Authors: Martin Rua
THE ALCHEMIST'S CODE
A dark figure. A secret code. A battle between good and evil...
Years ago the Knights Templar developed a secret code. A code so secret that only one man could remember it.
The code lies in the hidden recesses of Lorenzo Aragona's memory. The alchemist has always known it, but, until he crosses paths with a beautiful but brutal Russian spy, he does not realise its significance.
In a race against the clock from Milan to Kiev, Lorenzo uncovers an ancient history involving Nazis and Freemasons, secrets and spies. He must remember the code, unlock the Baphomet and take control of The Guardian of the Threshold. The lives of the Pope, his dying wife and all of mankind are at stake and only Lorenzo has the power to save them...
To my parents,
who allowed me to remain a child
To Mario Buonoconto,
who one day opened the doors of the Temple to me
who has the Dnipro River in her eyes and a poem in her heart
Reconstruction of the
Twelfth century Templar manuscript found in Pontarlier, now Franche-ComtÃ©
“Get those rocks out of the way and get this tunnel propped up before the whole thing falls in on us!”
The voice of the foreman â a big man with a bushy white beard and a face that bore all the marks of time, dust and sun â thundered in the narrow space, while the diggers moved aside the final obstacles hindering the work.
They had been digging for weeks, but had so far found no trace of what, according to all the evidence and documents they had gathered, was supposed to be down there. They had dug up piles of Roman remains, bones and pot shards, but as yet nothing to make them think they might be looking in the right place.
The king had proved enthusiastic and had welcomed the initiative to found a new order. He had allowed them to occupy a part of the royal palace and to operate undisturbed in the foundations of what had once been the great temple. But the king was unaware of the true intentions of these men who, to his eyes, appeared to be nothing more than brave and pious warrior monks, determined to defend the pilgrims.
“Master, I think we've found it,” gasped one of the completely exhausted labourers.
The last layer of wall they were attacking with pickaxes seemed to have finally given way, and a current of cold air poured into the tunnel, making the torches flicker. The foreman approached the opening with an oil lamp, and held it up to illuminate the interior. A moment later he turned towards the builders. Upon his face there was now an expression of triumph.
“Get out of here, the lot of you, and send me Master Hugues.”
The labourers obeyed. To a man they were devoted to the cause of the emerging Order, bound by an oath of secrecy that included these mysterious excavations.
Despite the confidence they had in their labourers, the nine founding knights had decided that they should not be permitted to see what they found.
The foreman waited until everyone had left the tunnel, then moved aside the remaining rubble still blocking the entrance and entered the dark cave.
The interior, cool and moist, consisted of a large room carved into the rock whose ceiling was supported by massive, crudely sculpted pillars. The foreman lit several torches and placed them in the metal supports which protruded here and there from the walls, then began to inspect the place. His eyes immediately alighted on the symbols cut into the pillars supporting the vault â perhaps marks left by the masons who had hewn that space out of the rock, stonemasons who had lived at least two thousand years before. There were set squares and hammers, but also more obscure symbols, perhaps the letters of a secret alphabet. Lining the walls were eight massive stone sarcophagi, crudely worked. Upon each, a symbol was carved.
At the far end of the cave, a ninth sarcophagus was visible.
The master mason moved closer and saw two symbols which revealed with certainty the identity of the one who lay within.
At that moment he heard footsteps behind him, and spun round: eight men wearing work tunics had just entered the cave. At their head was one whose eyes gleamed with a particular light of determination â that exhibited only by those with the responsibility of command. And yet, that conviction and rigour seemed tempered by hints of kindness and mercy.
The master mason stood silent beside the ninth sarcophagus, while the others approached with slow, reverent steps.
“Is it he?” asked the man at the head of the small group.
“I would say that there is no doubt, brother Hugues.”
Hugues approached the coffin and ran his fingers over the two symbols, one of which was a branch of acacia, representing the legendary Architect of the Temple of Solomon. He then turned to observe the other eight tombs, and his eyes fell on the wall behind them, where a niche carved into the rock was closed by two doors of bronze.
“Let us open them, brothers!”
Two of the men walked over to the niche and began to force open the doors with an iron bar. After resisting for a few seconds, the ancient hinges gave way and they sprang open, revealing a square chest which bathed the entire cave in a golden glow. Next to it was propped a stone tablet upon which something was engraved. The two men picked it up it carefully and took it over to Hugues, who studied it carefully for a moment before handing it to the monk beside him.
“It is written in the ancient language of the Jews, brother Alain. See if you can decipher it”
Alain, the most senior of the group, was a great linguist, fluent in many ancient languages. His large brown eyes raced across the inscription on the tablet and, after a moment of concentration, he attempted to translate.
“'Nine keys for nine symbols for nine keepers, that the eyes of the guardian may be forever sealed.' There is no more.”
As they heard this, they exchanged alarmed looks. All but Hugues, whose eyes had moved instead to another sarcophagus.
“Nine keys for nine keepersâ¦ Quickly, let us open the sarcophagi.”
They set to work, and one after another the nine tombs were uncovered. The last was that of the Architect of the temple. Together with the remains of the legendary guardians and builders and the precious garments and ornaments with which they had been buried, each grave contained a small curiously shaped golden key which did not end with the usual teeth but rather with a symbol â a kind of seal. In the sarcophagus of the Architect was found a golden triangle, upon which was engraved a long formula.
Hugues took it gently and once again handed it to brother Alain, who examined it quickly and, with an expression at once worried and excited, said, “It is the ritual â it explains everything.”
Hugues grew resolute then, and he turned to the others, saying, “Brothers, none must ever have access to this inscription, these keys, and especially to this chest. Nobody, neither the Pope nor the most pious man alive, nor he who lives in the full grace of God. For none will ever have the strength to resist its immense power. None except us.”
Amazed and frightened, the others looked at one other.
“Why do not we destroy it forever, Master Hugues?” suggested one.
Hugues was thoughtful for a moment, his gaze fixed upon the sarcophagus. “Yes. Yes, that would probably be the best thing. But we would never forgive ourselves for having done so, if what it contained might provide us with victory over the infidels.”
The others nodded, but their faces were grave.
After a moment, Hugues spoke again.
“As Grand Master, I take responsibility for the preservation and study of this discovery. Each of us will retain a key and a symbol; we, who are the nine founders of our Order, as nine were those who accompanied the architect on his last journey, guarding too the most terrible secret. Let us take everything and close forever this cave.”
Events reconstructed by Lorenzo Aragon
Naples, December 2012
That day had begun perfectly. I'd slept like a log until the long blades of light creeping across the bedcovers had gently awakened me.
I stretched and sat up in bed, looking around myself with satisfaction. There were only a few days left until Christmas and it was bitterly cold outside, but the light on the furniture was intense and hinted at splendid weather.
“It's going to be a magnificent winter solstice.”
My wife was already up, but I was still sleepy, so I slipped lazily back beneath the covers, putting off the moment I would have to abandon them for the next fourteen hours. I only got up when the familiar, bewitching scent of coffee crept treacherously into my nostrils and persuaded me to head towards the kitchen.
I found Ãrtemis there and kissed her on the neck, while she was still intent on stirring the coffee in the pot.