1.

"You can't get there from here."
     At the time, Pavlos Apropoulos thought his American friend was joking. Now he wasn't so sure.
     "Try it and see," Frank had said. "It's less than 250 kilometers from Athens, and I'll bet you can't even get close to it!"
     That had been easy enough for Frank to say, sitting in the comfort of Pavlos's Athens apartment. He wasn't going to be the one who went alone, into the wilderness, to test it.

     Pavlos's arms felt as if they were about to come off. The branch he was holding on to might tear free at any second, leaving him without any firm support. Yet his feet couldn't seem to find a purchase.
     There was dust everywhere. The canyon was filled with a clay pungence that mixed with the overripe odors of bramble bush and perspiration. He could taste blood from one of the cuts he'd taken on his face, during the panicky scramble down the flaky, slippery talus.
     This was the easiest route. He was sure of it.
     The branch tore loose just as Pavlos got his right foot settled on an uncertain chunk of partially decomposed granite. For a moment he teetered. The canyon wavering about him in a blur of hazy green thorn bushes and a narrow strip of cloudy sky.
     Pavlos threw the cluster of twigs away and grabbed for another hold. But dry leaves came off like chaff in his hands as the ground crumbled beneath him.
     The brush that had been so formidable in blocking his earlier descent now broke and parted in front of him like chips flying from an axe. Branches tore and whipped at his arms, which he vainly tried to keep over his face as he fell, running and crashing, down the steep slope.
     Somehow, he stayed on his feet, though they skidded on the powdery surface. The shrubbery thickened toward the bottom and the slope flattened, but this slowed him only slightly as the headlong rush sent him splashing across a small rivulet of dirty water to slam, arms outstretched, into the opposite canyon wall.
     Fragments of desiccated, ancient rock rained down upon him as he labored to catch his breath in a series of shuddering gasps. The clumps fell in a steady stream -- a miniature landslide onto the back of his head.
     Pavlos stood still, taking things in order. He wasn't ready to begin cataloguing the bruises and scrapes he had taken. The thudding of loose gravel on his skull meant no more to his overloaded senses than the chalky, rank odor of dust and sweat which he took in with each ragged breath, or the almost unbearable weight of his backpack.
     The landfall subsided at about the same rate as Pavlos's breathing. Dust settled, leaving a fine white patina on his hair and hunched shoulders. He waited a few moments longer, eyes shut tightly against the floating grit, listening to the fading creakings his passage down the scarp had set off. When finally he looked around, Pavlos shuddered.
     In thirty years of mountaineering he had seen many ravines like this, but this was the first time he had ever been in one. There had never been a need, before. There had always been another way... an easier route.
     Not this time, though. The place where he had come down was the best he had found in an entire day of searching. It was hideous.
     Gnarled trees and thorn bushes covered the sixty-degree slope. Jagged rocks protruded from the starved, parched soil. It was a miracle he had come this far without breaking a leg, or his skull.
     More than ever he was convinced he was on the right path. This monument to inaccessibility had to be the place Frank had spoken of.
     He checked for cuts and bruises. It was a good thing he had chosen, after carefully examining Frank's aerial photos, to wear leather for this expedition. It had protected most of his skin, although several unbelievable thorns had pierced his garments and had to be pulled out amid momentary, excruciating pain.
     He allowed his pack to slide down and form a seat to rest on. With slow deliberation, he drew out his aid kit and applied disinfectant to the cuts on his face and the backs of his wrists.
     Only after his breathing settled, and the spots disappeared from in front of his eyes, did he allow himself a slow, sparing swallow from one of his canteens. He wet a handkerchief and carefully wiped the grit away from his eyes and lips.
     Upstream to the right a few dozen meters was the path of ascension he had picked out during his visual scouting, earlier, from the other side. It was the route with marginally fewer obstacles than elsewhere along this face.
     He stood, groaning at the stretch of abused muscles, and moved a few feet to examine the route. Then he compared it with the path he would have to take if he turned around, right now, and went home.
     Sure enough. As bad as the way down had been, it looked more tempting to someone trapped in the ravine than the hellish slope he would have to climb if he continued forward.
     It had been that way all the way here. Every trail, every game path, every natural sloping led one circumspectly away from the small area he wanted to reach. In no specific case had there been anything suspicious about the avoidance. Each time there had been a good and obvious reason to turn one way, instead of the other that led here.
     It was the sum that drove Pavlos crazy. It had only been by the most steadfast determination to violate all of the rules of mountaineering that he had been able to get this far. It had taken two days to come just five kilometers from that last hamlet of surly, taciturn herdsmen.
     Pavlos reached into his pack for the high altitude photos Frank had given him.

