The Knights Templar
The Knights of the Temple of Solomon believe they are the defenders of the world against the quiet tyranny of a secret conspiracy that has conspired against humankind for untold centuries. Their struggle for the fate of humanity predates the official founding of the order in the Middle Ages, and continued on long after the Knights were supposed to have disappeared. Many Knights lead double lives and infiltrate organizations ranging from corporations and governments to other secret organizations. They gather information and bide their time, but when they are ready, they strike quietly and ruthlessly. Their weapons range from the manipulation of political events to mystical powers. The Templars study the magical arts, and control the Keys of Solomon, special mystical patterns that grant their wielders a number of supernatural powers.
Its secret war has spanned continents and centuries, and has involved assassinations, economic chaos, and international conflicts. Its battlegrounds have included the American and French Revolutions, the rise of technology, and both world wars. Its deeds are often identified by wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, although its motives are mostly misunderstood. It is one of the most powerful organizations in the world, but it faces an implacable and far mightier foe.
The Templars’ weapons in this conflict are far subtler than in the past. The Knights operate singly or in small groups, rarely revealing themselves to outsiders. Except when the outsiders are unlikely to live to tell any tales. They work tirelessly to fight the secret organizations and any Dark Covenant that tries to gain power over the world. The Knight, ironically, use similar tools to the organizations the hate: manipulation of the media and the masses, political assassination, and covert operations. Like the Assassins of old the Knights are masters at infiltration and subversion. Their agents can be found in presidential staffs, corporate boards, the councils of the Vatican, and inside many organizations. There, they play their roles to the hilt spying and waiting for the time to take action. They wield great mundane and magical power, but rarely use it openly. When they do, however, they strike with the sudden brutality of their sword-wielding forebears and rarely leave witnesses. They are a ruthless, cunning force. It’s the only way they have survived for untold centuries.
History remembers the Order of Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon as a band of pious men who founded the first order of warrior monks in the 12th century C.E., not too long after the First Crusade. The Knights of the Temple were sworn to guard the Holy Land of Jerusalem and Christians who traveled there. Well-known for their fanaticism and courage, the Templars fought in many of the battles between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, although they failed to prevent the fall of Jerusalem — and eventually of all Christian holdings over the next two centuries. As the Order grew, it came to own ships, and to engage in trade and money lending. Eventually, the Templar Order became an international banking and mercantile concern, wealthy enough to buy and sell kings. At the same time, rumors of heresy, homosexuality and even devil-worship started circulating about the Knights. In 1307, the Order was openly accused of these crimes, and members throughout Europe were arrested and put to torture. The Grand Master and several others were convicted, and died at the stake. In 1313, the Pope officially disbanded the Order, and the Templars ceased to exist.
The official founding date of the Order is 1118, when nine knights banded together to protect pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. For several years, the order remained small, a handful of knights and servants with little money or power. Then, with amazing speed, the Knights gained momentum, recruiting thousands of new members and receiving enormous donations of land and money. The sudden acquisition of power and wealth has never been fully explained. Less than two centuries later, the Knights were disbanded, their possessions seized (although much of their treasure and their huge fleet of ships mysteriously disappeared) and their members imprisoned or executed. The order lived on in a number of countries, however. The Portuguese and Spanish Knights of Christ, for example, was a direct descendant, and it produced a number of sailors and explorers that opened Africa and Asia to European traders. These men may have been influential in Columbus’ trip to the Americas as well.
Initiates to the Order learn a different history, one that reaches back three thousand years. The Order of the Temple of Solomon, the legend claims, dates back to the real King Solomon, the ruler of Israel during the 10th century B.C.E. Solomon led the golden age of Israel, reigning over a unified kingdom that traded with the great nation-states of the ancient age. He was also a student of matters arcane, who sought to discover the truth wherever he could, be it in pagan teachings or the practice of magic. As the legend goes, his Great Temple was an attempt to directly communicate with God. A place to bring the Metatron, the voice of God, to this Earth. At the opening of the Temple, Solomon had an epiphany. He saw that the world had been enslaved and corrupted by Gods’ wayward servants, who had adopted the roles of angels and gods, and who slew and misled humankind at their whim. Only an enlightened world, united in mind and spirit, would be able to find God once again.
