The Templar Legacy (Page 25)

10:00 PM

THE SENESCHAL FOUND GEOFFREY. HE'D BEEN LOOKING FOR HIS assistant since the conclave dissolved and finally learned that the younger man had retired to one of the minor chapels in the north wing, beyond the library, one of many places of repose the abbey offered.

He entered the room lit only by candles and saw Geoffrey lying on the floor. Brothers many times laid themselves before the altar of God. During induction the act showed humility, a demonstration of insignificance in the face of heaven, and its continued use served as a reminder.

"We need to talk," he quietly said.

His young associate remained still for a few moments, then slowly came to his knees, crossed himself, and stood.

"Tell me precisely what you and the master were doing." He was not in the mood for coyness, and thankfully Geoffrey seemed calmer than earlier in the Hall of Fathers.

"He wanted to make sure those two parcels were posted in the mail."

"He say why?"

"Why would he? He was the master. I'm but a minor brother."

"He apparently trusted you enough to enlist your aid."

"He said you would resent that."

"I'm not that petty." He could sense that the man knew more. "Tell me."

"I cannot say."

"Why not?"

"The master instructed me to answer the question about the mailings. But I am not to say anything further . . . until more happens."

"Geoffrey, what more needs to happen? De Roquefort is in charge. You and I are practically alone. Brothers are aligning themselves with de Roquefort. What else needs to occur?"

"That's not for me to decide."

"De Roquefort cannot succeed without the Great Devise. You heard the reaction in the conclave. The brothers will desert him if he fails to deliver. Is that what you and the master were plotting about? Did the master know more than he said to me?"

Geoffrey went silent, and the seneschal suddenly detected a maturity in his aide that he'd never noticed before. "I'm ashamed to say that the master told me the marshal would defeat you in the conclave."

"What else did he say?"

"Nothing I can reveal at the moment."

The evasiveness was irritating. "Our master was brilliant. As you say, he foresaw what happened. He apparently thought ahead enough to make you his oracle. Tell me, what am I to do?" The plea in his voice could not be disguised.

"He said for me to answer that inquiry with what Jesus said. Whoever does not hate their father and mother as I do cannot be my disciple."

The words were from the Gospel of Thomas. But what did they mean in this context? He thought of what else Thomas wrote. Whoever does not love their father and mother as I do cannot be my disciple.

"He also wanted me to remind you that Jesus said, Let one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds--"

"When one finds, one will be disturbed. When one is disturbed, one will be amazed, and will reign over all," he quickly finished. "Was everything he said a riddle?"

Geoffrey did not answer. The younger man was of a much lesser degree than the seneschal, his path to knowledge only just beginning. Order membership was a steady progression toward full Gnosticism--a journey that would normally require three years. Geoffrey had only come to the abbey eighteen months ago from the Jesuit home in Normandy, abandoned as a child and raised by the monks. The master had immediately noticed him and requested that he be included on the executive staff. The seneschal had wondered about that hasty decision, but the old man had merely smiled and said, "No different than I did with you."

He placed a hand on his aide's shoulder. "For the master to enlist your help, he surely thought highly of your abilities."

A resolute look came to the pale face. "And I will not fail him."

Brothers took differing paths. Some veered toward administration. Others became artisans. Many were associated with the abbey's self-sufficiency as craftsmen or farmers. A few devoted themselves solely to religion. Only about a third were selected as knights. Geoffrey was in line to become a knight sometime within the next five years, depending on his progress. He'd already served his apprenticeship and completed the required elementary training. A year of Scriptures lay ahead before the first fidelity oath could be administered. Such a shame, the seneschal thought, that he could well lose all he'd worked to achieve.

"Seneschal, what of the Great Devise? Can it be found, as the marshal said?"

"That's our one salvation. De Roquefort does not have it, but probably thinks we know. Do we?"

"The master spoke of it." The words came quickly, as if they were not to be said.

He waited for more.

"He told me that a man named Lars Nelle came the closest. He said Nelle's path was the right one." Geoffrey's pallid face worked with a nervous excitement.

He and the master had many times discussed the Great Devise. Its origins were from a time before 1307, but its hiding place after the Purge was a way to deprive Philip IV of the Templars' wealth and knowledge. In the months prior to October 13, Jacques de Molay hid all that the Order cherished. Unfortunately, no mention of its location was recorded, and the Black Death eventually wiped out every soul who knew anything of its whereabouts. The only clue came from a passage noted in the Chronicles for June 4, 1307. Where is it best to hide a pebble? Subsequent masters tried to answer that inquiry and searched until the effort was deemed pointless. But only in the nineteenth century had new clues come to light--not from the Order, but from two parish priests in Rennes-le-Chateau. Abbes Antoine Bigou and Berenger Sauniere. The seneschal knew that Lars Nelle had resurrected their astonishing tale, writing a book in the 1970s that told the world about the tiny French village and its supposed ancient mystic. Now to learn that he came the closest, that his was the right path, seemed almost surreal.

The seneschal was about to inquire further when footfalls sounded. He turned as four brother knights, men he knew, marched into the chapel. De Roquefort followed them inside, now dressed in the master's white cassock.

"Plotting, Seneschal?" de Roquefort asked, the eyes beaming.

"Not anymore." He wondered about the show of force. "Need an audience?"

"They're here for your benefit. Though I am hoping this can be done in a civilized manner. You are under arrest."

"And the charge?" he asked, showing not a hint of concern.

"Violation of your oath."

"You intend to explain yourself?"

"In the proper forum. These brothers shall accompany you to your chambers, where you will stay the night. Tomorrow, I will find more appropriate accommodations. Your replacement will, by then, need your chamber."

"That's kind of you."

"I thought so. But be happy. A penitent cell would have been your home long ago."

He knew about them. Nothing more than boxes of iron, too small for standing or lying. Instead, the prisoner had to crouch, and no food or water only added to the agony. "You plan to resurrect the cell's use?"

He saw de Roquefort did not appreciate the challenge, but the Frenchman only smiled. Seldom had this demon ever relaxed into a grin. "My followers, unlike yours, are loyal to their oaths. There's no need for such measures."

"I almost think you believe that."

"You see, that insolence is the very reason I opposed you. Those of us trained in the discipline of our devotion would never speak to one another in such a disrespectful manner. But men, like you, who come from the secular world think arrogance appropriate."

"And denying our master his due accord was showing respect?"

"That was the price paid for his arrogance."

"He was raised like you."

"Which shows we, too, are capable of error."

He was tiring of de Roquefort, so he collected himself and said, "I demand my right to a tribunal."

"Which you shall have. In the meantime you will be confined."

De Roquefort motioned. The four brothers stepped forward, and though he was frightened he decided to go with dignity.

He left the chapel, surrounded by his guards, but at the doorway he hesitated a moment and glanced back, catching a final glimpse of Geoffrey. The younger man had stood silent as he and de Roquefort sparred. The new master was characteristically unconcerned with someone so junior. It would be many years before Geoffrey could pose any threat. Yet the seneschal wondered.

Not a hint of fear, shame, or apprehension clouded Geoffrey's face.

Instead, the look was one of intense resolve.