Chapter 24 A Wedding in Arlon
Sunday morning dawned and we assembled for an early breakfast in the dining room of the hotel Le Royal. Everyone had slept well after the busy day before so we were all in good spirits. At nine we met in the hotel reception and headed out front to where our black Renault Megane had been valet parked for our convenience.
Lilly took control again and we soon sped out along the Route d'Arlon, the very same road that we had travelled in on the previous morning. This time instead of heading south at the interchange we continued on towards Strassen and beyond. In quick succession the villages of Mamer, Capellen and Steinfort came and went. The journey progressed rapidly and we soon found ourselves over the border into Belgium and approaching the outskirts of Arlon.
The town appeared prosperous and bustling. The houses neat and well kept. The streets clean.
"Hey it looks like they are having some sort of a market." Lilly shouted from behind the wheel so that I could hear in the back seat.
"Yes, it seems to be some sort of Braderie similar to our own annual one in Lille but on a much smaller scale." DD enthusiastically joined in the conversation as she observed the many roads lined with trestle tables and brightly coloured awnings.
The concentric ring roads built around the old part of the town were clearly sign posted with parking instructions so we had no problem finding our way in as close to the old castle mount as possible. As it was still early the traffic was not busy and we finally found a good parking place in the Rue du Marquisat . I had studied Arlon on the Internet before going to sleep the night before so I knew my way around and I was therefore able to deduce Lilly's plan of attack from the terrain and historic landmarks of the town. Sure enough Lilly indicated whilst checking her camera that she was determined to explore the old castle mount which lies at the centre of the original medieval town and is now the site of the impressive L'Eglise and convent of Saint Donat, built in the 17th century by the Capucin monks. I like Lilly knew that it was built on the exact site of the old medieval castle, church and summer residence of Elisabeth GÃ¶rlitz, Dowager Duchess of Luxembourg. I didnâ€™t need to consult any information I could just feel it deep in my soul memory.
As I stood by the car waiting for the girls to get their belongings together I was able to appreciate the beautiful large rectangular tower that loomed above me on La Knipchen hill, it was surmounted with a beautiful balustrade and a tall ornamental spire. The cross at its summit reminded me of the holy purpose of this sacred site and gave me hope that I would have a time slip experience. To the right just across the road was an impressive fortified gate with the date 1634 in large iron numbers, the 16 being separated from the 34 by a statue of Saint Donat. After some discussion we chose to go left and explore further.
The links with Luxembourg are quite plain to see in this part of Belgium for even the province is called Luxembourg and the town of Arlon proudly uses the Luxembourg coat of arms as its municipal badge. Such a cultural heritage makes a non-sense of the cartographerâ€™s artificial lines drawn on a map purely for administrative convenience. The people themselves definitely know who they are and this could be heard quite clearly reflected in the distinctive Flemish accents that surround me in the early morning sunlight.
Whatever happened I was determined to make it to the top of the tower and access the commanding view of the surrounding landscape. I was sure that this might trigger a dÃ©jÃ vu experience. Being the summer tourist season I hoped that it would be open despite the busy Sunday market. The market had come as an extra bonus and somewhat of a pleasant surprise. I thought it might prove interesting to look at after our investigations, should we have time? I loved the Braderie in Lille and always enjoyed a good rummage through the junk and the more up market bric a brac stalls that attracted tourists from far and wide. I very quickly ascertained from the signage that Arlonâ€™s market was only held on the first Sunday of every month which for us was lucky as today just happened to be the first Sunday of August.
Blending in with the tourist crowds we made our way through the stalls and tables to some wide stone steps that led up to the church on the mount. In the distance the tall spire of the other larger church of Saint Martin of Dessu could clearly be seen in the distance rising above the western skyline of the town not too far in the distance.
However, the wide stone staircase beckoned us with open arms so we ceased admiring the view and turned towards them. To the left a small stone statue of Saint Donat dressed as a knight stood proudly on the end post of the balustrade, to his right on the other end post stood Jesus holding a large cross in his left hand ; both were permanent reminders of the nature and purpose of the patrons that had built such a magnificent edifice. I was reminded of my own memories of being a knight of Metz in the service of my Lady the Dowager Duchess of Luxembourg.
