Persistent Memory

Respite

Putting those language skills to good use

Moina Mathers:

Moina assists you wherever she can: paying for a meal when you come up short, referring you to this-or-that individual when you need a referral. After about a week her blatant curiosity diminishes but it’s clear she thinks you’re more than just strange Americans who’ve had a terrible time on the road, especially given the Sieben Tage connection. Still (unless you decide to come clean or leave hints), she lets the matter dwindle, although she does occasionally ask what you think about ‘current’ American politics such as Teddy Roosevelt’s re-election.

Although she’s here mostly for the bucolic surroundings, Moina mentions that this part of northern France has a strange reputation: “The Veil is thin here, and often flutters in the wind.” She claims there are Roman tales of people vanishing or appearing from thin air and of spectral battles fought by hidden armies, perhaps the fairy folk. She presumes the Romans, in turn, learned some tales from the native Celts. She’s quite familiar with Sieben Tage but unfortunately can’t add any more insights to the narrative… and, given the circumstances, you don’t bring the slim book up too much.

Moina’s in the country taking a brief sabbatical, partly to create new artworks but also to unwind after weathering a barrage of problems. While she’s still a member of the Golden Dawn (as far as she’s concerned – more on that later) she’s become disenchanted with the whole thing and hopes her husband simply move the center to Paris and the Ahathoor Temple, “pruning the diseased branches.” She dismisses Crowley (“that arrogant sybarite”), Yeats (“that idiotic traitor”), Florence Farr (“as gullible as she is stubborn”) and Arthur Waite (“the most brilliant idiot on this earth”), and so on. She’s rather more forgiving of her friend Annie Horniman, claiming she’s just listened to unwise counsel.

She doesn’t speak of all the ills, politicking and scandals that have beset the Golden Dawn, but those are known to Marian and Douglas or easily learned:

“Around 1900 a schism arose in The Golden Dawn. William Westcott was accused of forging the founding documents. Samuel Mathers, backed by Aleister Crowley, accused William Westcott of faking the documents on which the order was based. Later evidence indicates that this accusation was probably true, but at the time it was a very unpopular move and Samuel Mathers was expelled from the order. W B Yeats took over the group for a while after Mathers left, but in 1903 A.E. Waite took control, changed the name of the order from ‘The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn’ to ‘The Holy Order of The Golden Dawn’ and took it on a course that leaned far more towards Christian teachings than the Eastern mysteries.

In 1899, two criminals claimed to be Golden Dawn leaders. A couple named Mr. and Mrs. Horos joined Mr. Mather’s Paris order, convincing him that they were genuine in their wish to learn The Golden Dawn mysteries. In fact they were con artists, and when they were discovered they fled to London, bringing with them papers that they had stolen from the order. In London they set up their own group, The Order of Theocratic Unity, and embarked on a career of extortion and fraud. In 1901 Mr. Horos was arrested for rape and the couple claimed to be leaders of The Golden Dawn. In court, most of the secrets of the order were made public, and details of their rituals were published in the London newspapers.”

(Quote from Golden Dawn Trivia – edited for accuracy)

Mr. Mathers, meanwhile, has made far more secular enemies. His position on the rights of women brought him some ridicule among more conservative, male members of Parisian society, but his condemnation of vivisection has earned a public outcry. In 1902 he denounced Louis Pasteur by name, and an Englishman does not do such to an esteemed Frenchman. The physiologist Auguste Chauveau wrote a scathing rebuttal, using Mathers’ Golden Dawn ties and tribulations to denigrate his position. Shortly thereafter an anonymous group named “Crépuscule d’Argent” (The Silver Twilight) began writing letters to newspapers, refuting popular superstitious or pseudo-scientific notions, always with a slant of mocking mysticism. Moina is convinced this “group” is nothing more than a handful of conceited scientists trying to slap Samuel using the press, although she suspects Dr. Felkin of the splinter group Stella Matutina may be orchestrating this slander. Moina Mathers needed this brief holiday in the countryside to unwind.

Moina remains for just eight days after your arrival unless you do something that might change that.

Research:

I’m going to mash together your findings about the history, geography and mystical aspects of the area.

First: Douglas finds a fair amount of material for his research on the Sieben Tage book that would be great for a monograph on the subject but not really relevant to your situation. This is rather frustrating because the only typewriter is a temperamental Daugherty Visible in the library, in high demand and also hard to operate with just one hand.

