The others went straight in but I couldn't the past life memories were being amplified by our proximity to the actual matter fabric of the tower which was exactly the same as in 1431. I stood contemplating the gaping black void of the open doorway surrounded by red stained stonework. It was as if the very limestone had taken on the hue of dried human blood to mark the countless victims that had been tried, tortured and sentenced to death in this bloody place. Summoning up my courage I made myself inch forward foot by foot, my eyes observing every detail of the pock marked stone now some 800 years old. For the tower was part of the chateau built by Philip II of France upon his capture of Rouen from the Norman English 1204.
The tower was built of extremely thick walls with three main floors all connected by a spiral staircase. The vaulted ceilings were of the same construction technique as the Tour Esprit in Metz and were extremely familiar to me as I had once dwelt in the Sante Barbe gate house.
I ascended the claustrophobic winding steps that were lit only by the dim daylight from the archers slits towards the voices of Lilly, Jay and DD chatting above. The ambient illumination improved as I entered the middle room due to modern electric lights. The damp limestone with its distinctive musty smell assailed my nostrils and conjured up multiple images of old churches and castles in my mind. The circular room closed in on me with a feel that was alien to the modern world with its obsessive rectilinear cubic architecture. We continued up to the main room above which had more windows and a number of subtle bright electric lights set like twinkling jewels in the wooden boarded roof.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/3de0607ff39e2427e97aa95ae38baab9.jpg
Centre stage was a large glass cased model of the chateau in its original pristine lime washed form as constructed by Philippe Auguste. To one side in a recess hung a wrought iron pulley wheel suspended over a well shaft, its black menacing structure echoing the many instruments of torture that had been employed in the room below. Jeanne d'Arc indeed had herself been threatened with those self same implements of pain as part of her incarceration in the chateau between December 1430 and May 1431. In response to their threats she said loudly that she would subsequently deny any confession torn from her by such foul means. Her same defiant spirit rose now in me making my blood start to boil and was further fuelled as I felt the trapped energy of the thousands of victims that had suffered in this place in such an agonising way.
"Don't get mad, get even." the well known phrase echoed in my head as my rational mind took control to limit my blood pressure to safe levels. It made good sense for irrational emotions led to poor decision making and failure, something a good commander could not afford. I felt my nerves settle and the tension was replaced with the ice calm of cold steel waiting to strike. I knew then that I was feeling the exact same emotions as I had felt back in 1431 whilst I readied myself to attempt the most audacious exercise in military history; the freeing of La Pucelle from under the very noses of the English Goddams!
With Lilly, Jay and DD I studied the excellent 3D model of the chateau and simultaneously overlaid it with my memory of the structure from my lifetime some 200 years after its initial construction. It was more elaborate then but essentially the basic ground plan was the same.
La Pucelle was being held in the tower immediately to the west of the donjon or Grosse Tour as it is also known. I remembered the distinctive hexagonal room structure which made it unique among the other six towers. I also remembered then that I had mapped it accurately in a rÃ´leplaying game that I had written back in 1982. Even though the setting was a Dark-age fantasy the details were all deadly accurate. I now realised that I had written the game at the exact same age that I was when I and my comrades in arms had attempted the rescue!
Robert des Armoises was 28 years of age in 1431 having been born in 1403. I had been 28 years of age in the spring of 1982 when I wrote the game complete with detailed maps and illustrations. I cursed my luck that I had given all my gaming material to some young boys of a good friend of mine in a clear out of my garage just 12 years previous. The valuable documents had lain undisturbed for 20 years before my tidy up. If only I had kept them another 12! They would have provided excellent evidence for what I was now discovering about my previous medieval self. Some photographs however did exist of a Moyen age costume that I had made for a fancy dress party at that time. I made a mental note to track the photos down together with the costume which was still in a chest in the attic of my house. Perhaps it would give me a glimpse of what I looked like as Robert des Armoises?
How had I known about the hexagonal room structure unless I had been there? The game even had as its main feature the freeing of a shackled princess who was being held prisoner on the first floor of a tower in a heavily fortified chateau! Incredibly now all these memories re-emerged as I gazed at the pristine white model with its brick red conical roofed towers. I wanted to tell Lilly, Jay and DD immediately but I decided to let it wait until later as I didn't want to disturb them for they too may be having their own revelations.
