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Tom Weston

The Elf of Luxembourg An Alex and Jackie Adventure


THE ELF OF LUXEMBOURG PREVIEW. Copyright © 2009 by Tom Weston. All Rights Reserved. Except for brief extracts cited in critical review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without written permission. For information visit: www.tom-weston.com. This book is a work of fiction. The character and dialogue of historical figures are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. “Plan of the town of Luxembourg”, by Harmanus van Loon, from Suitte des Forces de l'Europe ou Quatrième Partie de l'Introduction à la Fortification, published by Nicolas de Fer, 1693. With kind permission from the collection of Gary Little. For further information visit: www.luxcentral.com.


To our Grandfathers and Grandmothers


CONTENTS Prologue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

The Vision Serpent Old Town Vianden Conquistadors Summer in the City Chez Bacano King of the Mountain The Petrusse Express Théâtre des Capucins Abbaye de Neumünster Schueberfouer A Walk through the Green Heart of Europe The Pirate Raleigh The Two Sisters Alex in the Underworld The Battle of Santo Thomé The Casemates Lucilinburhuc Epilogue


Be careful what you wish for . . .

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Prologue 1924 “Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges-Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!� Rudyard Kipling, the Explorer, 1898.

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Prologue

“S

teady, Belle, steady,” cried Émile Fradin to one of the cows as it stumbled.

The 17 year old youth struggled to guide the cow-drawn plough through the muddy field then known as the Duranthon, today called the Field of the Dead. The field lay in the small hamlet of Glozel. And Glozel hid, ignored as if a shy wallflower at a dance, in a quiet valley to the east of the Allier River, about two hundred kilometers north-west of Lyon, in France. Thick, spiny gorse grabbed at his ankles and sharp tongued brambles drew French curses from the lips of the usually affable boy, but Émile needed to clear the field to serve as a new pasture for the cows. Even with the help of his younger sister, Yvonne, and his grandfather, Claude Fradin, the field - the voracious bully of a field demanded too much of his spirit.

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Prologue Hard going indeed, even in the finest of conditions; but according to the calendar, the day still allegedly belonged to early spring, and the uneven ground shifted back and forth from frozen to thawed to muddy; and the cows, with a dogged determination to undermine his authority, lost their footing and refused to draw a straight furrow. Claude Fradin had purchased the farm at the end of the Great War, subsequent to his life there, man and boy, as a tenant farmer for many decades. Émile questioned the wisdom of the purchase, but he loved his grandfather and so said nothing. This time, despite Émile’s encouragement, Belle did not lurch forward again, for her foot seemed stuck in a hole. The family rushed to liberate the cow. It took some time, more than expected, and on further inspection Claude noticed that the hole extended deeper than at first glance. “What is that?” asked Émile. They unharnessed the cows and Yvonne quickly urged them out of the way, while Claude and Émile worked to enlarge the hole. Under the soft mud, they found some bricks, which they set to one side, and then some pottery, which they also extracted. They continued to remove bricks and pottery, and the hole continued to get bigger, until they made it large enough to permit a man to enter. While Claude and Yvonne grasped firmly at his belt buckle, Émile lowered his head into the hole. “What do you see, Émile?” asked Claude. Émile found himself staring into an underground chamber. Beneath him in the chamber, and mingled with dust and cobwebs, objects hidden from the sunlight for a great number of years now appeared. Some even glinted under the spotlight of a dancing sunbeam or two. “Treasure, Grandfather,” cried Émile. “I think we’ve found buried Treasure.”

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Prologue Over the course of the next few days, the Fradins, with the help of a day laborer named Jean-Baptiste, explored their find. And what they had discovered appeared to be a tomb: full of bones and axes, as well as pottery; and clay tablets with strange symbols on them - the Glozel Stones, as posterity came to name them. As the days passed, neighbors called to admire the treasure and to help dig it out. From the nearby school, Émile’s classmates and teacher came out on a field-trip (pun intended) for the day. Their teacher, Adrienne Picandet, wrote to the French Minister of Education about the find: which, although certainly not treasure in the classical buccaneer sense, perhaps might offer some small interest to the archaeologists. The Minister dispatched two men, named Clement and Viple, of the Societé d'Emulation du Bourbonnais, to examine the site. After some indelicate excavating, Clement and Viple put down their pick axes. “Well?” asked the Fradins. “Roman,” said Clement, knowledgeably. “Gallo-Roman,” amended Viple, wishing to show his superior knowledge. “And what is it worth?” asked the Fradins. “Worth? Oh, nothing,” said Clement and Viple. “A very poor find, just a few bits of broken pottery, wouldn’t pay for the cost of digging it up, really. We suggest that you return to your plough. There’s nothing of any value here.” Clement and Viple departed and filed an official report to demonstrate their superior knowledge. The report made its way to the editor of the Societé bulletin, who selected it for filler and to replace some blank pages, and where few would read it and soon forget what they read. And where it caught the eye of one Dr. Antonin Morlet.

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Prologue Dr. Morlet presented his card to the Fradins. “Although I am considered merely an amateur by the Societé’ standards,” he said. “I do consider myself to be an expert on the Gallo-Roman period; and I am convinced that the Societé is wrong in this instance. Call me a skeptic, but I believe that site is not Roman. I think it is much older.” “So what?” asked the Fradins. “So I’m willing to pay you two hundred francs a year to let me excavate it.” “Beats ploughing,” said Émile. Every morning, Dr. Morlet arrived at the field with a manservant or two. The servants climbed down into the chamber, performed the heavy digging and passed any thing of interest back up to the Doctor for further examination. He then worked with his precision surgical instruments and cleaned the artifacts. Every afternoon he returned to his medical practice, where he used the same instruments on his patients. The Doctor became convinced that though the site appeared contaminated by later settlers, including the Gallo-Romans, its foundation seemed predominantly Neolithic, for one of the clay tablets featured an engraving of a reindeer, and no reindeer had walked through the mud of France for at least ten thousand years. In 1925, he published a paper of his findings, crediting Émile Fradin as co-author; and they opened a small museum in Grandfather Claude’s bedroom to display the artifacts and charged visitors an entrance fee of four francs. The artifacts came out of the ground by the barrel load and the visitors came in droves. Cafés opened to provide breakfast and dinner. Entrepreneurs from nearby towns arranged bus tours. Shops sold souvenirs. A hastily constructed addition to the farmhouse served as a proper museum and Grandfather Claude got his bedroom back.

