Codex of the Lost Legion

From the Journal of Andrew Ezekial Crawley, 1933.

March 8, Home

After returning from what I have taken to calling the Berlin Book Grab, I decided to contact my childhood friend Elijah Snow. I feel I now have a better understanding of how unusual the world really is and how much truth Elijah has been printing in his yearly editions of the Planetary Guide. I have much to tell him about my recent travels and would very much like to discuss the Adventure Earth! Company with him. I have sent a telegram to him requesting a meeting to discuss matters in Africa, now I await his reply. In the meantime, I am spending a pleasant amount of time with my parents and siblings.

March 12, Home

I received an intriguing letter in the mail today. The return address on the envelope simply read “The Planetary Society” and I assumed it was a response from Elijah in regards to my telegram. It was not. Instead it was from a colleague of his, one Yosif Wyclif, who maintained the Planetary Society offices in Philadelphia and assisted Elijah in compiling the yearly Planetary Guides. He wrote that Elijah had recently left for Africa, but had been forwarded my telegram along with some additional Society correspondence. In response, Elijah asked Yosif to convey his regrets to me that the two of us would not be able to meet at this time, but also suggested that my language and history skills may be of some use in another Society matter. Yosif further explained in the letter that the Planetary Society had some text in its possession that could use some review and context. As Elijah felt my skills may be of use in relation to this text, Yosif asked if I would come to the Society offices and look at the text in question, offering to cover my travel expenses and provide a small stipend for my services.

As this is a request from Elijah, I would willingly help without the offer of pay. However, the one hard lesson I and my family have learned since the Crash was to accept what employment opportunities come your way. I have no current duties at the university and actually have a positive balance at the bank (due to the pay from AEC), I am inclined to accept Yosif’s offer. I believe I will discuss it with Father and Mother first.

March 14, On Train to Philadelphia

After discussing the offer with Father and Mother, I telegraphed Yosif my acceptance of his offer. He replied that arrangements had been made for me to take a train to Philadelphia and a room paid for at The Morris House for a week. So I made what arrangements were necessary on my part, packed my bags for a week long trip to Philadelphia, and I am now on my way.

I have had some time to think on the train and find it odd the direction my life is taking. I have been following happenings in Berlin as a result of the fire in the Reichstag and have trouble reconciling official accounts as reported in the newspapers with my own observations. This along with what I know regarding the crystal skull and the Mayan Expedition underlines for me the differences in what the public is shown and what may actually be the truth. I am confident that none of the archeological expeditions I have worked on prior to my involvement with AEC were anything less than honest. I am also now confident that there is more to the world and have started re-reading my copies of the Planetary Guide as truth.

The train is arriving in Philadelphia. More later.

March 14, 22:25, Philadelphia

An interesting day. After checking in at The Morris House, I walked to the offices of the Planetary Society. If Yosif had not given me direct instructions, I would have missed the entrance. The entrance is an alley entrance and appears to be little more than a back exit from the building. Once inside, the look changes completely – the offices are as well furnished as the meeting room at AEC.

Yosif met me after being summoned by a receptionist whose name I did not get. He escorted me back to his office and provided some background as to the text he wanted me to examine. The text itself came to the Planetary Society through the Russian expatriate community in Shanghai. The text is part of a codex found deep in the western deserts of China. The Society is considering the purchase of the rest of the codex, but has not been able to determine its veracity.

With that preamble, Yosif laid out a page of a codex on the table in front of me. The page was made of cloth with the text wood-printed on it, appeared to be from an ancient codex, and had either fallen out with age or was carefully torn out. The text was in an old form of Latin and, after an unusual preamble honoring what appeared to be a Chinese ruler, identified the writer as the grandson of a man who had served under General Crassus against the Parthians. It went on to declare that it would describe the history of how his people came to serve the Chinese ruler in the preamble. The text reached the end of the page just as it started describing where the author’s grandfather came from.

Talking with Yosif after reading the text, I learned that the Chinese emperor in question was from the Han dynasty and this codex may represent the earliest evidence of contact between the East and the West. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that this would be an excellent find if it could be verified. Yosif was already putting together a field team and needed a fourth person, someone who had knowledge of where the Legionnaires came from and what route they would have taken while escaping the Parthians. Someone like myself.

Knowing that the AEC would not be calling on me for several months and that this should not take more than a few weeks, I agreed to participate. Yosif agreed to make available the materials associated with this project, including history works on western China. It will be several days before the rest of the team arrived and I want to be ready for my part. I have already notified my family that my one week trip has lead to further work and asked Aaron to send me my working travel kit. I trust my twin brother to send me my pistol and ammunition along with additional clothes without worrying our parents over that particular detail.

