I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.
The ride to Darlet took little time. At night, the village appeared to be a like any other village, with a keep overlooking it. The keep itself was not majestic in appearance, yet each of the Templar felt something coming from there.
The Keep was their final destination. Jacques grew nervous as they came closer. Despite anything the Pope told him; he was still uncertain what was waiting for him.
Jacques felt like he closed his eyes for just a moment, and when he opened them, he was at the keep. David was already there waiting for him.
Jacques got off his horse and waited for the others to come. He knew that he could give an order to David, and he would instruct the other two, but he felt for this, the order should come directly from him.
David kept eyeing the keep. Jacques could see his eyes understanding the structure. From what Jacques saw, it was a big round keep, made of stone, which appeared to be three levels high, though the top level appeared to be decaying. There were a few rooms lit. Both David and Jacques felt something come from there, but Jacques questioned if it came from the keep itself.
Janusz and Savio soon came up the path. They rode their horses to where David and Jacques were at. Once there, Janusz and Savio dismounted from their horses, with David being the last to do so.
Jacques look at them, and they looked at him. Jacques searched for the right words to use. “The Pope’s instructions were clear; I would be the one to go in. All of you must remain out here.”
“What’s in there?” Janusz asked.
Jacques had a good idea. “I don’t know.”
“Then how do you know you don’t need support?” Savio had a determined look in his eyes.
“The Pope’s orders are clear, just as mine are.”
Jacques could see their inclination to object further, but Jacques knew their sense of duty ran deep.
“Perhaps it will be best for us to keep a watchful eye?” David blurted out.
“No.” Jacques responded.
Janusz and Savio were still in shock of everything, but David jerked his head at that word and narrowed his eyes towards Jacques.
“Forgive my pardon, Master. You stated yourself you don’t know what to expect. We should be on our guard and prepared for anything to happen.” David demeanor was stiff, and his voice elevated.
“Not this time, David. The Pope was the one who sent us here, and he has his reasons. Whatever reasons they may be, it is our honour to follow it. Understand?”
Each of them begrudgingly nodded their heads.
Jacques went to his horse. He pulled a key from his neck and unlocked his saddle bag. He pulled out two objects; then he locked up his saddle bag.
He walked back to the group. In his hands, he revealed a white candle. Jacques quickly eyed it, and then from his other hand; he shoved a nail into the candle.
“Janusz, light the candle.”
Janusz took the candle and did as he said, giving a small prayer before touching the wick with his bare fingers and a flame coming to life.
Jacques spoke, “Whatever you may hear from the keep itself, you are not to enter under any circumstance. If I am not back when that nail falls, you are to ride into town immediately. By morning, you will ride back to France. Under no circumstances, you come for me.”
Jacques look each of them in their eyes. All of them, including David showed weakness. Jacques would not respond to that but knew that he too would be shaken up by the thought of leaving a man behind.
Jacques turned and went to the keep’s entrance. He told himself that he would be safe; no harm would come to him. He tried to tell himself that God would protect him, but he knew as he said it, that it was wishful thinking.
His walk brought him under an entrance way, made from timber and stone. The timber was warped, and the stone was cracked. Jacques wonders what this keep might have looked like when it was built; thinking that it’s decay was from improper upkeep.
He was soon met with a large wooden door. From the height of his head was a metal ring hang down, position in the middle. Jacques reached up, grasping the ring. It had weight to it. He lifted it and let it fall to the door. He did this three times.
He let go of the ring and waited. He hate not knowing what was to happen next, not able to anticipate the next action. He had never been more aware of his weapons, and his heartbeats were harder. He took a deep breath, in from his mouth, and out his mouth.
He could hear the door creaking. His anticipated someone to be opening the door, to be face-to-face with them. The door broke from the frame and swung open. Jacques looked in and found only dead air.
He questioned himself if he should go in, feeling his legs stuck in position. He closed his eyes momentarily, speaking to himself. He told himself that he had come too far just to stop; to not see this through.
