In which a record is given
about the brave Hellmantle
through uncharted territory
on his trusted dirt bike
Rising, Hellmantle put on
his boots and went outside to see where exactly he was. The missionary inn was
on the riverbank at a bridge that was the eastern boundary of Mayayao.
An open area like a plaza with shacks facing the police station on the hill was
the center of the mountain hamlet, an area for oxen and commerce. After an
evening of wolfing down peanuts, crackers and the Book of Jeremiah, it was still
too early to get gas but he was sure they could fill up when the sun rose a bit
more. It was still the crack of dawn.
Keenly aware of the position
they were now in, they had three days before they both had to return to Hong
Kong but they still had to ride to the top of Luzon Island, west to Laog City,
and then down the west coast to Manila: a total of about 1000 kilometers.
Despite climbing to the northeast not finding a church with a bell tower that
housed the Dutch priest, the truth was there hadn't been any churches in such
remote places as the Halseema Mountain Trail, Banaue and the heart of
the Sierra Madre Mountains. Hellmantle was confident that they would find what
needed to be found because he had faith that he had been chosen to fulfill this
divine mission and had read the signs. When D'Aqs came out of the missionary
rooms and sat beside him on the riverbank he looked like he was in pain.
"Tu ne cede mails, sed
contra audentior ito," Hellmantle said when he saw him studying his face.
D'Aqs simply raised his eyebrows at him.
are you talking about?" Creases were etched in his face.
means ‘yield not to adversity, but press on more bravely.'"
"If we can get through."
"But does not pain make
features hard, telling of an education into the deep-end of humanity and an
exploration of the corners and crevices unseen? Acting without believing deeply
can never yield a fruitful crop. Better it is to not act when purpose is built
on a wobbly cliff!"
"Are you always this
"To me it smells like a
vacation here, but I know it's only a Viking's life I'm living."
"Or should I say ‘gung-ho?'" As usual, Hellmantle avoided looking
directly into his eyes, but he sensed his frustration and worry.
you believe in God, don't you think that we've made a tremendous effort and
that He is watching over us?"
do Rollo, but we're in a tight situation. What if the trail ends over the next
hill? Then what?'
you don't have faith that we are destined to succeed. I really don't get
that. But maybe it's because you don't realize the profound importance of
our mission. You see, it has always been prophesized that one of us, one of the
descendents of Christ, will correct the wrongs that Rome has done by proving
they corrupted His message. I feel it in my bones."
I worry too much. Fair enough. I'll try to dispel my doubt. I'll have faith in
you and God." D'Aqs patted him on the shoulder. He noticed that
He spread out a map at his
"If the trail holds we
should hit the rolling foothills of the Sierra Madres and the main highway
north to Aparri this morning. If the trail doesn't end, we could make good
"Why?" He looked at
Hellmantle with puffy eyes.
"Because it's downhill. And
when we hit the paved highway, riding will be quite crisp." Hellmantle
constructed a betel nut in substitution for his morning coffee. Once it was
complete he popped it into his mouth and chewed it until his saliva turned
"How can you chew that
"Takes practice. Want one?"
I don't believe there is technically such thing as later. It might help
you become impassioned and help buoy your sagging spirit." He looked at
the river with a glint in his eye.
right. But you need to engineer it for me." And Hellmantle did just that.
keep it between your cheek and gums. It seeps into through your gums,
but whatever you do don't swallow. Spit the red juice out. Only when it
breaks up and the taste has waned can you swallow a bit."
"And try to enjoy yourself
out there today. This is fantastic riding."
D'Aqs managed to hold the
betel nut in during the initial flood of bitter taste and spit out the juice.
When they had packed up and ready to go his color had reddened.
They filled up with gas and
left Mayayao on the trail hoping it wouldn't end. Arms and legs sore but the
visual magic of rice terraces hidden deeply in the range eased the pain.
Nagging pressures of time lay outside Hellmantle's immediate realm as he negotiated
the line of the mud trail through small valleys and down winding slopes closer
to sea level. Coming to a bridge with one of two wooden planks for tire tracks
missing they were forced to balance precariously over the one-foot wide plank
to get across. For D'Aqs this was a much more sensitive task due to his
inexperience and injured clutch hand, He managed to cross with a scream to the
heavens for help but when he reached the other side he had one leg up in the
air to balance, running over a large stone that dislodged the direction of the
bike. D'Aqs flew off his motorcycle and landed on a rock beside a tree.
