Chapter 11: Orleans
Monday morning dawned and I met Lilly at Gare Lille Flandres. It was no effort as the bright July sunshine had painted the sky early. We had established the routing now so we settled back in our seats and relaxed for we knew that we would be in Paris in precisely one hour. Lilly opened the conversation, â€œthanks for a great evening last night, Yann. Iâ€™m starting to wonder when you are going to stop blowing my mind with all of these revelatory bombshells!â€
â€œYou and me both; I have the feeling that we are looking at an iceberg of information and as such we have only scratched the surface.â€
I sipped my coffee reflectively and then dipped my croissant in its hot black liquid body.
â€œWell itâ€™s certainly exciting. I feel that we are performing a ground breaking experiment which has all sorts of ramifications for humanity. The nice thing is that we have an outlet to the public for the information and Jean seems to be backing us to print the truth.â€ Lilly beamed and looked excited.
â€œHow can you be so enthusiastic and positive at this time of the morning my beautiful Fleur dâ€™Lilly?â€
â€œYouth!â€ She replied and laughed, â€œItâ€™s as simple as that.â€
â€œAbsolutely, you are inspirational! I have the feeling that you play a bigger part in all of this than you know; the best is yet to come.â€
Paris Gare du Nord came and went in a blur of commuter flurry and we headed over to Gare dâ€™ Austerlitz by taxi to catch our SNCF normal service train to Orleans.
The short hop to the Loire valley was over in the blinking of an eye. We read rapidly through our internet notes and familiarised ourselves with the ground plan of the city. â€œI hope we are not too disappointed?â€ I confided to Lilly, â€œIt looks pretty modern to me, rebuilt in the grand style of the late 19th century after the Parisian model.â€
â€œWell good or bad we will uncover something and it may not be what we expect. Itâ€™s an emotional place set at the centre of things, so it must hold a lot of memory energy?â€
â€œYes, quite right, I must remember that we are also dealing with the 96% invisible universe and not just the 4% visible!â€ Lilly had given me quite a thought. Her young mind was much more open to the new ideas and concepts science was discovering; the great unseen quantum universe beneath the atomic level seething with energy held within it the fine matter realm in which our immortal spirit and subconscious memory dwelt.
She was both beautiful and intelligent; a wonderful combination.
We pulled into Gare dâ€™Orleans which shone under its sparkling new stainless steel and glass undulating double waveform canopy in the morning sunlight. Alighting from the train I noticed straight away that it had a lovely harmonic feel to the open space beneath its roof due to the lack of sharp angular projections; it was an architectural triumph. We had booked in at the Best Western Hotel dâ€™Arc which lay just a short walk away at 37 Rue RÃ©publique. As we strolled casually we passed the Centre Jeanne dâ€™Arc to our left, crossing the busy inner city ring road we checked in. We took the small elevator to our rooms on the second floor. As we reached our adjacent rooms I turned and said, â€œSame routine see you in 20 minutes. Weâ€™ll use the statue of Jeanne dâ€™Arc in the Martroi as our inspirational and spiritual base. What do you think, Lilly?â€
â€œYes fine, thatâ€™s a good idea.â€ With that Lilly went into her room to unpack and change, â€œSee you in a moment then!â€ She shouted as the door shut.
I entered my room next door and laid out my notes on the table by the window. As a General plans a battle I studied the ground for advantage and clues to our point of attack. The cathedral of Sainte Croix would provide a solid medieval foundation to the whole expedition and fine tune our minds for what ever we would experience and discover in the few short days ahead.
La maison Jeanne dâ€™Arc looked promising and if original would trigger a memory response I felt sure. Apart from that the city was now large and modern, sprawling out beyond its ancient medieval walls. I had in my possession several old maps of the city taken from the internet and enlarged so that I could clearly see the detail. One of them gave the positions of the English bastions during the siege and yet another details of the major campaign victories including the all important Battle of Patay 1429.
The Pont Georges V would also be a key feature as it ran south out of the city across the Loire River to Les Tourelles the site of the famous assault that marked the turning point of the siege and the wounding of Jeanne dâ€™Arc by arrow. As expected the Loire would be at a low due to the dry summer weather so there would be some lovely photo opportunities for Lilly. Unfortunately the modern road system and tramway had swept Les Tourelles and any other medieval structure away, so I naturally expected very little to be seen or occur there; busy in the day time with traffic it didnâ€™t look that promising.
