The Templars Beneath Us part 1

The audio is available on youtube HERE (the following written version has additional edits)

The Templars Survive

 Beneath Us

A Knights Templar Creepypasta

By Sam B. Sears

Intro

I, Dr. Clive Bennett, am translating the following from letters written in Latin received by way of an anonymous drop off.  An accompanying short note in Italian, explaining the nature of that text, has prompted me to start a new volume of my research into the true nature of the earth, and the things that dwell within it.  As I add this account to my archive I will save the accompanying note until the end.

That “The Earth isn’t hollow, but porous, with each little pocket holding something wonderful, terrifying, or both,” is a reality I became aware of in Alaska. My family and I, having fallen through the ice into an abandoned underground village, discovered what we soon realized was the journal of a deceased cryptid hunter that began with those very words. Needless to say, the contents of that journal and that whole experience has changed the course of our lives.

I am now chronicling all the information I can find in handwriting, typed text, and in audio, as a part of my growing library of knowledge of the porous earth. I’ll be duplicating this information in many places, to ensure it survives into the future. If this volume is found first, I don’t know what has happened to me, but I urge whoever finds it, to seek out my full library.  If my foundation, Rahtio, were to fall, someone else would need to protect the people from the things chronicled in my journals.

For this volume, I must warn you, it seems that among other things the porous earth holds, that centuries ago, Templars found something deep within the earth, that can live in and control our very bones. 

 Read the following words from Baruch, a scribe of the Knights Templar.

Prologue 

I have been ordered by Sir Gerard Van Bloome, a commander of the Knight’s Templar to record the tragedy I have experienced, as well as inform you of the contents of the small chest I’ve sent you.  Given the importance of this record and the spiritual nature of the event detailed within, I suspect you will want to bring it before the eyes of even the Pontiff himself. 

The chest is curiously unique in style. Seemingly made with blue dyed wood, and brandishing silver supports. Its vibrancy may draw you, but do not open the chest.  If you were to hold it, you would notice how light it is, even for its small size. Even after reading about its contents, it may be best to never open it, but if you do, do so with caution. I must urge you, do not listen to the contents of the chest. It will speak, your eyes will be drawn to it, but you must remember: whatever it claims to be, it’s deeds, and the deeds of those under its influence betray its true intent.  

The messenger before you is my trusted friend, Alfronso, a fellow scribe and translator in service to the Knights Templar.  I regret that I could not deliver the chest, and its supernatural contents to you myself, but seeing as how I witnessed the path to the location of the events recorded within, I have been sent with a new group of Knights to pursue those who slew my companions. and hopefully reconnect with Sir Gerard himself, who even now is journeying deep into what we learned is called, “the porous earth.”

What follows is outlandish, otherworldly even. It may be tempting to open the chest to verify my account at various points, but do not succumb. Not only have my companions been slain, but I have even seen corpses profaned by macabre powers, and I don’t wish that upon you. I know with such a lofty claim coming from an admitted servant, I must first briefly tell you my story, as a way to attest to my loyalty. They call me Baruch, though it is not my name. 

Before I was called into service, I grew up among my people, whom you call Mohammedians, although as one who knows both cultures and several languages, I can assure you the people of my birth do think such a name highly irreverent. I lived in a small village with a nearby Christian monastery.  They had lived there peaceably for some time before my birth.  Sadly, peace came through intentional and mutual avoidance. When a famine came to our village, the Christian monks came to our aid.  The act of kindness and offer of stored grain allowed some of the distrust to be placed aside and trade between our peoples opened. They grew various vegetables that we lacked, some herbal medicines and spices as well as weaved clothes. Together our plates were more diverse and bodies warmer in the winter when we worked together. 

After an unfortunate accident with one of our donkeys, my father had difficulty getting around, so I took our goods to the monastery for trade from the age of 5. I would lead one or two of our donkeys carrying the sacks of grain on their back all the way to the monastery. I was nervous when I first arrived, seeing its high walls, and the pale complexion of the men who stood at the gate. They greeted me with warm smiles, and freshly drawn well water in a wooden cup. 

I made fast friends with those curious neighbors. I played with young Afonso, an orphan boy my age, in their care, and learned from the elderly Abbot Maine and eventually knew all in between them. At first, I could barely communicate since I only knew a few words in their native tongue. But their gentility and patience coaxed me to come out of my shell. They would smile and play and listen, and my proficiency grew by leaps and bounds. At times, I even felt like a scholar myself when they invited me to teach them my language. They taught me, and I taught them, and then something marvelous happened.