Hellmantle was unable to suppress his laughter but the sound of his engine
covered his scheudenfreunden. D'Aqs sat up grabbing his ribs.
"Are you-" Laughing too
hard, Hellmantle stopped.
"My ribs." As Hellmantle
laughed he knew riding a motorcycle with a broken rib or two was not a good
situation to be in, so to curtail his bellowing he put another betel nut in his
"Ah, can't be that serious.
You weren't going that fast."
Hellmantle dismounted to check his cousin's ribs. A slight indentation on his
left side, a sure sign that two or three ribs were broken.
"Just don't breathe too
deeply for now. Go slowly until we reach the highway and it should be better
riding." D'Aqs moved very gingerly when he remounted his vehicle in obvious
pain. When he began riding Hellmantle could hear his cries of anguish.
The sun overhead now very
hot, after crossing the bridge they stopped on a crest of a hill where they saw
a horizon of hills sprawling for miles as if anthills of pointed rock.
Hellmantle pulled out his betel nut and made two, handing one to D'Aqs who took
it without a word. They chewed and spat and knew that they would reach the
highway going north to Aparri. For D'Aqs the vista looked like waves had been
carved into rolling waves frozen on a rough sea of rock. It was too beautiful
Hellmantle led the descent
from the mountaintops through the valleys following rivers and crossing more
decrepit bridges. Just as the sun was reaching the top of the sky he
unexpectedly hit the paved road running north. Turning left without stopping,
he rode the wide-open road with no cars to be seen. Stunned by the smoothness
of the road, it was like riding along a carpet after the trail they had just
traversed. He opened up the throttle to top gear rolling towards the Cagayan
River, the rustic landscape empty like the road.
Hellmantle and his injured
squire made excellent time through this no-man's land until they came to the
first example of Spanish presence: a 16th-century church-fort. Both
a church and fortification and still standing but without a roof, a rich
rust-colored brick wall surrounded it with a side part that was likely barracks
for soldiers. It was on the frontier of Spanish settlement from the north, like
the settling of the American West coming from the Pacific. This colonial
endeavor hit a barren and mountainous region too difficult to penetrate.
Indicative of how the old colonial power built to both protect and worship even
here in the forgotten outback of Philippines' northeast, it was an awesome and
surreal in this frontier where local headhunters still practiced their
When they finally reached
the huge Cagayan River, it was flooding over the shores overtaking shrubbery,
trees half-submerged and the grassy plains covered with muddy water. Following
this largest river in the Philippines they soon found another church beside the
river that was like a fortified turret with a small chapel.
"Not quite a church is it?"
"But not quite a fort
either," said D'Aqs.
"More like a small castle.
Or a belfry with crenellations." Hellmantle wrapped another betel nut in a
green leaf, sprinkled the white powder on the construction plus the mystery
ingredient and then popped it into his mouth, twisting his nose.
"Yeah, sure, where Colonel
Kurtz lived. And, while you've got your betel nut out, roll me up one will
you?" He nodded and began to engineer a betel nut for D'Aqs. Plants of all
kinds grew out of cracks between the stones, vegetation threatening its
"This is the first Spanish
piece built along the river. Must be the farthest point south up the mountains
from the northern coast other than the other one we saw. Henceforth let's be on
the lookout for any church in operation sporting a bell tower." He finished the
betel nut and handed it to D'Aqs, who twisted his face into a tortured look.
"Ah!" He almost spat it out.
"Wait! Chew it for a minute
and then you'll get the liquorices taste. It's okay actually, and it's a good
balsam for riding pains."
"Good, because my ribs are
sore, not to mention that cut on my hand." There were some things Hellmantle
assumed others knew, and one of these things was that you were not to swallow
the betel juice, but that was exactly what D'Aqs did, which promptly caused him
to throw up. Of course Hellmantle couldn't help laughing at D'Aqs Grosseteste
clutching his ribs and barfing. Almost fell off his motorcycle.