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Prologue It became the turn of the Societé to show skepticism, and rudely challenged by this amateur and upstart, slapped in their collective face with a gauntlet of ignorant hubris, they reacted with a vengeance.

“So what is the problem?” asked René Dussaud, curator at the Louvre. “There are so many problems, it is difficult to know where to begin,” replied Dr. Capitan, the famous French archaeologist, who had just returned from a visit to Glozel. “Such as?” asked Henri Édouard Prosper Breuil, AKA Abbé Breuil, the Pope of Paleolithic Prehistory. “Such as,” said Dr. Capitan. “Dr. Morlet is an amateur; his specialty is medicine, not archaeology. And the others, the Fradins, are illiterate peasants. We offered to examine the site properly and publish the findings under our names - that would add a stamp of authenticity to the proceedings - but they refuse.” “You mean they want to claim credit of the discovery for themselves?” asked Dussaud. “Exactly,” confirmed Dr. Capitan. “How selfish of them.” “Do they not understand the difference between an amateur and a professional dig?” asked Dussaud. “Meddling amateurs,” said Abbé Breuil. “How are we to raise the standards of the science if people won’t stand aside and let the professionals take charge?” “Indeed, Abbé.” “We don’t do it for the glory, of course. We do it for posterity.” “Precisely, Abbé.” Preview


Prologue “Other problems?” asked Dussaud. “Well again, it is a matter of classification. The site has such a mixture of artifacts that it is impossible that they are all from a single period; certainly not Neolithic as Morlet claims.” “And . . .?” pressed Abbé Breuil. “And the tablet inscriptions, reputedly Phoenician - if they are authentic. . .” “That cannot be!” said Dussaud, forcefully. “Not unless . . .” “Unless what?” asked Abbé Breuil. “Well, it’s not for me to say . . .” squirmed Dr. Capitan, and he looked to the curator: René Dussaud’s career and meteoric rise though the ranks at the Louvre stemmed from his theories regarding the Phoenicians and the origins of the alphabet - he claimed writing as an invention of the Bronze Age, at least six thousand years removed from the alleged age of these tablets. And the Phoenician alphabet dated from a still younger age. All three men knew that if they confirmed the authenticity of the tablets, it would destroy Dussaud’s reputation. Dussaud paced the floor of his office for a few moments and pondered on the implications of this quandary. Then he looked up. “Abbé, you will go to Glozel,” said Dussaud. “Inform the good Dr. Morlet that this is now official Ministry business.” Abbé Breuil and his hand-picked team of archaeologists arrived in Glozel, where Dr. Morlet and Émile welcomed them warmly. At first the archaeologists appeared enthusiastic and friendly, and during their excavations several members found artifacts that intrigued them. Abbé Breuil published articles praising the site. They offered to purchase the artifacts. Émile refused. Then the innuendos began. First, they expressed doubts about the purity of the site, because some of the tablets, even if genuine, were found much too close to

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Prologue the surface to be part of the original site. Then Abbé Breuil examined the reindeer tablet and identified it not as a reindeer but as a regular common deer. Dr. Morlet countered by referring the matter to Professor August Brinkmann, director of Zoology at Bergen Museum, Norway. And Brinkmann, siding with Dr. Morlet, determined Abbé Breuil’s analysis erroneous. The tenor of archaeologists’ articles changed, with insinuations that Émile deliberately salted the dig - planted the artifacts. Émile and Dr. Morlet challenged the archaeologists to prove their allegations. The archaeologists admitted the proof eluded them. Early one morning, as Dr. Morlet arrived to open the site for the day’s work, he spied three of the archaeologists crawl under the barbed wire which surrounded the dig. The Doctor followed them. One of the archaeologists, Dorothy Garrod, entered a trench and stuck her fingers into the plaster, applied the night before as a security measure to thwart tampering. Dr. Morlet shouted out and demanded an explanation for her actions. The archaeologists hemmed and hawed and pleaded that they merely intended to get a head start on the day, and the hole in the plaster, just an accident - one attributed to Émile had the Doctor not witnessed it. A stand-off between the amateurs and the professionals prevented any further cooperation. The archaeologists departed and the Government appointed a commission, comprising, amongst others, René Dussaud, Abbé Breuil and Dorothy Garrod. Their chemical analysis disproved the Doctor’s hypothesis of the ancient nature of the artifacts. The Commission condemned the Glozel site as a fake. Worse, Dussaud accused Émile Fradin of forgery. Émile Fradin, the illiterate peasant boy, then surprised them - he filed a suit for defamation against Dussaud. Émile Fradin vs. the Louvre - David vs. Goliath.

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Prologue

On a cold February afternoon, with the sun threatening to call it a day, Émile warned the small number of tourists who still hovered around the farmhouse museum that closing time was approaching. As the visitors began to shuffle out, a new crowd of visitors arrived at the farmhouse. Émile pondered telling them to come back another day, but on the other hand, money was money. “Entry is four francs,” he told them. “But you do not have much time: the light is failing.” Then he noticed that some of them wore uniforms which identified them as the police. “We do not need to give you four francs - we have a warrant,” said the front man, not in uniform but obviously in charge. They barged around Émile into the museum and hustled the straggling tourists out the door. “Wait, wait,” cried Émile. A blow from a truncheon to his mid-riff silenced his cries. Émile keeled over and clutched his stomach. The police began to smash the glass in the display cases and remove the artifacts, roughly depositing them into cloth bags. “No,” cried Émile. “You can’t do that.” Another truncheon fell on his shoulder. The Man in Charge turned and headed for the museum door. “Bring him,” he said, pointing to Émile. Two uniforms grabbed Émile by the arms and dragged him out. They entered the farmhouse via the kitchen, where pans filled with dirty water stood on the kitchen table. “Take those,” said the Man in Charge. “They are evidence.” They went upstairs. “Whose room is this?” asked the Man in Charge. Preview


Prologue “It is mine,” answered Émile, after some not so gentle prodding with the truncheons. “I share it with my little brother.” “Whose are those notebooks?” asked the Man in Charge. “They are my brother’s schoolbooks,” answered Émile. “That is all.” “Take them,” said the Man in Charge. “They are evidence.” They left the room and entered another. Grandfather Claude reclined in bed: sick with the flu. The police grabbed Claude and pulled him from under his covers. “Enough,” cried Émile and he wrestled with the policemen who held him. They responded with the truncheons until Émile fell to the floor, bloodied and dazed. After ransacking Grandfather Claude’s room, the Man in Charge seemed satiated. He nodded to the Uniforms and they dragged Émile to his feet. The Man in Charge spoke. “Émile Fradin, you are under arrest.”

