Chapter 7: Chateau Jaulny
The day was overcast with the threat of thunder. The dramatic sky made the journey to Chateau Jaulny some 40 kilometres from Metz all the more memorable. We picked the car up around 08:00hrs having skipped breakfast due to time constraints as our TGV ticket was booked for 17:00hrs that evening. We were on a mission to investigate the mysterious twin portraits of Jehanne and Robert des Armoises that had been discovered recently after some plaster work above the main fireplace was removed by a workman during renovation works. Apparently the portraits had been covered up deliberately by the resident des Armoises incumbent at the start of the revolution to protect them. The internet pictures were not good quality and I wanted to see how I felt about being there. With our new found abilities we were both excited as to the possibilities of what we may discover if our memories were triggered. The assignment had become personal and liberating old memories told us much more than any history book ever could. It had become a spiritual quest into the understanding of our collective psyche; a pilgrimage of the soul.
The clouds rolled in and the wind increased as I drove the blue Renault ScÃ©nic southwest through the rolling flat agricultural landscape to the little village of Jaulny. As Sieur dâ€™Tichemont Robert would have had other properties surrounding Metz of which he was protector in addition to holding the Sainte Barbe gate should the Republic of Metz be attacked and besieged he would also derive income from his feudal tenants. Tichemont was just a short distance northwest from the city and could be clearly seen on Google Earth, but there were only a few houses there now and open fields so Jaulny was a much better bet to investigate, especially as time was so short.
Lilly and I were beginning to understand the duties and way of life in medieval times under the feudal system. Lilly had once been the eldest daughter of the Duchess of Luxembourg. I knew we had a deep connection and that Robert had worked for the Duchess; I also had an intuitive insight into her name then it began with a letter Y. I was sure of that. I just somehow knew it. I also knew that we were a team and that we had probably worked together in back then. Lily confirmed my feelings by spontaneously commenting without prompt, â€œI feel we have taken this journey before, it all seems so familiar. I feel very safe in your company!â€ She then went back to observing the scenery as we entered Jaulny.
Lillyâ€™s behaviour reminded me of my fatherâ€™s tendency to suddenly make a seemingly random comment and then carry on with the task in hand. His behaviour seemed curious as he would lecture me in such away about how useful the monarchy were at maintaining stability within the country, when he knew that at an early age I favoured a republic. The discovery that Metz had always been a republic began to answer some of the questions about myself as to why I had such a strong preference at such an early age. I knew that previous memory might account for that. I also had a deep love for my father that was far beyond anything I had since known; the same was not true of my mother, which also puzzled me as a child and beyond. He died when I was 21 and I still missed him terribly. Lilly had the same affect on me, even though we had known each other for less than a week. It was a feeling of unconditional loyalty; that I would happily die protecting her to my last breath. It was the same with my father and he with me.
We drove up the small inclined road that ran the length of the outcrop of rock that the small chateau was built on. It was a good defensive position and I noticed that the approach to the entrance was anticlockwise in true castle fashion so as to hinder the right handed sword arm of the attacker. We drove into the entrance courtyard between the outer towers, a single one to the right and a composite one to the left. I parked the car just to the left of the large rusty iron gates that hung from the tall stone pillars of the entrance to the chateau. The building was constructed in a squared off U with extremely thick external walls containing a minimum number of small shuttered windows on the landward side. Larger picture windows had been added at a later date on the open side to enjoy the panoramic views afforded from on top of the rocky outcrop. The two main blocks towered over the central courtyard in the heart of the U shape which made it the perfect killing field for any attack on the main chateau entrance.
It was not a substantial large chateau in the grand sense but it was easily defensible with good solid walls and a built up parapet running length ways on either side of the rocky outcrop. It felt Scottish in layout and architecture which I had observed on my holidays to the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. I knew from my family history that the Flemish Baillieu family had gone on to become the lowland Scottish Baillieâ€™s of Lamington, Lanarkshire. Lorraine and Alsace had a very mixed architectural heritage with many influences as it was perfectly positioned in the buffer zone between the Latin world of France and the Teutonic world of Germany.