I smiled contentedly to myself, moved to where DD was standing and placed my arms around her waist. Gently I kissed her ear without the others noticing and observed the goose bumps that formed on her bronzed arms as she responded to my caress. I felt safe and secure as I held her tight for she was my rock in this sea of medieval madness. Death by burning, torture and violence, it had all been part of daily life back then. Thank God it was only a memory now. Whatever happened then could no longer hurt us.
Even the weather started to change as we left the Grosse tour, the cloudless blue sky started to grow ominously dark as storm clouds rolled in from the west. Perhaps we were in for one of those infamous thunderstorms that seemed to have plagued the cathedral of Rouen with monotonous regularity throughout the centuries?
"Looks like the universe knows what we are up to!" I said jokingly out loud. Lilly frowned as she was feeling in no mood for a light hearted comment at that precise moment. The tower had obviously affected her more than I thought. By contrast Jay seemed unaffected although so I thought until he made his own curious comment.
"Did anyone notice the World War 2 Germans strutting around the tower? They were typically serious and no fun to talk to!" He smiled upon finishing but I knew that he wasn't joking.
"I think I saw them out of the corner of my eye?" DD spoke up. "I know that that the tower was used as a German bunker in World War 2 so I thought I was just generally tuning into that. I think I'm becoming psychic? It is either that or hanging around with you lot is rubbing of on me!" She laughed and that seemed to break the ice as Lilly patted her on the back. "Well done Madam des Armoises I think you have indeed been hanging out with us too long. Just you wait to your full Dragon gene potential kicks in. Then you really will have to hang on to your mental hat!" With that we all laughed and the atmosphere lifted.
I was secretly pleased that DD was with us as we needed someone not directly involved in the events of 1431 just in case we went over the edge with our emotions and experiences. I was well aware that we could literally walk over a cliff so to speak whilst reliving another time and place as reality had a tendency to become awfully confused.
We re-entered the Rue du Donjon and turned right heading back to the Rue Jeanne d'Arc which had become our main thoroughfare. Turning left we walked a short distance and stood outside number 102, in the exact same spot that the Tour La Pucelle had once stood. A large dark slate coloured plaque with imposing gold lettering proclaimed this as the 'very place' Jeanne dâ€™Arc was imprisoned complete with the correct dates from December 25, 1430 to May 30, 1431. It was so matter of fact in its preciseness and completely devoid of emotion. To the right a bas relief in stone of the chateau as it was in its entirety at the height of its power stood above the door archway. The detail was remarkable and I recognised it immediately as an accurate representation of what I remembered. I pointed out the names of the towers to the others who were amazed at my sudden accurate recall.
I also knew that the tower had still stood in a dilapidated state until the beginning of the 19th century when it was finally demolished in 1809. Even I was amazed at my recall of information that I had no conscious recollection of learning. Obviously my subconscious had been paying attention throughout my present life and noted places that were very important to me.
The energies however were too confusing to be read for the fabric of the present building obscured the psychic history of the tour. So we moved southward and came across an intriguingly elaborate stone statue known as Le flambeau de l'escalier in the tourist booklets. It reminded me of my silver candelabra at home for it had the exact same design of centre piece; a silver flame emerging from an ornate urn shaped. Again I toyed with the idea that possibly my subconscious had wandered here throughout the centuries and had caused my conscious mind to purchase the 18th century candle stick from an antique shop when I had chanced upon it? I was beginning to realise just how intricate my mind was at collecting. Everything I had acquired or made throughout my life told a story like a secret code. Now I had reached a point in life when I could finally break that cipher and see it all for what it truly was.
Ascending the steps we entered the charmingly neat garden of the MusÃ©e de la CÃ©ramique which appeared to the right in near middle distance. My eye was immediately caught by a familiar looking old stone building with three arches and a high ornate timbered gable end supporting a black slate roof. The others were looking at an ornate ceramic statue in white which sat centre stage in the neat garden. It appeared to be a male torso on a pedestal. The â€˜armsâ€™ became organic fan like structures which merged with the hair and beard of a distinctly Greek God like character; a deity of agricultural plenty. It certainly made me think which in my book made it good art.
