“Which way is it?” Sophie asked, looking around.
The tomb. Langdon had no idea. “We should find a docent and ask.”
Langdon knew better than to wander aimlessly in here. Westminster Abbey was a tangled warren of mausoleums, perimeter chambers, and walk-in burial niches. Like the Louvre’s Grand Gallery, it had a lone point of entry—the door through which they had just passed—easy to find your way in, but impossible to find your way out. A literal tourist trap, one of Langdon’s befuddled colleagues had called it. Keeping architectural tradition, the abbey was laid out in the shape of a giant crucifix. Unlike most churches, however, it had its entrance on the side, rather than the standard rear of the church via the narthex at the bottom of the nave. Moreover, the abbey had a series of sprawling cloisters attached. One false step through the wrong archway, and a visitor was lost in a labyrinth of outdoor passageways surrounded by high walls.
“Docents wear crimson robes,” Langdon said, approaching the center of the church. Peering obliquely across the towering gilded altar to the far end of the south transept, Langdon saw several people crawling on their hands and knees. This prostrate pilgrimage was a common occurrence in Poets’ Corner, although it was far less holy than it appeared. Tourists doing grave rubbings.
“I don’t see any docents,” Sophie said. “Maybe we can find the tomb on our own?”
Without a word, Langdon led her another few steps to the center of the abbey and pointed to the right.
Sophie drew a startled breath as she looked down the length of the abbey’s nave, the full magnitude of the building now visible. “Aah,” she said. “Let’s find a docent.”
At that moment, a hundred yards down the nave, out of sight behind the choir screen, the stately tomb of Sir Isaac Newton had a lone visitor. The Teacher had been scrutinizing the monument for ten minutes now.
Newton’s tomb consisted of a massive black-marble sarcophagus on which reclined the sculpted form of Sir Isaac Newton, wearing classical costume, and leaning proudly against a stack of his own books—Divinity, Chronology, Opticks, and Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. At Newton’s feet stood two winged boys holding a scroll. Behind Newton’s recumbent body rose an austere pyramid. Although the pyramid itself seemed an oddity, it was the giant shape mounted halfway up the pyramid that most intrigued the Teacher.
The Teacher pondered Saunière’s beguiling riddle. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. The massive orb protruding from the face of the pyramid was carved in basso-relievo and depicted all kinds of heavenly bodies—constellations, signs of the zodiac, comets, stars, and planets. Above it, the image of the Goddess of Astronomy beneath a field of stars.
The Teacher had been convinced that once he found the tomb, discerning the missing orb would be easy. Now he was not so sure. He was gazing at a complicated map of the heavens. Was there a missing planet? Had some astronomical orb been omitted from a constellation? He had no idea. Even so, the Teacher could not help but suspect that the solution would be ingeniously clean and simple
—“a knight a pope interred.” What orb am I looking for? Certainly, an advanced knowledge of astrophysics was not a prerequisite for finding the Holy Grail, was it?
It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.
The Teacher’s concentration was broken by several approaching tourists. He slipped the cryptex back in his pocket and watched warily as the visitors went to a nearby table, left a donation in the cup, and restocked on the complimentary grave-rubbing supplies set out by the abbey. Armed with fresh charcoal pencils and large sheets of heavy paper, they headed off toward the front of the abbey, probably to the popular Poets’ Corner to pay their respects to Chaucer, Tennyson, and Dickens by rubbing furiously on their graves.
Alone again, he stepped closer to the tomb, scanning it from bottom to top. He began with the clawed feet beneath the sarcophagus, moved upward past Newton, past his books on science, past the two boys with their mathematical scroll, up the face of the pyramid to the giant orb with its constellations, and finally up to the niche’s star-filled canopy.
What orb ought to be here … and yet is missing? He touched the cryptex in his pocket as if he could somehow divine the answer from Saunière’s crafted marble. Only ftve letters separate me from the Grail.
Pacing now near the corner of the choir screen, he took a deep breath and glanced up the long nave toward the main altar in the distance. His gaze dropped from the gilded altar down to the bright crimson robe of an abbey docent who was being waved over by two very familiar individuals.
Langdon and Neveu.
Calmly, the Teacher moved two steps back behind the choir screen. That was fast. He had anticipated Langdon and Sophie would eventually decipher the poem’s meaning and come to Newton’s tomb, but this was sooner than he had imagined. Taking a deep breath, the Teacher considered his options. He had grown accustomed to dealing with surprises.
