Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Eleven 


 

About the required riding techniques to reach the destination

of Sagada and the church organist

Halseema Mountain Trail, Mountain Province

פּ

Back on the trail after riding alongside a river in a deep valley and around a corner, Hellmantle saw the beginning of the rice terraces. They were leveled rice fields that bordered old stonewalls a few feet high. No one on the fields with no sign of any agrarian activity, most were fallow. Looking down at the small terraces surrounded by jags of open rock, he imagined how they once were like a spider's web in a giant salad bowl.

He and D'Aqs forced themselves along the outer edge of the trail so the times they encountered oncoming Jeepneys they were in position to avoid a head-on crash. Hellmantle developed his own technique by riding along the best available line of movement, like a skier would choose a path through moguls. Where there was no path, he steered to hit the outer edge of every pothole to careen off the indentation in the rock flatbed and shoot out of it ready to turn again back the other way, just as he had done while riding at the foothills of Mount Pinatubo. It was a technique to avoid wear and tear of the bike but also a way of enjoying the dips and grooves in the road. Motorcycling like this was a thrill sport like skiing. And with the wet rock, it was as slippery and dangerous as it could be.

D'Aqs watched his cousin as he trailed behind, how he never hit a pothole directly but rather hit its inner lip. He watched as Hellmantle leaned into a dip and came shooting out of a three-foot wide depression in line to carom off the side of the next big pothole, flinging out of the turn almost in the air. He knew Hellmantle had learned the technique after many thousands of miles of exploring in countries with rough roads, but D'Aqs still thought it was a gift from God. D'Aqs tried it and almost took a spill.

Hellmantle encountered the first road sign since the highest-point-in-the-Philippines sign just outside of Sayangan. After so many hours riding without a sign, it was reassuring to them. D'Aqs had started to wonder if they had missed a turn-off. The lone road sign showed Sagada was within riding distance, but already darkness was beginning to fall. As soon as the sun fell behind the western ridge, they were passing through thick forest on either side of the road. In a split second, the grayness turned to black. When that moment came, a wave a panic struck D'Aqs' solar plexus because there were no other cars on the road or any streetlights to speak of or any sign of civilization. And on top of this, it was a new moon. It was as dark as octopus ink.

Hellmantle knew that one of the best parts of the motorcyclist's day was conquering unknown mountainous terrain in the dark. To see exactly how dark it was, Hellmantle turned off his headlights for a few seconds as he rode. Above the hum of the engines, D'Aqs could hear him laughing. His hysterics soon infected D'Aqs so he copied him. Both stared directly into complete blackness for no reason other than for the thrill. Hellmantle couldn't even see his hand in front of his face. They spent over an hour riding through this sooty coal-black world, flipping their lights on and off, without seeing a soul. Fear began to take hold on D'Aqs' newfound sense of freedom, but Hellmantle was confident that there was a way forward and that God would provide for their safe passage since their quest was a divine endeavor. After another hour the sleepy town of Sagada emerged as a small strip of guesthouses and cafés nestled between mountains.

In no time Hellmantle discovered there was no vacancy because everything was booked for the Christmas holidays. But as he was walking down the main street, he opened a gate to walk up a steep stairwell to what he thought was a bed and breakfast, when a man spoke to him from the top of the stairs.

"Good evening," he said, thinking he was only being friendly, Hellmantle replied:

"Hope there're some rooms available." Hellmantle approached him on the stairs under the light of the house, slow as a limping shin.

"This is a private residence," said the man. Hellmantle, with his most gracious demeanor, apologized for the misunderstanding, and descended the sixty-step stairs, the man following him to the road.

"Try the hospital," he said. "As a last resort they take people in if they have the space."

"Good idea," said Hellmantle, looking down the street. "The Knights Hospitallers providing shelter in case a Christian pilgrim is in need during their way to Solomon's Temple, still in action today."

"And when was this?"

"This would be under the first king Baldwin the First. First king of Palestine after the success of the First Crusade. The only good crusade."

"And when would that be?"

"1099," said D'Aqs, seeing Hellmantle exhausted and therefore more inclined to go off on a fiery tangent.

"Though I believe the Knights Hospitallers came into existence in 1065, after a large party of German pilgrims were attacked by Arab bandits near Ramla."

The man, intrigued by this bearded motorcyclist, said:

"I'm the organist at the church," he said, pointing across the street. "There's a wedding in the church in the morning. That's where I'm going now. Rehearsal." The Episcopalian church under sprawling trees had a sign on the gate that read:

 

WELCOME TO THE SAGADA MISSION COMPOUND

 

Hellmantle thanked him for his kindness, and then they tried their best to find a place, checking all the guesthouses and the few hotels.

"Do you know much about the Knights Hospitallers?" D'Aqs said he didn't, happy to hear Hellmantle's autistic-fueled mouthpiece take possession of certain words that paint ideas like pictures, and like Lego pieces building up in a corner of his brain, finding it difficult to erase from his mind. "Have you heard aof our ancestor Red Mantle? He was a king descended from Joseph of Arimathea's line. Our ancestor King Red Mantle wore a red robe with a white cross on it, since he was part of the Order of St. John of Hospitaller. The Knights Templar wore the white mantle."

"So why red? As in blood?"

"That's what some say, but the legend says King Red Mantle changed our surname because it symbolized Hell, that described the state of affairs with Rome having so much power during this time when the Merovingian line of kings ended with the murder of Dagobert the Third in 1307."

