Langdon had already explained to her about the Templars’ powerful historic ties to the modern Masonic secret societies, whose primary degrees—Apprentice Freemason, Fellowcraft Freemason, and Master Mason—harked back to early Templar days. Sophie’s grandfather’s final verse made direct reference to the Master Masons who adorned Rosslyn with their carved artistic offerings. It also noted Rosslyn’s central ceiling, which was covered with carvings of stars and planets.
“I’ve never been in a Masonic temple,” Sophie said, still eyeing the pillars. “I am almost positive I saw these here.” She turned back into the chapel, as if looking for something else to jog her memory.
The rest of the visitors were now leaving, and the young docent made his way across the chapel to them with a pleasant smile. He was a handsome young man in his late twenties, with a Scottish brogue and strawberry blond hair. “I’m about to close up for the day. May I help you find anything?”
How about the Holy Grail? Langdon wanted to say.
“The code,” Sophie blurted, in sudden revelation. “There’s a code here!”
The docent looked pleased by her enthusiasm. “Yes there is, ma’am.”
“It’s on the ceiling,” she said, turning to the right-hand wall. “Somewhere over … there.”
He smiled. “Not your first visit to Rosslyn, I see.”
The code, Langdon thought. He had forgotten that little bit of lore. Among Rosslyn’s numerous mysteries was a vaulted archway from which hundreds of stone blocks protruded, jutting down to form a bizarre multifaceted surface. Each block was carved with a symbol, seemingly at random, creating a cipher of unfathomable proportion. Some people believed the code revealed the entrance to the vault beneath the chapel. Others believed it told the true Grail legend. Not that it mattered—cryptographers had been trying for centuries to decipher its meaning. To this day the Rosslyn Trust offered a generous reward to anyone who could unveil the secret meaning, but the code remained a mystery.
“I’d be happy to show …”
The docent’s voice trailed off.
My ftrst code, Sophie thought, moving alone, in a trance, toward the encoded archway. Having handed the rosewood box to Langdon, she could feel herself momentarily forgetting all about the Holy Grail, the Priory of Sion, and all the mysteries of the past day. When she arrived beneath the encoded ceiling and saw the symbols above her, the memories came flooding back. She was recalling her first visit here, and strangely, the memories conjured an unexpected sadness.
She was a little girl … a year or so after her family’s death. Her grandfather had brought her to Scotland on a short vacation. They had come to see Rosslyn Chapel before going back to Paris. It was late evening, and the chapel was closed. But they were still inside.
“Can we go home, Grand-père?” Sophie begged, feeling tired. “Soon, dear, very soon.” His voice was melancholy. “I have one
last thing I need to do here. How about if you wait in the car?” “You’re doing another big person thing?”
He nodded. “I’ll be fast. I promise.”
“Can I do the archway code again? That was fun.”
“I don’t know. I have to step outside. You won’t be frightened in here alone?”
“Of course not!” she said with a huff. “It’s not even dark yet!”
He smiled. “Very well then.” He led her over to the elaborate archway he had shown her earlier.
Sophie immediately plopped down on the stone floor, lying on her back and staring up at the collage of puzzle pieces overhead. “I’m going to break this code before you get back!”
“It’s a race then.” He bent over, kissed her forehead, and walked to the nearby side door. “I’ll be right outside. I’ll leave the door open. If you need me, just call.” He exited into the soft evening light.
Sophie lay there on the floor, gazing up at the code. Her eyes felt sleepy. After a few minutes, the symbols got fuzzy. And then they disappeared.
When Sophie awoke, the floor felt cold.
There was no answer. Standing up, she brushed herself off. The side door was still open. The evening was getting darker. She walked outside and could see her grandfather standing on the porch of a nearby stone house directly behind the church. Her grandfather was talking quietly to a person barely visible inside the screened door.
“Grand-père?” she called.
Her grandfather turned and waved, motioning for her to wait just a moment. Then, slowly, he said some final words to the person
inside and blew a kiss toward the screened door. He came to her with tearful eyes.
“Why are you crying, Grand-père?”
He picked her up and held her close. “Oh, Sophie, you and I have said good-bye to a lot of people this year. It’s hard.”
