Chapter Three: The Dark Path

Five hundred and sixty three years, three months and twenty-seven days before the Conclave summoned Miguel Carrera and Alexander Fortuno to their meeting-place, William Griffon arrived in London on a white stallion in order to meet with his peers at Bernard King’s home in the city. He ascended into the meeting chamber, and met his colleagues warmly before sitting down next to Vladimir Serapus, who smiled at him, as did Bernard. Back in those days, the Elder had looked every inch the wizard of mythology, clad in robes of deep red with a great beard and flowing white hair. They had been friends for generations, the three most powerful sorcerers in existence. The council’s Arbiter -a slender, bearded gentleman named Andreas Macellan- began the proceedings.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I call to order this meeting of the Elder Conclave. Elder Abado, would you like to begin?’
The dark-skinned Councillor Abado graciously accepted the floor and intoned in a voice that was as rich and deep as coffee.
‘Ladies, gentlemen, colleagues all, I am pleased to report that all remnants of the rogue sorcerers have been destroyed. We can all hope this signals a new period of peace and prosperity for us all.’
He was greeted with warm applause, as the assembled sorcerers all raised their flagons to his expressed sentiment. They had spent three years hunting down a rogue tribe of necromancers, sorcerers of death magic, led by a dark sorceress named Evanna Rosemunde. She had specifically targeted William Griffon, and had attempted to seduce him to her side, as well as to the ways of necromancy. After a long duel, she had been defeated and was sealed in an impregnable prison in the North. Her chief lieutenant, Thomas Marshall, had defected to the Council, but was still regarded warily by most of the junior members.

The meeting continued for forty-five minutes. Serapus and Griffon spent most of that time imitating Bernard behind his back and asking off-topic questions. When the meeting ended, Griffon turned to his friend and remarked;
‘You’re looking remarkably pleased with yourself Vladimir.’
‘Well, the old group all in one place again. And my apprentice completed his training only last week.’
‘You mean that unruly Spanish youth you keep parading around?’
Serapus laughed.
‘Half-Spanish. I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear you call him that’. There was suddenly a mischievous glint in his eye, and he whispered;
‘A certain someone’s been asking about you for the past month you’ve been gone.’ He winked at Griffon, who smiled wryly.

That afternoon, Griffon arrived at his home in London, where he was amorously pounced upon by a petite, yet voluptuous fair haired young woman. He wrestled her onto the table-top and they locked lips passionately. It was several moments before they allowed themselves to part.
‘William?’
‘Yes my love?’
‘I’m pregnant.’

And so, William and Alice Griffon made the mistake that all young people who are in love make. They believed that life was now complete, that nothing could go wrong. But sadly, tragedy struck when Alice suffered an accident whilst out riding and the child was stillborn. Worse still; the accident meant that she could no longer have children. The two were distraught, and, desperate for help, Griffon turned to his friends.

‘It’s not possible William, there’s no existing spell that can restore Alice without damaging her beyond repair.’ The Elder put an arm around his former apprentice, who angrily swatted it away.
‘Why us Bernard…why did this have to happen to us?’
‘William…it’s just a sad occurrence that happened to you. Nothing more.’ Serapus said slowly, upset at seeing his friend in such an anguished state. Suddenly, Griffon stiffened, his mind working rapidly, he stood up and began to pace the room.
‘The child, the one we lost…I could…’
‘No.’ Bernard’s voice was firm, but not harsh. ‘You know better than anyone what necromancy can do to its users. Its effects warp and twist the greatest of men, until they become nothing but shadows of their former selves. It happened to Evanna, it will happen to you.’
‘The necromancers we fought were pagans and fools. They used their art to bind dead men and eldritch creatures to their will. With our combined powers we can make it safe… only as a necessity… but enough to stop things like this from happening again.’
Vladimir spoke for the first time. He too had suffered heavily from this tragedy, for Alice was his niece, and the closest he had to a daughter. ‘It will never be safe William. And once you allow a single usage, then where does it end? I’m not willing to risk it.’
‘Well I am!’ The sorcerer snapped back defiantly, before attempting to regain his composure. ‘Bernard, please. Just this once then?’
‘William…if you open yourself to those elements, there’s no going back. And I won’t let that happen to you, you are my friend.’
‘So you would rather I suffer for the remainder of eternity? You are not my friend King. I resign from the Conclave as of this moment.’
He turned on his heel and left, ignoring the pleas from Bernard and Vladimir. On his shoulder sat his loyal familiar Cornelius, who had known even then that no good would come of this act. But he was bound to the fate of his master, and he would support him until the day they died.

That afternoon, William Griffon packed his belongings and made his way to the stronghold where the sorceress Evanna was being held. Andreas Macellan did not bar his way, for there was no reason to suspect the sorcerer of any ill motives. The sorceress did not seem surprised to see him. She was tall, thin and impossibly beautiful, with raven hair that flowed down to her breast. Despite the murk and grime surrounding them, the necromancer’s dress remained spotless, a sparkling flash of silver in the darkness.
‘William Griffon. My nemesis.’ She purred at him, and her green eyes flashed eagerly.
‘No tricks Evanna. I need you to teach me how to bring someone back from the dead.’
An enormous self satisfied grin broke across Evanna’s face. She stroked his arm, and he flinched at her touch.
‘The incorruptible hero asks for my help? Well, why should I be surprised? I knew you couldn’t resist my charms for long. Vladimir certainly didn’t.’
Griffon started, but did not pursue the matter.
‘So tell me, what happened? Did that stripling wife of yours finally break?’
Griffon grabbed her by the throat and growled.
‘You speak nothing of Alice. Help me… and I can ensure your freedom.’
The sorceress mused over this for a while before assenting.
‘This had better be worth my while.’
Griffon hung his head resignedly and mumbled.
‘Anything you want.’
‘I never thought I’d see the day.’
Neither did I. Thought William Griffon sadly.

