Despite the disrupted night we all felt exhilarated at the progress we had made in uncovering the mission to save La Pucelle. Lilly chatted freely as she drove and told us of her experiences the night before. She had witnessed the fateful meeting of the companions in Metz on that cold January day in 1431. They had discussed the plan in rough detail and had made arrangements to travel by horse to Saumur on the Loire. There they would have an audience with the Grand Duchess, Yolande of Aragon who would give further precise details and silver in order to finance the mission. Robert carried a letter of marque from the Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Luxembourg but it was phrased in code so that should it fall into enemy hands the plot would not be discovered. It stated that they were a religious order on a pilgrimage on behalf of the Duchess' late husband John the Pitiless, of Bavaria. This would conveniently explain the mixture of Swiss and German accents in the party and it was a common enough practice to support such pilgrimages in order to ensure that the sponsor would go to heaven. John had been murdered so needed as much help as his widow could muster to ease his and her passage to the afterlife.
Then Lilly mentioned the crucial piece of information that I had been seeking the names of the three men that Robert had chosen from among his Metz militia. They were Tomas, Thibauld and Enfant Guilliame a young fresh faced lad of no more than thirteen summers. All bore the insignia of the red Vouivre surmounted on a black and white shield which were the arms of Robert des Armoises and the Sainte Barbe gate guard. Each had a particular skill that would be of use on the mission. Tomas was a wiry fellow with a neat light colour beard and a clean cut appearance. He was extremely intelligent, dexterous at picking locks and adept at the black arts of alchemical magic. Thibauld his comrade was a tall giant of a man, extremely strong and would provide muscle should the occasion arise. Enfant Guilliame was good at gathering information and mixing unnoticed in crowds. He would be useful undercover in Rouen to ascertain the strength of the enemy and mix unobtrusively with the brutal Goddam soldiery in the taverns when necessary.
Robert held the key to the escape plan for only he knew precisely the location of the secret passages in an out of the dungeon fortress of Rouen. He had stated this at the meeting in order to inspire confidence in his companions. It all went back to 1415 in the months leading up to Azincourt when as a page to the Duc d'Orleans he roamed the mighty chateau in Rouen like any adventurous boy would. There he discovered the secret ways in and out of the keep. All chateaux had them for various cryptic reasons but the main one was for escape should the enemy penetrate the final defences.
Lilly's contribution was of a psychic nature as she was able to see events in the future which would be most useful on the road to Saumur and in Rouen. The information was received with interest and a certain amount of awe by the party, although only events would tell if her predictions were accurate.
By the time Lilly had told us her story we were at Gare Lorraine TGV and had to say goodbye to our car. Shouldering our luggage we headed into the station to purchase our tickets to Saumur. The first train available was the 7:25 to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle on the outskirts of Paris. From there after and hourâ€™s wait we would be able to catch the 10:01 to Saint Pierre des Corps near Tours. That would get us in at a fraction before twelve just in time to catch the local TER train to Saumur at 12:01. Travelling along the Loire we would arrive at 12:31 precisely, the journey would be like clockwork and in total comfort which would be in stark contrast to the journey undertaken by our medieval selves!
"I've booked two rooms at the HÃ´tel de Londres in the centre of Saumur." Lilly announced as we waited on the platform, "It's not far from the chateau which will make our trip easier and more efficient; no car hire necessary."
"I'll look for some coffee my mouth feels so dry." I said and then disappeared off quickly to find some. Several minutes later I returned without success. "No luck only machines we will have to wait until we get to the Aeroport they will have proper facilities there and we can have a civilised breakfast with decent coffee and fresh croissants. It will be worth the wait."
"I have some bottled water if anyone is thirsty!" DD added. Quickly reaching into her luggage, she took out a bottle of Evian and passed it around. Lilly and I took a long sip and were most grateful as it assuaged our parched throats.
"Well at least we know where we are going and how we are going to get there unlike in 1431. Thank goodness for the information age." I was most upbeat. Living with modern technology was just so cool. The girls smiled and as I spoke the TGV, like a shiny silver serpent, glided silently into the station precisely on time.