Once the bile was sufficiently
expelled, D'Aqs gripped his throttle, revved his engine and took off ahead of
him. Riding for ten minutes they encountered something very strange. On the
riverbank hidden under thick foliage was an old stone pub. Its wooden sign
hanging over the door was still intact. It read:
"An old Spanish pub!"
Hellmantle yelled. "Still standing but lost and forgotten! Amazing! Probably
built in the seventeenth century when these other church-forts were built.
Think about that: two-hundred years before the French Revolution!" The
weathered stone and simple layout beside the water was an ideal setting for
cocktails. It was even relaxing to look at.
"Location of many drunken
Spanish nights," said D'Aqs. "What a great name for a pub." His motorcycle
creaked as it cooled down.
"I wonder how many people
have ever seen this." No people or huts or farms for miles, it was as if it
were built, used and then forgotten in its total isolation, waiting here
patiently to tell its story to the intrepid traveler who found it. Ivy had
overtaken the pub so the stone foundation from the road was barely visible.
Hellmantle tried to get close to it but the foliage was like a wall full of
hanging green snakes frozen in time. The stones were worn by rain and storms but
the pub's foundation was still solid. Brush too thick for him to reach the
glassless window, there was a marking on one of the stones that caught his eye.
come here! There's something here I want you to see." He followed Hellmantle to
a carved insignia beside the missing front door. Hellmantle took out his knife
and hacked some of the vines away from the stone but couldn't get close enough
to touch the stone because of the sheer volume of foliage.
"No!" D'Aqs yelled. "It
couldn't be!" There was a carved cross in the stone they both recognized. "Yes,
it is! It's the cross of the Blonde Acquitaine!"
are the chances?"
the same symbol on the letter from de Steward."
we're here D'Aqs, at this relic of the past where such oaths to honor were
discussed, I shall like to invite you to join our society, not because you have
earned it but because you are entitled to it because you are a
"I didn't know you were a
"Of course not. How would
you? I'm aware that you are not yet initiated into the society, so telling you
anything about the code will breach the secrecy laws of the society. But now,
with the extreme unlikelihood of this coincidence, I can only interpret this as
a sign from God and therefore offer you the opportunity to join our secret
"Okay." D'Aqs had heard of
the society's existence but had never known anyone who was a member or had any
contact with the group.
"Okay. Whom do you serve?"
serve God." Simply and calmly.
"Well, that was easier than
usual. Good answer.
Such are they whom God chooses for himself and
gathers from the furthest ends of the earth, servants from among the bravest in
Israel to guard watchfully and faithfully his Sepulchre and the Temple of
Solomon, sword in hand, ready for battle.
quote from our spiritual father who lived in Saint Sulpice. Experience is the
only teacher for the man of adventure, for it is the true revealer of truths
hidden in the paragraphs of endless history books. After all, the difference
between hoping and having is doing. The Royal Society used our motto: nullius
in verba - take nobody's word for it; see it for yourself. But there
is a cost for us men of experience. For the evolved, fitting in becomes
a near impossibility. So a man of intelligence with a depth of empirical data
must define his own category. A man who has evolved must always live on an
island, or he must forever live in a castle surrounded by a moat cutting off
all those who don't qualify for the key. Do you accept this fate?" D'Aqs
understood the thrust of the agreement, giving it some thought before
"Yes cousin, I do."
"In the famous words of the
Duke of Burgundy many centuries ago:
You must adhere to our code of chivalry for the
reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and
exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also to do honor to old knights so
that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day
the deeds pertaining to chivalry, shall have cause to continue from good to
better; and so that those knights and gentlemen who have worn the order should
honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds.
"With a warm smile,
Hellmantle held out his hand. When D'Aqs shook it Hellmantle slipped him the
grip and gave him a quick wink from the left eye. D'Aqs had now been initiated
into the society and was now a brother.
that now as a brother of the Blonde Acquitaine, you are required to
adhere to the Code of Chivalry, and employ all the etiquette and respect
to all those who deserved fair treatment. All those who do not exhibit courage,
justice, mercy, generosity, faith, nobility or hope, merely
represent obstacles in your way to achieving the quest so bestowed on the
shoulders of all brothers: finding the missing scroll." When D'Aqs
smiled his teeth were red.