     "This is the first one I took from orbit," Frank had said when he showed Pavlos the first large-scale photo. "I used the cartography telescope in interface with the computer on board the Platform. This locale was flagged in the course of a survey I was doing for the EEC -- an attempt to determine population density versus terrain type. This spot gave Fourier Transform that was quite unusual."
     The satellite photo was very clear. It looked like it had been taken from only a few thousand feet in altitude. Pavlos easily recognized the elevation contour markings that lay upon apparently typical Grecian highlands. He had, after all, been teaching map reading and leading expeditions while his young American friend had been scrawling stick figures in crayon on the kitchen wall in his parents' house in Des Moines.
     The photos lay on his dining room table, three stories above the noisy streets of Athens. Outside his apartment door children ran down the hall, screaming in some incoherent game. To him it was all part of the background. He worried over the other lines and squiggles on Frank's map, reluctant to admit his ignorance to the astronaut, however close they had become during a mission in the Sudan, two years before.
     "This is in Thessaly, is it not?" He pointed to the shape of the hillsides, the lay of the sun in the creek beds, wishing to show that expertise meant as much as did fancy technology.
     Frank's eyebrows rose. Impressed, he showed it with typical American ingenuousness. Americans had no second skin, no Mediterranean wall of caution. Pavlos loved them for it.
     "Yes, that's right," Frank had said. "And here you see how the population density and terrain accessibility profiles rise and fall together nicely everywhere.
     He pulled out another photo.
     "Here is the city of Thessalonica, with almost a million people. Now weighted only against local resources, there's no good explanation for its population advantage over, say, Larisa a bit farther south. But taking into account factors such as travel times along various egress points, terrain....
     "Yes, yes. I get the point." Pavlos was pleased. He had managed to get the information out of Frank without asking for it, and picked up an opportunity to mutter with fatherly impatience at the same time. Such minor stylistic victories helped make a pleasure out of a lazy afternoon.
     "So what I can't figure out is why you thought it so important to show this to me at my apartment, and in such secrecy, hmmm?"
     Frank sat down.
     "Oh, hell. You know this is low-priority stuff, Pav. Ever since you helped us find that capsule in the Sahara, you've known that my main job is to experiment with space-borne antimissile systems. When I started getting strange results in my accessibility studies, I just couldn't get anybody interested."
     "All right." Pavlos smiled. "Then I am your informal consultant. Now show me these 'strange results' of yours."
     Frank pulled a large envelope from his briefcase. He drew the first of several glossy prints from it.
     "This is from the same general region, only about thirty kilometers to the southwest of the corner of that large overlay. I want you to take a close look at this area, in particular, before I show you a bigger blowup." Pavlos bent to peer at the plateau Frank pointed out, bringing over his magnifying glass.
     His smile faded as he studied the photo.
     "I cannot say for certain, as your lines of probability get in the way... but it appears that this water course loops back upon itself! It makes almost a natural moat around the hilltop."
     Frank nodded. "I've tried to use the newer telescope we have on board. It's tied in to our experimental beam weapons system..." Almost unconsciously, Frank lowered his voice, although he knew that Pavlos's apartment was secure.
     "I could count the number of black fleas on the backside of a dog with that machine. But it's a bitch and a half getting the thing tuned properly, at this stage. I'm not at all sure I'd be able to devote that kind of time and effort using it on what's essentially a side project, especially when NASA's already paranoid over security. At least I'd like to get some sort of preliminary confirmation before taking the risk."
     Pavlos nodded. As a reserve NATO officer who occasionally helped out in expeditions to desolate regions, he had seen examples of amazing photography from space. And he had the feeling they hadn't ever shown him all they could do.
     "So let us see the best you have." He waved with his right hand as Frank pulled out the fourth photo. "You have me curious about this mystery of yours."
     It showed a plateau in the middle of a set of concentric, parched creek beds, surrounded by rugged, goat-ravaged hills. At the corners of the photo there were signs of humanity, as one would expect everywhere in a land that had been inhabited at high density for four thousand years. In two places there were the ubiquitous shepherd's shacks for overnight shelter. Goat tracks lay everywhere.
     But in the center, all trace of man and animal disappeared. Puzzled, Pavlos peered closer. "Are those...? No, they cannot be."
     "What are they, Pavlos?"
     He rubbed his chin. "I believe those are cedars, very large cedars, of a kind you can only find in the Caucasus these days... or on the estates of old and very wealthy families."
     "There are no estates here, Pavlos. What else do you see?"
     "There are cypress, and some other large trees I cannot identify, and..." He peered closely. "There is a building of some kind. A large, rectangular structure, mostly shaded by trees."
     Frank stood up straight and tapped the photo.
     "See these faint lines? I had the computer draw them along curves of accessibility. See the gradients? If all roads lead to Rome, then all roads, all trails -- hell, all goat tracks -- lead away from this place. Now, how the hell could anyone have built a thing that size on top of that plateau?"
     Pavlos sat back in his chair and drummed his fingers on the tabletop. Then he started rummaging through his jacket pocket for a cigarette. Only when he had one lit did he get up and start to pace.
     "I see two possibilities," he began. "The building may be modern, in which case it could have been prefabricated and taken to the peak by helicopter. The question then would be why? And who would do such a thing? How did they keep it secret?"
     Pavlos turned to look at Frank."That is the possibility that interests you, is it not? Things like this make intelligence officers sleep poorly."
     Frank nodded, but said, "I tried to interest my superiors but they didn't care. They even forbade me to ask the Greek government about it. Our allies are already touchy about the extent we can peer down at them. I'm stuck with following this up on my own."
     Pavlos nodded. "Ah. To be expected from politicians and soldiers, present company excepted. Well, there is a second possibility. If the structure is more than fifty years old, it would have taken fanaticism to build it on that site... a brand of fanaticism that has not been seen in this land for many centuries."
     "And that's the possibility that interests you, isn't it?" Frank suggested. "You'd just love to find an untouched Roman temple, or a pristine Nestorian monastery or hermitage, wouldn't you?"
     Pavlos stopped pacing again, took a deep drag from his cigarette, then waved it at his friend. "I have a feeling I am being persuaded to do something. Is this so?"
     Frank had smiled.

