Now, as Langdon hurried across Rue de Rivoli, he could feel his destination within reach. Less than a block away.
The Holy Grail ’neath ancient Roslin waits.
The revelations were coming now in waves. Saunière’s ancient spelling of Roslin … the blade and chalice … the tomb adorned with masters’ art.
Is that why Saunière needed to talk with me? Had I unknowingly guessed the truth?
He broke into a jog, feeling the Rose Line beneath his feet, guiding him, pulling him toward his destination. As he entered the long tunnel of Passage Richelieu, the hairs on his neck began to bristle with anticipation. He knew that at the end of this tunnel stood the most mysterious of Parisian monuments—conceived and commissioned in the 1980s by the Sphinx himself, François Mitterrand, a man rumored to move in secret circles, a man whose
final legacy to Paris was a place Langdon had visited only days before.
With a final surge of energy, Langdon burst from the passageway into the familiar courtyard and came to a stop. Breathless, he raised his eyes, slowly, disbelieving, to the glistening structure in front of him.
The Louvre Pyramid.
Gleaming in the darkness.
He admired it only a moment. He was more interested in what lay to his right. Turning, he felt his feet again tracing the invisible path of the ancient Rose Line, carrying him across the courtyard to the Carrousel du Louvre—the enormous circle of grass surrounded by a perimeter of neatly trimmed hedges—once the site of Paris’s primeval nature-worshipping festivals … joyous rites to celebrate fertility and the Goddess.
Langdon felt as if he were crossing into another world as he stepped over the bushes to the grassy area within. This hallowed ground was now marked by one of the city’s most unusual monuments. There in the center, plunging into the earth like a crystal chasm, gaped the giant inverted pyramid of glass that he had seen a few nights ago when he entered the Louvre’s subterranean entresol.
La Pyramide Inversée.
Tremulous, Langdon walked to the edge and peered down into the Louvre’s sprawling underground complex, aglow with amber light. His eye was trained not just on the massive inverted pyramid, but on what lay directly beneath it. There, on the floor of the chamber below, stood the tiniest of structures … a structure Langdon had mentioned in his manuscript.
Langdon felt himself awaken fully now to the thrill of unthinkable possibility. Raising his eyes again to the Louvre, he sensed the huge wings of the museum enveloping him … hallways that burgeoned with the world’s finest art.
Da Vinci … Botticelli …
Adorned in masters’ loving art, She lies.
Alive with wonder, he stared once again downward through the glass at the tiny structure below.
I must go down there!
Stepping out of the circle, he hurried across the courtyard back toward the towering pyramid entrance of the Louvre. The day’s last visitors were trickling out of the museum.
Pushing through the revolving door, Langdon descended the curved staircase into the pyramid. He could feel the air grow cooler. When he reached the bottom, he entered the long tunnel that stretched beneath the Louvre’s courtyard, back toward La Pyramide Inversée.
At the end of the tunnel, he emerged into a large chamber. Directly before him, hanging down from above, gleamed the inverted pyramid—a breathtaking V-shaped contour of glass.
Langdon’s eyes traced its narrowing form downward to its tip, suspended only six feet above the floor. There, directly beneath it, stood the tiny structure.
A miniature pyramid. Only three feet tall. The only structure in this colossal complex that had been built on a small scale.
Langdon’s manuscript, while discussing the Louvre’s elaborate collection of goddess art, had made passing note of this modest pyramid. “The miniature structure itself protrudes up through the floor as though it were the tip of an iceberg—the apex of an enormous, pyramidical vault, submerged below like a hidden chamber.”
Illuminated in the soft lights of the deserted entresol, the two pyramids pointed at one another, their bodies perfectly aligned, their tips almost touching.
The Chalice above. The Blade below.
The blade and chalice guarding o’er Her gates.
Langdon heard Marie Chauvel’s words. One day it will dawn on you. He was standing beneath the ancient Rose Line, surrounded by the work of masters. What better place for Saunière to keep watch? Now at
last, he sensed he understood the true meaning of the Grand Master’s verse. Raising his eyes to heaven, he gazed upward through the glass to a glorious, star-filled night.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies.
Like the murmurs of spirits in the darkness, forgotten words echoed. The quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one.
