Fin du DÃ©but
We exited the tower and started our perilous journey across the open courtyard. Yvette was dazed but able to function physically. She supported Jeanne by holding her under one arm. Battered and bruised they were so far unharmed. I thanked the angels as i moved stealthily towards the Chapelle Royal. Then an arrow zinged past my right ear and another struck the left pauldron of the black body armour that protected my shoulder area, luckily it glanced off at an angle leaving just a gash in my black woollen cloak. I thanked God that I had bothered to put my armour on earlier despite the inconvenience of the increased weight. Its superior steel and cunning construction did not however restrict my freedom of movement. It was of Nuremberg origin, a composite plate construction, the very latest gothic style to come out of Germany and an investment worth the purchase! We started to run, all caution thrown to the wind. Like nimble fleeting raven coloured storm clouds we flew over the dusty terrain of the chateau. Another arrow thudded into the ground in front of me, and another, and another.
"Zig zag! Don't run in a straight line!" I shouted out the desperate instructions although Lilly had pre-emptied my thoughts and didn't need any further encouragement. Heroically she continued to help and guide Jeanne with her every step of the way.
"Easy for you to say I'm carrying a dead weight!" Lilly shouted back in my direction. It was a taunt too far and Jeanne immediately stiffened. Regaining her fighting spirit she cast off her fellow sister warriorâ€™s support and started to run under her own power.
Then I stopped, span around and scanned the battlements for the archer that was attempting to thwart my escape with terminal intent. I literally had seconds to get my shot in before he found his mark as I was now a stationary target and I knew full well the deadly accuracy of the English longbow in the hands of a trained from youth professional archer. At Agincourt I had witnessed a French knight foolishly raising his clenched fist and shaking it at the Goddam archers in anger and frustration. Before he could lower it 19 out of 20 arrows fired at him had pierced it, armour, leather, flesh and bone! As if my sniping antagonist had read my mind another arrow struck my vambrace and glanced off at an obtuse angle of deflection merely causing me to drop my favourite German jÃ¤ger crossbow, but it was enough I had him. The Moonlight momentarily glinted off of his helmet which was sufficient for me to draw an accurate bead and aim just below it. I knew from hunting experience to target the space that was his chest area for it presented me with the largest mark, deer or man it made no difference the principle was the same. Holding my breath I gently squeezed the trigger bar of my weapon and the full force of the tensioned steel drove home the wax tipped quarrel with deadly armour piercing effect. A soft thwack told me I had found my target. It was followed by a muffled thud as the body of my Goddam tormentor fell onto the ground immediately below the parapet to my left.
There was no time to admire my own prowess as an alarm bell immediately sounded. Its piercing chime cleaving the frozen silence with a clarion call to arms. We now had literally seconds to make good our escape. Another arrow landed in the ground not a metre from my foot and buried itself to half the length of its shaft. I ran. Everything became a blur as I sped gasping for breath towards the chapelle doorway. Yvette and Jeanne had made it thus far and were frantically knocking to gain admission as arrows began to pepper the iron bound oaken form of the main door. Suddenly the door swung inwards and its solidity was replaced by an inky black void into which they plunged and vanished. My delaying tactic had worked and given them vital seconds with which to gain admission to the sanctuary beyond.
Now it was my turn to run the gauntlet of raining steel. I gulped and summoned up the last drop of my adrenaline fuelled rush. As I approached the opening I saw two of Matthias' men step out of the doorway and loosen their bolts in the direction of the main gate. The quarrels clattered off of the masonry, their covering fire bought me the precious seconds I needed to tumble headlong through the portal to safety.
Seeing his men safely in Matthias slammed the door shut to the sound of more arrows striking the oak mass.
"I take it they know we are here?" He spoke softly with a clipped Swiss accent. His rhetorical statement required no reply but I gave one as I regained my composure and gathered my thoughts.
"Of course, time to go wouldnâ€™t you say?"
The girls were already halfway along the nave as we secured the door. Methodically we made our way to the altar making sure that we left no clues as to our covert exit route. Only the nobles would know of the tunnel for it was their secret and not for common usage. That would buy us time I thought with satisfaction. The common soldiers were expendable and expected to die bravely for their overlords. It was the feudal code of loyalty that was not only expected but demanded by the aristocratic parasites that would always save their own skin at the expense of others. It was the privilege of rank I reasoned although I couldn't stop the emotion of utter contempt from rising in my throat as I walked deliberately towards our salvation. It had taken a small frail girl on a mission to lead the armies of France by example from the front. Something we had forgotten about after Agincourt. Now even more frail and bleeding she was worth a thousand so called English Goddam nobles and we the cadre noir had snatched her from under their very noses. Fortified with that thought my sense of humour returned and I attended to the task in hand with renewed vigour and increased levity.