Few men in my village could read or write even in our own tongue. When I saw young Alfonso being taught to read, I was curious. I had accepted without question that the older monks could, Alfonso was close to my age, having come to the monastery as an orphan.  He looked just as interested in learning as he did when we would play, laugh and dance while I tarried after trading goods.  He was deep in his study. I caught him this way, because I had come at a different time of a day, having been detained by other duties.  He invited me to sit beside him and see the words he was learning. 

By the time I was 10 I was reading and writing both in French and Arabic. The monks were willing to help me grow in my own language, as well as theirs. Amongst their beautiful high ceiling rooms were many books which they freely gave me access to. My father was a moderate and peaceful man, never brought it up, he was no doubt aware of the longer and longer stays at the monastery.  I enjoyed this time of peace and learning, and now take pleasure in knowing both cultures and several languages. However, this time of peace and learning came to an end with the death of our village cleric.

This new Cleric was the brother to my mother, and was in our home often.  Something about the man always bothered me, so without having been told to do so, when I was gifted with my own little library, I hid them, and read them only when I could sneak off between morning prayers and chores. Our house was near the outskirts of the village, so I could travel and climb some ways up a nearby mountain and trust I could have privacy.  They had given me a copy of a prayer book first, and eventually they gave me some of the Holy books.  The monks would quiz me about their content when I would see them, and they would ask to learn more about the Holy books and writings of my people.  It was peaceful, until my uncle discovered what I was learning. 

Once he had assumed the role of cleric, he called for greater separation from those outside our race and religion and began to test us for our loyalty to our God.  The previous cleric had seemed so peaceful. He was devout, but less brash, and in some way, I suspect that was because he was less fearful of others, and more knowledgeable. He was a far cry from my uncle. 

My fiery uncle soon began to inquire about my time with the monks, asking why I was helping them unload our goods and talking with them. In truth, they unloaded everything I would bring to allow me more time to read, and I only had told my uncle I was doing more work, to excuse his questions about how long I was taking. 

When famine came again, due to poor weather, my uncle, the cleric, capitalized on the opportunity to widen the borders of our village. He even set sights on the monastery and claimed that land too, belonged to us. The monks, he claimed, would need to pay a tax on the grain we had previously been trading with them. My Uncle stated that land they owned ultimately belonged to us, because they were from another country and people, and they must pay a percentage to us for any business down here, even trade with our village.  Even now, I think my uncle was sincerely concerned about the village, making sure they would have food, but he wasn’t concerned about anyone who wasn’t following him. The monks continued to trade with us, but my uncle wasn’t satisfied. With an eye on their celibacy, my uncle didn’t appreciate that they cared for their own, considering the needs of our village of growing families to be greater. Increased people meant increased needs and the trade was harder to balance.

We traders found ourselves escorted by my uncle’s forces, compelling us not only to bring less to trade, but to demand back  some of the previously delivered  grain. In addition to the one-sided  trade conditions, he demanded the monks pay a tax on all their commerce with travelers and other villages as well.  When the monks tried to refuse, he stated he would station tax collectors in the monastery at all times  to insure compliance.   

I can still remember Abbot Maine, looking at me, as he was surrounded by his most senior monks. His eyes conveyed sympathy, and I believe he pondered suggesting me as a representative, but my uncle pointed towards our village’s best swordsmen as the lead enforcer. The monks told them they would need to pray, and their gates were shut. No trade happened that day. 

While the divisions of men now seem petty in the light of what I now know we face,  even then, I was old enough to know the tension would not easily be relieved. My uncle’s interrogations about the monastery were relentless. He fired off question after question. He wanted to extract from me every detail of my time there—from the size of the windows to the number of the monks, and of course, he wanted to know what weaponry they housed. I knew what he was planning.

With trading halted, I clung to my books, and I prayed. On the fourth day after my uncle’s ultimatum, I came down from reading and praying, and  into the center of our village. I discovered my uncle speaking to many men who had assembled around him.  The men charged as he spoke of outsiders and their danger, and my eyes were distracted by an object above him. It took a few seconds to realize my uncle was standing  proudly in front of what he presumed to be an  accomplishment, a monk’s head on a pike. It has haunted my dreams all these years, and now another severed head is likely to be the source of future nightmares for me, and maybe for you. I speak of course, of the severed head contained in the chest before you.