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Chapter 1 - The Vision Serpent 1596 “It was the custom of these natural ones, that the one who was to succeed and inherit the chieftainship from his uncle, had to stay six years in a cave, which they had dedicated for this purpose, and that in all this time they were forbidden to look upon women, neither to eat meat, salt nor red pepper, and other things forbade to them; and during the fasting were forbidden to see the sun; at night only they had license to leave the cave and to see the moon and stars and to take shelter before the sunrise; and to complete the fasting and ceremonies required of a great chief, and the first day of their rule they went to the great lagoon of Guatavita to offer and to sacrifice to their demons, to show they ruled for their God and people.â€? Juan RodrĂ­guez Freyle, El Carnero, 1636.

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The Vision Serpent

T

he barb from the stingray’s tail cut into his flesh. I won’t say where exactly; some things remain best left to the imagination. Cuchaquichá could not help but wince at the pain. It hurt more than any thing he had ever experienced in his life, but necessity drove him. For Cuchaquichá endeavored to call the Vision Serpent to appear before him. Simply an enthusiastic amateur, Cuchaquichá lacked the professional training of a priest. But the success of his undertaking required that he follow the protocol to the letter. Hence the stingray barb instead of a knife, although frankly, the razor sharp barb cut with less effort than any knife in Cuchaquichá’s possession. Cuchaquichá was a Muiscan. The Muisca, who dominated the area today known as Colombia, divided their people into two Confederations, North and South. The Southern Confederation, to which Cuchaquichá belonged, had their Capital at Bacatá (now the modern day city of Bogotá). But for such a large and powerful nation, the Muisca lived, in the main, as peaceful farmers and did not seek to wage war or build empires in the manner

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The Vision Serpent of the Inca and Aztec. Nor was the Confederation a kingdom, for they rejected the system of absolute monarchy and they preferred to live in autonomous chiefdoms, each with a cacique (or chief). Every year the Caciques elected a President, called the Zipa, though the re-election of most incumbents was a forgone conclusion, until death or infirmity forced a change; and the title traditionally passed from uncle to nephew. During the election ceremony they covered the Zipa’s body with gold dust and then cleansed him in the waters of the Sacred Lake. Since the arrival of the Conquistadors, the Muisca practiced the ceremony in secret, for the Spanish coveted gold above all else and the legend of El Dorado (the Golden One) attracted many of them. Living on the Equator, the Muisca eschewed celebration of the four seasons - they had two: the dry season and the wet season, the passage of one to the other dictated by the movement of the sun directly overhead during the equinox. And tomorrow was the Solstice, the day of Xué, the sun-god, and with the rising of the sun, the Muisca gathered to elect a new Zipa. Of course, today’s ceremony bore scant resemblance to the great festivals of the past: now they performed it in secret and with few resources to cast on the water as offerings to the gods - the Spanish stole every thing of worth. The Caciques selection of Cuchaquichá to attend on the new Zipa brought great honor to the family. Not just attend but to participate, to ride on the raft with the Zipa, to act as one of his ceremonial guards for the day. The honor surprised this humble and unassuming man. He knew he must reciprocate with an offering to the gods. If his offering pleased the gods, they would make him immortal - he would live forever through his descendants - the line would never die. So it became important for Cuchaquichá to talk to his ancestors, to seek their advice and get their approval. He had sent his wife and

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The Vision Serpent son away to stay with relatives for the night, so that he could talk to his ancestors undisturbed. Cuchaquichá mopped up the blood with a small piece of parchment cloth and placed it in a clay bowl. He set fire to the parchment and then squatted on the floor, crossed legged, and placed the haga amulet around his neck. The Muisca wore the haga during ceremonial dances and, more significantly, to facilitate the communication with one’s ancestors. In front of him stood little wooden dolls which contained the ashes of family members long dead. Cuchaquichá entered the dream state. The smoke from the fire, the endorphins released by his brain to combat the blood loss and the hayo leaf cocktail, brewed to numb the pain and reveal the unseen, combined to help transport him to another level of consciousness. The column of smoke leveled off and floated, as a cloud, half way between the floor and the ceiling of his little hut. Out of the cloud rose the Vision Serpent, a green, two headed, giant snake. Out of its mouths trickled red blood. Its tail coiled around the burning parchment. If Cuchaquichá had performed the ceremony correctly, the Vision Serpent would open its mouths: a god would emerge from one, an ancestor from the other. Cuchaquichá felt sick and near to passing out. The Vision Snake swayed towards him, baring its fangs. Then the image of a man appeared. “Grandfather,” said Cuchaquichá. The Muisca called all male ancestors Grandfather, all females, Grandmother. “Hello, Cuchaquichá,” said the man. “Good to see you. I am honored with your presence.” Cuchaquichá noticed the man’s beard and mode of dress, alien to the Muisca. “You are not a Grandfather,” he said. “No, Cuchaquichá, I am not,” said the man.