     Pavlos put away the photos and shouldered his backpack. Pain resumed at once, spreading from chafed shoulders down his spine and arms. For the ten-thousandth time he wondered what masochism could drive a man who wasn't in the army to put forty pounds on his back and go places a donkey would refuse.
     When he reached the chosen site he took out his machete, looped its thong from his right wrist, and began climbing.
     No classic ascent, this. None of the clean exhilaration of a challenge with goldline, harness, and carabiners against a bare rock face. The danger here would not be from a single fall -- likely to be broken by shrubbery -- but from jagged rocks, nasty thorns, poisonous snakes, and plain agony. Cerebration would not help so much as watchfulness and stoicism.
     At first the hillside was steep. The foliage was thick enough to bar his path, but too poorly rooted to use for support. It came free of its roots in his hand, leaving him teetering on the crumbling soil. Finally he hit on the technique of tearing the bushes loose on purpose, opening a path to crawl through.
     Soon, however, the slope flattened just enough to give the roots leverage. He found himself again and again forced to take detours... every one of which led him inevitably downward. Finally, he had to lay on his stomach to worm among the burrows and insect nests, shoving upward by brute force.
     It was neither a time nor a place for finesse.
     He hacked at roots with the short machete. The tough, springy bushes bled a gooey yellow sap that soon coated his hands with a cloying, binding stickiness. Perspiration ran in clammy streams along his sides, under the leather jacket. The sun burned down through a muggy haze. The smell of his own sweat mingled with the evil stench of the thorn shrubs.
     Repetition soon became automatic. Reach, pull, hack, hack again, and again, until the plant tears free... keep flat, crawl through the gap, ignoring the jutting rocks and jagged root stumps... reach, pull, set your legs, hack... hack... hack...
     Shortness of breath made him regret his lost youth.
     He kept his mind on only one idea. Take no detours! Every easier path inevitably led downward. It became easy to tell which way was the right one. Pavlos looked for the worst, most miserable path. It was invariably correct.
     Mercifully, just as he thought he could endure the smell, the ache, the heat, and the confinement no longer, he reached a patch of open rock. It was not more than one meter by two, but he fell across it and rolled out of his pack with a groan of relief.
     With trembling fingers he pulled out one of his canteens. He filled his mouth, swished the water around, then spat onto his hands and rubbed them on his pants to dislodge some of the sap.
     Pavlos squinted at the painfully bright, hazy sky.
     He wondered if Frank was overhead. If he were using the spy telescope, and happened to have a spare moment to look this way, Frank might see him right now.
     Pavlos waved languidly at the sky.
     Probably not, he thought. Frank wasn't going to risk getting in trouble until I called from the top.
     There was a small transceiver in his backpack that, Frank promised, would be able to reach the Platform whenever it passed within line of sight. As executive officer of a five-man crew, he would be able to arrange several hours alone with the equipment, while the others slept.
     It hurt a little, in a wry fashion, to think of the astronaut whizzing overhead in weightless, air-conditioned comfort, pondering his theories of "accessibility of terrain." Pavlos knew that inaccessibility was, like the texture of a woman, known only through intimate contact.
     Right now he was being intimate with inaccessibility in a manner that made him think of the Anglo-Saxon expletives he had learned over the years.

