It turns out that the fey young fellow I inadvertently assaulted is in fact the nineteen year old son of the elusive Curator (now, how’s that for a stroke of luck, eh?) I had taken him to be much younger than his years on account of his delicate appearance. His pale pointed chin is doubtful to have seen a razor and he has wrists a sparrow could peck in two. His name is Pascal and I am becoming rather fond of the little chap.
His nervous disposition is not helped by the presence of The Dean, who for some reason causes the lad to shudder every time he opens his mouth. I must have grown so accustomed to my colleague’s brusque manner that I no longer notice his terrifying tones.
Pascal is leading us through the Chateau, although he has not quite explained to where we are headed. He has, however, been telling us all about his curious father – a chap of whom he seems to be a little afraid. Then again, I get the feeling that Pascal is a little afraid of almost everyone.
It seems that the Curator shies from regular public appearances on account of some kind of deformity which was the result of terrible injuries he sustained during his military career. Pascal mentions an eye patch but is vague about what other physical abnormalities there might be. Professor Duke is quite taken with this and passes the remark that the Curator sounds very much like a pirate.
“Oh, but you must not tell him that he looks like a pirate!” squeals Pascal, horrified. “He will not like that at all.”
“How about a viking?” suggests the Professor. “Vikings are even better than pirates, since they ride in the longest boats.”
“What? What do you say, VJ?” bellows The Dean, before poor Pascal has a chance to reply. “I am not so sure that you are correct. Pirates are feisty fellows, you know, with super hats. They say ‘Aaaahhhh’ a lot and I like that.”
“But vikings had better swords, you must admit,” the Professor retorts. “And, plus, they didn’t smell as bad, which is probably something close to a fact.”
“This is an interesting and useful conversation,” I say, not meaning a word of it. “But I think perhaps that Pascal’s father should be afforded a little more respect, especially if we want him to show us the dungeons.”
“Papa will never show you the dungeons, never!” Pascal exclaims, somewhat disappointingly.
“Then why the buggery are we following you about?” The Dean asks, a little put out.
“Because… I want to help you.” Pascal looks about nervously and lowers his voice. “You are knights from England! I know of the legends… that one day, the Templar might return…”
“Oh, but we’re not…” The Dean is cut short by a swift foot in the shin from Professor Duke.
“Our mission is, of course, top-secret,” the Professor continues, winking knowingly at Pascal. “Which is why I can say no more than we appreciate your help very much. And I am a knight—of sorts!”
Pascal emits a small, excited sound and his eyes shine with delight. Quickening his pace, he beckons us onwards across a grand, flag-stoned hall and towards a small door at the far end.
“I think you may have deliberately mis-led our young friend, Professor” I whisper to my mischievous colleague.
“Maybe just a bit…” the Professor replies. “And I don’t want to be a petulant teenager anymore. Now I fancy being a knight.”
There is little to do but shrug and continue after Pascal. I suppose that The Dean and Professor Duke are rather knight-ly, in a way. They both have an unlikely style of dress and violent tendencies, at any rate.
We follow Pascal through the little door and down a dusty and somewhat neglected staircase. Once at the bottom, there are a few twists and turns along what seem to be seldom-used corridors before he finally brings us to rest in a dimly lit wood panelled room. The room is empty apart from an elderly door at the far end and some poorly hung paintings on one wall.
“What is this place?” asks The Dean, looking around and pulling a bit of a face.
“Through there is the way to the dungeons,” replies Pascal, pointing at the door. “I can take you no further! If Papa finds out…”
“Hush for a few and don’t worry,” Professor Duke says, soothingly. “We shall not breathe a word about any of it. In fact, I shall deny to my dying day that I ever met you. Alright?”
“Monsieur, you are most kind. But now I think I will not be of much more help.”
“Have it your own way, lad” huffs The Dean “We shall find our way regardless.”
“Ah, but you misunderstand, Monsieur,” Pascal continues. “It is not through choice that I am no longer of help. The door is secured with a coded lock and, je suis désolé, I do not know the combination.”
The Dean sighs and I can see immediately that he is sizing up the door with the intention of breaking it down. He should be dissuaded from this, I feel.
“Do you know if your father ever wrote it down somewhere?” I ask. “Would he have it in an office or something like that?”
Pascal shakes his head.
“He would fear that someone would find it. But…” he is thoughtful for a moment. “But there might be a way of discovering it. You see, Papa was badly injured many years ago and it has greatly affected his memory. He leaves himself little clues to remind himself about certain things. I think perhaps this would be some such thing, non?”
A moment of quiet contemplation descends as the four of us inspect our surroundings in search of a clue of some kind.
“The only things in the room are those paintings,” Professor Duke points out, eyeing them with interest. “It must be to do with them!”
As we approach the paintings to get a closer look, the solution becomes obvious, even to my good self.
Once you see it, you cannot miss it, can you? I thought the Curator would have been exercised greater diligence, in all honesty.