The journey to Paris was quick and we arrived at Charles de Gaulle just before nine. The terminus felt dark and confined as the trains ran in below street level. With little under an hour to wait for our next train we set off in search of fresh coffee and croissants. Taking the escalator from the platform we emerged at ground level into the myriad of grey fluorescent lit corridors that ran hither and thither. Blue illuminated signage greeted us cheerily with an endless stream of updated information that twinkled and flashed amongst the ultra modern urban architecture. Above us swept the elegant curves of the wide arching canopy over the main concourse. It was a miracle of engineering, pleasing on the eye and perfectly suited to the functionality of the space. Light flowed in through hectares of glass and lit the massive floor space below with ease. All around an elegant forest of girders and columns supported the vast sinuous curves of the roof. Eventually we found a patisserie and purchased our petit dejeuner. As we sat in the ultra modern decor it seemed to whisk us as far from the medieval period as we could be; this was definitely more space age than moyen age. We therefore contented ourselves with people watching and enjoying the much needed refreshment.
Descending to the subterranean platforms once more we boarded our TGV train for the hour journey to Saint Pierre des Corps. Smoothly the silver serpent snaked its way around the Paris suburbs and then into the open fields beyond where it was able to get up to its maximum speed. In the distance the wide open spaces of the Centre flashed past. As they did I thought of Orleans and our adventures there. I knew it was somewhere just south of the mainline that we were on and I was equally aware that we were now heading into strange territory as the west of France had long been wild, sparsely populated and steeped in the occult. Now DD held my arm and slept quietly with her head on my shoulder. She was the final piece in my own personal puzzle and I was overjoyed that she would be able to witness the final climax of our quest.
My reflective thoughts were disturbed by the sound of our train hitting the myriad of points that denoted we were arriving at our destination of Saint Pierre des Corps. Lines, carriages and freight were neatly waiting everywhere as we entered the busy station for this was a major junction on the Bordeaux route. From here we would take the local train along the Loire valley to Saumur, beyond which lay the city of Nantes and the wild-west coast of France. I looked at my iPhone, it was a little before twelve and we only had five minutes tops to find our connection. This we did with surprising ease thanks to the clear signage and we were soon sat in our seats ready to enjoy the views of the ever expanding river as it continued westward.
The journey took just over thirty minutes. It appeared slow by comparison to the TGV but that was just the illusion created by its grand vitesse which seemed to condense the very fabric of time and space in an Einsteinian way.
The station of Saumur was by complete contrast to the previous was extremely understated; a small box of a building greeted us which belied the fact that this was a busy line and the city an ancient centre of historical power. It was however pleasingly undergoing rejuvenation and there was evidence of new building. After pausing to look around we stepped out into Avenue David d'Angers and grabbed a taxi.
We were all tired after the adventures of the night and so we sat in silence. My attention kept being drawn hypnotically towards the impressive Chateau de Saumur that dominated the skyline on the south bank of the river. Its solidity emphasised by the thin narrow spire of lâ€™Ã©glise Saint Pierre which pointed heavenward like a thin black needle protruding from the flat city skyline.
"No doubt who is in charge here, look at that fortress, itâ€™s simply magnificent." I passed the comment just loud enough so that the girls could both hear me clearly. DD leaned over to get a look out of the passenger window on my side. The aroma of her perfume instantly transported me to another world and I forgot all about history, knights and chateaux for a brief moment.
At the first junction east the taxi turned right onto the central many arched Pont des Cadets de Saumur that spans the northern branch of the Loire to the Ile de Offard in the middle of the river. The driver informed us that it was the Route de Rouen which jerked me back to our mission. Just the very mention of that place was enough to grab my subconscious by the scruff of the neck and make it jump through hoops. The climax of our quest was clearly building and I could feel the adrenaline starting to pump around my body. Goosebumps ran down my arm as I tightened my grip on the door panel hand rest. My knuckles went white and drained of blood before I realised what was happening and eased my grip.
The road then continued straight as an arrow over the Pont Cessart towards the centre of the old city. I knew from the Internet that the hotel would be just ahead of us midway along the Rue d'Orleans just beyond the Rue Franklin Roosevelt that we were now travelling along.