March 15, 21:48, Philadelphia

I started learning about western China and the early history of China in general today. I met one of the other team members today, a Chinese woman in her thirties by the name of Su Tsai, or in the Chinese fashion, Tsai Su. She is a native of Shanghai whose family moved to America. She is an expert in Chinese history and travels back to Shanghai regularly. She offers to help me learn Chinese customs so I will know how to blend in more. She says more, not better, as my red hair will always make me stand out in China. She also corrects my pronunciation of names when I ask her about places in the reference material Yosif provided me.

This lead to a short class on pronunciation and basic terminology. Chinese is a fascinating language. The sentence structure is very different from the western languages and word meanings depend upon pitch as well as usage. Additionally, there are two basic forms of Chinese: Cantonese and Manchurian. Tomorrow, in addition to more reading and customs training, Tsai Su will be bringing some “proper writing utensils” to start teaching me the basics of written Cantonese Chinese.

March 16, 23:42, Philadelphia

Aaron arrived at the Planetary Society today with my working travel kit. The resulting stir of a second “me” appearing was interesting and educational. Aaron hammed it up for a short while until it became apparent that Yosif and Tsai Su were not responding well. I would not swear that Yosif was about to draw a gun on the two of us, but neither would I swear he wasn’t.

After making proper introductions, the four of us adjourned to lunch. The four of us made a bit of a spectacle sitting together. Aaron explained he brought my kit personally to verify I was alright as a favor to our parents. There was a short period of time when Aaron and I were alone and I gave him a rough outline of what I was doing and where I was going. We spoke in Arabic, a language we both share (thanks to Doctor Vargas) and use when we want to talk without others knowing what we are saying. Perhaps a trifle paranoid, but I have learned it is better to be safe rather than sorry. After lunch, Aaron returned home and my lessons in Cantonese resumed.

March 17, 21:56, Philadelphia

I was introduced to the other two members of the team: Victor Hubert and Ian Thorpe. Victor is a rangy man who reminds me of Jack in many ways. He was once part of the French Army and was stationed in several ports in the Far East. His job is to provide security for us. Ian is the official negotiator for the transaction and his job is to conclude the negotiations once Tsai Su and I confirm it is a legitimate item. As the only member of the team who does not speak fluent Chinese, I see there will be ample opportunity for me to practice. I will also be able to work out some of the edges on my French with Victor.

Now that the team is assembled, we will travel to Shanghai for the meeting.

April 5, 20:34, Shanghai

Due to tensions between Japan and China, we had to take a southerly route, hopping across the Pacific Ocean. Other than giving me time to learn Cantonese Chinese, the less said the better. The meeting to verify the merchandise is set for the 8th and we have a few days to recuperate from our trip. Now, sleep.

April 6, 9:14, Shanghai

Rested, bathed, and shaved I feel a new man. I am waiting on the others for a late breakfast before scouting Shanghai. There is a large Russian Royalist expatriate community here in Shanghai as well as an Imperial Japanese military presence. I have been warned by Tsai Su and Victor to avoid wandering on my own and I intend to heed their advice. In the meantime, I am continuing my reading on western China.

April 6, 21:41, Shanghai

We spent the day familiarizing ourselves with the city and the area where the meeting would take place. The city is an odd mix of squalor and beauty. Tsai Su found us several excellent food vendors and restaurants. I think she and Victor were attempting to pull a prank on me with some of the food choices, but only the stinky tofu was worse than food I have eaten in the field on expedition.

My grasp on spoken Cantonese Chinese is firming up nicely (only two groups of children laughed when I ask questions), but I still need work on reading written Chinese.

April 8, 14:52, Shanghai

The meeting to verify the codex finished an hour ago and it went as well as could be expected. The codex was found in a desert cave and appears to be extremely well preserved. Tsai Su and I examined portions of it and the text was informative. The early part of the text describes portions of the trip the Legionnaires followed from Parthia to China and matches what I know of the area and the times. Tsai Su was satisfied that the later portions were accurate for the late Han period. We both confirmed to Ian that the codex appeared genuine and he smiled.

Ian’s smile left when our Russian Loyalist hosts informed us that a second buyer had appeared and wished to bid on the codex. The bidding session would begin in two days.

