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Templar Treasure

It's been a while since I offered something from The Ravens of Falkenau, my short story anthology of stories from the Numinous World. I thought I'd share one of my favorites today, a story called Templar Treasure.

Templar Treasure

1188 AD

Not all treasure is gold and jewels. For centuries people have speculated on what the mysterious treasure of the Knights Templar was. Jauffre de Vallombreuse, who was once an oracle named Gull, discovered it for himself.

"Jauffre de Vallombreuse?"

I raised my head. I was keeping the morning vigil in the chapel with two others, and there was no reason to interrupt me, unless upon high authority. The vigil schedules were set by the Knight Commander.

The squire who had called me was seventeen or so, nearly on the verge of knighting, but I did not know him well. He served Master Raimond de Genlis, who was more than a Knight Commander indeed. He was the Seneschal of Beirut, and I had only spoken to him twice. "My master would like to see you, sir."

With a quick genuflection to the altar I got up and followed him through the garden and along the rampart.

Master Raimond stood looking out at the sea, the curve of the cornice slicing like a crescent through the deep blue. I bowed as proper.

"Jauffre de Vallombreuse," he said, and it seemed to me that his voice was thready. He was, after all, quite old. "You have presented an interesting conundrum to the Order."

"I have?" I had certainly tried to do no such thing.

"You are a fine horseman and a dogged fighter, with some good tactical sense, they tell me. As such, you would go far commanding one of our outposts, or leading an advance force against the Saracens." He looked at me keenly. "But unfortunately you also have a mind. I am given to understand that your Latin is passable?"

"So Sir Hugh tells me, sir," I said. Most knights could not read or write when they were received, no more had I. And why should we? Our business was the horse and sword, and an area no more than a day's ride from the place of our births. We should never see the sea, nor anything but the peaks and valleys of Haute Savoie.

But I had been gone from there six years, quite a lot of time to learn, even through some battles. And Latin was incredibly easy.

"And I am given to understand you speak Arabic?"

"I have picked up a bit, sir," I said, "For the marketplace and the like."

"Because Knights Templar spend a deal of time in the marketplace." His eyes twinkled. "No Greek?"

"Just a few words with this Byzantine or that, sir," I said. "No more."

"I see," he said, and this time the amusement in his voice was unmistakable. "Which is the conundrum. Were you intended for the field, your path would now be clear — a transfer to some fortress more likely to see action than Beirut. And were you feeble in body but keen in wits, it would be best for you to retire to the copyist's work. On top of which I am given to understand that you have a damnable sense of curiosity. What is this business of you wandering about the stones of the old Roman baths?"

I swallowed. That, at least, I knew I should not have been doing. "I wanted to see how they were constructed, sir. The arches seem too long for the weight they must have borne, and I wanted to see how it was done."

"And did you discover it?"

"No, sir," I said.

"I suspect you have not the mathematics," Master Raimond said, and met my eyes when they sought his. "There is a gentleman named Euclid who might prove of assistance to you, were you to meet him."

"I should be delighted to meet any friend of yours," I said courteously.

Master Raimond laughed. "Come then, Jauffre, and I will introduce you to another friend! I think he may prove more to your liking than Euclid!"

Slowly, he led me into the seaward tower, where I had never been as the first floor was the province of the copyists who did not like soldiers stomping through. He led me up the long spiral stair, stopping often to catch his breath, until at last we came to the uppermost chamber.

The room was octagonal, with windows in four faces to catch the light. Each window was set with dozens of panes of glass, worth a king's ransom. One window was open, and the breeze from the ocean blew through, teasing a piece of paper on a table, the tassels of a scroll on the shelf. Four walls had windows. The others had books. There must have been a hundred books in that room, some of them locked in covers of leather and precious jewels, others only scrolls, cased in white linen. There was nothing else in the room, save a copyist's table and chair and lead weights for holding paper flat.

The room and its contents were worth more than every horse in the stable, every sword in Beirut, every ring and chain. I caught my breath. "A hundred books…"

"A hundred and eleven," Master Raimond said. "Most of them discovered here, or in various places nearby, some quite literally dug out of the ground." He looked at me keenly. "You have doubtless heard that we guard a priceless treasure."

I nodded.

"This is part of it. This is a granary, Jauffre. The things contained within these books are precious seeds, and if you read them they will change you. You will no longer be the man you have been. Think upon that before you open them."

I nodded again sharply. "I am not afraid, Master Raimond." In truth, my hands were itching.

"They will challenge your faith, your beliefs about the world, your sense of all that is right and proper. They will open windows into a different earth just as surely as if you went over to the Saracens and dwelled in Babylon."

I met his eyes. "But if the things I believe are right and true, then what fear have I of challenge, for will those things I learn not simply prove what is? And if the things I believe are not right and true, would it not be better for me to know that and face it like a man?"

Master Raimond laughed. "I see that you will enjoy this. Yes, joy, Jauffre. There is something to be said for joying in work well done. Spend the morning with my friend, here. And come and find me in the afternoon that we may discuss it." He took down a carefully wrapped bundle, opening its linen case and stretching it gently on the table, the paper darkened with age but still readable. "We will talk about copying later. Today you can just read."

He put the weights on the corners, and I sat down, bending over the spidery Latin. "Read for me, Jauffre."

The Latin was not hard. I cleared my throat. "The Anabasis of Flavius Arrianus. Wherever Ptolemy and Aristobulus in their histories of Alexander the son of Phillip have given the same account, I have followed it on the assumption of its accuracy…"


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
I love these stories, and this is one of my favorites, too!
May. 17th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
May. 17th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
This was definitely one of my favorites. :)
May. 17th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's one of my favorites too.
May. 17th, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
((((((very nice)))))))
I remain committed to my deep interest in Templars and this has furthered it.
Thank you!!!
May. 17th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you like it.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )