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Chapter 1

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Luxury on transatlantic voyages is traditionally restricted to the lordly elite. Lower class passengers remain human freight, herded like cattle into cramped quarters in coach and kept quiet for the duration. So Clan MacLantis made it to the airport in time, threaded through the bowels of security checkpoints and assumed their customary positions in the belly of the jumbo jet. Skip curled his large frame around the window with camera and earphones. Allie, as the smallest, sat in the middle and like Gus on the aisle, buried herself in reading.

Somewhere in mid-Atlantic, Allie nudged her brother. “What’s that?” she asked. Gus looked up from his photocopy of Beauregarde’s Manuscript. “I don’t know; this was in an envelope behind the text,” he replied. “Reuben said this parchment was written by Brother Tobias himself. He said it was his map to the Maundy Grail, but the document doesn’t tell us.”

“Tobias, Red Pope of the Endurists?” Allie whispered, her green eyes growing large. “In his own hand – wow, it must be priceless! But check this out.” She dug around and pulled out a folder. “This was in the pile of papers in the closet I saved,” she said. “Notice the title.” Upon the tab of the folder, in their father’s precise hand one word was printed: “INSURANCE.”

They woke Skip up and Allie explained her findings in whispers. “I thought it had financial information. What kind of policy is this?” Opening the folder showed a slew of maps.

They covered an area called Haute Maureven, due east of Bellegraal, through history. Of various eras and quality, they ranged from recent satellite pictures and old military topographical maps covered with arrows and Xs to fine antique engravings excised from atlases. “Look at this one,” she said, holding a delicate drawing in ink, showing a large circle with squiggly lines, blobby shapes, and at least half-a-dozen smaller circles.

“See this? It’s a drawing of the original floor of the Cathedral,” she whispered, tapping the bold signature at the bottom. “Silviano Alfini, 1897,” it read. “It’s another of the pages missing from the painter’s notebook. But there’s more.” At the rear of the folder was a piece of paper looking much like the one Gus had photocopied. But within the circle penciled words were crossed out or erased and rewritten. A few of the notations were altogether missing, and a skull near the center was circled in red. Oddly enough, it was all done in their father’s own hand.

Gus held it next to the photocopy to compare. “Dad’s looks like it might be a copy from memory. It’s not much different from the one Reuben took. Could this be why he was so interested in Beauregarde’s book? Maybe the various factions weren’t the point after all.”

“Great, answers one question to ask a dozen more,” Skip said with a yawn. “But the biggest might be, how are maps of Maureven ‘insurance’? Against what?”

“I hate to say it, since that’s where the Montcélances live,” Gus said, “but maybe them?”

“I hope not too, brother,” Allie said. “You know it wasn’t a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing; your affair with Angelique wasn’t what turned her relatives against Doc.”

“Sis is right,” Skip agreed. “The disagreement started later. It blew up after they found the piece of the Ark in the road to the manor. I was home the Sunday when Henri called. My French isn’t good, but it sure sounded like a whole lot of cussin’ from his end. Dad, of course, said nothing afterwards. Didn’t utter much more than grunts for a week, in fact.”

“Huh, I didn’t know that,” Gus said. “That’s a bit of a relief. But it sounds like we better be careful what we say around Angelique. Why are you giggling?”

“Sorry, bro,” Skip said, shaking his head. “You’re a fine one to talk.”

“Yeah,” Allie said, smiling. “You’ll soon have another chance. Better luck this time.”



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“We must be ever cautious,
for even holy things may be used for foul ends by men of guile.”

– St. Thomas Aquinas
(attributed author),
On the Well of Forgiveness,
c. 1274

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