     One hundred meters, that was all the distance remaining. Pavlos crawled with a sense of dogged martyrdom. He was sure two fingers of his left hand had been sprained, if not broken, by a falling stone from a rockslide he'd set off. The other aches were innumerable.
     The ascent became a melding of miserable repetition, he would grab, pull, hack, then use the root as a support as he searched for footholds on the flaky slope.
     His mind meanwhile walked a random path among fantasies of what he would find at the top.
     A pre-Constantinian hermitage, perhaps... or even a monastery, untouched for fifteen hundred years because nobody ever happened upon it in all of that time.
     Or maybe this was one huge tell -- a solid ruin from some ancient fortification. It did defend itself well. Not by steepness or remoteness or height but by sheer unpleasantness... a nastiness that deterred even goats.
     By the frogs of lower heaven, why not go all the way! This is, perhaps, a covered-up installation of visitors from outer space, who buried one of their starships here when they ran out of tapioca to power it!
     Pavlos's foot slipped and the root he clutched barely held as he scrambled, face buried in the gritty dirt. With a mighty strain, he lifted himself within range of another foothold. It held.
     Probably, he thought somewhat dizzily, I will find a helicopter landing pad, guard dogs, and an oil tycoon who will have me arrested for trespassing.
     Pavlos hardly noticed when the slope began to flatten.
     In fact, he felt a momentary panic when his hand reached out for another root and grabbed, instead, only air and then grass.

     Cedars formed a pocket forest at the center of the plateau. The grass surrounding the grove was a subject for speculation. It was thicker and more lustrous than one might expect in this terrain, yet it did not appear to be tended, either. Pavlos saw no sign of a helicopter landing pad.
     Not on this side, at least. Who could tell what he would see once the spots cleared from in front of his eyes?
     He knew he looked hardly presentable for knocking on someone's front door. He itched all over. Somehow removing his leather outer garments and tending his wounds had changed the pain from a general background roar that could be ignored to a set of isolated screaming sensations. He had been injured on other expeditions, of course. Often far worse. But never had he felt so generally abused.
     Pavlos took one last swig from his canteen, then hoisted his pack.
     "All right," he mumbled, fighting off dizziness. "This had better be worth it."