Items relevant to your interests: Chateau-Thierry was founded on an old Roman town called Otmus, a small fortified camp guarding the Marne River crossing for the Soissons-Troyes north-south road. There’s not much about the early history of the place, but you manage to pick up two tidbits. The first is a quote attributed to Publius Crassus made about the Belgica campaign in the Gallic Wars. It states that the Otmus was in the Celtic Suessiones territory held by “the shunned and the outcast[s]” and that when the Romans attacked the territory “the Belgae did not rouse a force to counter us.” Another reference comes about one hundred and twenty years later, when Livius Papus, Roman governor of Noviodunum (now modern Soissons), recorded that the town had “at last” mustered a force that would “cleanse the wilds of the white weepers {_deflens albus_} and would "close the home of the treasure of the eggs of the worms {_ovorum vermum thensauri_}.” The construction leads you to believe this may be a proper noun: Ovorum Vermum Thensauri.

The translator you’re reading faffs about trying to guess what thensauri ovorum vermum means, speculating it was a cave or burial chamber that modern people would call “the Dragon’s Nest” or “the Dragon’s Hoard”. This gives Troy and Douglas a bit of a chill because there was an infamous underground fortress during the War called The Caverne du Dragon, or Drachenhöhle. It was a converted quarry… but was only given the name well after the war was underway many years from now, and it was also many kilometers to the northeast, far away from Otmus. It seems far more likely that Livius was talking about the caverns you’ve recently been through.

Douglas recalls and finds a passage in The Azure Crown from the titular poem, reading thus:

They dangle below the feet of man
On paths long forgotten
The proud beasts have not walked among it
The fierce lion has not passed over it
The hoard of eggs that dwells unseen

Out of it food goes forth
Through the gate
It has been twisted open as if by fire
The stones of it are the place of sapphires
Like the sky
And it has dust of gold
Like the stars
And the veins of it are copper
Like the chains of Legion

The entire passage is a heavy rework of Job with smatterings of New Testament references and other, obscurer sources. The biblical allusion to Legion is clear and reminiscent of the chained figure in the tunnels. "The horde of eggs” may have been mistranslated from the original German, though. Much like “The Treasure of the Eggs of the Worms”, the original German (helpfully provided in the book) may be both a ‘kenning’ (“Egg Shelter” or “Egg Hoard”, perhaps meaning “nest”) and a proper name: Ei Hort.

Marian believes the verse holds an alchemical formula within it: fire, sapphire, gold, copper. They all descend from the concept of “gate” so presumably the formula has something to do with passages, but without a key to decipher the formula it’s like having an ingredient list without a recipe.

Meandering back to primary sources, you find an indirect reference that comes about approximately 130 later still. (Publius Crassus’ account was from approximately 54 BC, Livus’s came from around 66 AD, and this was from 205 AD.) It is from some unnamed Roman official serving in Noviodunum: “It is good to hear no more the tales of Suessiones and scouts who take pledges then return in the night, murderous and corrupted. The soldiers’ gossip worse than women and the lies they believe are far greater.”

Rome switches from polytheism to Christianity and so too does Gaul. Time passed, carrying with it many noteworthy but irrelevant events. Charles Martel dragged France out of the Dark Ages and around 730 AD more-or-less imprisoned his rightful king, Theuderic IV, at the aptly-named Castrum Theodorici: Château-Thierry. Theuderic IV was a cypher, the penultimate ruler of the Merovingians, living a brief life in isolation with only a town left to his name.

Of interest: Prior to his transfer to Château-Thierry, Theuderic IV was kept at Chelles Abbey and when he moved he was accompanied by his “scholars of the Christian soul”, a cadre of monks known as the “Conca Argent”. Given the context Matthew 13:45-46, it’s likely that “conca” should translate to “pearl”. It is yet another word that is vague: it has alternate meanings of “mollusk”, “horn” (conch), and even “vulva”. Given some of the intimations regarding the life of the monks at the Abbey the last definition is not too farfetched…

The Monks of the Silver Pearl do not appear in any records prior to 1142, although those records are probably copies of earlier records dating to perhaps the late 890s. Regardless, they are not firsthand accounts and thus are unreliable. According to the records they came from Brittany and before that “beyond the waters”, possibly meaning from Great Britain. They apparently settled down at the double monastery for several years and “attended to the young king (Theuderic IV) as the abbess decreed.” However: “The monks of the Conca Argent were secretive, studying and praying only amongst themselves unless the nuns were about. Then they were convivial and full of praise.” The sisters began to speak against the Conca Argent, however, suspicious of the “gatherings occurring beneath the hills and the long visitations with the youngest of God’s house.” Finally, “there was much relief when the young king went east and his monks departed with, taking with them their writings and their shared murmurs.”