â€œWell Yann, we are here but how are we going to get inside to have a look at the portraits?â€
â€œA good point Lilly, we could pose as tourists and enquire as to accommodation; we know itâ€™s a hotel? The problem with admitting we are journalists is that people usually want paying! I think we have blown our budget on this trip with the car hire so we will have to be resourceful.â€
Lilly sat thinking for a moment then sat bolt upright, â€œIâ€™ve got it I will say we are getting married and would like to consider Fort Chateau Jaulny for our honeymoon, due to the connection with Robert and Jehanne des Armoises!â€
â€œMon Dieu, Lilly! That will never work we look more like father and daughter.â€ I was shocked in a pleasant way.
â€œNot a problem â€“ youâ€™re quite a catch! Iâ€™ll let my hair down which makes me look older and wear sunglasses. Leave it to me; Iâ€™ll do the talking, you just play along. Iâ€™ll boss you around a bit and they will be convinced weâ€™ve been married forever never mind engaged!â€
I laughed out loud, â€œYouâ€™re one hellâ€™va girl Lilly!â€ And with that Lilly unpinned her radiant shoulder length hair and donned her dark Von Zipper sunglasses. â€œYou just need a raincoat and a beret and you could be a World War II spy!â€ I joked, but was secretly amazed as it did make her look older. It was as though she had done this before. She was amazingly confident and well rehearsed.
â€œRight now letâ€™s spike your hair up a bit, raise your collar on your jacket and out your sunglasses on â€“ perfect!â€
We both check our new look in the vanity mirrors built into the sun visors of the car and to my surprise it seemed to work.
â€œIâ€™m impressed Lilly. I think this might just work!â€
â€œThe secret is you have to believe in yourself 100% Yann, itâ€™s all just acting and theatre; smoke and mirrors.â€
Lilly seemed totally confident so I was happy to let her lead the way. She exited the car and instantly changed her character, she then pushed open the giant iron gates which they groaned and creaked eerily for wonâ€™t of oil. Either side they were hinged on tall 5 metre pillars of local stone topped with carved vases of flowers and joined by a row of formidable iron spikes. The small courtyard yawned before us like the giant mouth of a stone monster. The chateau was designed to intimidate and entrap the attacker, be they modern day visitor, local medieval peasant or a foreign enemy. On either side of the flagstones leading to the main door loomed the large fortress like wings of Chateau Jaulny. Many small windows and shot holes peppered the solid thick walls making the courtyard the perfect killing ground. I felt the hackles rise on my neck as it brought back familiar memories. Then I stepped on the first stone of the main entrance and instantly a flash of lightning arced overhead followed by a tremendous reverberating boom.
In the flash I saw Lilly spontaneously change. She was now dressed in a black cloak with a hood, as she turned I saw that her left breast was covered with a radiating white equal armed cross, it looked like the Babylonian black sun symbol as used by the German Teutonic knights of old. Its shape sent a shock wave through my mind, it was so familiar. From within the hooded cloak I saw her teeth flash a familiar grin. She reached for her sword and grasping the pommel drew the shiny silver blade. Looking down I saw that I was carrying a heavy crossbow which was loaded with a vicious armour busting quarrel, its heavily waxed point protruding over the loading stirrup. Suddenly aware I was careful not to point it towards Yvette, the name just sprung into my mind, for one slip of the trigger and the deadly bolt would go straight through both her body and armour. I knew that the sinister purpose of the wax was to deliberately adhere to any glancing surface it met and punch a deadly hole through the shiny exoskeleton of the target and then pierce the fragile flesh and bones beneath. Yvette of Luxembourg turned back in the dark and reversing her sword banged loudly three times on the door.
The bell rang and I was immediately jerked back to the 21st century by the electronic high pitched sound of modern technology. The sky lightened and the large oak door creaked opened. A neat well dressed lady with a soft spoken aristocratic voice bid us welcome and asked us to enter.