The English had an army of only 3000 men and had laid siege to thee quarters of the city wall with various bastions. The defenders had a massive advantage in numbers plus internal lines of communication. Supplies had been brought in regularly at night by barge under the very noses of the English so the citizens had not starved. The cannon had caused intermittent damage to buildings but were few in number and silenced by skirmishing parties when they became too much of a nuisance.
Professional soldiers conducted the siege, pay and plunder were their meat and drink, getting killed for no reason was not in their game plan; it was in essence a giant game of chess.
Likewise on the defenders side the citizens left the risk and business of war to the professional soldiers and the trained militia, neither of whom again were keen to get slaughtered. The very idea of hoards of lower classed armed masses was considered abhorrent to the aristocracy and the knightly class, much in the way that the Romans had continually feared a slave revolt. It was these masses that Jeanne dâ€™Arc planned to activate and turn into an unstoppable wave that would sweep the English out of France. The Dauphin would ride that wave somewhat nervously to his advantage and to the advantage of the Armagnac party that supported him. He would go along with the plan until it got too dangerous for his own comfort and risk the destruction of the rigid class structure.
Then they would discard their self made saintly puppet, disown and betray her to a fate worse than death at English hands. Once she was dead they would go back to the status quo and carry on business as usual. We were here to experience the high tide of her achievement; the miraculous deliverance of Orleans from the hands of the enemy. It would make her into a superstar in the eyes of the populous and secure the throne for the Dauphin.
The game was afoot, the stakes were high and I was ready to experience anything my subconscious could throw at me. I knew the memories might be painful. I had tasted their gall on the TGV at the end of the Metz affair. I reasoned that it would be good for my soul and good to reveal the truth of Lâ€™affaire Jeanne dâ€™Arc. I owed it to her, the people proclaimed her an angel as they rushed to touch her, she was my angel and I loved her deeply.
There was a loud triple coded knock on the door and I knew that Lilly had beaten me to the draw this time. I opened the door and there stood my glamorous associate hair flowing with sunglasses perched on the top, backpack in place, camera ready to go, shorts and army boots and the most amazing Andy Warhol style T shirt emblazoned with the saintly image of Jeanne dâ€™Arc across her chest.
â€œNice shirt! How on earth did you manage to buy that since we arrived here?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t. Itâ€™s just something appropriate that I ran up to wear on our quest. Iâ€™m really getting into this whole affair. I have a surprise one for you later!â€ Lilly did a twirl and curtsied elegantly.
â€œWow, Iâ€™m impressed. I love your creative colour skills; very funky!â€
The T shirt was electric pink with blues and purples and highlighted in yellow and green!
â€œI took a jpeg image from the internet, tweaked the colours and screen printed it; itâ€™s a little hobby of mine.â€ Lilly was quite the artist, it was gorgeous and certainly would get her noticed.
â€œCanâ€™t wait to see the one you made for me?â€ My curiosity was aroused.
â€œYes, itâ€™s very special, plus I have another surprise for you. I shall reveal it at dinner tonight! Itâ€™s my turn to be the magician and conjure up something for you. I have been thinking ahead and I have a little plan!â€
We set off north back along Rue RÃ©publique to the centre Jehanne dâ€™Arc to gain an overview of the siege and Jehanneâ€™s life. As expected no memory timeslips occurred due to the modern fabric of the building and position, now well outside the medieval boundaries of the old city. The centre did have an original coloured illustration in the style of Frossiart which dazzled the observer with colour and detail. Made in the 1480s it was not contemporary with her life but it was still a good find.
Returning an hour later we past our hotel going south towards the main square or rather hexagon as place du Martroi is built on a geometric basis. As we neared the open space we could see the central statue on its plinth; Jehanne dâ€™Arc mounted and armoured on her horse with her sword arm extended horizontally with the tip dipped in salute. I found the bronze sensitively composed as it did not celebrate her victory with brazen bravado. Jehanne was always proud that she had never raised her sword in anger, she preferred to carry it more as a status symbol; she was ever far more fond of her sacred banner which was worth ten hundred swords in battle.
