The shepherd boy shivered as he returned to the campfire.
“What have you there?” asked his mother.
“Some old rolled up calfskins,” said the boy. “There are some markings on them!”
“Let me see!” said the woman. The roll crumbled in his hand as he tossed it to her.
“Throw it into the fire!” she told him. He did so, and the old material, dry and brittle, burst into flame instantly. “Let me see another!” she demanded.
This time he passed it to her gently so as not to damage the roll.
She handled the second one with some care, but as she pulled at the old cloth ribbon that was wrapped about the skin the action unfortunately broke the roll in half. She tossed the pieces into the fire.
Another!” she demanded.
The third roll suffered the same fate as the other two, and the woman and her son spent a few frustrating minutes trying to open a few more fragile rolls, throwing the broken scraps on the fire as they broke the scroll open. Oil that had soaked into them over the years, caused them flare into brightly burning logs, and the minerals in the ink burned blue and green.
“What are they?” the boy asked after his mother finally unrolled one of the parchments without breaking it apart. She stared at the markings, but she couldn’t read, and the marks in neat lines and columns meant absolutely nothing to her.
“I have no idea!” she said contemptuously and threw the open scroll on the fire. “Put the rest on the fire, and I’ll bake you some bread!”
Using a scroll as a poker, the boy stoked the fire and threw the entire armload into the flames.
“I wonder what they were!” he said to no one in particular, and held his hands out to warm them.