Tour des Esprits
It was only a short walk from the Sainte Barbe gate to the Tour des Esprits in 3D space but it was a giant leap in time. I could feel the memories closing in on me as we silently walked slowly along the old city walls that had weathered the centuries. In the moonlight I could see that the path suddenly forked, we intuitively took the left smaller branch towards the river. Then as gnarled as an old broken tooth we saw the tower in the misty gloom. Circular and strong it stood but with a giant triangular shard broken away from the side facing the river Seille. Pausing at the base of the gash I shone my torch into the structure and saw that it reflected off of a number of arched ceiling pillars that still performed their task stoically in maintaining the flat roof structure above. The Witches hat timber and tile roof proper had long since gone and now only the bare bones of the defensive work survived.
The height of access via the missing shard proved impossible to negotiate it was far too high and too smooth to climb effectively. Scanning again with my torch I noticed an iron grille gate half way up that obviously led to the battlements on the city wall side of the tower. DD and I looked around in order to locate another point of entry or at least a way of climbing up onto the battlements that rose above us some eight metres high from ground level. The torch beam illuminated a flying arch that had been carefully built to link the broken town wall immediately to the right of the tower with a further section some 20 metres distant. This allowed passers by to continue their walk and directly and to access the football pitch and sport facilities we had seen earlier. On the left hand side of the tower the river walk continued to run parallel to the city walls and the river bank but it was narrowed and did not have that spacious park like feel of the Sainte Barbe gate area.
I surveyed the brick structure with DD and noticed that whoever had dismantled the wall had left convenient foot and hand holds in the form of exposed bricks protruding from the flat smooth surface. Perfect, I knew instantly that I could easily climb the eight metres to the battlement and then I could secure the rope to the iron gate like grille and drop the loose end to DD below. Just like old times I thought to myself and smiled as I un-slung and uncoiled the rope. I outlined my plan to DD who was totally amazed.
"This is one event I hadn't dreamed of a week ago!" She exclaimed with a note of shock in her voice.
"Treat it as an experiment. It will be just like old times; bring back all those happy memories!" I said half in jest yet in all seriousness.
"OK I will give it a go and see what happens?" DD replied with renewed confidence. I had obviously struck a familiar chord with her subconscious, she watched me with incredulity as I began my careful ascent. As a precaution I attached the rope with a bowline around my waist and then threw the remaining coil over the arch. DD instinctively knew what to do and ran to take up the slack. Should I fall at least I had some insurance. Thank goodness for a piece of rope I thought, Lilly was right it is an essential piece of kit.
Not a soul stirred in the early hours as it was now well past two. I knew therefore that we would not be detected. Once safe inside the tower we would be out of sight and out of mind to the casual observer and the authorities.
I began the climb. The first part was extremely easy but as I progressed higher the bricks protruded less and it became a little more challenging but I had faced much worse in both this life and others. Finally I made it onto the battlements and a minor sense of triumph coursed through my body. DD let go of her end of the rope and I gathered it in safely so that it was completely free of the arch. My subconscious acted with all the expertise of a seasoned sailor of tall ships as my body went through the somehow familiar drill of coiling the rope.
I untied the bowline from my waist and secured it to the strong iron grille that covered the bottom half of the doorway into the tower from the battlements. I then dropped the rest of the newly coiled rope down to DD waiting below in the darkness. She fastened the rope around the blankets and I hauled them up onto the battlements with ease. I then threw the loose end back down and in the darkness I could hear her clothes rustling as she tied it around her waist and then tugged three times to indicate that she was ready to make the climb. Taking up the slack I re-secured the rope to the iron grille with a clove hitch. Satisfied with all our preparations I whispered below that she should begin her climb. Again it was fairly easy and DD made rapid progress over the first half then came the trickier bit. The rope gave her confidence and she continued the climb without loss of pace. Within half a minute I could see her blonde hair and face appearing at my feet and I helped her onto the battlements with a firm grasp.
