Chapter 60-62

 

CHAPTER 60

Sangreal... Sang Real... San Greal... Royal Blood... Holy Grail.

It was all intertwined.

The Holy Grail is Mary Magdalene...the mother of the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ.Sophie felt a new wave of disorientation as she stood in the silence of the ballroom and stared at Robert Langdon. The more pieces Langdon and Teabing laid on the table tonight, the more unpredictable this puzzle became.

"As you can see, my dear," Teabing said, hobbling toward a bookshelf," Leonardo is not the only one who has been trying to tell the world the truth about the Holy Grail. The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians." He ran a finger down a row of several dozen books. Sophie tilted her head and scanned the list of titles: THE TEMPLAR REVELATION:Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ

THE WOMAN WITH THE ALABASTER JAR: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail

THE GODDESS IN THE GOSPELS Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine

"Here is perhaps the best-known tome," Teabing said, pulling a tattered hardcover from the stack and handing it to her. The cover read:

HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL The Acclaimed International Bestseller

Sophie glanced up. "An international bestseller? I've never heard of it."

"You were young. This caused quite a stir back in the nineteen eighties. To my taste, the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound, and to their credit, they finally brought the idea of Christ's bloodline into the mainstream."

"What was the Church's reaction to the book?"

"Outrage, of course. But that was to be expected. After all, this was a secret the Vatican had tried to bury in the fourth century. That's part of what the Crusades were about. Gathering and destroying information. The threat Mary Magdalene posed to the men of the early Church was potentially ruinous. Not only was she the woman to whom Jesus had assigned the task of founding the Church, but she also had physical proof that the Church's newly proclaimed deity had spawned a mortal bloodline. The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene's power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried evidence of Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet."

Sophie glanced at Langdon, who nodded. "Sophie, the historical evidence supporting this is substantial."

"I admit," Teabing said," the assertions are dire, but you must understand the Church's powerful motivations to conduct such a cover-up. They could never have survived public knowledge of a bloodline. A child of Jesus would undermine the critical notion of Christ's divinity and therefore the Christian Church, which declared itself the sole vessel through which humanity could access the divine and gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven."

"The five-petal rose," Sophie said, pointing suddenly to the spine of one of Teabing's books. The same exact design inlaid on the rosewood box.

Teabing glanced at Langdon and grinned. "She has a good eye." He turned back to Sophie. "That is the Priory symbol for the Grail. Mary Magdalene. Because her name was forbidden by the Church, Mary Magdalene became secretly known by many pseudonyms - the Chalice, the Holy Grail, and the Rose." He paused. "The Rose has ties to the five-pointed pentacle of Venus and the guiding Compass Rose. By the way, the word rose is identical in English, French, German, and many other languages."

"Rose," Langdon added," is also an anagram of Eros, the Greek god of sexual love." Sophie gave him a surprised look as Teabing plowed on." The Rose has always been the premiere symbol of female sexuality. In primitive goddess cults, the five petals represented the five stations of female life - birth, menstruation, motherhood, menopause, and death. And in modern times, the flowering rose's ties to womanhood are considered more visual." He glanced at Robert. "Perhaps the symbologist could explain?"

Robert hesitated. A moment too long.

"Oh, heavens!" Teabing huffed. "You Americans are such prudes." He looked back at Sophie.

"What Robert is fumbling with is the fact that the blossoming flower resembles the female genitalia, the sublime blossom from which all mankind enters the world. And if you've ever seen any paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, you'll know exactly what I mean."

"The point here," Langdon said, motioning back to the bookshelf," is that all of these books substantiate the same historical claim."

"That Jesus was a father." Sophie was still uncertain.

"Yes," Teabing said. "And that Mary Magdalene was the womb that carried His royal lineage. The Priory of Sion, to this day, still worships Mary Magdalene as the Goddess, the Holy Grail, the Rose, and the Divine Mother."

Sophie again flashed on the ritual in the basement.

"According to the Priory," Teabing continued," Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion. For the safety of Christ's unborn child, she had no choice but to flee the Holy Land. With the help of Jesus' trusted uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene secretly traveled to France, then known as Gaul. There she found safe refuge in the Jewish community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter. Her name was Sarah."

