36 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 on the wall behind the bed he saw a 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. An extra star had been added. One point of the second star coincided with the point of the pennant. There were two extra lines bisecting the original star and running outwards to make perfect intersections with 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 star and 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 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. These aren’t just stars, they are pentacles, probably perfect pentacles, I have been reading about them. She frowned ‘It is said that perfect pentacles were the basis of an early system of producing maps. If so then this whole display may be intended to give guidance to a specific location.’

‘If it is a map then I think the intersections are 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 marquetry map on the landing.

They ate a simple breakfast and did just that. In the event it was the rivers, which provided a key. When they looked at the marquetry map they realised there was a direct correlation. The rivers ran through the deepest valleys shown by the marquetry model. It was possible therefore to make direct comparisons. 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 marquetry map.

Maurice smiled. ‘Well it was going to be thrown away during the renovations upstairs. I saved it simlpy because I thought it was a rather beautiful piece of art but do you know 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. Even the hills have names, La Soulaine, Bezu, Blanchfort.’

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

The Treasure of Trencavel