I made sure that every man was accounted for and that I should be the last one to leave the chapelle. As a final defiant gesture I placed one of my black gauntlets onto the altar beneath the crucifix. It was my calling card and would give the common soldiery a puzzle to contemplate in their ignorance. I then crossed myself and said a short prayer before departing.
With that completed I climbed inside the stone altar, making sure that the cloth dropped neatly into place and then slid the false panel shut with a smooth swishing sound. Down the winding narrow stone step I hurried and back to the chamber with the oaken door far below. Tomas and Thibauld greeted me with a grin and a deliberately nonchalant, what kept you?
"It's a long story, I'll tell you later, time to go!" As I stepped through subterranean archway the familiar rose coloured glow appeared and I found myself lying on a blanket looking at the stars. I felt somewhat disorientated and cut off in mid flow but otherwise was none the worse for wear. The last sound I heard from my medieval world was the distinctive clunk click as Tomas deafly secured the lock once more behind us.
The change in my breathing pattern alerted DD. Her beautiful sparkling eyes now replaced the stars in the heavenly vault above. She smiled and kissed me gently on the lips.
"You are back then?" She murmured, "How was it?"
"It went as well as could be expected," I said, "No lasting physical damage. I think I got away with it? How are the others?"
Putting her finger to her lips to indicate that I should be silent, she added, "Judging for their comatose state I guess that they are still there. Jay in particular is deathly still."
"Is he breathing?" I quickly replied. I became concerned due to what I had witnessed and moved around Lilly to check his pulse. It was barely there and he was as cold as ice to the touch. "He's under very deep, deeper than anything we have experienced before. I hope he is all right?" I tried to smile but couldn't hide the anxiety in my voice. "I hope he makes it? We must complete the experiment but if he dies like his other self we will have a hell of a lot of explaining to do to the authorities. I will put an ambulance on speed dial." with that I busied myself punching in the numbers 15 required to ascertain the nearest Service d'Aide MÃ©dicale d'Urgence - SAMU unit into my iPhone. The activity steadied my nerves for this was real time and in the event of a fatality it would log the time that I called for help. Just as the answer came I noticed his breathing pattern subtly change and become faintly more audible. Bowing to my intuition I informed the operator that I had dialled the wrong number and apologised. With that I checked his pulse for signs that life was returning to animate his almost lifeless corpse. It was stronger. I checked again and again. It was definitely stronger I could feel the life returning to reanimate his physical form.
Lilly by contrast seemed to just be in a deep sleep and her breathing at least was stable and audible. DD left me to it and stood up to shake the stiffness from her body and stretch her legs. She scanned the trees for uninvited guests. Her warrior and worrier instincts were on full alert. We were a team each knowing instinctively what the other needed to do in order to complete the task in hand.
It was gone four o'clock and the first change in the darkness of the night was detectable as it slowly transitioned minute by minute from inky blackness to pale grey. The birds in the trees started to chatter and give voice to the dawn chorus as they stirred from their nocturnal roosts. The early morning dew had settled on the grass and enhanced the new day with a refreshing smell that reaffirmed life itself. Then Lilly began to stir and started to come to. "Johannes get the ship underway! We can't wait any longer!" She shouted the words in medieval Luxembourgish dialect but I intuitively understood them with certain clarity. She had obviously made it to the ship and was concerned to catch the tide and make good our escape. A thousand questions went through my head but they would have to wait as I still had Jay to monitor.
Lilly stretched, stood up and joined DD in her exercises. "You OK?" I asked with minimum loss concentration and expediency.
"OK," She replied, "Mission accomplished La Purcelle is safe. We are heading north for the Rhine and home once we make it to the channel. It was Johannes' idea as he is prepared to risk the Dunkerque pirates and it will be the last direction the English will think of looking." With that she grinned and continued her warm up exercises.
With that simple statement I knew that we were home and dry. "Well done," I said in quiet reply, "the rest is history as they say."
Lilly's grin became a knowing smile which further reassured me. "How's Jay? Do you think he will make it back seeing what happened back there it was pretty brutal?"
"I'm sure he will. His pulse has strengthened and where there is life there is hope." I held his wrist as I spoke and willed him on. Another half an hour passed. The traffic started to move and break the silence. I was still determined that we should not disturb his trip so I ignored the increasing clamour of human activity. At last his breathing pattern changed and grew stronger, an angelic smile developed on his face and colour returned to his cheeks. It was the look of bliss, often written about but rarely witnessed.