DD examined the figures and took a picture of the knight. She moved close to me and reaching out squeezed my hand gently. "He looks a lot like you, if you had a beard that is!" Then to compound my amazement she mysteriously leant forward and whispered in my ear. "You are my black knight." she then kissed my cheek softly and gave me a gentle loving smile that transcended the boundaries of time and space.
Again the shockwave was overwhelming it seemed to strike a chord deep within my soul that resonated throughout my whole being shaking me to my core. But how did she know? I hadn't told her that Robert des Armoises was known as Le Chevalier Noir de Metz and also had a beard! Perhaps she was picking up the information from me intuitively or perhaps she just somehow knew? I looked around to see if Lilly was watching, perhaps she could intuit something to solve this new mystery, but all I could hear was the constant clicking of her camera as she snapped away looking for good shots.
"That's one for the family album!" Lilly exclaimed with a giggle. I suddenly realised that her lens was pointed straight at us. I immediately went red and became self conscious having been discovered by my companion in arms. DD by contrast was extremely at ease with the situation and kissed me again.
"Shall, shall we get on? It looks a lot of steps." I said with a slight stammer and in desperation to move on from the embarrassing moment. DD just held out her hand for me to hold. It was a watershed moment in time, without thinking I found myself taking her hand in mine; it felt familiar, warm and reassuring.
â€œAprÃ¨s vous!â€ Lilly said as she broke the silence and so we ascended the stone steps as a king and queen, hand in hand with Lilly following. As we reached the top the world went silent and I magically stepped through a rose tinted portal into another dimension of space time .
The change in smell was the first thing to overwhelm my senses and indicated that I was in a different time zone. It was sunny and much quieter, devoid of mechanical sounds, filled with nothing except bird song and the quiet bustle of medieval life. The language seemed archaic yet somehow familiar and I found that I could understand it perfectly. I took a moment to examine my clothes and I could see that I was dressed in full blackened armour with a large black cloak. I could feel the weight of a heavy hand and a half â€œbastardâ€ sword dragging on my left hip. It seemed natural though and something that I was well used to. I entered the church with a sense of commanded urgency.
To my shock it was empty apart for a priest and a couple of bystanders, one I recognised as the Dowager Duchessâ€™ cook and the other the Captain of the Guard of the House of Luxembourg. I recognised the coat of arms clearly displayed on his black nailed jack. He held a particularly handsome German sallet in his left hand. I strode the length of the aisle and stood at ease in front of the altar. Quietly I knelt at the altar rail, prayed briefly, stood and crossed myself. I then nodded to the cook, who curtsied politely and bowed her head and then to the Captain who came to attention and smiled warmly, for we were good friends and knew each other well. The priest smiled but said not a word for it was as though I had arrived on time for an expected appointment.
After a considerable pause a bell struck once and the east door opened. In walked a woman dressed simply in a white lace chemise and a long flowing gown. Her head was veiled. She looked iridescent framed as she was in the bright light of the doorway. To her right stood the Constable of Luxembourg, resplendent in his shining white armour and to her left the Dowager Duchess, her face stern and resolute yet beautiful.
She looked older than when I had seen her last. I guessed that several years must have past since the mission. I observed her face closely; she had the air of stoic fortitude that comes from loneliness about her. My heart wept for her condition. She was exquisitely elegant, noble and commanded all her subjects through love. I knew that she was my liege lord and I served her with all my heart for she was a great lady. The feeling of loyalty was overwhelming and brought a tear to my eye.
The woman in white walked slowly and steadily towards me. I could hear the distinctive clip of metal on stone. I knew instantly that it was the sound of armoured sabatons striking the flagstones of the church for it was the sound that I had made as I walked up the aisle not several minutes before; she must be wearing armour under her white samite gown. My curiosity piqued as she drew near. Like a metronomic automaton she approached with slow regular steps. Finally she reached the altar, bowed her head and crossed herself. She then turned to look at me, nodded her head again and then looked back towards the priest.
The Duchess stood one pace behind the woman in white with the Constable directly behind me in the centre of the aisle. The priest uttered a few Latin phrases and then the woman in white slowly lifted her veil.
My heart leapt into my mouth immediately for it was DD! In an instant I knew the truth of all things. DD was Jehanne des Armoises! I fought hard to suppress my conscious mind from disconnecting from the time stream as I desperately wanted to witness the crucial events that were about to take place. Surrendering to my subconscious mind I floated back into the flow and viewed Jehanne in all her strength and glory. Her hair was darker than DDâ€™s and deliciously auburn in colour but her distinctive facial profile remained the same; a constant in time exactly as lovingly carved into the door in the musÃ©e cour dâ€™Or, Metz.