Lilly replied in an equally refined accent that I hadnâ€™t heard her use before. I was impressed. I followed in the manner of an automaton my conscious mind was hurriedly analysing the stream of data it had just received. I was certain that it was a real memory. Specific details of the entrance were different but it was definitely the same place; I was certain of that. I knew we were on a mission, I could feel the tension and the adrenaline running through my veins. I had been excited, totally alive and was acting with a definite purpose, but what was that purpose?
We were ushered into the main entrance hall with a large stone staircase opposite which went up and off to the right, two large oak panelled doors loomed impressively to the left and right of the hall. But which room contained the famous chimney with the portraits above the fireplace? Would we find out or would our cover be exposed? I could hear Lilly engaging in conversation with the lady concerned who was obviously the present owner but my conscious mind was else where acting like a voracious sponge absorbing every minute detail on view.
My attention was drawn to a fake replica suit of armour that stood on the mezzanine landing of the staircase. Above it on the wall to the right a large brass dish hung just below a tapestry wall hanging to give a medieval ambience. To the left of the staircase hung a stags head trophy. Nothing rang true, it was as though I had entered a theatre with a fully dressed medieval set; it was good but not genuine. I knew from past experience that I only had to touch a genuine artefact and I was catapulted into the depths of my subconscious; scientists called the process psychometrics.
I reasoned that the flagstones which were genuine had triggered off the incident as we entered and Lily was a living conduit to the medieval world of my past life as Robert des Armoises. She was the key!
Excited with my discovery I switched back into here and now mode and started to pay conscious attention.
â€œIs your fiancÃ© OK my dear?â€ I heard the aristocratic lady enquire.
Lilly replied immediately without batting an eyelid, â€œOh yes heâ€™s a little deaf from when he was in the Foreign Legion. Operating machine guns without hearing protection, not a good idea donâ€™t you know, but what can one do in a combat situation? Heâ€™s my universal soldier!â€ With that she turned towards me and kissed my cheek endearingly, gave me a big squeeze and winked.
Mon Dieu - she was good; so natural and convincing, the aristocratic ladyâ€™s eyes became quite emotional as she swallowed Lillyâ€™s story hook, line and sinker. â€œYouâ€™ll be wanting our best bedroom for the honeymoon then?â€
I coughed loudly and nearly choked at the implication! â€œHoneymoon?â€ I blurted out the word uncontrollably.
â€œYes my darling I thought this splendid little chateau of you ancestors would be sooo perfect. Donâ€™t you agree?â€ Lilly slapped me heartily on my backside and winked again.
I regained my composure and using a sensible upper class voice responded, â€œwhy of course my darling, anything for you my Princess; no expense spared. I love my Yvette she used to be a Paris catwalk model you know!â€ I smiled, kissed her on the cheek and patted her on the backside. Lilly blushed and turned back to the Lady, who was now totally convinced we were so hopelessly in love and absolutely genuine.
â€œMay we look around the chateau Madame?â€ Lilly broached the vital question.
â€œWhy of course my dear; Itâ€™s so refreshing to she two young people so in love!â€ The aristocratic lady beamed and I coughed again.
â€œHe was gassed in the Gulf War, poor chap.â€ Lilly said without batting an eyelid.
â€œPlease feel free to wander around my dear I have several jobs that need attending to so take your time. This is the only way out so I will see you as you leave to complete the booking details.â€ The aristocratic lay started to move off.
Lilly caught her eye and made one parting shot, â€œCertainly Madam you are very kind, we may consider having our reception here too instead of in Metz after the church ceremony at Sainte SÃ©golÃ¨ne and the civil registration.â€ Lilly was now firing on all cylinders and really getting into character, so much so that she even had me convinced about the whole affair!
I smiled and held out my hand which she gently squeezed and then looking deep into my eyes she winked and whispered, â€œJob done.â€ With that the aristocratic lady departed and we were suddenly left standing alone hand in hand.
