"Leigh?" Sophie repeated, clearly not appreciating being left out of the discussion. "Might I have a look at the box my grandfather made?"
"Of course, dear," Teabing said, pushing it over to her. He hadn't meant to sound belittling, and yet Sophie Neveu was light-years out of her league. If a British Royal Historian and a Harvard symbologist could not even identify the language -
"Aah," Sophie said, seconds after examining the box. "I should have guessed." Teabing and Langdon turned in unison, staring at her." Guessed what?" Teabing demanded.
Sophie shrugged. "Guessed that this would be the language my grandfather would have used." "You're saying you can read this text?" Teabing exclaimed." Quite easily," Sophie chimed, obviously enjoying herself now. "My grandfather taught me this language when I was only six years old. I'm fluent." She leaned across the table and fixed Teabing with an admonishing glare. "And frankly, sir, considering your allegiance to the Crown, I'm a little surprised you didn't recognize it."
In a flash, Langdon knew.
No wonder the script looks so damned familiar!
Several years ago, Langdon had attended an event at Harvard's Fogg Museum. Harvard dropout Bill Gates had returned to his alma mater to lend to the museum one of his priceless acquisitions - eighteen sheets of paper he had recently purchased at auction from the Armand Hammar Estate.
His winning bid - a cool $30.8 million.
The author of the pages - Leonardo Da Vinci.
The eighteen folios - now known as Leonardo's Codex Leicester after their famous owner, the Earl of Leicester - were all that remained of one of Leonardo's most fascinating notebooks: essays and drawings outlining Da Vinci's progressive theories on astronomy, geology, archaeology, and hydrology.
Langdon would never forget his reaction after waiting in line and finally viewing the priceless parchment. Utter letdown. The pages were unintelligible. Despite being beautifully preserved and written in an impeccably neat penmanship - crimson ink on cream paper - the codex looked like gibberish. At first Langdon thought he could not read them because Da Vinci wrote his notebooks in an archaic Italian. But after studying them more closely, he realized he could not identify a single Italian word, or even one letter.
"Try this, sir," whispered the female docent at the display case. She motioned to a hand mirror affixed to the display on a chain. Langdon picked it up and examined the text in the mirror's surface.
Instantly it was clear.
Langdon had been so eager to peruse some of the great thinker's ideas that he had forgotten one of the man's numerous artistic talents was an ability to write in a mirrored script that was virtually illegible to anyone other than himself. Historians still debated whether Da Vinci wrote this way simply to amuse himself or to keep people from peering over his shoulder and stealing his ideas, but the point was moot. Da Vinci did as he pleased.
Sophie smiled inwardly to see that Robert understood her meaning. "I can read the first few words," she said. "It's English."
Teabing was still sputtering. "What's going on?" "Reverse text," Langdon said. "We need a mirror."
"No we don't," Sophie said. "I bet this veneer is thin enough." She lifted the rosewood box up to a canister light on the wall and began examining the underside of the lid. Her grandfather couldn't actually write in reverse, so he always cheated by writing normally and then flipping the paper over and tracing the reversed impression. Sophie's guess was that he had wood-burned normal text into a block of wood and then run the back of the block through a sander until the wood was paper thin and the wood-burning could be seen through the wood. Then he'd simply flipped the piece over, and laid it in.
As Sophie moved the lid closer to the light, she saw she was right. The bright beam sifted through the thin layer of wood, and the script appeared in reverse on the underside of the lid. Instantly legible." English," Teabing croaked, hanging his head in shame. "My native tongue."
At the rear of the plane, Remy Legaludec strained to hear beyond the rumbling engines, but the conversation up front was inaudible. Remy did not like the way the night was progressing. Not at all. He looked down at the bound monk at his feet. The man lay perfectly still now, as if in a trance of acceptance, or perhaps, in silent prayer for deliverance.
Fifteen thousand feet in the air, Robert Langdon felt the physical world fade away as all of his thoughts converged on Sauniere's mirror-image poem, which was illuminated through the lid of the box.
The Da Vinci Code
Sophie quickly found some paper and copied it down longhand. When she was done, the three of them took turns reading the text. It was like some kind of archaeological crossword... a riddle that promised to reveal how to open the cryptex. Langdon read the verse slowly.
An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll... and helps us keep her scatter'd family whole... a headstone praised by templars is the key... and at bash will reveal the truth to thee.