Ian is contacting Yosif to explain the situation and find out how much the Society is willing to pay for the codex. Tsai Su and Victor are out working various contacts, trying to find out who the other bidder is and whether or not the Russians are trying to pull a scam. Being obvious (red hair in a sea of black), I am sitting in the hotel, attempting to read a newspaper. I think I am getting about 50% of what I’m reading.

April 9, 8:34, Shanghai

Both Tsai Su and Victor returned late last night. Both learned that a Japanese business consortium was the other bidder on the codex. Victor learned that, although a small consortium, the group also had strong ties to the Japanese military here in Shanghai and to the government in Japan. Tsai Su learned that the same group had been purchasing other items found in the western desert and seemed to be looking for something in particular. The consortium’s name was Kumori Maru. I asked what the name meant and Ian apparently spoke some Japanese and said it translated roughly to Circle of Shadows.

The Shattenkreis.

I am told that I turned a few shades paler and my expression went dead for a moment. When asked about it, I explained that I had had a run-in with a German group with a similar name in Paris in January. A run-in that may have ended in a shooting. The German group was also mentioned in last years printing of the Guide. Our table in the bar was very quiet for several minutes after that. The silence was finally broken by Ian who flatly stated that we could not let the Kumori Maru get the codex. We all agreed and made plans to get the codex early and then immediately leave Shanghai.

Tsai Su, Victor, and Ian are all out making the necessary preparations. As the only member of the team without contacts in the city, all I can do is sit here and wait.

April 11, 5:46, Ningbo

Our plan went both better and worse than we anticipated. We got the codex and none of us were shot (which is not to say there was no shooting). Unfortunately, the Kumori Maru mobilized the Imperial Army troops and cut us off from our plane. Now we have to make our way overland as fugitives. I’ve died my hair so I am not as easy to spot, but I still stand out. I’m not writing down where we are going in case I am captured. In fact, this will be my last journal entry for a while.

July 24 (Estimate), 9:35, Pamir Mountains

Our route to Hong Kong was cut off by Imperial Japanese military units and shadow warriors of the Kumori Maru. We were forced to make our way west, across the width of China. Tsai Su and I spent what little spare time we had time transcribing the codex and learning its contents. We discovered that the text describes the location of a valley the Legionnaires settled and the settlement they built. After some discussion, we decided to investigate as our path out of China would take us along the old Silk Route and possibly near this valley.

Last week we found the valley and the oldest surviving fragment of Rome.

More to the point, our group was discovered by a patrol wearing armor made out of local materials but speaking a form of Latin that was heavily influenced by the local dialects of Chinese. They were very hostile until I started speaking Latin to them. I was able to convince them not to kill us out of hand. They took our weapons and escorted us back to their outpost, but did not tie us up, so I was hopeful.

At their outpost we were questioned by their Decurion, a man with blonde hair and green eyes but also signs of Chinese ancestry. Tsai Su and I spoke with him at length while a scribe transcribed the entire conversation. Apparently, this outpost was a forward observation point for the lands beyond, where the Roman way of life had continued since the founding of the settlement. Not all of those who escaped the Parthians stayed here, some continued east, working as mercenaries for a chieftain before being captured and forced to settle. These lands stayed in contact for a while until the Han dynasty fell and it was decided to cut all contact.

I provided what answers I could about the later history of Rome, a conversation that lasted several days. We were provided an area where we could set up camp out of the wind (the outpost only being large enough for its complement of Legionnaires). On the second day, we were joined by three additional people who were introduced as historians from the settlement. Their Latin contained much less Chinese and was grammatically closer to what I was used to when hearing Latin spoken. They wore clothing similar to the ethnic Chinese we had met east of the mountains, but Victor later pointed out that to his eyes they wore them like costumes, not their regular clothes. We spent some time discussing (in English, as we were reasonably certain that it would be unfamiliar to them) the possibility that they were hiding the true extent of their culture from us. This also led to speculation as to whether or not they would let us leave.

On the fifth day of our conversations, the Kumori Maru shadow warriors caught up with us again and attacked. They were still trying to get the codex, not realizing that they were on the doorstep of what their masters were looking for.

Our group was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of gunfire and odd whistling noises. The Legionnaires had detected the approach of the shadow warriors and challenged them. The shadow warriors, believing the legionnaires to be farmers or herders attacked, starting a gunfight. The odd whistling sounds were the noises made by the weapons of the Legionnaires, pistols that used some sort of rocket-propelled ammunition instead of gunpowder. It had the advantage of having no muzzle-flash, avoiding the loss of night vision and giving away their positions. As the legionnaires still had our weapons, we spent the entire attack staying under cover.

