The following document was recently discovered in the Vatican archives by author Colin Falconer.
(or so he claims.)
It is the record of a violent disagreement between William of Augsburg, Dominican friar and special emissary to the court of Khubilai Khan from Pope Alexander IV; and a Templar knight identified only as Josseran Sarrazini.
It apparently took place in Shang-tu (made famous in the Samuel Coleridge poem ‘Xanadu’) in 1261.
William: Do you not realize what you have done? Do you not fear for your mortal soul?
Josseran : I have done everything asked of me. I have got you through mountains and desert and ambush when we should have died a dozen times. All in God’s holy name. Still you find fault with me!
William : I wish only to understand why a man can put so much store on what happens on this earth and so little by what will come in the eternity to follow.
Josseran : This is about eternity. I think that a man’s love for a woman can echo in the depth of his very spirit. She touched my soul more than you ever did!
Josseran: She is not a witch. She is considered holy among her people, as you – for reasons I have begun to doubt – are considered holy among ours. And no, I did not consort with her though I would have liked to, and thought of it often enough. Go on, write it all down, so you can condemn me when we return to Outremer.
Josseran: I do not deny that I am a sinner and that I have hot blood in me. It is why I came to serve my five years of penance with the Templars. But also faithfully record, sweet brother William, that I got you here alive – didn’t I? That alone is miracle enough.
William: Everything that comes out of your mouth is a blasphemy.
Josseran: Is it? Because, you know, when we got here you didn’t expect to find Christian …
Josseran: … Christian priests, living right here in Cathay, did you? And Christian churches? They worship Christ, just as you do, but they think you’re the blasphemer. How can a simple man such as myself know who is right and who is wrong anymore?
William: The point is, you committed a sin with a witch!
Josseran: No I didn’t, but I should have, and I will, if I ever find her again. And if I don’t, it will haunt me the rest of my days. Say what you like, Brother William, but remember you still need me to get you back across the Roof of the World to your God and your Pope, because neither of them have any power here!
The document fragment ends here. Its provenance cannot be proven though it has been carbon dated to the thirteenth century. However, there is no evidence that such an embassy from the Pope to Khubilai Khan took place in 1260, although historians have conjectured that the Pope at one stage considered such an embassy to forestall an invasion of western Europe by the Tatar Mongols.
At that time no one in the Christian world had been to China – Cathay – and the court of Khubilai Khan and returned alive.