There they vanish into history until 1491, where you find ecclesiastical records referencing “rebuilding the church crafted by the Silver Brethren, which had consecrated the site of the pagan stones.” Although, “The recrafting was met with outbursts and refutation from the attendant priest, although his obdurateness dwindled when we found a subterranean chamber replete with graven images: the head of a calf in gold leaf, reprising the sin of Aaron, and a bound demon in copper chain: a man with the head of a beast, keys clutched in his hand and a serpent’s head as a crown.” The fate of the priest is not recorded, but “the church, humble as it was, was sanctified in the eyes of the Lord and wrested from the false gods that bedeviled it.”

Marian recognizes the image of the demon; it is a Mithraic image, a mystery cult popular with Roman soldiers, although copper is not a usual attribution. The “golden calf” also harkens back to Mithras. The mention of keys, gold and copper echoes the alchemical intimations from Azure Crown and the church itself seems to be the one mentioned in Seiben Tage.

The unsourced records continue: “As the new shepherd, free from influence, gave his blessing to the new stones, there was the sharp sound of thunder and men screaming: the sound of Hell’s condemnation of sanctity. The protestations continued well after the ground was consecrated but did diminish and, eventually, were heard no more.”

The intervening centuries don’t give much more detail except to confirm the hearsay you get from the townsfolk: weird things happen around here. Most of the time it’s phantom sounds, with people hearing things that aren’t there. There are a couple of instances of highborn folk leaving for a leisurely morning ride and returning several days later, unaware of how long they’ve been gone. There are a handful of disappearances recorded, but if that’s unusual or not it’s hard to say: when you’re meandering around rural France in the 16th – 18th centuries, sometimes the wolves win.

In 1802 the events of Sieben Tage take place in the early days of the Napoleonic era.

In 1814, Chateau-Thierry hosted a battle between Napoleon I and a combined force of Russian and Prussian forces, pushing their advantage after Napoleon’s utter failure to invade Russia. The smaller French force was able to inflict heavy losses on the invader. However, Prussian cannons were able to stave off the worst of Napoleon’s forces and it was one of the final victories for the French before Elba.

In 1833 you find a record of John Martensen, who “having settled in a home in Bouresches some months back, has donated several items from his times as a whaler for the Southern Fishery to the public meeting hall for the information and entertainment of all the town.” The intervening years sour rather quickly for Mr. Martensen, though. First, seemingly unrelated to his arrival, there are reports of attacks on animals and (less frequently) people. Corpses are found in remote locations west of Chateau-Thierry, with one of two points of commonality: either (to quote one source) “little to no signs of quarrel, bearing only the slightest amount of wounding about the face where the eyes were plucked out”, or to quote another account from a few years prior: “with the body rent apart, the insides termite-riddled and denuded of viscera.”

Eventually the people decide to equate the stranger with the events and so “somehow forewarned of our [the town police and associated irregulars] arrival, Mr. Martensen was not on the premises when we arrove. Items deemed of value were taken back to the town halls of Bouresches or Chateau-Thierry for investigation or storage. Items deemed of no value, such as the jars of earth, were destroyed on site.” The library has no list of specific items taken from the house.

Records of note end here, but Troy gets another piece of gossip from the motorists and mechanics he assists: about three months ago, there were strangers in the town who were gracious but unnerving. Finely dressed, they invariably wore sunglasses regardless of the weather or time-of-day. They haven’t been seen for many weeks. Where they came from, where they went, and why they were here no one can recall.

Links for more information, just in case you want more context:

Robert Felkin

The Horos Scandal

Auguste Chaveau

Daugherty Visible (the only typewriter available)

Kenning

The Book of Job, Wisdom Interlude

The Book of Mark, Legion

Mithras and Mithraic Mysteries

Caverne du Dragon

Chelles Abbey

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