The taxi driver pulled up outside the HÃ´tel de Londres. Without ceremony we disembarked and took our luggage from him. Lilly exchanged pleasantries and paid the man. The hotel was clean, neat and brightly decorated in red and grey, its close proximity to the chateau made it the perfect staging post for our purposes. On the notice board was a poster advertising the Cadre Noir. The very name struck a chord with me as I read the detail regardless of the checking in procedure which Lilly was engaged in.
DD wandered over to me and together we discussed the poster that was more of a coincidence than it should have been. A picture of a soldier dressed in black sat on a rampant horse with the chateau in the background was extremely enticing. Even more remarkable was the fact that out of the whole of August the only day that the stables and mÃ©nage would be open to the public was the following day! That was just too much of a quantum coincidence it was a sign. I talked hurriedly with DD and she agreed that it would be a good idea to go and see in the morning.
Without further ado I called Lilly over and pointed out the poster with a smile. She was immediately intrigued and suggested that we definitely go take a look the following morning.
"You read my mind!" I said with a big grin for I knew that Lilly would be way ahead of the game when it came to deciphering cosmic clues to our quest. "We hereby declare the rest of the day a public holiday in celebration of this magnificent coincidence." I grandly announce which was only common sense as we had not had much sleep the night before. The girls gave a mock hurrah and we headed for our rooms. The first thing was a shower and rest so we decided to meet at five for an aperitif. That would allow us time to recover and research the mysteriously named Cadre Noir on the Internet.
Whilst in the long hot shower I cast my mind back and re-examined every second of DD and my experience in the Tour des Esprits. She was definitely Jehanne des Armoises without a shadow of a doubt. Her behaviour and character just cried out the fact that she was. As with everything it was so obvious once I knew the truth. I couldn't believe that I hadn't spotted it before but then again my eyes hadn't been opened. This was the beauty of a quest for knowledge as only by looking, really looking do we discover the blindingly obvious all around us. That thought echoed and reverberated in my mind as a profound statement about the nature of the universe and the fact that we have to use our conscious mind as a laser beam to ferret out the information and truly understand it.
Just then a knock came at the door. I opened it and was surprised to see DD in a towelling dressing gown, her beautiful blonde hair still damp and tussled from the shower. "Lilly's asleep so I snuck out to see you."
Somewhat flustered by this unexpected encounter I invited her in. She smelt divine. As we talked we moved closer together like two magnets of opposite poles relentlessly attracting each other to join forces. The tension was too much and I found myself embracing her and kissing her neck just below her left ear. She melted in my arms and then kissed me passionately full on the lips. This was our time we had waited 600 years in linear time for this moment. Silently she slipped off her robe and we slid beneath the covers. I set the alarm on my iPhone for four o'clock and we were suddenly lost in a roller coaster of sensual ecstasy.
In an instant the alarm buzzed in my ear. We awoke enfolded in each others arms. Awakening DD gave me a kiss and then gracefully dressed. "I had best be getting back to our room and wake Lilly up. I don't think she will mind my little foray?"
"Dragon princesses see all and know all, she will be well aware of what has happened even if asleep â€“ bon chance!" I smiled and blew DD a final kiss. "Until we meet again my love; Ã€ bientÃ´t." With that DD quietly slipped out on my room leaving me alone to get dressed.
At five I went down to the reception and booked a table for dinner that night. I figured that it would be easier for all of us to eat in the hotel. The menu looked good and we would not have far to go in order to fall into bed.
Within several minutes the girls appeared. "I see La Porte has been working its magic!" Lilly said without batting an eyelid and to break my awkward silence.
"Ah yes exactly." I said thoughtfully looking bashfully at the floor. "It is a declaration of love unlike no other. Who else on this tiny blue planet has such a testament to their undying love? It is totally unique and the miracle is that we have found each other again."
"And I feel exactly the same." DD added with emotional sincerity as she supported my de facto statement. "The magic works both ways it is not just Yannâ€™s wishful thinking. The door is but a pale reflection of the intensity of emotion that we felt, still feel for each other."
Lilly thought for a moment. "It is so wonderful to witness this first hand. It would make a great story of love beyond the grave in its own right. I really feel blessed to be part of it all." DD hugged Lilly as did I.
"And you my dragon princess can be the bridesmaid! But only if you want to?" I said without thinking.