We stood together at the altar. I focused on the stain glass window as the priest performed the service of matrimony. Periodically I glanced at Jehanne and smiled. Thoughts ran through my head as to the events that had led me to this point in time and space.
Elisabeth had taken Jehanne in after she had fled from KÃ¶ln in fear of her life as the Catholic Church tightened its noose. She had been declared a witch and summarily excommunicated due to her high profile and association with the young Count Ulrich of WÃ¼rttemberg and his unwise dispute in ecclesiastical politics within the diocese of TrÃ¨ves. He had spirited her away from Metz soon after she first appeared in early 1436 believing that she was in fact Jehanne dâ€™Arc returned from the grave. He even purchased for her a gleaming cuirass which she wore with her armour but he did not know her secret.
It was a secret like no other, a secret that only I and a few others knew, that she was the real peasant daughter of Jacques dâ€™Arc of Domremy and his wife Isabelle RomÃ©e, that she had struck her mother and had been persuaded to seek absolution from the Pope. After which she dressed in menâ€™s clothing and enlisted in his army under the male identity of Claude.
Thus it was that Yolande of Anjou was able to substitute her changeling a dragon princess who would become the La Pucelle of fame. After five years the real Jehanne dâ€™Arc had returned from Italy. She had been recognised by her brothers and her mother who embraced her again as their own.
Now she resided under the protection of my mistress Elisabeth GÃ¶rlitz, Grand Dowager Duchess of the House of Luxembourg who had generously taken her in. I believed in truth that this was because she was missing her only daughter Marie who had fallen in battle during our rescue attempt to save the royal Jehanne dâ€™Arc, the half German dragon princess changeling; for she had been trained specifically for the task from birth to stir up the peasant classes against the English and fulfil the prophecy that a maid should lead the Dauphin to his crown. Now the Dauphin sat on his throne and the House of Bourbon was restored to its rightful place. What of this Jehanne dâ€™Arc; I know not what?
And so it was hurriedly agreed that I should marry Jehanne formerly known as Claude in order to prevent her from being burnt at the stake as a witch. We had met on several occasions recently at my summer residence in Marville not far from Arlon near my chateau at Tichemont, but always she was in the company of Elisabeth and we were never alone.
It had come therefore as quite a shock when it was proposed that I marry this feisty beauty who swaggered like a man, had adopted a manâ€™s name, worn menâ€™s clothing and fought for the Pope. She had even killed two men whilst in his service! That much I knew for certain at this point but not much more, no doubt I would find out the whole truth in due course as our life together unfolded.
Yet I could feel a soul chemistry that linked us as we stood side by side at the holy altar about to become man and wife. We exchanged vows and with the joining of hands the ceremony was complete. At that very moment I found myself falling through the rose tinted portal back to the present. The transition was instant and gentle as the present day scene was not so far removed from the past. I stood in front of the altar of Saint Donatâ€™s church holding DDâ€™s hand gently. I could still feel her warmth as she squeezed my fingers tightly and I suddenly caught the subtle fragrance of her Chanel Number 5 which told me that the transition was complete. The light from the stained glass windows was noticeably brighter as the windows were larger now but even so it still had the same bluish hue as in medieval times.
I looked at DD and gazed into the same sparkling blue eyes that I had seen in my time slip, she seemed a veritable angel as she stood there in her jeans. The moment seemed endless and I felt myself magnetically drawn to her lips. We kissed. A deep long lasting kiss of passion and of an intensity that I had never experienced before. A kiss like no other, it was the kiss of two soul mates spiritually reunited in sacred union.
As I finally pulled gently away she kissed me again deeply and even more passionately. I knew then that the feeling was mutual. We had found each other after a separation of some 600 years.
â€œOK you two lovebirds break it up!â€ Lillyâ€™s voice entered my head with a jarring discord, â€œdo you want to let me in on the secret or do I have to wait until later?â€
I seized the moment and blurted out intuitively that which I knew to be true, â€œI know who DD is!â€ I spoke excitedly barely pausing for breathe and still holding her hand. â€œI have just been back there and seen it all. DD you are Jehanne des Armoises the truly beloved wife of Robert des Armoises, Sieur dâ€™Tichemont, Chevalier Noir de Metz.