With a sudden upwelling of reverence, Robert Langdon fell to his knees.
For a moment, he thought he heard a woman’s voice … the wisdom of the ages … whispering up from the chasms of the earth.
TO BE PUBLISHED
BY DOUBLEDAY ON MAY 14, 2013
All artwork, literature, science, and historical references in this novel are real.
“The Consortium” is a private organization with offices in seven countries. Its name has been changed for considerations of security and privacy.
Inferno is the underworld as described in Dante Alighieri’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, which portrays hell as an elaborately structured realm populated by entities known as “shades”—bodiless souls trapped between life and death.
I am the Shade.
Through the dolent city, I flee. Through the eternal woe, I take flight.
Along the banks of the river Arno, I scramble, breathless … turning left onto Via Castellani, making my way northward, huddling in the shadows of the Uffizi.
And still they pursue me.
Their footsteps grow louder now as they hunt with relentless determination.
For years they have pursued me. Their persistence has kept me underground … forced me to live in purgatory … laboring beneath the earth like a chthonic monster.
I am the Shade.
Here above ground, I raise my eyes to the north, but I am unable to find a direct path to salvation … for the Apennine Mountains are blotting out the first light of dawn.
I pass behind the palazzo with its crenellated tower and one- handed clock … snaking through the early-morning vendors in Piazza di San Firenze with their hoarse voices smelling of lampredotto and roasted olives. Crossing before the Bargello, I cut west toward the spire of the Badia and come up hard against the iron gate at the base of the stairs.
Here all hesitation must be left behind.
I turn the handle and step into the passage from which I know there will be no return. I urge my leaden legs up the narrow staircase … spiraling skyward on soft marble treads, pitted and worn.
The voices echo from below. Beseeching. They are behind me, unyielding, closing in.
They do not understand what is coming … nor what I have done for them!
As I climb, the visions come hard … the lustful bodies writhing in fiery rain, the gluttonous souls floating in excrement, the treacherous villains frozen in Satan’s icy grasp.
I climb the final stairs and arrive at the top, staggering near dead into the damp morning air. I rush to the head-high wall, peering through the slits. Far below is the blessed city that I have made my sanctuary from those who exiled me.
The voices call out, arriving close behind me. “What you’ve done is madness!”
Madness breeds madness.
“For the love of God,” they shout, “tell us where you’ve hidden it!”
For precisely the love of God, I will not.
I stand now, cornered, my back to the cold stone. They stare deep into my clear green eyes, and their expressions darken, no longer cajoling, but threatening. “You know we have our methods. We can force you to tell us where it is.”
For that reason, I have climbed halfway to heaven.
Without warning, I turn and reach up, curling my fingers onto the high ledge, pulling myself up, scrambling onto my knees, then standing … unsteady at the precipice. Guide me, dear Virgil, across the void.
They rush forward in disbelief, wanting to grab at my feet, but fearing they will upset my balance and knock me off. They beg now, in quiet desperation, but I have turned my back. I know what I must do.
Beneath me, dizzyingly far beneath me, the red tile roofs spread out like a sea of fire on the countryside … illuminating the fair land upon which giants once roamed … Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Botticelli.
I inch my toes to the edge.
“Come down!” they shout. “It’s not too late!”
O, willful ignorants! Do you not see the future? Do you not grasp the splendor of my creation? The necessity?
I gladly make this ultimate sacrifice … and with it I will extinguish your final hope of finding what you seek.
You will never locate it in time.
Hundreds of feet below, the cobblestone piazza beckons like a tranquil oasis. How I long for more time … but time is the one commodity even my vast fortunes cannot afford.
In these final seconds, I gaze down to the piazza, and I behold a sight that startles me.
I see your face.
You are gazing up at me from the shadows. Your eyes are mournful, and yet in them I sense a veneration for what I have accomplished. You understand I have no choice. For the love of Mankind, I must protect my masterpiece.
It grows even now … waiting … simmering beneath the bloodred waters of the lagoon that reflects no stars.
And so, I lift my eyes from yours and I contemplate the horizon.
High above this burdened world, I make my final supplication.
