The ruins of the little fortified chapel stood in sun-bleached relief against the azure blue sea. An on-shore breeze ruffled the coarse grass of the promontory to which the Knights Oracular had retired, after the disastrous Battle of Hattin ended the Second Crusade.
While other Orders scuttled back towards Europe in disarray before Saladin’s conquering armies, Grandmaster Bernard Desmouches led his small band of heavily armed clairvoyants to this obscure outcrop on the Levantine coast.
They built their lodge and in its cellar buried whatever pillage they managed to retain. They hid their mail coats, broadswords and axes. And kept their heads down.
Lacking the commercial skills of the Templars, the militarism of the Teutonic Knights and the pastoral vocation of the Hospitallers, the Knights Oracular relied chiefly on their gift of Second Sight. They told the fortunes of passing travellers and whenever they saw trouble ahead, they kept out of the way of it.
Passers-by saw only a community of raggedy, wild-eyed hermits, shuffling round on an uncomfortable rock overlooking an indifferent sea.
They had always been regarded with distrust and derision by their more assertive brothers-in-arms. And, as history is written only by the winners, they have disappeared from all chronicles of the Crusades. The current vogue for the Templars and the Grail, conspiracies amongst the early Church and lost testaments has failed to dislodge them from obscurity.
At last a famous author stood amongst the fallen stones of their final refuge. He observed the scratched symbol of the open mouth (often misrepresented as a vagina) on the cornerstone. He picked his way down to their cellar, with a hammer and chisel, to unearth their secrets and their remaining treasure.
The last remaining, spindly buttress fell in on him, killing him instantly.
They’d seen it coming, of course.