No Naked Ads -> Here!
No Naked Ads -> Here! $urlZ
St patricks gargoyle, p.12
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       St. Patrick's Gargoyle, p.12

           Katherine Kurtz
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

  Chapter 13

  A collective gasp whispered among the gargoyles- quickly stifled - as the rainbow glare died down and they could see again. No one had been expecting an archangel or, indeed, any other angel of great seniority - at most, some middle-ranking angelic messenger delegated to follow up on the rather puzzling inquiry of the previous night.

  Before them, however, arrayed in all its glory, was one of the fiery, six-winged seraphim described in the Scripture reading most of them had heard only a few hours before, who normally passed their time attending close by the Throne of Heaven. Many-eyed and four-faced, the highest-ranking of all the angelic host, they were said to number only four in all Creation, and almost never came down to earth.

  Accompanying the seraph was quite a ferocious-looking gargoyle no one had ever seen before, with an elegant dragon head, magnificent curling horns, and swooping bat wings. The arrival of so august a pair caused quite a stir among the relatively provincial gargoyles of Dublin, but Paddy decided he was not going to be all that impressed.

  "My companion is the senior gargoyle from Notre Dame de Paris," the seraph said, apparently seeing no need to identify itself. "I trust that the required information has been obtained."

  All the other gargoyles deferred to the gargoyle of Christ Church Cathedral, who shuffled forward a few paces and inclined his great gargoyle head.

  "As instructed, Venerable," he said. "I and two of my colleagues carried out a personal investigation. We are able to confirm that the head of the crusader mummy at St. Michan's Church has not been stolen. There was interference with another head - that of a child - but it was recovered and has been restored to its proper resting place. Damage to that crypt seems to have been attributable to mere vandalism, and did not involve the crusader's body at all."

  The seraph turned some of its many eyes on the Notre Dame gargoyle, who looked very relieved. It made Paddy wonder what made a long-dead crusader so important. Or had there been a complaint about the job they were doing here in Dublin?

  "May one ask," Paddy said boldly, "why this was deemed sufficiently important to send the two of you? We of the Dublin Watch do take pride in the way we guard our charges; and while it is true that an act of vandalism took place, I would point out that the location in question lost its gargoyle some years ago, as have several other properties. Nonetheless, the rest of us do continue to guard as best we can."

  The Notre Dame gargoyle raised one elegant claw in a gesture intended to reassure his Irish brethren, for Paddy's remark had taken on an increasingly defensive edge.

  "Please, no criticism is intended," he said. Though the language spoken among the denizens of heaven was no earthly tongue, the French gargoyle's words were tinged with the accent of the land where he was assigned. "We of the Paris Watch are hoping that the problem is largely one of our own jurisdiction, but it could have reverberations here. We still cannot be certain that it does not."

  "What problem is that?" Audie asked.

  "Simply this," the Notre Dame gargoyle replied. "Some nine centuries ago, there was formed among the sons of humankind an order of crusader monks called the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, or the Knights Templar. Their ostensible mission was to guard the pilgrim ways in the Holy Land, and to make war against enemies of the Faith-which, for the next two hundred years, they did most admirably.

  "I say 'ostensible mission,' because they also had a less public and far more important spiritual agenda which remains a vital bulwark in mankind's defense against evil- but this was known by only a few. What was known was that the order had amassed enormous wealth and power, because their military successes inspired generous donations from pious patrons. This led to envy and resentment and, eventually, to their official suppression. Among the many spurious charges brought against them was that of idolatry."

  The word evoked a mutter of shocked indignation among most of the assembled gargoyles, for idolatry was a serious offense against God.

  "But, they weren't idolaters!" the Custom House gargoyle blurted. "I know they were accused of worshipping a head," he added, as all eyes turned toward him, "but it simply wasn't true."

  A gargoyle from the Dominican Priory muttered, "Well, someone has finally mentioned a head," and the one from the Pro-Cathedral asked, "What does this have to do with any of the heads at St. Michan's?"