He stepped in through the portal and walked into the keep. From the door, he walked into a large room. The room appeared to go to the second level of the keep, with a door positioned at the top of some stairs that went down towards the right in a curve following the room.
From beneath the stairs was an entry way into the room with another entry way matching it on the other wall. On each side of the doors were unlit torches, and high in the room was a chandelier of wood, with candles lit up.
Once he positioned himself in the room, the door behind him came closed with a loud slam. It echoed through the keep; certain the others must have heard it. His head turned towards the door and still saw no one there.
He turned back from the door to the room itself. Still no one to greet him. A moment later he heard a faint sound. He looked around to try to identify it. It grew in volume, echoing in the hall. He knew that it was coming towards him.
It was footsteps drawing close to him. He could tell the feet were not covered, knowing the noise would be louder had they been a boot slamming on the hard floor. Despite the noise coming from all around, he was able to narrow down the source from the entrance beneath the stairs.
What emerged from the darkness was a petite figure. At first it was only a shadow he saw. He felt that this enigma was no immediate threat to him, but given his surroundings; he kept his eyes focused upon it.
The figured moved from the darkness to light, and he was surprised to see a woman. Her hair was red, like the embers of a dying fire. Their eyes locked, and all he saw was seduction and hunger. Their gaze was but just a moment, but her eyes pierced his soul.
She broke contact with him, as she moved towards him. He then noted that she wore a long skirt that reached towards the floor, revealing her body, bare from her shoulder to her hips.
She was close now. Jacques could reach out and touch her. Jacques had no desire to do so, as he knew a Templar was not to engage with a woman sexually. His training ran deep, and as she moved past him, he did nothing. She walked to the opposite side of him and began to move toward the other entrance way, opposite of the one she came in.
Jacques turned his body in her direction, noticing her hips swaying side to side. He was unsure of what to make of this; a woman walking around half-dressed. She was clearly human. Jacques wondered if he was wrong about this place. She slowly moved into the shadow, merging with the darkness.
“Quite a lovely site!” a voice harkened from above.
Jacques was unaware of another person here and quickly jerked his head in the direction of the voice. Within a split second, he knew he wasn’t wrong about this as the smile of the man station at the top of the stairs featured fangs.
Jacques moves hands, one on the sheath and one to the hilt of his sword. He wanted to pull it out, but he stopped himself, waiting to see what would happen.
The vampire went from a smile to one of anger. “You come into my keep uninvited and you dare draw your sword on me? Here I thought Templar’s had manners.”
Jacques’s heart pounded in his chest. He still waited for the next move, though the yelling made him more ready for something bad to happen. Yet the words of this vampire rang in his ears.
“How do you know I’m a Templar?”
The vampire locked his gaze with Jacques. Jacques had never locked a gaze with a vampire for very long and had difficulty understanding those eyes.
“I can smell it. You reek of a warrior of the Knight Templars. A hunter of the order. I would revel in the thought of what that could mean, if not for your focus to be my enemy.”
Perhaps there was truth to the Popes words. Jacques’s eyes were still locked in, his hands held firm. Only his mind was detached, convinced himself to let go. It took some convincing; his training ran deep. It was one thing to not engage a vampire; it was another to let down one’s guard.
He gave his mind a hard slap, telling himself that if this were to be a battle, it would be one he would lose. Somehow, that did what he desired, and he let go of the sword.
The vampire’s demeanor changed back to what Jacques wager was a jovial stance. The vampire dressed in red, wore clothes of royalty, from a heavy coat to pants. His skin was pale, but still had some colour to it, contrasting with his black hair.
“Now with that out of the way… What are you doing here?”
“I am Jacques de Volker. I have come here seeking out your house. I wish to ask of your help.”
The vampire from above face turned back the way it had been a moment ago, “Really? You need our help when not more than a few hours back; you killed vampires within our territory? Is that how you ask for help; kill as a bargaining chip?”