Sophie glanced up. "They actually know the child's name?" "Far more than that. Magdalene's and Sarah's lives were scrutinously chronicled by their Jewish protectors. Remember that Magdalene's child belonged to the lineage of Jewish kings - David and Solomon. For this reason, the Jews in France considered Magdalene sacred royalty and revered her as the progenitor of the royal line of kings. Countless scholars of that era chronicled Mary Magdalene's days in France, including the birth of Sarah and the subsequent family tree." Sophie was startled. "There exists a family tree of Jesus Christ?" "Indeed. And it is purportedly one of the cornerstones of the Sangreal documents. A complete genealogy of the early descendants of Christ."

"But what good is a documented genealogy of Christ's bloodline?" Sophie asked. "It's not proof. Historians could not possibly confirm its authenticity."

Teabing chuckled. "No more so than they can confirm the authenticity of the Bible." "Meaning?" "Meaning that history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books - books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'"He smiled. "By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account." Sophie had never thought of it that way." The Sangreal documents simply tell the other side of the Christ story. In the end, which side of the story you believe becomes a matter of faith and personal exploration, but at least the information has survived. The Sangreal documents include tens of thousands of pages of information. Eyewitness accounts of the Sangreal treasure describe it as being carried in four enormous trunks. In those trunks are reputed to be the Purist Documents - thousands of pages of unaltered, pre- Constantine documents, written by the early followers of Jesus, revering Him as a wholly human teacher and prophet. Also rumored to be part of the treasure is the legendary" Q" Document - a manuscript that even the Vatican admits they believe exists. Allegedly, it is a book of Jesus' teachings, possibly written in His own hand."

"Writings by Christ Himself?"

"Of course," Teabing said. "Why wouldn't Jesus have kept a chronicle of His ministry? Most people did in those days. Another explosive document believed to be in the treasure is a manuscript called The Magdalene Diaries - Mary Magdalene's personal account of her relationship with Christ, His crucifixion, and her time in France."

Sophie was silent for a long moment. "And these four chests of documents were the treasure that the Knights Templar found under Solomon's Temple?"

"Exactly. The documents that made the Knights so powerful. The documents that have been the object of countless Grail quests throughout history."

"But you said the Holy Grail was Mary Magdalene.If people are searching for documents, why would you call it a search for the Holy Grail?"

Teabing eyed her, his expression softening. "Because the hiding place of the Holy Grail includes a sarcophagus."

Outside, the wind howled in the trees.

Teabing spoke more quietly now. "The quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine."

Sophie felt an unexpected wonder. "The hiding place of the Holy Grail is actually... a tomb?"

Teabing's hazel eyes got misty. "It is. A tomb containing the body of Mary Magdalene and the documents that tell the true story of her life. At its heart, the quest for the Holy Grail has always been a quest for the Magdalene - the wronged Queen, entombed with proof of her family's rightful claim to power."

Sophie waited a moment as Teabing gathered himself. So much about her grandfather was still not making sense. "Members of the Priory," she finally said," all these years have answered the charge of protecting the Sangreal documents and the tomb of Mary Magdalene?"

"Yes, but the brotherhood had another, more important duty as well - to protect the bloodline itself. Christ's lineage was in perpetual danger. The early Church feared that if the lineage were permitted to grow, the secret of Jesus and Magdalene would eventually surface and challenge the fundamental Catholic doctrine - that of a divine Messiah who did not consort with women or engage in sexual union." He paused. "Nonetheless, Christ's line grew quietly under cover in France until making a bold move in the fifth century, when it intermarried with French royal blood and created a lineage known as the Merovingian bloodline."

This news surprised Sophie. Merovingian was a term learned by every student in France. "The Merovingians founded Paris."

"Yes. That's one of the reasons the Grail legend is so rich in France. Many of the Vatican's Grail quests here were in fact stealth missions to erase members of the royal bloodline. Have you heard of King Dagobert?"