  "With luck, nothing," the seraph said, rustling fiery wings as it took back the floor. "But heads are the key to the larger picture, because the charge of idolatry did, indeed, involve the alleged worship of a head, which was sometimes associated with the name Baphomet."

  "Baphomet?!" the Leinster House gargoyle sputtered. "That old demon?!"

  "I thought it was bound aeons ago!" the Trinity gargoyle chimed in.

  "If you will allow me to finish..." the seraph said mildly.

  Further speculation ceased at once.

  "The charge that the knights venerated a head was always specious, but it did contain a grain of truth, for certain of them were, indeed, involved in secret activities surrounding a head associated with the name Baphomet. The Baphomet was and is a demon by that name; but the Templars were not worshipping it - they were working powerful magic to keep the Baphomet bound."

  A collective murmur of consternation whispered among the assembled gargoyles, ceasing as the seraph flexed a fiery wing.

  "It was, in fact, King Solomon," the seraph went on, "who, under instruction from Archangel Michael, trapped the demon and bound it in a head-shaped receptacle which he secreted underneath the Temple of Jerusalem. There it remained undisturbed for several millennia.

  "But what man crafts is transient. The binding gradually began to weaken - and since its keeping had been delegated to man, in the person of Solomon, it could not be taken back. So Holy Michael instructed certain pious French knights to go to the Holy Land, where they would discover a sacred task to be accomplished.

  "The founders of what was to become the Order of the Temple uncovered the relic during excavations beneath Temple Mount, along with other treasures of both the Seen and Unseen world. Again instructed by the archangel, they renewed the binding on the Baphomet and entrusted its ongoing maintenance to a secret inner cadre of the order they then founded. The worldly treasures they had found would provide a financial basis for their future success as a crusader order, and the treasures of the Unseen world gave them power to wage war against less palpable powers of Darkness."

  "Would that the story ended happily," the Notre Dame gargoyle said, taking up the thread of the narrative. "Though the order earned a well-deserved reputation both for military prowess and financial acumen in the next two centuries, its wealth inspired jealousy, which led to its downfall. The fall of the Temple put its hidden work into grave jeopardy - so grave that scattered survivors of the order's inner circle undertook extraordinary measures to ensure the continuance of that work.

  "This they did by inserting key survivors into some of the other religious orders of the time, especially the other crusader orders, so that certain common prayers and meditations could be channeled toward maintenance of the Baphomet's binding. This did not detract from the other work of these orders; it simply enabled the Temple's hidden work to continue, even though most of those performing it were not aware of the full scope of the benefits.

  "That work continues to this day, in the hands of the descendants of these crusader orders - who, by extension, can be reckoned as the spiritual descendants of the Temple - little though most of their members have any real inkling what greater purpose is served by their prayers and meditations and even their good works, in the guardianship of this world against evil."

  "Yes, yes, they are all faithful servants of the Light," the seraph said a trifle impatiently. "Unfortunately, the gradual dilution of their conscious focus has resulted in a weakening of the binding thus effected - a happenstance of which the forces of Darkness cannot be unaware, especially now, when the long nights hold their greatest potency and the cosmic resonances of t
he approaching millenium make many things unstable. Without reinforcement, the binding can be broken - which would loose the Baphomet upon the world."

  "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold," the Trinity gargoyle murmured close beside Paddy, in an almost reverential tone. "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Yeats," he added by way of explanation, at the seraph's look of faint annoyance. "He was a poet, a local chap- used to hang around at Trinity sometimes. I don't suppose he was one of your closet Templars, was he?"

  The seraph merely flashed its many eyes in exasperation, perhaps considering whether the Dublin gargoyles had been stationed here too long, and were picking up quaint Irish attitudes. Paddy snorted.

  "Forget about Yeats," he said. "I want to know what that head at St. Michan's has to do with anything."

  "Perhaps nothing," his Parisian counterpart replied. "Or at least, not directly. The Baphomet is bound outside time and space, but the physical focus of its binding - the head-shaped reliquary - was taken out of Paris at the time of the order's suppression, along with many other treasures of the Temple. Most of these treasures were loaded aboard the galleys of the Templar fleet and dispersed to various locations thought to be safe - as, indeed, most of them still are."

