The Lost Treasure of the Templars

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9780451466464: The Lost Treasure of the Templars

The national bestselling author of The Lost Testament returns with the first novel in a thrilling new series about the powerful secrets of the Knights Templar—and a conspiracy too shocking to believe.

In a quiet English seaside town, antiquarian bookseller Robin Jessop has acquired an odd medieval volume. What appears to be a book isn’t a book at all, but a cleverly disguised safe, in which she finds a single rolled parchment, written in code.

For encryption expert David Mallory, the text is impenetrable. Until an invaluable clue opens the door to a mystery, and a conspiracy, stretching back seven centuries, when the most powerful man in Europe declared war on the most powerful clan, the Knights Templar.

Now, Jessop and Mallory find themselves on a global hunt for an unsurpassed treasure and this much closer to the keys to secrets that could change history, topple an empire, and bury them both alive. Because they’re not only the hunters. They’re also the hunted.

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About the Author:

James Becker is the national bestselling author of The Lost Testament, Echo of the Reich, The First Apostle, and The Messiah Secret. He spent over twenty years in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. Throughout his career he has been involved in covert operations in many of the world’s hotspots, including Yemen, Russia, and Northern Ireland. He writes action-adventure novels under the name James Barrington and military history under the name Peter Smith in the UK.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PRAISE FOR JAMES BECKER’S NOVELS

ALSO BY JAMES BECKER

SIGNET

Prologue

Acre, Palestine

May 1291

“We have no choice. We agree or we die. All of us. It’s that simple.”

Pierre de Sevry, the marshal of the Knights Templar in the Holy Land, rested his left hand on the pommel of his sheathed battle sword and looked around at the assembled company. His white tunic, bearing the unmistakable symbol of the order, the bloodred croix pattée, which had been used in various forms since 1147 to signify membership of this illustrious company of warrior monks, was ripped and torn and heavily stained with blood, some of it his own. His plate armor was dented, holed, and scratched from the almost continuous close combat that had been a daily feature of the siege of Acre since the first Mamluk attack on the city.

The Mamluks—an elite caste of warrior slaves who had fought for the Egyptian rulers for over a century—had assumed power in Egypt a short time earlier, ending the reign of the descendants of the great Muslim leader Saladin. Thirty years earlier they had utterly destroyed a Mongol army at Ain Jalut, south of Nazareth, and had been undefeated ever since. By any standards, they were formidable opponents.

A deep voice cut across the suddenly silent chamber.

“For myself, I would be happy to give my life in this glorious mission.”

De Sevry looked at the knight who had spoken, a man he knew had acquitted himself with conspicuous valor over the last few days, and nodded.

“None of us doubt either your courage or your resolve, my brother, and all of us have been prepared to give our lives for the honor of God every day since we arrived in this place. But I have no wish to sacrifice myself or any of this company to no purpose. We are a mere handful of men, less than two hundred strong, and by our latest count the sultan Khalil has mustered an army of over one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, not to mention his siege engines and catapults, and his miners who are probably even now tunneling somewhere in the ground under our feet. Even if each of us in the coming battle managed to slay five hundred of the enemy, there would still be well over fifty thousand of them left. This is a fight that we simply cannot win, no matter what we do or how courageously we conduct ourselves. If we decide to fight, then it is inevitable that we are also deciding to die. And if we die, then the only chance the forces of Christendom have of regaining the Holy City will die with us.”

De Sevry paused in his grim recitation and again looked around at the company of his most senior knights, a bare dozen men whom he considered his brothers in Christ as well as his most trusted comrades in arms. All of them looked haggard and wearied by over six weeks of unrelenting and utterly brutal hand-to-hand combat, facing the teeming hordes of Mamluk attackers who had thrown themselves, wave after wave, against them.

From the very beginning, the sultan’s siege engines and catapults had been raining missiles down on the city, their target the massive outer wall surrounding Acre. The wall was studded with ten separate and formidable towers, the principal entrance tower possessing walls almost thirty feet thick, a huge structure that had looked utterly impregnable to some of the inhabitants. But that hadn’t proved to be the case.

As well as the knights of the Templar order, the beleaguered garrison included Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights, and a joint force of Templars and Hospitallers had barely repelled a determined attack by the Mamluk soldiers on Saint Anthony’s Gate on May fifteenth. But already the writing had been on the wall: the siege was only ever going to end one way, and all of them inside the fortress knew it.

Three days later, a sound like distant swelling thunder had echoed off the old stones of the city walls as all the war drums of the Mamluk attackers had been sounded simultaneously, the noise growing rapidly until people within the city were almost deafened. And then with a suddenness that was almost shocking, the drumming stopped and there was the briefest of instants of total silence.