I am holding the cryptex.
Reaching down to his pocket, he touched the second object that gave him his confidence: the Medusa revolver. As expected, the abbey’s metal detectors had blared as the Teacher passed through with the concealed gun. Also as expected, the guards had backed off at once when the Teacher glared indignantly and flashed his
identification card. Official rank always commanded the proper respect.
Although initially the Teacher had hoped to solve the cryptex alone and avoid any further complications, he now sensed that the arrival of Langdon and Neveu was actually a welcome development. Considering the lack of success he was having with the “orb” reference, he might be able to use their expertise. After all, if Langdon had deciphered the poem to find the tomb, there was a reasonable chance he also knew something about the orb. And if Langdon knew the password, then it was just a matter of applying the right pressure.
Not here, of course. Somewhere private.
The Teacher recalled a small announcement sign he had seen on his way into the abbey. Immediately he knew the perfect place to lure them.
The only question now … what to use as bait.
Langdon and Sophie moved slowly down the north aisle, keeping to the shadows behind the ample pillars that separated it from the open nave. Despite having traveled more than halfway down the nave, they still had no clear view of Newton’s tomb. The sarcophagus was recessed in a niche, obscured from this oblique angle.
“At least there’s nobody over there,” Sophie whispered.
Langdon nodded, relieved. The entire section of the nave near Newton’s tomb was deserted. “I’ll go over,” he whispered. “You should stay hidden just in case someone—”
Sophie had already stepped from the shadows and was headed across the open floor.
“—is watching,” Langdon sighed, hurrying to join her.
Crossing the massive nave on a diagonal, Langdon and Sophie remained silent as the elaborate sepulchre revealed itself in tantalizing increments … a black-marble sarcophagus … a reclining statue of Newton … two winged boys … a huge pyramid … and … an enormous orb.
“Did you know about that?” Sophie said, sounding startled. Langdon shook his head, also surprised.
“Those look like constellations carved on it,” Sophie said.
As they approached the niche, Langdon felt a slow sinking sensation. Newton’s tomb was covered with orbs—stars, comets, planets. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb? It could turn out to be like trying to find a missing blade of grass on a golf course.
“Astronomical bodies,” Sophie said, looking concerned. “And a lot of them.”
Langdon frowned. The only link between the planets and the Grail that Langdon could imagine was the pentacle of Venus, and he had already tried the password “Venus” en route to the Temple Church.
Sophie moved directly to the sarcophagus, but Langdon hung back a few feet, keeping an eye on the abbey around them.
“Divinity,” Sophie said, tilting her head and reading the titles of the books on which Newton was leaning. “Chronology. Opticks. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica?” She turned to him. “Ring any
Langdon stepped closer, considering it. “Principia Mathematica, as I remember, has something to do with the gravitation pull of planets
… which admittedly are orbs, but it seems a little far-fetched.” “How about the signs of the zodiac?” Sophie asked, pointing to the
constellations on the orb. “You were talking about Pisces and Aquarius earlier, weren’t you?”
The End of Days, Langdon thought. “The end of Pisces and the beginning of Aquarius was allegedly the historical marker at which the Priory planned to release the Sangreal documents to the world.” But the millennium came and went without incident, leaving historians uncertain when the truth was coming.
“It seems possible,” Sophie said, “that the Priory’s plans to reveal the truth might be related to the last line of the poem.”
It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. Langdon felt a shiver of potential. He had not considered the line that way before.
“You told me earlier,” she said, “that the timing of the Priory’s plans to unveil the truth about ‘the Rose’ and her fertile womb was linked directly to the position of planets—orbs.”
Langdon nodded, feeling the first faint wisps of possibility materializing. Even so, his intuition told him astronomy was not the key. The Grand Master’s previous solutions had all possessed an eloquent, symbolic significance—the Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks, SOFIA. This eloquence was definitely lacking in the concept of planetary orbs and the zodiac. Thus far, Jacques Saunière had proven himself a meticulous code writer, and Langdon had to believe that his final password—those five letters that unlocked the Priory’s ultimate secret—would prove to be not only symbolically fitting but also crystal clear. If this solution were anything like the others, it would be painfully obvious once it dawned.