DDâ€™s face looked amazed but as the information sank in she finally gave voice to her feelings. â€œThat would account for the powerful chemistry and the electricity between us. I felt attracted to you the moment I first saw you in Reims. It was instant. Iâ€™ve never felt like this before, never ever. Well not in this present life.
â€œSay DD, how old are you, if you donâ€™t mind me asking?â€ Lilly stood there quizzically putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
â€œIâ€™m 43.â€ DD replied without hesitation or embarrassment. â€I have just had my birthday a couple of weeks ago it was the twentieth of July. Why is that significant?â€
Lilly racked her brains in deep thought for a good few minutes and paced up and down. â€œYes, thatâ€™s it! Iâ€™ve got it, Jehanne des Armoises was 43 when she died in 1453! She was therefore born in 1410. That means you have met in this life at the exact same age you were separated in the medieval life!â€
â€œOf course that would make sense!â€ I added as I thought it through in terms of quantum physics. â€œTime is an illusion there is only the continuation of consciousness; the eternal NOW! Time merely separates events to stop them colliding in order that we may have meaningful experiences. Yes, case solved; well done Lilly.â€
DD stood there taking it all in as we rapidly delivered our conclusions. I could see her mathematical mind going through all the permutations of our deliberation.
â€œThatâ€™s what has been bugging me about your profile it is the same as the door!â€ I held up the photo of the door that I kept on my iPhone. Zooming in on Jehanneâ€™s profile I put it to the side of DDâ€™s right cheek.
â€œAmazing, it is a perfect match!â€ Lilly agreed.
â€œLet me see!â€ DD said excitedly. I showed her the photo of the door and then to make it easier I took a photo on my iPhone of her right face profile. The hair, the cheek, the nose, the smile were all identical. I flipped the pictures back and forth to show DD and Lilly in turn. â€œIf we make a composite of DDâ€™s photo and the door you will see what I mean. I will do that when we get back to the hotel and I can use my computer.â€ Finally I gave DD the phone so she could look more closely herself.
â€œYes, well I never, completely the same, even the hair covering my ears, completely identical, totally amazing.â€ DD smiled as she could see the visual proof of our discovery. â€œSuch love we have, I never thought that I would find love in this life but there we are gazing at each other throughout eternity our portraits immortalised in wood.â€
â€œAbsolutely my love, welcome home!â€ I embraced DD fully and buried my face in her hair to hide the tears of joy that welled up in my eyes as I felt the full force of our discovery. My life had been an emotional wilderness up until that point and now I knew why? I had waited for my only true love, my twin soul flame and now she stood before me, radiant, mirroring my spirit perfectly. DD felt the exact same way, as she too realised that we were identical in every way except physiology. It was pure alchemy; spiritual chemistry of the highest and most beautiful order.
â€œI feel I should catch the bouquet!â€ Lilly said with genuine feeling. â€œQuite a discovery and it is only ten past eleven!â€
â€œYes but we have all the time in the world now that we know the truth.â€ I added as we gathered ourselves and began to think logically again. â€œThe rest will keep until later and Iâ€™ll tell you it in full over dinner.â€
We climbed the tower and looked out over the landscape before us. The panoramic vista rotated a full 360 degrees as we walked around the tower walk way. At one point Lilly suddenly stopped and then started to converse with the air. DD and I stood silently gazing at the view and hardly noticed this strange occurrence at first but gradually the sound of Lillyâ€™s voice began to penetrate our hearing and we looked around. Sure enough Lilly was standing there at the northwest corner of the tower engaged in polite conversation but we both recognised that it was not French she spoke but fluent German. DD started forward to interrupt the moment but I restrained her gently and found myself cuddling her back. I held her lovingly with my two arms around her waist. She felt warm and wonderful, very feminine and very beautiful. She had a muscular strength about her that said - warrior.
After ten minutes or so Lilly said goodbye in very formal language which I found out of character and turned to walk towards us.
â€œSuch a nice man, army I think? He had an air of aristocracy about him.â€ Lilly seemed to think he was real and spoke as though we could all see him.
â€œBut you were talking to the air!â€ DD said as her curiosity got the better of her.
â€œWe saw nothing!â€ I added to back up DD.
