AS PRINCE JULIÁN passed through the iron doorway into the mountain, he had the uneasy feeling that he might never escape.
The Valley of the Fallen. What am I doing here?
The space beyond the threshold was cold and dark, barely illuminated by two electric torches. The air smelled of damp stone.
A uniformed man stood before them holding a loop of keys that jangled in his trembling hands. Julián was not surprised that this officer of the Patrimonio Nacional seemed anxious; a half-dozen Guardia Real agents were lined up right behind him in the darkness. My father is here. No doubt this poor officer had been summoned in the middle of the night to unlock Franco’s sacred mountain for the king.
One of the Guardia agents quickly stepped forward. “Prince Julián, Bishop Valdespino. We’ve been expecting you. This way, please.”
The Guardia agent led Julián and Valdespino to a massive wrought iron gate on which was carved an ominous Francoist symbol—a fierce double-headed eagle that echoed Nazi iconography.
“His Majesty is at the end of the tunnel,” the agent said, motioning them through the gate, which had been unlocked and stood partially ajar.
Julián and the bishop exchanged uncertain glances and walked through the gate, which was flanked by a pair of menacing metal sculptures—two angels of death, clutching swords shaped like crosses.
More Francoist religio-military imagery, Julián thought as he and the bishop began their long walk into the mountain.
The tunnel that stretched out before them was as elegantly appointed as the ballroom of Madrid’s Royal Palace. With finely polished black marble floors and a soaring coffered ceiling, the sumptuous passageway was lit by a seemingly endless series of wall sconces shaped like torches.
Tonight, however, the source of light in the passageway was far more dramatic. Dozens upon dozens of fire basins—dazzling bowls of fire arranged like runway lights—burned orange all the way down the tunnel. Traditionally, these fires were lit only for major events, but the late-night arrival of the king apparently ranked high enough to set them all aglow.
With reflections of firelight dancing on the burnished floor, the massive hallway took on an almost supernatural ambience. Julián could feel the ghostly presence of those sad souls who had carved this tunnel by hand, their pickaxes and shovels poised, toiling for years inside this cold mountain, hungry, frozen, many dying, all for the glorification of Franco, whose tomb lay deep within this mountain.
Look carefully, son, his father had told him. One day you’ll tear this down.
As king, Julián knew he would probably not have the power to destroy this magnificent structure, and yet he had to admit he felt surprise that the people of Spain had permitted it to stand, especially considering the country’s eagerness to move past her dark past and into the new world. Then again, there were still those who longed for the old ways, and every year, on the anniversary of Franco’s death, hundreds of aging Francoists still flocked to this place to pay their respects.
“Don Julián,” the bishop said quietly, out of earshot of the others, as they walked deeper into the passageway. “Do you know why your father summoned us here?”
Julián shook his head. “I was hoping you would know.”
Valdespino let out an unusually heavy sigh. “I don’t have any idea.”
If the bishop doesn’t know my father’s motives, Julián thought, then nobody knows them.
“I just hope he’s all right,” the bishop said with surprising tenderness. “Some of his decisions lately …”
“You mean like convening a meeting inside a mountain when he should be in a hospital bed?”
Valdespino softly smiled. “For example, yes.”
Julián wondered why the king’s Guardia detail had not intervened and refused to bring the dying monarch out of the hospital to this foreboding location. Then again, Guardia agents were trained to obey without question, especially when the request came from their commander in chief.
“I have not prayed here in years,” Valdespino said, gazing down the firelit hallway.
The tunnel through which they were moving, Julián knew, was not solely the access corridor into the mountain; it was also the nave of an officially sanctioned Catholic church. Up ahead, the prince could begin to see the rows of pews.
La basílica secreta, Julián had called it as a child.
Hollowed out of the granite mountain, the gilded sanctuary at the end of this tunnel was a cavernous space, an astonishing subterranean basilica with a massive cupola. Rumored to have more total square footage than St. Peter’s in Rome, the underground mausoleum boasted six separate chapels surrounding its high altar, which was meticulously positioned directly beneath the cross atop the mountain.
As they neared the main sanctuary, Julián scanned the enormous space, looking for his father. The basilica, however, appeared totally deserted.
“Where is he?” the bishop demanded, sounding worried.
Julián now shared the bishop’s concern, fearing the Guardia had left the king alone in this desolate place. The prince quickly moved ahead, peering down one arm of the transept and then the other. No sign of anyone. He jogged deeper, circling around the side of the altar and into the apse.
It was here, in the deepest recesses of the mountain, that Julián finally spotted his father and came to an abrupt halt.
The king of Spain was completely alone, covered with heavy blankets, and slumped in a wheelchair.在线读书：http://www.yueDu88.coM/