Night had fallen over Rosslyn.
Robert Langdon stood alone on the porch of the fieldstone house enjoying the sounds of laughter and reunion drifting through the screened door behind him. The mug of potent Brazilian coffee in his hand had granted him a hazy reprieve from his mounting exhaustion, and yet he sensed the reprieve would be fleeting. The fatigue in his body went to the core.
"You slipped out quietly," a voice behind him said.
He turned. Sophie's grandmother emerged, her silver hair shimmering in the night. Her name, for the last twenty-eight years at least, was Marie Chauvel.
Langdon gave a tired smile. "I thought I'd give your family some time together." Through the window, he could see Sophie talking with her brother.
Marie came over and stood beside him. "Mr. Langdon, when I first heard of Jacques's murder, I was terrified for Sophie's safety. Seeing her standing in my doorway tonight was the greatest relief of my life. I cannot thank you enough."
Langdon had no idea how to respond. Although he had offered to give Sophie and her grandmother time to talk in private, Marie had asked him to stay and listen. My husband obviously trusted you, Mr.Langdon, so I do as well.
And so Langdon had remained, standing beside Sophie and listening in mute astonishment while Marie told the story of Sophie's late parents. Incredibly, both had been from Merovingian families - direct descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. Sophie's parents and ancestors, for protection, had changed their family names of Plantard and Saint-Clair. Their children represented the most direct surviving royal bloodline and therefore were carefully guarded by the Priory. When Sophie's parents were killed in a car accident whose cause could not be determined, the Priory feared the identity of the royal line had been discovered.
"Your grandfather and I," Marie had explained in a voice choked with pain, "had to make a grave decision the instant we received the phone call. Your parents' car had just been found in the river." She dabbed at the tears in her eyes. "All six of us - including you two grandchildren - were supposed to be traveling together in that car that very night. Fortunately we changed our plans at the last moment, and your parents were alone. Hearing of the accident, Jacques and I had no way to know what had really happened... or if this was truly an accident." Marie looked at Sophie. "We knew we had to protect our grandchildren, and we did what we thought was best. Jacques reported to the police that your brother and I had been in the car... our two bodies apparently washed off in the current. Then your brother and I went underground with the Priory. Jacques, being a man of prominence, did not have the luxury of disappearing. It only made sense that Sophie, being the eldest, would stay in Paris to be taught and raised by Jacques, close to the heart and protection of the Priory." Her voice fell to a whisper. "Separating the family was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Jacques and I saw each other only very infrequently, and always in the most secret of settings... under the protection of the Priory. There are certain ceremonies to which the brotherhood always stays faithful."
Langdon had sensed the story went far deeper, but he also sensed it was not for him to hear. So he had stepped outside. Now, gazing up at the spires of Rosslyn, Langdon could not escape the hollow gnaw of Rosslyn's unsolved mystery. Is the Grail really here at Rosslyn? And if so, where are theblade and chalice that Sauniere mentioned in his poem?" I'll take that," Marie said, motioning to Langdon's hand. "Oh, thank you." Langdon held out his empty coffee cup. She stared at him. "I was referring to your other hand, Mr. Langdon."
Langdon looked down and realized he was holding Sauniere's papyrus. He had taken it from the cryptex once again in hopes of seeing something he had missed earlier. "Of course, I'm sorry."
Marie looked amused as she took the paper. "I know of a man at a bank in Paris who is probably very eager to see the return of this rosewood box. Andre Vernet was a dear friend of Jacques, and Jacques trusted him explicitly. Andre would have done anything to honor Jacques's requests for the care of this box."
Including shooting me, Langdon recalled, deciding not to mention that he had probably broken the poor man's nose. Thinking of Paris, Langdon flashed on the three senechaux who had been killed the night before. "And the Priory? What happens now?"
"The wheels are already in motion, Mr. Langdon. The brotherhood has endured for centuries, and it will endure this. There are always those waiting to move up and rebuild."
All evening Langdon had suspected that Sophie's grandmother was closely tied to the operations of the Priory. After all, the Priory had always had women members. Four Grand Masters had been women. The senechaux were traditionally men - the guardians - and yet women held far more honored status within the Priory and could ascend to the highest post from virtually any rank.
Langdon thought of Leigh Teabing and Westminster Abbey. It seemed a lifetime ago. "Was the Church pressuring your husband not to release the Sangreal documents at the End of Days?"