"Just like old times!" I said with a smile.
"I guessed that you would say that! But now you come to mention it, it does seem strangely familiar." I helped her to untie the rope and adjusted the knots on the iron grille so that the rope was now doubled and dangled into the tower chamber. Twice I checked the knot for strength and made sure that the iron grille would take our weight. The one thing I didn't want to do was lower us into a trap from which we would not be able to escape.
Satisfied with all preparations I climbed over the iron grille and started to abseil down the wall using the friction of my jacket to control my rate of descent. The drop was negligible and only some five metres to the floor. The wooden joists had long since rotted and only the foundation that I stood on was left. It would be a cold hard bed but it would have to do.
DD threw the blankets down to me then dropped down in the same manner that I had used. "I didn't know you abseiled?" I said in astonishment at her professionalism.
"I didn't either! I just watched you and somehow I just knew how to do it?" She replied with humour and honestly.
"A hard bed my love but one I would not trade so long as you are by my side." The words just came out of my mouth without thinking as I spread the first blanket onto the cold damp floor.
"I'm back now forever and I will never leave you again Robert." DD's voice was unmistakeable as she whispered in my ear. I barely had time to stop my conscious mind from puzzling over the Robert reference but that I began to fall headlong into a well of dreams. I felt DD's body next to me as I passed silently from this into another long ago.
I found myself in a bedroom of sorts with a roaring log fire and a four poster bed. Two large black giant poodles sprawled on the stone floor in front of the blaze absorbing its radiant warmth in sublime bliss. They stretched and dozed again, the cares of the day gone from their canine minds. I looked down and saw that I was dressed in tight black hoses and a doublet over my linen shirt which felt different to the soft modern cotton that was now receding in my memory. Over my doublet I wore a fur trimmed long dressing gown that kept the night chills away when I was not in front of the fire. I felt sad and lonely. I had known brief happiness and thought briefly of my two young sons that were now one and two years of age. They were close by being looked after by a wet nurse so I knew that they were safe and well.
No, I was sad because the one I loved was far away, God knows where and I was sad that she had chosen to depart of her own accord in order to follow her adventurous heart. The passion for adventure still burned brightly in her bosom and so I had let her fly free for I desired no tame caged bird. She was a wild and passionate spirit that flew on the wings of eagles. She needed to soar and feel the wind in her face and the sun on her back. She was beautiful, so beautiful.
We had married by a chance meeting at the request of my liege lord the Dowager Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Elisabeth Gorlitz. It was a strange affair but her beauty, of body, mind and spirit had won my heart and so I had agreed, but the hawk must fly free in order to live so reluctantly I had let her go. For a year I had waited patiently with not a word. In my heart the last flickering coals burnt low as barely glowing embers but as of now they were not yet extinguished and cold.
Day after day I had discharged my duty faithfully as Captain of the Sainte Barbe Gate. The burghers of Metz slept soundly in their beds at night because my men watched over them. Oh how I missed my Jehanne, she who fought like a man yet made passionate love like a woman without equal. Yet everyday I was reminded of her presence when I saw her face in my two beautiful sons. Everyday I waited and yearned for her return.
Just at that very moment there came a sudden knocking at the door. The dogs became instantly alert, stood up and started barking. I hushed them and then left my chair. Midway to the door it burst open without warning and in strode Jehanne travel stained and weary. I stood speechless hardly daring to believe the evidence of my own eyes, my hand on the hilt of my trusty ★★★★★★★ sword ready to draw. Without warning she flew at me and embraced me in a long passionate kiss. My heart raced and I knew from her physical touch that I was definitely not dreaming. I relaxed the grip on my sword and kissed her back savagely as my animal passion got the better of me.