Before Langdon could even ponder what ancient password the verse was trying to reveal, he felt something far more fundamental resonate within him - the meter of the poem. Iambic pentameter.
Langdon had come across this meter often over the years while researching secret societies across Europe, including just last year in the Vatican Secret Archives. For centuries, iambic pentameter had been a preferred poetic meter of outspoken literati across the globe, from the ancient Greek writer Archilochus to Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and Voltaire - bold souls who chose to write their social commentaries in a meter that many of the day believed had mystical properties. The roots of iambic pentameter were deeply pagan.
Iambs. Two syllables with opposite emphasis. Stressed and unstressed. Yin yang. A balanced pair. Arranged in strings of five. Pentameter. Five for the pentacle of Venus and the sacred feminine.
"It's pentameter!" Teabing blurted, turning to Langdon. "And the verse is in English! La lingua pura!"
Langdon nodded. The Priory, like many European secret societies at odds with the Church, had considered English the only European pure language for centuries. Unlike French, Spanish, and Italian, which were rooted in Latin - the tongue of the Vatican - English was linguistically removed from Rome's propaganda machine, and therefore became a sacred, secret tongue for those brotherhoods educated enough to learn it.
"This poem," Teabing gushed," references not only the Grail, but the Knights Templar and the scattered family of Mary Magdalene! What more could we ask for?"
"The password," Sophie said, looking again at the poem. "It sounds like we need some kind of ancient word of wisdom?"
"Abracadabra?" Teabing ventured, his eyes twinkling.
A word of five letters, Langdon thought, pondering the staggering number of ancient words that might be considered words of wisdom - selections from mystic chants, astrological prophecies, secret society inductions, Wicca incantations, Egyptian magic spells, pagan mantras - the list was endless.
"The password," Sophie said, "appears to have something to do with the Templars." She read the text aloud. " 'A headstone praised by Templars is the key. '"
"Leigh," Langdon said, "you're the Templar specialist. Any ideas?"
Teabing was silent for several seconds and then sighed. "Well, a headstone is obviously a grave marker of some sort. It's possible the poem is referencing a gravestone the Templars praised at the tomb of Magdalene, but that doesn't help us much because we have no idea where her tomb is." "The last line," Sophie said," says that Atbash will reveal the truth. I've heard that word. Atbash." "I'm not surprised," Langdon replied. "You probably heard it in Cryptology 101. The Atbash Cipher is one of the oldest codes known to man."
Of course! Sophie thought. The famous Hebrew encoding system.
The Atbash Cipher had indeed been part of Sophie's early cryptology training. The cipher dated back to 500 B. C. and was now used as a classroom example of a basic rotational substitution scheme. A common form of Jewish cryptogram, the Atbash Cipher was a simple substitution code based on the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet. In Atbash, the first letter was substituted by the last letter, the second letter by the next to last letter, and so on.
"Atbash is sublimely appropriate," Teabing said. "Text encrypted with Atbash is found throughout the Kabbala, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even the Old Testament. Jewish scholars and mystics are stillfinding hidden meanings using Atbash. The Priory certainly would include the Atbash Cipher as part of their teachings."
"The only problem," Langdon said," is that we don't have anything on which to apply the cipher."
Teabing sighed. "There must be a code word on the headstone. We must find this headstone praised by Templars."
Sophie sensed from the grim look on Langdon's face that finding the Templar headstone would be no small feat.
Atbash is the key, Sophie thought. But we don't have a door.
It was three minutes later that Teabing heaved a frustrated sigh and shook his head. "My friends, I'm stymied. Let me ponder this while I get us some nibblies and check on Remy and our guest." He stood up and headed for the back of the plane. Sophie felt tired as she watched him go. Outside the window, the blackness of the predawn was absolute. Sophie felt as if she were being hurtled through space with no idea where she would land. Having grown up solving her grandfather's riddles, she had the uneasy sense right now that this poem before them contained information they still had not seen.
There is more there, she told herself. Ingeniously hidden... but present nonetheless.
Also plaguing her thoughts was a fear that what they eventually found inside this cryptex would not be as simple as" a map to the Holy Grail." Despite Teabing's and Langdon's confidence that the truth lay just within the marble cylinder, Sophie had solved enough of her grandfather's treasure hunts to know that Jacques Sauniere did not give up his secrets easily.