Langdon could see Sophie was still shaken from recounting her experience of Hieros Gamos. For his part, Langdon was amazed to have heard it. Not only had Sophie witnessed the full-blown ritual, but her own grandfather had been the celebrant... the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. It was heady company. Da Vinci, Botticelli, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau...JacquesSauniere.
"I don't know what else I can tell you," Langdon said softly.
Sophie's eyes were a deep green now, tearful. "He raised me like his own daughter."
Langdon now recognized the emotion that had been growing in her eyes as they spoke. It was remorse. Distant and deep. Sophie Neveu had shunned her grandfather and was now seeing him in an entirely different light.
Outside, the dawn was coming fast, its crimson aura gathering off the starboard. The earth was still black beneath them.
"Victuals, my dears?" Teabing rejoined them with a flourish, presenting several cans of Coke and a box of old crackers. He apologized profusely for the limited fare as he doled out the goods. "Our friend the monk isn't talking yet," he chimed, "but give him time." He bit into a cracker and eyed the poem. "So, my lovely, any headway?" He looked at Sophie. "What is your grandfather trying to tell us here? Where the devil is this headstone? This headstone praised by Templars." Sophie shook her head and remained silent. While Teabing again dug into the verse, Langdon popped a Coke and turned to the window, his thoughts awash with images of secret rituals and unbroken codes. A headstone praised by Templarsis the key.He took a long sip from the can. A headstone praised by Templars.The cola was warm.
The dissolving veil of night seemed to evaporate quickly, and as Langdon watched the transformation, he saw a shimmering ocean stretch out beneath them. The English Channel.It wouldn't be long now.
Langdon willed the light of day to bring with it a second kind of illumination, but the lighter it became outside, the further he felt from the truth. He heard the rhythms of iambic pentameter and chanting, Hieros Gamos and sacred rites, resonating with the rumble of the jet.
A headstone praised by Templars.
The plane was over land again when a flash of enlightenment struck him. Langdon set down his empty can of Coke hard. "You won't believe this," he said, turning to the others. "The Templar headstone - I figured it out."
Teabing's eyes turned to saucers. "You know where the headstone is?" Langdon smiled. "Not where it is. What it is." Sophie leaned in to hear.
"I think the headstone references a literal stone head,"Langdon explained, savoring the familiar excitement of academic breakthrough. "Not a grave marker."
"A stone head?" Teabing demanded. Sophie looked equally confused." Leigh," Langdon said, turning," during the Inquisition, the Church accused the Knights Templar of all kinds of heresies, right?"
"Correct. They fabricated all kinds of charges. Sodomy, urination on the cross, devil worship, quite a list."
"And on that list was the worship of false idols, right? Specifically, the Church accused the Templars of secretly performing rituals in which they prayed to a carved stone head... the pagan god - "
"Baphomet!" Teabing blurted. "My heavens, Robert, you're right! A headstone praised by Templars!"
Langdon quickly explained to Sophie that Baphomet was a pagan fertility god associated with the creative force of reproduction. Baphomet's head was represented as that of a ram or goat, a common symbol of procreation and fecundity. The Templars honored Baphomet by encircling a stone replica of his head and chanting prayers.
"Baphomet," Teabing tittered. "The ceremony honored the creative magic of sexual union, but Pope Clement convinced everyone that Baphomet's head was in fact that of the devil. The Pope used the head of Baphomet as the linchpin in his case against the Templars."
Langdon concurred. The modern belief in a horned devil known as Satan could be traced back to Baphomet and the Church's attempts to recast the horned fertility god as a symbol of evil. The Church had obviously succeeded, although not entirely. Traditional American Thanksgiving tables still bore pagan, horned fertility symbols. The cornucopia or" horn of plenty" was a tribute to Baphomet's fertility and dated back to Zeus being suckled by a goat whose horn broke off and magically filled with fruit. Baphomet also appeared in group photographs when some joker raised two fingers behind a friend's head in the V-symbol of horns; certainly few of the pranksters realized their mocking gesture was in fact advertising their victim's robust sperm count.
"Yes, yes," Teabing was saying excitedly. "Baphomet must be what the poem is referring to. A headstone praised by Templars."
"Okay," Sophie said, "but if Baphomet is the headstone praised by Templars, then we have a new dilemma." She pointed to the dials on the cryptex. "Baphomet has eight letters. We only have room for five."
Teabing grinned broadly. "My dear, this is where the Atbash Cipher comes into play"
Langdon was impressed. Teabing had just finished writing out the entire twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet - alef-beit - from memory. Granted, he'd used Roman equivalents rather than Hebrew characters, but even so, he was now reading through them with flawless pronunciation.