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The Vision Serpent “Are you a god? Are you Chibchachum or Xué?” “No, Cuchaquichá, I am not,” said the man. “Then who are you?” asked Cuchaquichá. He squinted to get a better look through the smoke and saw the paleness of the man’s flesh. “Oh wait, now I see you. You are Bochica, the traveler.” The legend of Bochica the Savior told of a mysterious stranger with white skin, who arrived from the east, when the Muisca still lived as children, and taught them many things: metal work and writing, and law and morality on which they now fashioned their society. But the Muisca forgot the lessons which Bochica had taught and fell into barbarism; until the gods punished them with a great flood. Bochica, hearing the pleas of the Muisca, returned to defeat the gods and channeled the flood into a waterfall, the Tequendama Falls. With the crisis averted, Bochica announced his departure, but also his return at the time of their greatest need; and he stepped into a rainbow and disappeared. “Cuchaquichá, I do not have much time,” said the man. “No, Grandfather,” said Cuchaquichá. He now used the title out of respect for such a hero. “Tomorrow is the Ceremony of the Zipa.” “Yes, Grandfather.” “You are to accompany the Zipa on the lake and make offerings.” “Yes, Grandfather.” “I need you to deliver a message for me.” “Yes, Grandfather . . . To who, Grandfather?” “To the gods.” “But Grandfather, I have no offering worthy of carrying such a message. Our family has been scattered by the Spanish, as seeds in the wind. They have taken much and left little. My poor offerings would dishonor your message.” The man opened his hand, palm up. “Here, Cuchaquichá, take this. It is both message and offering.” He handed Cuchaquichá a

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The Vision Serpent small gold coin. Cuchaquichá turned it over in his hand and examined it. Etched on one side, Cuchaquichá saw an image which he interpreted as a raft on a lake, under a blazing sun. Under the raft swam a fish, or a snake, or perhaps Bachué, the Mother Goddess: Cuchaquichá could not tell for sure, for Bachué appeared in many forms. On the converse of the coin appeared the moon and stars, and a snake, and what seemed to be the letter ‘A’. “I know all the symbols of our tribe, Grandfather, but I do not recognize or understand these. This was not crafted from the hand of a Muiscan goldsmith. But it reminds me of the ceremony of the Zipa. Is that the Zipa riding on the back of a fish?” “Do not worry. The meaning will be clear to those for whom the message is intended.” “Yes, Grandfather.” “Your family is indeed scattered, Cuchaquichá. But if the message is delivered perhaps some of the seed may still find fertile ground.” “Have you come to destroy the Spanish, Grandfather?” “No, Cuchaquichá, something much more elemental. But if you wish it, the Spanish will indeed be destroyed. Is that what you want? Be careful what you wish for.” “No, Grandfather, I do not wish for that.” “When my message has been delivered I shall return with a reward for you.” “I am honored, Grandfather.” The Vision Serpent closed its mouths, swallowing the man. The fire died, and the smoke and the Serpent both dissipated. Cuchaquichá sighed and passed into the unconscious darkness.

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The Vision Serpent

Darkness still surrounded him when Cuchaquichá returned to the land of the living; for the sun lingered below the horizon and little light penetrated through the wooden slats of the hut. Even so, and even though the rubbing of his eyes failed to remove the blur from his vision, or the pain from his head, he saw the silhouette of a figure hover above him; and he needed no light to know the identity of the figure: his wife, Micatachia. She gently stroked his brow with a damp cloth to soothe away his fever. And she sang softly to him, a song of love and devotion. The haga amulet no longer hung around his neck, but instead lay on the floor next to the charred bowl - and next to a small golden coin. He had not dreamt it. “I have come to wake you, sleepyhead,” she said. Cuchaquichá started anxiously. “Have I overslept?” “No, don’t worry. It is still early. You have not missed anything.” Cuchaquichá fell back. His head pounded and his limbs ached. And the now congealed blood from his wound covered his body and gave him the appearance of an abstract painting. “We have to get you cleaned up,” said Micatachia. “You must look your best for the Zipa.” She helped her husband to his feet and began to clean him with a damp cloth. The sudden coldness of the cloth on his skin extracted a shiver from him. “Where is Michuá?” he asked. Michuá was his son, 10 years of age. “He is still sleeping,” said Micatachia. “There was no need to disturb him, not yet. When you are dressed I shall go and get him. He’ll be so proud to see his father escort the Zipa to the lake.” Cuchaquichá swooned a little. “You are weak. I told you to be careful with the bloodletting, but you had to overdo it, didn’t you. Just like a man.”

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The Vision Serpent Cuchaquichá smiled. His wife scolded as a woman who loved him. “Get dressed while I make you some breakfast,” she said. “You’ll feel better once you’ve eaten something.” Micatachia left to fetch additional water and Cuchaquichá dressed in the robes befitting the ceremony, complete with bracelet, pendant and ear rings. Once, they would have been made of gold instead of polished stone. He retrieved the haga and fixed it around his neck. Then he placed a crown on his head and a cape around his shoulders, both made of toucan feathers. Micatachia returned. “Take those off,” she laughed. “Do you know how silly you look?” “Don’t tease me, woman, not today,” he replied. Micatachia teased only because she knew of his apprehension about his role in the forthcoming ceremony and he could never be angry with her. “Take them off - I don’t want you to get breakfast all over the plumage.” Cuchaquichá removed the cape and crown and sat down to eat. She fed him some hayo biscuits, to sustain him throughout the long day ahead, and a draft of coca sek, to help ease his pain from the prior evening’s exertion. Cuchaquichá ate in silence while Micatachia sat beside him. A voice called from outside the hut. “Cucha, Cucha, are you awake? Cucha, come on you lazy goodfor-nothing, the sun is rising.” The voice belonged to Demaquichá, Cuchaquichá’s grandfather (and still quite alive). Cuchaquichá sprang to his feet and the pounding in his head reminded him to move carefully. He picked up his cape and threw it around his shoulders, and set the crown on his head. Then kissing Micatachia on the cheek, he turned to exit the hut. Micatachia called him back. “Wait, Cucha, come here.” Cuchaquichá turned to face her. Micatachia put her hands to each side of his face.

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The Vision Serpent “Sing to me,” she said. And he put his lips to her ear and sang softly. “We cannot see without a heart, We cannot hear without a heart, But I will sing the Toucan Song, I will sing to you, And your heart will see and hear.” Micatachia raised her hands to straighten his crooked crown. “There,” she said. “That’s better.” Cuchaquichá smiled and turned, took two steps towards the door and then turned once again. He returned to his bedside and stooped down to pick up the gold coin. Smiling one last time at Micatachia, and flipping the coin once in the air, he left the hut.

Cuchaquichá and his grandfather made their way to the cave which served as the Zipa’s chapel (and prison) for the three days before the ceremony. The Zipa, forbidden to eat salt, forbidden to see the sun or women, prayed to the gods for guidance, meditated on the burden of his responsibilities and longed for the boredom to end. A small group of men already stood at the entrance to the cave, Cuchaquichá’s Chief amongst them. A drum sounded and one of the Zipa’s attendents, a priest, appeared at the entrance and said a few words. The group formed two lines and Cuchaquichá fell into place in front of them. “Good luck,” said his grandfather.