"That sounds very much like a proposal to me.â€ DD said in affirmation, â€œI think we should celebrate!"
"I shall be honoured the Bar d'Orleans just back down the road towards the river that looks an appropriate place; on y va!" Lilly said with a big smile.
It was just a short walk along the road to the bar. The atmosphere was relaxed and we chose a secluded corner table. The waiter soon came over and we ordered Kir royale aperitifs and began to chat about our immediate plans, but as we talked my attention was drawn to a tall fair haired young man dressed in black that sat alone quietly at the bar. The object of my focus was not the man but a shiny silver object on his left hand that caught the light. It was too big to be a ring and extended the whole length of his little finger. No matter how much I focused on the conversation my subconscious kept tugging me back to the shining silver glint that fascinated me.
Eventually my curiosity got the better so I walked over to the bar to order some more drinks and take a sneaky peek. As I neared I could see it was articulated in several places and on closer casual inspection that it was a miniature piece of armour; an elaborate and unusual finger ornament of some distinction. The medieval coincidence was too much so I just had to say something, "Nice armour; a very interesting piece; where did you get it from, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Oceania Legends; I bought it in Cornwall, England." he replied without looking up and then continued. "I've been waiting for you. My name is Jay."
His reply took the wind out of my sails as it was totally unexpected. "I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch that?" I said hesitantly, "Did you say you have been waiting for us?"
"Yes, Iâ€™ve been expecting you. My dreams have been sending me all sorts of messages this past week, in the end I just had to listen to what they said and so here I am. It seems the universe is on my case and wonâ€™t let it drop, most disturbing. I could do with a good nightâ€™s sleep."
As he spoke he stood up and turned towards me, his deep blue eyes spoke volumes. It was as if he had decided to drop his visor and let me glimpse the powerful being that lay beneath his physical form. I recognised instantly the same energy that I had observed in Roselinde, Lilly and DD; it was dragon power. Yet Jay was clearly male? This puzzled me but I was now more open to the ways of the universe so it didn't phase me.
"I can feel their sacred dragon energy." He said glancing at Lilly and DD. "It radiates like a beacon. The one with the darker hair is very royal." His observations were too near the mark to dismiss as pure coincidence.
"I think you had better join us. I'll introduce you to my companions." I collected the tray of drinks from the barman and we walked over to our table in the corner. I formally introduced Jay to Lilly and DD and he drew up a chair to sit down with us. He was a fascinating young man, very deep and intense.....
He talked freely as though he had known us forever and in his own words told us all about his life. â€œLiving in the chateau alongside all the 'ghosts' gave me, or switched on, what I now understand to be trans-temporal perception. I only seem to be able to reliably access time-periods in which I am currently present. It is less to do with memory and more to do with experience. I know the two are almost in separable. However when I perceive something is plays out as if it were my present not my past.
I saw a lot of my past including my death and the hands of the Gobelins tapestry weavers, equivalent to modern media I suppose?â€
His mother was a famous artist and he had been brought up at Chateau Haute RiviÃ¨re, Sainte-Gemmes-dâ€™AndignÃ© near Angers.
His story touched me as it was a perfect example of how we develop our own innate abilities when not brain washed by education. For being left to his own devices with only the ghosts and spirits to play with he had developed his psychic abilities to an advanced degree. His mother had then sent him away to a Catholic boarding school in England when he was twelve and he had finished his formal education there. Since then he had developed a talent for computers and now had his own successful website business.
He then continued and gave us a gruesome example of the practices that had gone on in his chateau back in earlier times.
â€œHave you seen the tapestries at Chateau d'Angers? They were woven by the Gobelin who assassinated the original lord of Chateau de La Haute RiviÃ¨re; my house in France. They are called the Apocalypse Tapestries, morbid name!
Although why a celebrated band of Dutch weavers took to assassinating French lords is beyond me? Michele's blood stain, which had soaked into the slate step, was still there. We had it chemically erased and it came back within a month. When we eventually had the step removed, which was no simple task as each step was about half a ton in weight of slate, we found the body of two infants and a cat buried together with some stones in a grave filled with red-brown dirt. This was most odd as the native dirt is orange-yellow in colour. It also hid a sealed off chapel that we didn't even know we had under the stairs. The local Mairie came to the conclusion that it was ritualistic in nature and buried the find under a ton of paperwork, probably because the area was having an expensive face-lift and dead children might scare away tourists!â€
A chill went down my spine as I thought of our encounter with Gilles de Rais and Les enfants perdus in Orleans. Perhaps then this was why of all the bars in Saumur we happened on the bar d'Orleans. The connection was there a quantum sign post that we had subconsciously followed to the next link in the chain.