We paused and looked into each others eyes searching for the soul spark behind the physical forms that we wore like clothes. Her sparkling blue eyes pierced my heart and we connected at the deepest level. Jehanne went to open her mouth to explain and I placed one finger on her lips in a gesture of silence. Words were unnecessary. She was back in one piece and whole needing nothing more than food and rest to heal and become the angel I knew and loved. I kissed her again this time tenderly, soft and long. She reached for my gown and loosened it from my shoulders. It fell silently to the floor and I reciprocated with her cloak and tunic. Silently and deliberately she kissed me and started to untie the chords of my hoses from their supporting belt
The feel of the sheer woollen material being pulled free from my skin was electric and instantly burnt into my memory. We stood together separated only by our thin linen shirts. Holding each other and feeling the fireâ€™s radiant heat warming our flesh beneath the ephemeral garments. Slowly I untied the chord at the neck of Jehanneâ€™s chemise and she mine. Stretching the fine linen I revealed her bare shoulders to the warmth of my kiss. Then without warning the loosened shirts fell to the floor and we embraced fully, warm naked skin caressing warm naked skin. I kissed her breasts and she beckoned me towards the bed which waited cold and silent. I pulled back the blankets and bed linen and together as one we plunged into the cold.
The shock woke me immediately and I felt the exact same cold from the stone and mortar foundation I was lying on. My body ached with stiffness and pain. It was dawn and the first rays of light had penetrated the trees surrounding the tower. They were now illuminating the columned arches with a pink hue. I looked towards DD who lay cradled in my arms which suddenly felt dead from circulation loss. She was sleeping like an angel and her quiet breathing felt as light as gossamer on my cheek. I kissed her gently knowing that she was safely back in my arms forever.
She stirred and murmured my name; Robert. It was definitely Robert! I guessed that she was experiencing a time slip of her own. We would have to make comparison notes later on. I kissed her again gently as I resisted the temptation to pull my arms away and restore the much needed blood circulation to my limbs. Her eyes opened and she smiled. I knew then that she had seen and felt what I had. â€œI love you.â€ The words just formed in my mouth without effort.
â€œI will love you forever.â€ She replied without reservation.
â€œAnd I love you both! Now letâ€™s get going weâ€™ve got a train to catch!â€ Lillyâ€™s voice cut the atmosphere like a laser beam as it came from out of nowhere.
I popped my head over the top of the gash and saw a dishevelled young lady who had obviously had a rough night.
â€œMorning, lovely day!â€ I said cheerily trying to jolly the proceedings along. â€œWonâ€™t be a minute old girl.â€ I added affectionately.
â€œLess of the old girl, Iâ€™m 23.â€ Lilly said indignantly, â€œIts 5am time to get moving.â€
I ducked down threw the rolled up blankets out of the tower and got DD up to the breach. â€œOver you go.â€ I said without allowing her a pause for thought. With help she scaled the wall without difficulty and then eased her way safely down to Lilly.
â€œItâ€™s not far, you shouldnâ€™t need a rope.â€ She shouted back.
To her surprise I appeared back on the battlements as I had scaled the wall back up to the iron grille by using the rope and then climbed over it as quick as a flash.
â€œI didnâ€™t know this was a race.â€ Lilly shouted.
â€œItâ€™s not but you said to get a move on. Grab the rope and hang on.â€ With that I threw one end of the rope down to the base of the arch. The girls took up the slack. Using the other end I abseiled down the raw edge of the city wall and smoothly touched down on the soft ground. Taking the rope from Lilly and DD I flicked it several times and pulled the loose end from around the iron grille so that it dropped to the ground by me.
â€œThere you go neatly done; thanks for the assist, I couldnâ€™t have done it without you.â€ Smiling I coiled the rope and handed it back to Lilly who stowed it back in her rucksack.
â€œShame I had to use two hands that would have made a good picture.â€ She said in a complementary way.
â€œOf course but it might get me arrested by the Gendarmerie, best to have no evidence.â€ I said thinking out aloud.
With that we made our way along the river to our faithful black Renault Megane parked on the Pont Sainte Barbe. Having stowed all of our gear Lilly started the engine and we were soon on our way to Gare Lorraine TGV.