"Heavens no. The End of Days is a legend of paranoid minds. There is nothing in the Priory doctrine that identifies a date at which the Grail should be unveiled. In fact the Priory has always maintained that the Grail should never be unveiled."
"Never?" Langdon was stunned.
"It is the mystery and wonderment that serve our souls, not the Grail itself. The beauty of the Grail lies in her ethereal nature." Marie Chauvel gazed up at Rosslyn now. "For some, the Grail is a chalice that will bring them everlasting life. For others, it is the quest for lost documents and secret history. And for most, I suspect the Holy Grail is simply a grand idea... a glorious unattainable treasure that somehow, even in today's world of chaos, inspires us."
"But if the Sangreal documents remain hidden, the story of Mary Magdalene will be lost forever," Langdon said.
"Will it? Look around you. Her story is being told in art, music, and books. More so every day. The pendulum is swinging. We are starting to sense the dangers of our history... and of our destructive paths. We are beginning to sense the need to restore the sacred feminine." She paused. "You mentioned you are writing a manuscript about the symbols of the sacred feminine, are you not?"
"I am." She smiled. "Finish it, Mr. Langdon. Sing her song. The world needs modern troubadours." Langdon fell silent, feeling the weight of her message upon him. Across the open spaces, a new moon was rising above the tree line.
Turning his eyes toward Rosslyn, Langdon felt a boyish craving to know her secrets. Don't ask, he told himself. This is not the moment.He glanced at the papyrus in Marie's hand, and then back at Rosslyn.
"Ask the question, Mr. Langdon," Marie said, looking amused. "You have earned the right." Langdon felt himself flush." You want to know if the Grail is here at Rosslyn." "Can you tell me?" She sighed in mock exasperation. "Why is it that men simply cannot let the Grail rest?" She laughed, obviously enjoying herself. "Why do you think it's here?"
Langdon motioned to the papyrus in her hand. "Your husband's poem speaks specifically of Rosslyn, except it also mentions a blade and chalice watching over the Grail. I didn't see any symbols of the blade and chalice up there."
"The blade and chalice?" Marie asked. "What exactly do they look like?"
Langdon sensed she was toying with him, but he played along, quickly describing the symbols.
A look of vague recollection crossed her face. "Ah, yes, of course. The blade represents all that is masculine. I believe it is drawn like this, no?" Using her index finger, she traced a shape on herpalm.
"Yes," Langdon said. Marie had drawn the less common" closed" form of the blade, although Langdon had seen the symbol portrayed both ways.
"And the inverse," she said, drawing again on her palm," is the chalice, which represents the feminine."
"Correct," Langdon said.
"And you are saying that in all the hundreds of symbols we have here in Rosslyn Chapel, these two shapes appear nowhere?" "I didn't see them." "And if I show them to you, will you get some sleep?"
Before Langdon could answer, Marie Chauvel had stepped off the porch and was heading toward the chapel. Langdon hurried after her. Entering the ancient building, Marie turned on the lights and pointed to the center of the sanctuary floor. "There you are, Mr. Langdon. The blade and chalice."
Langdon stared at the scuffed stone floor. It was blank. "There's nothing here... ."
Marie sighed and began to walk along the famous path worn into the chapel floor, the same path Langdon had seen the visitors walking earlier this evening. As his eyes adjusted to see the giant symbol, he still felt lost. "But that's the Star of Dav - " Langdon stopped short, mute with amazement as it dawned on him.
The blade and chalice.
Fused as one.
The Star of David... the perfect union of male and female... Solomon's Seal... marking the Holy of Holies, where the male and female deities - Yahweh and Shekinah - were thought to dwell.
Langdon needed a minute to find his words. "The verse does point here to Rosslyn. Completely. Perfectly."
Marie smiled. "Apparently."
The implications chilled him. "So the Holy Grail is in the vault beneath us?"
She laughed. "Only in spirit. One of the Priory's most ancient charges was one day to return the Grail to her homeland of France where she could rest for eternity. For centuries, she was dragged across the countryside to keep her safe. Most undignified. Jacques's charge when he became Grand Master was to restore her honor by returning her to France and building her a resting place fit for a queen."
"And he succeeded?"
Now her face grew serious. "Mr. Langdon, considering what you've done for me tonight, and as curator of the Rosslyn Trust, I can tell you for certain that the Grail is no longer here."