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The Vision Serpent Cuchaquichá nodded solemnly to his aged relative. The priest said a few more words and the drummer took up a steady beat. The procession began to stride towards the Sacred Lake for the first part of the ceremony. In ages past, their march took them to the great lagoon of Guatavita, but not this time - not since the Spanish came. Nonetheless, that did not matter much, as the Muisca regarded every lake as sacred. In 1538, the Spanish outlawed the Muiscan form of government and murdered the last official Zipa, Sagipa. But still they harassed the Muisca, in the hope of finding gold to confiscate, and they constantly employed spies to discover signs of the forbidden ceremony. And such a ceremony proved hard to hide. The Muisca cautiously placed lookouts and spies of their own. The drummer led the way, whistles, flutes and trumpets filled the air with melody; the priests made their incantations, and the people sang and danced as the Zipa passed, before they also fell into line behind the procession for the walk to the lake shore. Cuchaquichá saw Micatachia in the crowd, and his son, Michuá. They smiled and waved at him. He considered a small discreet wave in response, but the solemnity of the occasion stayed his hand. On reaching the lakeside, the music stopped and the procession spread out. Several, such as Cuchaquichá, would soon take their places aboard the raft, and row out to the center of the lake to make their donations. But for the crowd who remained on the shore, their time of offering now loomed. As the priests blessed them and asked Bachué, the Mother Goddess, to look kindly on their meager gifts, they cast them into the lake - small, personal things: carved wooden dolls or roughly shaped ornaments made of stone. The children sought out flat stones and skipped them on the water. While the people made their offerings, the craftsmen completed the construction of the raft, using rushes of the juncaceae bushes. The raft needed to hold at least a dozen men and women. Rafts from

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The Vision Serpent the Muiscan Golden Age would have carried ten times that number. At the four corners of the raft, the priests placed torches of incense, called moque. Once lit, the moque generated smoke to hide the sun. And in the center of the raft they placed a flagpole. At the same time, the people erected torches along the shoreline and lit these also. Now the priests prepared the Zipa. They stripped him naked and anointed his body with oils and perfumes. And then they applied the gold dust, now mostly sand mixed with a few grains of the gold which still eluded the Conquistadors. The men and women selected to accompany the Zipa on the raft, including Cuchaquichรก, also stripped out of their clothing, except for their crowns, and the priests anointed them also - but refrained from covering them with dust, as that privilege belonged to the Zipa alone. The Royal Guard now carried the Zipa onto the raft. Around his feet, they piled up the items destined for the water as offerings:, a few icons made from clay, some precious jewels with inlaid emeralds, and - and only the gods knew how it slipped through the clutches of the Spanish - a small replica, in pure gold, of the very raft on which they now stood, complete with a miniature Zipa and attendants. The crowd flocked around the raft, and with as many hands as could find a hold, pushed it out on the water, chaotically maneuvering the craft, stumbled and fell away one by one, until the depth finally robbed the last of them of their footholds. Then Cuchaquichรก and his friends began to row towards the center of the lake, while the priests chanted prayers for a successful outcome. On the shore, the music began again and the crowd raised their voices in song. On reaching the middle of the lake, they ceased rowing and unfurled a banner from the flagpole. Instantly the priests on the raft and the congregation on the shore fell silent. The Zipa picked up the golden raft as his first offering. Cuchaquichรก clutched the gold coin in his hand, ready to follow suit.

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The Vision Serpent After making the offerings, the Zipa would offer himself: his body lowered into the water and the gold dust allowed to wash away. But the ceremony never got that far. A cry went up from the shoreline. The company on the raft turned to see the cause of the disturbance. The mass on the shore ran to and fro in a disorganized swarm. Thick, black smoke from burning huts filled the air. The Spanish! The Conquistadors had found them. Cuchaquichá could hear the screams of the women and the cries of the children. The Zipa tossed the golden raft overboard and ordered them to return to the shore as quickly as possible. All thoughts of offering abandoned in their haste. They rowed for the shore as hard as they could, and almost upset the raft on several occasions. Cuchaquichá’s heart pounded against his chest - not from the strain of the physical effort but from the need to reach his wife and child. But before they arrived at the shore, the noise died down and an uneasy silence replaced it. This seemed somehow worse than the screams and they redoubled their effort to reach the shore. The raft finally capsized and pitched its occupants into the lake. Cuchaquichá swam for the beach. When he came up out of the water, Cuchaquichá’s heart stood still. Children wandered in a daze. Some men and women groaned under the injuries they had received. A few bodies lay strewn amongst the debris. But the Spanish had vanished as quickly as they had appeared. Cuchaquichá cried out. “Micatachia, Michuá, where are you?” There was no answer. “Micatachia?” The Zipa and others swam ashore. They began to search through the injured and dead, crying out for their loved ones and fearing the worst. But this time the Conquistadors stopped short of indiscriminant slaughter, for not aware of the ceremony, they had

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The Vision Serpent only sent a small raiding party and they merely wanted to supplement the number of slaves in their possession. Most of the natives simply fled into the trees when the Conquistadors attacked and the Spanish declined to hunt after them. They began to trickle back into the village, frightened but unhurt, where they found their loved ones and exchanged hugs and kisses of relief. Cuchaquichá scanned the returning women and children, but the faces of Micatachia and Michuá eluded him and he felt the panic rising. His Chief called out to him. “Cucha, over here.” Cuchaquichá ran to his Chief’s side. On the ground was Demaquichá, his grandfather, his head covered in blood, but still alive. Cuchaquichá held him. “I think the cut is not deep,” said the Chief. “He will recover.” “I’m sorry, Cucha,” said Demaquichá. “They came so quickly Our faces were turned towards the lake - We had our backs to the land - They came so quickly.” “It’s all right, Grandfather, the Chief says your wound will heal.” “They had the beasts with them, stronger than a jaguar, but taller than a man, and as angry as a god, and they had long arms which cut like the stingray’s tail.” “Yes, Grandfather. You are dazed. You must rest. I will get some water and cloth for your wounds, and then I must find Micatachia and Michuá and . . .” “Cucha, stop! Listen to me,” said Demaquichá. “Your wife and son are taken.”

