Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty-seven 


 

About how Hellmantle and his brave squire ride north

to the place where the four rivers meet

Near Mai Chau, Hoa Binh Province

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It was to the distant melody of bagpipes that Hellmantle woke up. Still in bed under the mosquito net, when he caught a whiff of Scotland he sprang out of bed, slipped on his boots and climbed down from the wooden hut. He walked out to the rice paddies along the trail of dried mud and soaked in the fog covering the mountaintops on the immediate horizon, looking for the bagpiper. The smell in the air was rich with moisture and the jungles of Southeast Asia, sending a chill of energy down his spine at the thought of the riding before them.

"Must have been a dream," he mumbled to himself in justification for standing in the middle of a rice paddy at the crack of dawn.

After having a coke and some salted crackers for breakfast in their wooden legged hut in the stilted colony amidst rice paddies, Hellmantle and D'Aqs hopped on their Russian-made motorcycles and rode past the pasty tourists who were on their way on foot to the Da River Gorge before they had to run back to their bus. As Hellmantle rode past the group of tourists, he said to the wind:

"Not for us! We are the captains of our own one-man, two-wheeled ship!" It caused him to think more about this phenomenon of soft-bellied tourists who walked in a country and then returned to their hometowns bragging that they had been to so-and-so country and how amazing it had been. To him, most people spent their free time doing nothing, that is, watching an electronic box and thinking of their bank account growing. They say to themselves: "If I can just hold on a bit longer!" Slouched on a couch watching a sitcom is a slumbering "activity" to these soft peoples. Activities like taking buses to pre-arranged tourist attractions promotes soft tummies commonly found in slumbering peoples everywhere. These people seldom throw caution to the wind because their will is dormant. If these softies do have a will, then it should be called the Will to Slumber.

Mile and after mile Hellmantle and D'Aqs ascended into the mountain range of Vietnam, deeper and deeper into the thicker jungle around them. Fewer rice paddies the steeper the roads became. To Hellmantle, North Vietnam was different than other Southeast Asian countries he had been to. People up here in the north were strong and resilient; he could see it in their faces. The sheer work ethic was light years away from that of the Philippines for example, or Thailand. The endless rice fields that they passed were beyond count, and the number of people working on the fields was even more impressive. And the flags! Hellmantle had never been to a country with more flags. Almost every household had been given a free flag and flagpole in the towns they had ridden through so far. No man had ever seen more red flags in one place before. Entire streets in Hanoi and the country towns were decked out in Communist flags.

It didn't take Hellmantle long to see that motorcycles were ideal instruments for the long, never-ending roads of North Vietnam. The lowlands had no discernable traffic law enforcement, but it didn't matter so much because the Vietnamese were expert motorcyclists. Passing on the left with the slower bikes to the right was adhered to as the golden rule on the road. There was also a noticeable fellow-motorcyclist theme whenever a car pushed through. That was the thing about North Vietnam: there were hardly any cars in the countryside because they weren't practical. And because trucks and cars hadn't chewed the roads up, the pavement was smooth for the two-wheeled flow.

For Hellmantle, eight out of ten of the 80 million Vietnamese looked identical. There was hardly any genetic variation. As he cruised he considered the history of the country: for the last 2000 years, the Vietnamese, from their base in the north, had expanded their control to the Mekong Delta and Saigon. Apart from their skirmishes with Cambodians, Americans and Japanese, there were the Chinese. After Saigon fell to communism in 1975, the Vietnamese communists launched a campaign in 1978 against the ‘bourgeois elements,' which ended up being a euphemism for entrepreneurial Chinese. Over a third of the Chinese population fled Vietnam back to China causing China to attack the country in 1979. He wondered how many westerners knew that, as he steered his bike around beautifully engineered corners.

Riding into the afternoon sun, they reached Son La where they filled up with gas.

"Ah, Dien Bien Phu: How many kilometers to Dien Bien Phu?" Hellmantle asked the guy selling fuel.

"Uh? Dien Bien Phu hah?" he replied.

"Yah, yah. Dien Bien Phu. How many kilometers to Dien Bien Phu?" The question finally registered as his free hand reached for his chin. The gas attendant shook his head and said:

"One thousand fifty kilo-me-ters. Dien Bien Phu hah."

"One hundred and fifty kilo-me-ters? Yes?" Hellmantle confirmed. He then pointed to his wristwatch. "How many hours, hours to Dien Bien Phu?" Again the hand to the chin came into play.

"Eight" answered the gasman.

"Eight hours and Dien Bien Phu will be within our grasp," he said to D'Aqs. "That sounds about right."

"Let's press on to the battle site due west."

"And keep your eyes open for anything that looks like a prison."

Hellmantle and D'Aqs cruised between Son La and Tuam Giao, through the pass in the afternoon fog. The road was just as smooth as the previous track from the colony on stilts in Mai Chau.

Since there was so much agrarian activity, there were spats of mud on the road that created some small slides and skids. They had to muster to overcome these hazards. Hammering mile after mile, it became a real life videogame where the motorcycle and the wind and the temperatures and the gears were real, and any wrong move did not yield a second chance. Hellmantle knew from experience that it was easy to think that the riding wasn't real. It was easy to think it was a videogame. If a motorcyclist did he would believe that if he crashed he could get up again and replay. But these skids were real and they shook Hellmantle's tank of adrenalin. To him the groovy thing was that the civil engineers had created turns that were so well designed that he didn't even have to turn the handlebars; he only had to lean. As a displaced Norman, he was pretty sure the engineers had been French trained.

With hardly any vehicles on the road, he led the way climbing in third gear and gliding down the descent on the other side like madmen hell-bent to get to the bottom of a mystery.