Continuing we entered the Rue Faucon and turned right descending a flight of stone steps into the Square Verdrel. It was so refreshing to get into a green space with a small lake water feature set amidst a number of beautiful trees in full leaf. We immediately relaxed and simply enjoyed each others company without a conscious thought for history and memories. However I was secretly hoping that my subconscious was still making its own notes and that it might lead me to the correct places after dark when the world became a very different place.
"I'm getting peckish!" Lilly exclaimed suddenly, "anyone for a bite to eat?"
"I guess that means the Old Market place? Well it's about time we faced the devil in the detail." Jay's laconic voice struck a resonant chord in me for we clearly needed to grasp the nettle of the problem. I therefore found myself agreeing with Lilly's unspoken prompt to action and it was after all her ball game.
"We can contemplate the site of execution afterwards!" I added cheerfully in an effort to exorcise my own personal demons.
"Yes, I feel a strange connection with that place but as yet I am not sure what it is all about but not good, definitely not good?" Jay sounded a little forlorn in the timbre of his voice. I duly took note although I'm not sure if anyone else did. "Let's eat drink and be merry, hey!" He continued.
"For tomorrow we die?" Lilly added quietly under her breathe with an air of gloom and resignation having obviously picked up some psychic morsel of information from Jayâ€™s mind. Jay shot her a sideways glance that spoke volumes.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/c91914500d83bfc03f62be34fa6800ff.jpg
So without further ado we headed back down the Rue Jeanne d'Arc and across to a couple of blocks to the place du Vieux MarchÃ©. Despite getting the psychic chills we chose the Bistrot de Hallettes for lunch and sat a table in the open air looking directly towards the Ã‰glise and Le buchÃ© de Jeanne d'Arc.
Whilst we chatted freely comparing our experiences of the morning my computer like memory was busy searching for the answer as to the location of the secret passage into the chateau. Suddenly I looked up into the sky and saw a hawk making its way northward with difficulty as it had to negotiate the increasingly strong westerly wind which gave its flight an uncharacteristic fluttering zig zag pattern.
"The path of the hawk shall set us free! That's it! It's been staring me in the face. I knew the answer all along, just needed to unblock my subconscious." In my excitement I involuntarily knocked the table and spilt a glass of red wine onto the pristine white table cloth. For me it was a metaphor for spilt blood and the price that must be paid for freedom. Much as Jesus had redeemed the world with his blood shed on the cross but whoâ€™s blood?
"Did anybody notice what is wrong with the chateau?" I posed the question without pausing as I mopped up the excess wine with my serviette. Lilly, Jay and DD all looked at me as though I had gone completely mad but before they could open their mouths in reply I was busy rearranging the plates and glasses into a map of the chateau and its immediate environs. A large round serving plate served as the central courtyard around which I arranged various wine glasses as the towers, as I did so I named them all, one after the other together with the internal apartments, buildings and sundry details. Sugar cubes, cutlery in fact anything that fitted the bill was pressed into service to give as much detail as I could to my own model of the chateau.
"That's it, that's it, look the chateau is built the wrong way around! The barbican gate faces inward towards the city and river not outward. It is designed to suppress not defend the population. Most city fortifications face externally so as to protect the inhabitants. Now imagine the wine stain as the small lake in Square Verdrel, what connects the chateau to it?"
Lilly became excited and started to rise to the challenge. I think the detail of my memory had quite stunned everyone up until that point. Then just as she was about to give me her answer DD chimed in, "Rue Faucon - the path of the Hawk!"
"I was just going to say that!" Lilly said with sisterly good humour as their minds synchronised.
"Yes that's right! The small artificial lake in Square Verdrel is where the tunnel exited allowing the chateau nobles to escape the chateau via the Chapelle Royale ou Saint-Romain. The chapelle was originally situated next to the Tour du coin de la Chapelle, which was the right hand tower as you entered the fortress. As a young boy aged twelve I spent the three whole months prior to the Battle of Agincourt exploring the chateau when not performing my duties as a page to my Lord the Duc d'Orleans. Iâ€™ve finally remembered!"
"Well all we have to do now is wait until the bewitching hour and put your knowledge to the test." As Lilly spoke her face began to shine for the end was in sight and she knew in her heart I was right!
