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Authors: Katherine Kurtz

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BOOK: Tales of the Knights Templar
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“Let’s take a few minutes to relax and center first,” the senior Adept said, setting flame to a candle on the nightstand before turning off the bedside lamp. “Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing: a deep breath in … and out. Use your own methods to begin settling into trance, the way you did the last time we worked together. We’ll use your usual cues to help you go deeper. Another deep breath, now, and let yourself drift slowly deeper … and deeper …”

Adam followed the direction willingly, letting the sweet, familiar focus of trancing take him into comfortable realms in which the room and all but Graham’s voice softly receded. For a while he was aware of the flicker of firelight and candlelight on his closed eyelids, of the rough texture of wool beneath his fingertips, with his arms stretched relaxed at his sides; but gradually the awareness of even possessing a body began to recede.

“Go deeper now,” he heard Graham say as a hand touched his left wrist and the familiar cue lent impetus to the command. “Go twice as deep as you were before … deeper still … and now begin casting back in time. Go beyond the level of mind to the level of soul, of spirit—to remembrance of other times, other lives … and of one life in particular. The name you bore then was Jauffre de Saint Clair.

“Look for him now; seek him out. The place is Paris; the time is some point between 1307, when the Templars were arrested, and 1314, when Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney died at the stake, the last to be so executed. To fix on Jauffre’s life, you must return briefly to his death, but we shan’t stay there long—just long enough to be sure we’ve found the right time and place.”

“Be one with him now, and prepare to face his death, knowing that your present body is safe, your present existence anchored here by my hand on your wrist and the sound of my voice, knowing that memory cannot hurt you. Whatever may happen to Jauffre, know that the part of you that is Adam Sinclair remains detached, a neutral observer, above any pain. Your name is Jauffre de Saint Clair, Knight of the Temple of Jerusalem; and as I place this symbol of that Order on your forehead, its touch will send you fully into that other life.”

Even without physical vision, Adam could see the pulsing beacon of the Templar cross approaching, and knew that its touch would produce exactly the result Graham had suggested. A part of him shrank from that certainty, well knowing what lay ahead, glimpsed in nightmare flashes; but another part welcomed the resolution, almost made him lift his head to receive it. However horribly Jauffre de Saint Clair had died, his experiences were part of what made Adam Sinclair what he was today. To achieve his fullest potential in the present, he must understand and accept those experiences of the past.

The touch of cool metal and enamel against his forehead was like an electric shock, even though expected, plunging him fully into Jauffre. All at once he found himself on his knees amid rough kindling, chained to a stake between two ragged, struggling men who were his brethren, as flames began to crackle amid the bundles of faggots piled close around. To either side, dozens more of his fellow knights were chained like him, several to a stake, some of them already screaming as flames enveloped them, though many went passive to their deaths, and some made not a sound.

An ugly murmur of approval swelled upward from the watching crowd as the executioners spread the flames and the shrieks of the victims mounted. Though the fire had not yet touched him, the heat and ash began to choke him, and he shouted out his defiance while he could still speak, with clenched fists raised heavenward:
“he Temple, c’est pûr! Le Temple se survivra!”

The executioners paid no heed, and the fire licked higher. He stifled a gasp at the flames’ first caress, suddenly aware that he was, indeed, going to die without knowing. He writhed against the unyielding chains, shrinking in vain from the consuming fire, yet the unanswered question remained: Had he succeeded or had he failed?

But he would never know the answer in this life, for no escape now was possible save through the gates of Death. As the flames leaped higher and the true agony began, he forced his blurring gaze above the fire and crossed trembling arms on his breast—for no other expression of faith remained for men condemned as heretics and abandoned by the church. All too soon his gasps turned to cries that he could not stop while still he drew breath, as the fire took its sacrifice of living flesh.

