March 19, Year of Our Lord 1308
It seems, my brother, that I will not see you again in this life. I am lying now in a sealed cell in the Hospitalier’s enclosure of Cairo, and I am dying the Black Death. Plague is raging through this city. The city magistrate has closed the port and the city gates until the disease runs its course among the gente, and I am afraid that I find myself one of their number now, stricken as I am, and far from you who are the only one in the world who could save me.
It is sad to die this way, far from the house of my father and the lands I loved best. We knew that I might die here in The Holy Land when we joined the Order, Josef, but we thought it would be at the hands of the Infidel--not gasping out my life on a flea-infested cot in a hospital. But it appears that many things have not gone as we hoped, and that the darkest visions you saw have come to pass.
Here among the Hospitaliers, I have learned the worst has come: that our brethren are everywhere destroyed, and condemned as heretics, our coffers emptied, our Faith denied, our covenant with Mother Church broken, and that mighty Hugh himself was burned at the stake in Paris while Philip the Fair--how ironic that name seems now--and his pet Pope looked on, laughing. By God I say it is worth while to die now, when the whole world is ready to be swallowed by perdition...
I would come to you if I could, Josef, for I know that you are great in the arts that could rid me of this infection, and I know that Philip’s hand is too feeble to snatch you from your safe perch in Jaca. The infirmity with which God afflicted you as a child will prove now a double blessing: for not only did he gift you with Vision, but he has now provided you with a shield which will turn aside this great Sword of Iniquity. Who will drag a man with crippled legs from his bed, or suspect a priest, whose withered hand could never wield a sword, of being a Knight of the Temple!
Laugh at them for me, Josef, laugh and live long, because I will not.
But to the matter of this book, and how I came by it, I will come in a second letter--a letter which is for your eyes alone, and not even for the good Brothers who will deliver this to you. Pray, do not open the book, by any art, until you have read the story of how I got it! And if you care at all for the people of Jaca, do not keep the book anywhere above ground. If you do, they will suffer the same fate as these guiltless people of Cairo, whose women and children I have murdered in my ignorance--never realizing I carried with me the seeds of their destruction.
Goodbye, Josef. May God protect you.
--Jose de Gutierrez Bellenos, your loving Brother