We continued our meal much to the amazement of the waitress who was at a loss to understand what all our excitement was about. Finally we settled our bill. Lilly said she would like to explore the Old Market place with Jay so as to give DD and I some space to be alone. We decided before they departed to eat at the Restaurant La Couronne that evening if at all possible. Lilly said she would text me the details as they would stop off there first to inquire as to any vacancies before visiting the Ã‰glise.
It was only 4 o'clock so DD and I decided not to rush as we had plenty of time to kill. I ordered another cognac cafÃ© and DD a crÃ¨me de menthe liqueur. We chatted so easily with synchronous thoughts about all that was occurring that we just knew that we were soul mates, each sharing the others memories and secrets as we had done through many lives. We both felt exactly the same about the Catholic Church and its bloody history but we decided never the less that we should visit the Ã‰glise Jeanne d'Arc and visit the old Market place as good tourists should. My heart was now in the fight for I knew positively that I was correct in my memory and the way forward was clear.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/cfd9ce33a2d0fc9d1ed23452f0020c59.jpghttp://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/66e39254c36119cf78a82c7b548073f1.jpg
In the simple modern church DD and I held hands and lit candles for all those lost souls that had suffered torment, torture and death in this place throughout the centuries.
The time went extremely quickly and it was soon nearing 8 o'clock. Lilly texted me at a quarter to the hour in order to tell me that they had been unsuccessful in booking a table in La Couronne for this evening but had secured one for the following night. She then asked us to meet them at Les Maraichers next door as they still had space to squeeze us in. This we duly did.
The meal was light, refreshing and tasty. We stayed chatting until 11:30pm over many delicious courses and had excellent conversation. In some ways this was to be our â€˜last supperâ€™. Jay held the floor for the main part of the conversation as he had had a distinctly profound if somewhat negative experience when visiting the actual site where Jeanne was allegedly executed. He went to great lengths to describe his emotions, feelings and sensations at that spot. It all sounded extremely ominous but he was determined to carry on and see the mission through come what may until the bitter end.
Finally we settled the bill and left a generous tip, then complimented the chef and staff on their outstanding hospitality and excellent cuisine. We were now ready for anything, fully charged up and ready to assault the Tour La Pucelle!
So together we march purposefully back up the Rue Jeanne d'Arc towards the Square Verdrel and our appointment with destiny....un pour tous, tous pour un!
It was nearing midnight and the city lay dormant. The warm summer air tinged with salt brushed my face as I led the others into the verdant covered space of the square adjacent to the MusÃ©e des Beaux Arts de Rouen. Neat paths took us quickly to the Le cascade, a small waterfall over some large boulders that are a major feature of the central lake. The rocks nestled in amongst the dense lush foliage and were broken in their dark form every now and then by the glimpse of a silent white swan resting for the night or gliding on the water. As stealthily as church mice we sat down on the grass by the path directly in front of the tumbling waters of the cascade. Lilly produced our blankets magically from her rucksack the self same ones that we had purchased and used in Metz. Relaxing to the music of the waterfall we lay back to look at the stars and silently wondered on how many other planets a similar story was being acted out?
"Well here we go!" Lilly said in an authoritative voice, "Good luck, see you on the other side." With that she started to glaze over, close her eyes and was dead to the present world. Jay followed suite and was soon breathing shallowly in synchronisation with Lilly. Gently I covered them with the spare blanket then turned to say farewell to my medieval Jehanne.
"OK my love, you are in charge now, guard us well we may be sometime. What ever happens we will try to see the mission through to the bitter end. If the Gendarmerie turn up you will have to make some excuses about us! I'm sure you will think of something creative?"
With that we kissed long and hard. The feeling of electricity infused every cell of my body as I started to lock in on the time and place that meant so much to us all. Having DD with me was a real bonus as she was another direct link back into the medieval world that we had known so well. I lay back on the blanket and then she laid on top of me, her sparkling blue eyes glittering in the Moonlight and her long blonde hair falling sensuously over my face was the last thing my senses registered in the present here and now.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/2a132da8d426883c11afdca35167e088.jpg
No sooner had I lost consciousness than I saw the coloured lights of the archway and I flowed effortlessly through the timeslip portal between worlds. I found myself at the wooded entrance of a cave set amongst the same rocks that had formed the cascade in my 21st century reality. The water flowed more vigorously and acted as a fine curtain obscuring the opening to the secret passage way that went directly into the chateau Philippe Auguste the formidable fortress of Rouen. Only I knew it was there for it was not visible to the casual observer.
