In Book II, The King of Terrors, Sir Ramsay is finally allowed to present his request to the full council for consideration. Once the request is made, the Council erupts in bitter dispute, which sets in motion a chain of events that carries through the entire Assassin Chronicles series. In light of our recent troubles with the budget deficit and the bitter disputes in Washington, DC at this time, I sincerely hope that we will not have to wait until Armageddon to settle our debt crisis. LOL!
He had waited seven years for this opportunity. The last hour and a half had been by far the longest part of those seven years.
Standing slowly, he bowed his head slightly to the Grand Master, who returned his acknowledgment with the barest nod, aggravation now quite evident in his face.
“Honored Brothers, my request is simple for I am but a poor Knight of Solomon’s Temple,” he began with a rhyme that was not lost on his Brothers. It was also something that irritated his French Brothers because, as they said, English was not a proper language in which to conduct official business, but the prodigious amount of wine that Ramsay had consumed during the wait, had made it quite mandatory to speak English and make the joke. It was meant to engage their attention at a different level and to ease the tension in the room. The well known fact that Sir Ramsay had no sense of humor made his opening words even more outrageous. Dambretti smiled, but no one else dared bat an eye. How could they know if it was an accident or intentional? “I am honored and privileged to address this body so expeditiously and graciously assembled at my urging.” Ramsay paused briefly to allow this barb to sink its teeth in the Master’s craw before continuing. “I do not know how much has been said about the incident which occurred some seven years past now, but I do not intend to recount it here to you. I have paid for my transgression and received justice as you all well know and accept that justice as quite well meted out,” he paused again and glanced around at them.
There was no mirth in his eyes. There was no mistaking his tone or expression this time. His words were carefully metered. His Scottish accent almost imperceptible. Here was the Oxford graduate. Not the simple alchemist he usually claimed to be. “There is a pressing matter I wish to address and I wish to make it as straight-forward and simple as possible that you may consider it without troubling yourselves overmuch. My petition is this: I would request that that the Primitive Rule of Order be modified especially in reference to article number sixty-nine. I beg to request that it be changed to read ‘If Brothers of the fraternity should request to be married, we permit you to receive them on the following conditions: that after their marriage they will continue to perform their duties as set forth by the Council of Twelve, without regard to the welfare of wife or child, thereby setting duty to God first, fealty to the Order second and responsibility to family third.’
The rest of the rule may remain intact as it truly has no bearing on this gracious assembly, since none ask to join us from without, thereby precluding the possibility of a married man requesting to join in this our inner fraternity of Twelve. We…” he paused as an audible murmur arose from the assembly. There were no discernible words, but more a slight shifting in the seats and rustling of clothes accompanied by the seemingly audible verbiage, but yet without words. When silence returned, he continued “we have changed the Rule in the past. There is nothing preventing us from changing it again. Esteemed Brothers, I table the motion at the Master’s discretion and your pleasure for amicable discussion wherewith we might learn the yea or nay of it.”
He finished his simple statement and resumed his seat. At first, no one moved. The assembly could scarcely believe that his address was over. His words seemed to echo endlessly in the marble chamber.
Sir Philip Cambrique took the floor after a considerable pause and a nod from the Master. He looked at Ramsay as if he had lost his mind in spite of the fact that he already knew what he was there for. It was as if he had not really expected Ramsay to make the request after all.
“The Chevalier du Morte, has put before us a request most unusual in its nature, but a request none-the-less as is his right to do as a member of this hallowed Council,” the Knight of the Orient actually whispered these words in English, forgetting that French was the preferred language for Council meetings. “The Grand Master will now hear your words concerning his request if you have such.”
None of them wanted to be first, but several of them obviously had something to say on this matter. It was quite evident in their faces.
Lucio Dambretti, never having had the occasion to demand the floor in all his years of assembly, took his cue from his latest and most enduring example and banged the table with his closed fist in the manner of the archaic method employed by the Knight of the Apocalypse, much to the chagrin of the Grand Master who actually jumped when the sound reverberated through the chamber.
“Chevalier Dambretti,” the Master intoned his name and honorary title slowly and cast a rueful eye on his Knight of the Golden Eagle. Here would be Ramsay’s staunchest supporter.
