Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Adventure 06: A Dying Messenger -- Chapter I

Chapter I: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!

By the flickering candlelight, the dark clad figure moved precisely over the geometric symbols chalked out on the old basement floor. If not for the sword held lightly in one hand, one might have thought the figure was practicing some new style of ballet. But the dancelike circular movements were part of La Verdadera Destreza – the True Art or as some called it, the Spanish style – whose precepts are based on reason, geometry, and the writings of classical authors such as Aristotle, Euclid, and Plato. A style perfectly suited to a Jesuit-trained scholar of the classics. At least so Father Gaétan Signoret said to those within his order who criticized his fascination with the True Art. But even this momentary break from the focused concentration required to perfectly perform the precise movements of the True Art, caused an awareness of other sensations that came in a sudden rush: the trickle of sweat down his chest and back despite the cold of the basement, the heaviness in his arms and legs from long exercise, the smell of burning animal fat in the cheap tallow candles that were all he allowed himself for his exercises, and the sound of his deep, but even breathing…Not just my breathing, someone else is in the room with me. He turned quickly, but fluidly, letting blade lead arm, body, legs, and feet. He was not alone. Down the three foot length of steel he saw the startled gaze of his mentor and friend, Denis Petau or Dionysius Petavius, the Latinization of his name that he preferred for teaching and for scholarly debate. Dionysius Petavius was one of the most brilliant scholars in a learned age and a member of the Societas Iesu, the Jesuit Order.
“Gaétan, Gaétan, always this fascination with the sword. I had hoped to find you reading the works of the ancients or the Scriptural Exercises.” Gaétan smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Well you must set your sword aside for now. The Provincial Father wants to see you. Now. In his office.” Petavius had taught Gaétan theology when he first began his studies back in Bourges. It was Petavius that opened his eyes to the cut and thrust of intellectual debate. If not for his mentor, Gaétan would never have become a Jesuit. Like most of his social class, he would have remained a practically unlettered aficionado of the hunt or the sword. Not that Gaétan didn’t enjoy the hunt or the sword, but those physical activities did not circumscribe his world view which had grown to include Church theology and history as well as the brilliance of ancient thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Euclid and which was enforced with the rigid discipline and self-abnegation central to the life of a Jesuit.
“Of course,” he said as he bowed his head in acknowledgement, then he gestured with his rapier. “I suppose I had better leave this until after I have seen the Provincial Father. What is it he wants?”
“The Provincial Father did not see fit to explain his reasons to me, Gaétan. Nor did he expect you would need a reason beyond his summons.”
“Of course Father. I was only curious.”
“Curiosity is a good thing in a scholar, Gaétan. But our curiosity must always be tempered by our obedience.”

When Gaétan entered the office of the Provincial Father, the first face that he saw was that of Louis Cellot. The Provincial Father was an intelligent, kindly looking man He was a respected scholar of the humanities, a theological writer of some note, a dramatist and poet, and possibly the most powerful member of the Order after Muzio Vitelleschi the Superior General of the Society of Jesus back in Rome itself. Gaétan was surprised to see that the Provincial Father was not alone. There were three other men in the room all of them dressed in clerical garb. One was a man of about forty years of age with the look of a scholar. He spoke French fluently but with a slight accent, possibly German. He introduced the younger man sitting next to him as Jan-Karel. The other was perhaps fifteen years younger. Since he was only in his mid-twenties it was likely that he had not yet taken his final vows. Most members are not as precocious as I am. Jan-Karel spoke with a most pronounced accent, but not one that Gaétan could place. The third man was the most mystifying. He wore a monk’s brown robe but his was concealed by a black cloth mask. Of the three, he was the only one that the Provincial Father introduced, calling him Père Noir. Gaétan smiled to himself as he thought, No doubt Petavius would say I’m leaping to conclusions, but I suspect that the masked one’s true name is not Father Black. The really odd thing is it seems like even the Provincial Father is deferring to this Père Noir.
Initially the man known as Jan-Karel did most of the talking and his conversation was all about one thing, something he called the DaVinci Codex. It was some minutes before Gaétan figured out Jan-Karel meant some sort of book. He certainly talks a lot without really coming near to any sort of point one can actually understand. Apparently the author of this book was someone named DaVinci – Wasn’t he a painter or sculptor or something? And the book itself was thought to pose some great danger. According to Jan-Karel, the book contained the plans for some sort of machine. Maybe a war machine? Neither Jan-Karel nor the older scholar really explained what the machine was for nor what was so dangerous about an old book or the machine it described. I wonder if this would make more sense if they both spoke in Latin?
Perhaps Père Noir sensed that Gaétan was finding the conversation confusing. In any event, he interrupted somewhat abruptly, “Thank you both. Father Signoret is not an engineer nor a geometer, so I think that is enough of the scholarly details for now. I will tell you what you need to know. This book contains a kind of knowledge that the world has not seen for many ages. And like the fruit of the tree of knowledge as described in Genesis, this is knowledge that man is not meant to have. Therefore, we must prevent Adam from eating of this fruit lest all chance of salvation be lost. This knowledge cannot be released into the world and most especially, it cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the Dutch, English, and German heretics nor of the infidel Turks. Your mission, Father is to ensure that it does not, by bringing the Codex to the Order. As God’s True Soldiers only we can be trusted to keep this knowledge from the wrong hands.” Gaétan noticed that Père Noir spoke quietly and without a trace of accent, but his voice vibrated with passion and intensity. This Père Noir is a very determined man.

Jesuit logo“Father Gaétan Signoret, you are directed to find out the current location of the Codex. Do not risk it falling into the wrong hands by being too ambitious or too foolhardy. Better to communicate its location and let us handle its recovery. However, should a safe and certain opportunity present itself, then you will act for the Glory of God. The Codex was last known to be in the possession of your cousin, Guy de Bourges. Father Signoret, do not fail the Order. You act for the Greater Glory of God. Your orders come directly from your own Provincial Father, is that not correct, Provincial Father?”Louis Cellot, spoke, “Yes. That is correct. Father Signoret, you are ordered to act as Père Noir has directed. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!”

Louis Cellot, spoke, “Yes. That is correct. Father Signoret, you are ordered to act as Père Noir has directed. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam!”

After evening prayers, Father Signoret pondered this new mission. My cousin is too clever to be easily deceived. I need a plausible reason to spend time with him so that I may observe him and his friends and from that learn something of the whereabouts of this Codex. The Jesuit order allows us to go about the world, perhaps I can suggest an expansion of that rule. Yes. I think that may do the trick.
Therefore on Sunday, Signoret arranged to be at the church in Paris where Guy usually went to hear Mass said. Afterwards, he told his cousin of his new “vocation” to engage with the world of adventure and practice his skills “for the greater glory of God.” Then he asked Guy’s help in this mission and to introduce him to any adventurous friends that Guy may have.
“I may know one or two.” Guys said with a faint smile. The two cousins agreed to meet at the Les Deux Chevaux or the Two Horses Tavern that Thursday night so that Guy could introduce his cousin to his friends..

No comments:

Post a Comment