Rennes le Chateau, November 18,
They got an early start and reached Rennes le Chateau while the sun was still low.
before they had puzzled over the crossword. It had been
immediately apparent to
Once the “1” was interpreted
as an “I,” the message was read as the across words. “
“What would that mean?” asked
as the clue mentions, is the Twilight of the Gods,” said Hapgood. “It’s a Norse myth. At the end of time, the heroes and gods go
out to do battle against the Midgarth Serpent, which
wraps around the middle of the world, and against
“It isn’t just a little thing like the ultimate battle between good and evil. Even if evil won there would be something left and good might be able to arrange a rematch eventually. But this is the battle against chaos. It’s for all the jelly beans. After chaos wins there is nothing.”
“You mean like the extinction
of the human race,” said
“That would be about it,” said Hapgood. “You can imagine worse things, like the dismantling of reality itself, but for us it comes to the same issue. It means end of story.”
“So it’s ambiguous,” said
“That’s about right,” said Hapgood. “It’s ambiguous. It could even be a hint after the message, an easy one to decode like we’ve seen before.”
“It’s a strange crossword
“I guess it’s not under
They took out the print of
the painting that
The terrain was rather dry
and barren, like the original Arcadia of Greece and unlike almost all of the
“So we’re looking for a cave,
They got out their
books. There was a book named Genisis by a man who had puzzled over this area at
great length. He had discovered that
many places, churches and physical features, seemed laid out in a deliberate
pattern for all the world like a giant crop
Then he turned to the
Michelin Guide and found that there was, indeed, another cave associated with
Hapgood told them what he had been able to find and then remarked, “It’s like the fairy tale tradition. Everything in fairyland goes by reverses. You can’t get there except when you are trying to walk away, and when you walk toward it, it isn’t there any longer. The cave I was asking about is to the south and east, and they give me a brochure that says go north.”
“Fair enough,” said
“Doesn’t have to be,” said
They looked at the secret messages, which were quoted in one of their books called Holy Blood-Holy Grail, but could make no more of them than had been made by others before. It was getting late by the time they had done this much, so they turned in and were up before first light to arrive at the little town where the priest had found the coded parchments.
As they drove up the winding
lane from the highway to the village
“They’re huge,” said
“I wouldn’t suggest eating one,” said Hapgood. “If the birds know better, it’s probably poisonous.”
“In the past few years, I have seen grapes almost this big in the grocery store. But the color and taste aren’t much to brag about. And that’s with all modern technology working to improve them.” He paused so as not to choke.
“They’re wild. Don’t you see, they’re growing wild here. But wild grapes wouldn’t grow this big. They must be domestic grapes that have gone wild and developed chemical defenses so they all didn’t get eaten. But they were once grapes such as the world hasn’t seen for a thousand years.
“Look out there.” The others followed his gesture toward the
broad and fertile landscape so empty of humans.
“It must have been an empire of enormous wealth. They bred and selected these grapes for
century after century. Ever since the
It seemed incongruous that the sight of a weed could stir him after they had spent so much time dealing with what might be the salvation of the human race. He whispered, “These were my people. We did this. It happened right here. And then …” Emotion overcame him. They got back into the car.
The lane made a spectacular curve that offered a splendid view and then did a tight S turn before starting up the steep straight street of the town. At the top they found a parking lot for tourists and got out to explore.
Visible from the parking lot was a beautiful small building that the priest had put up as his study. It looked like a castle about the size of a house, complete with a crenellated tower. From its vantage point one looked far out over the broad lonesome valley toward the hillside where the shepherds in the painting had been depicted. The tower was called the Tower of the Magdalene, and somewhere within view of it was, or the priest probably thought was, the location of the secret. But the priest himself had apparently spent most of his life tramping over the entire area and in the end had not felt successful. How they had a chance they had no idea.
“So the bottom may fall out
of this at any time?” asked
“It takes millions of years,
so we should be all right for the day,” said
“But it does mean there should
be caves?” asked
“Should be,” said
In the basement of the
building copies of the parchments were on display. One of them was in Latin, but there were a
number of letters raised above the line.
The code read out in French. The
other parchment contained a more difficult code as they had discovered in their
reading. Like the treasure of
They went in to the little ancient Church of the Magdalene, where the documents had been found. It was Romanesque. The first thing that greeted them at the door was a baptismal font shaped like a creature that could only be described as a demon. There were stained glass windows and glorious paintings. The priest had probably been an artist himself of no small accomplishment, and he had had the resources to hire the best talent.
One of the paintings had been
interpreted as showing
The interior was grand and lovely, and the morning sun cast pools of color through the stained glass windows. The air seemed to groan Bach’s “Dies Irae.” But they wandered and wondered and came away no wiser.
There have been 6,156 visitors counted so far.