Lucio was surprised that the man had addressed him by a proper title and made a mental note to bang on the table more often. He did not rise since responses of this kind were somewhat less formal than the opening reports. Instead, he leaned back and placed one elbow on the arm of his chair, assuming the air of the penultimate Sicilian godfather. He had learned the trick from one of his favorite American movies starring the late, great Marlon Brando. His posture baffled most of his Brothers, but was not lost on Mark Andrew who had been forced to watch the movie at least a dozen times with the Italian during the long, dark winters in Scotland. The Scot’s face darkened with embarrassment.
“Honored Brothers and Excellent Master,” Dambretti began slowly. His expression remained solemn, but the hint of a smile played around his dark eyes. “Since none of you will speak first, I will lay my neck on the table in support of my Brother, Mark Andrew Ramsay. I support his request wholeheartedly.” Dambretti had to pause as the table erupted in an unlikely display of unsolicited comments of short duration no doubt brought on more by his cavalier attitude than his support of the petition which had been fully expected.
The Grand Master, unwilling to allow the debate to go unchecked, also took up the outdated method employed by the Apocalyptic Knight and banged the table, calling for order when the verbal call to order of his Seneschal failed to stem the tide of the impromptu discussion. “Pray continue, sir,” he told Dambretti with barely repressed anger as he perceived that the Knight of Golden Eagle had stood up, indicating he had more to say.
“I had the dubious honor of meeting and speaking with the root cause of Sir Ramsay’s request. She is a lady most charming and most lovely to look on.”
D’Brouchart had to bang the table again as another outburst followed his words.
“That she loves or loved him at the time of that meeting, there was no doubt. She professed it to me herself.” He glanced at Mark Andrew. This was his way of apologizing and setting the record straight. “That she was instrumental in helping us to find and free our Brothers, Simon d’Ornan and Konrad von Hetz, from a most terrible fate, is to be considered a deed most worthy of honor and gratitude if not a place at this table.” Dambretti had somehow managed to strike a pose similar to the Magician in the traditional tarot cards with his right hand raised toward heaven and his left index finger pointing at the table in front of him as he spoke. “As God is my witness, I would place my life in her hands again willingly if the occasion demanded.”
When another eruption threatened, the Master held up one hand and warned his Knights that another outburst would bring disciplinary charges on the perpetrators.
Dambretti thanked the Master profusely and continued.
“Miss Meredith Sinclair also risked her own life on two separate occasions while aiding our beloved Brother when he was in grave danger through no fault of his own. These were not the actions one would expect from a casual acquaintance or a wanton slut as some here would describe her.” He took time to glance pointedly at Sir James Argonne, who shifted in his seat and glared at him with open animosity. “It is my personal, considered opinion that Miss Meredith Sinclair was guilty of nothing concerning the crime perpetrated on our beloved Brother Ramsay by her companions. I do believe, however, that Miss Meredith Sinclair was as much a victim of the twisted plot to extract secrets from Brother Ramsay as Brother Ramsay himself. Not only was she exploited by her unscrupulous companions, she was stricken…” the Italian slammed his right fist against his left palm to emphasize the word ‘stricken’. “Stricken by the arrows of Eros. None can say or know by what divine hand such things occur. The lady is deserving of not only the gratitude of the Order for having preserved the life of our esteemed Assassin, but she is worthy of his love and devotion.”
“Mon dieu!” Sir Argonne, exclaimed, unable to repress his feelings any longer. It had been he who had referred to Ramsay’s American love interest as a wanton slut, not once, but several times, even in the presence of the Italian Knight. Fortunately for the stout little Frenchman, Ramsay had not been in attendance on those occasions.
D’Brouchart cleared his throat and stood up. He nodded to the Seneschal and Sir Cambrique scribbled Argonne’s name in his black book. Argonne would be fined for his lack of control. The room fell deadly quiet. Even Mark Andrew cast his eyes down at the table upon hearing these words spoken aloud. The Scot was not surprised to hear that his esteemed Brothers had resorted to name calling and self-righteous indignation. There was no love lost between himself and James Argonne. It was Dambretti’s other revelations that made his cheeks burn. He had known that she had risked her life by following him into the desert in the middle of the night, but he did not know she had risked her life on some other occasion for him. Nor had Lucio ever told him that Merry had professed her love to him. He made a mental note to ask Lucio about it in private.
“Sir Dambretti, that this woman should help you or those honorable Brothers you have mentioned, is not in and of itself worthy of changing the Rule which has stood us in good stead for over eight hundred years. I would apologize to the Chevalier du Morte for the vulgarities of errant Brothers if such language has been directed toward the young woman in question. Such things should not have been uttered within this hallowed hall or between Brothers. My apologies, Sir Ramsay,” the Master rebutted Dambretti and apologized smoothly to Mark Andrew at the same time, attempting to head off any trouble between his Knights. Sir Ramsay nodded his head briefly in acceptance and d’Brouchart continued. “Certainly, her actions would demand respect and gratitude, but Sir Ramsay must not feel obligated to marry her simply because she helped him in his hour of need or else we would have all married each other by now several times over.” The Grand Master’s attempt at humor was utterly lost on most of the Knights. None of them would risk having their names written in Cambrique’s black book.
“That is not what I meant, your Excellency, with your indulgence, I may explain,” Dambretti deferred to the Master and then continued without waiting for permission. “I meant to say that she is worthy of Sir Ramsay’s love. She is or was a good woman of pure heart with little guile and no malice, Good Sirs. Is it not my duty to know these things? Does not the very nature of my gift allow me to see beyond the obvious? Would you trust me to give counsel during war and yet disparage my advice concerning love? Are not those two subjects almost interchangeable?” Lucio paused briefly and raised both eyebrows as several heads nodded in agreement. “What transpired in America betwixt Sir Ramsay and Miss Valentino was none of her account. She did what she could to correct the wrongs as soon as she perceived the nature of them. I am merely attesting to her character. What I am trying to say, Honored Brothers, is that she would make a good wife for him if he is determined to have one. I would ask the same question as written in the Holy Scriptures, but in relation to the sins associated with the love of women for those of us who find it in our hearts to love them: ‘Wherefore are we counted as beasts, and reputed vile in your sight?’”
“Hold, Brother!” The Knight of the Throne finally burst out loudly. His name was already in the book. He was beyond caring what fine might be levied against his considerable bank account. The burly historian narrowed his blue eyes in consternation. Sir Argonne was known for his hot temper and rigid sense of morality which applied only to the non-French members of the Council.
“I yield the floor to my Brother out of concern for his financial future,” Dambretti nodded and smiled wickedly at the distraught man. The rivalry between them had started during Napoleon Bonaparte’s despotic career. Argonne had actually supported the little tyrant in Council, supposing him to be nothing more than an over zealous countryman who would soon calm down. Dambretti had attributed the man’s idiotic reasoning to sympathy from one short Frenchman for another.
“Speak, Sir Argonne,” d’Brouchart turned the floor over to the Chevalier du Trône and resumed his seat. Dambretti remained standing as the man rose to face him across the table.
“The scripture he quotes has nothing to do with the love of women,” Argonne began and looked up and down the table in dismay. “The history of the Order clearly shows that involvement with the weaker sex has always led to the most devastating of consequences. I can recite endless accounts of such associations leading to nothing but despair and regret. Did not Brother Ramsay’s transgressions with this woman lead to deadly consequences already? Who among us does not still mourn the death of our beloved Thomas? If Sir Ramsay’s intentions were honorable, then how was it that we were required to administer the Twelve of Twelve to reward his actions? Can we not readily assume that his sins, though punished, are not regretted? That he glories in his transgressions and would re-live them with our blessings?”
The Apocalyptic Knight pounded the table.
“Ritter von Hetz,” d’Brouchart recognized the dark Knight quickly, hoping for some relief and Dambretti sat down. Argonne stood sputtering for the space of few short moments and then sat down as the Knight of the Apocalypse rose from his chair and leaned his knuckles on the table, regarding them all, one by one, from beneath his dark brows.
“Brothers! I must remind you all in the presence of our beloved Brother Ramsay that he was not being punished for his transgressions with the woman in question. His sins were confessed and forgiven long before he came to accept the judgment of the Master of this Council. It was I who shrove him of those sins on the hilltop in America. The incident to which Master Argonne refers was not a result of his action or inaction in America. He was found guilty of altogether separate charges to which he freely confessed upon being questioned. And those crimes were committed in ignorance for the greater part in circumstances extant at the time. He was convicted by his own admission of a crime or rather, of crimes committed in times long past. He cannot be convicted again and these crimes can no longer be held against him now, nor legally brought to the attention of this Council. He suffered his punishment as befitting a noble Knight of this assembly. We will not be reminded of them!”
The Red Cross of Gold II:. The King of Terrors, Templar Fiction, $2.99 at Amazon.com, also available at Smashwords and in paperback. The first book of the series The Knight of Death is currently free at Smashwords.
The King of Terrors http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3236
Brendan Carroll @ Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Brendan+Carroll