in, “And Bifrost I have heard of, in the tales they still tell around Waterford, where in olden times the pagan Northmen came. Bifrost was their bridge between the nine worlds.”
Al looked straight at John, prompting him. John glanced at the map once more, then straightened up. “Never you mind Buffalo Creek, cross the bridge.” He raised his hand and pointed. “The only bridge is that way.” West. “And three different ways she and her friend told of which way to fare.”
Claudette nodded. “Yes. They certainly meant him to find it, but he was supposed to work for it. Jackie?”
“Fare you then Ozward until beyond Elfhome behold you the painted runes of troth.” She grinned, and started singing, “Follow the yellow brick road! Follow the yellow brick road! We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz!”
John looked blank. “Yellow brick road? The roads are all blacktop, where they’re not dirt. And the home of elves? In Scotland, ’tis in the wild places the elves dwell. A wild place along the road, then?”
Al explained. “It’s another pair of allusions to twentieth-century fantasy literature. I think the first part just means we should stay on the road and follow where it goes. And in The Lord of the Rings, the Elves live in a place called Rivendell, a steep lush valley where they built their tasteful secluded homes. Tolkien also wrote about Lothlórien, but that was in a forest, and I don’t think this is about Stoner’s old commune. That’s way off the main road, and it’s not very likely El would have heard of it. I’m pretty sure it just means the stretch of Route 250 on the other side of town, where it runs through a valley with three or four steep-sided places all covered with trees. Hard to say which one she meant, so we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled. And I suspect the ‘painted runes’ are painted, but they’re not actually runes. Somewhere along there we should see that color paint again.”
“Ah, ’tis a fine puzzle, Brother Green. Shall we go on, then?”
At Al’s nod, they all piled back into the station wagon.
John took it slow once they got clear of the downtown, with eyes swiveling at every window. The new buildings became fewer, coming to an end before they passed another church beside a sharp bend. Beyond that, it was just a quiet country road. They saw nothing that hadn’t been there before the Ring of Fire. Eventually they found themselves standing around the station wagon, looking straight ahead at a no-longer-pristine spherical wall rising up fifty yards away, with a tumble of rocks and dirt lining its foot. John Stewart said the obvious. “We’ll go no further this way.”
Jackie gazed at it with a thoughtful look on her face. “I wonder if we misunderstood what she meant by Elfhome? Maybe we came right through there and didn’t recognize it.”
“Or it’s to be found somewhere on the other side of that? It’s not as if the name was marked on the road map.”
Al let out a long breath. “Well, as long as we’re turning around here anyway, we might as well take it slow and give it another look. It’s not as if we’re in a big hurry.”
“Mmph. Might as well.” He took his seat and waited for the rest of the party to get in.
They were idling along in second gear, trying to look at every tree, when Jackie suddenly pointed out the left side and called, “There! Her color!” They were past before anyone else got a look, but John pulled over at the first safe spot.
Jackie pointed at a good-sized signboard on the far side of the road, advertising a well-drilling company lost on the day it all changed. She went running around the back, where it was just posts and braces.
And there it was. The plywood was almost covered with graffiti, hearts and arrows more than anything else, but toward the top and still fresher and brighter than the rest, was the same purple spray paint they’d seen outside Deborah. A heart enclosing the initials “EA” above the initials “DJ,” all within a circle crossed by a backslash. Just below it, El’s “L” clef.
Claudette laughed out loud. The down-timers all looked at her. “‘Elizabeth Amberley does not love DeWayne Jeffreys.’ Or maybe, ‘Elizabeth Amberley couldn’t possibly love DeWayne Jeffreys.’ She sure wasn’t subtle about the message this time. Well, she was probably still pretty mad when she wrote that one.”
Colm chuckled. “And so we’re after findin’ the painted runes of troth. Or the painted runes makin’ an end o’ troth, I’d call it. And now to figure out the rest, so?”
“I’d say so. Jackie, you want to read the next part?”
Jacqueline took out the paper and read, “Advance then nine furlongs. Holding, is the Ent, a note sunwise of the moss. Take you the near road towards the summer lands. Seek you a deep dark hole and find therein your heart’s desire. And then more scolding again.”
Al grunted. “I should have looked up what a furlong is, before we left the house.”
John answered, “No need, there are eight to the mile.”
“Okay, a mile and an eighth, then. Well, the Ents are from The Lord of the Rings. An Ent is a large living thinking tree that can pull its roots out of the ground and walk around. So, we find a big tree with something attached to it. Moss grows on the north side. But sunwise . . . ?”
John took that one. “It’s from the olden priesthoods before the Romans came, the way the sun arcs across the sky. Clockwise, we say nowadays. So sunwise around from the moss would be to the east, and that would have it face the road, when the road went north. The summer lands was what they called the west, where the sun went to die every night, and by that they meant the after-life. Findin’ the hole she dug, though, that’s apt to be a long grabble.”
Al shook his head. “Maybe not. The letter doesn’t say she dug a hole, it says she threw it in one, and there might be something already living there. I think it’s probably a doghole mine tunnel. Back during the Depression in the 1930s, the coal companies that didn’t go broke outright had so little business that they couldn’t hire anybody. So a lot of people around here dug bootleg mines anyplace there was coal close to the surface, and peddled it to feed their families. She probably saw one on a side road when she turned around, after she figured out she was going the wrong way to get back to the Interstate.”
“Aye. Well, then, once more into the station wagon, dear friends.”
With everyone on board, he pulled abreast of the sign, punched the trip odometer, and three minutes later they faced the wall again. Claudette, in the middle of the front seat, put it into words. “Just over a mile. One point oh-five, something like that. Not as much as a mile and a tenth, much less a mile and an eighth.”
Al nodded. “Yup, honeybunch. That’d be about another tenth of a mile past the Ringwall to the tree.” He looked at the map. “And the first road to the left is a good half-mile beyond that.”
Wolfgang sighed. “The treasure stayed up-time then, with DeWayne and El, and her friend Mark. But the directions are here with us.”
Claudette smiled. “I kinda think she kept a copy. So maybe Gollum got his treasure back after all.”
He thought that over. “I think perhaps the real treasure was El herself. But he surely lost her forever.”
Al rested his hand on Claudette’s. “She was never truly his. But maybe she left him a treasure of life’s lessons.”
A tip of the hat to the real Mark Mandel for his advice on the Klingon language. If we still got it wrong, it’s our goof.
Art Director’s Note: Getting into the spirit of things, I have included a secret message on the story’s title banner for the adventurous to translate. -Garrett