I looked around, Matthias and his men were with me as were my trusted comrades Tomas, Thibauld and Enfant Guillaume. We wore black cloaks with hoods over our tunics and armour. Each bore a white radiant Germanic style cross of enlightenment on their chest which flashed clearly in the flickering torch light when their cloak parted. Each had a black band painted across their face covering their eyes which mimicked the markings of the ferrets we kept in small baskets on our back. Each of my men carried two along with the tools of their trade, some rope and the deadly crossbows tipped with venom.
I nodded to Matthias who drew his short sword to indicate that he was ready.
"★★★★, lock and load!"
I gave the simple command and each man placed his foot into the stirrup of his cross bow and pulled the string back with the hook on his belt to the lock position. Then each took a quarrel from his quiver and placed it carefully in the furrow of the stock making sure that the leather flights were the correct way up.
My second command sounded in the wooded silence of the night and was followed immediately by another click from each man as the security catch was fastened. The one thing I didn't want was an accident as we manoeuvred in the confined space of the passage way.
I knew that Johannes and his men together with our Captain were guarding the ship and making ready to sail on the early morning tide. The wind was fair and La Hire with Dunois the ★★★★★★★ of Orleans had set the diversion in motion the previous day.
The Goddams would be few and relaxed as the main action was taking place on the east side of the city some 5 kilometres away. I knew also from Yvette and Marie inside the chateau that Cauchon and the Nobles were planning to hurriedly dispose of La Pucelle in the morning as their own men would not march on Dunois and La Hire until the 'little witch' was dead.
It was now or never if we were to do this. I crossed myself and said a prayer to our Lord. My followers all 7 of them listened with heads bowed and followed my lead.
"On y'va mes enfants terrible!"
I signified for them to follow me and with that we plunged through the curtain of water into the small hidden cave entrance beyond the waterfall. The rush torches spluttered and sizzled as the cold water hit them but remained alight. My hood and cloak took the water which rolled in beads off of its oily surface so I remained dry underneath. Inside the natural limestone cave a small narrow passage led off northward from the back directly towards the chateau on the hill. We had to stoop to walk and after 20 metres or so we encountered our first obstacle; a locked iron gate. This was a task for Tomas so I called him to the front of the file. He squeezed past me and I caught a flash of his white teeth as he smiled in the dark.
"No problem." He said confidently. Then reaching into his leather belt pouch he withdrew a set of skeleton keys and started to pick the lock. It was well oiled but very basic, just enough to deter the odd curious peasant from venturing further. Within a couple of minutes there was a final click clunk and he swung the heavy iron door open triumphantly.
"Done!" He said in a voice loud enough for the others to hear behind me. With that I released the first two ferrets that we were carrying from the basket on his back and sent them into the tunnel ahead of us. They scampered off happily in to the inky darkness on the prowl. They were my early warning system for the ferrets would soon hurry back if threatened by humans interaction thus we would be ready for any unfortunate surprises. In an ambush any warning and time gained was crucial to surviving.
We continued on our way beneath what would be in future times be called the Rue Faucon, now above us it was barely a track through woodland which followed a stream down hill to the Seine. The passage way descended steeply as we approached the foundations of the curtain wall of the chateau. After another 100 metres or so it levelled out and we encountered a second more formidable obstacle, a heavy oaken door reinforced and bound with iron bands and nails. A masonry arch surrounded it. This was the entrance to the fortress and marked that we were mid way under the mighty walls above. We repeated the procedure. This time it took Tomas several minutes to crack the lock, as he struggled with his black art. I hoped silently that the girls had managed to remove the draw bolts and bar on the other side; otherwise our rescue attempt would end right here, right now.
