Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Ten 


 

Concerning Hellmantle of Normandy in the land of the headhunters

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D'Aqs enjoyed the pungent smell wafting up from a freshly poured cup of coffee in front of him, but his mind was busy. To honestly consider that Jesus survived the crucifixion had left him tossing and turning all night. He had to admit to himself that he had never considered it as a real possibility but now, having given it some thought, he wanted to remain open-minded to see how much there was to this theory.

 

 

In the meantime they ate a plate of twelve cold fried eggs stacked on top of each other. This, and the five cups of coffee he had consumed, appeared to have an effect on Hellmantle, making him philosophical about his mission.

"When one has earned a certain crystallization of knowledge and has attained an exceptional degree of life experience, the only way this body of insight can be delivered and appreciated is by being objective. Without an impartial delivery, all spouted knowledge must necessarily be held suspect." D'Aqs listened and sipped his coffee. He couldn't eat cold eggs like his cousin.

"When the young student of history and philosophy is first making their foray into the realm of truth," Hellmantle continued, "subjectivity appeals to their sense of individuality, but as years go by and he hears others spout their own version of history, the young student realizes that only the unbiased voice can hold court. One must present facts as only a regurgitator of what was and what is, without partisan inclination. Otherwise one is rendered a simple propagandist. At times there's an irony at play so that the facts are presented objectively yet the recipient is in a state of disbelief. This is why knowledge experts feel the thrill of study: to shock the ignorant and unsuspecting. It enables them, these impartial deliverers, to feel a power that makes all their efforts worthwhile. For the amount of time they have expended harvesting the knowledge of the past, this opportunity to shock and thrill the listener makes the endless solo effort of learning worthwhile."

Some locals were beginning to enter the café but Hellmantle kept eating from the plate of eggs, and spoke thus:

"So a personal journey is a selfish pursuit unless it can be shared, but too often what one acquires through study is only an exercise in solipsism until it can be communicated to the outside world. When one is so rich in knowledge, one has a hidden responsibility to present it to those too occupied with their endeavors to put in the requisite effort. The key is to present without personal proclivity. One must not taint their presentation in order for it to be listened to and taken to heart. To learn the art of objectivity is not easy but it is necessary for all communication."

D'Aqs knew full well what he was referring to. He was about to tell his cousin that he had presented his knowledge objectively last night and that it did shock, but Hellmantle was too absorbed in his eggs and coffee.

 

&

 

It was still overcast but the view in the morning light was stunning. The ruggedness of the rocky trail prohibited tourists from reaching these heights and enjoy the glory of the Cordilleras, a unique terrain that had been left to nature, free from the exploitation of modernity. It hadn't changed since the time the American missionaries first trekked through the mountains a hundred years before.

After letting the engines warm up for a minute, Hellmantle hit the Halseema Mountain Trail for Sagada thinking it was easily reachable in the course of a day's riding, and half expecting the road to regain its paved sheen. He worked through his aches and pains of yesterdays long ride, particularly his shin, and then stopped for D'Aqs at a sign that read:

 

HIGHEST POINT IN THE PHILIPPINES
2225 METERS ABOVE SEA LEVEL

           

"See? I told you," he said to D'Aqs when he caught up. Just as he had said this he took off down the road again. He vacilatated between the beauty of the view and the demands of the immediate terrain but it didn't take him long to find his groove in the mountains that gave his heart free range.

Passing alongside an ice-blue reservoir, it was plain to see how high up they were, as if scratching at the rooftop of the world. But despite the surrounding beauty, the Halseema Mountain Trail was still a surface of stone worn away to rock blunted by time and wear. Loose rocks on solid stone with no sand or mud cutting along the mountain slopes was what Hellmantle traversed on his knobby tires, curving around sharp corners hugging a continual precipice. Small waterfalls fell overhead onto the road that created washouts, which caused the most sliding on his bike. Knobby tires had little traction on the wet stone, one of the most challenging of all types of terrain for a motorcyclist. But it was freedom he felt stirring within his breast that trumped his attention. He was on the frontier where the word "civilization" was some obscure and misunderstood term. The view became so breathtaking he almost hit one of the few oncoming Jeepneys.