Sophie vaguely recalled the name from a grisly tale in history class. "Dagobert was a Merovingian king, wasn't he? Stabbed in the eye while sleeping?"

"Exactly. Assassinated by the Vatican in collusion with Pepin d'Heristal. Late seventh century. With Dagobert's murder, the Merovingian bloodline was almost exterminated. Fortunately, Dagobert's son, Sigisbert, secretly escaped the attack and carried on the lineage, which later included Godefroi de Bouillon - founder of the Priory of Sion."

"The same man," Langdon said," who ordered the Knights Templar to recover the Sangreal documents from beneath Solomon's Temple and thus provide the Merovingians proof of their hereditary ties to Jesus Christ."

Teabing nodded, heaving a ponderous sigh. "The modern Priory of Sion has a momentous duty. Theirs is a threefold charge. The brotherhood must protect the Sangreal documents. They must protect the tomb of Mary Magdalene. And, of course, they must nurture and protect the bloodline of Christ - those few members of the royal Merovingian bloodline who have survived into modern times."

The words hung in the huge space, and Sophie felt an odd vibration, as if her bones were reverberating with some new kind of truth. Descendants of Jesus who survived into modern times.

Her grandfather's voice again was whispering in her ear. Princess, I must tell you the truth about your family.

A chill raked her flesh.

Royal blood.

She could not imagine.

Princess Sophie.

"Sir Leigh?" The manservant's words crackled through the intercom on the wall, and Sophie jumped. "If you could join me in the kitchen a moment?"

Teabing scowled at the ill-timed intrusion. He went over to the intercom and pressed the button. "Remy, as you know, I am busy with my guests. If we need anything else from the kitchen tonight, we will help ourselves. Thank you and good night." "A word with you before I retire, sir. If you would." Teabing grunted and pressed the button. "Make it quick, Remy."

"It is a household matter, sir, hardly fare for guests to endure." Teabing looked incredulous. "And it cannot wait until morning?" "No, sir. My question won't take a minute." Teabing rolled his eyes and looked at Langdon and Sophie. "Sometimes I wonder who is serving whom?" He pressed the button again. "I'll be right there, Remy. Can I bring you anything when I come?"

"Only freedom from oppression, sir."

"Remy, you realize your steak au poivre is the only reason you still work for me." "So you tell me, sir. So you tell me."

CHAPTER 61

Princess Sophie.

Sophie felt hollow as she listened to the clicking of Teabing's crutches fade down the hallway. Numb, she turned and faced Langdon in the deserted ballroom. He was already shaking his head as if reading her mind.

"No, Sophie," he whispered, his eyes reassuring. "The same thought crossed my mind when I realized your grandfather was in the Priory, and you said he wanted to tell you a secret about your family. But it's impossible." Langdon paused. "Sauniere is not a Merovingian name."

Sophie wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or disappointed. Earlier, Langdon had asked an unusual passing question about Sophie's mother's maiden name. Chauvel. The question now made sense." And Chauvel?" she asked, anxious.

Again he shook his head. "I'm sorry. I know that would have answered some questions for you. Only two direct lines of Merovingians remain. Their family names are Plantard and Saint-Clair. Both families live in hiding, probably protected by the Priory."

Sophie repeated the names silently in her mind and then shook her head. There was no one in her family named Plantard or Saint-Clair. A weary undertow was pulling at her now. She realized she was no closer than she had been at the Louvre to understanding what truth her grandfather had wanted to reveal to her. Sophie wished her grandfather had never mentioned her family this afternoon. He had torn open old wounds that felt as painful now as ever. They are dead, Sophie.They are not coming back.She thought of her mother singing her to sleep at night, of her father giving her rides on his shoulders, and of her grandmother and younger brother smiling at her with their fervent green eyes. All that was stolen. And all she had left was her grandfather.

And now he is gone too. I am alone.

Sophie turned quietly back to The Last Supper and gazed at Mary Magdalene's long red hair and quiet eyes. There was something in the woman's expression that echoed the loss of a loved one. Sophie could feel it too.