As proof of his abilities he told Lilly all about herself for she was the strongest dragon princess in our group and her royal past fascinated him. He talked effortlessly without pause or hesitation and I started to see the past life connection that he shared with us. It was something to do with Saumur and Yolande of Aragon but as of yet I could penetrate the mystery no further. We would have to journey together awhile for me to find out as unfortunately my psychic abilities were not so well developed as his. The girls of course had female dragon DNA which made them adepts. DD was catching up fast as she activated her abilities with every step of the quest.
By universal non-coincidence Jay was staying in the same hotel as us so I invited him to dine. I was sure that it would not be a problem as he must have already booked in for the meal so it was just a matter of changing tables.
The girls found him charming, intelligent and charismatic. He fitted in extremely well. I kept looking at the finger armour which tugged at my subconscious continually. It was a perfect example of people wearing their memories for others to see; a subconscious desire that we all manifest whether we know it of not.
The time flew past and as the clock approached eight we made our way a few doors along to our hotel. I was still reeling from the coincidences that were stacking up with increasing frequency and magnitude. Dinner was extremely pleasant and we took it in turns to fill Jay in on our adventures to date. Lilly dealt with Metz and Reims, I took the grizzly story of Orleans and DD finished off with our latest visit to Luxembourg and Metz. It was a pleasure to listen to her talk. She was so beautiful animated and strong. As she spoke I discovered several points that I had missed as I had naturally perceived events purely from my point view. She had experienced far more than I had ever imagined in the Tour des Esprits which confirmed my time slip experience in both detail and accuracy.
As we came to the end of the meal the atmosphere mellowed and the girls said good night for they were extremely tired and wished to get some unbroken sleep. Even though I too shared their fatigue I decided to stay up with Jay until the midnight hour in order to listen to his tales of Le CÃ´te Sauvage, the VendÃ©e and Catherine de La Rochelle; also to fill him in on tomorrow's plans. He knew the Chateau de Saumur well and would be an invaluable guide, but his real passion was for Chateau de Angers near where he had grown up. He told me more of its strange and occult history that included the Tapestries of the Apocalypse. He had investigated the many secret passages that riddled the fortress which further confirmed my suspicions that somehow this complete stranger had been a part of our mission in 1431.
My curiosity satiated and my head stuffed full of tales of medieval France and the lawless wild-west coast we parted company around one. I slept very well and it was soon time to rise. At eight thirty I made my way down to the dining room and waited for the girls and Jay whilst enjoying a steaming bowl of coffee. They duly arrived fifteen minutes later looking clean and refreshed. Over breakfast we agreed to tackle the chateau head on and leave around ten.
The walk although not far was steep. We traversed the Rue Dacier to the lâ€™Ã©glise Saint-Pierre and found ourselves in a quaint district of bars and cafes with a few timber framed buildings. A board with a portrait of Cardinal Richelieu hung near an inspiring red carved timber town house which was now a cafe and we noted that it would be a good place to have lunch later. Continuing on we passed the Maison des Compagnons du Devoir an impressive pristine limestone and slate medieval building with a courtyard. Looking back we could see the magnificent old city hall in the distance. Turning left we continued up the Rue des Remparts towards the main entrance of the chateau. To gain access we crossed over a narrow masonry bridge midway between two projecting angular ravelins that led to an arched opening in the curtain wall and beyond into a courtyard. Lilly paused to take some pictures
As I set foot into the chateau from the bridge the now familiar rose arch appeared and I step through it across time several hundred years into the past. The shift was silent and instant. I was now well aware of the process so immediately became alert and started to record the information that my senses were giving me.