Langdon decided to press. "But the keystone is supposed to point to the place where the Holy Grail is hidden now.Why does it point to Rosslyn?"
"Maybe you're misreading its meaning. Remember, the Grail can be deceptive. As could my late husband."
"But how much clearer could he be?" he asked. "We are standing over an underground vault marked by the blade and chalice, underneath a ceiling of stars, surrounded by the art of Master Masons. Everything speaks of Rosslyn."
"Very well, let me see this mysterious verse." She unrolled the papyrus and read the poem aloud in a deliberate tone.
The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates.
Adorned in masters' loving art, She lies.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies.
When she finished, she was still for several seconds, until a knowing smile crossed her lips. "Aah, Jacques."
Langdon watched her expectantly. "You understand this?"
"As you have witnessed on the chapel floor, Mr. Langdon, there are many ways to see simple things."
Langdon strained to understand. Everything about Jacques Sauniere seemed to have double meanings, and yet Langdon could see no further.
Marie gave a tired yawn. "Mr. Langdon, I will make a confession to you. I have never officially been privy to the present location of the Grail. But, of course, I was married to a person of enormous influence... and my women's intuition is strong." Langdon started to speak but Marie continued. "I am sorry that after all your hard work, you will be leaving Rosslyn without any real answers. And yet, something tells me you will eventually find what you seek. One day it will dawn on you." She smiled. "And when it does, I trust that you, of all people, can keep a secret."
There was a sound of someone arriving in the doorway. "Both of you disappeared," Sophie said, entering.
"I was just leaving," her grandmother replied, walking over to Sophie at the door. "Good night, princess." She kissed Sophie's forehead. "Don't keep Mr. Langdon out too late."
Langdon and Sophie watched her grandmother walk back toward the fieldstone house. When Sophie turned to him, her eyes were awash in deep emotion. "Not exactly the ending I expected."
That makes two of us, he thought. Langdon could see she was overwhelmed. The news she had received tonight had changed everything in her life. "Are you okay? It's a lot to take in."
She smiled quietly. "I have a family. That's where I'm going to start. Who we are and where we came from will take some time."
Langdon remained silent.
"Beyond tonight, will you stay with us?" Sophie asked. "At least for a few days?"
Langdon sighed, wanting nothing more. "You need some time here with your family, Sophie. I'm going back to Paris in the morning."
She looked disappointed but seemed to know it was the right thing to do. Neither of them spoke for a long time. Finally Sophie reached over and, taking his hand, led him out of the chapel. They walked to a small rise on the bluff. From here, the Scottish countryside spread out before them, suffused in a pale moonlight that sifted through the departing clouds. They stood in silence, holding hands, both of them fighting the descending shroud of exhaustion.
The stars were just now appearing, but to the east, a single point of light glowed brighter than any other. Langdon smiled when he saw it. It was Venus. The ancient Goddess shining down with her steady and patient light.
The night was growing cooler, a crisp breeze rolling up from the lowlands. After a while, Langdon looked over at Sophie. Her eyes were closed, her lips relaxed in a contented smile. Langdon could feel his own eyes growing heavy. Reluctantly, he squeezed her hand. "Sophie?"
Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to him. Her face was beautiful in the moonlight. She gave him a sleepy smile. "Hi."
Langdon felt an unexpected sadness to realize he would be returning to Paris without her. "I maybe gone before you wake up." He paused, a knot growing in his throat. "I'm sorry, I'm not very good at - "
Sophie reached out and placed her soft hand on the side of his face. Then, leaning forward, she kissed him tenderly on the cheek. "When can I see you again?"
Langdon reeled momentarily, lost in her eyes. "When?" He paused, curious if she had any idea how much he had been wondering the same thing. "Well, actually, next month I'm lecturing at a conference in Florence. I'll be there a week without much to do." "Is that an invitation?"
"We'd be living in luxury. They're giving me a room at the Brunelleschi." Sophie smiled playfully. "You presume a lot, Mr. Langdon." He cringed at how it had sounded. "What I meant - "
"I would love nothing more than to meet you in Florence, Robert. But on one condition." Her tone turned serious. "No museums, no churches, no tombs, no art, no relics."
"In Florence? For a week? There's nothing else to do."
Sophie leaned forward and kissed him again, now on the lips. Their bodies came together, softly at first, and then completely. When she pulled away, her eyes were full of promise.
"Right," Langdon managed. "It's a date."
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com