45 The Equinox

‘They are by nature suspicious, defensive people. Anything which is in any way unusual is witchcraft or worse. Strangers are to be suspected of any foul deed and are to be imprisoned and abused at their whim. You could put yourselves in great danger’

John Stanley – 23rd September 1355

One of the delights of the tower room was that it was warmed very quickly by the rising sun.

It was possible to lie in bed and watch the sunrise. The gentle glow of sunrise soon became a glare. Although it was then necessary to turn over to avoid the glare, it was possible to luxuriate in the radiant warmth.


This morning was different. John turned over but before he could relax, he saw on the wall behind the bed he saw a very  strange effect.

The pennant on the wall had ceased to be something they even noticed, but now, in the early morning light streaming in through the window the cracks were highlighted.  There were two extra lines which ran outwards from the star, until they made perfect intersections with both the upper and lower sides of the pennant, where they met the lance.

John shook Ximene’s shoulder.’Ximene! Ximene! Look! On the wall.’

Ximene appeared disinterested. John tried again. ‘Ximene look!
Eventually, she lifted her head. The additional lines seemed to get brighter and brighter.

Ximene jumped into a kneeling position. She immediately cast a shadow which obscured some of the additional features. ‘How can this be happening?’

She waved an arm which created a moving shadow. ‘It is obviously something to do with that window. Is it like the solstice at Monségur? Is today some special day?’

Then, even more urgently. John quickly! John the illumination is moving… as the sun continues to rise…it is fading!’

John did not attempt to copy the diagram. He jumped up, grabbed the blue makeup bottle and brush and feverishly traced the lines directly onto the wall.

Ximene ran around him, backing away to get a clearer view. ‘Why? What on earth does it mean?’

“I have no idea… Oh! I now think the whole image on the wall is a map, but what kind of a map? What we thought were cracks in the wall are actually part of a map, physical features, perhaps rivers. What we thought was a pennant is probably not a pennant!

Ximene interrupted. ’What is now more obvious is that there are two focus points where the sides of what we thought was a pennant interset with what we thought was a lance. The additional lines pass through those same points. For each focus point, three lines all intersecting, it must mean something’

The display had now faded away. John ran to the window, and observed that there were lines embedded in the glass, which he had previously thought were just imperfections. John looked again at the wall.

Ximene continued to speak. ‘Oh… John. That  isnt  just a  star  it is a pentacle, probably a perfect pentacle, I have read about them. She frowned ‘I can’t remember exactly what I read except that when astronomers observed the movement of the planet Venus, the movements plotted a perfect pentacle. If this is indeed a map, the use of the pentacle, a very precise geometrical figures may mean that  the intersections are also precise targets, which this strange display was intended to help us find.’

She looked with satisfaction at John’s completed handiwork. She could hardly contain her excitement. ‘ John I know we both wanted a hard training session this morning, but can we abandon it? I don’t think I can do anything else until I have a better understanding of the message we have been sent! ’

John looked at the additional lines. ‘It all seems so precise. The upper and lower intersections do seem to be what you have called “targets”. Oh, If the lines have something to do with a plan of this area perhaps we should make a copy of what is on the wall and compare it with the three-dimensional map on the landing.

They ate a simple breakfast and did just that. In the event, it was the rivers, which provided the key. When they looked at the three-dimensional map they realised there was a direct correlation between the valleys on the map and what they had originally thought were cracks in the wall of the tower room.  ‘It is a map and where the three lines intersect, must be targets.’ They realised almost immediately that they needed to know the names of the various rivers, hills, mountains, towns and villages in the area.

They left a message for Maurice asking for help.

There was a frustrating delay of over an hour before he responded.

Without telling him about their discovery they asked him for the names of the various locations and prominent features shown on the three dimensional model of the area.

Maurice smiled. ‘I have always thought it was rather beautiful and believed that one day it would prove to be useful. However you are the first of my visitors to show any interest in it. He ran his finger over the map. ‘See here is Mazerou, where we are now. here is St Feriole on the hill above Mazrerou; Rhedae,Couisa, Rennes les Bains, Quillan, Couisa, Brenac.’

‘At various stages over the last five hundred years this area has been gradually depopulated. At one stage it was last Visigothic stronghold north of the Pyrenees. They had a fabulous treasure which some say was the treasure taken from the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem by the Roman Emperor Titus. No one knows what happened to the treasure. It was last seen in Toulouse just before they were driven out by the Franks.

They maintained their stronghold here for a very long time but eventually were again driven out. They left for Aragon and further south. He sighed and pointed to the area which John and Ximene knew was covered by the original star. ‘The City of Rhedae once covered the whole of this plain. Some people say that it was the largest and richest city ever to have existed. As in Rome even the hills have names, La Soulaine, Bezu, Blanchfort, Lauzet.’

He paused and sighed again. ‘Now, other than a small village, still known as Rhedae, it is deserted! There are recurring questions about what happened to the riches. Some people say that the whole of the Visigothic treasure was transported to Toledo, the Visigothic capital south of the Pyrenees. Others say that the final fall of Rhedae, in the face of Frankish aggression, was so rapid that there was no opportunity to move the treasure.

If the second group is correct the treasure may still be here, somewhere!

John and Ximene exchanged glances. John rubbed his finger across his lips. Treasure!

Then the final stage of depopulation occurred a hundred years ago during the Albigensian crusade.” He looked sympathetically at Ximene, ‘But of course, you know all about that.’

Maurice was suddenly guarded, concerned. ‘Why are you asking? I hope you are not intending to visit these places! You have seen for yourselves that the countryside is deserted and you can explore it at will with no risk, but I must warn you. The towns and even the villages are another issue. The Franks took over this Château for their own purposes and the towns and villages have also been repopulated by them.

They are by nature suspicious, defensive people. Anything which is in any way unusual is witchcraft or worse. Strangers are to be suspected of any foul deed and are to be imprisoned and abused at their whim. You could put yourselves in great danger.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355

 

'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. 

He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’