Dearest God, I pray the world remembers my name not as a monstrous sinner, but as the glorious savior you know I truly am. I pray Mankind will understand the gift I leave behind.
My gift is the future. My gift is salvation. My gift is Inferno.
With that, I whisper my amen … and take my final step, into the abyss.
The memories materialized slowly … like bubbles surfacing from the darkness of a bottomless well.
A veiled woman.
Robert Langdon gazed at her across a river whose churning waters ran red with blood. On the far bank, the woman stood facing him, motionless, solemn, her face hidden by a shroud. In her hand she gripped a blue tainia cloth, which she now raised in honor of the sea of corpses at her feet. The smell of death hung everywhere.
Seek, the woman whispered. And ye shall ftnd.
Langdon heard the words as if she had spoken them inside his head. “Who are you?” he called out, but his voice made no sound.
Time grows short, she whispered. Seek and ftnd.
Langdon took a step toward the river, but he could see the waters were bloodred and too deep to traverse. When Langdon raised his eyes again to the veiled woman, the bodies at her feet had multiplied. There were hundreds of them now, maybe thousands, some still alive, writhing in agony, dying unthinkable deaths … consumed by fire, buried in feces, devouring one another. He could hear the mournful cries of human suffering echoing across the water.
The woman moved toward him, holding out her slender hands, as if beckoning for help.
“Who are you?!” Langdon again shouted.
In response, the woman reached up and slowly lifted the veil from her face. She was strikingly beautiful, and yet older than Langdon had imagined—in her sixties perhaps, stately and strong, like a timeless statue. She had a sternly set jaw, deep soulful eyes, and long, silver-gray hair that cascaded over her shoulders in ringlets. An amulet of lapis lazuli hung around her neck—a single snake coiled around a staff.
Langdon sensed he knew her … trusted her. But how? Why?
She pointed now to a writhing pair of legs, which protruded upside down from the earth, apparently belonging to some poor soul
who had been buried headfirst to his waist. The man’s pale thigh bore a single letter—written in mud—R.
R? Langdon thought, uncertain. As in … Robert? “Is that … me?” The woman’s face revealed nothing. Seek and ftnd, she repeated.
Without warning, she began radiating a white light … brighter and brighter. Her entire body started vibrating intensely, and then, in a rush of thunder, she exploded into a thousand splintering shards of light.
Langdon bolted awake, shouting.
The room was bright. He was alone. The sharp smell of medicinal alcohol hung in the air, and somewhere a machine pinged in quiet rhythm with his heart. Langdon tried to move his right arm, but a sharp pain restrained him. He looked down and saw an IV tugging at the skin of his forearm.
His pulse quickened, and the machines kept pace, pinging more rapidly.
Where am I? What happened?
The back of Langdon’s head throbbed, a gnawing pain. Gingerly, he reached up with his free arm and touched his scalp, trying to locate the source of his headache. Beneath his matted hair, he found the hard nubs of a dozen or so stitches caked with dried blood.
He closed his eyes, trying to remember an accident. Nothing. A total blank.
A man in scrubs hurried in, apparently alerted by Langdon’s racing heart monitor. He had a shaggy beard, bushy mustache, and gentle eyes that radiated a thoughtful calm beneath his overgrown eyebrows.
“What … happened?” Langdon managed. “Did I have an accident?”
The bearded man put a finger to his lips and then rushed out, calling for someone down the hall.
Langdon turned his head, but the movement sent a spike of pain radiating through his skull. He took deep breaths and let the pain
pass. Then, very gently and methodically, he surveyed his sterile surroundings.
The hospital room had a single bed. No flowers. No cards. Langdon saw his clothes on a nearby counter, folded inside a clear plastic bag. They were covered with blood.
My God. It must have been bad.
Now Langdon rotated his head very slowly toward the window beside his bed. It was dark outside. Night. All Langdon could see in the glass was his own reflection—an ashen stranger, pale and weary, attached to tubes and wires, surrounded by medical equipment.
Voices approached in the hall, and Langdon turned his gaze back toward the room. The doctor returned, now accompanied by a woman.
She appeared to be in her early thirties. She wore blue scrubs and had tied her blond hair back in a thick ponytail that swung behind her as she walked.