Rene Bonfils – 21 June 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 chateau 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 now he knew Ximene would be at his side. They crossed the Aude River a little up-steam from Campagne Sur Aude, one of the points on the silver pentacle, to avoid the curious eyes of the citizenry. They then set out up the valley which they knew led to Brenac, a second point on the silver 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 true 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. They scrambled down to a grassy patch by the steam below the waterfall, performed their exercises and had lunch. The whole time he was exercising John was turning over what they had seen. 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.
After lunch, they did just that. It was surprisingly hard work. There were two ridges which prevented the two points on the pentacle been 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!”
“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!”
Before they left Ximene expressed a desire to see 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 suddenly felt cool and peaceful. The use of blue and gold detailing only enhanced that effect. 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 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.”
“I agree” said Ximene.
“This opens the possibility that the treasure at the target points may or may not be material wealth. 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 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.”
He then pointed to the larger paintings on either side of the altar.
“These images are very strange.”
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. However the tablets on the two pictures were themselves quite different. On the north side of the altar the first tablet had the Roman numerals LVV and then 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 is beyond me to understand it! We need some help”
Ximene made a quick response.
I think we should talk to 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. What we see here is totally concerned with numbers. It has the overtones of a mathematical puzzle. We should ask him for advice.
Next morning, early, they rode up to St Feriol and called on the physician. They explained that they were investigating aspects of Ximene’s inheritance and that they had been guided to Brenac church. They gave a brief summary of what they had found there. The physician smiled broadly.
“That is just what I am looking for, a chance to do something different. Give me a little time to organize my affairs and we will go to visit this mysterious church.”
As they rode from St Feriol to Brenac, they learned for the first time that the physician’s name was Estevan del Cordoba. Estevan explained to them that he was of Moorish descent and had moved north to escape increasing discrimination against Moors in Aragon and Castile. As a child he had always been interested in mathematics but had chosen medicine as a career as it gave him better prospects of earning a living.
When they arrived at the church he was as intrigued with the strange illustrations as Ximene and John had been the previous day. He soon settled happily to the task of interpreting the ‘Tablet” paintings. Estavan studied them for some time, crossing and re-crossing the church to make comparisons. During all of these considerations he remained silent. Finally he spoke.
“They are a classical display of numerology. The same problem could have been presented in a simple table but it would not have been as dramatic. These puzzles always rely on the combination and recombination of the numbers in the original display. However in this instance I do think the animals apparently displaying the tablets are trying to tell us something. The other extremely strange part of the display is the use of double V’s. That combination is unknown in Roman numerals. Perhaps they should be ignored.
“I am going to start by keeping it as simple as possible. I will deal with the southerly picture first. The first animal appears to be telling us that the message is to do with the specification of a geometric figure. What is actually shown is a small triangle. The second animal appears to be telling us to ignore the first number. If we assume that instruction applies to both tablets and then consider the first tablet the total isVI +VII which is XIII or 13 in Arab numbering. On the second tablet we have II plus III which is V or 5 in Arab numbering. The sum of these two numbers is 18. I am interested in all these numbers and I will explain why!
He warmed to his task
“Now if we look at the northerly picture, the animal alongside the first tablet appears to be indicating that there should be a separator between the next to last and last parts of the number. The Romans did not use separators but the Arabs do. Thus if the first tablet on this painting indicates L +V +V i.e LX or 60 with a single separator this become 6.0 The second tablet is IV+XVI+V+V ie XXX or 30 or with a single separator 3.0 Thus these two together represent the Arabic number 9. Thus from this very simple examination of the pictures we obtain the numbers 5,9,13. If we regard 18 as a prime number and we then look for numbers which are divisible by eighteen we obtain 36, 54, 72, 90,108,126 and so on. 36, 72 and 108 are the angles of a pentacle.
He paused and looked carefully at Ximene and John.
“I do not know what has guided you here but you have found a place of great significance. All these numbers are irrevocably associated with what are called the golden ratios. Golden ratio’s have been studied by mathematicians for at least two thousand years. Some people would say that use of these ratios produces effects that are attractive to the human eye. They have been used in the construction of the Acropolis in Greece and even earlier in the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. Others say that they are more than just pleasing to the human eye, that the golden ratio’s are part of God’s plan. The specific numbers we have identified are associated with the construction of a pentacle, which is perhaps the ultimate application of the phenomenon of the golden ratio. For instance the movement of the planet Venus as observed from the earth traces the points of a pentacle in the sky. There is no doubt in my mind that the coded information in these paintings tells us that we should be looking for a pentacle or five pointed star. It is probable that a point of a pentacle is centered here but if you want to identify the other points, an indication of the direction in which one of the other points lies is needed.”