Jacques felt a pull on his arms to reach for his sword, but he resisted the urge.
“Forgive me; I had not known they were yours. We saw a woman being attacked; our code is very specific.” Jacques boosted his voice a bit.
The vampire showed a smile once more, “Those things you killed were not of us. They are immature children who thirst for death and suffering. They are nothing more than savages, much like the rest of their brethren. I thank you for your good deed.”
The vampire began moving downstairs. “So my Templar Hunter, who sent you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You might be a Templar Hunter, but the Templar order is dead. Someone else is pulling your strings. I want to know who your keeper is.”
Jacques paused a moment.
“Pope Clements VI,” he said in a low voice.
The vampire bellowed a laugh, still moving down the stairs, taking his time. “I’m afraid the Pope has no welcome here. Since he is your leader, that means you have no welcome here either. I’m afraid you’ve come a long way for nothing.”
“It’s not that simple. People are dying out there.” Jacques wasn’t ready to leave yet. He understood the importance of this, and he would carry out his orders.
“Your people have been dying since you first learned to walk on two legs. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
“It’s more than that. Reports are coming in every day; people are dying, in the hundreds. Whatever the reason, it is spreading from village to village.”
“So sad to hear,” he stated, invoking a sarcastic tone. “What makes you think we can help you with that?”
“For the last few years, vampires have been growing in numbers. We believe there is a connection. That somehow the vampires are behind this.”
The vampire was now at the halfway point of the stairs, above the door the female appeared from.
“That very well may be. If only there was a fighting force trained in fighting vampires to deal with this mess.” The vampire locked his gaze with Jacques once more, this time with a gleam before he continued, “Oh wait, there was such a force. Then the Papacy turned its back on them. Now here you stand, the final remnant of that once great force. So… what would you have us do?”
“There are stories of your house; helping Charlemagne deal with the great vampire threat of Europe. Within the records of the Templar Archive, the story holds ‘for had it not been for House Melanthios, Charlemagne would not have driven off the vampires and Europe would be under their control’.”
Prior to this journey, Jacques had read the story several times. He felt he could recite it word for word.
The vampire was now at the foot of the stairs, but his gaze never left Jacques’s eyes. “So, you figured we did it once, we can do it again? See, the story I heard is that Carolus Magnus agreed to our own land within his vast empire, to be left alone. As soon as his family line came out of favor, the rules of the order he left behind ran us out. An injustice that never been corrected.”
Jacques had been familiar with that part of the story. Details filled in by the Pope. In telling him this, he prepared a papal bull to be delivered upon arrival. Jacques retrieved that from his purse and held it out for the vampire.
“I was ordered to give this to you.”
The vampire moved within Jacques reaching distance and took it. It was folded up neatly, containing a metal seal hanging from it.
The vampire holds it in his hand for a moment before speaking, “What does it say?”
Jacques’s hand was shaking. He had never been so close to a vampire before and yet here he stood. His instincts were strong to pull out his stake or his dagger and stab him.
Jacques responded, “I don’t know.”
The vampire gaze narrowed. “You lie. You might be able to lie to the Papacy, but it is much harder to lie to a vampire.”
Jacques maintain his contact with the vampire’s eyes. “It is not my place to read it.”
The vampire turned from Jacques’s eyes and moved towards the door beneath the stairs. With a swipe of his hands, the torch came alive with fire. There, keeping his distance from the flame, he jabbed the papal bull into the flame.
“Tell me Templar, what does it say? Or would you rather be responsible for the death of millions, the fall of the Papacy, and your family?”
Jacques let out a heavy breath. “Fine.”
The vampire quickly removes it from the fire and turns his head back towards Jacques.
Jacques continues, “It states Pope Clements VI, will grant you the original agreement set with Charlemagne. You will be given sovereignty and your own lands. This is contingent on the defeat or removal of the vampire threat from our lands.”
