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THE CRUSADE ETERNAL
"Blank Check," by Diane Duane: A Templar's faith—and the Temple's future—will be tested by a mystery woman's improbable demand…
"The Company of Three," by Deborah Turner Harris and Robert J. Harris: A young Knight must decide if a gruesome supernatural relic is the Templars' most sacred treasure—or the cause of their damnation…
"Occam's Razor," by Robert Reginald: A famed Franciscan logician must discover where Pope Clement and King Philip were murdered—or cursed…
THE NEW WORLD
"Stonish Men," by Andre Norton: Pursued by brigands, two settlers discover a gift from the past—and a link to Eternity…
"Selling the Devil," by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald: The "satanic ritual" was bogus—but now something is butchering the participants!;
Knights Templar Fantasy
Available from Warner Aspect
Anthologies edited by Katherine Kurtz
Tales of the Knights Templar
Crusade of Fire: Mystical Tales of the Knights Templar
Novels by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
The Temple and the Stone
The Temple and the Crown
If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that this book may have been stolen property and reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher. In such case neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."
Copyright © 1998 by Katherine Kurtz
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Aspect® name and logo are registered trademarks of Warner Books, Inc.
Cover design by Don Puckey and Carol Russo
Cover illustration by Greg Call
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First eBook Edition: April 2009
Nine centuries ago, in the aftermath of the First Crusade (1095-9), a French knight called Hugues de Payens and eight of his countrymen journeyed to Jerusalem to form a community of warrior-monks who came to be known as the Order of Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or, later, the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: the Knights Templar. Making monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and granted leave by the newly crowned King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to establish their headquarters near the site of King Solomon's Temple, they were charged with the duty to "maintain, as far as they could, the roads and highways against the ambushes of thieves and attackers, especially in regard to the safety of pilgrims."
From this apparently humble beginning, the Order of the Temple grew to be the single most powerful military presence in the Holy Land—an incomparable fighting machine whose warriors neither asked nor gave quarter, whose rule did not allow them to be ransomed if captured or to retreat from battle unless the numbers of the enemy were at least three times greater than their own—and even then, if ordered by their commander to stand and die, they must do so. Bearded and white-clad, bearing the red cross of martyrdom upon shoulder and breast, and fighting under the distinctive black and white battle standard, Beauceant, their very presence on the field was enough to inspire dread among their adversaries. Their motto proclaimed their devotion to their holy cause: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam— "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Thy Name give the glory."
Their zeal and single-minded focus on recovering Christianity's sacred places in the Holy Land inspired generous donations of lands and revenues by wealthy patrons eager to support their work and gain favor in the life to come. To manage the assets thus generated, and to facilitate transport of men and matériel for the military operation in the East, they developed a wide range of skills in what, today, we would call "diversified financial services": providing safe deposit facilities, transporting specie and credit for same, acting as agents for collection, administering trusts, arranging finance, holding mortgages, managing properties. The Order flourished for nearly two hundred years, answerable only to the pope, accruing a legacy of legend to augment their worldly success. Such success was bound to generate resentment and envy.
Their world came crashing to a halt on October 13, 1307—a day so infamous that, to this day, Friday the thirteenth conjures a frisson of superstitious dread in the minds of many. In a well-orchestrated operation nearly a year in the planning, officers of King Philip IV of France acted on sealed orders opened simultaneously at dawn and swooped in to arrest every Templar knight, sergeant, and chaplain they could find. By the end of the day, several thousand men lay in chains, on charges that included heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. (For a more detailed account of the charges and subsequent trials, see Tales of the Knights Templar, 1995.)
No shred of evidence was ever produced to prove any of the accusations, though torture and the threat of torture at the hands of the Holy Office of the Inquisition did elicit "confessions" from some of the men. Scores died under torture, a few took their own lives to escape further torture, and more than a hundred knights later recanted their confessions and paid the ultimate price—for relapsed heretics were condemned to burn at the stake. In May of 1310, just outside Paris, fifty-four Templars perished in one day, protesting their innocence to the last; in total, at least one hundred twenty were burned. The last Templars to suffer this fate—and the most famous—were Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, and his Preceptor for Normandy, Geoffroi de Charney. The curse pronounced by de Molay would claim the lives of both king and pope within the year.