     The air was cleaner up here, almost tasty. The smell of the cedars was sweet and pleasant. He entered the grove and almost at once saw the outlines of the building through the trees.
     He paused for a moment, struggling not to fall to his knees. It couldn't be true!
     It was pure beam and column construction. Not an arch could be seen. The columns were Doric, or even pre-Doric -- chaste, simple, unadorned, but beautiful. Their rounded contours might almost be Minoan.
     And the beams resting on the columns! Where a Doric entablature was strictly sectioned into the three horizontal bands, here there was only one, carved in intricate figures that seemed to march upon a protruding lip, like the rim of the door lintel of a Cretan palace.
     The structure was obviously designed to stand open to the wind, yet someone after the original builder had chosen to close off the interior in a crude fashion. The openings between the columns were blocked by slabs of white marble, roughly mortared; the flaking remnants of ancient paint still clung in spots.
     Pavlos walked forward slowly, silently, as if in fear the sounds of his footsteps would blow it all away. He felt telescoped as he approached -- the marble seeming to come to him, like the advancing of a dream.
     No graffiti... no carved names and dates. The figures of heroic horses and feathered men in combat using spears and rounded shields, these bore no defacement other than that which Time itself had meted.
     The warriors, some plumed, some naked to the waist, were of many types. Pavlos saw some that were clearly Minoan and he felt his heart leap. There were others... Egyptian of the Old Kingdom, for certain, and.... Akkadian?
     Pavlos approached one of the columns. Gently, he reached out and touched it.
     The marble had taken pits and tiny scratches over the centuries. It felt rough, in its underlying smoothness. To him, it had the texture of durability.
     The wind sighed through the cedars. It seemed to be speaking to him with the voices of ancient men and women.
     "Well, hero. You are here at last. Come, and you shall tell us of the changes in the world outside."
     Pavlos shook his head to clear it. The words had seemed so real.
     "Come, hero!"
     He turned. Standing at the far end of the row of columns was a woman. She wore a simple garment, bound by a rope belt. Her black hair was braided, though not with great precision.
     She smiled, and held out her hand in a gesture of welcome. But as Pavlos felt himself begin to walk -- numbly and only partly, it seemed, at his own will -- he thought he heard a quiet "clicking" sound, and the sunlight glinted hard into his eyes... reflected bitterly by the golden thimble she wore on her finger.

2.

     "This is the back way," she said as she led him up a narrow set of marble steps. "We find it better to bring heroes in here first, and let them browse around the storeroom. They always find something that interests them, and it helps them adjust."
     At first he thought she was speaking Katharevusa, the modern Greek dialect almost exclusively used by scholars and intellectuals. But the style and pronunciation were different... older. It was almost a bastard classical version she spoke, though his early learning in Katharevusa enabled him to understand her.
     Why was she playing this language game with him? Was she another discoverer of this place, determined to re-create the original dress and speech of those who first served their gods here? If so, she was a failure. The early priestesses of this temple surely spoke Achaean, or something even older.
     "What is your name?" he asked.
     She turned her head from the task of opening the rear door, and arched an eyebrow at him.
     "An odd first question. You may call me Moira, if you wish. Later there will be time for other names, including your own."
     There was a moment's flash of humor in her eyes as she spoke, and perhaps a touch of pity, though Pavlos could imagine no justification.
     Moira? It had a strange pronunciation. Wasn't that an Irish name? Very odd.
     They entered a large chamber that was dimly illuminated by gaps in the marble wall slats, and by one flickering oil lamp. The beam and post construction was genuine. A little more than two meters separated each of the simple columns that stood in even rows throughout the interior. Most of the colonnade was used to support row after row of shelves, upon which piles of dusty memorabilia were laid.
     "I will leave you now," the woman said. "You will find food and drink at the far door. Do not pass beyond until you are called, hero."
     Again, Pavlos felt the self-assured power in her voice, as well as a benign amusement. He wondered what fanaticism bred such arrogance. He called out to her after she had gone a few meters from him.
     "Say, why do you call me hero? That's not my name.
     She looked at him. The lamplight flickered in her eyes.
     "Is it not? How strange that you don't think so. Most heroes know who and what they are. I shall have to ask Clotho to check her pigments."
     She left. Pavlos heard a scraping sound, then a sliding clunk as a bolt was placed.
     With a sigh he let his pack slip down against one of the pillars, then he sat on it, his back to the cool marble.
     This was all too strange to be true. A "genuine" priestess of an ancient cult... Had she implied there were others? He wondered what sect they had chosen to re-create. What rites?
     He was glad he still had his machete.
     Pavlos was growing mildly worried about his frame of mind. He felt detached, numb, almost as if he were watching these proceedings through a protective barrier of cotton batting. Things were being revealed to him in a dramatic sequence. The next scene obviously called for him to go poking through the dusty shelves of this storeroom.
     Hadn't he been invited to do so? He grunted as he pulled himself up and went to the shelves that looked most rummaged.
     If the storeroom was supposed to catch the interest of heroes, this certainly was the section which would have had the most attention. Pavlos nodded in bemusement. This was the weapons collection.
     It was an odd mixture, not in keeping with the apparent classical fixation of the woman's cult. The front shelves held an anachronistic assortment of old, but not archaic, weapons. There was a fine Spanish rapier, resting upon a matchlock musket that had to be five hundred years old, if a day. He blew the dust off a flintlock pistol and peered past halberds and Turkish helmets in search of the real treasure.
     The benumbed haze kept him calm and complacent when -- finally -- he found what he was looking for.
     The bronze was incredibly well preserved. It had maintained much of its original shine and hardness. He wiped dust away from the decorated nasal of the ancient helmet. Its crest of horsehair was still long and stiff, though discolored and flaking. He set it beside a round shield, three feet across, and a short sword with images of snakes running down the haft.
     For a long time he merely looked at them. Then he found the nerve to try on the helm.
     It fit perfectly.
     The musty odor was oddly compelling. Carefully, he fought down the thrill of power he felt. Pavlos removed it and put it back on the shelf.
     Maybe later, he thought.