 

Ω

 

The sun began to set in front of them behind huge rocks protruding from a mountain lake. Hellmantle was too much into the flow of the ride to think about stopping. He could feel the windburn on his cheeks passing the mountains through the valley with fog and steep slopes. With warm and dry feet and the evening cool against his skin, he descended into the Tuan Giao - Dien Bien Phu valley hoping to reach Dien Bien Phu. The roads were as smooth as silk but with the fog, visibility was an issue.

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, when they were still miles from Dien Bien Phu, Hellmantle and D'Aqs came across an old hotel with the classic yellow colonial façade and turret of les Francaise Colon, but the odd thing was that it was literally the only colonial building in the village. At an intersection of some rivers, there was a large fort on the hill overlooking the hotel. Hellmantle could only infer that the reason for the hotel would had been for French troops moving north to the border of Laos and China.

They parked their motorcycles at the hotel and got a room. The hotel was empty and run by a family who lived on the main floor. During dinner Hellmantle asked about the fort.

"It is a French prison that the Japanese used and then went back to the French," replied the wife serving them dinner. Hellmantle and D'Aqs exchanged looks.

"Used during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu?" Hellmantle asked.

"They used it for French troops going there," the husband answered. "They supplied them using this as their route." The bread they ate was warm.

        "And it is used today?" D'Aqs, interest perked.

        "No one is there." The man's eyes were honest and his heart was good. Humanity was indeed planet-wide, Hellmantle thought to himself.

        "And the rivers? How many rivers meet here?" The man laughed and shook his head at D'Aqs.

        "How many rivers meet? I don't know. There are two or three I think. And there are some waterfalls that run down from the tops into this river."

        "My God! Could it be!" exclaimed Hellmantle, startling the husband and wife. They moved away from them now suspicious, cleaning up the dinner table swiftly.

        Upstairs it was D'Aqs and not Hellmantle that couldn't wait for sunrise to explore the prison. They both had their maps open each pinpointing where they were and seeing where there were two rivers converging. They both suspected there were more than just the two shown on the map.

        D'Aqs was surprised that Hellmantle seemed more interested in smoking and drinking and chewing his betel nut than discussing tomorrow's plan.

        "You shouldn't smoke in here. And why are you drinking so much? Doesn't seem very...very Blonde Acquitaine. Remember, one of the codes of chivalry is exhibit self control." D'Aqs might have struck too close to the bone so he waited for a reply.

"Do you know what the Ten Knightly Virtues are?" he asked in a firm tone.

"No, not all of them. Do you?"

"Certainly. As members of the secret brotherhood we must commit these ten knightly virtues to heart, just we have for the Code of Chivalry."

"So enlighten me."

"They are:

Chastity - be free of sins of the flesh
Humility - to keep pride at bay
Rectitude - to remain objective and just
Charity - to keep your heart full of the Holy Spirit
Chivalry - to give respect to your fellow man
Courage - to give power to your convictions
Fidelity - to be loyal to your purpose
Truthful - never deviate from a life of truth
Faith - to always keep you within God's realm
Compassion - to know the soft side of mercy."

"I see."

"Now where in there does it say I can't chew betel nut and drink beer now and again?"

"The one about sins of the flesh."

"Chastity? I'd say it refers to sexual sins in the traditional definition."

"Well, I guess if you remain objective and just then I can't find anything that says you can't have your smoke. If you choose to imbibe, then look sharp man!" D'Aqs showing backbone caused Hellmantle to sit up in his cot, but after a few seconds slouched again.

"If we find something tomorrow, it will be just like the original nine members of the Templars finding the buried sacred geometry under Solomon's stables in 1106."

"Why's that? Because this map could lead to the discovery of religious scrolls that could send shockwaves through religious communities throughout the world?"

"Yes," replied Hellmantle. "I did some research after hearing all that stuff last time at your father's place and I discovered that during the fourth-century there was a man who taught Nazarene thought in Spain by the name of Priscillian of Avila who, among other beliefs, taught that Jesus had an identical twin brother named Jude Thomas. It was believed for centuries that Jesus had an identical twin, but of course it contradicts the church in Rome because then there would have to be two Messiahs, both a product of a virgin birth. This belief was centered in Western Europe in modern-day Acquitaine, Gallicia and Brittany, all of which are on the sea routes between Egypt, Spain and Great Britain."

"Now that is interesting. There has already been a precedent."

"Because these places had a constant influx of new ideas that circumvented the power of Rome, these Nazarene beliefs remained for centuries. It ultimately culminated with the Spanish Inquisition nearly a thousand years later. Anyone who deviated from Rome's tenets were persecuted and whatnot."

"Rome has so much blood on its hands."

"Of course the Prior de Sion brotherhood has been busy pointing out that Jesus had an identical twin brother since before the Renaissance. Most recently the President of the Prior de Sion Berenger Sauniere commissioned decorations in the Rennes-le-Chateau church showing Mary and Joseph holding identical baby Christ-Childs in their hands."

D'Aqs thought about this untaught point of Christian history, again revisiting that discomforting twinge that he had been fooled. "A twin is a problem for the church because why would one twin go up to heaven and the other identical not? It's too difficult to justify." In the silence D'Aqs went on. "Therefore take Thomas out of the picture and focus on the resurrection. Jesus and Thomas as twins and as old men together in Kashmir Valley shows that they are both men and not the sons of God but rather like the rest of us, men of the earth with a Holy Spirit." When he stopped talking he could hear snores coming from Hellmantle across the room intermixed with the myriad of sounds coming from the jungles outside. In due course D'Aqs' eyelids became like led and fell downwards to shut off his sight and put him to sleep.

  

 

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
         
next  

  
 
  

  

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