At the hospital at the edge of town they were confronted with a woman who guarded the hospital like a sentry would a castle. It looked empty but she told them to walk a mile down the road to check one more place.

"Most unhelpful," said Hellmantle, disappointed after conjuring the traditions of long history of helping those in need when on a Holy Mission. But when they found The Shamrock Café, they parked their motorcycles and sat under old wooden shutters with a view of infinite blackness that felt like the edge of the universe.

Famished, they both made a beeline for the massive plate of curry chicken, vegetables with boiled eggs all topped off with the satisfying suds of San Miguel cerveza. They were both thirsty.

"Come to think of it, your surname Grosseteste was also changed during the same zeitgeist." The pause meaningful because Hellmantle knew for the first time his cousin's interest was sincere."

"Well, what happened? Tell me!"

        "Put it this way, none of our ancestors at that point in history were happy about the usurping of Dagobert the long-haired king, so your forefather Godfrey change his name form Grosjean to Grosseteste in an obvious stick it to Rome choice of words. "D'Aqs laughed hard, from the gut, very pleasing to Hellmantle's ears. "I mean think about it! Godfrey said: we have big cajones and we'll breed with the de Barr family and the Sinclairs and keep on propagating!"

        "So he changed our name to Big Testicle!"

It was the firs time Hellmantle had heard a genuine laugh from D'Aqs since their boarding school years, when he was just as mischievous as Hellmantle, how by default they had both become ringleaders of their dormitory of twelve.

        "Major brownie points with the boys of that one!"

        "So our name was Big John?"

        "Oui, an important family name within Grail lore by virtue of being the unknown true descendants of Jesus' cousin John the Baptist!"

        "No way!"

        "Oui monsieur! Haven't you ever wondered why you had such a unique last name?"

        "Of course, but...but I've never known why."

        "Because you never asked the question." They both looked out the window into the Great Blackness. "Yes, you're seeing that there is a lot out there unknown in the darkness."

        D'Aqs pensive: "Yes, I agree."

"So then your direct ancestor was Elizabeth, Mary's sister!"

        "Or Jesus' aunt!"

        "Or sister-in-law of Joseph!"

        "And what about your first name?"

        "It means from Acquitaine."

        "Oui, but more precisely it means of the water."

"Amazing. You have become an explorer in that darkness. A connoisseur as the French would say."

"Or a maestro as the Spanish would say." he said weakly. Clearly uncomfortable by the compliment, Hellmantle's reaction surprised him.

Sagada became even more surreal when they saw other foreigners for the first time since they left Manila. Two couples sat speaking French to a couple of Frenchmen. D'Aqs saw it rattled Hellmantle's sensitivities, so to drown out their chatter he spoke thus:

"What strikes me as ironic is how some of these big travelers look so adventurous and worldly yet none of them drive here themselves, and if they did, they certainly wouldn't have motorcycled here along the Halseema Mountain Trail! To me they are all lightweights - tourists - fooled by a hike or a small trek in the mountain forests instead of being true explorers by experiencing the primacy of mountain motorcycling where any miscue could cause permanent disability. Riding a motorcycle is like shaking hands with your own mortality. There are no seatbelts on a motorcycle! Earning the right to be in Sagada by utilizing the two-wheeled balance is one toll these tourists haven't paid. These talcum people don't deserve to be here - not like us. We risked our lives to reach this peak. We haven't dropped in on an overnight flight!" Darkness in his voice.

He approached the waitress after the meal to inquire about the German artist he was looking for.

"Um, I'm looking for a girl who told me that I could find her by coming here," Hellmantle said to the manager behind the counter with an abacus. "She told me that she doesn't have a telephone, seńora." The old woman had a severe face, hard from life but it suddenly came to life with a soft smile when Hellmantle smiled at her with respect.

"What's her name?" she asked, causing Hellmantle to contort his face as if in pain trying to remember. Then he opened his eyes as if he had remembered:

"Her name is...Michelle," he said. "Or Isabelle... or Anne... or Annabelle...or...Annalore...Gabrielle...Annabelle! Some sort of elle. She's from Germany, has long yellow hair and a bit of a ruddy hue on her cheeks I seem to recall. She's perhaps a little shorter than you. She told me she hangs out here. No telephono. I believe she's a painter of some kind. Una artista." Unsure but making sincere effort to help, then the manager lit up like a firefly.

"Catharine, the artista? Si! Una painter? Is it Catharine?" He remembered immediately hearing her name.

"Yes!" He slammed his hand on the counter much harder than intended. "Catharine! That's it!"

"Some kind of ‘elle,' eh?" D'Aqs said, jousting.

"But Catharine is away." 

"No! She can't be!" Hellmantle's disappointment was tangible.

"She is home for Christmas." The woman watched as he let out a long sigh with sub-woofer hear, very sympathetic, which caused her to think.

"Ah! Pero seńor, Catharine comes back mańana."

"Well that is groovy!"

After eating enough, Hellmantle decided their only option was to sleep at the hospital under the unkind looks of the woman, but as they passed by the Episcopalian church the man with the mansion was walking back from the wedding rehearsal. When he saw Hellmantle in his worked-in leather motorcycle jacket on the road, he asked him if they had found a room.

"Not yet. We are on our way to slumber at the hospital."

"Why don't you stay at my house? It's big enough. My name is Dennis Faustino." He put out his hand and with a smile on his face, Hellmantle couldn't refuse.

  
 
 

 

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 in along the mountaintops
 
into Sagada and the chill,
 
Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car"
 
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