He looked from Ximene to John and back again.
“I think I have found that information.”
“If we now count all the lines on the southern picture we get 18+6=24. If we cut out the doubtful double VV “s from the northern tablet we get 50+20 =70 inserting the divider, which think we are advised to do gives us 7. 7 plus 24 gives 31. As this is the next most obvious option in the working of the numbers I believe it must represent the orientation of the pentacle. Now we come to the orientation of the church itself which probably has a meaning. It is approximately midday so I can see where the north lies.”
He rushed outside. When he returned he was smiling.
“I can tell you that the orientation of the pentacle is 31degrees north of east there will of course be other points 36 degrees either side of that”
He cleared his throat and continued
“This a typical Numerology puzzle which the ancients loved and excelled in creating. When you find the other points on the pentacle you may find additional clues
It was John and Ximene’s turn to glance at each other!
Estevan was still talking
“Now I look at it again I believe that what the creature in the southern picture is doing is telling us that though the numbers clearly spell out the use of a pentacle, in fact what we are looking for is a triangle. Futhermore if on the southern table we take a Roman numeral I from each of the rows of the second tablet we get I plus II which is
III or 3. If we now take a V from each row of the first tablet, we again get I plus II , III or3. Adding these together we get 6 or if placed in conjunction we get 33. 33 is very close to 31and is probably the angle of one side of the triangle.
We are now in the realm of conjecture and there may be other clues but another number I would be interested in would be 70 the number from the northern tablet without the divider. It is absolutely typical in these kinds of puzzles for the numbers to be processed and reprocessed in different ways. I have one final observation to make. If on the northern tablet we ignore the doubtful double V’s and also miss out the first entry on the second tablet we get L + XVI which is 66 in Arabic numbers. As we have already identified one 6 from the southern tablet if we bring these together we get 666, the number of the Beast! I have no idea what significance that would have in the current context but it may have been left there as a warning!”
He started to make copies of the paintings. Ximene could see that he intended to continue to work on the puzzle. She took John to one side.
“I think we should show him the map.” she told him.
“I think he is right. The clues here were meant to lead a searcher to Chateau Mazerou but by an amazing stoke of fate we have already found what is there. Estevan is either a member of the shadows or a strong supporter. I think we should trust him. He will waste a lot of time trying to discover what we already know”
John reluctantly agreed, but was still left wondering whether Estevan wasting his time was a “need to know” in the Earl of Salisbury’s scheme of things. This then brought him to the sudden realization that he had eventually another life to live and the return to that life could not be postponed for ever.
Estevan agreed to accompany them back to the Chateau. There he was able to make a complete correlation between the clues at Brenac and the map. He produced a wooden disc around the circumference of which were marked regular subdivisions of the circle. The center of the disk had been cut away to be replaced with cross wires, which allowed him to make measurements from any point on the map using the crossed wires as a sighting device. He pointed out that the angles at the points of the pentacles were all exactly 36 degrees, one of the numbers which had emerged from his investigations. The northern side of the triangle was two degrees further north than the adjacent side of the pentacle, which ran from Brenac to Compagne. 31 and 33 degrees respectively. The angle between it and the southern side of the triangle was exactly 70 degrees. The southern side of the triangle ran four degrees north of the line between Brenac and Quillian, which meant that the sum of the two variations was six degrees.
Estevan spoke in a quiet, almost reverent voice.
“All these were numbers emerged from my analysis of the Brenac paintings.
Everything on this map could have been dedeuced from the clues at Brenac but the map makes it much easier to visualize and therefore understand.” He put his measuring device away and looked carefully at the third side of the triangle.
“Ah!” he breathed.
“Of course! The number 666 was not a warning but a location. The north south side of the triangle is in fact the Paris Meridien. You have now had confirmed the exact location of the three sides of the triangle which the strange creatures in the paintings at Brenac were telling us we should look for. I knew that the Paris Meridien runs somewhere through here but I had never had the need to locate it precisely. In the years when Christianity first became the official religion of the Roman Empire, all distances used to be measured from Jerusalem, the centre of Christendom. At some stage the Franks decided to measure all distances from Paris. The reference point they used was the peak of the hill of Monmartre. The line running north south through Paris became the “Frankish meridien.” It came into widespread use when the Franks ruled virtually all of Europe. It soon became common knowledge that either by plan or by accident, if a measurement is made on the same latitude as Jerusalem, the Longditude of Paris is exactly 666 leagues West of the longditude Jerusalem. It is referred to by some people as the devil’s line!
He looked back at the map.
“So, the intersections which you have started referring to as the targets, lie on the devil’s line. Now that is something to think about”
It was at that very moment, unannounced and without any warning that Thierry D’Arques returned.