36 — 23rd September — The Equinox

John Stanley – 23rd September 1355

The next morning Ximene told John she wanted to repeat the experience. The day started even chillier and John left the bed reluctantly. He shivered in the first light of dawn. He had started to apply the oil and glanced towards Ximene. ‘You know this morning I think you should be the barbarian.’ He smiled. ‘But i will apply the make up.’ She was sprawled across the bed but had the cover pulled up underneath her chin. He was about to move towards her and pull the cover away when suddenly 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, not within the pennant, but overlapping the upper edge of the pennant with the point of the second star coincided with the point of the pennant.There were two extra lines bisevting the original star and running ouwars to make perfect intersections with the upperand lower sides of the pennant where they met the lance

‘Ximene, Ximene, look behind you.’

Initially Ximene appeared disinterested. Eventually she turned around and looked at the wall. The additional star and the additional lines seemed to get brighter and brighter. Once she saw the image her attitude changed totally.

As John moved he cast a shadow which obscured which oscured the additional lines

Ximene jumped into a kneeling position.’How can this this be happening?It is obviously something to do with that window. Is it like the solstice at Monsegur? Is today some special day? Then, even more urgently. “Help! 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 forward, with the blue make up bottle and brush in hand feverishly tracing the lines directly onto the wall.

Ximene ran around him baking away to get a cleared view.’Why? What on earth does it mean?’

John realized the question was not entirely rhetorical but partly addressed to him. “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 local rivers. What we thought was a pennant is probably not a pennant!’What is now more obvious is that there are two focus points. In each case, three lines all intesecting, 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 thought for a moment gazing at the wall ‘ 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… To find you way about’ If so then this whole diplay may be intended to give guidance to a specific location.

Ximene was still adding lines. ‘We did not look at it carefully enough.’

‘There was no need to’

She againmoved round the room searching for a better understanding of what she had drawn. ‘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 handwork. 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 marquetry on the cupboard door!’

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 amost 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 the 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. He was very obliging at first. ‘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 stronhold 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 large 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.’

He paused and sighed again. ‘Now, other than the small village of Rennes, 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. 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! 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 yourself in great danger’

The most dangerous woman in the world

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