Read Tales of the Knights Templar Online

Authors: Katherine Kurtz

Tales of the Knights Templar (10 page)

BOOK: Tales of the Knights Templar
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Leave us,” Eckhart said.

Without a word, the warder closed the door behind him. The sounds of the catch falling into place echoed through the crypt. When the old man finally looked up, his eyes grew wide in disbelief.

“Friedrich!” he gasped, struggling to his feet.
“Here!”

“Quietly,” the Templar said, placing his finger to his lips. He took in the details of the old man’s appearance—the long, straggly beard and unkempt hair, now gone white, the pallid complexion, the ragged Templar tunic. …

“This is Friar Eckhart, my friend from childhood, who obtained passage for us from Imbert himself.”

“God bless you, friar. I pray you to forgive my earlier words. But I and my brethren have suffered much from the hands of the Preachers.”

“I am well aware, Jakob of Molay. But we are not all of the same mind in this. Be swift. We do not have much time.”

With a nod, he withdrew to the farther end of the crypt and, removing a book from within his tunic, began to read. But Friedrich and the old man did not deign to whisper. The Saxon Templar came quickly to the point.

“They put you to the test?”

The old man held up his hands. The fingers were misshapen and gnarled like the exposed roots of an ancient oak. He pulled back the damp, ragged sleeves of his threadbare tunic to reveal withered arms pitted and scarred from cuts and burns the spent force of his body would never heal. Friedrich shook his head.

“At Mainz, I offered to undergo the ordeal to prove my innocence and that of the Order,” he said. “It was not deemed necessary by the bishops.”

“Friedrich, we were tortured simply to make us confess, not to establish guilt or innocence,” de Molay replied. “Those who confessed were reprimanded and released. Those who did not were tortured until they died—or, when the papal commission intervened, were given over to perpetual imprisonment. In the end, I confessed because I was old and tired and weak. They would not let me die.”

“You admitted the charges.”

“Not all. I confessed only to those things I considered myself truly capable of. But it went as had been planned. I told them nothing of the movement of the fleet, nor of the treasury. And, of course, I retracted my confession before the papal commissioners. But when they finished and departed, I was again threatened by the king’s inquisitor with torture and death as a
relapsus,
so I recanted. I am an old man, no longer strong.”

“Strong enough, Jakob. The fleet is safe, under Girard de Villiers, and Hugues de Châlons has so far outfoxed the wolf. Pierre de Boucle is also still at large. Imblanke has been returned to France, but may yet preserve his life. Even here the Order is not destroyed. Nor shall it be.”

“Deo gratias,”
the old man said, and wept.

“Take courage. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. God alone knows when you shall be freed, but the day will come. We must go. Be strong, brother.”

“May I have your blessing, Friar?” the old man said, raising his voice.

Eckhart approached. “And more, if I am able. Do you have sufficient light to read?”

“For a few hours a day, but I am not well lettered, and my eyes are now very imperfect.”

“Then listen to me as I read. Is your memory good?”

“My pain lies in being unable to forget.”

“Then remember this well, as if it were Christ himself speaking.” Eckhart broke open the parchment pages of his book and began to read in a low, steady voice.

“The annihilated soul knows only one thing, which is to know that she knows nothing, and wills only one thing, which is that she wills nothing. And this nothing-knowing and this nothing-willing give her everything. No one can find her. She is saved by faith alone. She is alone in love, she does nothing for God, she leaves nothing to God. She cannot be taught, she cannot be robbed, she cannot be given anything. She has no will.”

“But what does that mean?” the old man asked, bewildered, as Eckhart closed the book.

“You wished to be a Poor Knight of Christ, Jakob. Someone become truly poor in Christ wants nothing, knows nothing, and has nothing. Anyone who wants nothing has no attachment to life or death, to pain or pleasure. Such a person is so poor that he no longer wills even to fulfill God’s will.

“And he should be as free of his own will as when he was nothing. For then he has no God outside himself to want, to know, or to have. Only by such a one is God’s will truly done. He finds God everywhere, because all things are full of God.”

He stopped. The utter silence in the dim crypt was broken only by the occasional sound of a drop of water falling.

“All things.…” de Molay repeated. “Yes, I believe that. I will remember. Go with God, friar.”

“As God will go with you.”