After the attack was over, we were summoned by the Decurion to try and explain the situation. It was clear to us that we also needed to explain how we were not part of this. I did this by sticking to the truth, mostly. I explained about the codex and the Kumori Maru and that they had been pursuing us for months. As the Kumori Maru were tracking us, I offered our groups services to lead the shadow warriors away from here. At no point did I ask about their weapons or the odd goggles that allowed them to see at night. I also never mentioned that Tsai Su and I had made a copy of the codex. Neither seemed a good idea to bring up.

After giving our explanations, we were sent back to our camp so the Decurion could “think on it.” I was beginning to suspect that he had something akin to a radio hidden in the outpost and was contacting his superiors. Victor was of the same opinion and suggested that we may need to escape now while we still could. Tsai Su pointed out that we had no weapons, the Legionnaires did, and the Legionnaires had devices that allowed them to see clearly in the dark, making it very likely that the time for escape for us was five days past. None of us had very much sleep that night. Luckily, no one was a snorer like Kurt.

The next morning we were summoned again. The Decurion told us that our offer to lead the forces of the Kumori Maru away from here had been accepted. We would be given all the supplies we could carry and sent away to the southwest. This outpost would be removed and steps would be taken to keep others from finding their home in the future. We were thanked for the information about the later history of Rome and in exchange we were given a treatise on the early history of Rome, compiled from writings by the earliest members of their home. The treatise was in the form of a series of scrolls made of paper. We accepted the offered terms and made our preparations to leave.

We have now traveled two days away from the outpost and I find I have a need to write these things down while I still remembered them. I believe that the shadow warriors who attacked the outpost were the last of those pursuing us, and without anyone to question which way we went, their odds of finding us are minimal. I have some knowledge of this area due to digs I participated in excavating Indus Valley Civilization sites. We should be able to skirt the western edges of the Himalayas and follow the Indus River south to Karachi. From there we will be able to make our way home.

August 16, Karachi

We lucked into finding wild horses and made excellent time down out of the mountains. We traded the horses for passage on a boat down the Indus and arrived in Karachi yesterday. Ian was able to contact Yosif and explain our needs. Money was wired to a British bank here in Karachi and we have made travel arrangements to get back to Philadelphia. It will take two weeks, but none of it will involve hiking through mountains or deserts, something the group of us has had enough of for quite some time.

Speaking English to others after exclusively speaking Chinese for months feels odd. On most of the digs I participated in, I spoke multiple languages, changing depending upon with whom I was speaking. This is the longest I’ve had to solely rely on a newly learned language. I’ve also noticed that even though it is no longer necessary, the four of us tend to speak to each other exclusively in Chinese. After getting off the telephone from speaking to Yosif, in English, Ian gave us an update in Chinese. I feel like that will stick with the four of us for the rest of our lives.

There is also one other thing. Tsai Su and I have become close during our travels. Nothing has been directly said and we have talked around the issue at times, but we have also often not slept apart. Now that we have safely made it out of China and the four of us are likely to go our separate ways, I find I am not looking forward to separation from Tsai Su. Our return to Philadelphia will take two weeks as we are not pressed for time and likely out of the Kumori Maru’s sphere of influence. During this time I want to talk privately with Tsai Su about what is between us. After being chased across the Asian continent and being in danger multiple times, I think I am more nervous about this than anything else in the last five months.

August 19, 22:06, Cairo

I was able to get some time alone with Tsai Su to talk. She let me fidget and stammer for ten minutes before breaking out in to sweet laughter. At first I was crushed, until she sobered up enough to admit she had been secretly reading my journal since discovering I kept one while we were still in Philadelphia! She said it let her get to know me better without being intrusive. She also said she had been wondering how long it would take me to get the courage to bring the subject up. That minx!

So we talked, explaining our lives to each other. In many ways we share many things. We both agree we want to build a life together, but neither of us is certain how our families will react. For now, we will proceed together, one step at a time. And she’s reading over my shoulder now, so I’m done writing for today.

September 1, 21:34, Philadelphia

Elijah made it back from Africa before I made it back from China and we were able to talk about our respective trips. I have the feeling Elijah left behind something he wished he hadn’t. I consider myself very lucky to have returned with more than I left with. Plus the materials for the Society, Su, in case you were wondering.

Codex of the Lost Legion

Adventure Earth Company PatrickW