Sophie thought of the accident, of saying good-bye to her mother and father, her grandmother and baby brother. “Were you saying good-bye to another person?”
“To a dear friend whom I love very much,” he replied, his voice heavy with emotion. “And I fear I will not see her again for a very long time.”
Standing with the docent, Langdon had been scanning the chapel walls and feeling a rising wariness that a dead end might be looming. Sophie had wandered off to look at the code and left Langdon holding the rosewood box, which contained a Grail map that now appeared to be no help at all. Although Saunière’s poem clearly indicated Rosslyn, Langdon was not sure what to do now that they had arrived. The poem made reference to a “blade and chalice,” which Langdon saw nowhere.
The Holy Grail ’neath ancient Roslin waits. The blade and chalice guarding o’er Her gates.
Again Langdon sensed there remained some facet of this mystery yet to reveal itself.
“I hate to pry,” the docent said, eyeing the rosewood box in Langdon’s hands. “But this box … might I ask where you got it?”
Langdon gave a weary laugh. “That’s an exceptionally long story.”
The young man hesitated, his eyes on the box again. “It’s the strangest thing—my grandmother has a box exactly like that—a jewelry box. Identical polished rosewood, same inlaid rose, even the hinges look the same.”
Langdon knew the young man must be mistaken. If ever a box had been one of a kind, it was this one—the box custom-made for the Priory keystone. “The two boxes may be similar but—”
The side door closed loudly, drawing both of their gazes. Sophie had exited without a word and was now wandering down the bluff toward a fieldstone house nearby. Langdon stared after her. Where is she going? She had been acting strangely ever since they entered the building. He turned to the docent. “Do you know what that house is?”
He nodded, also looking puzzled that Sophie was going down there. “That’s the chapel rectory. The chapel curator lives there. She also happens to be the head of the Rosslyn Trust.” He paused. “And my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother heads the Rosslyn Trust?”
The young man nodded. “I live with her in the rectory and help keep up the chapel and give tours.” He shrugged. “I’ve lived here my whole life. My grandmother raised me in that house.”
Concerned for Sophie, Langdon moved across the chapel toward the door to call out to her. He was only halfway there when he stopped short. Something the young man said just registered.
My grandmother raised me.
Langdon looked out at Sophie on the bluff, then down at the rosewood box in his hand. Impossible. Slowly, Langdon turned back to the young man. “You said your grandmother has a box like this one?”
“Almost identical.” “Where did she get it?”
“My grandfather made it for her. He died when I was a baby, but my grandmother still talks about him. She says he was a genius with his hands. He made all kinds of things.”
Langdon glimpsed an unimaginable web of connections emerging. “You said your grandmother raised you. Do you mind my asking what happened to your parents?”
The young man looked surprised. “They died when I was young.” He paused. “The same day as my grandfather.”
Langdon’s heart pounded. “In a car accident?”
The docent recoiled, a look of bewilderment in his olive-green eyes. “Yes. In a car accident. My entire family died that day. I lost
my grandfather, my parents, and …” He hesitated, glancing down at the floor.
“And your sister,” Langdon said.
Out on the bluff, the fieldstone house was exactly as Sophie remembered it. Night was falling now, and the house exuded a warm and inviting aura. The smell of bread wafted through the opened screened door, and a golden light shone in the windows. As Sophie approached, she could hear the quiet sounds of sobbing from within.
Through the screened door, Sophie saw an elderly woman in the hallway. Her back was to the door, but Sophie could see she was crying. The woman had long, luxuriant, silver hair that conjured an unexpected wisp of memory. Feeling herself drawn closer, Sophie stepped onto the porch stairs. The woman was clutching a framed photograph of a man and touching her fingertips to his face with loving sadness.
It was a face Sophie knew well.
The woman had obviously heard the sad news of his death last night.
A board squeaked beneath Sophie’s feet, and the woman turned slowly, her sad eyes finding Sophie’s. Sophie wanted to run, but she stood transfixed. The woman’s fervent gaze never wavered as she set down the photo and approached the screened door. An eternity seemed to pass as the two women stared at one another through the thin mesh. Then, like the slowly gathering swell of an ocean wave, the woman’s visage transformed from one of uncertainty … to disbelief … to hope … and finally, to cresting joy.