But in 1118, a glorious future still lay ahead of the fledgling Order—and perhaps a hidden agenda. Though given the charge to protect the pilgrim routes, the founding nine seem to have exerted little military presence during their first decade in Jerusalem. Indeed, these proto-Templars rarely ventured forth from their base camp amid the foundations of King Solomon's Temple (whence they took their Templar name), clothing themselves in cast-off garments, subsisting on the charity of their patrons, keeping to themselves—and engaged in extensive excavations beneath the Temple Mount that have all the earmarks of a highly focused archaeological dig. Nor do they seem to have added to their numbers during this time.
Yet, by the time of the Council of Troyes in 1128-9, the Order burst into prominence with sudden wealth, papal patronage such that they answered only to the pontiff, a rule given them by the future St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and an influx of new recruits whose numbers rapidly multiplied by scores, then hundreds and even thousands. Speculation in recent years suggests that, since they conducted little or no military activity during those first ten years (and, in fact, seemed largely occupied with their excavations beneath the Temple foundations), perhaps their initial purpose in the Holy Land was not the protection of the pilgrim routes at all, but to search for some treasure buried there—and that they found it.
Certain it is that the Order grew rapidly in size, wealth, and influence, and their prowess in battle against the forces of Islam soon assumed the weight of legend. At the same time, they were building one of the finest fleets in the known world and breaking new ground in the field of financial services—and perhaps already well involved, at least at some level, in secret operations of a more mystical nature.
The room was white, as most things were around here. Under the sun that seemed to shine just about every day between March and October, there were few things that did not become blinding even if they were not whitewashed. This at least made writing indoors easy for nearly all one's waking hours, which was just as well, for writing was how de Burgh spent almost all his waking hours anyway.
He breathed out, and lifted his eyes to gaze out the square window at the spill of square houses and buildings and storehouses past the castle walls. Every one of them was white: the whole city of Tripoli was as white as so much spilled salt, scattered in big cubes and small, right down to the hot blue sea. After a long day's work, the hot white light, the glittering blue sea, together left you blinded. He would be glad to escape into the shadows, eventually, when the day drew to a close. But in this pitiless noon, de Burgh could do little but concentrate on his paperwork: it was the only way to make the time go by any faster.
Very little of it was paper, of course. Down here, that would have been even more of an expensive luxury than it was back home.
Home … some part of his brain said, thinking of green trees and shade that whispered, instead of the harsh rattling rustle of the palms.
De Burgh put the thought aside, with some annoyance, and bent his attention back to his work. A pile of old and much-recycled parchments lay on the table nearby, and one parchment that would not be recycled any time soon: the monthly report to the regional prior on the chapter's assets. May 1180 … The pen and the inkhorn were well out of reach for the moment, though: de Burgh was doing his figuring on the third of a set of wax tablets, that he was astonished were not melting, considering the hot wind coming in off the sea, strongly enough to occasionally lift the piled-up parchments.
The columns of Arabic digits on the wax tablet got longer and longer. The chapter's assets were considerable, this time of year. Since the late spring, repayments of loans, with the usual attached "gifts" from the grateful debtors, had been flowing in. Some of these repayments and gifts—never say "interest": usury was illegal—were due to profit from early crops, or speculations on the crops of the upcoming seasons. Futures trading had become very popular in the eastern Mediterranean when the countries interested in selling goods and services to the Crusaders realized that there were some things, like food, that would have to be purchased eventually, no matter how much the Crusaders brought with them in the way of supplies.
The other major source of funds was booty. It was a touch early in the season for that, but de Burgh expected he would see the first shipments coming in for assay within the next few weeks. The sword might be mighty, but when it came time for assessments, the pen had the final say: he had seen great lords watch his stylus working on the wax pad as fixedly as any man might watch the knife leveled at his throat.
De Burgh's assistant Jacquelin came in: a young knight wearing what his master wore in this weather, just a light, sleeveless pale tunic with the Order's cross over a lighter shirt of cotton, and cotton breeches. His arms were full of parchments, rolled up, and a few sewn together in informal flat reference codices. These he put carefully down at the far end of the table.
"Those are the redemption-in-kind records from last year?" said de Burgh.