The vampire head moved to the side. “Hmmm… I’m impressed. The Papacy is more desperate than I gave him credit for. However, I really don’t see this as being our problem. It was your kind that turned on my House. Vampires take over; I don’t see anything happening to us.”
Fortunately, the Pope had anticipated this response. “I do not believe that to be true.”
“Oh?” the vampires questioned.
“We have evidence from a raid of a vampire camp stating their intention of coming after you once we humans have been dealt with. The vampires view you as traitors.”
“Is that so? Did you happen to bring this evidence with you?”
“No,” Jacques said with slight distress.
The vampire just looked at Jacques. Jacques had never found such a document stating that, but the Pope told him that he would need to say this. Jacques maintained a tough front; however, he feared that the vampire would see right through the deceit.
The vampire broke the silence. “I guess that does change things. It’s a shame about the Papacy; he must have great regret for what he did to your forefathers so many years ago.”
“That was a different Pope.” Jacques has said that many times before in defense.
“Was it? Are you sure about that. Perhaps the man has change, but the office remains the same.”
Jacques had no response to that. The vampire himself remained in silence. Jacques could hear the flame burning, and his own heart, beating like he was in battle.
The vampire started to walk across the room. “I must say; I am quite surprised that someone related to Jacques de Molay would be working for the organization that turned their back on him and his men. Let him burn on the stake as a heretic.”
Jacques brow furrowed, “How did you know I was related?”
The vampire returned a smile to his face. “Aside from your name?” The vampire let in a big puff of air through his nose before he said, “It is the way you smell. Vampires have an excellent nose for human blood. In fact, we can smell the blood of distant relatives several generations apart. It’s a smell from long ago passed, but I know you are related. Funny… he never mentioned having children.”
Jacques brow went up, with his eyes opening wide. “You met Jacques de Molay?”
“Oh yes. He came here, much like you. Of course, he had so much bravado to him. Even his enemies bowed to his presence. I can honestly say I’ve never met another human such as he.”
“Why did he come here?” Jacques asked.
“Same reason you did. Though his request was for Jerusalem. He wanted the Templars to return there, to fight off the Mongolians in the area. He knew that the vampires were backing their campaign, even if the Mongolians didn’t know it themselves.”
“What did you say? Did you agree to help?”
“The Templars, Like the Teutonic Knights, had always left us alone. They honoured the agreement with Carolus Magnus, unlike the Papacy and the power behind it. We told him if he could get authorization; we would provide him help. However, he was not to mention us to King Philip IV. The King… was not to be trusted.”
Jacques was confused by his meaning. He was left wondering what he had meant by that. Then knowing everything that happened during that time, he began to wonder. “Do you mean that the King was…?”
“I simply mean he was not to be trusted. Look at what happened instead.” He looked down at the papal bull. “I need to discuss this with the Elders. You will have an answer by morning.”
The vampire moved to the stairs.
“Begging your pardon?”
The vampire stopped and looked at Jacques. “Yes?”
“I have some men with me. They could use shelter for the night… perhaps food.”
The vampire bowed his head. He was silent for a moment before he spoke, “Do your men know why they are here?”
Now it was Jacques who bowed his head in silence.
“That’s what I figured,” the vampire stated. “Under the circumstances and given how quick you were to reach for your sword, I’m afraid they must remain outside.”
Jacques moved his head back up. He understood what the vampire was saying. “I will then send them to town.”
“No,” the vampire spoke harshly. He then collected himself before responded to his declaration, “They will remain here. They are free to setup a fire if they wish. They are welcome to sleep by their fire. You have my assurance that no harm will come to them. You, however, are free to come in as you wish, but only to this room. When a decision has been reached, I will send for you.”
The vampire then begins to move up the stairs.
“Wait… I didn’t get your name.”
The vampire turned to him once more, again with his smile, “Oh, where are my manners? You are free to call me Harlan.”
I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.