Chapter 4: The Door
Half blinded by the afternoon sunlight we stumbled back into the street. I paused unsure of where I was but the cafÃ© looked an inviting oasis below our elevated position on the steps of the church. Lilly noticed the street name and gave an ironic chuckle, â€œall this talk of dragons in there, guess what the name of the road is?â€
â€œI have no idea Lilly, what is it?â€
â€œRue Boucherie Saint Georges â€“ The Road of the Butchersâ€™ of Saint George. I wonder if they made dragon sausages?â€ Pleased with her own joke she gave a laugh.
I couldnâ€™t help finding it funny too and chuckled, â€very appropriate my dear girl, that is a weird coincidence?â€ The connection was definitely there I felt it deep down. Perhaps the church had deliberately influenced the naming of the road in the past to expunge the name and power of the dragon cult. The word Fairy Folk came into my mind for some strange reason â€“ what was that all about? Strange thoughts circulated in my head, they floated to the surface along with images and feelings of dÃ©jÃ vu.
â€œI need a cafÃ© cognac Lilly! Plus a good grounding dose of reality this is all getting very esoteric. I have never had such a barrage of non-stop past life images and experiences. This must be a special place for some reason?â€
We sat back down in the cafÃ© Jeanne dâ€™Arc and the same corporeal waiter appeared as if by magic, â€œAh GarÃ§on un cafÃ© cognac s'il vous plaÃ®t and what would you care for Lilly?â€
â€œUn cafÃ© au lait s'il vous plaÃ®t.â€
â€œQui Mademoiselle certainment.â€ The waiter replaced his note pad in his apron pocket and disappeared smartly into the cafÃ©.
When he returned with our drinks Lilly engaged him in conversation as to why the cafÃ© was named as such? The waiters eyes lit up and he became extremely animated as he told a strange tale of the false Jeanne dâ€™Arc â€“ Jehanne des Armoises who lived on this very spot over Sainte-Barbe gate now long gone. She married in the church of Sainte-SÃ©golÃ¨ne opposite in 1436 to a local knight Robert des Armoises, seigneur de Tichemont. She even displayed the blason la pucelle - coat of arms of Jehanne Du Lys, Maid of France on the board outside their dwelling. Lilly made copious notes and paused several times to check with he waiter the spelling of the names.
She turned towards me and said, â€œAh yes, I remember from my history lessons that individual knights from surrounding estates were responsible for the defence of gates and towers in cities and castles. It makes sense that he was charged with defending the Sainte-Barbe gate and therefore lived over it!â€
I smiled to acknowledge her flash of inspiration, then sat silently so as not to disturb the flow of information, sniffed my cognac in its classic bulbous full bodied glass and listened intensely to the conversation. At one point I noticed my arm bursting out into goosebumps at the mention of the name of Robert des Armoises. I made a conscious mental note of the curious reaction that meant my subconscious was taking note of a specific piece of information. I also found myself strangely emotional as I listened to the story.
As the waiter came to his conclusion, Lilly thanked him and sat back in her chair. â€œWell what do you make of that Yann?â€
â€œExtremely interesting, its one of those gems of knowledge that only the local inhabitants would know; perfect for the article. I knew there had to be a story here!â€ My cognac suddenly tasted better and its heady scent smelt even more delicious as I realised we had a story on our hands.
Then Lilly made a curious statement, â€œDid you notice the hairs standing up on my arm when he told the story?â€ She paused to show me her arm as if to confirm that it was no illusion. She paused and then continued talking in self contemplation to herself, â€œYes, amazing I have never experienced anything like that before!â€
â€œI have,â€ I said butting in, I gazed over the top of my cognac glass, â€œit happened just then, with me, itâ€™s usually a sign that my subconscious has recognised something familiar.â€
â€œInteresting, I never thought of it that way before.â€ Lilly sat backed in thought and sipped her cafÃ© au lait.
I could see the cogs whirling in her mind as she started to see a story emerging from all of this. She was just like me! No wonder we got on, we were like two peas in a pod. I moved onto my coffee and sat sipping symmetrically and thinking in silence.
â€œFinally Lilly interrupted my train of thought, â€œIâ€™ll hit the internet on my laptop after dinner tonight and see what I can dig up on Jehanne des Armoises, she sounds quite a character.
With that thought we paid the bill and meandered back to the hotel Moderne. It was a pleasant summer evening and the air cleared away the dust and medieval cobwebs that were beginning to cloud our 21st century minds.
The evening passed quickly, we ate in the hotel and settled down to do some research on the internet. Very quickly with just a few keywords in various search engines, we started to piece together the story of Robert and Jehanne des Armoises.
â€œHey look at this,â€ Lilly shouted, â€œthere is a wooden door with their faces carved on the panels, in such fine detail too. The article says the door was originally found in Paris around 1850 when a hotel was being demolished, but judging by its style it obviously dates from the 1440s. Also we quickly found related twin portraits which were discovered above the fireplace of near by Chateau Jaulny. They were almost identical to the door, in fact they looked copied; the door was therefore brought home to Metz and placed in the museum.â€
We were both starting to get excited at the discovery of the information. Now we could put faces to these enigmatic characters, two local historical figures who had left physical footprints in the sands of time. It was agreed this would make a good introductory article to our summer series.
