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Written by Andrew Roberts These stories are based on characters and settings by Pinnacle Entertainment and Great White

Games.

Castle Egenwald, Swiss Alps, 1938

Dusk was approaching in the mountains as the black Rolls Royce Phantom made its way across the treacherous road. The snowfall was becoming gradually heavier as the sky grew darker. Buck Savage and Virginia Dare were seated in the passenger compartment of the chauffeured car, holding each other’s hands on the armrest between their seats. Buck was wearing a white dinner jacket with a red cummerbund and black trousers. Resting on his lap was a Grecian urn depicting the military exploits of Pericles, the famous Athenian general and statesman. Virginia wore a red cocktail dress, and was examining the illustrations on the urn. Sitting opposite to them were Virginia’s younger brother Danny and Buck’s long-time friend Doc Gold, also wearing dinner jackets. Danny was hunched up on his seat, trying to get some sleep while Doc was trying to light up his pipe. “We’re not far from Castle Egenwald now!” the chauffeur informed them. The group peered out of the window to see the great castle standing out in the increasingly poor visibility. The castle was owned by Sir Nathaniel Delmar, a British industrialist who had purchased the castle as a retreat. Now he was due to receive a peerage for his services to the Crown, and was holding a celebration at the castle. Buck had previously worked with Sir Nathaniel on several archaeological digs in Greece, and had been recruited to find the Urn of Pericles in exchange for the Heart of the Lion, a large diamond that another one of Nathaniel’s sponsored hunts had unearthed in Central Africa.

The car pulled up outside the large double doors of the castle. Upon entry, the group was met by Sir Nathaniel’s butler, Robert Montgomery. “It’s a pleasure to see you again sir.” He said to Buck as he entered, “Allow me to deliver your urn to Master Delmar.” Buck handed him the urn, when he was approached by a slender man in a black suit with a long scar on his cheek. “Excusez-moi, Monsieur Savage.” He said softly, “This is for security purposes.”

He patted down Buck and his companions. Buck raised his eyebrows at this unusual treatment. He’d met with Sir Nathaniel before, and he never knew him to be paranoid. He watched the man leave. “I apologise for this Mr Savage, Miss Dare.” Montgomery commented, “Master Delmar has been somewhat concerned about security lately, so Mr Sauvettre has been hired for the safety of the guests.”

Montgomery escorted the group through the elaborate hallways of the castle to a great hall where other party guests were mingling. The soft notes of Boccherini’s Minuet emanated throughout the room, courtesy of a local string quintet playing on a stage. Buck and Virginia admired the paintings and suits of armour that adorned the halls as they were offered champagne by one of the servants. A balding man with thick spectacles approached them. “Are you enjoying yourselves?” he asked with a Swiss accent. The pair nodded. “My name is Hermann Gumboldt. I’m a banker from Geneva. Who are you?” “I’m Buck Savage. This is my partner Virginia Dare.” Buck proclaimed, “We’re archaeologists.” “I’m so glad you could make it my friends.” Another voice spoke behind them. Buck turned to be greeted by Sir Nathaniel Delmar and his wife Madelyn. Nathaniel was a man in his sixties, wearing an elegantly tailored drape suit. Dame Madelyn Delmar was also in her sixties, but looked as though she was in her thirties. She was wearing a stylistic evening dress and carrying a cigarette holder. “I see you have met my banker. So you found the Urn of Pericles?” Nathaniel asked. “It’s in your care now.” Buck replied. As he answered, Montgomery brought the urn on a tray. Sir Nathaniel and Dame Madelyn examined it admiringly, while Montgomery delivered the Heart of the Lion to Buck. He examined the flawless diamond in the light. Virginia looked through it with adoration.

“I do hope you choose remain for the party.” Nathaniel said warmly, “I’m sure you won’t want to be making your way through that blizzard. I can spare a few guest rooms if you want as well.” “There’s no hurry.” Buck replied.

As the party progressed, Buck and his companions continued to break the ice with the other guests. Doc Gold was met by an aging man in an admiral’s uniform with a handlebar moustache along with a man in his fifties wearing a black dinner jacket, both accompanied by their wives. The first man was Admiral Robert Carlisle, a World War One veteran who was one of Sir Nathaniel’s supporters and closest friends. The second man was Giles Richmond, an aeronautical industrialist for whom Sir Nathaniel had managed to secure a British contract to manufacture the new Spitfire planes. At the same time, Buck, Virginia and Danny were met by another guest who had been keeping relatively quiet: A well-dressed Syrian man in his thirties with a hard stare and a concealed branding mark on his ring finger. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr…” Virginia began to say, shaking his hand. “Solak.” The man replied with a sharp voice, “Ahmet Solak. I’m a lawyer meeting with Sir Nathaniel to discuss an acquisition proposal with a firm in Damascus.” He immediately strolled off without saying anything else. Buck watched him leave with a suspicious look. They were immediately joined by Richmond and Admiral Carlisle. “I say,” Carlisle remarked, “That Mr Solak seems like the antisocial type.” “Have you met him before?” Danny asked. “No.” Carlisle replied, “I don’t even recall Sir Nathaniel making any acquisitions in Damascus.” Buck felt his suspicions arise further. Montgomery promptly approached him. “Sir, Master Delmar has requested your presence in his study.” He informed, “Once he has finished meeting with Mr Solak.” Realising from Carlisle’s mention about acquisitions, Buck deduced that their host may be in danger. As he was escorted to the study, the loud noise of a gunshot filled the castle. He ran to the study and kicked down the door.

