The Proof by Cheryl Cowell

Cheryl Colwell
By Cheryl Colwell April 26, 2014 04:04

The Proof by Cheryl Cowell

Summary:

Shrouded in mystery, a precious relic known as Il Testamento, or The Proof, circulated among the early Christians for centuries. Before their deaths, its guardians hid it from their adversaries, leaving only a crude map of its location.

For centuries, it lay in darkness. Until now. Reports of its existence have resurfaced, inciting an ancient rivalry between a ruthless group that seeks to destroy it, and a secret association that lusts for its power.

Summoned to Siena by a grandfather he has never met, Gabriel Dolcini is thrust into a dark maze of danger. And into his divine destiny.

The author has rated this book PG (not necessarily suitable for children).

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Excerpt:

Gabe followed the straight-backed man through an arched entry. Steps led downward, disappearing into the shadows. His grandfather flipped a switch that lit the sconces lining the stairwell. A host of carved brass snakes coiled around metal torches that illuminated the steps.

With care, Louis grabbed an iron rail that was hammered into an elegant twist, and ambled down two sets of stairs. Gabe readied himself to steady the older man should he falter, but he never did. Soon, they were in a subterranean part of the palazzo that he had not yet explored.

They reached a massive oak door somewhere below ground and Louis unlocked the ancient deadbolt with a brass key. Short of breath, he turned. “I must ask you something of gravest importance.” He studied Gabe’s eyes. “Before I expound upon the mission entrusted only to our family as the Custodi, the Keepers, you must promise to hold secret all that I show you. Will you keep this vow of silence?”

Though it seemed a bit cryptic, Gabe saw nothing particularly sinister about the request. He had never been a gossip. “Certainly.”

His grandfather nodded and his broad shoulders relaxed. They entered a cold room furnished with dark antique furniture. Natural stone tables had serpent-like beasts carved on their wooden legs, creating the creepy sense of something slithering up one’s shins.

Louis stopped at one end of the room in front of a huge mirror that covered a six by ten-foot section of wall. The frame sported gilded birds of prey, their talons and beaks aimed toward their unsuspecting quarry. Gabe shivered as a chill passed through the room and into his body.

Sliding the leather toe of his expensive Italian shoe under a section of the mirror’s frame, Louis pressed upward, initiating a series of clicking noises. “Just like in the movies,” he grinned, then pressed the place again. He moved aside while the mirrored wall swung outward, allowing them to step over the threshold and pass into a large hidden room. Once inside, he switched on an electric candelabrum and closed the door with a lever.

In the ample glow, the nearly empty, castle-like room seemed to swallow them. A desk, two chairs, and a large globe, floating in its iron support, huddled together in one spot. On one wall, tall wooden shelves stood empty except for a few dozen books, stacks of paper, and small art objects.

All the architectural elements in the room—the floors, walls, and arches that held up the domed ceiling—were made of icy stone. The room retained a constant chill and Gabe imagined he had landed in the middle ages. It was sinister. And fabulous. “What is this place?”

“This is where I keep those valuables I was speaking of—our family ancestry, ancient legal documents, and histories of objects we have acquired…or protect.” I added this outer wall for safekeeping some years ago. He touched a thick leather book on a near shelf. “Our military records are here, with all their history.”

Gabe leaned his head to one side for clarification.

Pride beamed from Louis’ face. “One of our ancestors served as a Templar Knight.”

“You approve of the Knights? Weren’t they responsible for the wars, greed, and heresy of the medieval period?”

A shadow of disapproval passed over the older man. “There was much envy leveled against the Templars. And it is true that some deviated sharply from their vows. Later, when they became rich and powerful, there existed even more self-interest and corruption. But who of us has not wrestled with that?”

Gabe cleared his throat. “Yes, but I don’t go around killing, pillaging, and dealing in the occult.”

Louis’ eyes held Gabe’s with firm conviction. “The heresy charges were invented by evil men to discredit the Templars and steal their fortunes.”

Gabe masked a shrug of disbelief. No sense arguing, as neither of them had been there.

Continuing his story, Louis said, “The majority of the Templars, in contrast to the crusaders, were pious and humble. They were pure in their motives to protect Christ’s people from bandits on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And to guard articles pertaining to Christianity.”

Again, Gabe felt perplexed that Louis held such a biased opinion. “Where does our family fit into all of this?”

Louis leaned his forearms on the back of a chair and clasped his fingers. “Like other noblemen of the day, your ancestor, Antonio Dolcini, left his family to join the Knights Templar. Beginning in 1177, he spent two years defending the Holy Land, but was appalled at the violence he found there. To add to his grief, charges of heresy and pagan worship had been directed at the Templars. He wrote to his wife about the moral decay in Jerusalem.

Louis’ eyes closed while he quoted one of Antonio’s letters. “We guard a solemn secret. That which has touched our Lord fills us with the hope that our broken bodies shall also be caught up in the resurrection. Yet the very object we protect with our lives and secrecy brings these charges upon us.”

“You’re speaking of the Holy Grail or lost Templar treasure?” Doubt laced Gabe’s words.

“Possibly.”

Gabe parried. “My studies of ancient myths show that the Holy Grail—just an ordinary cup really—was tracked to Spain, long before the time you are speaking of. It was then moved to Valencia in the fourteenth century.” He cocked his head. “Where it still resides.”

His grandfather donned a patient expression. “Please, sit down.” He motioned toward one of the burgundy and gold brocade-covered chairs. A screech reverberated off the walls as Gabe dragged the chair over the rough, mottled stone.

The conte sat down in the opposing chair and continued. “Many stories exist. The first Templers spent years digging under the Temple Mount in the bowels of the mountain. They were guided to the exact locations where many important items were hidden.”

“You don’t really believe they found the authentic Holy Grail?”

“I am saying that Antonio brought back from Jerusalem what he described as, ‘the desire of every Templar.’”

Copyright© Cheryl Cowell. All rights reserved.

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Cheryl Colwell
By Cheryl Colwell April 26, 2014 04:04
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