Throwing open the door, she came out, reaching with soft hands, cradling Sophie’s thunderstruck face. “Oh, dear child … look at you!”
Although Sophie did not recognize her, she knew who this woman was. She tried to speak but found she could not even breathe.
“Sophie,” the woman sobbed, kissing her forehead.
Sophie’s words were a choked whisper. “But … Grand-père said you were …”
“I know.” The woman placed her tender hands on Sophie’s shoulders and gazed at her with familiar eyes. “Your grandfather and I were forced to say so many things. We did what we thought was right. I’m so sorry. It was for your own safety, princess.”
Sophie heard her final word, and immediately thought of her grandfather, who had called her princess for so many years. The sound of his voice seemed to echo now in the ancient stones of Rosslyn, settling through the earth and reverberating in the unknown hollows below.
The woman threw her arms around Sophie, the tears flowing faster. “Your grandfather wanted so badly to tell you everything. But things were difficult between you two. He tried so hard. There’s so much to explain. So very much to explain.” She kissed Sophie’s forehead once again, then whispered in her ear. “No more secrets, princess. It’s time you learn the truth about our family.”
Sophie and her grandmother were seated on the porch stairs in a tearful hug when the young docent dashed across the lawn, his eyes shining with hope and disbelief.
Through her tears, Sophie nodded, standing. She did not know the young man’s face, but as they embraced, she could feel the power of the blood coursing through his veins … the blood she now understood they shared.
When Langdon walked across the lawn to join them, Sophie could not imagine that only yesterday she had felt so alone in the world. And now, somehow, in this foreign place, in the company of three people she barely knew, she felt at last that she was home.
Night had fallen over Rosslyn.
Robert Langdon stood alone on the porch of the fieldstone house enjoying the sounds of laughter and reunion drifting through the screened door behind him. The mug of potent Brazilian coffee in his hand had granted him a hazy reprieve from his mounting exhaustion, and yet he sensed the reprieve would be fleeting. The fatigue in his body went to the core.
“You slipped out quietly,” a voice behind him said.
He turned. Sophie’s grandmother emerged, her silver hair shimmering in the night. Her name, for the last twenty-eight years at least, was Marie Chauvel.
Langdon gave a tired smile. “I thought I’d give your family some time together.” Through the window, he could see Sophie talking with her brother.
Marie came over and stood beside him. “Mr. Langdon, when I first heard of Jacques’s murder, I was terrified for Sophie’s safety. Seeing her standing in my doorway tonight was the greatest relief of my life. I cannot thank you enough.”
Langdon had no idea how to respond. Although he had offered to give Sophie and her grandmother time to talk in private, Marie had asked him to stay and listen. My husband obviously trusted you, Mr. Langdon, so I do as well.
And so Langdon had remained, standing beside Sophie and listening in mute astonishment while Marie told the story of Sophie’s late parents. Incredibly, both had been from Merovingian families—direct descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. Sophie’s parents and ancestors, for protection, had changed their family names of Plantard and Saint-Clair. Their children represented the most direct surviving royal bloodline and therefore were carefully guarded by the Priory. When Sophie’s parents were killed in a car accident whose cause could not be determined, the Priory feared the identity of the royal line had been discovered.
“Your grandfather and I,” Marie had explained in a voice choked with pain, “had to make a grave decision the instant we received the phone call. Your parents’ car had just been found in the river.” She dabbed at the tears in her eyes. “All six of us—including you two grandchildren—were supposed to be traveling together in that car that very night. Fortunately we changed our plans at the last moment, and your parents were alone. Hearing of the accident, Jacques and I had no way to know what had really happened … or if this was truly an accident.” Marie looked at Sophie. “We knew we had to protect our grandchildren, and we did what we thought was best. Jacques reported to the police that your brother and I had been in the car … our two bodies apparently washed off in the current. Then your brother and I went underground with the Priory. Jacques, being a man of prominence, did not have the luxury of disappearing. It only made sense that Sophie, being the eldest, would stay in Paris to be taught and raised by Jacques, close to the heart and protection of the Priory.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “Separating the family was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Jacques and I saw each other only very infrequently, and always in the most secret of settings … under the protection of the Priory. There are certain ceremonies to which the brotherhood always stays faithful.”