Yvette and Marie had gained employment in the chateau kitchens by using their feminine charms some two weeks ago shortly after we had arrived with our wine delivery. Now at the appointed time they had two functions, to release the catches on the door in front of us and to spike the supper for the guards with our herbal cocktail of deadly alchemical substances. They would then carry the doctored celebratory ale and porter feast to the soldiers in the Tour La Pucelle under the pretence of a bonus meal for a job well done for within a few hours they would be permanently rid of their troublesome charge. They should in fact be there right now if all was proceeding to plan.
The lock clicked then after a pause that seemed and eternity clunked signifying success and Tomas attempted to turn the large iron ring that lifted the dead latch. It was stuck! My heart skipped several beats as he struggled with the problem. Growing impatient I squeezed beside him and together we tried to free it.
It finally sprung free with another loud metallic clunk and we shouldered the door open. The heavy door moved a fraction then gained momentum and swung open. The girls had achieved their first task. With that the ferrets were now in the hen house! We burst through the door to the vertically winding stone stairs beyond. The ferrets I had released previously were nowhere to be seen, perhaps they were feasting of some dead water rats they had caught and killed? So I released another two and up the stairs they climbed with some encouragement. We waited for several minutes listening intently for activity but heard nothing. Silently we ascended to the Chapelle Royale above. At last we emerged under the main altar and climbed out into the cavernous echoing darkness. The only light to be seen was a flickering red lantern containing the eternal flame that signifies that the Lord Jesus' presence is in this holy place.
Dowsing our torches we moved stealthily in the gloom towards the main door that led to the internal courtyard. I navigated by my memory of 16 years previous and each of the others held the hem of the cloak of the man in front. Matthias was immediately behind me. He would guard the Chapelle with his men to secure our exit. At the door he wished me luck and we embraced.
"Bon chance!" Were his last and only words under muffled breath. I and my trusted chosen men were now on our own. Enfant Guillaume I left with him for the next stage might be brutal, bloody and far too dangerous. He was the same age that I had been at Agincourt but I had no desire that he should risk his life in the frontline.
"Orleans!" I said in a muffled voice to encourage my men as I thought of my Lord the Duc d'Orleans on that fateful day when he risked all in the hazard and was finally taken hostage. Now he resided a prisoner Royale in Angleterre the island fortress. "This is for you!"
With that we slipped into the shadows of the curtain wall and headed towards the Tour La Pucelle to the west. It was a dark night and I was surprised that there was not the activity I had anticipated despite our diversion. Only the odd guard patrolled the walls and the rest were probably snoozing in their watch towers by their warm braziers.
I decided to risk everything and cut straight across the courtyard to avoid the main barbican gate. Moving stealthily we covered the ground rapidly without hazard. Reaching the tower I opened the door trying to make as little noise as possible. I released the last two ferrets and waited for a possible commotion, my crossbow ready with the safety catch off.
"What the f***?" came a drunken sounding voice from the floor above. I knew then that we must strike hard and fast! Bursting fully into the tower on the count of three we ascended the stone steps at a run. I estimated from the furore that there were a number of guards still capable of action although dulled by our potions that had obviously had some effect judging from the incoherent language being used. This was not the result that I had hoped for but never mind we had to press on otherwise all was lost.
Reaching the mezzanine floor where La Pucelle was being held I took a sharp left into the small guard room that was external to the main cell. I was horrified to see the floor and walls covered in warm dripping blood and a guard slumped in the corner, throat cut, with the lifeless body of Marie on top of him as limp as a rag doll. The crimson stream was still pumping from his open wound so I knew without a doubt that this had only just transpired. The other guard was on top of Yvette attempting to force himself upon her, his hose pulled down around his knees. I took careful aim and fired my cross bow bolt fully into his bare exposed flesh. He gave a piercing yell and then started to writhe on the floor as the venom took effect and finished the job that the hallucinogenic sedatives had started. Luckily he had consumed a considerable quantity of the doctored ale so my added dose was enough to dispatch him to hell rapidly.
As Tomas and Thibauld rummaged for the keys and watched the door I heaved his twitching fat carcass off of Yvette. She was barely conscious and in a severe state of undress. I did my best to hide her modesty and checked that she was breathing. No permanent harm was my assessment so I moved to check Marie - no pulse! My heart sank, no breath her dagger plunged deep into her assailant's throat. She had severe bruising to her neck and had been strangled, her trachea clearly crushed in the fray.