The study was dimly lit, but the shape of an expensive mahogany desk could be made out through the shadows. When Buck entered, he was greeted by the sight of Nathaniel clutching a bullet wound in his chest. The Urn of Pericles was lying on the desk in shards, as if the bullet had been shot through it. The aristocrat turned white as he fell back into his chair. “Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam,” he whispered before falling silent. Buck was puzzled by the phrase. If only he knew what it meant. He closed Nathaniel’s eyes. The floorboards creaked behind him. Buck turned around to see Solak emerge from the dark shadows in the corner of the study, aiming a pocket revolver at him. “I will warn you, just this once,” he said threateningly, “Do not pursue me. Tell your colleagues this message. This is a conflict you do not want to join.” Before Buck could ask anything about the warning, Solak had disappeared back into the shadows. There was a sudden cold wind, followed by snow blowing into the room. Buck ran to the opened window, but there was no sign of the killer. “Good god!” Montgomery cried as he saw his master’s body heaped in the chair. “The killer got away through the window,” Buck replied, “It was Mr Solak.” “He’d never get through the blizzard. Neither would the police.” “In that case, no one leaves until the police arrive.” Sauvettre added as he entered the room, a long cloth covering his arm. “Whatever you say,” Buck returned, “I have to tell the others.” Sauvettre watched Buck as he left the room. He scowled hard, and turned to Montgomery. The butler nodded in an understanding way. Buck returned to his companions. They looked quizzically at him he sat down at the nearby card table and pondered.

“What happened Buck?” Virginia asked. “Yeah, what did Sir Nathaniel want?” Danny added. “He’s dead.” Buck replied sombrely, “He was shot by that lawyer. He warned me not to follow him.” The other three members of the group looked at him in shock. “Before he died, he was muttering something.” Buck continued, “I believe it was Latin, but I couldn’t tell what it was.” “I can see that Savage is still a meaningful name.” Doc commented in his usual deadpan tone. “I thought I told you before, my father changed his name to Savage to try and help his career.” Buck responded in a lower voice, “Anyway, Delmar said something among the lines of Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.” Doc contemplated the phrase as he lit up his pipe. A brief moment later, he spoke. “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.” Danny immediately turned his head to the pair in realisation. “I heard about that while attending a lecture on medieval history. That’s the motto of the Knights Templar.” “The Knights Templar?” Doc asked, feeling slightly perplexed, “I thought they were disbanded in 1307.” “They were.” Buck cut him off abruptly, “We need some proof of what is happening. Act normal. If Mr Sauvettre asks about me, tell him I went to bed with a chill.” “So, you have a plan?” Virginia asked. “That’s just my cover. Other than that, I’m making this up as I go along.”

Buck returned to Sir Nathaniel’s study. The body in the chair remained untouched. He sidled past it while trying to avoid stepping in the blood on the carpet. Wondering where to start, Buck opened one of the drawers in the desk, full of old papers. As he searched, he unearthed a letter marked with a seal that bore two knights sharing a horse. He opened the letter and read the elegant writing: Master Delmar, How soon can the shipment be sent from Bern? The Master of the Eagle Chapter must acquire it for their next crusade. At the same time, be aware that our enemies are attempting to move against us. Master Renwick was slain in a car bombing. The nature of the attack bears their mark. Proceed with caution. St Bernard will guide us. Buck tried to determine the nature of the letter. What was the Eagle Chapter? What kind of shipment was it? Who were these enemies they spoke of? He tucked the letter into his coat pocket. Turning around, he noticed a large bookcase full of ledgers and historical texts. Scanning his eyes across the spines, Buck spotted one particular tome labelled The History of the Crusades. He reached to pull it out at the same time Virginia entered the study. There was a large

clanking sound, emanating from some kind of mechanism, as the bookcase slowly moved sideways to reveal another door. “A secret room. This gets better all the time.” Buck murmured. He handed the letter to Virginia. “Keep this safe. We need to get it out of the castle.” He instructed. Virginia tucked it out of sight and crept out of the study. Buck entered the passageway and found himself in a secret room containing a large altar with four candles and an ornate dagger. A large red cross on a white banner was draped over the altar.

“Have you found something interesting Monsieur Savage?” Sauvettre’s voice asked. Buck turned around to see the slender Frenchman standing behind him, the white cloth still over his arm. “Perhaps we can discuss your treasure hunt somewhere else.” “I’m not available for discussion.” Buck replied bluntly. “I’m not asking.” Sauvettre returned. He lifted the cloth to reveal a concealed Walther P38, aimed at Buck’s chest. “Let’s go.” Sauvettre escorted Buck through the castle at gunpoint to a storeroom near the courtyard. He tied Buck to one of the wooden pillars and moved next to the large double doors. “What were you doing in the study?” he asked. When Buck ignored the question, Sauvettre opened the doors to the courtyard. “Perhaps a blizzard will jog your memory.” He commented, leaving the room as the biting cold blizzard filled the room. Buck struggled against his bonds as the room temperature dropped rapidly. He hoped that Virginia was able to hide the letter, and that Doc Gold was formulating an escape plan. It would be a big risk to try and escape through a blizzard, but they would have to. After all, if the blizzard cleared, Sauvettre would call the police and pin the murder on him.

To be continued…