That day, so long ago, I had backed away sheepishly, full of shame and sorrow. I stumbled my way home, stopping only to retch. My heart was racing, but I dared not run. I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself. As I entered my door, I found my father. He embraced me, and said, “My dear boy, you didn’t take all your books with you this morning, and your uncle knows.”  I felt finality in his hug. “You must know what is coming next.” 

I did know, but my father did not want to deal with my perceived shame upon our family in the same way our uncle would. Even my uncle blamed the monks for corrupting me. The monk he had killed was sent on a mission of peace, but upon torture, admitted they had even given books to a village child. My Uncle had already suspected me. My father was supposed to turn me over to my uncle when he found me, but instead, he sent me to warn my friends. I collected my books, and headed to the monastery. I was there for an hour before a raiding party came. The same doors that quickly opened for me, were shut and barricaded after my warning.

Abbot Maine bid me, and Alfonso joined him in his office. He used my real name then, but knowing someone named Mohammed would stand out among those serving the church, and the Knights Templar, I would eventually adopt Baruch as my new name. He was the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah and it fits my duties. It was the Abbot, who was ultimately responsible for that path.  Given my prowess for learning languages quickly, He offered to send me, as well as Alfonso, to another monastery, to escape what was coming, but also, so we could be trained as scribes and have work beyond the toil of the farms, work that would use my mind to the potential that kind old man saw in me. 

I never saw my family or that monastery again.  I hadn’t even settled into a new and bigger monastery, when I had been sent word of the devastation that occurred shortly after I was sent out a secret back passageway. Over the next decade I took comfort in learning and reading, and the church saw fit to assign me to a group of Knights Templar.  

In my small village I had never heard of “The poor fellow soldiers of Christ.” I learned of the order’s foundation and the desire to protect pilgrims who journeyed to Jerusalem, especially after repeated treaty violations that had attempted to keep the peace without swords. This piqued my curiosity. The Priest who connected me with the order, hoped I would be an aid in translating between the increasingly diverse knights, sergeants, and servants, even teaching them Latin if they didn’t know it, and translating between them and the pilgrims they protected on the roads to Jerusalem and even the Bedouin bandits, many of whom spoke my original Arabic.  I hoped that with some commonality I could prevent bloodshed between multiple peoples, all of which I view as having a sacred right to life. I hope that language itself could be a way to unite people. I also hoped for adventure, and learning new languages and encountering new people, but couldn’t fathom finding the contents of the chest I sent along with this letter or the events that befell my party.

Chapter 1

It began with a reassignment of sorts. I had served my commander, Sir Gerard Van Bloome for nearly a year. Besides myself as a scribe and translator, our small band had one squire, Thomas, 1 Sergeant and 3 brave Knights. Because only the commander and I spoke German he often enjoyed a break from French and Latin and would issue my orders in his native tongue, which created a special bond between us. We had returned from an attempt to negotiate a peaceful travel agreement and with gifts for our treasury, when we were diverted to a small village near the Cueva del Gato cave system. I was already hopeful that I could meet with Alfonso whom I knew was nearby, but my hope to see a friend in person, that I had long kept up with via letter, turned to a plea for help. 

I was the reason we were reassigned, and I feel guilt for that now. The higher knights in the order, thought my ability to speak and read German, Arabic, French, English and Latin would make our band most prepared for a mysterious challenge reported by the villagers in the area. 

The villagers believed Arabic raiders had camped in the nearby caves and were digging up bodies to use in their evil pagan practices.  Villagers reported not only disrespectful exhumation of bodies, but also disappearances of travelers. Tales circulated of a shadowy man with a head covering, and Arabic grab, who had failed to capture a few travelers, but seemed to survive both sword and arrow.  

The knights were not as well versed in Muslim theology as I am. I assured them, they would not be grave robbing, and many groups of people wore head coverings. It sounded to me as if this was a job for an exorcist priest, not a band of knights.  Sir Gerard agreed, but would not disobey an order. 

While I write this, I mean no disrespect to those in a greater station than myself, but in this instance, my commander should have respectfully questioned his orders. The people demanded the Knights Templar, because the name of this fairly young order is growing rapidly. I pray our successes do not lead to pride or the neglect of other important parts of the body we call the Church Catholic. Here I confess, my ink, and my tongue are often more bold than appreciated, but given what we now face, unity and wisdom in response is needed all the more.

While we were no exorcists, we were suspicious of the nature of this reported man.  While we came to help, it was the burden of the local priest to convince us we were the right tools for the task. Upon arrival he received us with a banquet for us and safe lodging for our horses. 

“I admit” he told us “It was me who started the theory, it was more than one person.” He wasted no time in explaining the situation. “When more than one report of what seemed like a fatal wound to a would-be abductor came to my ear, I felt it most likely, these wounds were fatal, and that multiple attackers best explained all the evidence. Perhaps they recover their collaborators if fallen.” 

After a night’s rest, we were shown disturbed  graves nearby. The Priest informed us they were now a week old.  While investigating a crime scene was not our usual assignment, we had tracked bandits before and discovered some foreboding anomalies.  The local priest had kept mourners away from the cemetery. We were told it had rained prior to the night of the grave robbing, but not since. The earth was soft, and easy to dig, making the latest burial an easy target. No tools were left behind, but there were clumps of the freshly dug now dried earth leading away from the defiled grave. 

 Perhaps in their fear, the local investigators thought the area showed someone walking towards the grave, digging, and removing a corpse, but this was a fresh body, there was no groove from dragging the corpse, no wheels to carry the dead weight, and perhaps most concerning, it seemed that while there was only one set of footprints heading towards the grave, there were two sets of the muddy clumps forming a boot trail away from the grave.  We discussed what we saw as privately as possible, unfortunately we had drawn an audience. It seemed the whole village wanted to see what we thought, or perhaps, just see us. 

I’ll admit, seeing the knights in the mail, helm, and white tunic with a bold red cross, had once been an exciting sight to myself as well.  I can still recall the impact of Alfonso and myself seeing our first Holy warrior. The reflection of the sun on the metal helmet and chainmail surrounded them with an aurora.  Their allegiance was clear from the moment you saw the scarlet cross, and when not in the field, the white of their cloth surcoat was pure, drawing a contrast to those who couldn’t afford such clean and fresh garments as well as symbolizing vows of chastity.

To this village, we were likely just as impactful. Our unit had permission to use larger, more central red crosses than the earlier small red cross over the heart, and despite recent travel the whites of our knights were fairly pristine compared to the dull browns and faded yellows and tans of the village.  These were simple folk, eeking out life near the edge of a mountain and nestled by forest and nature. We were exotic travelers, and I can’t blame them for curiosity.  

Members of our party responded a bit differently to the attention. Hugues, Jacques and Thomas appreciated the attention, while Andre was awkwardly shy, preferring combat to conversation. A child was able to break him out of his reserved disposition, when the young boy asked about his visible scars.  Another boy heard tales of far lands and unique people from Thomas as he was asked about our horses and he would share where we got them, and he happily explained which each were for. The horse carrying our helmets and shields received the most adoration from the children because of his beautiful mane and strong defined build. His name was Big Sebastion. Thomas told his tall, of how he was once little for his age, and yet brought warmth to his village by his kindness. He was a gentle giant and would nudge his owners to assist in carrying the load of bigger horses. They thought his heart was golden, so they gave him to the Templars as an offering. 

My own horse, Spot, didn’t have as fanciful a tale, but had a single black patch on his brown fur near his rear, hence the name.  One little girl thought the spot almost looked like a heart. While not as likely to nuzzle you as Big Sebestian, Spot was also a sweet animal, although I wasn’t as sentimental as Thomas. I was thankful, and kind to them, but these were beasts to me, they were friends to Thomas, and he loved to tell their stories to the kids just as much as he enjoyed telling them stories of the knights he served with, and hoped to join as a knight himself when his training was complete. 

Adults too had plenty to ask, and we humored them in hopes of gaining more information. Of course, questions from kids and adults overlapped, as some of the younger villagers had yet to grow out of a boldness that gets tempered by aged civility. They asked why Thomas, our squire, and Xavier our Sergeant wore black instead of white. Thomas, being an apprentice, could one day switch to white, but we explained that the famous white cloaks were for all, but the white tunics or surcoats were only for noble born knights.  I was questioned on my unique brown surcoat. I explained I was given the special privilege as a non knight servant of the Templar, to wear it, and it was fashioned as a gift from a patron in Jerusalem. Normally it would not have been allowed, but since I technically was not a knight, a sergeant or a square, and was truly loaned to the Knights by a monastery, it helped designate me for my unique role. 

