Archive for 2011

“Ephron writes the following; ‘I cracked an egg upon my dining room table,’ Stop, ‘‘It puddled and pooled, glimmering like a jellyfish in the morning light’ Stop, ‘Then majestically it slid its finger across the boundary of the table’s edge‘  Stop, ‘Falling, it picked up speed, The whole jelly fish thing, gripped by it’s own surface tension, slopped onto my rug‘  Stop, and end of message.” 


“Is this really what he sent?” Xerxes asked. The scribe was already working on the next clay tablet. He nodded an ‘Uh huh’ without even looking up at the king. The boy was good a the de-coding rings. He spun the flat pancake sized clay tablet within the larger donut of the outer ring. Crisp cuneiform letters lined up between the outer and inner parts of the thing and the scribe nodded at each character before taking his stylus and poking it into his translation tablet. It all was an enigma to Xerxes.


He tapped the boy’s shoulder. “Why is Ephron writing about eggs?” 


“Perhaps some indication of their troop strength,” the scribe shrugged.


Xerxes turned and looked gloomily at the maps of Greece scattered upon the room’s large chart table. Already his generals were gathering. Beckoning to the nearest servant he growled, “Get me an egg!”  The boy blinked twice and did not move. The king raised his hand to strike and the boy croaked, “fried or...?”


“Raw. Now!”


If the egg had been there at hand, surely Xerxes would have smacked to the table and poked its white across the edge.  Instead it took a moment and he had time to reflect within the room’s uncomfortable silence. When it came, he rolled it within his palm, feeling its smooth security. Then quietly he called to him the oldest of his advisors. Galgemesh had cracked open many mysteries in his day, but now he limped the meandering corridors of dementia.


“Take this to our man, Ephron,” Xerxes handed him the egg. “You know. The spy you had me place within the courts of the Spartan lords.”


Galgemesh grinned as if the punchline of a joke were coming.


“No, I mean this. You, and you alone, must travel to the isles of the Peloponnese. You must do it because you devised this code and bear the responsibility.” Here the king returned to the scribes table and took the large outer decoding ring. Gently he placed it over his advisors neck. “Wear this as your royal necklace and say to Ephron that we received his words. From now on we will confuse our enemies by speaking everything plainly and without code.”


And so it became a law among the Medes and the Persians to speak what you mean and mean what you say. Unfortunately they lost at Thermopylae and the Greeks had other laws to pass down to Western culture.

copyright Bill Kemp, 2013
Persian Decoder Ring