Spinning around I grabbed the keys from Tomas and spanned my crossbow. Then carefully selecting another poisonous quarrel I placed it on the stock. "Cocked and locked; ready to fire. No quarter!" my blood was up and I was in no mood to take prisoners after seeing what they had done to our girls. Beyond the cell door we would dispatch anything that moved with one exception; our Maid of Orleans.http://www.ravenecho.com/static/149/ddbdc96a8ac37824b6be71ea086d1cc8.jpg
The ferrets had completed their task and were now busy sniffing the spilt blood which they licked intermittently. I moved out of the room and unlocked the cell door. I remembered the unique hexagonal layout of the room so knew all the possible ambush points. However nothing prepared me for what I saw. The beaten, bruised and tortured La Pucelle shackled to her rough wooden bed by her hands and feet. Luckily the guards with dulled reactions were in no fit state to put up strong resistance. As they rose from their hiding places and drew their weapons, I fired into one of them and Thibauld the other. Their reinforced steel nailed jacks took the sting out of our venom tipped quarrels but the point blank force of the bolt to the abdomen at such a close range was enough to incapacitate them. A similar armour piercing bolt tipped with bees wax would have gone straight through any armour and severed the spine. So we drew our swords and finished them off rapidly without ceremony.
La Pucelle raised a weak smile yet looked confused at this unexpected turn of events and our friendly faces. I comforted her whilst Thibauld unshackled her hands and feet. Dazed, bruised and bleeding from the constant chaffing she tried to stand up.
"They have dressed me up in men's clothes so they can have an excuse to execute me." The words came softly from her dry parched lips.
"I know we have timed this very carefully. Dunois and La Hire are keeping the Goddams occupied. They haven't forgotten their little firebrand and have made every effort to rescue you with their men. Yolande of Aragon has sent us. It is I Robert, the one who removed the arrow from your breast at Orleans." I comforted her as best I could with soothing words and accurate information. "We will soon have you out of this hell hole and you will breathe the good air of a free France again!"
"Ah my faithful Robert des Armoises. I remember St Catherine and St Margaret were with me that day! I see you still wear the radiant white cross. I remember it so well." She managed then to raise a smile despite her obvious pain.
With that I escorted her to the door and then re-entered the guard room to check on Yvette whilst Tomas and Thibauld kept watch. Yvette was badly shaken but standing. She looked mournfully at Marie's defiled body and wept.
"The bastards tried to rape us.â€ She said kicking the dead body of her tormentor. â€œI told Marie not to resist but the guard recognised her! He was a Flemish Gobelin mercenary that had been employed at the Chateau Angers where he had seen Marie. He knew that she was in the employ of the Duchess of Anjou so he started to strangle her, then rape her. She would not be defiled so waited like a coiled serpent until the last moment possible when she saw your two ferrets and then plunged the dagger into the Goddam as he finished crushing her tender young swan like neck. I was more fortunate for mine guard was so out of it as to be incapable thank God!"
I put my arm around her and she rested her head on my shoulder. "We must go my sweet Lady before the general alarm is raised. We are still in mortal peril." I tried to maintain a respectful composure despite the urgency of our situation but time was of the essence.
"Yes I know but Marie can do her Mistress one last service and that is to draw suspicion away from the House of Anjou. I will place my personal signet ring on her finger. It bears my personal arms of the Black Iris together with the Lion of Luxembourg. That way they will think that Marie is me and will not connect her to the House of Anjou. Instead they will suspect they have been betrayed by their ally Burgundy my cousin and they will lay the blame squarely there."
I was amazed at how clear headed Yvette appeared under duress and her lightning quick thinking may just save a whole barrel full of trouble for the Armagnac cause, Yolande and the Dauphin. With silent reverence Yvette placed her solid gold ring on Marie's slender lifeless finger. I crossed myself and Yvette did the same. Then she conducted a short prayer in Latin. Jeanne joined us and added her own few words to speed Marie's soul onward towards the light.
"Right Ladies shall we depart? Time is pressing and we still have to get out of this Goddam place in one piece!"
As I spoke Tomas and Thibauld scooped up my two favourite ferrets and the Ladies followed me back down the winding vertical stairs to the courtyard below.