"Yes, sir. They were misfiled."
De Burgh sighed. It was hard to keep staff around here long enough to teach them the filing system. Either they tended to be inept, so that he had them sent elsewhere, or else they were clever and quick but wanted to go off somewhere and fight, and pulled every string they could to make it happen. Usually de Burgh complied, since unwilling laborers in this particular vineyard could cost one of the bank's patrons vast sums if records were lost—and when your patrons were people like the King of France, their annoyance was not something you courted.
At least Jacquelin was careful about his work and seemed interested in finance. If he lasts, de Burgh thought, he might be my replacement someday. And I can go home. …
He put the thought aside again. "All right. What kind of appointments do we have this afternoon?"
"Nothing. The ship's captain who was coming in seems to have sailed without bothering."
De Burgh put his eyebrows up. "Without sending word? I wonder if something's going on out there that we ought to know about…."
"When isn't there, sir?" said Jacquelin.
De Burgh breathed out once, as close as he got to a laugh in front of his juniors. "Well. My pitcher's empty."
"Yes, sir," Jacquelin said, picking up the red clay pitcher from the windowsill where it sat in hope of catching some cooling breeze.
Wan hope… de Burgh thought, as Jacquelin went out.
The sound of footsteps faded away down the stone stairs, and de Burgh allowed himself one more silent laugh. Jacquelin was, of course, right. This place was a war zone: you never dared forget it. Every twitch of a sail, the wind changing quarters, a man missing an appointment— or changing it—could make you sit up and wonder whether the next morning would dawn on an enemy fleet in the harbor.
War … years of it. They had been the cause, some thirty years ago now, of the Bishop of Tripoli coming to plead with the visiting Templar Commander of Acre to take his castle, please!;
"I can't defend it," he had admitted, finally, after exhausting all the other good reasons, financial and otherwise, that the Templars should take it over.
And that reason, more than any other, had weighed heavy with the Commander. Almost all the great trading cities of the Mediterranean—the great Christian trading cities—had large and reliable garrisons to secure the castles that dominated them. That there should be one city lacking such a garrison … would attract unwelcome attention. The Templars in general, and de Burgh in particular, were all too aware of the interested eyes of the Berber tribes gazing at Tripoli from the desert, always on the lookout for a way to further their cause with the great sultanates to the east. The castle of Tortosa, dominating this great bay and harbor—and, past it, the whole coastal sea lane from Morocco to Egypt—could have tempted even the sultanates themselves to make a grab, had it fallen out of proper defensive posture …
… which, at that point, it already had, for the Bishop of Tripoli was prince of a very dwindling local church, indeed. Christians, except those passing through for trade or on their way to the wars, were thin on the ground here, and the Bishop—mostly thrown on his own resources by a Rome that had problems enough elsewhere—was very short of money.
And there was another problem: The Count of Tripoli had had a disagreement with the Knights Hospitallers. After giving them Tortosa and another Tripolitan castle in 1142, and the right to have their own military relations with the Turks, the Count had taken the donatives back again only nine years later. Some personal matter between him and Rome, de Burgh had heard. There was nothing left to judge by but gossip, since the Count was long dead—at Acre, de Burgh thought. But Tortosa, which had so long been defended for free (from the Bishop's point of view), was empty … and the Bishop could hear the Berbers stirring in the desert, like mice rustling in the presses.
So the Templars had listened to the Bishop's desperate requests, and had moved into Tortosa a little after 1152, seeing to the castle's fortifications, and looked around to rejuvenate other matters as well. The Hospitallers had had a small banking facility here for some years, nothing fancy—just straightforward draft payments, no foreign exchange—but around 1150, as Christian merchants became fewer, they had withdrawn in advance of the Count's tantrum, leaving a vacuum in the local business community that the Templars had been only too glad to fill.
And de Burgh was kept busy enough filling it. He had seven other staff besides Jacquelin, mostly busy with accounting and filing, and sometimes he wondered if they were enough.
Footsteps on the stairs again. Unlikely that Jacquelin would have been all the way down to the well and back already.
The young knight put his head in the door. "Sir," he said, "there's a lady downstairs to see you."
He blinked. "We don't do private banking in the mornings, everybody knows that. Ask her to come back this afternoon."
