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Through the window of her dirt-floored hovel, Éliane watched as life once again returned to the city. She saw churls of every degree, husbandmen, herdsmen, mechanics, household servants, all returning to their work. These were men who would have once sought entry into the Order as serving brethren. As in a layman's life, they may well have suffered inequity next to their knightly brethren. Yet in every outward regard, serving brethren were still members of the Order, cloaked by its inviolability and entitled to its privileges.

Men also joined in the hope that crusade might provide them with heavenly salvation. Not so any longer. Papal aggrandizement in Italy had devalued the divine currency of crusade. Now men sought the safer path to heaven with a short service at home in the quarrels of the Church. Investment and enthusiasm in the Holy Land had all but evaporated, with the public’s estimation of the Order evaporating along with them. Philip’s untimely accusations only added to the growing disquiet.

The populace was already rife with grief and indignation toward the Order. Éliane knew the feeling all too well. After all, she was here only by virtue of the Order’s inglorious activity in recent years. Philip himself may be a snake, but he was a snake perhaps justified in his misgivings. The Order had failed in its duty in the East, losing the Holy Land and failing to reclaim it. And when royal politics compelled the Templers to undertake an expedition in the Byzantine Empire, they seized the opportunity to plunder the shores of Thrace and the Morea and carried the booty home to Cyprus.

As much as Philip or Clement were responsible for the state the Order found itself in, the Templers themselves were as much to blame. Yet in spite of these ignominies, Éliane was carried here by other reasons. Reasons which were less well known, or if known, less fully understood throughout Christendom. The details of the incident, like so many things within the Order, were kept secret. In her mind, the wounds of the schism were still fresh, only seven years old. Her son was a constant reminder.

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The End

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