Mid-morning, Christmas Eve
San Juan Island
Mike sat in the old rocking chair his wife Patricia had given him on their first Christmas together. He recalled that scraggly Charlie Brown Christmas tree he had found and chopped down all by himself. He remembered dragging it onto the porch and through the doorway into the living room just as Pat finished tying a big red bow on the rocker she had found in the attic. The chair was a true antique and had belonged to his great grand father. She had lemon-oiled the chairs wood and it looked brand new. He recalled how Pat had broken into a fit of laughter at the sight of the tree specimen he had dragged home. She had joked that all the lemon oil in the State of Washington couldn’t help it. They both agreed that after adorning it with two strings of colored lights, a box of Christmas ornaments and a beautiful Angel perched on top, it was the perfect tree to sit next to that rocking chair.
As he sat there, slowly rocking and reading, a shaft of sunlight broke through the overcast sky outside and shown through the one small attic window. It streamed in illuminating a plethora of dust motes populating the attic’s atmosphere and drifting silently in the stagnant air. The beam shone like a theatrical spotlight upon the page of the dusty old book of Shakespeare’s quotations he had been reading and illuminated words, which had led to his reminiscing.
‘Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?’
As you Like It, Act III, sc. 5.
Closing the book gently he nodded in silent agreement with the Bard. Running his fingers thru the graying mass of hair on his head he closed his eyes, leaned back in the chair, and drifted further off into the daydreaming land of the aged. The deeper he drifted, the more his 92-year old brain began to recall the more memorable details of a wonderful life lived with a beautiful woman, his woman, his Patricia. She was his first, his one and only true love. She had passed away last Christmas; but, most assuredly she was not forgotten. He knew they would soon be together again. The deepness of his slumber brought forth a backdrop of vivid images. A few tears made their way slowly down his cheeks, and the images were surreal. They played in his mind was as if he was watching a movie, with the scenes revealing every moment of that precious time many years ago when they first met.
An exerpt from "Revelaions"
March 15, 1244
Raymond de Perella, Cathar Parfait and lord of Montségur, took the hand of his beloved wife, Corba, and spoke in a quiet voice to his four children. “My beloved children, our hearts are saddened by what we must tell you. We believe Montségur cannot hold out any longer against the evil one’s army. At dawn tomorrow I will surrender our home and refuge on our beloved Montségur to the pope’s forces.”
Jordan, his eldest and only son, rose in protest. “But the butcher will slaughter us.”
Raymond raised his hand to stop his son’s protest. “We, the Cathari of Montségur, will march through the open city gates with heads held high in full knowledge of what awaits us at the hands of the minions of the pope’s butcher, Simon de Montfort. We will not falter, nor will you in carrying out the task your mother and I are about to give you.”
“Do you wish me to draw a weapon against the butcher’s men? I will do so gladly.”
“No, Jordan! I ask you and your sisters for something far more important than mere martyrdom.” Raymond de Perella retrieved four neatly wrapped packets from a secret compartment in the family’s armoire. He gave each of his children one of the packets.
“Even though we have long since secreted away the monetary treasures of our faith, these packets contain a parchment worth more than all the gold and silver in the pope’s treasury.”
Raymond gazed upon the quizzical expressions of his children, wondering with sadness if they would survive de Montfort’s forces any better than he and the Cathari he would lead through the gates at dawn. He sighed inwardly and thought, At least one of them must.
“These packets contain identical parchments revealing the truth about the birth of the Roman church. They must not fall into the hands of the pope’s forces. Tonight at midnight, during our last services on this mountaintop, you and your sisters will, carrying these packets, descend by ropes already in place on the west cliff’s face.”
Jordan reacted as if struck by his father. “We are to run like cowards?”
Raymond replied sternly. “No, you will act like soldiers protecting this most important piece of Cathar treasure. Horses will be waiting for you at the base of our mountain; you will ride to the town of Ussat-les-Bains, where each of you will hide your packet in one of the caves of the Sabarthez above Ussat, our sacred mountain.” He leaned forward and spoke softly but firmly.
“Commit to memory exactly where you place it. Most importantly, you must not under any circumstances return to Montségur; however, you must find and inform a Cathar Perfecti of the packets’ hiding places. May God bless you and ensure the successful completion of your mission.” He kissed each of his children on the forehead, knowing it would be for the last time. “God have mercy upon your mission and all our souls.”
Precisely at midnight, as the Cathar worship service began, Jordan and his sisters rappelled two by two the treacherous west cliff of Montségur. As their father had promised, they found the horses at the bottom of the cliff. Just as they mounted their horses, barking and shouting were heard close by. The butcher’s men were approaching rapidly on foot.
“Ride like the wind and don’t look back!” Jordan shouted to his sisters. “We meet in Quillan in four days.”
Taking his own advice, he spurred his horse forward and rode as hard and as fast as he could. Several hours later, approaching Ussat-les-Bains, he paused on the elevated ridge surrounding it. His heart sank at the vision before him. The area was alight with the campfires of the pope’s army. As fate would have it, the caves of the Sabarthez would not see the treasured parchments he and his sisters carried. Turning his horse toward the Northeast, he rode off quietly into the night, unsure of how to safeguard what he carried and execute his mission but determined to do so.
A cock crowing in a nearby village roused Jordan from his semiconscious slump in the saddle. Backtracking many times over two nights and a day to elude the ubiquitous hordes of soldiers, he had no idea where he was; however, he saw no signs of de Montfort’s army in or around the small hilltop village just above the trail he was on.
Soon, the sun would be full up and bring the village townsfolk with it. He spotted a small grotto next to a clearing just off the path and turned his horse toward it. Stopping just short of the clearing, he secured his horse to a small sapling and approached the grotto cautiously on foot. A rock slab in front of the grotto held a plaque indicating the townspeople of Rennes-le-Château had dedicated the area as a shrine to Mary Magdalene. The inscription told Jordan’s tired mind that here was the most perfect hiding place in the world for the parchment he carried.
This grotto would be easy to find again, and if the true nature of the Montségur escape plan were ever discovered, a shrine to Mary Magdalene would never be a suspected site for hiding a parchment revealing some truth regarding the Roman church. He emptied an old earthen grain jar he found in the grotto, placed the packet into it, and sealed the jar with the soft wax he carried in his saddlebags. After placing the jar deep within the grotto, he mounted his horse and began the ride to Quillan and the planned rendezvous with his sisters. He hoped they had been as successful as he had and that he would see them soon. He tried hard to suppress thoughts of his parents and their fate. Upon his arrival in Quillan Jordan found no sign of his sisters. That evening he asked many tavern and inn patrons about three young Cathar maidens traveling alone. No one had seen or heard of them. Unfortunately Jordan’s inquiries and movements did not go without notice. Simon de Montfort’s spies were everywhere, and during the night soldiers burst into Jordan’s room and arrested him.
He told them nothing, not even under the horrific torture they inflicted or when they described in excruciating detail how the maidens he sought had been captured, raped, hacked to pieces, and burned along with all their possessions. He closed his eyes and offered up a prayer of gratitude that God had allowed one parchment to be saved. As the smoke from his execution pyre and the stench of own burning flesh filled his nostrils, he regretted not being able to reveal to another Cathar the location of the parchment. He prayed God would one day lead a righteous man to it—and to the truth.