Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Eight – The Attorney’s Tale, as told by Robespierre

(Page 393) (The scan is from a paperback edition of The Eight)
Now Rousseau paused in his discourse and pulled a drawing, frayed with wear, from his yellow leather satchel. Unfolding it carefully, he handed it to me.

"This is the record I made of the Long March, showing the path of sixteen stops, the number of pieces of black or white on a chessboard. You’ll note the course itself describes a figure eight – like the twined serpents on Hermes’ staff – like the Eightfold Path the Buddha prescribed to reach Nirvana – like the eight tiers of the Tower of Babel one climbed to reach the gods. Like the formula they say was brought by the eight Moors to Charlemagne hidden within the Montglane Service. …"

"A formula?" I said in astonishment.

"Of infinite power," replied Rousseau, "whose meaning may be forgotten, but whose magnetism is so strong we act it our without understanding what it means – as did Casanova and I that day thirty-five years ago in Venice."

"It seems quite beautiful and mysterious, this ritual," I agreed. "But why do you associate it with the Montglane Service – a treasure which, after all, everyone believes to be no more than a legend?"

"Don’t you see?" said Rousseau in irritation. "These Italian and Greek isles all took their traditions, their labyrinthine, stone-worshipping cults from the same source – the source from which they sprang."

"You mean Phoenicia," I said.

"I mean the Dark Isle," he said mysteriously, "the isle the Arabs first named Al-Djezair. The isle between two rivers, rivers that twist together like Hermes’ staff to form a figure eight – rivers that watered the cradle of mankind. The Tigris and Euphrates …"

(Page 394)
"You mean this ritual – this formula came from Mesopotamia?" I cried.

"I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get my hands on it!" said Rousseau, rising from his seat and grasping my arm. "I sent Casanova, then Boswell, finally Diderot, to try to get the secret. Now I send you. I choose you to track down the secret of this formula, for I’ve spent thirty-five years trying to understand the meaning behind the meaning. It is nearly too late…"

"But monsieur!" I said on confusion. "Even if you discovered so powerful a formula, what would you do with it? You, who’ve written of the simple virtues of country life – the innocent and natural equality of all men. What use would such a tool be to you?"

"I am the enemy of kings!" cried Rousseau in despair. "The formula contained in the Montglane Service will bring about the end of kings – all kings – for all time! Ah, if only I might live long enough to have to have it within my grasp."

I had many questions to ask Rousseau, but already he was pale with fatigue, his brow beaded with sweat. He was putting away his lacework as if the interview were at an end. He gave me one final look as if slipping away into a dimension where I could no longer follow.

"Once there was a great king," he said softly. "The most powerful king in the world. They said he’d never die, that he was immortal. They called him al-Iksandr, the two-horned god, and pictured him on gold coins wearing the spiral ram’s horn of divinity at his brow. History remembers him as Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world. He died at the age of thirty-three at Babylon in Mesopotamia – seeking the formula. So would they all die, if only the secret were ours… ."

"I place myself at your command," I said, helping him to the footbridge as he leaned heavily upon my shoulder. "Between us, we’ll locate the Montglane Service if it still exists, and learn the formula’s meaning."

(Page 395)
"It’s too late for me," said Rousseau shaking his head sadly. "I entrust you with this chart, which I believe is the only clue we have. Legend has it that the service is buried in Charlemagne’s palace at Aix-la-Chapelle – or at the Abbey of Montglane. It is your mission to find it."

This is the end of The Attorney’s Tale of Robespierre.

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