D'Aqs, who was behind Hellmantle, passed him and then cut him off. He motioned to pull over so they both stopped.

"That was close!"

"He was on my side of the road!" replied Hellmantle.

"Well that's how it is here. There is no sanity on the roads. Be careful cousin. Jeeze!" D'Aqs drank out his water bottle while Hellmantle lit a smoke. The sudden bottleneck with the Jeepney had shaken him up.

"I have never been pushed onto the outer boundary of a road that falls off a precipice as I just was," he said to emphasize how unusual it was for him to have a close brush with death.

Back on their motorcycles Hellmantle took the lead, cross breezes blowing his hair sideways, his helmet dangling below his arm from the strap of his knapsack. They passed a spectacular ridge where the mountainside changed from the east to west that gave Hellmantle of Normandy such delight that he began talking to himself while riding:

"The degree of contentment in man is dependent on the perspective he holds in relation to his present situation. Man has the capability to endure unspeakable hardships in the face of adversity if armed with a perspective that things could be worse. But man is also burdened with the capability to turn heaven into hell by adopting a foolhardy perspective that things should be better when they are grand. It is the key to mental health and the secret to enjoying some degree of happiness regardless of circumstance!"

His pace grueling and his arms and legs aching, he pulled over when he found a small hut by the side of the road at the end of a very long stretch of challenging rocks in one of the nameless villages along the trail. Overlooking the Cordillera Mountain Range, he gazed at the tops of the mountains protruding upwards to the blue sky above from the bellies of the clouds.

"Tea," he said to the man under a wooden plank that acted as a roof. The man nodded and served him piping hot sugary tea with thick cream. It was so thick that it was like a food. Then D'Aqs caught up.

"Did you see how the road went from one side of the ridge to the other along that stretch?" he said, not bothering to hide his boyish enthusiasm. "It was like a world balanced atop a middle line elevated a thousand feet above anything on either side of you."

"Yeah, it was good."

"Good!"

"You know what it was? That ledge just after the highest point was thrilling!" Flush on the cheek, cheekbones defined, root-beer-colored hair disheveled, D'Aqs looked like a new man.

"That's the one. With the clouds so low, it was surreal."

"How it shifted from one side of the range to the other with the clouds swirling right on top of your head. That image will stick with me for a long time to come."

"I hear ya on that one Big Teste. Yes, it was the kind of imagery that will reappear in dreams." He nodded and sipped his sweet tea, which warmed his center. "It was a tremendous morsel of motorcycle memory." D'Aqs was starting to understand his cousin's strange world of motorcycling in far-off vistas looking for the thrill and the unusual.

A dozen hungry-looking Philippinos sitting near the tables tried hard not to stare at them.

"You know about the mountain tribes around here?" asked Hellmantle. He bent his head over the cup of tea to let the hot steam swirl into the back of his raw throat in an attempt to moisten a persistent dry spot.

"No, I don't."

"According to the book, the three main tribes are the Ifugao, Bontoc and Kalinga. These are the peoples who built the rice terraces about 2000 years ago. They're warlike peoples who are known to stage ritual attacks on their neighbors in the form of headhunting." He waited for a reaction.

"Headhunting." D'Aqs unintentionally deadpan, an effort to keep his voice down.

"For the next hundred kilometer stretch I'm afraid cousin. And some say there have been a few reports that heads are still taken occasionally. It's indeed a novel hazard but alas! We're in headhunting territory man!" D'Aqs tried to dismiss it as unimportant trivia, but still it caused a stir in his gut. Another obstacle missionaries had to overcome.

"Let's just make sure we have enough gas to reach Sagada." He suddenly realized how much he was relying on his motorcycle.

"It's a different animal up here in the mountain valleys than down by the sea. It's real isolation with walls of rock and with only one road to civilization, so keep sharp on that iron horse on yours."

"Will do, Master Motorcyclist."

"You watch for natives jumping on us ready with a sharp-edged knife." It was his playful tone that gave rise to D'Aqs heart, which made him think of the words they had read in Sayangon: Not in our heads but in our hearts lies the strength that carries us unto great deeds.