"She says she can't stay that long, sir. I think she may be sailing shortly. But she has a sealed draft."
De Burgh put his eyebrows up. "Where's she from?"
Jacquelin shook his head. "Her clothes are local … but that could mean anything. Her accent—" He shrugged a little. "She might be from Jerusalem, or she might have stayed there awhile."
De Burgh sat back in the chair, tossed the stylus to the table; he was sick of looking at the wax pads, as it was. "All right," he said, "ask her to come up. Is she attended?"
"No, sir, she came alone."
Interesting: women of quality rarely went unattended in this part of the world. Yet if she wasn't a woman of quality, what was she doing with a sealed draft …? "Send her up, then," de Burgh said, "and leave her with me."
He waited while the footsteps dwindled away down the stairs, then came up again. De Burgh listened for the second set of feet on the stairs … and couldn't hear a thing.
She was in the room before he thought she would be: a dark form, very discreet, completely robed in black, and veiled in the same, though in a material just sheer enough to see through, while very effectively hiding the face. The robes and veil were well made, and expensive: de Burgh knew very well what that particularly fine-woven muslin went for in the markets.
He rose to greet her, slightly nettled that he had not been on his feet when she came in, but she moved so quietly …
"Sir," she said in lingua franca that did, indeed, have a touch of that Jerusalem drawl about it, "thank you for seeing me."
"A pleasure to be of service, madam. Will you sit?"
She sat down gracefully in the chair across from his. De Burgh turned to Jacquelin, and said, "I won't need you for a while."
"Yes, sir," said Jacquelin, as casually as if the phrase had not really meant, Stay within earshot. He went off down the stairs again.
"My assistant tells me that you have a sealed draft to be handled."
"Yes," she said. A slender hand, graceful and lined, emerged from under the dark robes and handed him a parchment, a foot long and half a foot wide folded, bound around with linen strings and two seals, one of wax, one of lead. His attention at the moment, though, was less on the seals than on the hand. It had seen hard work, in its time: the back of it was netted with tiny wrinkles, and old calluses had left their ghosts between thumb and forefinger; she had done her share of spinning. But the hand had not done much of that kind of work lately. Some great lady's servant, perhaps once a slave and now freed? But not a young woman at all. Maybe as old as fifty …?
He looked at the seals. "I take it," said de Burgh, testing his conclusion, "that you are acting for another."
A pause. Odd how you could get the feeling that you were being smiled at, without actually being able to see the expression. The smile was not mocking: de Burgh had a feeling that she found something about her business amusing. "Yes," she said.
The seals were those of the Commandatory of the Land of Jerusalem, the administrative headquarters of the Templar treasury. The leaden seal showed, on the obverse, the horse with its two knights mounted up, symbol of the Order's vow of individual poverty; the reverse showed the cross patée and, surrounding it, the inscription D·G·COM·TERR·JERUSALEM. The presence of this seal confirmed that the document had been through the Commander's office and had been seen, either by him or his personal secretary. It was useful as an authentifier—the serrations at the outside of the seal had a few "teeth" missing in a way that might look accidental, due to wear, but was not.
The wax seal, though, was where more important coding might lie, and de Burgh looked at it with more care. It was red wax, still smelling faintly of the bitter tincture of myrrh that was always mixed with it. He scratched it with a thumbnail: it resisted, as it was meant to, and flaked slightly at the spot. This wax was purposely made too friable to carve, to prevent alterations after it had hardened. Embedded in it were the proper black and brown specks: not just sand left over from drying ink on the parchment, as might have been assumed by someone who didn't know better, but sand without a single white grain in it. The design was identical to that on the lead seal, except that the missing serrations were slightly different. Their order held a code that identified the date on which the document had been sent out, as a further check on the contents: if the inside and outside dates were mismatched by more than three days, the draft was invalid, since all drafts written at a given Templar banking house had to be issued and dispatched within that period. De Burgh noted the date—the eleventh of April—and opened the draft.
It was written in the small, fine hand of one of the secretaries at the Preceptory there. Pay to the bearer, regardless of person …
… an amount without limit, to be designated by the bearer.
He had never seen a draft like that before.