I served as translator, and focused my attention on remembering the shared tales of mysterious sightings in nearby woods, and visitors to the village such as traveling traders, suggesting the nearby caves in the mountain as the hideout for some sorcerer who was plaguing them. One local villager informed me that their village, Nuevo, was actually reclaimed from an abandoned village and that his grandfather was one of the original resettlers. He had grown up hearing that one day the original inhabitants might return and then he proposed that the recent kidnappings and grave robbings might be their vengeance. Many felt it reflected the tension between Christians and Muslims, and the violence was some devious plot to have demons aid in the conflict. I found most of their theories unlikely, and the information alarming but not particularly helpful. It turns out none of the people who spoke to, nor myself, could have imagined what the truth actually was. 

  I’ve never been known as short winded, and though I was only recently allowed to have an expensive set of mail, I’m certain I am most costly to our group, as I’ve expended far more than the value of armor and weapons in spilled ink and spent parchment.  I’ll spare you further details of our investigation, as by now your eyes are likely drifting from my letter to the chest before you, perhaps even hearing a noise from within. 

The obvious destination was the Cueva del Gato cave entrances closest to the village. It was a day’s travel, and another 2 days of searching before we found a clump of dirt at a cave entrance that seemed to match what we found by the disturbed graves.  Sir Gerard ordered the horses staked, and we entered, expecting bandits, and perhaps some trickery, not realizing that for most of us, we were seeing the sun outside for the last time.  

The village church had provided ample provisions, and being aware of our destination a torch was at the ready. Thomas, our squire, held a pack of food, but followed us, rather than guard the horses. Our commander knew some of these caves were deep, and wanted Thomas, and the provisions, available. Upon reflection, given the abductions reported I now wonder if he also wanted to prevent any of us from being alone, and thus easy targets. 

Thomas gently patted on Big Sebestian, a common favorite among us, due to his gentleness. He bid him farewell with an apple slice, and  took up position behind me, as we entered the cave, single file, Sir Gerard first, then Xaiver our sergeant, who despite his common birth and lack of title, really served as second in command for Sir Gerard. They were, followed by the 3 other templar knights; Jacques, Hugues, and Andre, and then myself and Thomas in the rear.  While Thomas and myself did each have a sword for protection, they were last resorts. 

The knights had left their shields behind due to the potential close quarters we might encounter in the caves, but a blade was both offense and defense in the hands of a templar. The cloaks were also left behind, there was no need to sully them in mud, and it was common to leave them off for battle, at least for our small band. Sir Andre also insisted on bringing a mace in case we encountered anything “that needed breaking.” My tool was not the sword, but the ability to translate if needed, and a need did arise, although I could not fully meet it. 

Evidence of travel through the cave system was obvious.  The entrance was wide and easy to navigate, under a large but eroding overhang. The rocks scattered about were minimal, and vegetation slim. The cavern opened spaciously and we could see piles of rocks and loose dirt as we journeyed further in. Sir. Hugues suggested that there may have been mining in the cave.  This seemed confirmed by more and more obviously resettled dirt as we entered into the cave. We could see numerous prints, some boots, some bare feet, and some … skeletal, all littering the loose soil. 

The knights kept their swords at the ready, and we marched deeper in. The open cavern expanded and rounded back to an end in an almost spherical manor, as if it was a large womb.  We reached a tunnel entrance from which numerous foot traffic had clearly occurred, and it was large enough for 2 men to enter side by side. This marked our entrance into a series of descending tunnels consisting of easy to traverse paths. 

Sir Gerard and Xaiver both held small torches. We smelled their burning mixed with the stale air, but we could still breath well. We used their light to examine each divergent path we encountered, choosing the one most traveled. It’s hard to know how far we descended, but our patience for continued silence eventually weighed thin. It was Xaiver who finally broke the silence. 

“Sir, How deep will we go?” 

“However far we have to Xaiver. I sense it too men.” Sir Gerard addressed the tension we all felt. “We don’t know their numbers, and we should have encountered someone by now, but we don’t know if they have other ways in and out of the cave, and even if we caught them elsewhere, we need to see what they are doing in here.” It was a fair assessment. An outside ambush may have taken longer and we would still need to journey in.