â€œWell he was there and I spoke German to him. Somehow I just knew what to say even though my German is a bit rusty. Iâ€™ll draw you a picture of him later he had a very distinctive hat on, carried binoculars and said that his horse was nearby. Right come on time is pressing and I still havenâ€™t seen my mother yet!â€ Lilly was obviously referring to Elisabeth GÃ¶rlitz, as I knew she was still in search of her answers and her own fate. We followed her as she swiftly descended the tower stairs. For an hour we walked the ramparts of the citadel but to no avail. Lilly was disappointed so I tried to console her, â€œMaybe we will have more luck back in Luxembourg city. There is still a day to go.â€
We descended the wide stone steps that led from Saint Donatâ€™s church to the street level below and became once more immersed in the busy commerciality of the bric a brac market that thronged the streets of Arlon on that Sunday morning.
As we walked I spied a jewellery stall displaying its wares. I was taken by the silver pendants as I had noticed that DD favoured silver jewellery over gold. Glancing quickly I noticed a large distinctive Cross of Lorraine, devoid of ornamentation it stood as a symbol of freedom and faith. Without hesitation I asked the lady vendor if DD could try it on. She was happy to oblige and quickly found a suitable heavy silver chain from which to suspend it. I placed it around her neck and fastened the clasp at the back; absolutely perfect, it matched her warrior strength and shone beautifully in the afternoon sun.
â€œIt was meant for you; a symbol of our timeless love from the past.â€ DD blushed.
Lilly snapped a picture of DD and then a couple of the two of us in the same pose as the door. â€œNow I feel really like a tourist!â€ She said and laughed. â€œThis is going straight on my Facebook page!â€
DD and I laughed too. â€œWe donâ€™t mind at all, we are in love. It is an amazing feeling.â€ DD added with a glint in her sparkling blue eyes.
I turned to settle up with the lady and handed over â‚¬60 in notes, she acknowledged the payment and gave me a â‚¬1 coin as change. Fully satisfied that we had cemented the occasion of our discovery with a tangible keepsake we continued our walk.
As we continued our walk I found myself drawn to a militaria stall that contained many artefacts from World War I and II. I guess I was still subliminally thinking of Roselinde and the unexpected discoveries we had made in Reims just a couple of days before. Rummaging I noticed a collection of World War I postcards and photographs that contained scenes of Arlon. In many were pictures of victorious German troops taken at the time as snap shots of the belligerent events of 1914. I pointed them out to Lilly who always had a keen eye for photographs and architecture.
â€œHey this one is of Saint Donat!â€ DD exclaimed as she joined in the hunt with interest. â€œYou said your invisible friend on the tower balcony spoke German. I wonder if it is to do with this.â€ No sooner had DD finished speaking than Lilly recognised the distinctive hat on the group of German cavalry soldiers which I too now recognised as a Uhlans based on the traditional Polish czapka's they wore. Underneath was another dog eared old portrait photograph of a German soldier.
â€œThatâ€™s it. That is it, look it is him, same build, same face, same uniform; he looks so young!â€
DD took the picture from Lilly to have a look. The photo was of a confident young German Lieutenant just out of the military academy dressed in a cavalry uniform.
â€œI wonder if it has anythingâ€™s written on the back? Old photographs often do have.â€ DD flipped the snap over. â€œDoes the word Richthofen mean anything to you? It just says - Manfred von Richthofen, 1914 - in faint blue ink.â€
DD handed the photograph back to Lilly who marvelled at the quantum coincidence. This was nothing to what was to come next because as I looked down I found that I was holding an old original copy of The Red Battle Flyer by Captain Manfred, Freiherr von Richthofen, it was open at page 40 and my eyes caught the word Arlon. Scarcely believing my own senses I read on to see if it was real or just wishful thinking triggered by Lilly and DDâ€™s conversation. Sure enough at the bottom of page 40 it read:
â€œAt Arlon I climbed the steeple in accordance with the tactical principles which we had been taught in peace time. Of course, I saw nothing, for the wicked enemy was still far away.
At that time we were very harmless. For instance, I had my men outside the town and had ridden alone on bicycle right through the town to the church tower and ascended it.â€
Standing there in dumbstruck amazement I just handed the little brown book to Lilly.
She just laughed out loud and read the exact same words, â€œHe said very politely would I excuse his bicycle and assured me that he was indeed a proper cavalryman with a real horse!â€
After a pause to take it all in I finally found my tongue, â€œYou may not have found your medieval mother today but youâ€™ve definitely just met the Red Baron!â€