Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Sixteen 


 

In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle

through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike

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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.

"What are you talking about?" Creases were etched in his face.

"It 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 reckless?"

"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.

"If you believe in God, don't you think that we've made a tremendous effort and that He is watching over us?"

"I do Rollo, but we're in a tight situation. What if the trail ends over the next hill? Then what?'

"See, 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."

"Maybe 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 Hellmantle flinched.

He spread out a map at his feet.

"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 time."

"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 bright red.

"How can you chew that stuff?"

"Takes practice. Want one?"

"Maybe later."

"Later? 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.

"All right. But you need to engineer it for me." And Hellmantle did just that.

"Just 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."

"Got it."

"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.

 

Ω

 

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 mouth.

"Ah, can't be that serious. You weren't going that fast."

"I can't...breathe." 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 to breathe.

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 traditions.

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 survival.

"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:

 

Fumes & Bubbles

 

"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.

"D'Aqs 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!"

        "What are the chances?"

        "It's the same symbol on the letter from de Steward."       

        "Since 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 Hellmantle."

"I didn't know you were a member."

"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 society."

"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.

       "Ready?"

"Yes."

"Okay. Whom do you serve?" 

"I 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.

"A 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 answering.

"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.

        "Remember, 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.

  

 

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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