Letting go I immediately congratulated her, â€œWow that was a seriously impressive performance Lilly, where did you learn to act like that?â€
â€œI was leading lady in several small school productions back in BesanÃ§on before attending Lille University.â€
â€œYou certainly know how to act!â€ I laughed and beamed a smile, â€œlead on my beautiful fiancÃ©e!â€
Lilly pushed her shoulders back straightened up and without hesitation went through the oak doors to her right with determination. â€œI think it must be this way?â€ Lilly entered the room and took an immediate deep breath. I knew she instantly what she had seen. I rushed to her side; there above the large fire place were the twin portraits of Jehanne and Robert des Armoises forever gazing into each others eyes. The gold leaf looked as fresh as the day it was applied as did the delicate light blue grey paint of the panels. Jehanne was wearing a flower bud fairy cap and Robert the distinctive bright red Phrygian cap with the point falling backwards. I was struck by the symbolic significance of the portraits. They were obviously encoded with many underlying meanings which only those privy to the dragon secrets would know. As Lilly clicked furiously away with her camera, I attempted to absorb the feel and detail of the remarkable portraits.
I was struck by the twin supporting downturned dolphins on each pedestal that supported the circular laurel wreaths that contained the head portraits. The Dauphin was the obvious intention but I was also aware of my keen love of dolphins with their imagery of freedom and spirit of playfulness. My conscious mind then noticed that Jehanneâ€™s pedestal was painted differently to the wooden door carving. I was certain that on the original door she had her own cryptic symbology which meant to me that the portraits were idealised copies of the door from a later date, possibly one hundred years or so after the carving. The door had been carved and sculptured as exact portraits from real life and contained a near photographic image, where as these were much more bland and two dimensional. I was convinced that I was now looking at a tribute painting to their life executed by the family at a later date. It was a lasting memorial to record the image of two illustrious members of the Armoises family for posterity.
The link with cave painting was inescapable. They were quite beautiful and emotional to gaze upon, the children or grand children had immortalised the loving couple of whom they were so proud. A sense of wonder filled my heart as I stood quietly gazing at the miracle and power of art to convey information across the ages.
The alarm on my mobile phoned sounded. â€œItâ€™s time to get back Lilly if we are to make the TGV for Lille!â€
â€œOK Yann, two more minutes.â€ Lilly continued to click away frantically as though her life depended on it.
Then as if on cue the aristocratic lady returned to see how we were getting on. Lilly immediately reverted into her role of fiancÃ©e and confirmed that we would be booking the chateau as part of our nuptial celebrations, but that we still had another venue to look at. With that we bade farewell and left the chateau with out fuss.
â€œMy turn to drive darling now that we are almost married!â€ Lilly held out her hand for the keys.
â€œYou were magnificent in there, but remember you shouldnâ€™t boss your dear fiancÃ© around so much when you find one!â€ I surrendered the keys without further protest.
We jumped in the car which started faultlessly and we were off. For some strange reason Lilly decided to take an intuitive route that was different to our original. As we left Jaulny and entered the adjacent commune of Landremont I suddenly banged on the dashboard to gain attention and shouted, â€œStop the car - Stop the car!â€ Lilly checked her mirrors and jammed on the brakes bringing us to an immediate halt. To compound her amazement, without hesitation I flew out of the car door and started running back to the sign. Lilly parked the car safely and then moments later came to join me by the side of the road.
â€œLook Lilly, look!â€ I exclaimed pointing at the commune sign.
â€œWhat is it Yann? Mon Dieu!â€ Lilly swore under her breath. â€œItâ€™s the Dragon from your shield!â€ She stood dumbstruck.
I was transfixed. Just as with the image of the carvings with there ability to convey information across space time, there in front of me was the very image I had seen on my shield in Sainte SÃ©golÃ¨ne church. It wasnâ€™t just my fanciful imagination conjuring illusions, here was the same device used as a heraldic blazon just metres from Chateau Jaulny, the home of Jehanne and Robert des Armoises. Lilly regained her composure, went to the car and retrieved her beloved camera.
â€œHowâ€™s that for feminine intuition?â€ She beamed as she clicked away, â€œhad we gone your route we would have missed this priceless gem! Oh yes, Lilly Chevalier is on the case!â€ She laughed and carried on clicking.