Then he spoke, "Iâ€™m rising, rising, ascending beyond the mortal physical realm of limitation and pain. I have completed my earthly task. The lamb has been sacrificed." He seemed totally at peace as he muttered and then started to blink.
"I didn't want to come back, but I have work yet to do, yes lots of work still to do in this present life." He spoke confidently and with a new clarity in his voice. "I didn't want to come back but I have so much work to do, places to go and people to see. It is not my time. What a wonderful world this will truly become once we have finished the work we started millions of years ago. The dragon born Illuminati are torn, a divided council is no real council at all. They are not a real threat to anyone. It has been too many years since they sought enlightenment and held knowledge for the future benefit of mankind, now they use the knowledge they have gathered as their power, to wield influence in regimes that are soon to be replaced. They are irrelevant... and they are starting to realize it. These present day Machiavellian performances are nothing more than the death rattle of a weary beast, not long for this world.
We as etheric beings have manifest here as Earthly guides on the path humanity must now walk into our collective future and our past; knowledge of where we have been, not through the artefacts that have survived the decay of time but through the experiences of the people that were there, our experiences.
Written though us is an inevitable genetic destiny, we have already succeeded. If we did not have this limiting perspective of time we would understand, we are our own guardian angels, our own higher-selves. We can remember our ancient past and we will remember our future, it is the only way to feel safe in the present. Without that fear of the unknown nobody has any power over us, we can see the lie before it's spoken, we can predict the rain and the drought, the fire and the flood and the famine and the plague. No regime has ever built the foundations to withstand such a storm but we will. So ends the reign of fear.
Welcome to the new plane of human existence!"
It was a profound philosophical statement of being. I sat there dumbfounded. I knew that he had gone far beyond our mundane psychic experiences and moved to a much higher level. Jay was indeed a light being, blessed and very special. It was the final piece of the jig saw and was more about the future than the past. We had come full circle in our quest for understanding who and what we are.
"Time to eat, I'm starving I could eat a horse!" Lilly chimed in with words that struck a chord with us all and brought us firmly back to present reality.
"Back to the hotel then in time for breakfast." DD added as she started to fold up the blanket that we had been lying on. She handed the neatly folded bundle to Lilly who stowed it in her rucksack and then folded her own and put that too away with quiet efficiency. I helped Jay to his feet and we watched the swans glide silently on the lake as they too exercised, stretched sleepy muscles and greeted the brand new day.
The walk back down Avenue Jeanne d'Arc towards the river was very pleasant. It was as though we had been to an all night party and were making our way home with assorted hangovers yet in a state of euphoria at having had such a wonderful time. It was in total contrast to the drama and tension that I had experienced in my other world. The emotional dam had burst and now the flood waters had subsided. I felt strangely calm and happy with my lot and the fact that I had found my soul mate along the way. She had been waiting for me all the time without me knowing just waiting for the right moment when we would consciously recognise each other from our portraits on the door. A message we had left ourselves to find somewhen in time. I now recognised her for the beautiful shining being she truly was. As if to acknowledge my thoughts DD squeezed my hand as we walked and a jolt of emotional electricity flowed from her into my being. I was now no longer a burnt out shadow of my former self, good for nothing, ready for retirement and dotage. I was reborn, fully refreshed, exhilarated at the prospect of what was yet to come. She had transformed me, as Lilly and Jay had. They had transformed me and helped me to reconnect with my higher self. I now knew finally for certain that I was more than the sum of my parts. My spirit was eternal and I had strove through fire and flood in many lives to become the being I am.
"Showers and breakfast in 30 minutes." Breaking the contemplative silence I said the words instinctively out loud as we entered the foyer of the Hotel Bourgtheroulde. Everyone agreed with a silent nod of affirmation, for each person was lost in their own world of individual thoughts and words were no longer necessary as we were on autopilot after a long night and needed refuelling. Without ceremony we made our way to our respective rooms. DD squeezed my hand again as we parted as through loathed to cast me adrift and let me go.
"AbientÃ´t mon cher." She said intimately.
"AbientÃ´t my warrior soul mate." I replied lovingly and then we embraced kissing slowly. Time had ceased to have relevance in our lives, we knew that we would always be together so there was no rush.
Over breakfast we each told of our experiences and soon learned that we had indeed all witnessed the same climatic events and each was able to fill in the missing details in the other person's story. All except Jay who just listened quietly and gathered all the relevant facts surrounding his own personal experience up until the point were he had met his untimely demise.
