Robert Langdon awoke with a start. He had been dreaming. The bathrobe beside his bed bore the monogram HOTEL RITZ PARIS.He saw a dim light filtering through the blinds. Is it dusk ordawn? he wondered.
Langdon's body felt warm and deeply contented. He had slept the better part of the last two days. Sitting up slowly in bed, he now realized what had awoken him... the strangest thought. For day she had been trying to sort through a barrage of information, but now Langdon found himself fixed on something he'd not considered before.
Could it be?
He remained motionless a long moment.
Getting out of bed, he walked to the marble shower. Stepping inside, he let the powerful jets message his shoulders. Still, the thought enthralled him.
Twenty minutes later, Langdon stepped out of the Hotel Ritz into Place Vendôme. Night was falling. The days of sleep had left him disoriented... and yet his mind felt oddly lucid. He had promised himself he would stop in the hotel lobby for a cafe au lait to clear his thoughts, but instead his legs carried him directly out the front door into the gathering Paris night.
Walking east on Rue des Petits Champs, Langdon felt a growing excitement. He turned south onto Rue Richelieu, where the air grew sweet with the scent of blossoming jasmine from the stately gardens of the Palais Royal.
He continued south until he saw what he was looking for - the famous royal arcade - a glistening expanse of polished black marble. Moving onto it, Langdon scanned the surface beneath his feet. Within seconds, he found what he knew was there - several bronze medallions embedded in the ground in a perfectly straight line. Each disk was five inches in diameter and embossed with the letters N and S.
He turned due south, letting his eye trace the extended line formed by the medallions. He began moving again, following the trail, watching the pavement as he walked. As he cut across the corner of the Comedie-Française, another bronze medallion passed beneath his feet. Yes!
The streets of Paris, Langdon had learned years ago, were adorned with 135 of these bronze markers, embedded in sidewalks, courtyards, and streets, on a north-south axis across the city. He had once followed the line from Sacre-Coeur, north across the Seine, and finally to the ancient Paris Observatory. There he discovered the significance of the sacred path it traced.
The earth's original prime meridian.The first zero longitude of the world.Paris's ancient Rose Line. Now, as Langdon hurried across Rue de Rivoli, he could feel his destination within reach. Less than a block away.
The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits.
The revelations were coming now in waves. Sauniere's ancient spelling of Roslin... the blade and chalice... the tomb adorned with masters' art.
Is that why Sauniere needed to talk with me? Had I unknowingly guessed the truth?
He broke into a jog, feeling the Rose Line beneath his feet, guiding him, pulling him toward his destination. As he entered the long tunnel of Passage Richelieu, the hairs on his neck began to bristle with anticipation. He knew that at the end of this tunnel stood the most mysterious of Parisian monuments - conceived and commissioned in the 1980s by the Sphinx himself, François Mitterrand, a man rumored to move in secret circles, a man whose final legacy to Paris was a place Langdon had visited only days before.
With a final surge of energy, Langdon burst from the passageway into the familiar courtyard and came to a stop. Breathless, he raised his eyes, slowly, disbelieving, to the glistening structure in front of him.
The Louvre Pyramid.
Gleaming in the darkness.
He admired it only a moment. He was more interested in what lay to his right. Turning, he felt his feet again tracing the invisible path of the ancient Rose Line, carrying him across the courtyard to the Carrousel du Louvre - the enormous circle of grass surrounded by a perimeter of neatly trimmed hedges - once the site of Paris's primeval nature-worshipping festivals... joyous rites to celebrate fertility and the Goddess.
Langdon felt as if he were crossing into another world as he stepped over the bushes to the grassy area within. This hallowed ground was now marked by one of the city's most unusual monuments. There in the center, plunging into the earth like a crystal chasm, gaped the giant inverted pyramid of glass that he had seen a few nights ago when he entered the Louvre's subterranean entresol.
La Pyramide Inversee.
Tremulous, Langdon walked to the edge and peered down into the Louvre's sprawling underground complex, aglow with amber light. His eye was trained not just on the massive inverted pyramid, but on what lay directly beneath it. There, on the floor of the chamber below, stood the tiniest of structures... a structure Langdon had mentioned in his manuscript.
Langdon felt himself awaken fully now to the thrill of unthinkable possibility. Raising his eyes again to the Louvre, he sensed the huge wings of the museum enveloping him... hallways that burgeoned with the world's finest art.
Da Vinci... Botticelli...
Adorned in masters' loving art, She lies.
Alive with wonder, he stared once again downward through the glass at the tiny structure below.
I must go down there!
Stepping out of the circle, he hurried across the courtyard back toward the towering pyramid entrance of the Louvre. The day's last visitors were trickling out of the museum.
Pushing through the revolving door, Langdon descended the curved staircase into the pyramid. He could feel the air grow cooler. When he reached the bottom, he entered the long tunnel that stretched beneath the Louvre's courtyard, back toward La Pyramide Inversee.
At the end of the tunnel, he emerged into a large chamber. Directly before him, hanging down from above, gleamed the inverted pyramid - a breathtaking V-shaped contour of glass.
Langdon's eyes traced its narrowing form downward to its tip, suspended only six feet above the floor. There, directly beneath it, stood the tiny structure.
A miniature pyramid. Only three feet tall. The only structure in this colossal complex that had been built on a small scale.
Langdon's manuscript, while discussing the Louvre's elaborate collection of goddess art, had made passing note of this modest pyramid. "The miniature structure itself protrudes up through the flooras though it were the tip of an iceberg - the apex, of an enormous, pyramidical vault, submerged below like a hidden chamber."
Illuminated in the soft lights of the deserted entresol, the two pyramids pointed at one another, their bodies perfectly aligned, their tips almost touching.
The Chalice above. The Blade below.
The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates.
Langdon heard Marie Chauvel's words. One day it will dawn on you.
He was standing beneath the ancient Rose Line, surrounded by the work of masters. What better place for Sauniere to keep watch? Now at last, he sensed he understood the true meaning of the Grand Master's verse. Raising his eyes to heaven, he gazed upward through the glass to a glorious, star-filled night.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies.
Like the murmurs of spirits in the darkness, forgotten words echoed. The quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one.
With a sudden upwelling of reverence, Robert Langdon fell to his knees.
For a moment, he thought he heard a woman's voice... the wisdom of the ages... whispering up from the chasms of the earth.
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