Sir Gerards flames eventually illuminated a change in the tunnel walls. We saw a reflection as if there was moisture evenly spread on the walls. It was also clear that they had become more square, and were no longer natural in shape.  He carefully examined the change and motioned for me to come forward. 

“Baruch, what do you make of these?”  He motioned with his torch towards carvings on the wall.  The walls themselves appeared to be made out of shiny black bricks. Each Brick was large and its edges were impossibly sharp, and their precise joining seemed to leave no gaps.  The walls themselves were not wet, but reflected the light as if they were. The carvings themselves were dull but as I traced my finger in them, dust gave way to show white and red pigment within.

 The carvings weren’t any language I was familiar with, but their mere presence indicated we had moved past some old cave tunnel and into a man built structure.  They were deep and intentional, weathered at their edges. They had been there, and this structure we were now transitioning into had been there a long time. They weren’t of a make I was familiar with, and the layers of dust were thick. The pigment within must have stained the actual rock they were made of to still be visible. 

Judging from the edge of the ceiling and floor, the piles of dirt, in the cave entrance, were likely from here, as well as further in. This was an excavation.  It was imperfect so far, but I now guess this was because those workers who did so, were looking for specific things, both specific carvings, as well as doors.

Gerard took his right hand off his sword hilt and scratched his chin as if his ponderings could add to my own powers of examination. I realized I had been examining them for some time, but unfortunately, I had few answers. 

“I don’t know about the language sir but…” besides the foreign text there were also pictographs. “Maybe they realized whoever might find this, would need additional aid. This picture here” I pointed a little past him. “Seems to show figures of men digging.” 

As we moved about the tunnel, we began to see a story take shape, even without understanding the words associated with the pictures. They seemed to be instructions to dig, for what looked like a book or tablet with a large eye on it.  I theorized, “This place holds a great treasure of some importance to whoever wrote this. These might be instructions or warnings.” 

As we examined the wall, we found pictures of all sorts of beasts, some known to us, others mythical in nature. Much of the images repeated with different, and still foreign to me, text beneath it.  We were engrossed when we heard something coming from further inward.  A rhythmic thumping and odd rattling. 

The light of torches gave us away, and the oncommer had no light of their own, so we were at a disadvantage.  He could no doubt see us, but we couldn’t see him at all.  As Sir Gerard and Xaiver passed the torches to Thomas and Myself, swords were drawn.

“Who goes there?” Sir Gerard first asked, then commanded after a few more rhythmic thumps and rattles, “Speak I command you, by order of the Knights Templar.” 

The silence weighed on time itself, slowing it, forcing us to draw deep breaths. 

No answer came, but a crude cart full of dirt, with a single wheel emerged into the light. Its user pushed it forward far enough that the end of its handles remained shrouded in shadow and gently set its load down. 

We could hear footsteps from the worker as they shuffled sideways and emerged around the right side of the cart, a brown boot entering into view first. The steps were slow and deliberate.  I tried by sheer mental will to force them to accelerate, just to see who would approach templars, sword drawn, without speaking a word. 

As light bathed the approaching stranger, no mystery was revealed. The person was covered head to toe. Loose fighting and dirty clothes hung on a thin frame and a plain hood with crude eye holes cut into it that completely covered their head.  Their arms remained at their side, no weapon, not even a tool was visible in their gloved hands.

“Can you not speak?” Sir Gerard asked, sword thrusting forward.  Xavier stepped forward, to put himself between this man and his commander, his sword stretching forward. Still this mysterious man walked forward.   

“Answer the commander! Or We will strike you down.” Sir Jacques’ threat elicited no fear or verbal response, but the man did respond in the most unexpected way. 

With a sudden surge, the man rushed forward onto Xaiver’s blade. We all gasped, but the man was unphased. His hands shot up from their sides around the Knights arms, pushing off his helmet and diving his gloved thumbs into his eyes in one fluid motion.   I saw blood shoot from Xaiver’s eyes as Sir Gerard’s blade plunged through the man sideways.  I was stunned to see the point erupt from the other end with no blood. 

Sir Hugues took out his arm at the elbow with a swift swing, but the hand still grasped Xaiver’s face as he struggled and fell, tripping over his own helmet that hit the ground.  Even with two swords piercing him, our foe didn’t utter a sound. His right arm remaining intact, released from Xaiver as he fell, he used it, to grab his victim’s blade and soon pulled out and wielded Xaiver’s sword. Again there was no blood on the blade.  He adjusted into a defensive posture and stood ready to receive another blow. 