"Robert?" she said softly. He stepped closer." I know Leigh said the Grail story is all around us, but tonight is the first time I've ever heard any of this."

Langdon looked as if he wanted to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but he refrained." You've heard her story before, Sophie. Everyone has. We just don't realize it when we hear it."

"I don't understand."

"The Grail story is everywhere, but it is hidden. When the Church outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene, her story and importance had to be passed on through more discreet channels... channels that supported metaphor and symbolism."

"Of course. The arts."

Langdon motioned to The Last Supper. "A perfect example. Some of today's most enduring art, literature, and music secretly tell the history of Mary Magdalene and Jesus."

Langdon quickly told her about works by Da Vinci, Botticelli, Poussin, Bernini, Mozart, and Victor Hugo that all whispered of the quest to restore the banished sacred feminine. Enduring legends like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur, and Sleeping Beauty were Grail allegories. Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mozart's Magic Flute were filled with Masonic symbolism and Grail secrets.

"Once you open your eyes to the Holy Grail," Langdon said," you see her everywhere. Paintings. Music. Books. Even in cartoons, theme parks, and popular movies."

Langdon held up his Mickey Mouse watch and told her that Walt Disney had made it his quiet life's work to pass on the Grail story to future generations. Throughout his entire life, Disney had been hailed as" the Modern-Day Leonardo Da Vinci." Both men were generations ahead of their times, uniquely gifted artists, members of secret societies, and, most notably, avid pranksters. Like Leonardo, Walt Disney loved infusing hidden messages and symbolism in his art. For the trained symbologist, watching an early Disney movie was like being barraged by an avalanche of allusion and metaphor.

Most of Disney's hidden messages dealt with religion, pagan myth, and stories of the subjugated goddess. It was no mistake that Disney retold tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White - all of which dealt with the incarceration of the sacred feminine. Nor did one need a background in symbolism to understand that Snow White - a princess who fell from grace after partaking of a poisoned apple - was a clear allusion to the downfall of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Or that Sleeping Beauty's Princess Aurora - code-named" Rose" and hidden deep in the forest to protect her from the clutches of the evil witch - was the Grail story for children.

Despite its corporate image, Disney still had a savvy, playful element among its employees, and their artists still amused themselves by inserting hidden symbolism in Disney products. Langdon would never forget one of his students bringing in a DVD of The Lion King and pausing the film to reveal a freeze-frame in which the word SEX was clearly visible, spelled out by floating dust particles over Simba's head. Although Langdon suspected this was more of a cartoonist's sophomoric prank than any kind of enlightened allusion to pagan human sexuality, he had learned not to underestimate Disney's grasp of symbolism. The Little Mermaid was a spellbinding tapestry of spiritual symbols so specifically goddess-related that they could not be coincidence.

When Langdon had first seen The Little Mermaid, he had actually gasped aloud when he noticed that the painting in Ariel's underwater home was none other than seventeenth-century artist Georges de la Tour's The Penitent Magdalene - a famous homage to the banished Mary Magdalene - fitting decor considering the movie turned out to be a ninety-minute collage of blatant symbolic references to the lost sanctity of Isis, Eve, Pisces the fish goddess, and, repeatedly, Mary Magdalene. The Little Mermaid's name, Ariel, possessed powerful ties to the sacred feminine and, in the Book of Isaiah, was synonymous with" the Holy City besieged." Of course, the Little Mermaid's flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either.

The clicking of Teabing's crutches approached in the hallway, his pace unusually brisk. When their host entered the study, his expression was stern.

"You'd better explain yourself, Robert," he said coldly. "You have not been honest with me."

CHAPTER 62

"I'm being framed, Leigh," Langdon said, trying to stay calm. You know me.I wouldn't kill anyone.

Teabing's tone did not soften. "Robert, you're on television, for Christ's sake. Did you know you were wanted by the authorities?"

"Yes."

"Then you abused my trust. I'm astonished you would put me at risk by coming here and asking me to ramble on about the Grail so you could hide out in my home."

"I didn't kill anyone."

"Jacques Sauniere is dead, and the police say you did it." Teabing looked saddened. "Such a contributor to the arts..."

"Sir?" The manservant had appeared now, standing behind Teabing in the study doorway, his arms crossed. "Shall I show them out?"

"Allow me." Teabing hobbled across the study, unlocked a set of wide glass doors, and swung them open onto a side lawn. "Please find your car, and leave."

Sophie did not move. "We have information about the clef de voute.The Priory keystone."

Teabing stared at her for several seconds and scoffed derisively. "A desperate ploy. Robert knows how I've sought it."

"She's telling the truth," Langdon said. "That's why we came to you tonight. To talk to you about the keystone."

The manservant intervened now. "Leave, or I shall call the authorities." "Leigh," Langdon whispered," we know where it is." Teabing's balance seemed to falter a bit.

Remy now marched stiffly across the room. "Leave at once! Or I will forcibly - "Remy!" Teabing spun, snapping at his servant. "Excuse us for a moment." The servant's jaw dropped. "Sir? I must protest. These people are - "I'll handle this." Teabing pointed to the hallway. After a moment of stunned silence, Remy skulked out like a banished dog.

In the cool night breeze coming through the open doors, Teabing turned back to Sophie and Langdon, his expression still wary. "This better be good. What do you know of the keystone?"

In the thick brush outside Teabing's study, Silas clutched his pistol and gazed through the glass doors. Only moments ago, he had circled the house and seen Langdon and the woman talking in the large study. Before he could move in, a man on crutches entered, yelled at Langdon, threw open the doors, and demanded his guests leave. Then the woman mentioned the keystone, and everything changed.Shouts turned to whispers. Moods softened. And the glass doors were quickly closed.

Now, as he huddled in the shadows, Silas peered through the glass. The keystone is somewhere inside the house.Silas could feel it.

Staying in the shadows, he inched closer to the glass, eager to hear what was being said. He would give them five minutes. If they did not reveal where they had placed the keystone, Silas would have to enter and persuade them with force.

Inside the study, Langdon could sense their host's bewilderment.

"Grand Master?" Teabing choked, eyeing Sophie. "Jacques Sauniere?" Sophie nodded, seeing the shock in his eyes." But you could not possibly know that!" "Jacques Sauniere was my grandfather." Teabing staggered back on his crutches, shooting a glance at Langdon, who nodded. Teabing turned back to Sophie. "Miss Neveu, I am speechless. If this is true, then I am truly sorry for your loss. I should admit, for my research, I have kept lists of men in Paris whom I thought might be good candidates for involvement in the Priory. Jacques Sauniere was on that list along with many others. But Grand Master, you say? It's hard to fathom." Teabing was silent a moment and then shook his head. "But it still makes no sense. Even if your grandfather were the Priory Grand Master and created the keystone himself, he would never tell you how to find it. The keystone reveals the pathway to the brotherhood's ultimate treasure. Granddaughter or not, you are not eligible to receive such knowledge."

"Mr. Sauniere was dying when he passed on the information," Langdon said. "He had limited options."

"He didn't need options," Teabing argued. "There exist three senechaux who also know the secret. That is the beauty of their system. One will rise to Grand Master and they will induct a new senechal and share the secret of the keystone."

"I guess you didn't see the entire news broadcast," Sophie said. "In addition to my grandfather, three other prominent Parisians were murdered today. All in similar ways. All looked like they had been interrogated."

Teabing's jaw fell. "And you think they were..." "The senechaux,"Langdon said." But how? A murderer could not possibly learn the identities of all four top members of the Priory of Sion! Look at me, I have been researching them for decades, and I can't even name one Priory member. It seems inconceivable that all three senechaux and the Grand Master could be discovered and killed in one day."

"I doubt the information was gathered in a single day," Sophie said. "It sounds like a well-planned decapiter.It's a technique we use to fight organized crime syndicates. If DCPJ wants to move on a certain group, they will silently listen and watch for months, identify all the main players, and then move in and take them all at the same moment. Decapitation. With no leadership, the group falls into chaos and divulges other information. It's possible someone patiently watched the Priory and then attacked, hoping the top people would reveal the location of the keystone."

