As is often the case, the
eastbound flight was almost empty, while westbound flights were full. Even a casual observer could hardly fail to
notice that he flew to London sprawled out across four seats with a blanket and
pillow but flew back sitting bolt upright with his elbows and knees pulled
painfully in. It does not take a great
deal of calculation to find that there must be more people flying west than
east and that the drain of the
They were so weary, that even
after a comfortable flight they had thoughts of nothing but a nice dry
room. For the next few days, it would
seem to them as if they were living in a secure little bubble, privileged in
their safety. One of the things that
contributed to this was the consciousness that they were well to the east of
the great circle that had been following.
The line trended east and south, and they would rejoin it as they moved
south. But it was not to be the last
time a great city drew them to itself, leading them east of their course and letting
to rejoin it by going south. Their path
was to become a saw tooth pattern, for to the east of the line they had been on
and parallel was another that connected
They found a hotel built down a ravine against the sheer rock face of a cliff. They entered at street level and descended many floors. When they looked out of their rooms they were looking at the stone face of the other side of the ravine not far away. Below there was the sound of rushing water. Autumn mist drifted in the chill air. Even had they not been so tired, it was a place seductive with sleepiness. They slept a night and a day before venturing out to look at the town.
The city of
The air in these warrens circulated poorly making radioactive radon emerging from the decay of isotopes in the walls an insidious and undetectable hazard to health. On the other hand it was difficult to persuade people to leave because the temperature in the tunnels was always pleasant, winter and summer.
There seemed to the four friends to be no hurry, so sure was their protective bubble. They walked the old town like simple tourists. At one point as they walked they found an old house projecting defiantly in the face of the natural course of the street. It was called the John Knox House, although it is as likely that the name reflects its similarity to the audacious preacher as that the great man ever actually lived there. It was known to have been at one time the home of a royalist who was a goldsmith and who raised money for the unpopular royal cause by counterfeiting coins.
Inside they picked up a pamphlet and followed the tourist route until they reached the top floor, which sported a lavishly decorated ceiling. Mostly the painting was a festoon of leafy grape vines rendered as if growing along the rafters. And there was also …
They followed his gaze upward. A painting of a fat devil grinned down at them. He had the horns, legs and beard of a goat. A second face leered out of his crotch. Hapgood consulted the brochure.
“It says it was a commonplace for rich houses. They probably got it out of a catalogue and ordered it painted.”
“That would be strange,” said
“This was the cult room of
“A bunch of drunk fat men thinking they were being sly,” said
They visited the Scottish
National Gallery. Among the things they
saw was a painting of
In contrast of style was a
painting of a magician. While most
magicians are represented in a cluttered environment, this one was working in a
bare room with a large but simple diagram drawn on the floor. He was making some sort of astronomical
observation. Through the casementless window one could see the ruins of a stone
circle, where such sightings had been made in the unthinkably distant
past. There was an air of intense
concentration and total futility in the scene.
The mighty castle above
“The point is in perfect
The common people had loved
their independence so much that when the movers and shakers decided there was
some sort of advantage in uniting with
On a parapet overlooking the city pipers were raising the skirling notes of the “Finlandia!”
“It looks strange,” said
“Romanesque,” said Hapgood. “It was the style of cathedrals before Gothic. The Gothic style permitted larger windows and let more light into the place. This gives you a different, more sheltered feeling than Gothic.”
“What I don’t see,” said
As the day waned, they rented a car and drove a few miles out to Roslin Chapel which had featured in a book, The da Vinci Code, Hapgood had read.
The lavishness of the stonework fulfilled its reputation and more. It would be hard to exaggerate the detail and complexity of the interior. There were dozens of different styles of column. Every square foot overhead had been worked into a design.
There was said to be a connection between this place and the Holy Grail. But a lot of people have looked for it in vain.
“If I were the Holy Grail,
this is the kind of place I would be in.
Was it built by Templars?” asked
“Some think so,” said Hapgood. “Let’s say
it was. We were frustrated not to see
that stone in
“O look up there,” said
Hapgood consulted some literature. “It’s supposed to be Azza being punished for having sex with mortal women.”
“Maybe so, but she’s
“They say that column,” Hapgood indicated a very ornate one. “It’s called the Apprentice Column. The master is said to have murdered the apprentice for finishing it without him. That wouldn’t be the first story of the builder of something incredible being put to death.”
They concluded their tour none the wiser. If there was a mystery here, it was for someone else. They went back into town and feasted on traditional Scottish haggis. The reputation of haggis was not encouraging, but it was delicious. They retired planning an early start on the trip south.
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