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The Caulbearer

Prologue

Paris - France, 1307

Being warrior monks and military defenders of the Catholic Church, the Knights Templar existed purely for the Crusades; or so it was commonly thought. When Jerusalem finally fell, under the never-ending onslaught of Saladin, the Holy Land was lost and support for the Order quickly faded.

King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation. In 1307, under extreme duress, Pope Clement V was forced to issue an arrest order for the Knights Templar on the charges of heresy. Pressured by the King to act, the Holy See operated more swiftly than could be anticipated.

Overnight, Templar strongholds throughout France were raided simultaneously. The knights were arrested by the King’s men, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake.

Outrage spread throughout the land and as far away as England. Due to the continuous quarrelling, Edward I King of England, who was Philip’s brother-in-law, did not condemn the Templars, prompting many of the French-based knights to flee to England. Philip’s daughter, Isabella, married the Prince of Wales, becoming Queen of England, producing an eventual English claimant to the French throne itself, and war – a war that was later to be known as the ‘Hundred Years’ War.

Back in France, things had taken a decidedly bad turn for King Philip. Villagers rioted, and fires burned. The Templars’ Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, called for a crisis meeting and summoned one of his most trusted knights, Vladimir Gaudin, son of the former Grand Master, to the helm of the meeting. It was a grisly atmosphere. Eleven Templar brothers stood in waiting. ‘Vladimir, your father’s plan to persuade everyone that the Templars had always been the guardian of the sacred bloodline was the work of a genius. He even managed to convince our socalled friends and allies, the Catholic Church, that it was the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene that we were protecting.

‘It seems, however, that tonight our allies wish to see the evidence. Your father passed on the knowledge after the fall of Acre – the knowledge of more than two thousand years of religious turmoil, which has been recorded in the book of the way. Within lie the truth and the details about the real guardians of the bloodline, along with the bloodline itself. This book has been in our possession since the beginning of time, and has graced the hands of the Lord.’

De Molay opened the casket and removed the face covering of the leather box inside, being very careful not to touch the contents. As he tilted the box up to be viewed under candlelight, a gold pentacle could be seen on the face of the book, along with numerals and ancient writings. The Templars bowed in awe and immediately knelt on one knee; only Vladimir remained standing.
‘No matter what happens to me or to our brothers in this room, it shall remain the responsibility of all brothers to serve and protect this manuscript. Without it, our very existence shall perish. King Philip will attempt to take the rest of our treasures, the daggers, the jewels, and the goblets; he is not to be crossed. We shall sacrifice our gold for our future. I have faith in our church and our holy father the Pope; he shall not fail us in our hour of need.’

A commotion broke out among the knights, only to be subdued by Geoffroi de Charnay, de Molay’s right-hand man. Vladimir looked distraught over the task ahead. De Molay passed Vladimir a small parcel wrapped in a brown paper like material, stood up, and placed his hand upon Vladimir’s shoulder.
‘Within this package is my caul, Vladimir. It is the only way you can prove your identity and the only way the Brotherhood will accept you. Should you be captured along the way, it must be destroyed? The Catholic Church must never be allowed to possess such a powerful symbol. Therefore, I must remind all of you before you depart that our main joint objective is to preserve the existence of the Brotherhood at all costs; this means protecting the manuscript. When I talk of the Brotherhood, I use the term loosely. You all know that we are many singular groups; nevertheless, we all worship the Grand Architect of the Universe, and we are all governed by God’s personification here on earth, the Brotherhood of Nazarenes. Your journeys will take you to lands far away, and along these journeys, you will encounter many enemies; however, you all know where to seek shelter.’

De Molay hugged Vladimir, whispering an ancient Brotherhood blessing, as a tear trickled down his cheek. ‘You must travel to Salon-de-Provence, Vladimir. Once there, you will be greeted by the monks of the Order and led to a place of safety. They will then ask to see the caul. Being high priest caulbearers, the monks will know it belongs to me. Then, and only then, will you receive your final orders. ‘You will choose four Templar brothers to travel with you on your journey to our leaders. The rest will stay by my side and fight for our honour. You must travel swiftly, Vladimir, for our very existence depends on you.’
The meeting was interrupted; the King’s men had arrived. The charge was heresy. The plea was not guilty. The result was fatal.

With the sacred manuscript intact, Vladimir and his companions managed to escape. De Molay and de Charnay were arrested, but the remaining knights were true to their oath and were brave till the end. The five Templar brothers were murdered, stabbed in the left side of the neck with ceremonious daggers, and later burnt at the stake. De Molay and de Charnay were imprisoned.
Constantly under pressure from King Philip, the Pope disbanded the Order in 1312. Almost two years later, on March 18, 1314, three cardinals sent by the pope sentenced de Molay and de Charnay to life imprisonment. Realizing that all was lost, de Molay rose up and recanted, proclaiming the Order’s innocence. Philip immediately ordered de Molay and de Charnay to be taken to the Isle des Juifs, where they were executed, burnt at the stake. From the flames, de Molay cursed both Philip and Clement V, saying that he would summon them before God’s Tribunal before the year was out. Believing the two to be the last remaining leaders of the Templars, the king, with his debts now cleared, could put his plan into action.

However, a little over a month later, Pope Clement V died on April 20, 1314. Seven months later, King Philip fell from a horse while out riding and died on November 29, 1314.
Unknown to Philip at the time of his death, the caulbearer fraction had taken refuge amongst another secret brotherhood and, thus, under this secret umbrella, lived on.

Copyright © Michael.A.Martin November 2011