Teabing looked unconvinced. "But the brothers would never talk. They are sworn to secrecy. Even in the face of death."

"Exactly," Langdon said. "Meaning, if they never divulged the secret, and they were killed..." Teabing gasped. "Then the location of the keystone would be lost forever!" "And with it," Langdon said," the location of the Holy Grail."

Teabing's body seemed to sway with the weight of Langdon's words. Then, as if too tired to stand another moment, he flopped in a chair and stared out the window.

Sophie walked over, her voice soft. "Considering my grandfather's predicament, it seems possible that in total desperation he tried to pass the secret on to someone outside the brotherhood. Someone he thought he could trust. Someone in his family."

Teabing was pale. "But someone capable of such an attack... of discovering so much about the brotherhood..." He paused, radiating a new fear. "It could only be one force. This kind of infiltration could only have come from the Priory's oldest enemy."

Langdon glanced up. "The Church."

"Who else? Rome has been seeking the Grail for centuries."

Sophie was skeptical. "You think the Church killed my grandfather?"

Teabing replied," It would not be the first time in history the Church has killed to protect itself. The documents that accompany the Holy Grail are explosive, and the Church has wanted to destroy them for years."

Langdon was having trouble buying Teabing's premise that the Church would blatantly murder people to obtain these documents. Having met the new Pope and many of the cardinals, Langdon knew they were deeply spiritual men who would never condone assassination. Regardless of the stakes.

Sophie seemed to be having similar thoughts. "Isn't it possible that these Priory members were murdered by someone outside the Church? Someone who didn't understand what the Grail really is? The Cup of Christ, after all, would be quite an enticing treasure. Certainly treasure hunters have killed for less."

"In my experience," Teabing said," men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire. I sense a desperation in this assault on the Priory."

"Leigh," Langdon said," the argument is paradoxical. Why would members of the Catholic clergy murder Priory members in an effort to find and destroy documents they believe are false testimony anyway?"

Teabing chuckled. "The ivory towers of Harvard have made you soft, Robert. Yes, the clergy in Rome are blessed with potent faith, and because of this, their beliefs can weather any storm, including documents that contradict everything they hold dear. But what about the rest of the world? What about those who are not blessed with absolute certainty? What about those who look at the cruelty in the world and say, where is God today? Those who look at Church scandals and ask, who are these men who claim to speak the truth about Christ and yet lie to cover up the sexual abuse of children by their own priests?" Teabing paused. "What happens to those people, Robert, if persuasive scientific evidence comes out that the Church's version of the Christ story is inaccurate, and that the greatest story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold"

Langdon did not respond.

"I'll tell you what happens if the documents get out," Teabing said. "The Vatican faces a crisis of faith unprecedented in its two-millennia history."

After a long silence, Sophie said," But if it is the Church who is responsible for this attack, why would they act now? After all these years? The Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden. They pose no immediate threat to the Church."

Teabing heaved an ominous sigh and glanced at Langdon. "Robert, I assume you are familiar with the Priory's final charge?"

Langdon felt his breath catch at the thought. "I am."

"Miss Neveu," Teabing said," the Church and the Priory have had a tacit understanding for years. That is, the Church does not attack the Priory, and the Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden." He paused. "However, part of the Priory history has always included a plan to unveil the secret. With the arrival of a specific date in history, the brotherhood plans to break the silence and carry out its ultimate triumph by unveiling the Sangreal documents to the world and shouting the true story of Jesus Christ from the mountaintops."

Sophie stared at Teabing in silence. Finally, she too sat down. "And you think that date is approaching? And the Church knows it?"

"A speculation," Teabing said," but it would certainly provide the Church motivation for an all-out attack to find the documents before it was too late."

Langdon had the uneasy feeling that Teabing was making good sense. "Do you think the Church would actually be capable of uncovering hard evidence of the Priory's date?"