He blocked an incoming swing, then another, but he was surrounded and eventually a blow connected with his neck and his body crumpled as his masked head flew through the air. A bare skull exiting the hood before it impacted the ground. 

 Xavier came first.  His cries echoed through the tunnel, as he came to grips with his new blindness. Blood and gore seeped from his eyelids now swollen shut. There was little we could do to comfort him beyond prayer. We propped him up against the wall to rest and heal. Next we turned to the fallen attacker. 

Sir Gerard removed his sword and examined the body. There was nothing inside the clothes besides bones.  We stripped away the clothes while keeping our eyes alert.  The bones had slightly changed, they felt thicker, and were fused together at the joints.  They were dry and lifeless now.  We should have quickly examined the skull, but we did not instantly. We were distracted as we took it all in, that error cost us. 

By the time we got to the skull, we noticed a slimy patch from it and my eyes traced it towards Xaiver.  He had grown quiet as we had examined our attacker, but as My eyes found his lips, I heard a groan escape him. The torch I held in my hand revealed not only his weeping eyes, but the continued trail of slime from the skull, all the way to Xaiver’s mouth, and I caught just the slightest movement, at his lips, as if he was retracting his tongue. 

“What was that?” I’m not sure who said it, but we all thought it.   

“Xavier?” he answered Sir Jacques with only a gurgle.   His head then began to rock with a slight twitch. He moved the back of his head, his short helmet matted hair running along the carving littered walls.  The rocking picked up pace as his face twisted in pain. 

“Is he going mad?” Sir Andre’s usually calm voice wavered and shook, betraying the effort he was making to conceal his fear. 

The rocking stopped as he vomited forcefully covering his tunic to over a foot forward past his own boots. Although it came in one flow, it was a mixture of pink, green phlegm, clear fluids and deep red. It dripped and seeped into his chainmail. 

Our wits were demanded of us quickly, as we heard a recently made familiar sound repeat, and then again.  Down the corridor more workers rested their carts and began their slow deliberate walk forward. 

“Their heads!” Sir Gerard ordered, as the others joined him in an aggressive assault.  Andre chose his mace as a crushing weapon. Thomas and I provided illumination with our torches. Our knights needed it, but it did not seem these miners did. Thankfully the minors were unarmed and our party was able to take each one down quickly, and soon 6 had fallen.  While sirs Gerard, Jacques and Hugues each decapitated their opponents, it had taken more than one swing as the workers dodged with surprising speed, but like any unarmored man, a single connection with the neck was all that was needed. 

Andre’s method saw him swiftly end three foes as he rushed forward to them, and used the mace as a downward bludgeon driving the first skull into its torso like it was a sharpened spike into rotted wood. The middle opponent received decapitation with the brunt force of a sideways swing of his mace. His final victory came like the first, with bone shards flying visibly from the impact. 

It was worth the risk to test my concern. That line of slime that came from the first fallen skull looked like it belonged to a large snail or slug.  I went to Andre’s last victim. His hood was simple as well, and having removed it found the shattered skull fragments inside, but they had been protecting something besides a human brain. 

It was not entirely unlike a brain. I had seen artist depictions, and witnessed grievous head wounds on the battlefield. While I was no practitioner of medicine, I knew that brains were not purple and bloodless on the outside nor did they pulsate like they were breathing. This had wrinkles to it, like a brain, and I could see some cuts from the bone shards that oozed a green thick pus. At its base, was not a bundle of nerves, but little writhing tentacles like that of a sea beast.  Towards the front, two symmetrical smooth bulges existed. My fascination only grew when a line formed on them and they opened. Two small eyes weakly gazed up at me, struggling to focus and hidden beyond a foggy glaucoma. 

A mace came into my vision crushing it. Andre was not one for further study, and I am now convinced he had the right of it, at least in the moment. Likely sensing I was going to challenge him, falling into a long-standing pattern between us, curious scholar vs. impatient warrior, he grunted forcefully, “Now, is not the time for study.” 

“I HATE THIS” Xavier’s loud cry caused us all to turn towards him.  He arose from the edge of the wall, using his hands to aid him. 

Thomas stuttered some beginning words of comfort. Like most of us, we thought Xavier was coming to grips with the loss of his sight, but we were wrong. It was at his lip curling grin, that I remembered the first trail of slime, and where that creature had likely been headed. 