And then the screaming had started, the awe-inspiring sound of tens of thousands of voices bellowing their battle cries to the heavens. Then line upon line, wave upon wave, of Mamluk soldiers had begun running headlong over the rough ground toward the fortifications, converging on the battered structure from all sides simultaneously, their unsheathed swords glinting like a sea of silver in the rays of the morning sun. Above them, the sky had darkened as tens of thousands of arrows had flown overhead, the archers targeting the soldiers waiting on the walls. It had been the beginning of an unrelenting and all-out assault on the city.

And of course it wasn’t just the Mamluk soldiers that the defendants faced. The sultan had assembled an array of siege engines, massive catapults, and trebuchets that could hurl rocks ranging from the size of a man’s head up to massive boulders three or four feet in diameter that might require a dozen or more men to lift into position on the weapons.

The moment the war drums had fallen silent, the siege engines had fired, the rocks arcing up into the sky before plummeting to earth with devastating force, obliterating anything they hit. For a whole number of reasons, the weapons were inaccurate, but there were so many of them that accuracy was not really an issue. Even the handful of boulders that had smashed into the inner wall of Acre’s defenses had been enough to cause significant damage, and most of the rocks that missed this target had slammed into the area beyond the defenses, causing utter carnage among the soldiers and civilians who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the impact area.

The first breach on one of the towers—the so-called Accursed Tower—had occurred that day, and immediately the attackers had swarmed through the opening driven into the wall, forcing the beleaguered Christian defenders to retreat to the next line of defense, the inner wall, fighting all the way.

And it had been on that very same day that the tragic event occurred, which had unexpectedly thrust Pierre de Sevry into the position of commanding the few remaining Knights Templar.

Guillaume de Beaujeu, the grand master of the order, had been taking a brief rest from the fighting when he was told that the Mamluk attackers had actually forced their way inside the city. Without pausing to don all his plate armor, Guillaume had immediately rushed out and taken his place at the forefront of the defenders, as was the norm for Templar grand masters, wielding his double-edged battle sword to lethal effect against the swarm of Mamluk besiegers.

In the heat of the battle he had raised his weapon to strike down another attacker when an arrow slammed into his body underneath his upraised arm. His full armor would probably have stopped the missile, but the mail he was wearing was insufficiently strong to deflect it. The arrow had delivered a fatal wound, and he had died within the day.

The next most senior officer was de Sevry, and when Guillaume de Beaujeu had drawn his last breath, the marshal of the Knights Templar reluctantly assumed the mantle of leadership. But it was clear to all the knights that there was very little chance de Sevry would retain the title he had inherited for very long. Or, at least, that had been what everybody believed until a few days later, on May twenty-fifth, when an unarmed emissary sent personally by the sultan al-Ashraf Khalil had arrived at the gates of the Templar castle with an unexpected offer.

Unexpected, because the Mamluk forces had very quickly gained the upper hand after the outer wall had been breached. The less substantial defenses of the inner wall fared little better, the first crack occurring in the area controlled by the Hospitallers, a battle during which their grand master—like Guillaume de Beaujeu, a man who had commanded his troops from the front—was seriously wounded. Mamluk forces had poured into the gap created in that wall, and then the besiegers had managed to open the Saint Anthony Gate, allowing them unfettered access to the interior of the fortification. At a stroke, hordes of the attackers had swarmed inside, indiscriminately slaughtering soldiers and civilians as they did so.

The battle had raged on the open ground inside the wall, but the outcome was never in any doubt: the city was going to fall. Fighting every step of the way, the defenders were forced back before the waves of determined Mamluks, retreating to the safety of the sea and the handful of boats that still remained, or taking refuge in the Templar castle, the last unbreached redoubt.

The Mamluks had quickly gained the upper hand, and the streets and buildings had echoed with the howls of agony of the wounded and dying. For those who were unable to hide or make their escape, no quarter was given. As soon as the city had been secured and the fighting largely over, the Mamluk soldiers had worked their way steadily down the ranks of prisoners, dragging out all the men and the elderly of both sexes, as well as the infants, and summarily executing them. Young boys and women of childbearing age were spared, only to be clapped in irons to be later sold as slaves, or worse.

But despite the overwhelming superiority of numbers and the resources of the besieging army, one single building, the Templar fort at the southern extremity of the city, still stood, massive and solid, somehow having managed to resist and repel every attack the Mamluks had launched against it.

Most of the Templar knights, the pitiful few still left, could have escaped by sea—the fortress possessed its own guarded access to a small loading dock where a handful of boats were still moored—but that option had never even been considered by de Sevry and his colleagues for one very simple reason: the other people in the fort. Even before the outer wall had been breached, a ragged and desperate clutch of women, many with their infants and older children in tow, had taken refuge in the fortress. The creed of the Templars was simple and inviolate: one of their duties was to protect the innocent, and there was insufficient space in the boats for everyone to escape, and so they had vowed to fight on to the end.