     In the middle of the room, near the hanging lamp, he found the books.
     There weren't many. That fit. The type of fellow who would fight both nature and his own instincts to come to this place -- whether on a pilgrimage or out of obstinate curiosity, would not have been likely to carry much reading matter with him.
     Pavlos smiled as he returned to his pack and rummaged through the bottom flap. He quickly found the flimsy, air mailed edition of L'Express which he had purchased at the Hotel International before setting out, three days before. He had bought the Parisian paper on an impulse, while stopping off for tobacco. Now he returned to the "library" shelf and carefully placed it next to a small, dog-eared Dutch Bible and a crudely bound volume handwritten in Arabic.
     The newspaper looked good, lying there. Some future... "hero"... might see it and think that a twentieth-century Frenchman had been here.
     Ah, well, Pavlos thought. That's close enough.
     Besides a few Bibles and other apparent guidebooks for a faithful wanderer, there were several crude maps and scrawled notes in many languages. One stretch of vellum came embossed with seals and endorsements. It looked like a treaty of some sort. He could tell that the signatories were Turkish and Italian, but the text appeared to be in some sort of cipher.
     He had carelessly flattened one scroll of brittle, burn-etched sheepskin, and read at least twenty lines of very archaic Greek script, before the meter and carriage of the words penetrated to whatever place his critical faculties had taken to hide. He stared down at the ancient libram then, halfway between agony over the damage he had done it with his rough treatment and ecstasy over his discovery.
     He read, with mounting excitement, the anguished story of a Titan, chained, yet still defiant.

"Nor yet nor thus is it ordained that fate
These things shall compass; but by myriad pangs
And fortunes bet, so shall I 'scape these bonds:
Art than necessity is weaker far."
"Who, then, is helmsman of necessity?"
"The triform Fates and ever mindful Furies."
"Is Zeus, in might, less absolute than these?"
"Even he the fore-ordained cannot escape."

     How easily the classic language read! After all, Pavlos had seen these words before, many times. No one had ever written as once did Aeschylus... unless it was the sage, inspired or not, who first chanted the rhyme that later became Ecclesiastes.
     He dared not imagine that Aeschylus himself had burned the words onto the vellum, any more than Jean Francois Revel had hand-set the newspaper on the shelf, inches away. No, this was surely only a copy of Prometheus Bound... but would have to be the oldest copy anyone alive had ever seen.
     Prometheus, according to the ancient pantheon of Hesiod, had been of the race of Titans, children of the Earth and Sky, who preceded Zeus and the other Hellenic gods. When Zeus rebelled and drove most of the Titans from the face of the Earth, he nevertheless kept Prometheus by his side, for he grew to depend on the advice of the Titan whose name meant "forethought."
     How humanity came to be was never made clear in Greek legend. His destiny as a thinking being, however, was said to have been the gift of Prometheus. The Titan, in his pity, supposedly lent mankind a sliver of his own power -- the fire of imagination, alternately fabled as the skaldic mead of poetry.
     For this, Zeus had Prometheus nailed to a rocky crag, where an eagle daily tore at his ever-regenerating flesh.
     The story was said to have ended happily. Prometheus was released, coming to a reconciliation with Zeus and Man.
     Yet that part of the story had never read as convincingly. It was as if Aeschylus had allowed his fixation on the palpable, growing presence of justice in the world to prejudice his storytelling. Perhaps he simply couldn't reconcile leaving the archetype of justice and pity stranded for eternity in torment.
     Pavlos sniffed. A heady, flavorful aroma suddenly reminded him how hungry he was. He carefully laid the parchment on the shelf and turned to follow his nose.
     A tray of roast lamb, still steaming on the spit, lay on a bench by the door the priestess had used to exit. That he had heard nothing didn't surprise Pavlos at all.
     The meat was tasty, if somewhat unevenly cooked. He chewed slowly as his mind fell deeper into a paradoxical state of numb, bemused excitement.
     Somewhere on that shelf of scrolls might be the missing portions of the work of the moralistic, unhappy Aeschylus... or of the compassionate, upbeat Sophocles... or why not ask for the long-lost Achaean scribblings of Homer himself?
     So many secrets on a shelf of ancient cedar! Could there be a fragment that some Cretan scribe left here, one that might tell of the founding of Knossos or its fall?
     Might there be a tablet that would shed light on who it was, who did whatever deed it was, that caused men to build a legend that became Prometheus?
     There were things here for which a hundred men he knew would gladly kill.
     The bronze helm alone was worth a fortune.