Impossible. If drafts like this were allowed, anyone could walk in and simply empty the place.…
Yet here it lay before him. In growing nervousness, he lifted the parchment right to his eyes and peered at it. Coded seals were one thing, but there was one aspect of their bearer drafts that the Templars knew no one had yet managed to counterfeit—though there had been some interesting attempts.
Parchment, after all, had been part of a living thing at one time. There were cattle farms in the South of France where, about two months before a given group of cows was scheduled to be slaughtered, they were quietly taken off separately into a shed. There, a wooden implement was used numerous times on their flanks. The implement was a handle with a block of wood at the far end: embedded in the block of wood were long slim needles in a specific pattern. The piercings would quickly heal up, but when the cows were later slaughtered and their hides processed for vellum, the fine scars of the needle-marks, now healed, would show in the finished parchment. Each month's markings were different, and each Templar banking establishment received notification, every month, of which pattern was valid for the month in question. There was no faking this "watermarking" of the parchment.
The draft now lying before de Burgh had the correct watermarking for April.
He sat back in his chair.
I can't honor this draft—
—but I can't not honor it—
De Burgh swallowed. The only test remaining to him would be to compare the document against its counterfoil, which would be kept at the issuing Preceptory. If the counterfoil, or "check" as some called it, matched the original document, there would be no problem: the transaction was authorized. If not …
Blank bearer drafts had occasionally been stolen from Templar banking facilities before and forged, and very occasionally cashed. But not often. This kind of transaction— "buying" a piece of, in itself, worthless parchment in one place, and then redeeming it for its face value in another— was a very new development in the way money was handled. Its practitioners tended to be very cautious about the redemptions; if one went wrong, the knight handling the transaction was held responsible and dealt with accordingly—that is, as if he had been complicit in a fraud. No one working at the banking end would soon forget what had happened to the Preceptor of the Irish Preceptory, Walter le Bacheler, who had been caught embezzling Order funds, and at his trial had been sentenced to be locked up in the London Preceptory, in a cell so small he could neither sit nor lie down. It took him eight weeks to die.
De Burgh had no desire to see the inside of that room under any circumstances. Yet, if he honored the draft in front of him, he was certain that he would see it, and sooner rather than later.
He very much wanted some way out of this situation. He turned to the lady and said, "You cannot possibly expect me to— What do you want this for? Whom do you represent?"
"Sir knight, you astonish me. That is not your business to ask. Anonymity for the redeemer is the whole purpose of this kind of bearer draft." Once again he got a sense of that slight smile behind the veil.
She was, unfortunately, right. He tried again. "The amount—the way it is written is completely irregular. Unheard-of. I cannot honor it without first checking with the Treasurer in Jerusalem—"
"You must honor it," she said. "It is not counterfeit … as you know.…
"If you do not honor it, I will first go to the Bishop," the lady said. "I will tell him that you have refused to pay a bearer draft. He will not care very much about the circumstances. He will, properly, be very concerned. So will all the businessmen and merchants in this city when they hear about it—in a matter of hours, I should think: the Bishop is not as restrained as he might be in whom he talks to—and many others all up and down these coasts will become just as concerned. It would be only a very short time before word got back to Europe, for messages of this urgency certainly travel by more means than just the sea roads. Should confidence in Templar banking be undermined in Europe because of your actions … then you, personally, sir knight, would have much more serious concerns than the state of the treasury of Tortosa. And I doubt you would have those other concerns for very long."
De Burgh thought of that little cell in London, and swallowed.
"What then, lady, is the amount you are seeking?"
"I would hope to have your advice on that matter," she said. "I need a quotation for the cost of about four hundred thousand cubic ells of stone—removed."
His mind was already doing calculations, which started and then had to stop again as she pronounced the last word.
"Several of them."
"But, for what purposes—"
"Well," she said, "I suppose you must know that in a general way, for the sake of the calculation. I am acting for a man who is about to be in a position of some influence in Ethiopia. He is building … a fortress, a place of protection."
"There are valleys in his domains suitable for such use. The total amount of stone to be removed is as I have quoted it. More must be carved and fashioned after that work is done. My principal estimates that several thousand workmen and artisans will be needed for at least five years."
- On Sale
- May 30, 2009
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Grand Central Publishing