The fortress had held out for five days, the final obstacle standing in the path of the sultan, and still the massive outer walls showed no signs of crumbling under the almost continuous assault by the siege engines. And this failure by his troops to eliminate the last remaining group of enemy soldiers had clearly rankled with the Mamluk leader, for on the sixth day the assaults had suddenly ceased, and a single unarmed figure, carrying a white flag of truce, had walked up to the immense wooden doors that guarded access to the castle.

It was the offer that man had conveyed that the Templar leaders were now discussing. If the sultan was to be believed, and not all of the Templars assumed that suggestion was a given, then in return for handing over the fortress, the Mamluk sultan was prepared to allow all the women and children sheltering inside the fortress to leave the building unharmed. Not only that, but he had also stated that the Templars themselves could walk out, with their weapons and anything else they could carry. It was a remarkably generous offer, and that was why the Templars were immediately so suspicious of it.

They all knew, as, presumably, the sultan also knew, that eventually the fortress would fall. No building or garrison could hold out forever, and especially not against such overwhelming odds. The Mamluk leader was perhaps getting impatient or maybe, as one knight suggested, he wanted to avoid any further deaths among his own men, though the way he had conducted his campaign suggested that this was extremely unlikely to be a consideration on his part.

“I do not trust this infidel,” another of the knights stated flatly. “What is to stop him cutting us all down the moment we leave the safety of the castle?”

“Nothing,” de Sevry immediately admitted. “They could slaughter us all within seconds. But that might almost be preferable, a quick death in the open, fighting man to man, rather than being crushed beneath the stones of the walls of this castle when the siege engines finally finish their work.”

Again he looked around at the other knights. Every one of them met his gaze unflinchingly, their expressions hard and determined.

“If we accept this offer,” he continued, “there is at least a chance that we can leave this place with the women and children who have entrusted their lives and their souls to our care and protection. If we reject it, then both we and the innocents will surely die and, as I said before, the one true religion that we serve will lose the last hope of ever regaining the Holy Land.”

He paused for a moment. “I know this is a heavy burden to bear, as you will be speaking on behalf of your fellow knights who do not have a voice in this matter, and a difficult decision to make, but the envoy requests and requires an answer, one way or the other. So what do I tell him?”

For a few seconds, none of the armored knights responded. Then one man took a half step forward.

“I am unconcerned for my own life,” he growled, “but our master is right. We have accepted into our charge and care the innocents, the women and children who have taken refuge within our fortification. If we do not accept this offer, then they will surely die or end their lives as slaves. If we agree to leave this castle as the Mamluk has requested, then there is at least a chance that we can continue to offer our protection to these people. I vote that we accept.”

De Sevry noticed that several of the other knights had nodded agreement at the man’s suggestion.

“Very well,” he said, his gaze resting briefly on each member of the company in turn. “Am I to assume that that suggestion is acceptable to you all? If not, speak now.”

No dissenting voice was heard, and the newly elected grand master himself nodded.

“Very well. Resume your posts, my brothers, and have the sultan’s envoy brought before me. I will address him myself.”

*   *   *

Within the hour, a group of roughly one hundred Mamluks, a significant force and each armed with both a scimitar and a curved dagger mounted on a belt worn outside his robe, strode boldly toward the closed doors of the Temple castle. But before they reached it, de Sevry, who had been watching their approach from the crenelated wall above the gate, ordered it to be opened, as soon as he was satisfied that only this group of men was close enough to enter the building.

The Mamluks swaggered inside the fortification, looking around them with interest at the battered and bone-weary defenders who had held out against their attacks for so long. Like the Crusader knights, many members of the Templar order spoke at least some Arabic, but when the leader of the Mamluk group made his first demand, none of the knights present would allow it. But duri...

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Descripción Softcover. Estado de conservación: New. The national bestselling author of The Lost Testament returns in a thrilling new novel that uncovers the powerful secrets of the Knight Templar—and a conspiracy too shocking to believe.In a quiet English seaside town, antiquarian bookseller Robin Jessop has acquired an odd medieval volume. What appears to be a book isn’t a book at all, but a cleverly disguised safe, in which she finds a single rolled parchment, written in code.For encryption expert David Mallory, the text is impenetrable. Until an invaluable clue opens the door to a mystery, and a conspiracy, stretching back seven centuries, when the most powerful man in Europe declared war on the most powerful clan, the Knights Templar.Now, Jessop and Mallory find themselves on a global hunt for an unsurpassed treasure and this much closer to the keys to secrets that could change history, topple an empire, and bury them both alive. Because they’re not only the hunters. They’re also the hunted. Nº de ref. de la librería 113568268

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