  "Except that, lately, certain signs have been detected to suggest a cautious testing of the bonds that bind the Baphomet," the seraph interjected, flexing a wing at its companion. "Concurrently, a number of known Templar sites have been disturbed - graves, in particular - and corporeal remains have been taken away. Heads, to be more precise.

  "Given the Templar connection, and the fact that the Baphomet is bound in a head-shaped reliquary, we must consider whether, under direction by the minions of Satan, someone is searching for the remains of some Templar of the former inner circle, who knew the binding - and the unbinding - of the Baphomet. If one could be found, there are ways to summon back that man's soul and compel him to reveal how this can be accomplished."

  "Just a moment, if you please," said the gargoyle from the Pro-Cathedral. "It sounds like you're suggesting that our crusader at St. Michan's is one of those Templars."

  The Notre Dame gargoyle looked faintly embarrassed, and the seraph ruffled all six of its wings.

  "I fear the threat is even more serious than that," the seraph said. "The principal Templar stronghold on this island was at a castle called Clontarf, not far from here - which, in case you had ever wondered, is why so many gargoyles were assigned to this city. The physical resting place of the Baphomet reliquary lies beneath the ruined church that served the castle."

  Blank astonishment greeted this revelation, followed by a flurry of muttered gargoyle speculation that did not end until the Christ Church gargoyle drew himself to his full height and lashed his snaky tail.

  "Someone should point out and I guess I’m elected- that no one stole the head of our crusader mummy, even if he was a Templar. Which is not to say that there's no danger from someone else coming along with darker deeds in mind, but we can certainly assign rolling guard duty there, while we sort out the situation at Clontarf Castle." He nodded to the St. Audoen's gargoyle, who immediately headed off to do just that.

  "What will that involve?" the gargoyle of the Four Courts asked. "Sorting out Clontarf, that is."

  The Notre Dame gargoyle glanced at the seraph, but kept silent before the burning regard of its many fiery eyes.

  "What is required," the seraph said, "is to reinforce what holds the Baphomet at bay; for that binding has decayed, and urgently needs reinforcement. Only a human can do this: a man of faith. Having delegated responsibility for that binding, we of the angelic orders cannot take it back. And best if he be a warrior such as those who served the Temple of old."

  "But, it's been nearly seven hundred years since the Pope suppressed the order," said the gargoyle from the Dominican Priory - who had cause to know, since Dominicans had helped to torture and interrogate the knights, and had burned the last grand master at the stake. "They don't exist anymore."

  "The Freemasons have Knights Templar," the Leinster House gargoyle said thoughtfully. "I've seen them going in and out of the Grand Lodge building in Molesworth Street, from up on the roof of the Dáil."

  The Notre Dame gargoyle puffed out his cheeks and snorted. "No disrespect for Freemasons - they do many good works - but they really aren't quite the same. Oh, there may be a connection, way, way back, with renegade ex-Templars - but I’m given to understand that a better choice would be someone from one of the old crusader or orders: the Knights of Saint John, the Knights of Malta, Saint Lazarus, the Teutonic Knights."

  Mention of the Order of Malta made Paddy sit up sharply - for Francis Templeton was a Knight of Malta. But before he could speak, the seraph ruffled the fiery feathers of all six wings.

  "There is a further complication," it declared. "Authorization has been obtained from Very High Upthrough no little bending of normal rules and procedures, it should be noted - to allow the summoning of your Templar to this plane, since he knows the procedure for rebinding the Baphomet. But the actual work must be done by a living human, according to the covenant made with King Solomon.

  "This presents two distinct perils to any wouldbe human ally, both of them potentially lethal. First, there is the danger inherent in the very act of rebinding the Baphomet - for we already know that the forces of Satan wish to see the binding broken and the Baphomet released. It is certain they will detect and resist any attempt to reinforce the present binding.