Yet even in those final, interminable seconds, as the fire seared nerves almost beyond the perception of pain, he was able to lift despairing hands in final entreaty, his upturned face still seeking an answer. But the pain, the
pain.…

“That’s enough now,” said a voice both familiar and strange, as cool hands pressed his arms back to his sides, their touch draining away all vestige of the anguish of charred flesh. “Let go the pain. Retain the thread binding you to Jauffre, but follow it backward in time now. Find the moment that made Jauffre something different from any other Templar martyr. Find the moment for which a future Adept was set to play a Templar knight. There
was
such a moment, else Adam Sinclair would not be who he is today. Find that moment…and tell me what you see.”

More than eager to comply, Adam/Jauffre cast himself backward from the fire, past the lesser agonies of torture—sometimes his own, sometimes observed—torture that only confession could stop—never mind whether the confessions were true.…

Hot irons applied to cringing flesh … the lash … the strappado, which could rip a man’s arms from his shoulders … greased feet held to flames until the flesh sizzled and the charred bones dropped out…if a man could stand that much. Many died under such torture.

The boot and the thumbscrew … teeth yanked from bleeding gums so the sockets could then be probed to prolong and intensify the agony … starvation and imprisonment in unspeakable conditions.…

But all at once Adam found himself beyond all that, whole and uninjured, a decade before his ending, kneeling white-robed and ardent before a bearded, battle-hardened man with the red cross of the Order on the shoulder of his white Templar mantle. Half a dozen other white-mantled knights were ranged to either side of the man, one of them a cousin. The man presiding, deputizing for the Master of the Paris Temple, was unknown to Jauffre.

“Three times have you asked us for the bread and water and companionship of the Order,”
the unknown knight was saying in an archaic French that Adam/Jauffre understood.
“If we grant what you desire, will you henceforth put aside all thought of your own will? For when you wish to sleep, you will be made to wake, and when you wish to wake, you will be made to sleep
—”

“Adam, what are you seeing?” asked an insistent voice, overlaying the words Jauffre heard. “Adam, a part of you remains detached and can report what Jauffre is experiencing. Tell me what you see.”

It cost him some effort, but Adam somehow found the volition to stir his parched throat to words.

“It’s my—Jauffre’s—reception as a Templar,” he whispered, seeing the scene still through that other’s eyes, as a priest of the Order brought forward an open book and Jauffre set his joined hands between those of the unknown Master.

“Swear and promise to God and the Blessed Mary that you will always be obedient to the Master of the Temple, and to whichever brother of the said Order is put above you,”
the Master commanded.
“That you will preserve chastity, the good usages and the good customs of the Order, and you will live without property, except that it may be conceded to you by your superior.…”

“Adam, stay in contact,” Graham’s voice urged.

“Yes…” Adam murmured, trying to distill Jauffre’s experience as he reported it to Graham. “I make vows of obedience and chastity and poverty … protection of the holy places, wherever I shall be sent … to preserve the statutes and secrets of the Order … other things. My—cousin is there,” he added, because it seemed important.

“His name?”

“Arnault.”

“And where are you?”

“The Temple in Paris … a smaller chapel. The doors are closed. Only other Templars are present—maybe ten of them.”

“By our Lady’s grace, may you persevere henceforth in this high resolve,”
the Templar priest declared.

As he presented the book he held, Jauffre laid both hands upon it in affirmation of the oath he had just sworn. Gracing the page he bent to kiss was a painting of the Crucifixion, rich with vermilion and cobalt-blue and gold leaf. Unlike most Templars, Jauffre could read the words on the opposite page. The priest spoke those words in blessing as Jauffre’s cousin laid the white mantle around his shoulders, with the red cross of the Order bold on the left shoulder.

“Ecce quam bonum et quam jocundum habitare fratres in unum”
—How good and happy a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.…

The presiding knight raised him up by both hands and kissed him on the mouth, instructing him then to greet his new brethren in like fashion. A part of Adam was aware of later charges against the Temple involving less chaste kissing, and worse, but Jauffre hardly remarked the exchange, for the bestowal of a ritual kiss of peace was common practice throughout France, both in the reception into religious orders and in the sealing of any lay feudal relationship.

“Tell me what you see,” Graham’s voice intruded. “Describe what’s happening.”