Solomon shared this moment of truth with others, and founded a secret order, a society that sought to set aside the differences among men (and to a lesser degree women) to one day create a united world. The Seraphim, who had assumed the role of God, did not take this kindly and the Kingdom of Israel suffered for it. Solomon’s order remained small and secretive, fleeing the Assyrians, Persians and Romans, suffering under Pagans, Jews, Christians and Muslims, not least because of their belief that there was no difference between the faiths, lesser or greater.
In the 12th century, members of the order inducted the nine knights who putatively “founded” the Templar Order, and through them a number of prominent members of the Church and nobility. Through a combination of conversion, magic, blackmail and bribery, the Order gained a number of privileges. As the Order grew, the true Templars remained hidden, an order within the order. They let the ignorant majority remain fanatically Christian (often culling the most ignorant among them by letting them die in hopeless battles against the Saracen), while quietly working for the goal of a nation of nations where all men were equals. Among their inventions was the first large-scale banking system, which they saw as the initial step towards an international government. They dealt with Jews, Muslims and those of other faiths, often inducting them into their order. They even had a women’s auxiliary branch, little publicized but very active, often gaining the favor of powerful noblewomen and through them their husbands and children.
The ambitious attempt failed miserably. In the Middle East, all efforts at forging a lasting peace between Christian and Muslim were thwarted by fanatics on both sides (often within their own Order). And the servants of those who would enslave humankind eventually discovered the true purpose of the Templars. They struck quickly and almost too efficiently. The arrests of the Templars of France in 1307 (on a Friday the 13th, of all days) were all made on the same day, at the same time (dawn) — an amazing feat of coordination in an age of low literacy where the most common form of communication was horse messenger. The move went off so well because the Adversary used its own mundane and supernatural resources. Even so, the Knights were not caught wholly unprepared. The Grand Master sacrificed himself, but many knights fled or went underground, taking with them much of the wealth. As he faced death by the flames, Grand Master Jacques DeMolay cursed the Pope and the King who had destroyed his order, and both died within a year of the execution.
The Templars believe they are warriors in a struggle for the souls of all men. Their enemy is commonly known as the Adversary, or as the Jubelites, named after the three Unworthy Craftsmen of Masonic legend who murdered Hiram Abif, the mythical architect of the Temple of Solomon. The Adversary is a group (or groups) whose primary goal is to keep humankind ignorant, divided, and exploited, and to rule from the shadows, manipulating the economies and politics of all world nations. They do not control everything, or even most things. Normal human beings can screw things up without any help often enough. But the Jubelites exert their influence in many ways. A little nudge here, a discredited presidential candidate there, a military coup further down the line, and suddenly a nation’s government has been taken over, subverted, and bent to the Adversary’s will. They make sure that any great invention is perverted into a deadly weapon, that any reform movement becomes as bad as the evil it was trying to eliminate, that any new philosophy develops an ideology strong enough to justify murder or even genocide. In short, the Adversary corrupts absolutely.
The Templars’ main goal is to counteract those plans. Their influence was enough to allow humankind to break free of the endless cycle of misery of the pre-modern era, and to develop technologies that might one day bring forth a golden age. Even then, however, the Adversary was ready to twist those achievements to serve its needs, and now it embraces technology as another tool to control and mislead the masses.
The ideal Templar world would have one government, elected by the people from the people, with equal rights for all. Education would be available everywhere and religion would be tolerated, but prevented from controlling the lives of unbelievers. In this world, the human race would be free to forge its own destiny, for good or ill. The Templars do not expect this utopia to happen anytime soon, but that is their goal. Their enemies, whether ruled by a secret society or not, include those who fear and hate for no good reason, people who place faith above reason and good works, and those who seek to rule others. Unfortunately, the Templars often use their enemies’ means in service of their goals. Media manipulation, assassination, and market manipulation. While the modern-day knights try to minimize the damage they do, they will not let innocent bystanders stop them from doing what they think is right
To a lesser degree, the Templars also try to defend the world from other threats, such as supernatural predators. They watch other groups closely, wary of signs of corruption or infiltration. The bulk of their efforts go towards finding enemy activity and stopping it. Often, however, apparent enemy activity turns out to be the work of supernatural beings, Dark Covenants or even greedy mundanes. This does not stop the Templars from putting a stop to such activities by the most efficacious means available.
The Templars are organized in five ranks of ascending order: Turcopoles, Sergeants, Knights, Commanders, Seneschals and the Grand Masters.
