John Stanley- 24th September 1355
They were up early the next day. John, for the first time since the battle of Monsegur, carried his weapons. Ximene attached the small crossbow to her saddle and put all the ten remaining arrows in her saddle bag.
They took the precaution of walking the horses along the stream until they were well clear of the Château but then they mounted and rode at a steady canter down the valley in the opposite direction from the training ground and back into the wider world. John once again had the feeling he was about to be engaged in a great adventure, and rejoiced that Ximene would be at his side. They crossed the Aude River a short distance up-steam from Campagne Sur Aude, one of the points on the second pentacle, to avoid the curious eyes of the citizenry. They then set out up the valley which they knew led to Brenac, another point on the second pentacle and the point from which the North and South sides of the triangle diverged.
Brenac proved to be a delightful spot, with a few houses scattered either side of a little church. It was situated on the hillside alongside a waterfall. It was close to the head of the valley and therefore commanded imposing views to the north east. Because of the steep sides of the valley it was not however a fully panoramic view.
John had brought some sketches with him and pointed down the middle of the valley, which was where he expected the north side of the triangle to lie. He was surprised and more than a little disappointed that they could not see Campagne sur Aude, as he knew that the north side of the triangle passed close by the little town. The only way to pinpoint the path of the sides of the triangle would be ride to the ridge on the side of the valley which was hiding Campagne sur Aude. Hopefully from there they would be able to see both Brenac and Campagne sur Aude and plant a marker visible from both. With this as a guide they would have a much better idea of the line they were looking for.
It was surprisingly hard work. There were two ridges which prevented the two points on the pentacle being seen from each other. John had to climb a tree on both ridges and tie a streamer to its upper branches to fix the alignment. To his disappointment his first attempt did not line up and he had to repeat the whole process with two nearby trees. Finally they were able to retire to Brenac and see the line to Camagne Sur Aude. If the side of the triangle ran slightly north of this line then John now had a good idea which group of mountains was the location of the northern target. It was impossible to be specific however, it was just too far away.
John could not hide his disappointment. ‘It will take weeks if not months to mark the path.’ he told Ximene.
‘And then there is the question of the other line to the southern target. He nodded towards the steep hill on the far side of the valley. ‘Straight over the top of that!’
They scrambled down to a grassy patch by the steam below the waterfall, performed some exercises and had lunch. The whole time he was exercising John was turning over what they had seen.
He frowned. ‘That is probably enough for today. Perhaps tomorrow we should ride directly to one of the targets and see if we can make more sense of it from that end! There is however the small problem that the marquetry model does not show roads or paths, there may be considerable time taken up with trial and errror. ‘
Ximene nodded. ‘John , before we go can I have a look inside the Church? It is very old and perhaps a little unusual in shape. It does not have the side chapels which turn many Roman churches into the shape of a cross. I wonder if it could have been a Cathar meeting house before it became a Roman Church?’
The church inside was painted predominantly white. As they walked through the door it felt cool and peaceful. The use of blue and gold detailing only enhanced that effect. Although they walked sofly down the central isle the sound of their steps echoed and echoed again into every corner of the church. It was several minutes before they looked up and observed the most amazing array of paintings around the ceiling. Many of the paintings displayed a picture of rays, presumably of light, descending from either a ball or a triangle.
Ximene called John’s attention to a particular picture painted on the roof. ‘Look at this John, a dove, which is, in itself is a Cathar symbol, bleeding profusely over a sacrificial altar on top of the symbol of a scull and crossed bones. The latter is again a Cathar symbol, adopted at the height of the Albigensian crusade to show a lack of concern for suffering or death.
She then looked around. There were many other intriguing paintings. ‘What do you make of this one, John?”
She pointed to a painting which appeared to show angels sitting on a chest, once again under rays descending from a triangle. John studied it for a very short period.
‘The only chest I know which may fit in with this image is the Ark of the Covenant but to be honest I have no idea where I gained any knowledge about that.’
‘I really do not know.’
‘This church may be the very point of the smaller pentacle and therfore a key point on the triangle. This opens the possibility that the treasure at the target points may or may not be material wealth. From the look of these paintings, it is possible it may be the alternative wealth of discovering and understanding the source of our relationship with the Gods.’
‘Do you think that this Church is in fact the point on both the triangele and the pentacle from which the target lines disseminate?’
‘Yes I think it is more than likely.’ replied John. ‘Of course that means it was built here quite specifically as a marker. I am not absolutely sure but I think the long side of church points in the direction of the northern side of the triangle. or alternatively along the leg of the pentacle which leads to Campagne sur Aude, wait here.’ John dashed outside. He took only a minute. ‘It is aligned with the pentacle , I could easily line it up with my markers.’
He then pointed to larger paintings on either side of the altar. ‘These images are very strange.’
Ximene chuckled. ‘And the other pictures arn’t strange?’
‘Sorry wrong word these paintings are bizarre.’
The images both showed a bird holding a book on its back. The birds were facing away from the altar towards the congregation. They sat on some form of ornate trelliswork and from a jar below emerged stone tablets.
The tablets were being displayed by two strange animals, which liooked like horses emerging from a flower. However the tablets on the two pictures were themselves quite different.
On the north side of the altar the first tablet had some indecipherable writing. On this painting the second tablet showed the roman numerals IV, XVI and VV
They then walked across to look at the near identical picture on the south side of the altar. On this painting the tablets had quite different inscriptions. The first tablet had at the top a tiny triangle which one of the animals appeared to be indicating. Below that were the Roman numerals V, VI and V. The second tablet had a Roman numeral I at the top which the strange creature appeared to be trying to hide. Below were the Roman numerals II and III.
John sat down at the foot of the altar and shook his head ‘There seems to be a message here but perhaps it has no relationship to our mission. It is beyond me to understand it! If it is important, we need some help.’
Ximene made a quick response.
‘I think we should talk to the Estavan, the physician who looked after you when you were so ill. He suggested that when you had recovered he would like to see you again. We should do that anyway. However the important point is that whilst you were ill, we talked at length and he told me about his studies at Montpellier which included not just medicine but also the mathematics of the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians and some science. What we see here is totally concerned with numbers. It has the overtones of a mathematical puzzle. We should ask him for advice! It can do no harm and it may be important!