"Why not - if we're assuming the Church was able to uncover the identities of the Priory members, then certainly they could have learned of their plans. And even if they don't have the exact date, their superstitions may be getting the best of them." "Superstitions?" Sophie asked." In terms of prophecy," Teabing said," we are currently in an epoch of enormous change. The millennium has recently passed, and with it has ended the two-thousand-year-long astrological Age of Pisces - the fish, which is also the sign of Jesus. As any astrological symbologist will tell you, the Piscean ideal believes that man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself. Hence it has been a time of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering the Age of Aquarius - the water bearer - whose ideals claim that man will learn the truth and be able to think for himself. The ideological shift is enormous, and it is occurring right now."

Langdon felt a shiver. Astrological prophecy never held much interest or credibility for him, but he knew there were those in the Church who followed it very closely. "The Church calls this transitional period the End of Days."

Sophie looked skeptical. "As in the end of the world? The Apocalypse?"

"No." Langdon replied. "That's a common misconception. Many religions speak of the End of Days. It refers not to the end of the world, but rather the end of our current age - Pisces, which began at the time of Christ's birth, spanned two thousand years, and waned with the passing of the millennium. Now that we've passed into the Age of Aquarius, the End of Days has arrived."

"Many Grail historians," Teabing added," believe that if the Priory is indeed planning to release this truth, this point in history would be a symbolically apt time. Most Priory academics, myself included, anticipated the brotherhood's release would coincide precisely with the millennium. Obviously, it did not. Admittedly, the Roman calendar does not mesh perfectly with astrological markers, so there is some gray area in the prediction. Whether the Church now has inside information that an exact date is looming, or whether they are just getting nervous on account of astrological prophecy, I don't know. Anyway, it's immaterial. Either scenario explains how the Church might be motivated to launch a preemptive attack against the Priory." Teabing frowned. "And believe me, if the Church finds the Holy Grail, they will destroy it. The documents and the relics of the blessed Mary Magdalene as well." His eyes grew heavy. "Then, my dear, with the Sangreal documents gone, all evidence will be lost. The Church will have won their age-old war to rewrite history. The past will be erased forever."

Slowly, Sophie pulled the cruciform key from her sweater pocket and held it out to Teabing.

Teabing took the key and studied it. "My goodness. The Priory seal. Where did you get this?" "My grandfather gave it to me tonight before he died." Teabing ran his fingers across the cruciform. "A key to a church?"

She drew a deep breath. "This key provides access to the keystone."

Teabing's head snapped up, his face wild with disbelief. "Impossible! What church did I miss? I've searched every church in France!"

"It's not in a church," Sophie said. "It's in a Swiss depository bank." Teabing's look of excitement waned. "The keystone is in a bank?" "A vault," Langdon offered.

"A bank vault?" Teabing shook his head violently. "That's impossible. The keystone is supposed to be hidden beneath the sign of the Rose."

"It is," Langdon said. "It was stored in a rosewood box inlaid with a five-petal Rose." Teabing looked thunderstruck. "You've seen the keystone?" Sophie nodded. "We visited the bank."

Teabing came over to them, his eyes wild with fear. "My friends, we must do something. The keystone is in danger! We have a duty to protect it. What if there are other keys? Perhaps stolen from the murdered senechaux? If the Church can gain access to the bank as you have - "

"Then they will be too late," Sophie said. "We removed the keystone." "What! You removed the keystone from its hiding place?" "Don't worry," Langdon said. "The keystone is well hidden."

"Extremely well hidden, I hope!"

"Actually," Langdon said, unable to hide his grin," that depends on how often you dust under your couch."

The wind outside Chateau Villette had picked up, and Silas's robe danced in the breeze as he crouched near the window. Although he had been unable to hear much of the conversation, the word keystone had sifted through the glass on numerous occasions.

It is inside.

The Teacher's words were fresh in his mind. Enter Chateau Villette. Take the keystone. Hun no one.

Now, Langdon and the others had adjourned suddenly to another room, extinguishing the study lights as they went. Feeling like a panther stalking prey, Silas crept to the glass doors. Finding them unlocked, he slipped inside and closed the doors silently behind him. He could hear muffled voices from another room. Silas pulled the pistol from his pocket, turned off the safety, and inched down the hallway.

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