"Since you're taking the lead today as chief navigator, you should be wielding the big stick." His grin a novel change from his dour demeanor.

"I always wield a big stick!" The self-belief in his eyes comforted D'Aqs for the first time rather than making him uneasy.

Hellmantle gunned it north along the bumpy trail north for Sagada, with D'Aqs now laughing behind him as he rode with hyperbole in front of him.

  
  

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                             
          The Family of the Bible
FIRST PART
1.       Concerning the famous Hellmantle's position, character and way of life
2.       Concerning the ingenious man's visit with his uncle Jack Grosseteste
3.       Which relates to how Hellmantle is given his first adventure
4.       About what happened to our adventurer when he goes to the Philippines
5.       In which the story of our crusader's journey begins in earnest
6.       About Hellmantle's time in the city of sin on Christmas Eve
7.       About the brave Hellmantle's success on his adventure to Baguio City worthy of happy memory
 
SECOND PART
8.       In which the courageous Hellmantle of Normandy journeys north into the Cordillera Mountain Range
9.       About what happened to Hellmantle in the mission in the mountains and the crucifixion of Jesus
10.     Concerning Hellmantle of Normandy in the land of the headhunters
11.     About the required riding techniques to reach the destination of Sagada and the church organist
12.     In which the German artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café and dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island
13.     In which Catharine is tracked to the Shamrock Café and an eery coincidence of a reoccurring dream
14.     About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces and finding a way to the northwest
15.     About what happened to our intrepid philosopher in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains
16.     In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike
17.     Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri
18.     About the final day of the motorcycle journey and discussing the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Vigan
19.     About the sermon in Agoo Basilica and what they find at the church with the rouge bell tower
20.     Concerning the Dutch Padre and what he knows about the hidden map
21.     About the return to Manila and the coup that causes the Great Man from Normandy grief
 
THIRD PART
22.     Which brings Hellmantle of Normandy back to Hong Kong to re-evaluate the next step in his quest for truth
23.     In which their journey is related to Jack Grosseteste and a new task is set before the Man from Normandy
24.     Concerning the journey to northern Vietnam to track down the map hidden at a French prison
25.     About how Hellmantle and D'Aqs compare notes on their task at hand in Hanoi
26.     In which an account is given of the beginning of the journey of Hellmantle in Vietnam
27.     About how Hellmantle and his brave squire ride north to the place where the four rivers meet
28.     Concerning the French prison and what Hellmantle finds there
29.     Concerning the discovery of the bottle and what lies inside of it
30.     Concerning the journey to Dien Bien Phu in honor of their grandfather the Great Dane Hellmantle
31.     About what the motorcyclists see on the fields in Dien Bien Phu
32.     Concerning the motorcycling required to reach Hanoi via the other side of the Da River Valley
33.     Which tells of the final stage back to Hanoi and the discussion after their most beautiful ride
 
FOURTH PART
34.     Concerning the visit with the knowledgeable Jack Grosseteste and the sally to India
35.     Concerning the arrival and journey to Kashmir Valley
36.     In which the journey begins in earnest through the checkpoints to the foot of the Moghul Fort
37.     In which Srinagar is reached and how the houseboat was as it was hundred years ago
38.     In which Hellmantle reach their houseboat on the lake below the fort and beside the mosque
39.     In which Hellmantle sets out for the Tomb of Thome and his brother Joshua beside him
40.     Which relates to the agreeable history of the journey north to the monastery on horseback
41.     In which Hellmantle returns to Srinagar and finds the first translations of the black stones
42.     Which concerns the deciphering of the discovery at the monastery and the need to go to the Ganges River
43.     About Hellmantle of Normandy's meeting with the holy man after taking a dip in the Ganges River
44.     About Hellmantle's meeting at Jack Grossetests's place with D'Aqs and Catharine the artist from Sagada
 
o       Chronology of Historical Events
         
 
 

 
Riding through head-hunting country,
 
Steely Dan's "Do It Again,"
 
is in order.
 
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