“The knight receiving me raises me up by both hands and kisses me on the mouth. It isn’t what later accusers alleged—certainly nothing at all obscene. My cousin kisses me, the other knights kiss me—nothing to even raise an eyebrow at the time.…”

He was briefly aware of further instruction regarding the basic conduct expected of a Knight of the Temple—and then, some time later, other instruction of a more private and secret nature from his cousin Arnault and certain others. Not the clandestine improprieties alleged in later charges against the Order, but examination before a secret Master, and eventual induction into an inner circle of knights who were charged with guarding and protecting certain treasures, certain secrets.…

“Speak to me, Adam,” came Graham’s low-voiced command, as Adam stiffened in surprise and wonder.

But though Adam knew that Jauffre de Saint Clair had lived and died centuries before, and long since expiated any errors committed in that life, he yet was aware of certain bindings that forbade him to speak of what now came before his inner vision.

“Many secrets do we guard,”
the secret Master told him, once he had passed his probation for the inner circle.
“Not all are for thee to know at this time. But this one shalt thou guard with thy life, and see that it come to no harm.”

He was still a fairly junior knight, and very junior in the inner circle, but he was vouchsafed a glimpse of it. It was Easter, the last but one before the arrests began, and with others of the inner circle he had been summoned by the secret Master to attend in a hidden chapel underneath the treasury room of the Paris Temple.

The new fire was blessed and the Paschal candle lit, as was appropriate for the Easter Vigil. And then, as the night faded into dawning of that joyous Easter morn, priests of the inner circle briefly had displayed a treasured hallow for the veneration of those few privileged to be present.

Jauffre had been kneeling far back, and the lighting had been poor, but for a breathless, spellbound moment forever etched in memory, it seemed that the priests held up the ghostly apparition of a head. A part of Adam, watching, knew of
that
charge later leveled against the Order—of worshiping a head, an idol—but in that timeless instant, though Jauffre did not know precisely
what
it was, he had no doubt that it was holy, and worth dying for.

“Adam?” Graham murmured from very far away.

“Not now,” he managed to whisper, for an urgency now attended the unfolding of Jauffre’s memories.

Sustained by the memory of what he had glimpsed and felt, his zeal had persisted through the year that followed. Obedient to the orders of both king and pope, he was among the hand-picked party of knights sent to Outremer to escort the Grand Master back to France—not incognito and with a small retinue, as the pope had requested, but with sixty knights as escort and a baggage train of gold and jewels, all of which were installed in the assumed safety of the Paris Temple.

It was a confusing time. Grand Master Jacques de Molay was not a learned man—not even literate—but his faith burned with a passion that awed Jauffre at first, then frustrated him. For under the guise of talks about a new Crusade, and negotiations to merge the two great Military Orders, it was clear to many of de Molay’s officers—but not to him—that the Temple was in grave danger. For if the king could not force his will on the Order by law—it being under papal protection that the Grand Master believed to be inviolable—such allegations would be manufactured as could not be ignored by the pontiff.

Yet the Grand Master seemed unwilling to believe the conclusions being drawn by nearly everyone except himself. Jauffre was not privy to what was discussed in the general chapter that the Grand Master called in July 1307, but he saw the results in the weeks that followed. By the beginning of autumn, orders had gone out to every commandery in France to tighten security, and under no circumstances to reveal anything to anyone about the secret rituals and meetings of the Order. To reinforce this instruction, many of the Order’s books and extant rules were called in and burned—a distasteful business for Jauffre, who was one of the knights assigned to see the orders carried out, but he obeyed.

Early October found him seated apprehensively among a score of his brethren in a dim-lit chamber hung with tapestries. It was the private sanctum of the secret Master, next to the hidden chapel beneath the Paris treasury. All present were members of the Temple’s inner circle, and mostly far senior to Jauffre. Their immediate concern was that earlier that day, in stubborn denial that anything was amiss, Grand Master de Molay had served as an honorary pallbearer in the funeral procession of the Princess Catherine, wife of Charles of Valois, the king’s brother. When questioned by one of his officers about the wisdom of such participation, de Molay had declared that surely the king would not show him this honor while simultaneously plotting the Order’s destruction.

BOOK: Tales of the Knights Templar
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