     All right.
     This is not a millionaire's retreat in the hills. It is not an ancient ruin refurbished by a few modern fanatics, recreating an ancient cult.
     Everything in this room was left here. And time has touched each of these things hardly at all since each hero left his contribution to the collection.

     Heroes.
     Just like me.
     Iron slid along granite. The oaken door swung back, scraping noisily on the stone floor. Pavlos stood. The woman, Moira, regarded him.
     "Beginning to adjust at last, I see. But you are a strange one, hero. No souvenirs? Or have you stuffed all our gems in your backpack, hoping to fool us?"
     Pavlos was beginning to understand the condescension and amusement in her voice. It hurt, a little, that she thought him so stupid as to choose the poorest treasures, or to attempt a simple theft. He was tempted to protest, but managed to refrain. She looked at him much as his teacher had when he was five and in nursery school. The analogy was probably not unrealistic.
     He tried, and found it easier than he had expected, to meet her gaze. There were lines around her ice blue eyes that he imagined to come from long, sad laughter. They did not detract from the handsomeness of her high forehead and fine nose. Her carriage was erect and slender, yet there was something in the careless braiding of her hair, or the curve of her ironic smile, that spoke of a burden of waiting that had long passed tedium.
     "Are you ready to see more?" she asked.
     Pavlos waved his hand in what he hoped was an idly grand gesture. "What else could you have that would astonish me more than this room has?"
     She stepped back to hold the door for him.
     "Everything else that has ever mattered, hero," she answered softly, but with a vatic tone. "Everything else that has ever been."

3.

     Racks filled the rest of the temple as far as Pavlos could see. Only a few narrow aisles between the columns were not blocked by tier upon horizontal tier of wooden doweling. There were thirty-three tiers between the stone floor and the dusty, cobwebbed ceiling; and upon every shelf there lay bolts of shimmering, silky, multicolored cloth.
     The arrangement was intricate. As Pavlos walked, peering in the dim light cast by his lamp, he was puzzled at the way the cloth snaked back and forth over the dowels. Only a few folds lay upon one another on each shelf. Yet the fabric on one shelf connected to those on tiers above and below it.
     The long, continuous bolt on his left leapt the aisle high over his head to join the one on his right just under the ceiling. The colors in the portion overhead were bright and vivid, though the lamp was too dim to bring out features. Still, something in what little he could see made Pavlos break out in goose bumps.
     It was one gigantic tapestry. Only two meters wide, its length must have been kilometers.
     The sense of defensive detachment that had never totally left Pavlos now returned in strength. The hand that reached out to stroke the smooth, cool fabric felt like the hand of another man. Glass had never been smoother. Mercury could not have felt more elusively alive under his touch.
     He lifted the top fold and held up the lamp, then bent forward to look into the narrow opening.
     The threads were too fine to make out individually, yet he felt sure that, holding his head at the right angle, he could easily pick them out one by one. It was an odd sensation.
     The pattern of the threads was unlike any he had ever come upon. The weft twisted with incredible complexity, not only in and out of the warp, but with itself, as well.
     The design was intricately abstract at first sight. But there was something in the pattern -- the colors and highlights shifted like phosphorous diatoms as he changed position slightly -- that seemed hypnotically three-dimensional. Pavlos was reminded of the holograms Frank had shown him once. He held the light to one side and squinted at an angle; then his eyes adjusted to a virtual image.

L'Shona the war chief, whose true name was hidden, feared the Powers no more nor less than any normal man. He would die of witchcraft, he knew, as did everyone; and however he died, yes even in battle, his brothers would avenge him by burning a witch. He gave this little thought. It was the way of the world.
 