The courtyard was suddenly alive with hustle and bustle, grooms scurried to and fro. I could smell wood smoke and dung all around me. I looked back and saw that they were rushing to tend the horses of our party. Mine was a particularly fine black mare with a white blaze on her forehead. We also had several pack animals in tow. I counted them, thirteen of us and twenty horses. We made quite an impressive sight each of us dressed in long black habits with hoods, on each of our chests was a large white Germanic cross.
Johannes, Matthias and Marie wore a black cloak each with a small similar white cross covering the left breast above the heart. This was to difference the knights from the men. Marie "Yvette" Gorlitz had already dismounted and was being careful not to expose her face to view. I knew it was her by the slender willowy build. Johannes and Matthias were busy giving instructions to their men. They would tend the horses and keep guard over all of our effects. Having made due arrangements they joined me and we headed into the chateau proper. As we approached the impressive barbican entrance the guards became alert and crossed their halberds to prevent entry. Not wishing to antagonise them I sent word that we were expected and produced my letter of marque from the pouch worn on my belt.
After several minutes the Chamberlain arrived dressed in his sumptuous fur trimmed finery and with the gold chain of his office around his neck. The rich red and gold colouring of his clothes contrasted totally with ours to good theatrical effect. He greeted me courteously and said that the Grand Duchess had been aware of our imminent arrival for several weeks. He examined my letter in detail to confirm our identity and when fully satisfied that we were who we appeared to be bid us enter the main building.
He led us to a disrobing room and we removed our travel stained cloaks, swords and daggers. He was even more surprised to see us take off our black habits to reveal our court dress underneath and that one of our party was a woman dressed as a man! Each of us wore our heraldic colours with an embroidered coat of arms on the left breast over our heart.
Johannes resplendent in red and gold with the half rampant lion of Eltz, Matthias in red and green with his Habicht coat of arms of a hawk natural on a green mound, Yvette/Lilly with the arms of Luxembourg, silver and blue stripes with a rampant red lion surmounted with a crown and myself dressed in black. Looking at my left breast I could see the characteristic black and White arms of Metz surmounted with a splash of red that I knew to be the Vouivre.
Realising that Marie was of royal birth the Chamberlain immediate changed his demeanour and his language became much more courtly and respectful. This made me laugh as it seemed a fine trick for us to masquerade as humble knights.
"Appearances can be deceptive my dear chap, sometimes that which seems plain can hold a golden treasure inside, just as the humble egg dull with camouflage contains a golden yoke!". I spoke eloquently and with a great flourish.
"Are you saying I am an egg Robert!" Lilly sounded indignant.
"Not really, it is just that our disguise reminded me of an old Lotharingian riddle - A box without a hinge or lid inside golden treasure is hid; what am I?" I was conscious that all the others had stopped to listen alerted as they were by Lilly's tone of voice.
"So you are saying I'm an egg!" Lilly continued her mock interrogation. Then she burst out laughing, "I'm only joking. I wanted to see how big a hole you could dig and then throw yourself in, shovel and all."
The tension broke and everyone laughed including me. "You had me there. I really thought you were annoyed, very funny."
"Yes, my mother told me that riddle when I was little too." Lilly graciously put me at my ease. "Now I must see my mother's cousin." The Chamberlain jumped to attention immediately and asked us to follow him into the grand hall.
The chateau was labyrinthine and designed to confuse would be attackers. Eventually we came to a large set of impressive oak doors and the Chamberlain disappeared within leaving us to stand outside. After several minutes the doors opened and we were invited to enter. At the far end on a raise dais sat Yolande of Aragon, Grand Duchess of Anjou, Countess of Maine, Countess of Provence and Forcalquier, Countess of Piedmont and titular Queen Consort of Naples, surrounded by her gentle women. She radiated power; dressed in a red bodice trimmed with ermine and an exquisite blue dress of rich velvet. On her head she wore a gold coif richly entwined with a string of pearls and trailing a protective veil. In her left hand she held a gold sceptre to denote her status as a Queen.
Walking slowly in a chevron formation we approached and knelt before her. Lilly was first to rise when given leave. "Greeting from my mother Elisabeth Gorlitz, Grand Duchess of the House of Luxembourg and greetings from her only daughter who stands before you great lady." Lilly's youth and aristocratic bearing spoke volumes as she spoke with measured respect and royal formality.