As they left the dungeon of the Temple, Friedrich’s face in the shadow of his cowl was, Eckhart saw, a mask of barely repressed fury. Nor was there any doubt about the reason for that anger. Not for him the words of the dead Beguine which Eckhart had found so compelling, and which he prayed might have begun their work of peace in de Molay’s soul.

“Had you not considered a rescue?” the Dominican asked as they left the keep. “Surely there are enough Templars at large and resources at hand to attempt it.”

“Of course it was considered,” Friedrich snapped. “But it would only confound things. As he well understands, Jakob von Molay is more valuable to us in prison than he would be at liberty.”

“Ah.”

Leaving the confines of the Temple proved no more difficult than entering. Again, the writ provided by Imbert elicited unhindered passage. But when the friars crossed the drawbridge, they found no sign of Robert of Troyes. Rather, a line of armed horse sergeants faced them from the road.

“By my soul,” Friedrich said under his breath, “if that son of perdition has sold us to the provost—”

“Do not be too hasty, Friedrich. And try to appear serene. He may have come to some harm.”

One of the horses was spurred forward. “Good morrow, holy friars,” said the lieutenant. “We have been cautioned that a renegade Templar heretic is at large. Your lives could be at risk, and therefore the Provost of the City has ordered us to see to your safe return.”

Aware of the low growl in Friedrich’s throat, Eckhart again placed a cautionary hand on the Templar’s arm.

“That is very kind of you, but it will not be necessary.”

“We must follow orders, good friar.”

With that, he turned his mount and headed it back toward the city. He stopped once and looked back meaningfully.

“Come,” Eckhart said to his companion. “It isn’t every day we are graced with such courtesy.”

Friedrich shot him a look of helpless rage.

The unusual procession returned along the Rue du Temple and passed through the city gate without attracting undue attention, although children and beggars sometimes stopped to gawk.

“I should have cut the boy’s throat when I had the chance,” the Templar grumbled.

“It is more likely, Friedrich, that my old friend Imbert notified the provost. He probably doubted my reason for wanting to visit the Temple.”

“Then where is Robert?”

“He may well have escaped when the mounted guard approached. We may at least hope so.”

“Could he have been arrested?”

“Possibly. But university students enjoy many immunities. When even one has suffered maltreatment, the resulting strikes have convulsed the city for months. As a master, I may have sufficient immunity to prevent our arrest as well.”

Constrained by the narrower streets near the banks of the Seine, the horsemen were forced to proceed single file. Carts, pedestrians, children, housewives, beggars, and students all mingled freely in parishes such as Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, where rich and poor lived in close proximity. But the lieutenant led them only across the top of the densely crowded parish, avoiding the Rue des Asis, and crossed to the Rue Saint-Denis.

“This I had not foreseen,” Eckhart said as they veered south past the Saints-Innocents with its somber charnel house. “We will not pass the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. The guards will no doubt escort us directly to the Châtelet. The provost cannot imprison us, but he could detain us if there was reason to suspect that one or both of us were only posing as clerics.”

“What then?”

“He would send for the prior to verify our state. I am beginning to regret my plan.”

“It was a good plan. We were betrayed. If by Robert of Troyes, I will strangle him with my own hands. In any case, I do not intend to be arrested, Eckhart. I have only a dagger under this cloak, and at best I will be cut down quickly. Or perhaps I could reach the Seine.…”

“Either way will probably mean your death. And I would still be left to explain the situation. It will be wiser, I think, to explain first. Failing that, I think the prior can be trusted to be discreet.”

“And Imbert?”

“We shall see.…”

As the horse sergeants and friars approached the Châtelet and the bridge beyond it, near the Boucherie, where the street narrowed sharply, a farmer’s cart laden with vegetables and poultry suddenly jutted out from the line leading to the toll gate. Angry voices erupted in curses. The lieutenant’s horse shied and reared. Shouting pedestrians scattered from the ambit of the hooves, disrupting the file even more. Eckhart and Friedrich also ducked aside. At the same moment, a swarm of students appeared from a side street, laughing and singing drunkenly. Somewhere, a fight broke out. Cursing, the sergeants attempted to urge their mounts into the crowd to quell the growing disturbance.

“Is it a riot?” Friedrich shouted as the students plucked up cabbages and turnips and began pelting the guard.

“No!” Eckhart called back. “A rescue!”

“This way!” cried a now-familiar voice.

Wheeling, Friedrich saw Robert beckoning him toward a sudden opening in the wall of students. The Templar threw off his black cloak, which Eckhart caught on the fly. He quickly stripped off Nicholas’ habit, bundled it into a ball, and pitched it into Eckhart’s open arms. An instant later, both Friedrich and Robert plunged into the throng of students and vanished.

“Quickly!” commanded a voice at Eckhart’s ear, as his arm was pulled sharply.

He turned as a white-robed figure plucked the cloak from his arm and began wrapping himself in it.

“Nicholas!”

“If we hurry,” the young friar said, tugging at the master’s sleeve, “we should reach Saint-Jacques by nones.”

“Your visit was rewarding, then?” the prior asked, after granting the blessing sought by Eckhart and Nicholas on their return.

“In a manner of speaking,” Eckhart said, rising with more difficulty than he would admit to.

“I’m afraid I must nevertheless assign you a small penance. Frater Guillaume has been asking for you. He seems rather desperate.”

“I can well imagine.”

When Eckhart went to the Inquisitor’s rooms later that afternoon, Imbert made no mention of the visit to the Temple. Nor did Eckhart inquire about the provost’s protective gesture during their return. For the old man was clearly shaken, his eyes red-rimmed and staring.

“She was here, Eckhart! Early—just after matins …the woman from Hainaut—Porete! In this room.…I saw her! Radiant! And she spoke. There were others, many others, with her.…Accusing me!”

Eckhart glanced about the dark, sepulchral chamber.

“Calmly, Guillaume,” he said in French. “What did she say?” “She called me a slave of reason, devoid of love, and wholly lacking in grace.…She condemned me, Eckhart—me! And the others did as well.”

“Possibly. But I do not think you have had a vision, Guillaume. This was a dream—a waking dream. You saw only the embodiment of your own fears.”

“But what have I to fear?”

“Only one thing is worth fearing—to have fallen away from truth.”

“Have I, Eckhart? Have I fallen away from truth?”

“God alone knows.”

6

The soldiers of Christ wage the battles of their Lord in safety. They fear not the sin of killing an enemy or the peril of their own death, inasmuch as death either inflicted or borne for Christ has no taint of crime and rather merits the greater glory.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“On the Praise of the New Knighthood”

After several delays, the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council opened in Vienne on October 16,1311, for the purpose of condemning and suppressing the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Jerusalem, and appropriately disposing of its lands and properties. Reports of the proceedings trickled back to Saint-Jacques over the autumn and winter. Nicholas Trevet’s sources of information were particularly helpful. From the beginning, matters did not go smoothly for the pope and the royal party orchestrating matters from a distance. The cardinals, patriarchs, abbots, and bishops from beyond the Kingdom of France were doubtful about the charges and disinclined to credit paid witnesses.

Then, in late October, the first session was temporarily suspended when seven white-mantled and fully armed Templar knights rode into the cathedral courtyard to defend the Order, claiming that more than a thousand others waited near Lyons and its environs prepared to support them. Although Pope Clement had invited a defense, he never though it would eventuate. He therefore ordered the arrest of the seven Templars, but soon had to release them at the insistence of the council delegates.

Growing impatient, the king himself arrived at the council in March. Two days later, the pope signed a personal warrant to suppress the Order without condemnation, which on April 3 was read publicly at the second solemn session. On May 2, the Templars’ lands, goods, and properties were enjoined to the Knights Hospitaller. In return, the Hospitallers agreed to pay the king over 200,000 livres as compensation. Templars who had confessed their crimes were absolved and freed, but forbidden under penalty of excommunication to wear the habit ever again.

Those who refused to confess were sentenced to life imprisonment—if they could be found. The fate of the four principal leaders was reserved to the pope, who left for Avignon on May 2. Four days afterward, the Council of Vienne was solemnly adjourned, the decrees of its third and final session somehow becoming lost. A week later, Friar Berengar of Landorra, a lector at the
studium generate
of Paris, was elected Master of the Dominican Order.

BOOK: Tales of the Knights Templar
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Sudden Sea by R.A. Scotti
Home is Where You Are by Marie, Tessa
Murder in Ukraine by Dan Spanton
The New Girl by Ana Vela
Kissinger’s Shadow by Greg Grandin
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar
Glazed by Ranae Rose