The guards at Evanna’s prison did not blink when the Elder departed with the sorceress in tow, and it was only too late that they learnt of his true motives. The Elder Conclave immediately began to seek Griffon out, but he had vanished, swiftly being taught the ways of necromancy by Evanna, who relished in the corrupting of her former opponent. But he was way beyond caring; all that mattered was bringing his son back, by any means necessary.

A little while later, one glum, foggy night, William Griffon exhumed the infant’s pitifully tiny coffin from the parish graveyard of his village. The shadows of the grave markers extended in the darkness, casting nightmarish shapes upon the ground. A lesser man would have been intimidated by these surroundings. But William Griffon did not care. He lifted out the cold little figure of his son from out of its coffin and clutched him to his chest. He hesitated, before beginning to mutter under his breath. Energy in the form of blue flames coursed through his hands to the body of the child. At the same time, the sorcerer gave a yell of pain and ecstasy, his senses heightened, the whites of his eyes briefly darkened. Then he heard the sound of his child crying, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.
‘It’s okay…everything’s alright now…I’m here.’ he cooed softly to the infant, who began to pull at the sleeves of his robe to use as an impromptu blanket. Griffon gently placed him in a basket that he had been carrying under his arm.
‘William Griffon, I’m afraid I have no choice but to place you under arrest.’ Came a voice from the fog. He turned. Standing in the shadows was Bernard King, flanked by Vladimir, Elders Abado and Thomas.
‘Why Bernard? I’ve done all I wanted to do, I’ll perform no more necromancy as of this moment. And you can have Evanna, she’s served her purpose.’ He raised his hands, and said again. ‘No more necromancy.’
‘I’m sorry William, but we can’t take that chance. You know from experience how corrupting its influence is.’
‘You don’t trust me; you don’t believe I’m strong enough to counter that influence?’
‘This is not a question of trust.’
The Elders raised their staffs at him and Griffon snarled, outnumbered, but unwilling to back down. He placed the basket on the ground.
‘Last chance William.’
Griffon sent a string of fireballs towards his enemies, but they dissipated with a just a flick of Bernard King’s wrist. Griffon knew he could not defeat the Elder, especially not with the other councillors against him. Bernard looked at him resignedly and made a slight gesture with his hand.
‘Elders, take him.’
The former sorcerer looked around, desperate for an opening. As his foes began to form a circle around him, Griffon thrust his hands outwards, causing the dirt from several nearby graves to fly upwards.
‘Don’t try it!’
Griffon ignored him, and soon, the decomposing occupants of several dozen graves had clawed their way to the top and began swiping at the elders. Griffon took their distraction as an opportunity to seize the basket and flee. The recently resurrected creatures were soon dispatched but the Elders had lost Griffon’s trail.
‘Should I pursue him?’ Thomas asked Bernard, cleaning the mud from his cloak.
‘No. In this fog he could easily take you by surprise.’ He paused, regret building in his voice. ‘We shall wait until morning, and then begin a search.’ Then he added coldly. ‘He is no longer one of us.’

Try as they might, the Elders did not find Griffon the following morning, scouring the countryside in vain. He had left the child with Alice, before fleeing in the early hours of the morning. The news was broken to her gently by Thomas, but her poor heart could not bear the knowledge of what her husband had done, and the consequences of his actions. She died later that day and the Elders left London to continue their search.

It was November the 5th that year when Vladimir Serapus caught up with Griffon in Normandy. The Elder surrounded his former friend’s room with his apprentice and a troop of guards, all of whom were perfectly happy to burn the place to the ground, gaining the element of surprise and leaving little chance of escape. Serapus refused, and entered the room, locking it behind him.

‘William?’ The necromancer swung round. The whites of his eyes had now turned a dark blue. The sorcerer’s face, once bright and full of life, was gaunt and pale. The use of necromancy had taken its toll on him.
‘Vladimir.’ He reached for his sword, but Vladimir batted it away.
‘I’m not here to fight William, I’m here to talk.’
‘You have…come round to my ideas then?’
‘William…necromancy is dangerous, you know that. You have not only damned yourself, but those who followed you in this madness. The Elders will hunt you down and… I don’t want to see that happen to you.’
‘Then help me. Leave Bernard to his own foolishness and help me harness its potential so that it might be used for good.’
‘No good can come from it.’ Vladimir sighed. For a moment, his face displayed all its centuries of life. ‘Give yourself up… you’ll be forbidden from practicing sorcery, but at least you’ll be alive, in peace…’
‘No.’ Griffon drew himself up to his full height, steely determination in his blue eyes, eyes filled with hatred for those who had ruined his life. ‘My beloved is dead, my child was taken… my path is chosen. If I cannot bring my family back, I shall fight the Conclave with all my might until the day I die.’ He took up his sword and staff.
‘And you…what will you do, Vladimir Serapus? Are you going to fight me now, to kill me even?’
Vladimir looked directly into his deep blue eyes, and then slowly, as though burdened, he turned his back to Griffon.
‘Go.’ His voice was choked with emotion. ‘We part as friends. But if we meet again…there can only be one outcome.’

And so Serapus allowed his friend to flee, and thus began the first great sorcerer’s war.

That was 1310.

 

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