One by one she introduced us and we took a step forward, bowed and gave thanks to her royal highness. To each of us in turn Yolande smiled and waved her hand.
"Thank you my child. We are pleased to see you and you are most welcome to enjoy what time you have with us freely. My love and protection is absolute. Now to the matter in hand, Robert des Armoises, Sieur d'Tichemont, Chevalier noir de Metz step forward."
I took a pace forward and bowed once more with a flourish. "My gracious lady, your royal highness I am at your command." as I looked up Yolande extended her right hand which bore her personal seal. Touching her fingers lightly with my right hand I kissed the ring and then stood to attention.
"I grieves me Robert that I may be sending you, your men and my cousins daughter to certain death at the hands of the English but I am at my wits end. We must save my protÃ©gÃ© known to the populous as La Pucelle the Jeanne d'Arc of Orleans fame, for she is of royal blood. Unfortunately as you may or may not know in a headstrong fit of pique she foolishly exceeded her original remit and raised her own army. She thus exposed herself and was captured at Compiegne so became a prisoner of the Burgundians who sold her to the English. She is however still a royal daughter of France and a dragon princess. I will therefore not rest until she is safe!"
Yolande banged the arm of her throne forcefully to make the point.
"They will do for her, mark my words. She will be tortured and executed viciously as an example to all those who dare to oppose the English and the Church, for whilst she is alive she remains a thorn in their side. They abhor the power of women and are desperate to smash the Armagnac cause by any and every means possible. Even more they know that she is a daughter to my cousin Ysabeau, Queen mother of France and mother to the King.
At this very moment they have her incarcerated in Rouen and it is only a matter of time before they eliminate her. Captain La Hire on my orders has been dispatched with an army to attempt a rescue by frontal assault but I fear he will fail for the English are too strong in defence. It therefore occurred to me to dispatch a second party to attempt a rescue by the backdoor so to speak. Hopefully whilst the Goddams are being entertained in the open a covert operation will succeed through stealth and cunning. You are my chosen man for that task Robert, are you up to it?
I swallowed hard and thought for a moment weighing up the lives of my companions with the destiny of France and the sacrifices that everyone had made since the siege of Orleans two years previously.
"How can I refuse my gracious Lady? We have all bled for France and what she might become in the future. I was at Orleans with La Pucelle as was Johannes. I withdrew the arrow that had struck her and then helped her to heal. I can but show the same courage. Of course I will accept the mission it will be an honour and I will not rest until the lady in question is free to breathe the good air of France again."
"Excellent I knew I could rely on you Robert. You will need some help and of course some monies to prosecute this action? Claudine of Angers another of my protÃ©gÃ©s and a dragon princess in her own right will accompany you. She is highly adept at the black arts and she will report back to me using her powers."
As she spoke she clapped her hands and a beautiful young blonde woman entered the room. Her hair flowed like a river of gold framing her fine cheek bones and contrasted perfectly with the sky blue dress of the finest silk that she wore. Slowly she drew near; gliding effortlessly across the great hall her face suddenly became clearer to my sight. I took a deep breath in astonishment for I realised that I was looking at the incarnation of Jay as he was 600 years ago.
Yolande smiled. As she did so she extended her hand again. I kissed her ring again and as I did she whispered in my ear. "God's speed Robert, fare you and your companions well. Charles the Duc dâ€™Orleans always spoke well of you, in fact he still does in his letters. He told me that he could never find you in Rouen before Azincourt! You were always hiding and up to mischief, that is how I knew you were the man for the task. His father was also the father of Jeanne dâ€™Arc! You will therefore render your captive duke a great service by freeing his wayward royal sister. You must swear on my ring never to divulge this to anyone."
â€œSweet lady I do so swear on my life and my knightly honour never to reveal what you have imparted to me in good faith; I now know for what I fight which will comfort me in my up time of trial. May I humbly thank you for the love and trust that you have placed in me. I will not fail.â€
As I turned to leave the rose arch appeared and I found myself assailed by the noise, heat and bustle of a room packed full of tourists. The transition was complete and instant. As I adjusted I noticed that I was looking at a portrait of Yolande on the wall in the same great hall.
"It doesn't do her justice. She was much more beautiful than that." I said out loud.
Jay just looked at me, smiled and said, "Of course she was!"