A B G D H V Z Ch T Y K L M N S O P Tz Q R Sh Th
"Alef, Beit, Gimel, Dalet, Hei, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yud, Kaf, Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samech, Ayin, Pei, Tzadik, Kuf, Reish, Shin, and Tav." Teabing dramatically mopped his brow and plowed on. "In formal Hebrew spelling, the vowel sounds are not written. Therefore, when we write the word Baphomet using the Hebrew alphabet, it will lose its three vowels in translation, leaving us - "
"Five letters," Sophie blurted.
Teabing nodded and began writing again. "Okay, here is the proper spelling of Baphomet inHebrew letters. I'll sketch in the missing vowels for clarity's sake.
B a P V o M e Th
"Remember, of course," he added," that Hebrew is normally written in the opposite direction, but we can just as easily use Atbash this way. Next, all we have to do is create our substitution scheme by rewriting the entire alphabet in reverse order opposite the original alphabet."
"There's an easier way," Sophie said, taking the pen from Teabing. "It works for all reflectional substitution ciphers, including the Atbash. A little trick I learned at the Royal Holloway." Sophie wrote the first half of the alphabet from left to right, and then, beneath it, wrote the second half, right to left. "Cryptanalysts call it the fold-over. Half as complicated. Twice as clean."
Teabing eyed her handiwork and chuckled. "Right you are. Glad to see those boys at the Holloway are doing their job."
Looking at Sophie's substitution matrix, Langdon felt a rising thrill that he imagined must have rivaled the thrill felt by early scholars when they first used the Atbash Cipher to decrypt the now famous Mystery of Sheshach.For years, religious scholars had been baffled by biblical references to a city called Sheshach.The city did not appear on any map nor in any other documents, and yet it was mentioned repeatedly in the Book of Jeremiah - the king of Sheshach, the city of Sheshach, the people of Sheshach. Finally, a scholar applied the Atbash Cipher to the word, and his results were mind-numbing. The cipher revealed that Sheshach was in fact a code word for another very well-known city. The decryption process was simple.
Sheshach, in Hebrew, was spelled: Sh-Sh-K.
Sh-Sh-K, when placed in the substitution matrix, became B-B-L.
B-B-L, in Hebrew, spelled Babel.
The mysterious city of Sheshach was revealed as the city of Babel, and a frenzy of biblical examination ensued. Within weeks, several more Atbash code words were uncovered in the Old Testament, unveiling myriad hidden meanings that scholars had no idea were there.
"We're getting close," Langdon whispered, unable to control his excitement.
"Inches, Robert," Teabing said. He glanced over at Sophie and smiled. "You ready?" She nodded." Okay, Baphomet in Hebrew without the vowels reads: B-P-V-M-Th.Now we simply apply your Atbash substitution matrix to translate the letters into our five-letter password."
Langdon's heart pounded. B-P-V-M-Th.The sun was pouring through the windows now. He looked at Sophie's substitution matrix and slowly began to make the conversion. B is Sh...P is V...
Teabing was grinning like a schoolboy at Christmas. "And the Atbash Cipher reveals..." He stopped short. "Good God!" His face went white.
Langdon's head snapped up.
"What's wrong?" Sophie demanded.
"You won't believe this." Teabing glanced at Sophie. "Especially you." "What do you mean?" she said." This is... ingenious," he whispered. "Utterly ingenious!" Teabing wrote again on the paper. "Drumroll, please. Here is your password." He showed them what he had written.
Sophie scowled. "What is it?"
Langdon didn't recognize it either.
Teabing's voice seemed to tremble with awe. "This, my friend, is actually an ancient word of wisdom."
Langdon read the letters again. An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll.An instant later he got it. He had never seen this coming. "An ancient word of wisdom!" Teabing was laughing. "Quite literally!" Sophie looked at the word and then at the dial. Immediately she realized Langdon and Teabing had failed to see a serious glitch. "Hold on! This can't be the password," she argued. "The cryptex doesn't have an Sh on the dial. It uses a traditional Roman alphabet."
"Read the word," Langdon urged. "Keep in mind two things. In Hebrew, the symbol for the sound Sh can also be pronounced as S, depending on the accent. Just as the letter P can be pronounced F."
SVFYA? she thought, puzzled.
"Genius!" Teabing added. "The letter Vav is often a placeholder for the vowel sound O!" Sophie again looked at the letters, attempting to sound them out." S... o... f... y... a."
She heard the sound of her voice, and could not believe what she had just said. "Sophia? This spells Sophia?"
Langdon was nodding enthusiastically. "Yes! Sophia literally means wisdom in Greek. The root of your name, Sophie, is literally a 'word of wisdom.'"
Sophie suddenly missed her grandfather immensely. He encrypted the Priory keystone with my name.A knot caught in her throat. It all seemed so perfect. But as she turned her gaze to the five lettered dials on the cryptex, she realized a problem still existed. "But wait... the word Sophia has six letters."
Teabing's smile never faded. "Look at the poem again. Your grandfather wrote, 'An ancient word of wisdom.' "Yes?" Teabing winked. "In ancient Greek, wisdom is spelled S-O-F-I-A."