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Chapter 2 - Old Town Wednesday “I made an inquiry of those Spaniards who had been there, why this prince, chief or king, was called Dorado. They tell me that what they have learned from the Indians is that the great lord or prince goes about continually covered in gold dust as fine as ground salt. He feels that it would be less beautiful to wear any other ornament. It would be crude and common to put on armour plates or hammered or stamped gold, for other rich lords wear these when they wish. But to powder oneself with gold is something exotic and unusually novel, and more costly, for he washes away at night what he puts on each morning, so that it is discarded and lost, and he does this every day of the year. Every morning he anoints himself with a kind of resin or gum to which the gold dust easily adheres, until his entire body is covered, from the soles of his feet to his head. So his looks are as resplendent as a gold object worked by the hands of a great artist.” Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, Historia General y Natural de las Indias, Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Ocean, 1541.

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Old Town

“J

e voudrais . . . Un cappuccino . . . Et un croissant . . . S’il vous plaît.”

The voice belonged to Jacqueline Nicole O’Rourke, AKA Jackie, aged 14. The language was French (after a fashion), but spoken slowly and carefully, as if it was not a language at all, but a fragile flower. For in spite of the name, the owner of the voice, born and raised in San Diego, California, spoke French as one who had arrived late at the game and paid scant attention when the prospect presented itself to her in school. Jackie estimated that she could survive with little real French vocabulary. Instead, she decided that attitude counted as the important thing: as long as she sounded French she would, for all intents, be French. So she watched La Vie en Rose and listened to old, scratchy Edith Piaf recordings which she downloaded from the internet, and figured that enough for tourist duty. She memorized a few stock phrases,

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Old Town including Je voudrais (I would like), which proved useful in most public settings, such as a shop or restaurant. When needed, she could append the word acheter (to buy) to the phrase. And that, combined with the universal language of a pointed finger, served her well in most of her interactions with the locals. After all, she considered ‘I would like to buy’ the most widely spoken phrase in any language in the universe. Jackie wondered at the absolute necessity of speaking French. For she sat on the patio of the restaurant, l’Academie, in Place d’Armes, in Luxembourg, and as everyone knows, Luxembourg is not in France. To split hairs, Jackie sat at a table in the Ville Haute quarter of the City of Luxembourg, the Capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a small land-locked country nestled among France, Germany and Belgium. The size of Luxembourg once caused her Uncle Jim to remark that, in the days before the European Union, if a golfer sliced or hooked their golf ball, the player would need a passport to retrieve it from a neighboring country. Besides its own Duke and Duchess, Luxembourg citizens prided themselves on their own language, Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuerg in the native tongue), but so few spoke it, inside or outside the borders of this tiny country, that it shared its title of the official language of the country with French and German. Still, for the sake of politeness, Jackie added a couple of words of Luxembourgish to her vocabulary: Moien (hello) and Äddi (goodbye). “Vous aiment le jus d'orange, aussi bien ? Jus de pomme ?” asked the waiter. “What?” said Jackie, already out of her depth. “He wants to know if you’d like some apple or orange juice, dear.” This third voice belonged to Aunt Anne, Uncle Jim’s wife, who sat at the table with Jackie and Jackie’s sister, Alex. The reason for Jackie’s mangled assault on the French language could be traced to Aunt Anne: the company for which she worked had assigned her to manage their regional division. And she had used

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Old Town the opportunity to invite the sisters to spend time with her, to broaden their horizons, and as a welcome break from the drudgery of the San Diego beaches and sunshine. Today she thought to treat the girls to breakfast before she headed to the office. “Oh, no thank you . . . Er . . . Non, merci,” said Jackie. The waiter smiled. “Êtes-vous Anglais ?” Jackie understood this question. “Je suis Américain,” she answered. “Si tous les hommes Américains sont aussi beaux que vous, je voudrais rencontrer les femmes,” said the waiter. “What?” asked Jackie. “Cosmi, stop teasing her,” said Aunt Anne. “Well, she started it,” said the waiter. “What did he say?” demanded Jackie. “He said that if American men were all as beautiful as you, he’d like to meet the women. You said Américain and not Américaine, there’s a subtle difference, one is male the other is female - you told him that you were an American male.” “Oh,” whimpered Jackie. “And Cosmi speaks perfectly good English, don’t you Cosmi.” rebuked Aunt Anne. Within a week of their arrival in Luxembourg, she and Uncle Jim appended their names to the list of regular clientele at l’Academie, and subsequently developed an easy rapport with its management and staff. “Only so so, yes,” laughed Cosmi the waiter. “Either way, you are very beautiful, yes.” Jackie blushed. “Croissant, cappuccino, no juice, yes,” recapped Cosmi. Jackie nodded and as he had already taken the rest of their order, he turned and entered the restaurant. “I do believe that you’re in luck,” said Aunt Anne. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

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Old Town If fact, the day already appeared so beautiful that Place d'Armes swarmed with people who took advantage of the weather and sat in the square, and drank coffee or read the morning papers. The Luxembourgers seemed to move at a slower pace than customary for one with an American work ethic: as if they considered haste as sinful, and every second savored as equally virtuous and profitable as energetic activity. Even Aunt Anne, with her unlimited supply of nervous energy, seemed rehabilitated and well on the way to the enjoyment of life in the slow lane. The girls joked that an alien body snatcher inhabited their aunt and turned her into a pod person. And when considering a locale to linger and enjoy the easy pace of life, Place d’Armes fit the bill perfectly. At the heart of the old city, Place d’Armes came into existence when the occupying troops of King Louis XIV of France (the Sun King) needed a place to drill and parade. The French Army set about paving the square and planting lime trees. The armies came and went, but Place d’Armes remained, now lined with fine restaurants and casual cafés, instead of barracks and stables. In the summer time, the restaurants set up tables outside so both the locals and the tourists could enjoy alfresco dining while they listen to the musical groups who played at the band stand in the center of the square. In the winter time, the square hosted the Christmas Market: not as big and opulent as their German counterparts, but still festive and fun. “What have you got there, Alex?” asked Aunt Anne. Alexandra Caroline O’Rourke - Alex to her friends, Jackie’s elder sister by almost two years, looked up from the book she held open on her lap. “Twilight,” said Alex. “Oh, that Vampire book by Stephanie Meyer which everyone is reading?” “Yes, that’s the one. I picked it up at the book store over there.” Alex pointed to the corner of the square.