“I Hate this FLESH” His voice was deeper and distorted now, as his hands began to rip at his face, first at his swollen eyes and then even at his mouth. The flesh seemed to come away quickly.  Jaques cried to the saints and the angels for aid, while Gerard boldly called upon Christ, but all were too stunned and conflicted to wield their weapons and charge. 

“It’s not him anymore” sensing their hesitation. I hoped to dissuade their fears. “Xaiver is dead, and this thing now profanes our fallen brother.” 

I beheld something unholy as I looked through the now empty eye sockets that once belonged to my companion. Somehow his beard remained, and chunks of flesh beneath, but I could see the blood soaked yellow bones and freshly exposed eye sockets staring back at me. I imagined those little eyes poking through to replace Xavier’s but it apparently wasn’t necessary. It somehow saw through the bones. He had ripped away his lips, or rather the thing in control of him had, and somehow the bare teeth and jaw visible amongst his beard looked like a wicked grin.  A thing of hell stood before us. 

Sir Gerard, bearing the burden of leadership, charged. Xaiver’s body was quick and nimble, and armored. It would take more than a single blow to cut through the chain mail around his neck, and he was armed with a blade, and knew how to use it. 

“Crunch the others skulls” Andre stepped up to issue orders to Jaques and Hugues  as Gerard began a sword fight with Xavier’s body.  A few crunches could be heard in the next few moments. I stood still, holding the light, watching Gerard attempt to behead the body of his former friend and soldier. Xavier may not have been noble born, and technically not a knight, but sergeant or not, he was one of us, and the bond between them was close. Despite knowing this, I watched their swords clash in flickering flame light and it was clear Sir Gerard was on his own Holy crusade. He knew he must vanquish this possessed body, this demon creature, from this world. 

Xavier had likely been our best swordsman. Whatever this was, seemed to have retained his finesse. Sir Gerard landed a torso blow which would have knocked a living man down and bruised the flesh beneath the ringlets of metal, but this creature stood, and swung on.  

My thoughts were interrupted by a wet squishing sound as Thomas stomped an approaching… thing. Even now I’m not sure what to call them. They have no earthly name I have known of.  I have read many books in many monasteries, even had the privilege of examining tomes in Rome and Jerusalem.  I was aware of Caput Mortuum, severed heads of the deceased used in pagan practices, but this was not them.  Perhaps then they should formerly be named Caput Mortuum Eques, for these things are riders of dead heads. Eques, or Riders will suffice as shorthand for this account.

As cleanup concluded, Sirs Andre, Jacques and Hugues approached the body of their fallen friend.  Sir Gerard was holding his own, but he had taken a few nicks from which only his chain mail saved him. Boxed in, Xaiver let loose a ROAR, used a kick to push back Sir Gerard and then raised his hands forward and pushed out his elbows.  Lowering his head he charged through their blockade, ignoring the sword blows and narrowly missing a swing by Andre’s mace. He ran straight towards me and Thomas. 

“Behind me” Thomas said, dropping his torch and pulling his sword free. The flame flickered out on the ground and he positioned himself in front of me.  I now held the only lit torch in my left hand. My right found the hilt of my own sword as a last resort.  

Thomas was in training, although his current duties mostly involved taking care of the horses, his sword was certainly better than my own, and not far off from the knights. He was the newest to our group, but he proved his bravery with an attempted neck blow as Xavier charged forward.  Xaiver, or at least his rider and his corpse, moved closer to the opposite wall, and with sword in hand, closed his arms together, pointing the blade towards us as he moved forward, he tilted his upper torso, facing us as well.  He successfully managed to protect his neck, not by his arms or sword, but by ducking at the last moment, and then rolling forward. After a quick recovery he ran forward past us deeper into the halls of this underground ancient structure.

“Templars, PURSUE!”  Sir Gerard’s command wouldn’t be easy to follow. Xavier’s rider needed no light and seemed supernaturally faster than Xaiver was in life. He was no charging stallion, but his movements seem unimpacted by the weight of his mail, the injuries he endured or the strain of battle on his body. 

We obeyed as Sir Gerard took the lead again. Thomas picked up his torch and I was able to relight his with my own. We would not let a fallen Templar escape to bring shame on our order, or our fallen friend, so we marched with our lights deeper into the darkness.