“Look!” Sophie gasped, jarring his thoughts as she grabbed his arm. From the fear in her touch Langdon sensed someone must be
approaching, but when he turned to her, she was staring aghast at the top of the black marble sarcophagus. “Someone was here,” she whispered, pointing to a spot on the sarcophagus near Newton’s outstretched right foot.
Langdon did not understand her concern. A careless tourist had left a charcoal, grave-rubbing pencil on the sarcophagus lid near Newton’s foot. It’s nothing. Langdon reached out to pick it up, but as he leaned toward the sarcophagus, the light shifted on the polished black-marble slab, and Langdon froze. Suddenly, he saw why Sophie was afraid.
Scrawled on the sarcophagus lid, at Newton’s feet, shimmered a barely visible charcoal-pencil message:
I have Teabing.
Go through Chapter House, out south exit, to public garden.
Langdon read the words twice, his heart pounding wildly. Sophie turned and scanned the nave.
Despite the pall of trepidation that settled over him upon seeing the words, Langdon told himself this was good news. Leigh is still alive. There was another implication here too. “They don’t know the password either,” he whispered.
Sophie nodded. Otherwise why make their presence known? “They may want to trade Leigh for the password.”
“Or it’s a trap.”
Langdon shook his head. “I don’t think so. The garden is outside the abbey walls. A very public place.” Langdon had once visited the abbey’s famous College Garden—a small fruit orchard and herb garden—left over from the days when monks grew natural pharmacological remedies here. Boasting the oldest living fruit trees in Great Britain, College Garden was a popular spot for tourists to visit without having to enter the abbey. “I think sending us outside is a show of faith. So we feel safe.”
Sophie looked dubious. “You mean outside, where there are no metal detectors?”
Langdon scowled. She had a point.
Gazing back at the orb-filled tomb, Langdon wished he had some idea about the cryptex password … something with which to negotiate. I got Leigh involved in this, and I’ll do whatever it takes if there is a chance to help him.
“The note says to go through the Chapter House to the south exit,” Sophie said. “Maybe from the exit we would have a view of the garden? That way we could assess the situation before we walked out there and exposed ourselves to any danger?”
The idea was a good one. Langdon vaguely recalled the Chapter House as a huge octagonal hall where the original British Parliament convened in the days before the modern Parliament building existed. It had been years since he had been there, but he remembered it being out through the cloister somewhere. Taking several steps back from the tomb, Langdon peered around the choir screen to his right, across the nave to the side opposite that which they had descended.
A gaping vaulted passageway stood nearby, with a large sign.
THIS WAY TO: CLOISTERS DEANERY COLLEGE HALL MUSEUM
PYX CHAMBER ST. FAITH’S CHAPEL
Langdon and Sophie were jogging as they passed beneath the sign, moving too quickly to notice the small announcement apologizing that certain areas were closed for renovations.
They emerged immediately into a high-walled, open-roof courtyard through which morning rain was falling. Above them, the wind howled across the opening with a low drone, like someone blowing over the mouth of a bottle. Entering the narrow, low- hanging walkways that bordered the courtyard perimeter, Langdon
felt the familiar uneasiness he always felt in enclosed spaces. These walkways were called cloisters, and Langdon noted with uneasiness that these particular cloisters lived up to their Latin ties to the word claustrophobic.
Focusing his mind straight ahead toward the end of the tunnel, Langdon followed the signs for the Chapter House. The rain was spitting now, and the walkway was cold and damp with gusts of rain that blew through the lone pillared wall that was the cloister’s only source of light. Another couple scurried past them the other way, hurrying to get out of the worsening weather. The cloisters looked deserted now, admittedly the abbey’s least enticing section in the wind and rain.
Forty yards down the east cloister, an archway materialized on their left, giving way to another hallway. Although this was the entrance they were looking for, the opening was cordoned off by a swag and an official-looking sign.
CLOSED FOR RENOVATION PYX CHAMBER
ST. FAITH’S CHAPEL CHAPTER HOUSE
The long, deserted corridor beyond the swag was littered with scaffolding and drop cloths. Immediately beyond the swag, Langdon could see the entrances to the Pyx Chamber and St. Faith’s Chapel on the right and left. The entrance to the Chapter House, however, was much farther away, at the far end of the long hallway. Even from here, Langdon could see that its heavy wooden door was wide open, and the spacious octagonal interior was bathed in a grayish natural light from the room’s enormous windows that looked out on College Garden. Go through Chapter House, out south exit, to public garden.