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Old Town “Is it any good?” asked Aunt Anne. “A bit hard to say really,” replied Alex. “Why’s that?” asked Aunt Anne. “It’s in German.” “German?” Jackie laughed. “Your German is worse than my French.” “Well I didn’t know it was the German version until I’d bought it, obviously,” said Alex, covering up her embarrassment with a veneer of petulance. “At least, I think it’s German. Why do they have to speak so many different languages? It’s very confusing. Why can’t they just speak English?” “A lot of them do,” said Aunt Anne. “At least in the city and the tourist areas. Most of them speak two or three languages before they get to third grade in school.” “That’s disgusting,” said Alex. “Making kids do that. Regular classes are bad enough.” “Did you know that every word which ends in ‘ion’ is the same in French and English” stated Jackie. “Inspiration, fascination, celebration.” “Depression,” said Alex. Alex and Jackie exchanged words that ended in ‘ion’ until Cosmi returned with breakfast. “Et où est Monsieur O’Rourke ce matin ?” he asked. “Oh, Jim,” said Aunt Anne. “He’s messing about with the television. He’s fed up that the only channel in English is CNN. He’s gone somewhere to buy a satellite dish. But he’s joining us later. He’s going to take the girls to Vianden.” “Ah, Vianden, vey beau,” said Cosmi. “And cappuccinos for the beautiful ladies.” “Merci,” said Jackie. “Danke,” said Alex. “Ah, Sie sprechen nicht Französisch wie Ihre Schwester?” said Cosmi, switching to German.

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Old Town “No,” said Aunt Anne. “At least, not yet. I told them that Luxembourgers spoke French and German. So I suggested that one of them should try to learn French and the other, German. They tossed a coin.” “Jackie cheated,” said Alex. “She had a two-headed coin.” “Did not,” rebutted Jackie. “Jacqueline, un nom français.” said Cosmi. “Yes,” said Aunt Anne. “Jackie and Alex are my nieces.” “Hello, Jackie and Alex; pleased to meet you. You are living now in Luxembourg?” “Just visiting,” said Alex. “And how is your German?” Cosmi asked Alex. “Oh, pretty good,” replied Alex. “I know a few words.” “Such as bitte and danke,” mocked Jackie. “Yes, well it’s a start,” said Alex. “Oh, and I can count up to three: eins, zwei, drei.” “And she can do the Sudoku in the German newspapers,” added Jackie. “Et vous, madmoiselle, quel français savez-vous ?” Cosmi asked Jackie, switching back to French. “What else can you say in French?” Aunt Anne translated. “I can say, ‘Je voudrais,’” said Jackie. “Jackie, Jacqueline, Jacques. Yes, Frère Jacques! Do you know Frère Jacques? - La comptine - The nursery rhyme,” said Cosmi. “Yes,” said Jackie. “I know that also,” said Cosmi. “Let us sing it, yes?” “Please don’t,” said Alex. Alex preferred that they refrain from drawing attention to themselves, even if the square held only foreigners who she would never see again. She wished to remain anonymous. But the gods did not grant her wish this time. Cosmi began the song and Jackie quickly joined him.

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Old Town Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ? Sonnez les matines ! Sonnez les matines ! Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong. While Jackie and Cosmi gently sang their duet, and Alex squirmed in her chair and called on the earth to open and swallow her, a man walked along Avenue Monterey from the direction of the Hamilius bus station and into Place d’Armes, by l’Academie and the singing waiter and girl, and towards the eastern side of the square. He looked at the girls as he passed, but did not slow down. Even so, Alex felt his intense glare, his eyes burned into them and examined them - some thing deeper than the singing had caught his attention. And although the man seemed young, not much older than her, this differed from the typical stare of adolescent boys with raging hormones which she usually endured. Alex tried not to return his stare, but she couldn’t help herself. He snapped his head forward and walked on. Possibly he just liked the singing, or perhaps she suffered from paranoid delusions. Of course, Jackie accused Alex of paranoia on a regular basis. On reaching the opposite side of the square, the man turned south and without looking back, entered the Kaempff-Kohler cheese and wine shop. A second man passed the table and starred at the girls in a similar manner to the first. “What is this?” thought Alex. “Is someone selling tickets?”

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Old Town The first man exited Kaempff-Kohler via the side door which led into Place Guilliam (technically Guilliam II, and referred to locally as the Knuedler, after the knot in the belt of Franciscan friars who resided at the monastery which originally occupied the site). If one described Place d’Armes as vibrant, carefree and energetic, then the Knuedler behaved as an elder brother: serious, responsible and with a sense of civic duty. During the French Revolution, Napoleon kicked out the friars and in 1804 turned the land over to the city. Now, on the east side of the Knuedler stood the equestrian statue of the man for whom the square was named. And on the south west side stood the Hôtel de Ville, built to a design of Justin Remont, and built of materials scavenged from the old monastery. Despite the name, the Hôtel de Ville is not really a hotel but the neoclassical City Hall, completed in 1838, officially opened in 1844, and fronted by two bronze lions designed by Auguste Trémont, now green with age and roaring silently with open mouths and blank stares. Until the Second World War, when the Germans occupied the building and converted it into additional office space, the Hôtel de Ville served as an extension of the Farmer’s Market and wooden stands full of fruit and vegetables filled the basement. After the war, in 1952, the Hôtel de Ville hosted the first meeting of the High Commission of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the forerunner of today’s European Union (EU). Today being Wednesday, the stands of the Farmer’s Market now occupied the square, but the basement of City Hall no longer played a part. Two days a week (the other, Saturday) the farmers came to town to sell their produce, so fresh that the morning dew still clung to them. The man stopped and bought a few vegetables and added them to the Kaempff-Kohler bag which contained a little Roquefort cheese and a French baguette.