But now came word that the great king of the Bantu had had a dream, and wanted L'Shona, whose true name was hidden, to come and help divine its meaning.
 
L'Shona was afraid. For the Fire Demon had come to him in sleep, as well, and told him that the Bantu must sweep east, into the land of the small wise ghosts. And he had afterward called in a slave, who he had disemboweled to read the entrails in the sand.
 
And now L'Shona, whose true name was hidden, avoided thinking of his second dream, that the king would do this same thing to him... and thought instead of the east, and war.

     Pavlos stepped back and rubbed his eyes.
     The image had come and gone in a flash of color and emotion. He had not so much seen as felt the emotions of a tribal warrior. He had touched the bright mind, the quick, sad resignation, and the complacent cruelty with which he had dispatched the slave.
     Moreover, Pavlos had felt undertones from the dying slave, whose life ended in ignorant terror at L'Shona's hand. Pavlos sensed the presence of others -- L'Shona's parents and ancestors; his wives, slaves, comrades, and enemies; and his immediate heirs -- nearby in either space or time.
     He felt a weird certainty that, had he shifted his gaze one iota during that holographic second, he would have seen... felt... another instant in the warrior's life, or in the life of a neighbor.
     He moved along the aisle until another image flashed at him unbeckoned.

Xoatuitl hid under a bale of amaranth stalks until the cries of the hunters and the screams of the pursued diminished in the distance. Then, with as little sound as he could manage, he crawled out. There was a chance some followers of the Teacher might be rallying by the lake, where the tools of power were stored. Although he was only twelve, he knew something of their use, and might be able to help them drive back the followers of the Bloodgod.
 
He turned just in time to see the (axe, sword, weapon)...

     Pavlos blinked. Suddenly the viewpoint shifted. He was looking through still another pair of eyes, dimmer, less acute.

Old Tuitaczpec leaned against the wall of the marketplace, breathing hoarsely through toothless gums. He had not been able to keep up with the mob, and had been left to use his (axe, club, indeterminate weapon) upon the prone bodies of wounded followers of the feathered serpent. It was not enough. He wanted vengeance on them, for seducing his grandson away from the old ways of the Bloodgod.
 
When he saw a head emerge from under a bale of amaranth, he gleefully took the opportunity...

     The next time Pavlos blinked he saw an overview. The small section of tapestry he looked upon was colored a sanguinary red. He felt almost overcome by the lust of one half of a city to kill the other half. Taken at a distance, the scene was almost beautiful, in a dreadful fashion.
     A small shift of his eyes told a sad irony: that this civil war would lead, within a year, to the fall of the city to barbarians from the north. A centimeter downward, the color red overwhelmed all other shades.
     There was, in fact, a lot of red everywhere he looked. Bright, sudden patches flashed at him as battles and burnings. Pink tintings leapt out as oppression and grief.
     There were other shades. In fact, Pavlos thought he saw a perpetual effort, in greens and browns of health and chaste blues of thought and art... and especially in the shades of humor and courage, to force the weave in another direction altogether.
     The conflict created a blend of terrible, tragic beauty. The tapestry, as a whole, made him ache inside. The stories leapt at him, individually and in groups, comprising a sum of melancholy that finally made him close his eyes.
     "Moira," he whispered.
     The pronunciation had fooled him. It was not a borrowed, foreign name. It was an honorific. A title.
     "Yes," she said, beside him. "I am She Who Walks, who travels... or used to. Come now, hero. You must meet the Three. The Three Who Weave wish to look upon you."

Continue to 2.


David Brin is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. (The Postman inspired a major film in 1998.) Brin is also known as a leading commentator on modern technological trends. His nonfiction book -- The Transparent Society -- won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. Brin's newest novel Kiln People explores a fictional near future when people use cheap copies of themselves to be in two places at once. The Life Eaters -- a graphic novel -- explores a chilling alternative outcome of World War II.


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CONTENTS for THE RIVER OF TIME:

DESTINY:
The Crystal Spheres
The Loom of Thessaly
The Fourth Vocation of George Gustaf

RECOLLECTON:
Senses Three and Six
Toujours Voir
A Stage of Memory

SPECULATION:
Just a Hint
Tank Farm Dynamo
Thor Meets Captain America

PROPAGATION:
Lungfish
The River of Time