To the left the delightful Jules Verne themed carousel played a merry tune and entertained the children. To the right the tram tracks carried their sleek silver carriages to and throe around the periphery of the hexagonal public open space. I was reminded of the Flemish word for witch â€“ Hex! Perhaps it was a subconscious reference or decision that had deliberately made the geometric shape so visible in acknowledgement of her occult status?
Leaving the statue we walked east along Rue Jeanne dâ€™Arc towards the CathÃ©drale Sainte Croix. Its impressive facade with twin towers loomed over us as we approached much as it did in medieval days. A wave of emotion came over me as we approached but it did not develop further. We passed lâ€™Orangerie a small cafe and decided to break for mid morning refreshment. As we sat in the pleasant warm sun the siege seemed a million light years away in time and space. Lilly enjoyed the sunâ€™s warmth and sat with her face upturned to catch the rays of light. As we observed the cathÃ©drale its visage started to tune us into the medieval mindset.
Entering the structure we found it lofty and detached; its Spartan decoration being a complete contrast to the more ornate Catholic churches and cathedrals that we had been used to. We lit candles and said prayers for our departed loved ones. Then we returned to place du Martroi. Orleans had suffered extensive Allied bombing during World War II which had destroyed much of its medieval fabric and in some way sanitised its etheric memory.
Following the main street with its tram tracks we continued south into Rue Royale and then branched off to visit La maison Jeanne dâ€™Arc at 3 place du GÃ©nÃ©ral de Gaulle. Its period facade looked promising but again held no memory as it was a modern reconstruction but it did house an interesting collection of artefacts, costumes, weapons and diaoramas; including a large model of the attack on Les Tourelles. It was a beautifully constructed model and had been painstakingly researched to give an accurate picture of the structure of 1429. When viewing the bastille des Augustins barbican, boulevard des Tourelles and Main gate with its distinctive four towers, the atmosphere immediately changed and we both became much more aware of her presence. The accuracy of the model was the key as it triggered the subconscious. The delayed reaction it stimulated would only become apparent in hindsight later on that day.
It was then that we had a great stoke of luck. Whilst continuing our walk down Rue Royale after leaving the exhibition we noticed several book shops to our left. With further investigation we came across an antique and second hand bookshop of note called Libs'Old on the Rue Bourgogne. There in the window were two large volumes for sale entitled; The Life of Jeanne dâ€™Arc by Anatole France dated 1908. The weighty tomes looked comprehensive and detailed so we decided to look closer. Entering the shop we asked the young studious assistant if we could peruse the said volumes from the window. Turning the pages we both agreed that we had stumbled upon a treasure trove of detailed information which would be invaluable to our investigations and save many hours of internet searching.
â€œI have an idea, Yann. We could perform an experiment, a sort of blind test. Yes, we would only consult the books after our timeslip experiences in order to check them for accuracy and detail.â€
â€œGreat idea, Lilly!â€ I said enthusiastically, â€œthat would make our investigation much more scientific and we could see for certain if our subconscious memories are accurate.â€
With that in mind Lilly called the young male assistant over and began to negotiate a price for the books. She told a tale of how she was a poor student from Lille studying history and that I was her blind father to whom she would read passages to on long winter evenings! The books were far too expensive for her pocket so she wondered if there was any chance of discount on the price.
The assistant went to ask his manager and came back saying that she could have the two volumes for â‚¬300 instead of â‚¬400!
â€œWell thatâ€™s dinner paid for!â€ Lilly said quietly to me under her breath as we left the shop clutching our purchase.
Playing my part I held her hand tightly and followed cautiously. Once around the corner I couldnâ€™t resist a comment, â€œLilly Chevalier, youâ€™ll never go to Heaven!â€
â€œBeen there, done that and got the T shirt; they threw me out! Seem to remember it was something to do with knowing you and the Black Brethren.â€
â€œThat may be truer than you know young lady? This planet needs a lot of help.â€
Reaching the Rue Royale again we turned south and continued to follow the tram tracks. Within 5 minutes the vista opened out and the mighty Loire River spread majestically before us. The multi-arched Pont Georges V beckoned us across to the site of Les Tourelles on the far bank. A shiver went up my spine at the emotive view and tears welled up in my eyes at the thought of the memory.
It was too late in the day for further investigation so we took the tram back to our hotel and well earned rest.