Without doubt, my biggest mistake in the early days of my Old College career was trying to apply my hard-earned real-world logic and thinking to the academic environment. It has taken me a long time to tuck away the intellections of Her Majesty’s Finest and finally wrestle my mind towards the Machiavellian and contrived thought processes that govern the internal workings of Old College.
In fact, you almost have to approach thinking as if you were a person who had never thought at all. It really is that random. Having considered this at some length, I can only conclude that the academics have heads so full of dusty nonsense that there is little room for much else. Porters have plenty of room inside their heads. That is what makes them such a wily and adaptable breed.
And this is precisely the thing that will be of help to us here in Chateau de Chinon. Having learned from the Antique Shop Owner that the Templar carvings in the cave resembled markings found in the dungeons of the Chateau, our next point of progress seems clear. It is gaining access to the buggers that could prove difficult.
“If the Curator and his staff are the only people who have access to the dungeons, there must be keys or a device that controls entry,” I say to my captive audience of The Dean and Professor Duke.
“That stands to reason,” replies The Dean.
“Do you suppose the Curator might give us a tour?” asks the Professor. “Especially if we asked nicely?”
“Maybe,” I reply. “But probably not. Judging by the young lady’s reaction to our mention of the dungeons I would suggest that it is a place they would rather keep to themselves.”
“So we need the keys, then” The Dean says, his feet shuffling against an urgent need to pace. “Well, I’m up for a scuffle as much as the next man but taking them from the Curator by force could land us on the wrong side of the Gendarmerie, you know.”
“I have heard,” continues the Professor “That those fellows don’t have a right side. Imagine going through life with no right side, too. Poor chaps.”
“For once, I don’t think violence is the answer,” I reply.
“If not violence, then what?” asks The Dean, genuinely perplexed.
“A place like this must have hundreds, maybe thousands, of locks,” I say. “And that means lots and lots of keys. They must be kept somewhere. The Chateau must have a sort of equivalent to our very own Porters’ Lodge. Keys can be difficult articles and they most definitely demand a place to be kept.”
“Wowawee, you’re right, Deputy Head Porter!” exclaims the Professor. “Genius! I imagine, though, it’d be hard to find the place where they’re kept, you know.”
“Hmm, my thoughts exactly,” I reply. And then, I say something that I feel cannot go unsaid. “But it is not a task that should be attempted on an empty stomach. Breakfast was ages ago, you know.”
We are able to obtain a delectable selection of crusty breads, meats and cheeses from the visitors’ canteen and set up a cheery little picnic in one of the courtyards. The afternoon air is fuddled by a warm breeze, skipping its way from the Vienne River and we watch happily as children explore the corners and crevices of the courtyard, no doubt imagining themselves as Knights of old. It is quite the perfect accompaniment to our lunch.
A watchful eye from a place unseen bears the dark sheen of a sadist’s delight. If truth is what they seek then let them find the truth. But truth is naught without eyes to see and ears to hear and air to breath. A helping hand to guide to truth is what I gift you now…
“You know, I’ve been thinking twice over,” announces Professor Duke, between mouthfuls of brie. Oh, this should be good. “With the crypt, the cave and now the dungeons, it strikes me that the Templar spent quite a lot of time underground.”
“Well, they were greatly persecuted, after a time,” The Dean remarks. “If you were accused of heresy and threatened with execution you would hardly be strutting about the landscape, would you.”
“Oh, I bet so,” the Professor retorts, defiantly. “I would strut about proudly, and then accuse them of heresy and threaten them with all sorts of evil things…”
I hop to my feet to shake off the inordinate amount of crumbs that have accumulated about my person. The saddest truth about crusty bread is that far too little of it finds its way into the mouth. As I am performing my little jig, I am startled by a hand snatching at the hem of my waistcoat.
“Hey!” I swipe it away rather too enthusiastically and find myself back-handing an unfortunate young man who now looks absolutely terrified.
“Je suis désolé!” he wails, holding both hands to his stricken cheek.
“Oh.” I struggle to come up with much more, other than “Sorry about that.”
“Now what’s up here?!” Professor Duke leaps to my side and gives the young French gentleman a hard stare. “You can’t go about grabbing…people! It’s not appreciated, you beast!”
“Oh, he’s French,” says The Dean, waving a lump of cheese around dismissively. “It’s probably a sport to him.”
Looking down at my waistcoat, I suspect the thing he was so interested in was the College crest embroidered on one side. I look from the crest to the lad and the face he returns suggests that this is the case.
“You have a coat of arms?” the lad asks me in hesitant English. “You are Knights?”
“Of a sort, I suppose,” I reply kindly, not wishing to upset the chap further. He is clearly no threat to us. “We are on something of a quest. Following some other Knights who came before us, a long, long time ago.”
“Very famous Knights, no less!” says the Professor. “They were kept here in the dungeons, back when the Chateau was brand new. And, yes, I’m a knight of sorts.”
“Oh!” exclaims the French lad, suddenly seeming quite enthralled with us. “I know the Knights you mean. S’il vous plaît – you will follow me!”