Non-members who perform services for the Order are referred to as Turcopoles, borrowing a Crusader term for native auxiliaries. Turcopoles are almost always normal humans, and for the most part have no idea of who their employers or patrons really are, or even that the Knights Templar exist at all. Many Turcopoles are members of mainstream Masonic Lodges around the world, who occasionally are asked to provide some small services or information for the Templars. Others are simply mercenaries, members of the local criminal community, or even simple professionals in diverse fields, ranging from private detectives and doctors to secretaries and construction workers. They all do their jobs and collect their paychecks never knowing who their bosses are. The Turcopoles number in the tens of thousands.
The Turcopoles’activities range from the trivial to the dangerous. For one, they often act as couriers and messengers, or provide transportation or safehouses (usually under the cover of being “time shares”) for full-fledged members. The more trusted Turcopoles provide a variety of illegal or semi-illegal activities, such as unrecorded medical services (from first aid to plastic surgery), money-laundering, disposing of incriminating property (and even, in some cases, bodies), and running background and credit checks on individuals or organizations. A few hundred Turcopoles worldwide are mercenaries or career criminals, who can be trusted to commit robberies, acts of intimidation, and the occasional murder.
The Sergeants are the rank and file of the organization, are trained in combat and intelligence-gathering activities and are almost exclusively human, with varying levels of skill and abilities. Many work undercover, or oversee a larger group of Turcopoles.
Knights are the core members of the Templars. About half of them are Gifted of varying power levels, and the rest are mundane men and women. Knights are engaged in many covert activities; many hold positions of power in a number of public and secret organizations, although they rarely if ever assume the most visible posts, preferring to work behind the scenes. ATemplar agent is far more likely to be a Senator’s Chief of Staff than a Senator himself, for example, although exceptions do occur.
Within the Knighthood there are three ranks: Knights of the Sword, Knights of the Lance, and Knights of the Grail. Knights of the Sword are the most numerous and lowest ranked; they are usually given missions to perform (some of which may take years, or their entire lives, however short they may be). Knights of the Lance are more trusted and experienced, and can act on their own initiative. Finally, the Knights of the Grail would, to any outsider, appear to be the leaders of the Templars. They control large, powerful organizations (corporations, security and consulting agencies, semi-legal government agencies) that act as fronts for Templar activities, and they issue most of the orders and communications to the rank and file.
The Seneschals usually assume quiet, unimportant lifestyles, and control and oversee the actions of their underlings from the shadows. They can be found running corner stores, or living as hermits in remote locations — locations with discreetly placed satellite dishes — or even wandering city streets disguised as homeless men and women. They are all surprisingly humble, and never enjoy the trappings of wealth, but their power — mystical and mundane — is undeniable.
The Grand Masters are the overall leaders. Their identities, numbers and location are a mystery to all but the most trusted and powerful Seneschals. In fact, any Seneschal might be a Grand Master. Nobody really knows the specifics.
Each rank above Turcopole has certain minimal requirements, as detailed in the following paragraphs. The requirements for Seneschals and Grand Masters are far beyond what beginning characters can achieve.
The Templars know a great deal about the secret organizations in the world, but the opposite is not true. Most members of other organizations know little or nothing about the Templars, and what they know is often distorted. In fact, many people who have seen the Templars in action mistake them for agents of other groups.
The Thanathoi’s quest for immortality has intrigued a number of Templars, but so far they have been content to watch.
The Templars have few dealings with other groups. Either their sphere of influence is beyond the scope of the Order, like the Storm Dragons and The Covenant of Legba fall into this category, or they are too small or inconsequential to be worthy of attention.
Skills and Abilities
Most Templars have a number of combat and espionage skills. Covert operatives know the skills most appropriate to their cover profession. Sergeants have combat skills at 3 or higher, Military or Spy skills at the same level, Knights have the same type of combat skills, a Key of Solomon or essence channeling ability, Military/Spy skills, and a professional skill such as law or finance. They also need to posses wealth.
Templars can learn the Keys of Solomon, special mystical patterns that grant their wielders a number of powers. These are usually augmented by genetic or mechanical aids as they don’t have many members who have real magical or supernatural abilities.
Templars leading a double life come from all walks of life, but usually work in places where they can gather information and wield influence: lawyers, policemen, politicians, corporate executives, or members of law enforcement and intelligence-gathering agencies like the FBI and the CIA. Those working as direct operatives have no employment outside the organization, and in fact have very little in the way of a private life beyond its confines.