Then he unfolded a most remarkable tale of how he had left his physical body as Marie of Angers and had floated above it in the tower and beyond.
"The sense of panic in the English camp was intense. When they suddenly discovered that the start turn of their theatre macabre noir had vanished. Warwick was beside himself as Cauchon, Bedford and the public masses expected a cathartic burning and an end to all of their self proclaimed imaginary woes. He then instructed the guards to dress my body in a plain white shift and tie me firmly to a stake that was hurried erected on a tumbrel. They then placed a tall pointed paper hat on my head adorned with the words heretic, blasphemer and idolator in large letters. This was partly to hide my face from the crowds so that they did not recognise me but would assume that I was La Pucelle. Two guards were assigned to travel with me and to animate my body periodically in order to complete the charade. The old Market place was emptied and ring fenced with the remaining armed guards from the chateau. They interlocked their halberds together to prevent the populous getting too close which was highly unusual as normally they encouraged them to get as close as possible in order to witness the tortured expressions and cries of pain of the victims. The faggots of wood had been pre-soaked in oil and extra tallow was added as an accelerant for this would be no long protracted execution, it would be short, sharp and spectacular.
Finally the fire was lit and took hold rapidly, the flames leaping high into the air. The intensity of the inferno could be felt easily at a distance of 50 metres. A guard mimicked my voice and called out for a crucifix to be held up in front of my face. This was prearranged so as to obscure any sharp sighted citizens that may have caught a glimpse of my hair colour and features as the paper hat burnt away. Nothing was left to chance Warwick had used every ounce of his cunning to extricate himself from the embarrassing situation that he had suddenly found himself in.
All the time I floated over the scene watching every detail with quiet satisfaction for my physical body had completed its task and what better way to leave the stage of life than with a theatrical flourish!"Jay couldn't help smiling at that point as he enunciated the words with an actorâ€™s eloquence.
"Three times they brought more faggots to re-burn my body to ash for they wanted not a trace of forensic evidence for examination as they knew that the ever sceptical Cauchon with his obsessive attention to detail would be most thorough in his investigations. There would be absolutely no means of identification; nothing was left to chance.
Then Cauchon entered the scene in a flurry. He was so annoyed that he had been cheated of his final moment of triumph after so many months of inquisition. The English on the other hand didn't give a damn. They had had enough of his dilly dallying and gave him short shrift. Warwick was more concerned that his troops believed that the witch was dead and would now finally move against Dunois, La Hire and the small French army not 5 kilometres away. Cauchon fumed and continued to protest but to no avail. Everywhere he was met by the same story and a shrug of the shoulders as one and all were totally convinced that they had seen the execution by burning at the stake of Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orleans. It was a fÃªte accompli. Warwick was off the hook and like Pilate he could now wash his hands of the whole sorry protracted affair.
As I continued to watch the soldiers cleared the Market place and then marched off back to garrison. About half of their number diverted to reinforce the army in the field. They would carry the tidings to their comrades as to the course of events and convince them that La Pucelle â€“ the little witch, was finally dead.
Then I felt myself ascending into a bright light, the scene vanished and was no more. The rest you know."
With that Jay sat back and sipped his jus d'orange with an air of angelic contemplation and a wry smile of peaceful contentment. He was greeted with stunned silence as we all took in the gravity of his remarkable tale and the nonsense it instantly made of all the history books ever written since 1431.
It was the end of the beginning, the culmination of the quest into our collective past; a journey unequalled. We had gone beyond the veil of this earthly matter hologram and seen glimpses of the wheel work of the universe, of other worlds that we had once inhabited on a daily basis. We had our answers but now we had a million more questions?
I was sure that I would spend the rest of my present life in the company of DD, my beloved medieval Jeanne des Armoises. We would marry once again and may even move to Metz from Lille? Who knows? That was for the future, a bright joyous future.
Lilly would take over my post at La Voix du Nord and what of Jay? Well Jay would always be a special friend for he was indeed special in every way. We would in all probability set up a website to share our experiences with the world so that everyone could read of our remarkable discoveries and adventures.
Was it all true? Was it all real? Who knows? For us it is our truth and that is enough.
Love triumphant! And tonight we would dine at La Couronne the oldest restaurant in France and not a stones throw from the place where the world thought the English had burnt Jeanne d'Arc!
With those incredible thoughts filling my head I looked at DD, smiled and said, "The door says it all my love of many lives, the door says it all."