  "In our favor is the likelihood that any active assault on their part will not occur for several more days, until the time of the winter solstice, when darkness is most potent and the binding is weakest. Hence, a preemptive strike by our human ally, armed with the wisdom of Solomon, is likely to succeed before Satan's minions can respond in force - though he may well have to contend with at least a token resistance. In that, at least, he can enlist both angelic assistance and the aid of his Templar mentor."

  The gargoyles were mostly nodding silent agreement as the seraph continued.

  "Unfortunately, such aid presents its own dangers. Living flesh cannot long bear exposure to the glory whereby your ancient Templar is to be summoned and resurrected- yet bear it he must, if he is to achieve an effective partnership. And there is the further peril of prolonged close contact with our kind, which will be inevitable in the course of facilitating this arrangement. Even were he not to see your true forms with mortal vision, it is unlikely he could survive such exposure."

  As the seraph spoke, all at once Paddy understood the greater purpose behind his encounter with Templeton, who had already seen him with mortal vision - and why he had let himself get careless. Once again, he stood in awe before the all-encompassing scope of the Master Plan.

  "I may have just the man," he said, drawing himself up as every gaze turned toward him, including all the seraph's many eyes. "He isn't a Knight Templar, of course, but his name is Templeton - and he is a Knight of Malta. He's also basically a good man, a man of faith, who has lived a full life."

  "Please elaborate," the seraph said.

  Briefly Paddy told them about Templeton, and his assistance in recovering the silver stolen from St. Patrick's.

  "It would seem," said the seraph, "that you have grown fond of this human."

  Paddy inclined his great gargoyle head.

  "I have."

  "Yet you would condemn him to death."

  "All humans die."

  "But what you would ask of him almost certainly will hasten it."

  "I have already hastened it," Paddy said. "He saw me."

  "Ah."

  "But he takes his knighthood seriously," Paddy went on. "He'd want his death to count for something. It should count for something." He paused a beat. "Maybe that's why he saw me."

  "Perhaps," the seraph allowed. "How long was he with you?"

  "All day - maybe eight hours. And Death has already sent a Deputy to take him, but I pled special circumstances and asked for a stay. I've be
en given until the end of the year."

  "Then he has about a week," the seraph said. "Do you think he will agree?"

  "I won't know until I ask, will I?" Paddy replied.

  Chapter 14

  Templeton's Sunday had started somewhat more auspiciously than the previous day, for he woke before the family started stirring, and had nearly finished a quick breakfast of tea and toast before he heard movement upstairs. Aisling usually did a somewhat truncated version of breakfast before the family set out for Mass as a family at the local church, but she and her husband had again been out late at a Christmas party, and the boys had spent the night with friends.

  Nonetheless, he did not relish a repeat of the previous morning. By gulping down the last of his tea, he managed to get out of the house before anyone wandered downstairs, and decided to attend the eleven o'clock Mass at the Pro-Cathedral instead of his local parish. Hearing snatches of choir practice at St. Patrick's the day before had reminded him just how much he enjoyed hearing a good sung Mass - and it would postpone any further family rows, at least until the obligatory ritual of Sunday lunch.

  Warmly dressed, for it looked like more snow, he caught a local bus and reached the terminal at Bus Áras with plenty of time to spare, hobbling a little as he walked the three brisk blocks to Marlborough Street, for his arthritis was acting up a little, with the cold.

  It had been a while since he last attended "the Pro," as Dubliners called it. Its classical fa9ade was very different from the dark Gothic tracery of St. Patrick's. Built in the Greek Revival style, less than two hundred years before, its imposing portico was said to be modeled partly on the Temple of Theseus in Athens. It all but overpowered its setting. (It had been intended for the site now occupied by the General Post Office, two streets away, but anti-Catholic sentiment following the rebellion of 1798 had relegated it to the less conspicuous location in Marlborough Street.)

  Inside, all was white and gold and stucco and mosaic tile, airy and bright. Fluted Ionic columns marched down either side of the nave and continued around the apse, which was flanked by pedimented side altars to the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart, each with its arched golden canopy. Above the apse, an expanse of quarterdome bore a representation of the Ascension, its delicate stucco work picked out from a pale blue background.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment