The year was 1799. Antoine was on the verge of a historical breakthrough. Funded by leading French aristocrats, merchants and businessmen, he had lead an expedition of a 1000 men to the heart of Egypt, looking to uncover secrets about ancient Egyptians. The arduous journey from Paris had been filled with an air of adventure. Antoine, a natural leader, had aroused in all 1000 men a drive to explore the uncharted, and had convinced each and every one of them that they were on the brink of greatness. The energy of the crew was infectious, and a few passer-by’s had even joined them, allured by the prospect of being an adventurer. The Egyptian government had cordoned off most of the major archaeological sites from further digging to protect them from degradation, but it wasn’t a problem a few bags of French gold and jewellery couldn't solve.
The group was so enthralled with adventure that they did not even stop to rest after a tiring journey over the Mediterranean sea. As they stepped foot on Egyptian soils, their dreams became much more concrete, the realization that they were only miles away from the culmination of their efforts overjoyed the adventurers. Before they knew it, they were breaking ground at the dig site.
On arrival, however, some of the workers’ enthusiasm began to fizzle out. When Antoine asked them to do the gruelling work of shovelling land and lifting weights they were always supposed to do (and not the noble work they had been promised), murmurs of dissatisfaction spread. There were complaints of long hours passing from worker to worker, and doubts in Antoine’s abilities were becoming increasingly common. Making a breakthrough – which had so far felt like a certainty, seemed less and less plausible by the second.
But not for Antoine. As he looked down on the hundreds of men, camped down and toiling away in the middle of the desert, his eyes gleamed of hope. Behind this gleam of hope, lay a sliver of greed. He was closer than ever to achieving fame and fortune ordinary men could only dream of. He knew from an early age that he was special, and this was his moment to stake his claim, and win the wealth that he was entitled to – no matter the cost.
It was 10 days of non-stop digging. The men who had originally worked out of admiration for Antoine now worked out of fear. They were desperate to find the treasure, not for the riches it brought along with it, but the freedom. Antoine was oblivious to this change in attitude. He was solely focused on finding the ruins.
So it was no surprise that when it was claimed that a large inscribed slab had been discovered Antoine rushed out of his comfortable camp immediately. The moment he saw it he knew that he had done it. He had fulfilled his dream. Everyone else saw a . But Antoine knew what it was. It was the fabled Rosetta stone. The stone which could allow man to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The stone which one unlock thousands of years of history. The stone which would make Antoine world-famous.
Thus, the preparations began. Antoine mustered all the men he could, focussing them on one task. At night, they would use the Rosetta stone to translate famous hieroglyphs from around Egypt, testing whether it would truly be able to decrypt them.
As night time rolled around, Antoine himself led the charge on the translation. He had decided to translate the manuscripts found by his crew in a nearby temple. In the brilliant light of the full moon, he painstakingly translated each word one by one, writing it down on the side.
Antoine read the translated manuscript in its entirety. As he read on, he was amazed. The words fit perfectly. The translation had worked. Reaching the end however, the words began to lose some of their coherence, become more convoluted and malicious. When he reached the end, Antoine was horrified.
“To unlock the secrets of the desert, one must sacrifice a hundred men under the full moon”
For a moment, Antoine hesitated. But the moment soon passed. He knew what he had to do.