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Old Town One could describe him as tall and slim. Looking at his face, one could also describe him as youthful, perhaps no more than twenty or so. The descriptions told less than the whole story: for the man belonged to the race of creatures branded as Elves, and his real age was ninety three thousand, four hundred and seventy two - next Thursday, to be exact. The man answered to many names, but was also known by friends and foes alike (at least the ones who understood his Elvish nature) under the title of the Guardian. What he guarded, no one knew for certain. The Guardian continued from stand to stand in the market, occasionally buying, sometimes chatting idly with the vendors, whom he called by name and with whom he had cultivated an easy, friendly relationship. He smiled and joked and teased them about the quality of their merchandise. The Guardian followed his normal routine, perfected over the course of many years, since the Market first existed - since the City first existed. And the City stood on ancient rock. But although to the casual observer, the routine may have appeared usual, the Guardian felt otherwise, for he sensed the presence of the man who followed him. And today the Elf performed for the benefit of his stalker. Unlike Alex, the Guardian would not dismiss his feelings as paranoia - that would prove fatal. He sensed that at least two watchers, probably more, followed him, for they always hunted in packs. The one who trailed him had done so, on and off, for a week at least. The second now observed him from the bell tower of the Cathedral which overlooked the square. The locations of the others he had yet to discern, for they possessed more skill at hide-and-seek than their colleagues. Unless, perhaps, the ones he sensed wanted it that way? The Cathedral, Notre Dame, began in 1613, contained the bones of many men who the Guardian had known personally: such as John the Blind, former Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, who

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Old Town in spite of his affliction, fought (and died) at the battle of Crécy, in 1346. In spite of his amity with these humans, the Guardian skipped the famous battle where the cream of French nobility lost their lives to the English secret weapon - the long bow. He understood better than to interfere; humans lived too short a life for it to make a difference. And the Guardian preferred life to death whenever possible, even someone else’s. But he also understood that if the watchers came too close, he must dispatch one or more of them. In spite of his great age, his instinct to survive remained undiminished. Regardless of his pacifist nature, in a matter of life and death, if necessary, he would kill to preserve his own life. The Guardian exited Place Guilliam and took the small pedestrian walkway which connected Rue du Fossé and Rue du Marché aux Herbes, making sure that Watcher Number One still trailed him. This little route led to the Grand Ducal Palace. But his objective lay outside the Palace, for he deduced that the others would work their way around from the north and south to intercept him. Instead, with a movement so fast that few humans could see, the Guardian ducked into a stairwell which led down under the street, much like a subway entrance. But, of course, the Watcher was not human - he was a Vampire, and possessed better eyes than most. For a Vampire to venture forth in daylight, however, was rare and dangerous. So the Guardian assumed that whatever the Watchers intended threatened an equally rare and dangerous outcome; and he should discourage it as quickly as possible. The Guardian timed his disappearing act to coincide with a passing bus, which obscured the Watcher’s view. From the Watcher’s point of view, the Guardian performed a magic trick, there one second and gone the next. In response, the Watcher picked up his pace.

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Old Town The Guardian risked that the second Watcher - the one in the bell tower - may see his move, but he counted on the few seconds between action and reaction as enough time to perform his next trick. The first Watcher drew level with the stairwell, but did not slow down; wanting to get to the corner of Rue du Marché aux Herbes to determine the escape route of his prey. The Guardian struck. In what seemed a single, continuous and graceful movement, the Guardian grabbed his opponent from behind, dragged him down into the stairwell and thrust his left hand upwards. The Watcher felt the pinch of a small blade enter his body between his ribs and then felt no more. Stacking the body against the locked metal gate at the foot of the stairwell, The Guardian heard the tone of a cell phone. He smiled, reached in his victim’s pocket and pulled out the phone. He flipped it open. “Philippe?” said a voice. “Hello, Lucy,” answered the Guardian. The caller inserted a long pause before she responded. “My name is not Lucy. It’s Meadow.” “Whatever,” said the Guardian. Another pause. “Hello Ziggy. I guess that you have Philippe?” “You guess correctly. And if we are playing that game, my name is not Ziggy.” “Have you killed him?” “Philippe has been dispatched to meet his ancestors.” Another pause. “Don’t stall for time,” said the Guardian. “I’ll be long gone before your friends can get here. In fact I’m already gone. We’ll probably get cut-off at any second - The signal strength down here is not so good. Don’t worry about Philippe; I’ll clean up after him.” The Guardian closed the phone and ended the call. He then powered it down, in case they could trace it, and removed the battery

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Old Town and chip. He turned to the gate and, producing a key from his pocket, removed the padlock and opened it. He dragged Philippe’s limp body through the entrance, before he returned to the gate and, by maneuvering his arms through the bars, restored the padlock and the gate to their locked state. The stairwell did not lead to a subway line, for Luxembourg did not possess a subway system, but it led to something which served the Guardian’s purpose better. The gate provided access to the Casemates; a network of tunnels and chambers carved out under the City over the centuries. And the Casemates allowed the Guardian to travel unseen throughout the city: extremely handy for the disposal of bodies. Of the Casemates more shall be said later, but for now the Guardian deliberated over both a problem and an opportunity. The problem: the Vampires had found him and would continue to try to kill him. The opportunity: likewise. But as critical as this matter seemed, the Guardian quickly dismissed it from his mind; for he now wrestled with another, more pressing, conundrum: the two girls - the two blond teenagers who caught his attention in Place d’Armes just that morning. For a thousand years, he had listened patiently for the gentle knock of opportunity. Now opportunity kicked at his door like a French police officer with a search warrant. On first sight, he recognized instantly that they possessed the gift of revelation. The younger one didn’t comprehend it yet, but the elder one, the way in which she returned his stare - she already sensed what he was; perhaps unconsciously, for the gift remained immature, and she probably dismissed the thoughts in her head, the messages, as so much teenage angst. She possessed the gift, but she fought to rid herself of it. What combination of circumstances brought them to Luxembourg he cared not, but he could not permit such a chance to slip through his grasp. He would return to Place d’Armes. He did not

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Old Town expect to find the girls still sitting at the table, but he would make discrete enquiries of his old friend, Cosmi the Waiter. But first, he needed to take care of Philippe. He bundled the body over his shoulder and entered the Casemates.

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T

his preview contains selected material from the Alex and Jackie Adventure, The Elf of Luxembourg: being a love story. Thank you for reading. Regards, Tom Weston

www.tom-weston.com

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