â€œTime for bed Lilly,â€ I began to yawn and stretch in my chair, it was approaching midnight, â€œwe have a good reason to visit the museum now.â€
â€œYes, bon nuit Yann, see you in the morning.â€
â€œNight my Fleur dâ€™Lilly!â€ The nickname just leapt into my mouth.
â€œI like that, itâ€™s cuteâ€ Lilly grinned.
â€œSorry it just slipped out,â€ I smiled to cover my embrassment, â€œit does suit you though, glad you donâ€™t mind, donâ€™t want to upset you on our first assignment.â€
With that we shut our individual doors and were soon asleep.
Next morning we stuck to our routine. I knocked on Lillyâ€™s door at 08:00hrs then went down to breakfast. By 09:00hrs we had left the hotel and were walking the now familiar streets to the Musees dâ€™Metropole La Cour dâ€™Or. It seemed we had a date with destiny. Entering the museum we started to look at the collection of medieval artefacts in the Art and History section. The multi-arched vaulted ceiling gave an authentic crypt like feel to the exhibits and sent a chill down my spine. The whole place had been build as a combined palace-fortress which suited its present purpose perfectly.
Lilly was on the hunt scouring the museum for the one artefact she really wanted to see. We both had a sense of expectation? Turning a corner, we simultaneously spied the door. It was resting in a semi reclined position so as to highlight the beautiful detailed carving of the faces. We stood awe struck as it was much more detailed than we could see from the pictures of the internet. The 3 dimensional photographic quality portraits of Jehanne and Robert were exceptional. The artist had obviously been highly skilled, making it a perfect treasure of the medieval wood carversâ€™ art.
Then came the eureka moment, Lilly let out a profane expletive, â€œmon dieu, mon dieu, it is YOU! Stand sideways again like you were just a moment ago. The mouth, eyes and nose are all the same! The only difference is the beard. â€œDonâ€™t move, donâ€™t move!â€
In seconds Lilly had her camera out and was clicking away excitedly, she had forgotten entirely about the museumâ€™s no photography policy. Luckily nobody came and the room remained empty at such an early hour of the morning; it was 10:13hrs precisely. I could see a resemblance in the carving, but I could not compare it visually with my own face. Instead I had to rely on Lillyâ€™s judgement until I could see the photographs and compare my visage with the carving.
I was duly a little dumb struck and watched bemused as an animated Lilly danced around excitedly. If she was right and it was a big if, then it made sense of my experience at the port des allemands and the church. Could I really be remembering episodes from a life as Robert des Armoises? I could feel my subconscious nodding in approval with a self satisfied grin of affirmation. We continued our journey of discovery in the museum which took us up until lunchtime. â€œTime to go eat,â€ I whispered to Lilly weâ€™ve been here 5 hours already!â€
â€œYes letâ€™s go back to the cafÃ© Jeanne dâ€™Arc where we ate yesterday. Itâ€™s just around the corner.â€
No sooner had Lilly uttered those words than we found ourselves back at the same table with the same waiter again.
â€œPerfect dÃ©jÃ vu!â€ I gleefully said half in jest.
â€œYes, absolutely Yann,â€ Lilly smiled and relaxed with her now familiar verre de vin blanc. In between sips she flicked through the pictures on her digital SLR, murmurs of revelation broke the silence as she alternated between pictures of my face and the face of Robert des Armoises on the door.
â€œHere Yann look at these two,â€ she handed the camera to me,â€ Iâ€™m not a policeman, but if this was an id photo fit for murder, I think the jury would hang you!â€ She grinned, it was a large grin of satisfaction and ultimate triumph at the definitive proof she now possessed on her camera.
â€œYes, I can see what you mean especially the distinctive shape of the mouth; absolutely identical. Quiet amazing, â€œIâ€™m not sure we should write about this in the article though, best stick to the historical detail.â€
â€œYes, agreed, the world might not be ready for such a discovery.â€
â€œCertainly the church would get upset at the very concept of a do it yourself universe with no need for priests or a religious control structure and the loss of such power.â€
â€œWe wouldnâ€™t be terribly popular at all would we?â€ I flicked on the camera display of pictures and instantly sat bolt upright, â€œItâ€™s her, itâ€™s her, itâ€™s the lady in white! There on the photo of the door was the exact same profile image of the woman I was getting married to in my flash back. It is definitely the same face.â€
â€œWell that clinches it, we know that the lady on the door is Jehanne des Armoises, so the lady in your flash back must be her, in which case you were Robert des Armoises, seigneur de Tichemont!â€
â€œShe is beautiful, so beautiful,â€ I kept flicking the images backwards and forwards studying every contour of her face. Each different light angle gave a new insight into this beautiful enigmatic woman that carried a sword and wore spurs to her own wedding. My heart yearned to meet her again, such fire, such passion, I had been touched once by her magic and nothing would ever be the same again. My mind had encoded and remembered every detail and locked it away in my subconscious.
The waiter came over with the bill and we engaged him in conversation again. Our questions were much more precise and targeted. He answered them to the best of his knowledge and the picture clarified somewhat. Lilly made yet more notes and again made sure of the accuracy of the names and places for further research back at the hotel.